I seem to be doing this more and more often. A book I selected, either on Amazon or in the library, turns out to be such a let-down that I don't bother reading past the first few pages.
The other day I returned 6 books to the library, 5 of them unread. I checked out 6 more, based on a list I made at home of authors who looked promising. It's been 48 hours and 4 have already been eliminated.
It strikes me that the reasons why we won't bother to read a book might be interesting, so I'll explain my rationale for the latest 4 rejects:
1.Ian Rankin, THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD. Not perhaps a fair example since the novel is quite good. But it turned out I'd already read it. Note the generic title which would fit almost any crime novel. There is also a generic cover: a car in a field. Nothing here relates to content. Readers get angry when they buy books they've already read.
2. K.O.Dahl, THE FOURTH MAN. Scandinavian, that's why I picked the author. Alas, this one is a noir novel (not my favorite) about a police officer obsessed with a dangerous woman criminal. Predictably he'll get in deeper and deeper. Not much suspense there.
3. Martin Walker, THE CROWDED GRAVE. Picked because it's set in the French countryside. Bruno, the local policeman is a good protagonist, but the plot is pure cozy (I don't read cozies), and this is the usual Christie-style gathering of local characters somehow implicated in a murder.
4. Kjell Ericksson, THE HAND THAT TREMBLES. Another Scandinavian. This book has a disjointed beginning of trivial and unconnected events in the protagonist's youth and middle years. Apparently the suspense is supposed to come from the reader's wanting to know what made him disappear from a good job in Sweden and take up a life as a poor man with a different name in Bangalore. Frankly, I didn't care because nothing at all had happened in the first 45 pages.
So, let's hear what makes you stop reading.
I think a book has to have two things, to keep me from tossing it.
First, an interesting plot. By that I mean the things that happen must intrigue me, must hold my interest. The need to know what happens next must keep me reading. What makes me toss a book (and I toss very few--always giving the author the benefit of the doubt--sometimes they redeem themselves, most time they don't) is plots and character actions that make no common sense. I read fantasy and science fiction as well, so implausible I'm good with, but its got to make sense.
Secondly, I need interesting, engaging characters. Characters that I can relate to or characters that I think are just way cool. I have to care about them getting out of the jams they've gotten themselves into.
To keep me reading its that simple...and that damn hard.
That's called "a challenge." :)
Well the bad writing doesn't affect me because I don't buy books until I read the sample anyway these days. So I already know if the writing is decent. A book has to hook me in the first few pages AT least. If the sample doesn't hook me, I don't get the book. I am an impatient reader. I have ADD when it comes to entertainment so I need to be grabbed and held FAST. I am not one who wants to read a story that has to build up. I have to have something HAPPEN in the first few pages. The story has to actually start when I begin reading or I will put it down.
Now if I get the book, what makes me stop reading is bad concept, convoluted plot, boring, one-dimensional characters, wooden characters, bad dialogue, cliches and stereotypes, weak and stupid women, weak and stupid men, too many deuce ex machina twists, no-character development, bad pacing, book goes into a middle-of-the-book slump and doesn't recover, etc.
Also I am not one who has to relate to a character, no. Just give me a three-dimensional character with some bite and some spunk. I can't stand boring characters and they make the work boring.
I think I covered it. LOL!
1. Characters that do REALLY stupid things. Dan Brown is infamous for this
2. Blatant lack of research. If you are going to write a historical mystery, get your facts right. yes, Hennessy was founded by an Irish solder of fortune, but in 1765, not during the Hundred Years War.
3. Hook your reader. Make him or her want to know what happens next. If you have not got my attention in the first 20 pages, I am gone
4. Do not break your story for six paragraphs of explanation. (Guilty secret - I love the footnotes in the Philo Vance books)
5. I want to care about the characters. I watch Midsomer Murders for Tom Barnaby's family as much as the mystery. I do not care about cut-outs in a paper landscape