I have wanted to write an article asking my peers if they give a second try to an author they didn’t enjoy. I’ve wondered under what circumstances you are so gracious and if you have stories about this turning out well. I do! I consider a first novel or series volume a mulligan. With a character and fresh idea to construct, we can’t expect that task to leave much room for being sensational. The largest reason for bestowing the benefit of doubt is the way I buy: often an author’s full catalogue of oeuvres years, before I read one page! That is the bargain-thrifty and collector’s mentality both at once. Either I think I will like something I encounter and go to town grabbing all wherever I find them, for I am a real book-reader; the physical object. There is a satisfaction in finding those objects and filling in the complete picture. Or I bought one volume at an extraordinarily cheap price but can’t read it until I procure several volumes preceding it. I loathe when that happens and have since made a point of only buying what’s on my existing wish list, or else a series-opening volume of something I discover. When you have ten or even twenty books by an author and upon turning to them at last, dislike the first; there is a physically mountainous incentive to give the next one a chance!
This served me well with Juliet Blackwell. I love the paranormal, which is why I run “Ethereal” and mysteries, which brought about “My Kind Of Mystery“. A witch series should be a shoe-in but I could not stand her first novel. I still hate her gnome sidekick, who disguises himself as a pet pig and the focus was too high on him. The culdren-brewing concept rushing in abruptly for someone unsued to that too. I had several of her other novels and not only was I glad I gave volume two a try; it catapaulted her to becoming one of my favourite authors! I loved the changed tone and focus, largely because it was about old history, a secret room, and a ghost! Unfortunately more of a demon but we were getting closer to my milieu. When Juliet came up with a haunted house renovation series, the first volume was weak but I persisted more readily and again: the second and third mysteries were exponentially more atmospheric and enthralling. Is there anyone you are tempted to retry, or dreaded reading that would feel like an accomplishment if you vaulted over that hurdle? What would be on your list?
J.G, who kindly calls me “dynamic” and is equally so, has a group about diving into books we are uncertain we’ll like! I had joined her nature theme and revisited her blog descriptions to find her birth date group is simpler than it seemed. So is this. Books for which we have a dampened enthusiasm take a sharp breath before digging in because for most of us, a 300-page novel is a 2 to 3-day investment of time. I almost always read at night and unless a book sweeps me away at a gallop, I go through them in a few sips. The trick even when we’re nuts about books or enjoying them generally. Well: if I finish even three of these, I will be happy.
(1) “Death Of A Cad” Marion C. Beaton 1987
I guess I’ll close by entertaining you with my reasons for naming the books that I do herein. These are in order of dread! First: does it shock you that I name Marion Chesney Beaton? She is a very popular “cozy mystery” authoress, one of those whom I collected vastly. I even have several first editions. It took some time tracking down the first and second volumes of her earliest series, about a Scottish constable. I love Scotland and the Celtic countries. I’ve been to Scotland and treasured every second with my spouse there. It is the reason I created “Celtic Coasts“. But when I finally got around to reading “Death Of A Gossip”, I loathed it! I think I gave it one star, which I have to tell you is rare for me. I am forgiving and try to find the good wherever it is, as a future (even if long off) author who hopes to receive good ratings of my own. I loathed it like I seldom loathe other books, in every aspect that counts which my review as tactfully as possible, itemized. I loathed it so much, I have waited two years to try the second book, which took even more trouble to obtain. But there’s that hope that the awfulness is due to this being an opening novel, both series must be loved for some reason, and I heard one or two people say that the first volume is not very good but differs greatly from all the others. That is reassuring but still, I have needed two years to collect myself! J.G. offers prizes and this forum for me to brace myself and try again.
(2) “One Hundred Years Of Solitude” Gabriel García Márquez 1967
I am familiar with this gentleman’s revered standing because I took Spanish all through highschool and university. As a matter of fact, it was my major. Granted, I haven’t read enough South American literature in my own language, as a grown-up but the few I tackled the last few years were depressing. Does this region write of nothing but the starkest hardship? Literary or general fiction sidestep my preferences as it is. I have a vast seleciton of South American and Hispanic literature. I clearly intended to use my eduacation and read it to see what I make of it as an adult. Therefore just because I thumbed down the first couple (Alejo Carpentier was another one star recipient), doesn’t mean there isn’t great stuff among the others. “One Hundred Years Of Solitude” looks like some of it will be army or war-oriented, which is not my thing but I am willing to be surprised. Enjoyment and appreciation can be found anywhere. Rereading the synopsis yesterday indicates there might be a surreal element. Many novels are described as being about “joys and sorrows” but while I have no interest in reading of, or watching examples of sorrow in my choice of entertainment, perhaps joy and surrealness play the greater part.
(3) “Sense And Sensibility” Jane Austen 1811
I have never read Jane Austen and I feel that if I am to be a serious writer and authoress, I should. Oh yes, I have collected all of them. There are millions of editions at those bargain places I riffle through and I am all ready to go. But I have worried that the enjoyment might be hampered by these being too old-fashioned, in a “women not treated properly” manner. She has been described as a romance writer, which is not my cup of tea but she is also billed as a must-read authoress of all time, the queen of excellence in writing. For goodness sakes, I own each book and as always, I like beginning with the first. I’ll just try it. If I find the pace lagging, I’ll try to read by day and get through it. Maybe I’ll find humour or other surprises. Maybe I’ll be intoxicated by the writing. With me, that is possible; definitely one thing I admire most. If I love the writing, the subject almost never matters. If all of this is not incentive enough: I have visited her house in Bath! Well, the entryway. I figured I wouldn’t get what I should out of a tour upstairs if I hadn’t read any of her books yet. If I can afford to return to England, up I go!
(4) “One Corpse Too Many” Ellis Peters 1979
Much more briefly: this is another case of widely gathering the pieces of a beloved, long-lasting series but not falling in love with the character or premise. I can live with that. Why I hesitate to step forward to the second novel is hating the writing. I cannot stand anyone using the adjective “gently” more than once; especially if it applies to things I do not deem gentle, like snoring!!!! Gosh, I hated reading this but once again, I took the time to acquire about twenty of this lady’s books. I assert that this is rare; I am usually right when I think I’ll love something! Let’s hope I like the second book much better. Maybe somebody advised her to stop overdoing the soft sort of adjectives.
(5) “The Tin Flute” Gabrielle Roy 1945
I have read Gabrielle Roy, who is from my very own home city, and already know her writing is graceful; a genuine writer’s writer who is unparalleled! That was her first short story collection, presented as ficiton but which was autobiographical. Remember not liking any of the books you took in school, probably because it was for education’s sake or perhaps because the scenarios were depressing? There’s a reason a curriculum is mostly comprised of things we wouldn’t choose; certainly not as children. Most of it can’t be appreciated until we’re grown-ups. Well, I had an extra cultural layer added to what most of you got through because I attended French schools since grade 4. Yes indeed, I speak and read in more than two languages. :) Therefore taking Winnipeg’s own Gabrielle Roy in her native French was a must.
I don’t remember the book but I remember two French films we took and even their names. Although I far prefer cats and almost any animal to dogs, due to the contingent in my rural neighbourbood that is allowed to be noisy; I was horrified to watch a children’s movie in which the dog was killed: “La guerre des toques”. That means “War Of The Toques” and the poor dog is the victim of a collapsed snow fort. Awful, futile, and sad! A sweet, big Saint Bernard type. I must have seen it the same year and maybe in the same class, because I seem to pair this negative memory with “Bonheur D’Occasion”. This is Gabrielle’s original title for “The Tin Flute”. It was written at war time and is about an impoverished Montréal family, for whom nothing goes right. That is all I remember. So I am worried this will be depressing but it is last on my list for a reason. Perhaps as an adult I will appreciate the story in a way I couldn’t before; certainly with the omission of that disturbing toque movie. I already love Gabrielle’s writing, my advantage in this and this is the award-winning first book that rocketed her career.
(6) “Body Of Evidence” Patricia Cornwall 1991
Her first novel and that of this long Kay Scarpetta series, “Postmortem”, was so violent and disturbing that I seriously doubted wanting to read any further. I pondered the same of Kathy Reichs, twisting so uncomfortably with her first novel that only hashing out my decision by reading reviews avoided something I do not do; not finish a book I have begun. A glance at the next of Kathy’s told me the subject matter was no less horrifying and depressing but I wanted to give Patricia a try. In the manner of my book-gathering style; I already owned most of their series! It was a matter of deciding I would open this one up and get going. I am fortunate that I started with Patricia’s less popular and surprisingly, less-liked trilogy. However I loved her writing in that much letter story and believe it was the main reason I endured “Postmortem” and thought I would continue.
To my relief, even though the most awful of subjects was mentioned, sexual assault; it was distantly, a past that does not pertain to this story. Thankfully “Body Of Evidence” focused on solving a murder and although unfortunately brutal, the book’s tone wasn’t as dark and depressing. I was surprised to find Kay moaning about a lost love that occurred long ago when she is independent and respected today but the suspicion of a love interest lent a personal angle that made the threads of this case matter. The police inspector is becoming a friend and we even travel to Florida, which we discover is her home. I think the book was brisker and brighter because we only see one hasty part of an autopsy and seldom enter her workplace. The whole book was about her being a sleuth and Frank Marino helping; with a series of small leads that grow into excellent detecting. Thumbs-up! I will continue with a series I have already bought!
J.G. asks that we overcome three dreaded books but in case I plunge well ahead of my aim, I listed five. She is offering prizes! As someone who struggles to afford that in my groups, I want to be rewarded for an appreciable, measurable effort. Please wish me luck! In closing, J.G. requests our ideas of treats. Who wouldn’t be delighted by that! Mine are as bizarre as they are modest, which should make it fun for her.
* I love Amazon.CA (that’s the Canadian site) gift certificates. But if J.G. lives near second hand shops and happened upon this mystery volume, a great wish to grant would be this: “Service For Two” by Kate Kingsbury!
* I can’t find CD-labelling markers in my city. It’s as if they stopped producing them but I love making music CDs and need to write on the blank DVDs that back up my files anyway. A set of coloured markers for writing on CDs! I’ll bet the US has a lot of stores that still sell this. All the fun cereals, like “Cookie Crisp” and “Count Chocula” used to be there. ;)
Speaking of CDs, I could use Maroon 5’s first album “Songs About Jane”. They have a new one coming too!
* I love flower seeds! Whether they grow house plants that keep living in pots, or annuals for summer; it would be fun to receive seeds from somewhere else. I offer plant seeds as one of my prize choices. I already have a lot of Marigolds, cosmoses, bachelor’s buttons, and regular “tall” sunflowers. The giant “Grey Stripe” and other varieties would be lovely and anything not named here. Thank you, J.G! This is generous and fun!