Five Reasons Why I Set a Novel Down

Having had some disappointing reads lately, here are five reasons I usually will set a promising novel aiside.

Frustrating Plotlines

Sometimes, it seems like the plot is too frustrating. I read for entertainment. I don’t need frustrating plotlines to elevate my already-high blood pressure. I especially hate it when I figure something out, but the author refuses to let the character figure the same thing out. I am now reading a book where the character has come to a conclusion that I just know is wrong. But the character is convinced she is right. I just know she is going to spend the next four hundred pages clinging to her mistaken conclusion only to figure out she was wrong at the last minute, and then save the day. How do I know this? Because that’s what happened in Book One. Retread. I’m not sure if I want to finish the book and see if I am wrong.

Amoral Characters

I finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I started reading the second book, but I set it aside. Why? Because I’m having trouble feeling any empathy for the main character. She is totally amoral and is now sleeping with a sixteen year old boy. Romance publishers would never dare go near such a plotline. The only thing that seems to fire up her sense of right and wrong is brutality toward woman. Which, of course, she experiences for herself. Which brings me to another set-aside reason …

Excess Brutality

The first book in the Millennium Trilogy almost got set aside because of the sexual brutality. I’m only a few chapters into the second book, and already I can foresee the author upping the brutality for book 2. I’m just not sure I want to suffer through it.

Monologues

I recently rated a book a 3 on Goodreads instead of a 4 because in the end, the character didn’t figure it out. Instead, the reader had to be served up the explanations of the plot in the form of villain monologues. The really good writers always have their characters figure out the mystery, thus avoiding this trap. Monologues rarely cause me to actually set aside the book, because hey–I’m almost at the ending anyway. But still. Grr.

Authorial Over-Indulgence

Sometimes, when the author becomes more and more successful, they over-indulge. Their stories become longer, but not with added substance–with added fluff. Tension is still important even if you are a successful author. Every scene must still count. You can’t drag things out–neither the tension of the story’s climatic resolution, nor the plot itself over book after book after book. Are these authors in love with their own words? I think nothing of abandoning a series at book 5 and toting the entire set to the used book store once the plot starts flatlining. Conversely, after reading an entertaining trilogy, I’ll always check out the author’s next series. So really, there’s nothing to be afraid of in actually, yanno, getting to the end.

In order to end on a more positive note, I promise to do a companion post on “Five Reasons I Keep Turning the Pages”. In the meantime, please share some of the reasons you have set some recent reads aside.

Those Treasures in your Pocket

Certain hobbies don’t take a lot of time or effort. By far my oldest hobby is scrutinizing my pocket change for special coins. And this time of year—right about now—is the absolute best time of year to find old, special coins. Why? My theory is that coin stashes have been emptied nationwide to help fund Christmas. So January is the best time to find those recently-recirculated coins.

To start, empty your pockets and coin purses and throw them on a desk.

Pennies

You will notice you have two types of pennies. Nice, dark, coppery looking ones with a uniform color, and crummy, old-looking ones that are blotchy, pitted and icky. The old-looking, crummy ones are actually the newer coins. Toss them aside. They are no longer even made of copper anymore, which is why they look so yucky. I don’t even like handling them.

Of the nice coppery ones, turn them to the reverse. The wheat-back coins are definite keepers. The rest are a toss-up. With each year, as more and more copper coins are taken out of circulation, these coins are going be worth more and more. If you stumble across a penny that you have mistaken for a dime because it is silvery, definitely keep it. It is probably a steel penny that was manufactured during WWII.

In 2009, the Lincoln Penny took on a whole new meaning when four coins were minted with various likenesses of Lincoln. Marring this event was the crappy composition of the coin. If you can find some nice ones, be sure to preserve them in plastic.

Sample coins – click to enlarge

Nickels

During 2004 and 2005, a series of special coins were made you might want to collect yourself a set. They aren’t worth anything, but it is a good practice to keep a sample of any special edition coin.

Other than that, nickels aren’t very special. They’re made of … well, nickel, and aren’t very exciting.

Dimes

You might find a dime that is more silvery looking than the others. Check it out. If it is 1964 or earlier, immediately set it aside. It is 90% silver. Nowadays, they are actually copper coated in nickel. You will notice that real silver coins make a silvery ping when you bounce them on a table, or when they jingle with other coins. If you ever hear anything unusual in your change, scrutinize every coin.

If you find a dime with a woman on the front, not only should you set it aside, you should seal it in plastic. Liberty dimes were last minted during WWII.

Of additional interest are unclad dimes. These are dimes that look like pennies because they never got their nickel coating. Most of these have been stripped artificially, but if they are all coppery with no suspicious ring of silver around the ribbed edge of the dime, it may be an actual unclad dime.

Quarters

Quarters were also mostly silver before 1965. So check out any old quarter. The recent state quarters aren’t worth very much, but it might be worth the trouble to collect yourself a set.

Starting this year, another multiyear set is being issued, the America the Beautiful Quarters program. These quarters feature national parks. Coin sets for 2011 are still available at the Mint.

Of interest are bicentennial quarters. These were minted in 1976, and they have a drummer on the reverse. They are starting to get pretty special to find in your change. I immediately take any I find out of circulation and encase it in plastic.

Other coins

Going to the post office and using cash in the the stamp machine can yield you some dollar coins. The post office is the only place that regularly uses dollar coins. I don’t have any of the recent ones, only some older Sacajawea coins. The two current dollar coins are the presidential coin, and the Sacajawea coin. I also grab the Susan B. Anthony coins, but I think they have all been removed from circulation. During its last mint year, I got one encased in mylar from the Mint. They may be almost impossible to find nowadays.

Same goes for half-dollars. I have one of particular interest–a bicentennial half-dollar coin. It looks almost new, too. I’ve had it since Junior High. Other than that year, this coin has not changed in recent years, like other coins have. Also be on the lookout for pre-1965 silver half-dollars.

I have hundreds of coins, mostly because I grab anything that’s unusual to me, even current foreign coins. Thanks to a friend of my father, I have lots of European coins from WWII, including a french coin made of tin. I really need to grab a set of Euro coins, but they’re kind of expensive.

So, go empty those pockets and change purses. Find anything cool?