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Season 4, Episode 11

Let It Go: The Books We Didn't Finish

March 24, 2022

Just because we didn't finish these doesn't mean you shouldn't read them. We'll talk about the books that we started but just couldn't finish and how to know when it's time to move on. Book recommendations for young adult and middle grade readers.

Titles Mentioned in This Episode

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Charity 0:01 This is Charity and Jen of Planet Book, which is brought to you by the Springfield- Greene County Library. On each episode we discuss our favorite YA and middle grade books and anything else having to do with reading. Got a book you want us to discuss or a topic you'd like to hear us chat about send us an email at Thanks for joining us.

Jen 0:18 Hey, hey.

Charity 0:19 Have you ever picked up a book, started reading it and didn't love it but you felt like you had to keep reading it? Or did you decide you didn't want to keep reading it and so you didn't finish it? That's what we're talking about today. The books we didn't finish. This sometimes can be like a tricky topic. People feel differently. I used to not be able to not finish a book. Like if I started a book, I had to finish it. I changed that because it's like life is too short. What about you, Jen?

Jen 0:48 Yeah, the same. You know, I was thinking you were saying like you read a page before you take it home? Well, when I'm looking at a book, I kind of read a page and if it's just not the vibe I'm needing this week, I just set it down. I'm like, I'll go back to that maybe, or maybe not. But then as I had a child, and we were reading through some other books as like, neither one of us can get through this. It's not going to happen. And so yeah, you have to model the good behavior. Like, look, dude, you don't have to finish this. Also going back a lot of them if they have a movie, it's really hard for me to finish because I know what's going to happen

Charity 1:22 Every now and then I will meet a reader who is like, oh, no, I have to finish a book once I start it. But life is too short. And there are so many books. Why spend your time trying to finish a book that you're not really loving? On last season with Breea, we talked about this briefly, and she said as soon as something happens that she doesn't like she's out. Like whether it's a show or a book. And so I have somewhat adopted that model, which is where I read the first page if I don't like it, I don't do it. I try a new show, I watch an episode, if I don't like it that's it. And so I feel no guilt or shame about dropping things that I don't like because it's like, there's so many other things that you could try and you may as well read something that you really enjoy. l

Jen 2:07 Yeah, I will start something like that. Like if I know that this is something that there could be like, a really profound meeting and, and it's just hard to make the point I will keep up. Because if I've committed myself to like conquering this classic, then there we go. I'm gonna stick with it. But like if it's just a fluffy novel for fun. Yeah, definitely.

Charity 2:31 Sometimes I'm torn, though, because there have been books that I kind of pushed myself through and then got like, maybe halfway, or maybe even a little bit further and then the story really picked up and I really enjoyed it. And so then it's like, well, gosh, I'm glad that I did read it because in the end, I really enjoyed it. But I really had to push myself past it. Sometimes I'm torn about alright, is this good enough for me to push past and maybe it will get better. But my formula is if I'm reading a book, I usually give it like three chapters. If I'm listening to an audiobook, I will give it like, maybe an hour. And if it hasn't really grabbed me or if I don't care-if I'm reading and I realize I don't care about these characters, I'm done. What's your method for? Like, how do you determine when you drop it?

Jen 3:21 For me personally, if it's just me reading, it's like a couple of pages like, I'm just like, no. Well, because I'm kinda like legit ADD. So if something's putting me to sleep, I'm not doing that to myself anymore. I read every single book generally assigned in classes, because I'm that type. I don't have to do that anymore. I'm not in school.

Charity 3:42 Exactly. Well, and the other thing that I used to do, I used to feel really obligated to finish a series. So if I read the first book, or you know, maybe the second book, I'm like, well, I've got to read the whole series. And now I have just released myself from that, because there are so many series that like that first book will be awesome. The second book just okay. And it seems to be really hard to keep all the things that you love about the first book in a series and sustain that through the entire thing. And so it's like, there's no reason for me to even disappoint myself. I'll just read this first book and that is where the story will end for me. And so I don't even bother worrying about the rest of the books in the series.

Jen 4:24 I started as a youth services library helper when Hunger Games was really popular, and I read that trilogy. I was like, oh my goodness, this is great. But then next few I tried weren't great. And I'm gonna tell you I don't like series. I'm not a huge series, like that's 10 books, five books.

Charity 4:43 Right.

Jen 4:44 I'll commit to the Netflix but I'm just-I don't have that much attention. And I can't wait in between. Like I really liked Raven Boys, but then I had to wait a year. I have yet to get to the second book because-

Charity 4:56 Oh that is so funny.

Jen 4:58 Because I've forgotten what happened in the first book. I've read like 60 books in between that one and the next one coming out.

Charity 5:05 Exactly. No, I could totally relate to that. I just, I don't know.

Jen 5:09 So now my rule is I do not start a series until it's over.

Charity 5:13 Well, I don't really have a rule. But really, like, I'm just probably only going to read the first one or two books in a series. But, also, if there's a book that comes out, and everyone's raving about it, if I look and see that it's part of a series, I'm probably less likely to read that just because like, eh. Give me a standalone book. I just want one and done. Tell this story and then move on. So let's get into the books that we're actually going to talk about. So Jen and I are both going to share some books that we didn't finish. And I feel like that we should just preface this by saying just because we didn't finish them, we're not saying that these are bad books, they just weren't the books for us. So we didn't care for them. But listeners absolutely go and check these books out. Because, you know, I feel like, my thing is, there is a reader for every book, there's a book for every reader. And this is what makes the world go round. So these aren't bad books, they just weren't our cup of tea, and-

Jen 6:15 My choices are all super popular choices.

Charity 6:17 Oh, this is gonna be good.

Jen 6:19 So a lot of people love them. A lot of people love them. Because I don't want to give hate to something that, you know, an independent press. The person's like a brand new writer, they've got enough of a struggle. I'm going to talk about the big hitters, you know, if I'm going to critique something.

Charity 6:36 Well, I didn't do that.

Jen 6:38 Well, that's okay.

Charity 6:39 Okay, so one of the ones that I did not finish, and I did the audio book on this. And I feel like this needs another caveat, because the format of a book can make a difference. So sometimes I didn't like the audio, and maybe I'll try the book and reading the book is better. But also that's happened the other way where I did the audio and loved it, and then read the book and I didn't like reading the book at all. So format makes a difference. But I did the audio on this book, Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer, which is a YA fantasy. It's set in a forest, like the forest is dangerous. And there are these tree sirens that lure people into the woods, and they kill them and like a witch is in control of this forest. And this teenage boy Owen he is lured into the forest. And one of the tree sirens finds him but instead of killing him, she saves his life, and they fall in love. And it almost becomes a little bit like Little Mermaid. Like she wants to become a human. And so then there's that, like battle between these fantasy tree sirens and the Witch and the humans. And then this particular tree siren who wants to become a, you know, a human being. The summary on this sounded so good. And the audio on it, actually, I mean, it's a well done audio, but I just did not care about those characters. I think there wasn't enough character development for me. And so I gave that one-I did go a little bit further into that one. I probably had listened to almost half of this book before I was like, nope, this isn't happening. But if you like YA fantasy and that premise sounds good to you, I would still give it a try because I feel like it's well written, the world they build is-like the setting is just great. Like they do a great job of building that world. I just didn't care about the characters, though.

Jen 8:35 Okay, so my book is. So the first time I tried to read this, I just finished Bronte's Wuthering Heights, which I loved, like capital L loved. And so then I was like, I'll read Pride and Prejudice. And I got like two pages in. I was like, no, I won't, no I won't. And so then like, 10 years later, I went back, I was like, I'll read Pride and Prejudice. And I started and I got tired. But I'd seen the movies. I had seen the movies. So that could have been the problem. But here's the deal. I listened to Rosamund Pike do the audio. I was like, this is great. Like I actually ended up finishing it. I wasn't able to read the book. But the audio was great. And it was also as I think about it written at a time when one person would sit there reading to the entire family and it was meant to be read aloud and so I didn't feel guilty for not being able to like read the book format because-

Charity 9:30 Okay.

Jen 9:31 So that's kind of a cheat.

Charity 9:35 Yeah, but that goes back to my point that format makes a difference.

Jen 9:38 But seeing as how this is the book that like some of my friends, reread and reread. It just made me feel really guilty.

Charity 9:45 I will say I have read the book. I watched all of the film adaptations and I enjoyed it.

Jen 9:53 One of the newer ones, the one with Keira Knightley, is one of my like stress watches. Like I will watch that just go to a calm place.

Charity 10:03 Also interesting, so when it comes to the classics, I don't generally like the audios on the classics, if it's a classic-

Jen 10:10 Right.

Charity 10:11 I want to read the book. In fact, I just tried to do an audio. I can't remember the book it was now, but it was some classic. And so if you've been in high school, it was probably on your like list of books to read. But I had read the book when I was in high school, really liked it and I thought, well, let me revisit it now as an audio book. And I did not like it at all. And so format really does make a big difference in how you receive the story. And so if you don't like it in one format, try it in a different one. Maybe that will make a difference.

Jen 10:44 What's your next one?

Charity 10:46 Well, my next one is one that was on the Missouri Mark Twain nominee list. Maybe was it last year that or the year before maybe like, so maybe 2019 or 2020. 24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling. So this is a middle grade title. And it's about this kid named Gus, who lives out I think he's like, either it's Arizona, or New Mexico. Anyway, he's out southwest, somewhere out in the middle of nowhere in the desert, and that's the name of the town, Nowhere. You know, he's a kid who was picked on and bullied. And pretty early on in the book, there's a scene between him and the bully that was I thought was pretty intense. And like it was physical, you know, like a physical altercation. And, I did read a little bit further, but in a way I couldn't, I just couldn't stomach that. Like I couldn't like I'm sorry, I don't want to read books about kids being bullied in what was like a pretty serious way.

Jen 11:49 That's the thing there can sometimes be triggers. I know, some of the older people make fun of trigger warnings, but it's really kind of important. Because if something's happened to you, whether you've been bullied or you've been assaulted in a different way, or maybe you have an eating disorder, but if there's going to be something that's going to make your life harder for encountering that, like put it down.

Charity 12:11 Yeah, absolutely.

Jen 12:13 Don't do that to yourself.

Charity 12:16 Yeah and I've read other books, where I think Wolf Hollow is another one where the main character is bullied by someone else. But like in that book, that character, even though she's being bullied, she's still strong, you know, like, she's got this inner strength. And in 24 Hours in Nowhere, this kid is just like, he lives in the middle of nowhere. Like, he doesn't really have a good adult in his life. Like just the whole scene it was just so depressing. And you just like, wanna cry for this kid. And I was like, no, this is too sad for me. I can't do it. What about you? What's your next one?

Jen 12:50 Oh, I'm gonna get some anger thrown at me for this one.

Charity 12:55 These are just our personal opinions, friends, personal opinions.

Jen 12:58 And remember like, I'm not afraid to say it; I'm in my 40s. So I saw all the movies before the books. The books came out when I was in college, and nowhere near reading middle school stuff. So I only made it halfway through Harry Potter book two.

Charity 13:14 Okay, wait. Okay, wait. You read book one?

Jen 13:15 Yes.

Charity 13:16 How did you feel about book one?

Jen 13:19 Well, I was reading it out loud with my son. He was in first grade. We got through it. We liked it. Loved it. And then just about halfway through, like, I got there one night, he just didn't want to hear anymore. He's like, we went to a different book. And so I didn't force it. And I had no reason like-it didn't compel me to read it. Yeah.

Charity 13:39 So both of you were kind of just meh about book two? And he hadn't

Jen 13:43 And he hadn't seen the movie, but he knew they existed. I don't know. It just also fantasy. Like some kids just prefer a more realistic tale like Hatchet, but he loved the Graveyard Book. I don't know what it was with Harry Potter. And it makes me like, it's the book that so many people that don't read read. I don't want to say anything bad about it.

Charity 14:04 No, I totally get where you're coming from. I only just read and I talked about this in season three. I had only just read book one in 2020. And, you know, but it's one of those books because so many people love it and have read it. As a librarian, it's almost like embarrassing to admit that either you hadn't read it, or that you didn't really like it and people look at you like you're crazy. But I did. And so I did the audiobook one. The audio is phenomenal, which I'd always heard. The audio was great. And but that's another one where, okay, I enjoyed the story. I didn't really see what all the hype was. I don't need to read anymore. I haven't seen the movies. I'm okay with that. I get it.

Jen 14:49 Well, and it's again, it's one of those. I own the set because Brian Selznick illustrated them so I may at some point in my life feel the need to go back and Just read them. But it's not, I don't know. Not now.

Charity 15:03 So my last one, and this one I feel like is pretty popular and a lot of my co-workers have read it and they liked it. And there are movies. I haven't seen the movie I'm not going to, but that is Ready Player One. I tried that. I'm a huge sci fi nut. And this one always shows up on lots of like, great sci fi titles. So like almost every single time I look up a list of great sci fi books this one is always going to show up on the list. So I tried it. I did the audio. Maybe that was the problem.

Jen 15:40 Okay, so you did the Wil Wheaton audio?

Charity 15:42 And I love Wil Wheaton. Okay, he is a great narrator. It wasn't even that like the audio wasn't good. He's a wonderful narrator. He was the perfect choice, I think, for this audiobook.

Jen 15:55 When we were on a trip to Kansas City, my son, I think he was like 10 at the time. We listened to that, and nerded out over it. So like I think we were on the way to Comic Con, KC Comic Con or something. And I loved it. But here's the thing, Ready Player two's coming out I don't know that I'll read that. Because I loved the first one so much.

Charity 16:20 So let me ask you this. Are you a gamer?

Jen 16:22 Not really. Like I was from a poor family. We didn't even own an Atari. You know, I got to play Atari at another kid's house. Like my parents let me watch anything I wanted in the 80s. So I've seen all the 80s movies. Seems like Back to the Future was pretty relevant to that book. And I was able, having played that stuff to catch the references. Not maybe every one but-

Charity 16:49 So I think that was part of my problem that like, there were a lot of references to things-like I haven't seen the Back to the Future movies. I've tried watching them because the rest of my family enjoys them. I'm like, no, I don't get this. I'm not a gamer and so much of that book-I mean, that's the whole premise is that this kid is like in this video game, and I just-I could not do it. I could not do it.

Jen 17:14 Well face it, if you're not super into the Back to the Future trilogy that probably explains a lot, you know?

Charity 17:22 Right. And so yeah, like, I mean, from what I remember, like there were a lot of references to that and just gaming in general-

Jen 17:34 You're talking to somebody who went to Chicago to see Crispin Glover read live. I'm just like yeah, yeah, I loved it. I loved Ready Player One. But my next didn't finish-I loved book one. I loved Divergent.

Charity 17:47 Oh, me too.

Jen 17:48 But I got halfway through Insurgent and I was like, I don't know. I'm done. I couldn't finish Insurgent.

Charity 17:57 Okay.

Jen 17:59 Have you finished the trilogy?

Charity 18:00 Well, I was just gonna say, so I read Divergent. I really enjoyed that one. I read Insurgent. I liked that one. I didn't like it as much as Divergent. So, you know, and that's the same I felt that way about Hunger Games. Like that second one this is okay. I have not read the third one and now it's been so long, but I probably won't. Because I didn't like that second one well enough.

Jen 18:22 The movies really stunk.

Charity 18:23 I haven't seen the movies.

Jen 18:24 Even though everybody's, you know, a great actor, gorgeous, whatever. It just-they didn't work for me. So I saw the first movie and I didn't even see the second one. Same thing. But I did like Hunger Games. I thought Hunger Games, I thought each book was solid.

Charity 18:41 Really?

Jen 18:42 Like I don't have a favorite. I liked all three.

Charity 18:45 Really, because a lot of readers that I talked to when they come into the library, they have-a lot of readers have that same opinion that like the first one was great. The second one was okay. The third one, eh.

Jen 19:01 Well, let me say though for me, so many of the trilogies I actually have finished, I'm just like, so disappointed by the third book. Like the ending when the endings-it's so like, especially if you've watched anime, it's like, you've put like 10 disks into this and then it's apocalypse and the world ends? So I'm like, for trilogies it's a solid ending.

Charity 19:27 And well, and you know, that you're always, especially in those kind of like dystopian stories, you know, by the time you get to that last book, you're gonna have some of those major characters being killed off.

Jen 19:37 I love it when they kill a character.

Charity 19:40 know. I know you, Jen. But I'm always like, oh, like, why are you killing these characters? And I know you got to do it. Like, but no. So no, I haven't finished it. I probably won't. I'm okay with that.

Jen 19:56 Yeah, as much as I'm okay with them killing off a character to advance the plot or make the story seem real, also there have been series that characters have died and I've just quit. You just killed my favorite character.

Charity 20:13 Yeah, you can't you can't kill off everyone's favorite character. Well, this has been a really fun conversation. And again, those of you out there listening, you know, these are still books-

Jen 20:23 Let us know what books you couldn't finish.

Charity 20:25 Yes, send us an email at We want to hear about the books that you couldn't finish. And if you read any of these, and you have a different opinion, we'd love to hear that too. Jen, thanks for joining me talking about the books we didn't finish. I enjoyed this a lot.

Jen 20:42 Me too.

Charity 20:43 Thanks for joining us for another episode. Check out the library's website at for these and other great book recommendations. Follow us on Facebook for the latest news and events and send us an email at and send us your book recommendations or topic you'd like to hear us chat about. We'd love to hear from you. This has been a production of the Springfield-Greene County Library District. Thanks for listening.

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