On the DNF: It’s Okay to Not Finish Every Book You Pick Up

Can’t finish a book? Enlist your friends for help!

I used to be the sort of person who struggled and slogged through a book for months, completely intent on finishing it, no matter how long it took. Other books piled up around me—many for years and years—as the evil book in question stared at me wherever I went, mocking, taunting me, saying Why aren’t you reading me? You’re still on page 37. Come on, pick me up!

Meet the dreaded DNF, also known as the “Did Not Finish” book. This is the book you’ve picked up, started to read a few pages, and then it dawns on you…this book is awful. Yet, for some reason, insanity compels you to keep reading, page after page after page. It doesn’t get better. You procrastinate by going on Goodreads or Amazon to check out reviews. This book gets amazing halfway through! says one ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review. So you keep reading. You’re halfway through and it still doesn’t seem to be getting any better. You begin to curse that Amazon reviewer. It must’ve been a friend of the author, you think angrily, throwing your cold mug of tea across the room, startling the cat. They have to be paid reviews!

For many years, I thought it was sacrilegious to give up on a novel. Sure, I DNF’d a couple of books over the decade, but for the most part, I kept reading until the very end. Over the past year, I’ve found it much harder to read a lot, and that’s made it a lot easier to DNF. When you’re not reading very many books in the first place, why should those books all be ones that you’re not enjoying? It’s a surefire way to turn you off reading for life—it’s almost as effective as the terrible literary fiction they make you read in high school (I’m looking at you, Bypass by Michael McGirr!).

There are many reasons to give up on a book. On her blog, Isabelle Hernandez lists a number of reasons why a book just doesn’t pique your interest. In the spirit of that blog, I thought I should give you a list of terrible books I DNF’d—many of them quite controversial—to hopefully make you realise that life is too short to be reading books you don’t like:

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How to Blog When the Blogging Gets Tough

It’s amazing how many free stock images exist on the internet. Here’s one of someone writing a blog post.

Last month I set myself up for the impossible task of blogging every day. Guess what? Forty days later, and I’m still going strong. You know, I don’t think it’s something everyone should do. Thinking of a different idea every single day can be exhausting, time-consuming, but it’s also great to keep your creative brain alive especially when you feel like you’ve lost your zest for writing.

I’ve had a major case of writer’s block for the last couple of months. I’m not talking about the sort of writer’s block that can be fixed by staring at your laptop screen for an hour with Resident Evil save room music playing in the background, but the sort where you can’t pump out even a paragraph. I have no problem with ideas; that’s the easiest part, but putting them down into words is much harder. Earlier this year, I started my second serious novel (as mentioned before, I’ve previously written another two absolutely awful pieces of crap back in 2009 and 2010), and found myself just over 7,000 words in before I became stuck. Since I couldn’t continue with that story, I decided to turn my hand to blogging. Blogging means you can get your words out to people, and can interact with others on the world wide web. I decide to write about politics, because it’s difficult to escape from the world of politics, but you can write about just about anything. Because of that, I decided to separate my writing and other related posts to this blog, and talk about politics on my new site, The Fifty Percent Review.

Since I’ve seen a lot of people talk about the slog of blogging, and how so many give up after a few short months, I thought I should offer a few tips on how you can blog regularly. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who struggled one blog every couple of months when I first started in 2012. In 2013, I did one post in February, and then took a huuge break until June, and then only did two more posts between September and December. Lucky for me, I’ve managed to find a good cycle for posting on Gut Instinct (one post per month) that’s realistic to maintain. But you want to know how to write regularly, don’t you? Well, let’s get crack-a-lacking:

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The Child-ish Book Review

A workman discovers the remains of a baby while digging up a building site in Woolwich in England, and it’s reported as a two sentence piece in a newspaper more focused on the London Olympics, the Royals and potential terrorists. Most would have ignored it. Not Kate Waters. Kate, a plucky older journalist in an era of young reporters and online news, discovers the story and files it away for later use. She decides to discover the truth behind the baby, but gets more than she bargained for when she learns more about the residents of Howard Street. Combine this with Angela Irving, who lost her baby back in 1970 and is still struggling to cope, and Emma Simmonds, who’s also struggling to deal with the news as it brings back long-hidden memories, and you’ve got an intriguing, almost-400 page read.

The Child is Fiona Barton’s second novel, and I went to the library and had them order it in, as I loved Barton’s previous book, The Widow, so much. Unfortunately, I’m a massive procrastinator, and the book was a couple days late, when I realised I really should pick it up and read it, since I’ve got so many other books to read (Final Girls, Crash Override, Quiet, Day of the Triffids, the rest of Adrian Mole, etc). Lucky for me, it’s AMAZINGLY QUICK to read. I mean, I read 20 pages over a month, since the book started quite slowly. I then finished the remaining 350 or so pages in two days. Yes, two. Despite this knowledge, I almost DNF’d this second book, because the start wasn’t interesting at all. It just felt like a rehash of The Widow, except a dead baby this time instead of a missing child. I decided, since the book was late back to the library, I should quickly read more of it to see if it was worth it, and yes, the book does get better.

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You Shouldn’t Be Judging Books By Their Movies

An anonymous person, commonly quoted as J.W, Eagan, told us you should never judge a book by its movie. They have to be right, don’t they? A terrible movie will probably be based off a great book! Books are beautiful precious things that can tell a story with only your imagination to keep it thriving. The book is always better than the movie! How can a movie, which involves like barely any effort, be the same as a novel? The film is barely ever faithful, removes important characters (Peeves the Poltergeist, and Madge from The Hunger Games are the most important characters ever!!), and adds useless subplots that f*** up the beauty and the imagination. Not to mention the actors never look like who I imagined! Grr!

Or not. Books don’t have anything that immediately make them greater than films or even video games. There’s bad books. I’ve read plenty of them in my time. I can’t stand most straight romances except a bunch of my mum’s ones from the ’80s (Little Sister, The Popularity Plan) and those from my trashy YA stage in early high school (South Beach). I still remember the awful books I read in high school: Bypass by Michael McGirr and Deadly, Unna by Phillip Gwynne, that almost turned me off reading for life. I got through Fifty Shades of Grey and seven chapters of Fifty Shades Darker. Those are not good books. The later, ghostwritten Vampire Diaries books make me weep for the future of fiction. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child…well, let’s not go there. Books, by virtue of being books, aren’t necessarily the greatest things ever. The same for movie aficionados, and video game enthusiasts. There’s good and bad.

Should we be judging a book by its movie? Well, of course not. I think that speaks for itself. They’re completely different mediums, interpreted in different ways. See: The Shining by Stephen King, and The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick. Shocking revelation: I dislike both of them. In this case, Stephen King really loathes Kubrick’s interpretation of The Shining, as it’s completely different to what he wanted. I can’t be surprised: I don’t think I’ve found a single faithfully adapted Stephen King movie. Both have a completely different vibe, and that’s because it’s by two different people who have different visions for the story. The film of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, has a bit of an indie, hipster vibe about it, which the book doesn’t. Popular opinion says the Azkaban film is the greatest one, better than the book. Others like me, prefer the Christopher Columbus vibe of the first two, and wished there’d been a mixture between Columbus’s interpretation, and the forgettable dude who directed Goblet of Fire.

Adapting from a book to movie can be quite difficult. Making it as faithful to the book as possible is impossible, especially if it’s a long book like Harry Potter with a lot of plot. Except if you’re Stephen Chbosky. Alternatively, the Twilight Saga is like seventy-bajillion pages  with little to no plot, and the films still managed to miss crucial plot details. In spite of all this, I thought I should go ahead and tell you some of the greatest film adaptations and some of the shittiest ones. Because we all know there are great books and terrible books, just like there are amazing films and God-awful films:

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Responding to Spam Posts on a Post about Spam: A Hate Story

In a sense of irony almost too good to pass up, my blog post from March—You have pending blog posts scammer: An Introductory Guide to Spam Emails—received an absurd amount of spam comments trying to make it into the comments section.

It all started quite simply. I was mashing out words on the keyboard for my last blog post, a simple post reviewing the ridiculous number of movies I’ve watched this year. That’s when I noticed my email notifications.

I thought to myself, “Hmm, probably some people who have enjoyed my rousing reviews of…wait, who am I kidding myself?”

Then I saw the emails from WordPress:

The Adrian Mole-slash-Poopy Butthole part of my brain immediately thought:

Oo-wee! Is this what fame feels like?

Alas, it was not meant to be. That sense of irony intermingled with the ugly, rearing head of a cliche, and I realised they were simply…spammers. For a blog post about spammers. The sense of irony was almost too good to pass up, so I passed it up. Until today, where I’ve decided the best thing to do is critique these people.

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Movie Review Roundup 2017, Part Two: Far Too Many Movies to Review!

binge watching


noun: binge watching: The practice of watching multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming

(via Google)

The era of online internet streaming has brought about a huge change in the way we watch movies and TV shows.

Back when I discovered DVD box-sets in the long-gone era of the mid-2000s, I fully embraced binge-watching by watching the first few seasons of Family Guy (yes, the embarrassment from enjoying Family Guy still lingers) and the first three seasons of Smallville in rapid succession. Back then, I could watch the 20-something episodes of Smallville in under a week, but it was okay, because you still had to put the disc in the DVD player, and it wasn’t as simple as it is now. Fast forward ten years…

Oh, how I miss those days. With the twenty-tens came the invention of Netflix—well, that was around back in the day, but it was completely different—and Stan and Hulu and whatever the Foxtel one is called, and all the others.

Lucky for me, I’m near the end of these massive, 60-billion word (welcome to Hyperbole Land, folks!) movie reviews, so the insomnia is kicked up a notch. According to a study by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, out of the over-80% of young adults who admitted to binge-watching (the remaining 20% are liars I tell you, LIARS!), a whopping 98% of them were likely to have a poor quality of sleep. Which is why, before I improve my sleep cycle, I’m gonna use this insomnia to tell you of some more movies I’ve watched this year, and why I think they’re awesome, or alternatively, horrifically horrible. Let’s get going then!

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Movie Review Roundup 2017, Part One: Confessions of a Netflix Addict

Netflix: Is it Inspiration Central for writers?

My name is Jessica and I am a Netflix addict. And a Stan addict. And Amazon Prime. Unfortunately—or fortunately for me—we don’t have Hulu or any of the others in ‘Straya yet, so I can be saved from consuming more of the timesuck that is online streaming. My fiancé and I recently caved in and signed up to Netflix early this year, and I’ve roughly guesstimated the number of movies I’ve watched on there, and elsewhere, and the count got up to at least 35. There are still 46 movies (and 135 books, but let’s try and ignore that for now) on my To-Watch list, so this addiction doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Don’t worry, I do have a life. I’ve even managed to get some writing in!

So I’ve devised a solution. Alongside the book reviews, I’m gonna do a monthly catch-up of all the great and not-so-great movies I’ve been watching, and my reviews, no matter how ridiculous, no matter how trashy.

Warning: I have a slightly terrible taste in movies. A bunch of these are beloved and popular movies that I gave 👎👎👎 reviews. *Cough cough* I’ll ignore the various movies I’ve re-watched, ’cause clearly I think they’re awesome (Shrek 1&2, Fight Club, Sorority Row, Inglourious Basterds). Let’s get going!

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