Rarely do I find myself in the middle of a book and discover that I’m not really enjoying it.
It’s happened twice in three weeks.
I think I’m good at buying books. What I mean by that is I manage my expectations well, understand what kind of books I’m likely to enjoy, and, once reading, tend to just go along for the ride. This means that I seldom end up reading a book I have to drag myself through, so it’s a surprise that I’ve now found two such books during the span of June.
The first: a sweeping epic fantasy smothered in good reviews and high praise. Large cast of characters, complex political world, etc. It should be right up my alley. Or at least close enough to it to make no difference. And yet I haven’t cracked the electronic spine in two weeks. And I don’t miss it. This is pretty much a monumental moment in my reading history because it doesn’t happen often. This is how my reading experience usually goes: Open book-get sucked in-stay up late-finish. Seriously.
It wasn’t bad. Far from it. And I think I can understand why some people love it. (Let me point out that I’m not alone; the overall consensus is that this is a great, masterful novel, but there are plenty of people who share my struggles.) For my part, I have found it difficult to engage with the characters and the plot. But beyond that, for once my expectations were off.
The great reviews (and a cover I adore) drew me in and concocted expectations that the book hasn’t met. And that’s not the book’s fault. I messed up. I haven’t given up on it, but I also know that the story doesn’t end with this book. There will be more. Possibly many more. So I haven’t quiet decided what to do with it.
To stave off that decision, I went to the bookstore! And I walked out with two books that seemed like slam-dunks. See, I actually don’t read a ton of fantasy. Historical fiction is my bread and butter, my escape, mon ciel étoilé.
One of my purchases, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, was perfection–despite being different and strange and hard to describe. But that leads to…
The second: Elizabethan England, Shakespeare, secrets, plagues, poetry. Doesn’t it sound wonderful? Well, it’s not. This is most certainly a case of mismanaged expectations. When I read the back cover in the store, I created this story in my head. I keep looking for that story as I read and I keep failing to find it. Because it isn’t there. And yet when I go re-read the back cover or the blurb on Goodreads, I still feel like I was being set up. I feel as though the plot scale is tipped far too thoroughly in one direction and it happens to be a direction I don’t care for.
I’ll persist, no doubt. I don’t like to give up on books and I’m about two-thirds through. Plus, honestly, I think I’m still holding out hope that I’ll get that story I was looking for.
But then came Hild.
Hild is a novel by Nicola Griffith and I’ve had it on my radar, indeed, on my Kindle, for several months. I started it over the weekend, didn’t have time to get very far, but already it feels lovely. Like a lush, drowsy, dreamlike summer afternoon. In the best possible way.