Two DNFs: this pains me

20 Jun
I’m in a bit of a reading slump right now – nothing seems like the right fit for my mood, and I feel too lazy to go to any real effort to jumpstart my habit. That’s why this post especially pains me. It’s times like these when I go to trusted authors that I’ve enjoyed in the past. What better way is there to get your mojo back than to return to an author’s voice or style that really moves you? One caveat: like I said, I’m slumpy right now, so I’m not holding these Did Not Finish books against the authors at all. They still rock.

First up, I tried to read Dianna Wynne Jones’ Hexwood. I hadn’t heard of this particular title of hers, but I’ve come to really respect and enjoy her weird world. I mean, Howl’s Moving Castle is a phenomenal book (which incidentally became one of my favorite movies) and I recently read and enjoyed House of Many Ways (which it looks like I didn’t review…curious), so I thought for sure anything I picked up from Jones would be a winner for me. Plus, with her recent passing in 2011, it feels really wrong to not have a glowing review for any of her works. Alas, I didn’t like Hexwood and gave it up after 100 pages or so. It was just too odd and unstructured for me right now. It’s about a motley crew of characters from different times, places, and dimensional realms who interact with each other in an enchanted world. Because I didn’t finish it, I don’t know how it all worked out or what significance each character had, and I can see in hindsight that it’s a very intelligent book that I probably would have enjoyed another time. Now, though, the jolts in time and space were too disorienting for me, and I had trouble caring about any of the characters. One of the blurbs on the cover, from The Washington Post, said it’s a “an intricate mesh of romance, science fiction, mythology, and rite of passage.” Sounds amazing, but didn’t work for me. I’m going to hold onto it and give it another chance later on.

Next DNF for me was Julia Quinn’s Everything and the Moon. Quinn is a romance author that I usually love and can depend on for light romantic fare. She admittedly mentions in her forward that she tried a different tack for this book – she had the h/h fall in love at first sight as teenagers. He’s an earl-to-be, she’s a vicar’s daughter, and their star-crossed love follows the predictable path of heartbreak at first. Quinn seemed skeptical in her ability to pull off the “love at first sight” trope, and like her, it’s not my favorite plot twist either. I just…don’t get it. Attraction, yes. Chemistry, definitely. “I love you with my whole soul and can’t imagine being apart from you” after the first meeting? I don’t buy it, and couldn’t. Because I didn’t believe in their connection and hadn’t really bought in to their love, the resulting plot twists didn’t do much for me. Robert, the hero, is a huge dick to the heroine after the Big Misunderstanding, which is understandable but just grated on my nerves. Victoria, the heroine, manages her disappointment well, in a Jane Eyre, “I will survive” kind of way that I liked. BUT. She inexplicably (to my mind, at least) digs her heels in at a certain point and it really slowed down the development of their relationship and the storyline for me. I eventually lost interest when I realized I didn’t care enough about either of them to see how they ended up. Just wasn’t for me. Still, this is the first of her books that didn’t really grab me, so I’m just writing it off as a fluke.

So there you have it. I’m trying a different tack now by delving into some non-fiction I’ve gotten from the library. I’m working on Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones, & Butter, a chef memoir that I mentioned a few months ago. So far, I’m really liking it, not just because I love food and spent a fair portion of my working life in various restaurants, but also because homegirl is an excellent writer. Wicked combo. Then I’ll get to a gardening memoir by Margaret Roach – I’ve recently begun cultivating my smallish patch of dirt in my yard and am super into it. Yay for growing things!

6 Responses to “Two DNFs: this pains me”

  1. Rebecca June 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    I think that you are the sweetest reviewer I’ve ever read, and I mean that in a highly complimentary way. You’re just so freakin’ nice! 🙂

    I agree that the Jones novel sounds really intriguing. I’ve never read anything by her, but she’s going to be added to my list of books to read.

    I’m also not a fan of love at first sight. I always thought it was because I have only loved one thing at first sight, and that was my first horse. Nothing else, not my husband, not my cats, not my second horse, not my good friends, have I loved at first sight. Maybe you get it once. One love-at-first-sight pairing, and mine happened to be with a horse. (I would assume most people’s would be with their child.)

    • Amanda June 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      Oh Rebecca, that’s nice of you. I try to be as fair as I can, and honestly I don’t feel comfortable yet posting an actual negative review. I just respect the work that goes into writing so much, and I would hate to hurt someone’s feelings. I guess I think of myself as more of a book recommender than reviewer, since I shy away from the difficult stuff! There’s book bloggers out there that do an incredible job of being thoughtful and fair when negatively reviewing. Maybe one day I’ll work up to that.

      You and I are on the same page as far as love at first sight. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that, so I don’t identify with it. I was VERY intrigued when I first met my husband, so that’s probably the closest experience I can relate it to. Love is such a complex emotion – how could you base it off an appearance and a five minute conversation? Just doesn’t work for me.

      • Rebecca June 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

        It would definitely have to be one kick-ass five-min conversation! I thought my husband was interesting long before I thought about love, and once in love, it was at least a year (maybe longer) before I thought about life-time plans.

        This sounds more cynical than it is, but I think of love-at-first sight love being a child’s love. When you’re young and haven’t learned about death and there’s absolutely no negativity attached to the emotion (no future loss, no potential hurt, no weighing what is good for the long term), then it seems possible. Over the age of 10 or 12, I don’t know.

        (And I love your respectful reviews!)

  2. Mary Jo June 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    As you know Amanda, I’m not fond of either of the two genres you mention this time, but I want to comment on the DNF. It took me years to get over my guilt about not finishing a book. But that’s over. I feel that life’s too short and there are too many books waiting out there to waste time reading a book that doesn’t really grab me. The characters may be one-dimensional, unsympathetic, too unrealistic, whatever. The plot may be too slow-moving, ridiculous, over descriptive of stuff not relevant to the story. There are a lot of reasons to just toss it and go on the the next one.

    • Amanda June 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

      I completely agree. I have friends who MUST finish every book they read, and that idea just exhausts me. Life is definitely too short, as is my attention span. There’s just so many books to read that I can’t keep trying to make one work that just isn’t for me.

    • Rebecca June 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      I agree! Sometimes I feel that people forget the point of reading: for pleasure or enjoyment. Entertainment. Where’s the fun in slogging through something just to finish it?

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