Reading Impatience: A Confession

Morning_Sky_1The state of my reading is desultory, uncertain, restless … impatient. It’s pick up one book, lay down another, send a tweet into the ether, read another few pages. Hence, why this blog has remained relatively silent, at best, sparsely review-containing. Whether it’s April’s cruelty, especially after a long, hard winter, or the, FINALLY, ability to moon around the garden without being encased in a down-filled coat-duvet, I can’t seem to settle on the luxury of true reading pleasure … an immersive, sustained hours-long read. So, instead of telling you, dear reader, about what I’ve been reading and hinting at whether you should read it too, I’ll write a post about how I’ve failed to read, watch, and listen to, not a meh-review, not a snarky review, but an anti-review.

The attached image, by the way, is one of my Twitter #morningsky pics (if you follow me there, you’ll know all about them): I do love how it blue-gradates. Canadian skies are the best skies. I include it for no other reason than its impression of emptiness and, possibly, the viewer’s inability to figure out what it is. Also, I love it.

Since my fiction reading is romance reading, I’ll start with my DNF. I failed to read Eva Leigh’s Counting On A Countess (London Underground, Book 2). There was nothing perniciously wrong with it, it just didn’t grab me. I thought there was nothing romantic, moving, or interesting about the protagonists and they weren’t appealing together either. I liked the idea of the heroine-as-smuggler-to-save-her-people, really liked it, but it wasn’t enough to keep me reading.

To offset the moue of disappointment elicited by Counting On A Countess, I delved into Sabrina Jeffries’s The Secret Of Flirting. Jeffries is a romance writer I usually like, so I spent a good third of the novel convincing myself of its greatness. And, I should like it better than I do. It has a false-royal, spy hero, compelling plot, with danger and shooting on false princesses in the park … and hot kissing scenes and great banter, and I simply can’t bring myself to read it. I’ve slogged through it over several evenings and … nada. It’s a chore, a reading albatross. I won’t finish it.

To my all attempted romance reading, I can offer only the lame-embarrassed excuse for a break-up, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

I like to have a non-fiction book going, as well as my beloved romance reading. I started Peter Frankopan’s ambitious book-mammoth The Silk Roads. It’s great: erudite, sweeping, well-written, focussed, methodical. I appreciate what he’s trying to do, reverse the standard idea of “Western Civ” as the trajectory of history by telling the story from an Eastern perspective. It’s a book that, as a liberal arts student, steeped in “Western civ”, I can learn a lot from. But I’m finding it difficult: I have no context for it. Everything is unfamiliar: the names, the geography. I can’t map his story in my head. I’m not sure where Uzbekistan is … and this is my failure, not Frankopan’s. I really should try harder with it. But I think it’s a cold book, unlike Yuval Harari’s Sapiens, which I also read this year, and found brilliant, provocative, and funny, cynical as all hell, but I loved it. I’ll stick with The Silk Roads, even though, at times, it feels like I’m eating a dry biscuit, nutritious, but thus far unpalatable. I’ll report back on my “silk roads” journey; it’s early days yet.

Other than what I’ve tried and failed to read, I’ve been listening to podcasts, thanks to a long commute. Podcasts, I’ve discovered, soothe the savage road-rage beast in me. I can remain calm, cool, collected, and keep my teeth-grinding hatred for my fellow drivers to a slowly simmering antipathy, as long as I’m intellectually engaged. I’m a news and politics hound, though my own country’s politics bore me to tears. And why listen to Canada’s endless parliamentary debates (honestly, the best Canadian news report is the weather, a source of endless national fascination, obsession, and conversation) when the insanity that reigns in our southern neighbours’ neck of the woods is an infinite source of horror and farce. To keep myself abreast of my American neighbours’ national implosion, I listen to NYT’s The Daily and NPR’s Up First, as well as the NPR Politics podcast (today’s program on Mueller was great). For some hoity-toity British-accented history lessons, I do love the BBC’s “In Our Time”. Frankly, I skipped their show on the proton and The Mabinogion, but loved The Romans and George Eliot. Our very own CBC Ideas is often compelling and brilliant (sometimes, they get too earnestly Canadian and then I skip them). I loved the interview with Yuval Harari, was mesmerized by Paul Kennedy’s conversation with Anne Applebaum, author of Red Famine, a history of Stalin’s starvation of Ukrainian peasantry, and wept through Kennedy’s interview with Yale historian Timothy Snyder. I find Snyder so smart, committed, and profound. I subscribe to about 20 podcasts, so I may decide to write about more of them. 

On my Amazon Prime subscription, I’ve got the first six episodes of the first season of That Girl queued. When I was a wee young thing, I watched that show with faithful fixation, convinced I could be “that girl”. Marlo Thomas looked like me, well, a prettier, thinner me, and she lived the life I wanted to choose for myself: independent, ambitious, with a cute boyfriend. I loved that she was never one to put marriage and bambinos at the top of her accomplishment list. I want to see if the show holds up for me. I consider the queue, but don’t watch, not only because moving screens, like TVs, put me into a drooling, head-lolling REM sleep, but because I don’t want it to be less than what I originally thought of it.

This is what I’ve failed to read, read sort of, tried to read, listened to, skipped over, hoped to watch and didn’t, etc. I’ll be back with a post about what I’m reading, watching, or listening to, or failing to.

In the spirit of disclosure, please note I received Eva Leigh’s Counting On A Countess from Avon Books, via Edelweiss+ and Sabrina Jeffries’s The Secret Of Flirting from Simon and Schuster, via Netgalley. I am thoroughly embarrassed I won’t be reviewing them.

8 thoughts on “Reading Impatience: A Confession

  1. I don’t blame you for not reviewing the Leigh; I generally like her stuff, but that was a huge disappointment.

    In fact I’ve found very few books this year that have been really good and even fewer great romances. Historical romance, in particular, has been a huge pile of meh in 2018 so far (with the notable exceptions of Duran, Linden and Charles) and I can think of only a small number of new releases I’m looking forward to in the rest of this year.

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    • I’m not I’m not only. I started reading romance because of historical romance, but it just feels like a great big repeat-fest. Nothing stands out in any particular way. I loved Bellewether (but that’s not strictly histrom). I guess, thus far, the Heath has been the best for me.

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  2. I understand your feeling of meh when you try to read. A reading slump for someone who loves reading is really the pits. I love reading but am also finding it a struggle: I buy a book and then find I am not enjoying it.

    I can’t offer an opinion about the 2 books you mention because I haven’t read them but I have “ gone off” historical romance even previous autobuy authors Mary Balogh and Courtney Milan, both of whose latest books I am struggling to finish. As well I have ceased trying to find new authors in this sub genre because so often historical romance authors insist on giving 19th century heroines 21st century attitudes, sensibilities and sexual freedom. I think any aspiring historical fiction should read all of Jane Austen ( I am sure you could provide an apposite quotation) and do some serious research about the time period as Georgette Heyer did. I wish more authors would emulate these ladies and write comedies of manners with a heartwarming romance at the centre.

    That is probably why I love, and regularly reread, the science/ speculative fiction writer Lois McMaster Bujold whose Vorkisan books especially from Memory, through Komarr, A Civil Campaign, Diplomatic Immunity and Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance are full of action, humour and romance. She even dedicated the delightful comedy of manners A Civil Campaign to “ Jane, Charlotte, Georgette and Dorothy” .

    Speaking of Dorothy L Sayers, the Peter Wimsey Harriet Vane story arc from Strong Poison , through Have His Carcass , Gaudy Night then Busman’s Honeymoon stands the test of time IMO. I always suggest people read it on a tablet so they can easily flick back and forward for the translations from Latin or French or check on the origin of a quote. Oh for an Oxford education like hers!

    I know you like Janice Kay Johnson and I really enjoyed her latest self published romantic suspense story Home Deadly Home.

    What is keeping me sane through this reading slump is that the Ilona Andrews writing team are releasing the latest Innkeeper story ( Maud’s novella- Sweep of the Blade) as a weekly serial on their website. The comments section from the BDH ( we call ourselves the book devouring horde) is almost as entertaining as the weekly instalments. It is like a giant book club with members all over the world who all bring differing opinions, theories and expertise to the discussion. You can read the serial from the start on their website under books, Innkeeper, Sweep of the Blade. We are up to Chapter 8. Some weeks when I’ve struggled to finished a book I give thanks that I have the Ilona Andrews serial to look forward to.

    I hope the next book you pick up clicks for you and suddenly all your old enthusiasm for reading and reviewing returns.

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    • Thank you for your good reading wishes. I’ve had the reading-reviewing-blogging slumps a few time and I have at least find a cure for them. I read a Betty Neels and the world does look brighter. I’m reading Tabitha In Moonlight and it’s pretty wonderful.

      I’m happy to hear that JKJ is self-publishing. With the end of the Super-romance, my favourite category, I can’t say I’m reading much category either. I’ll definitely look into her title. Though goodness knows I’ve got tons of stuff in the TBR by her still.

      I also totally agree with you about the histrom contemporary sensibilities dilemma. One thing that has always driven me nuts about Balogh’s later books is her heroines’ seeming indifference to getting pregnant. The h/h blithely agree to go their separate ways, with some noble hero comment about contact me if you’re pregnant. Shouldn’t they both be freaking out, considering the social repercussions for the heroine? I don’t get their placidity.

      I want to read a lot more Heyer. I haven’t read one in ages and I really miss her.

      I’m glad you’ve found community in the Bujold world. Romancelandia used to feel a lot more united and mutual and has become less and less so. So many blogs up and disappearing. With H&H and RT gone … well?

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  3. I’m having trouble focusing too, which is why I’ve mostly been reading the shorter Harlequin Historicals and old Signet Regencies. Surprisingly though, I have gotten involved in Grace Burrowes “A Rogue of Her Own”. Most of it takes place after the H & h are married, which I love, but it’s totally mistitled, because the hero is not at all a rogue. Also, like Frances, I can reread Dorothy Sayers and Bujold anytime. I’m also reading JAK’s latest, “The Other Lady Vanishes”. Very Gothic, with the heroine an escapee from an evil mental institution, and a fake psychic.
    I can recommend a couple of current event podcasts; The New Yorker Radio Hour, or if you’re looking for something shorter, The New Yorker’s Politics and More. And I need to give the BBC a try! I am way behind on my listening though, since I don’t commute, I listen to podcasts while walking, and there hasn’t been much walking done with this incessant rain!
    On the non-fiction side, you might find Ian Frazier’s “Travels in Siberia” a more entertaining read than the Silk Roads book. It;s fairly short, funny, and written in first person POV, but also manages to convey quite a bit of information.

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    • Thank you for your good reading wishes! Reading life if looking up as I’m reading a Betty Neels and she never fails to renew my love of the romance genre. I should just stick to reading faves out of the TBR until this slump-blah-meh feeling is over. Or it’ll help me get over it.

      I LOVE The New Yorker Radio hour, but I don’t subscribe to the Politics … I will though. Podcasts are great! As long as they’re not too cutesy and casual. I like podcasts that are as good as radio can be. It’s been raining and cold here too, so not much walking for me either.

      The Silk Roads is picking up! And I think it’s doing so because I’ve reached the Crusades and that’s something I know a bit about, so I feel like I have reference points.

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  4. Oh how much I feel all of this! I don’t know the cause of your restlessness (mine is stress, caused precisely by that political implosion–I really would rather live in boring than interesting times), but I hope it passes soon. Not reading, for avid readers, is truly the pit of despair.

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    • “Truly a pit of despair” is spot on. And it wasn’t that I wasn’t reading, it’s that nothing would “stick”. I don’t know why: maybe spring, maybe just really tired from work. I think part of it was that the books I was reading were moving too slowly for me b/c I was bored and I was also restless to write a blog-post. So, DNF-ing really helped. I think I’m also less patient with meh books, they become DNFs. Making my way back with some good stuff: I always read a Betty Neels and she pulls me out of my doldrums.

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