Okay, you guys know I like to keep it positive around here, but sometimes books strike a nerve and I have to vent my feelings about them. It's especially hard to keep those thoughts to myself when I've put in over 60 hours listening to audio books, like I have with Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches historical fantasy trilogy. If I'm going to spend that long with a single story, it better be gol-darn amazing—and by the time I finished the third book, I realized that while there were some things I really liked about the series, there were also some elements that stuck unpleasantly in my craw.

Is the series likely to be enjoyable for you? In this latest edition of “It's Not You, It's Me: When You and a Book Don't Click,” here are a couple lists I have prepared that may help you decide.

This trilogy has A LOT OF:

  1. Lengthy descriptions. Of yoga classes, wine, tea, and interior décor.

  2. Sex scenes made awkward by the utter seriousness with which they are described.

  3. Male chauvinism and possessive, controlling behaviors depicted as if they are sexy and not potentially abusive.

  4. Historical references. To Marlowe, Shakespeare, and a bunch of other people you may have heard of if you were a history major.

  5. Characters with foreign accents. Respect to the audio book narrator, who nails most of them.

  6. Vomit. There is literally what seemed to me to be higher-than-average per capita instances of vomiting.

  7. Character decisions that don't make sense. One example of many: “There's a woman being held captive and repeatedly raped and tortured?! Oh well, we don't know where she is, I guess there's nothing we can do, how about those DRAPES though?!”

This trilogy has VERY LITTLE OF:

  1. Page-turning action. (The entire second book, despite being well over 20 hours in audio format, advanced the plot not one inch. They time-traveled to the 16th century and literally nothing happened with the central plot.)

  2. Romance of the type I personally find appealing. Oh, your male lead is a secret-hoarding, narcissistic jerk who might lose control and harm his woman physically at any moment? And here I was, getting off on feelings of safety and commitment. Don't I feel sheepish!

  3. Compelling mystery. When the “big bombshell” of the entire series feels like a letdown, slapped together, freshman-English-essay-is-due-tomorrow bullshit-fest, maybe it's a sign you could have spent less time with the fine paintbrush on the crown moldings and Louis XIV furniture and a little more time on plot development.

Bottom line: If you liked Twilight but wished it had been nerdier, you'll probably love A Discovery of Witches.

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AuthorTaryn
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We all do our best to find books we think we'll love. No one goes into the library or bookstore hoping to find their next three-star read. As we scan the shelves, we aren't looking for something that will barely manage a hold on our attention. We want to be gripped! We want to see stars! And I don't know about you, but I want that every time.

Inevitably, though, some books and I...we don't hit it off. Everything might look good on paper, the description might check a lot of my boxes, but for whatever reason, we end our date with an awkward, ass-out hug on the doorstep instead of heading inside for a nightcap-and-maybe-more.

Unfortunately, in my reading life it's been a chaste few weeks—it seems like nothing is making my skirt fly up. Several titles I've picked up recently have landed with a thud, despite promising publisher blurbs and intriguing premises. Blame it on my mood, my attention span, the barometric pressure...just don't blame it on the books, because I'm pretty sure all of them are actually quite good, whether I can appreciate them now or not.

Give them a try—you never know, maybe you'll have better luck than I did.

Speak by Louisa Hall

I was so excited to read this one—a novel told in several voices, including a fictionalized Alan Turing, who I have been fascinated by ever since I saw The Imitation Game. Hall deals with relevant, timely themes like artificial intelligence and the role of technology in our lives, and her writing is technically impeccable.

So why wasn't this a home run for me? The only thing I can figure is maybe I'm not as interested in AI as I thought (hoped?) I was. It's possible my theoretical self who exists in my head is a lot more science-y than I am.

Diamond Head by Cecily Wong

I love a good family drama, and Wong has pieced together an elaborate one here. Multiple generations of a Chinese-Hawaiian shipping family grapple with guilty secrets, some of them pretty juicy. But for me, the book lacked forward momentum. I wanted to know what would happen next, but I didn't have to know. I wish I'd had a harder time putting it aside.

Topaz by Beverly Jenkins

I read over half of this book before I admitted I wasn't enraptured. I still don't know why I didn't love it. A romance between an African-American lady journalist and a Black Seminole lawman set in the Wild West? How can it be anything but breathtaking? It even had a forced marriage, one of my friend Emily's favorite romance novel devices. All I know is, I kept picking up other books instead of this one, and eventually had to face up to the reality that it just wasn't working out between us.

As much as it pains me not to fall in love with every book that crosses my shelves, it's just part of being a reader. And hey, silver living: if I keep reading, I'm bound to find another soul-mate level match.

Here's hoping we all find our next favorite book soon!

Posted
AuthorTaryn