Discussion: The Dreaded Slump

Hello friends!  I hope wherever you are you have everything you need and you are keeping healthy.

This past Saturday marked two weeks since I finished a book.  I’ve been trying to read the same damn book for over two weeks.  The book isn’t terribly long or even that bad.  I’d like to blame it on limited time- but I don’t have all that much less time now than I did a few months ago.

I’m hoping it’s not really a reading slump but at the same time, I’m just not as excited about reading as I used to be.  It could be that February was chock full of mediocre books.  It could be that I’m feeling the pressure of getting through all ten ARCs I have due (although I should note, ten in a month is typically doable for me).  It could be that my job is emotionally draining and I really just need to stock up on creative strategies for zombie killing now that all my paranoid delusions fantasies are coming true:

Z Nation Cheese Wheel

(Too soon?)

Maybe it’s all of those things.  Maybe it’s none of them.

Either way- I’m feeling frustrated (and perhaps a little disappointed) with myself.  Am I just picking the wrong books?  Will it even get better when I’m freed up to go back to mood and buddy reading?  Complicating matters, I’m not enjoying books I had fully expected to love, and I’m questioning whether I even like the fantasy genre any more.

Lucy Shrug

It’s come to a point where I feel like so many of these books just sound the same: hero goes on epic quest, displaced princess saves the world, enemies to lovers romance!  I feel like I’m missing out on the witty banter and exciting action scenes that once seemed to come to me so easily, Six of Crows, The Greatcoats, The Thief.  In short, where have all my favorite books gone?

Maybe I’m so stressed out that I don’t feel like I have time to read complex world building and deep characters.  I want all flash and no substance.  Things I don’t have to think about.

Anyway.  It’s enough to make me want to reread all my old favorites: The Last Kingdom and Under the Dome, Too Like the Lightning and maybe even an Anita Blake novel or three.  Yes, this slump has reached vampire orgy levels of desperation.

What I came here to ask, is what are your methods for coping with reading slumps?  Is it okay to put the ARCs aside for a week or two to get back in the groove?  Do I reread an old favorite?  Change up my genre?

Send Help Gif

Discussion: The Dawn of the DNF

Maybe it’s just because September was overloaded with new releases I wanted to read.  Maybe it’s just because October is my favorite month for reading because it feels like a solid excuse to read only horror without feeling too guilty about it.  Maybe I just really suck at picking books I think I’ll enjoy.  Or to spin this in a positive light, maybe I am good about going outside my comfort zone and trying things I’m not sure I’ll like.

I don’t like DNFing.  But at the end of September I ran into a problem.  I started a bunch of books I really had no desire to finish.  One of them was a buddy read I’d been looking forward to since we scheduled it a few months back.  One of them was a new release I’d been pining for since I first saw it on Edelweiss and originally was declined for but later won in a GoodReads Giveaway.  One of them was an ARC I was approved for months ago, when I might have been more in the mood to read it but put off because I didn’t want to read it too early, and am now just not enjoying the way I want to.

I feel obligated to finish all of them.  But I know it will put me in a reading slump because I’ll come up with other things I’d rather be doing than reading a book I don’t actually want to read.

So I’m DNFing.

And you know what?  It’s probably one of the most liberating choices I’ve made in a long time.  It won’t result in some scathing review I have to put up because I forced myself to finish a book I didn’t want to read.  And because it won’t be some ranting-hate-filled review I’m probably at less risk of offending the poor author who poured countless hours, blood, sweat and tears into writing it.  Or the publisher, who selected that manuscript over a thousand others to publish, and then poured time and resources into putting that book in the wider world.

Do I feel guilty?

Yeah.  I do.  I was given at least two of these books in exchange for honest reviews.  And while there’s nothing dishonest about saying I didn’t finish, or that a book wasn’t for me, it feels half-assed.  Like I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.

But at the same time, I’ve given each of these books almost a hundred pages to make me care, and they just haven’t done that.

This isn’t a movie.  It usually doesn’t take a mere two hours to read a book.  It’s 10, 15, sometimes 20 hours of my life that I’m not enjoying, that I can say with reasonable surety is not going to become enjoyable, and I’m never going to get back.  I wouldn’t keep playing a video game that was no fun or riddled with glitches that made it unplayable.  I wouldn’t finish a meal that tasted bad.  I’m not going to continue reading a book I’m not enjoying.

I’ve seen some readers argue that if you don’t finish the book, you shouldn’t leave a review.  And while I understand the argument- anything could happen in those final pages – it could become enjoyable.  But can a book you dread picking up really perform that much of a turnaround?  Can you really go from hating a book to loving it?

I don’t think so.

I’ve seen books go from mediocre to awesome.  I’ve seen books go from good to bad.  It’s rare that I see a book go from awful all the way to enjoyable.

And it’s not even that a book has to be awful to make me want to DNF.  It could just be that it’s not for me.  I think that’s an even harder obstacle to overcome.

The fact is- I just don’t have the same amount of time to read like I used to.  And I’m making a conscious choice to spend those hours reading what I actually want to read instead of reading something that makes me miserable.

What I am confused about, since I’ve never really made a conscious choice to DNF, is what the rules are for DNFing?  (Are there rules?)  Does it have to happen around some significant plot point in the book?  For example, a scene of rape or child abuse that makes you not want to continue?  Do you have to give it so many pages before you quit?  Do you need to determine that the text is borderline unreadable?  As may be the case in something self published that wasn’t properly vetted by an army of beta readers and developmental editors?

So you tell me, fellow readers, what are your rules for DNFing?


Book Discussion: Authors that have been on my TBR for way too long

I don’t know about you- but I have quite a few authors with multiple books on my TBR that have been there forever.  I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m so hesitant to jump in and wondering if it’s just that I don’t know where to start.  I’m enlisting your help to get me started on some of these books!  Let me know if there’s one that’s better than the others or books that make for good introductions to these authors and their worlds.

Robert Jackson Bennett – Everything he writes sounds exactly like something I need in my life.  I even own his Divine Cities omnibus.  Still haven’t read him.

Chuck Wendig – I think I actually have read a short story by Wendig, and that was what put him on my radar initially, but I never ended up committing to any of his novels.  Now Wanderers is coming in July, and I’m positively giddy with excitement because it sounds epic.

Neal Stephenson – I see Stephenson’s books everywhere.  But I feel like people are pretty mixed on whether they like them or not.  To top it off, from what I understand, his books are all like 800+ pages long.  Where is the best place to start?!

Claire North – The book she’s probably most recognized for is The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, but for some reason that book doesn’t appeal to me so much.  These others  do.

Nancy Kress – Let’s be clear.  I want to read all the Nancy Kress books.  I don’t know if it’s her beautiful covers, or the descriptions or the possibilities for discussion, but every time one of her books pops up in my GoodReads feed. I add it.  Please, someone tell me where to start!

Joe Abercrombie – This is perhaps the most embarrassing one to admit to, because I love dark fiction and everyone recommends him as one of the top grimdark authors.  I think his blurbs are not doing his books justice.  Every time I look at one of them it turns into a TL;DR.  But now he has a new one coming out and I really just need to get on the bandwagon.

Other authors I need recommendations for: Brandon Sanderson (I know, I know), John Scalzi, and Richard Morgan.  Have you read any of these authors?  Can you tell me a good place to start?  Do you have any authors that have been on your TBR for way too long?