Monday, 27 April 2015

Fighting a Reading Slump

Okay, I'll admit it. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to post this week. And it's not because there's not enough book-related stuff happening in my life right now. In fact, the growing pile of books beneath my bed (32 and counting) is testament to the fact that April has been a busy month in terms of adding to the TBR pile. So the loss of my blogging mojo cannot be blamed on lack of material. I'm afraid that it's more serious than that. Yes indeed fellow readers, I am sad to report that I am facing one of the great reading illnesses. I am suffering from a reading slump. 

Any avid reader will recognise a reading slump and I think we all dread them. For me, a slump is characterised by listlessness - a complete inability to engage with books, even ones that I've been looking forward to or know that I will like. Instead, I flit between many books; desperately seeking the one that will grab me. Reading slumps are a bit like being hungry but being completely unable to decide on what to eat. I know that I want to read. Indeed, I NEED to read. But, despite the vast selection of excellent reading material available to me, I just don't know what I want to read right now. It's extremely frustrating. 

I'm blaming the current slump on having finished two whopping 600 page novels (more on them in my April Wrap Up) in quick succession over the last couple of weeks. I enjoyed both books thoroughly but I think that, in my effort to finish them, I've exhausted my reading brain a little. So I've decided to give myself a couple of days off this week - maybe focus on doing some cross-stitching or catching up on some TV for a couple of evenings. A bit of breathing space usually breaks the slump for me I find. Hopefully, I'll be itching to pick up a book again after a couple of nights without one on the go. If that doesn't work, I may have to resort to re-reading an old favourite - a quick shot of a Jane Austen or an Agatha Christie usually does the trick I find. 

So, keep your fingers crossed for me folks. With any luck, I'll be back on the wagon again next week for my April Wrap Up. I'd also be interesting in knowing how you guys combat reading slumps? Any hints or tips for me? A tried and tested method that always gets you in the mood for another book? Please leave me a comment below or tweet me (@amyinstaffs) your suggestions.

Until then, Happy Reading!


Sunday, 12 April 2015

A Tingling Feeling

Whilst listening to my fortnightly dose of the excellent book-based banter podcast 'The Readers', hosted by @savidgereads and @thomasatmyporch, Simon - a judge for this year's Fiction Uncovered prize - mentioned that he was looking for a 'book tingle' when selecting titles for the shortlist. Whilst I've never heard it described as a book tingle before, I completely got what Simon meant - that elusive feeling that you get at the start of a book that means it's going to hook you from start to finish. For a book to give the tingles it has to be a strange and mysterious combination of all your literary likes - and is therefore something which must be individual to each reader. And yet I bet every reader knows the feeling!

Simon's comments on the podcast, and his related blog post, got me thinking about what books, and what it might be about a book, that gets me going all tingly. Oddly enough, some of my favourite books didn't give me the tingle when I first read them. My all-time favourite read, Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings', was a slow-burn when I first read it. It took me a while to become fully involved in the characters and the story and it probably wasn't until I re-read the novel when I was a teenager that it became a favourite. Similarly, I love almost all of Jane Austen's novels ('Mansfield Park' being a notable exception) but, again, I grew to love them upon re-reading them in my late teens and early twenties rather than adoring them from the off.

The HistorianThe book that really sticks out in my mind as having given me the book tingle is Elizabeth Kostova's 'The Historian'. I picked it up almost on a whim, having never heard of the author and without any real idea of what the story was about. I think the cover tag line - "To you perceptive reader, I bequeath my history" - drew me in but it was more or less an impulse buy. It lived on my TBR shelf for a little while before I got around to reading it but, when I finally did pick it up, I was hooked from the very first page. I can't fully explain why it was - 'The Historian' isn't the best book I've ever read, nor is it the most original. But something about the blend of the gothic settings, academic protagonists and the writing style just did it for me. I've re-read the book since and enjoyed it just as much the second time around.

The Thirteenth TaleOther books that gave me the tingles are 'The Thirteenth Tale''The Flanders Panel''A Place of Secrets' and, more recently, my book of 2014 'The Amber Fury'. I suppose there are commonalities between these novels. Most of them reference the past in some way - I like novels that blend historical mysteries with present day events - and they generally have strong female protagonists and are at the more literary end of the popular fiction spectrum in terms of writing style. But it's hard for me to pinpoint the one thing that gave me the tingle when I read them. As Simon says on his blog, the books just clicked with me - I responded to something in each of them and they've become permanent fixtures on my shelves and part of my reading landscape. 

Whatever it is that causes it, finding a book that makes you go all tingly from the off is a special moment - the sign of good times to come. I'd love to hear what books have given you the tingles and Simon is encouraging people to tweet on the subject using #BookTingle. I'd also highly recommend checking out Simon's blog, Savidge Reads, and The Readers podcast, for book recommendations, chat and discussion. I really hope that Simon finds the elusive tingle in some of the Fiction Uncovered submissions - the prize is a really interesting one for discovering new voices and overlooked gems. And more books that give us readers that special feeling can only ever be a good thing!

Until next time folks, Happy Reading! x