I’ve been in a bit of a slump these last few weeks. I think it is a mix of having a lot going on in life and work, and also trying to read too many books at once. When I set my reading and writing goals for the year, I had very good intentions. I still believe that they are reasonable goals and that I can achieve them. But I also know that I can get easily overwhelmed when things are coming at me from multiple directions.
I started reading Heartless by Marissa Meyer in December. I pre-ordered this book and had anticipated it so much. It is only the second book I’ve ever pre-ordered. (The first being A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas earlier in 2016.) I waited to read it until I’d read and reviewed the books for my remaining 2016 blog tours and review commitments. And then I dove in.
It took me 29 days to read Heartless.
For a bookworm, who, on average, has read four to five books a month, 29 days for one book is an extremely long time.
So what happened? Why did it take me so long to read a book by one of my favourite authors?
The first chapter is wondrous. I read it months ago in a preview and fell in love with Cath. She is sweet, and hopeful and just the right level of perky. The next few chapters…weren’t as engaging for me. It took me a long time to get into this book. I wanted to sink into the world and the story, but I kept getting pulled out by random thoughts about work, or life, or the other books I was reading.
Speaking of other books, I usually read only one or two at a time. A print book or ebook to read during my lunch break and when I’m curled up on my couch at home or waiting for an appointment, and an audiobook for when I’m driving or folding laundry. At one point in December I had five different books going. FIVE. HOW DO YOU PEOPLE WHO DO THIS DO THIS?!!?!
As I was trying to wade through all these books at once, along with participating in work and life, I realized how many unread books I have on my shelves. And, no surprise, I became overwhelmed. And then, I stopped reading.
I stopped reading because reading was stressing me out.
That’s not okay. We read because we enjoy it. We read because we want to learn things and experience things and discover ideas and identities. We read to be entertained. We read to relax. We read for fun.
And reading wasn’t fun for me.
Especially in the first half of Heartless. The whole premise of the book is how sweet Cath became the horrid Queen of Hearts, and this made me incredibly sad. I was already overwhelmed with my TBR and my mounting to-do list at work, and I kept waiting for something horrible to happen in the story, for the dreadful warnings to come back and become reality for Cath. This kind of anticipation made it difficult to motivate myself to keep reading the story.
That’s not to say it’s not a good book or an interesting and engaging story. It hooked me about halfway through and I was invested. I needed to know what was going to happen and why. I needed to finish the journey I’d started with Cath and discover how she came to have such a black soul. And I was satisfied at the end.
Overall, I liked Heartless.
I didn’t love it like I did The Lunar Chronicles, but I liked it. Marissa Meyer has brought the world of Wonderland back to life with humour and jest and a lot of colour. She’s blended the weird world of Lewis Carroll seamlessly with Victorian culture and her own brilliant interpretation of what it was like before Alice fell down the rabbit hole. The story is funny and sweet and heart-wrenching.
I don’t know if I’ll read Heartless again. But I do know that I’ve learned something significant about myself: I do my best reading and enjoy my reading the most when I’m reading only one or two books at a time. I read best when I’m reading what I want to read, when I want to read. I do best in life when my reading is an escape, a comfort, and not a chore. I’ve felt, at times, that I need to read more, read faster, read what’s anticipated or awarded. And, the last few months have taught me that I don’t. I still a book blogger, a bookworm, a booknerd, a reader when I’m only reading one book, that is way, way, way backlist. What’s important is that I’m reading. And that reading is filling me with joy.
And so, Heartless will probably always have a special place in my heart. Not because it’s my favourite book. But rather, because it’s the book that taught me my limits, and taught me to trust that those limits are okay. That they are, in fact, really, really, great.