Maybe Blind Dates ARE Overrated

This year I took part in a Valentine’s Day book blind date set-up. Today we all met back up to share our results.

The cover doesn't do much for me, either.

My “date” was Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara. Up front, the book looks like urban fantasy, but it’s more like a high fantasy in an urban setting. The characters fight with daggers and swords, there’s a lot of unexplained (and inexplicable magic), and dragons who manage to look like people. The story follows Kaylin, a young woman who fled a terrible past as an orphan living on the streets to become a “Hawk,” a sort of spy for her world’s Lords of Law. We discover that the murders of the children surrounding her were actually a ritual to give her some power we never fully understand…

And that’s all I’ll give away.

Honestly, I was befuddled by the whole book. It seemed to aspire to portray a world like that of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, but never felt as fully realized as Sanderson’s work. So much of the book was spent with characters denying Kaylin (and thus the reader) information that I really had no clue why I should care about any of it.

Maybe some books we should stand up.

Anyway, it got me wondering: How do we select the books we read? I require several recommendations or a recommendation from someone whose taste I trust before I’ll pick up something that doesn’t appeal to me on its own immediate merits. I’ve gotten a lot more discerning over the years, mostly because I have so many books I want to read that I can’t finish a book that just isn’t working for me.

Maybe someone who doesn’t know me at all can’t recommend a book I’ll like. Back on Valentine’s Day, I nominated Possession by A. S. Byatt for some poor soul’s blind date. I adore the book, and it’s not even fantasy. I suspect it’s beloved by only a certain subset of the population, and I further suspect that subset has all studied literary theory. Was it cruel of me to recommend a pretty heavy read to a random blog reader?

What do you think, readers? Can a completely random book set-up work for you? Ever gotten a blind recommendation you loved? How do you choose the books you read?

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8 thoughts on “Maybe Blind Dates ARE Overrated

  1. I agree with you. Blind dates (with books or bears) never seem to work out for me either.

    Our tastes are all so varied, it is hard even for good friends to recommend books to each other reliably.

    I have two great librarian friends. They read TONS of stuff and are able to pin-point exactly the kinds of books I like to read – regardless of genre. How they do it? I don’t know. I call them the Oracles.

    1. I wish I had an oracle or two! That’s awesome.

      It seems like most of the people responding to the Book Ends challenge had a really hard time enjoying their dates. You’re right — there are so many books, and we all have such different tastes, the odds of hitting on the right one for the right person are probably slim to none.

      1. Ha! Well, maybe not none, but definitely slim. And I don’t waste time with a book I don’t like. Unless I offered to crit or review something specifically for an author, if I don’t like it, I don’t read it.

    1. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a little book set-up here on my blog one day. Maybe we could find something that challenges you to love it! 🙂

  2. I’m with you — I listen to the advice of friends who I know are similar in tastes to me …and then sometimes still wait for them to have read it before I’ll bother. Of course, part of the reason for that is my own barely-balancing stack of books-to-read. 🙂

  3. That’s interesting. I think that sometimes recommendations really thrill me, and other times I can’t get into them for whatever reason. I have so many books to read right now that I am swimming trying to get through them.

    By the way, I read Kushiel’s Dart on your recommendation and loved it. 🙂

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