I was expecting that this year would likely move just as quickly as last year, and hello, January is already gone. Expectations: met. While I’m still working on my other New Year’s Resolutions (someone talk to me about scheduling free/fun time and how to not waste it), I’ve been doing really well in my reading. Or, I should say, my rereading.
As suspected, I do read faster when it’s something I’ve read before, which is how I averaged 1 book per day for the first 10 days of January. I slowed down a little after that—breaks between things were required, and some books did actually take more than one day to read—but still read more books in a single month than I have in many, many years. Final count: I’ve read 16 books of my (now) 98 book list. (When I started this project, the list was 92 books. And I might be adding more, because I guess I’m actually crazy.)
So far I’m having a really good time! Rereading a favorite book is like returning to a favorite place, catching up with your favorite people, eating your favorite foods. Some of the books on my list are books I’ve actually reread already, but some I will be returning to for the first time. At least one is a book that I’ve said for years is one of my favorite books ever… but I’ve only read it once, and that was over ten years ago at this point. Some refreshing of my memories can’t hurt.
Part of the goal of this project was to pay a little more attention to how the stories that I love are crafted. A little bit “Why do I love them?” but also “Why does this story work?” Sometimes I’m better at this than other times. It’s easy to get swept into these stories as thoroughly as if it were the first time I had read them, and not the second (or third or twelfth). To that end, I’m trying to find one “nugget of wisdom” in every book (or series). This is, for me, more difficult than it sounds. Partly because of the aforementioned sweeping, but mostly because my critical reading skills are vastly out of practice.
Knowing that, though, I assume I can only get better. Knowing is half the battle, right?
1) The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air 1)* by Holly Black
I actually started this year with a new book I hadn’t read. Black’s YA books—particularly her more recent ones—are really adept at flying in the face of expectation when it comes to romance in a YA book. And I love that. If I can emulate anything from her books, I’d like it to be that.
2) Sandry’s Book: The Magic in the Weaving (The Circle of Magic 1) by Tamora Pierce
3) Tris’s Book: The Power in the Storm (The Circle of Magic 2) by Tamora Pierce
4) Daja’s Book: The Fire in the Forging (The Circle of Magic 3) by Tamora Pierce
5) Briar’s Book: The Healing in the Vine (The Circle of Magic 4) by Tamora Pierce
6) Magic Steps (The Circle Opens 1) by Tamora Pierce
7) Street Magic (The Circle Opens 2) by Tamora Pierce
8) Cold Fire (The Circle Opens 3) by Tamora Pierce
9) Shatterglass (The Circle Opens 4) by Tamora Pierce
10) The Will of the Empress (The Circle Reforged 1) by Tamora Pierce
Sometimes the goal of the story is to defeat the antagonist, but sometimes it’s just to overcome some difficult task, and it’s the difficulty of that task—the failures that the characters encounter along the way, their learning how to overcome those failures and not to do it again—that gives the story its climax. Stories about mastering power or going on a treacherous journey don’t necessarily have a villain, and they don’t necessarily need one. Power is dangerous—so is the world—and the story of overcoming those odds can be a complete character arc.
11) Trickster’s Choice (The Daughter of the Lioness 1) by Tamora Pierce
12) Trickster’s Queen (The Daughter of the Lioness 2) by Tamora Pierce
The events of the story’s world can be outside of your character’s control, and how the character reacts to those events is also a valid story. Those reactions will tell the reader as much about the character as if the character were controlling them. Sometimes there’s a villain involved, but maybe that’s not necessary for this sort of story either. These events can culminate in the Difficult Task to be Overcome.
13) The Enchantment Emporium (The Gale Women 1) by Tanya Huff
14) The Wild Ways (The Gale Women 2) by Tanya Huff
15) The Future Falls (The Gale Women 3) by Tanya Huff
Inside jokes between characters make them more believable as real people. But don’t explain the jokes; anything the reader comes up with is a) true (yes, anything and everything), and b) probably funnier than anything the author could come up with. Sometimes not explaining things (jokes, but also things like how the magical system works) is actually much more in character than explaining things. It’s written well, the reader will probably just go with it if the characters just go with it.
16) The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (Mary Russell 1) by Laurie R. King
This was a first reread, and the story is twisty enough that I had to concentrate just on following it. Also it had been a while, so I didn’t remember it as well as I thought. I have at least one twisty sort of book that I want to write, so I should probably pay more attention as I continue reading this series.
February will continue with more Mary Russell books. Originally, I only finished the first three books before I got distracted by something else, but at some point I started the next two and didn’t finish them. Those five books are on the list of 98 books, but depending on how into them I get, I might just keep going on the series… It’s not part of the original plan, true, but plans can be flexible. Also if I read 15-16 books every month I will finish my list well before the end of the year. So I can afford some flexibility in the plan.
And I’ve already thought of three more books to add to my reread list…