Saturday, September 1, 2018

In Which We Come Back To Ourselves - A Reader's Tale

Once upon a time there was a reader...a reader who found herself losing her ability to read through very mysterious circumstances.  She was sad.  She was distraught.  She missed her books, her best friends, her lifelong companions.  She gave up talking about them because it hurt so much.  Then one day she decided to confess to a friend just how bad the problem had become.  The friend, knowing her quite well, was completely shocked because she knew just how much those books meant to our dear reader.  The friend gave the reader some love, and gently pushed her to figure out just what had gone wrong.

My friends, I've been away for a while, figuring some things out.  I finally have some answers, and am happy to say that life is turning towards the better, slowly but surely.  I will soon share more - I've missed this blog more than I can say.  For now....let's catch up on what I've been reading!

(Just to be clear, this is five months of books, and even thought it's a lot shorter list than it once would have been, I'm not going to go into full detail on everything.)

April:
Reading actually went fairly well in April.  I was tapering as I prepared to run my first marathon, and found myself suddenly with a whole lot of time on my hands!

1.  The Cruel Prince, Holly Black (audio) - I do love Holly Black.  Her books are true fairy tales, her heroines are feisty and relatable, and her plots are fast-paced and fun...and I love her for all of that.  It was so much fun that I was highly annoyed over the fact that it's just the first book in a series...and I read it well before the next book was due to be released.  Very much looking forward to where the next book takes us.

2.  The Fairies of Sadieville, Alex Bledsoe:  Bledsoe finishes up his Tufa books with this final entry, and it's a beauty.  I love how gently he returned us to so many beloved characters from the series, and am very satisfied with how he left it.  This is a series I know I will revisit periodically, and I highly recommend them to anyone who loves fairy tales that are melded into real life.

3.  The Burning Page and 4. The Lost Plot, Genevieve Cogman: The Hidden Library books aren't perfect by any means, but they are enjoyable romps and these books - the 3rd and 4th books in the series - were both much better than the dissapointing 2nd book.  Love Irene to pieces!

5. The Mermaid's Sister, Carrie Anne Noble: It's sweet, and it's gentle.  It's a fairy tale and a story about love.  I was slightly annoyed with one section that stretched a tad too long....but by and large it's beautiful.

6.  The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (audio):
It's a treat to find a fairy tale that's based on a different culture/mythology.  (meaning, non-European white)  It was a delightful book, and  I feel I must read everything this author has ever written.

7. Circe, Madeleine Miller: If I could wave a magic wand, Miller would produce books at a considerably faster rate than she does.  Without that option, I must rest content in the knowledge that her books are some of the best written interpretations of classical mythology that I've ever read.  In fact, I'm completely blown away by her amazing prose and her interpretation.  I do have a minor in Classical Greek.  I grew up on a beloved copy of Edith Hamilton's Mythology.  Miller is speaking directly to me.

8. The Book of Phoenix, Nnedi Okorafor -
By far one of the best writers of today.  I adore everything that Okorafor produces, and am super jealous that a friend of mine got to meet her.  This book is a companion to Who Fears Death.  Both are must-reads.

9.  Girl at War, Sara Novic -
This is one of the last recommendations I got from Books on the Nightstand.  It's absolutely devastating.  This is the type of book I think we all need to read - to learn empathy, to see with different eyes, to try to understand just a little bit what others go through.  It's a book that hurts my heart, and yet I'm glad I read it.

May:
In which I was exhausted from running said marathon...and then the reading problem reared it's ugly head.

1.  The Clockwork Witch, Michelle D. Sonnier:  Full disclosure, Michelle is an internet friend of mine.  We belong to a rather special private facebook page that's been very meaningful to me over the years.  I was absolutely delighted when she announced that her book was going to be published, and I'm absolutely delighted to share it with you. The worldbuilding was a delight - once again, new enough concepts to me to really peak my interest.

2.  The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill -
Such a beautiful book.  Of course it is, it's a Newbery Winner.  (Incidentally, that's the one book award I tend to pay attention to.) Read it, just please read it.   As with all really good children's books, it comes at the truth so much better than any adult fiction I've ever read.

3.  10% Happier, Dan Harris
- A book about meditation for those of us who are pragmatic people who know it would be good for us, but who are somewhat turned off by the bulk of the literature out there.  Harris's story is interesting, and his take on meditation is refreshingly practical and grounded in real life.

June:
Yep, was still having a whole lot of trouble reading.  Seriously...2-3 pages max before I'd fall asleep.

1.  Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor - Taylor is one of my favorite resources for books that nourish the soul.  This particular books gets right to one of my biggest pet peeves in my faith - an idea she calls 'solar' Christianity.  I found it beautiful and thought provoking, and particularly timely given my sleep and nighttime issues that I've been dealing with lately.

2.  Eva Luna, Isabel Allende -
I'll be honest, I wanted to like it more than I actually did like it.  It was, sad to say, kind of a boring read despite the interesting characters and Allende's trademark brilliant writing .

3.  7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Jen Hatmaker (audio)
- This book appealed to me greatly because I am feeling the need lately to move towards a more minimalist lifestyle.  While Hatmaker's specific family experiment isn't right for us, I did love her take on the whole concept and the lessons she shared from her experiences.

July:
Trying, really trying.  Found some answers.  Started working to get better.

1. Witchmark, C.L. Polk - I fell in love with this debut novel, and can't wait to see what Polk does in the future!  It's the type of steampunk that I love, and the central love story was about as sweet as can be!  (And a bit unexpected....)

2. Inspired, Rachel Held Evans
- Yes, yes, yes.  This is the book I needed.  It helped me fall in love with the Bible again, and confirmed much of what I hold dear.  So refreshing to read in a world where the Bible is all too often used as a weapon.

3. Spinning Silver, Naomi Novic -
Will be buying in hardback - that's how much I loved it.  If you enjoy fairy tales as much as I do, you simply must take a look at Novic's books.

4. Wires and Nerve, Vol. 2 Gone Rogue, Marissa Meyer, art Stephen Gilpin
- Yep, The Cinder novels are another great discovery of the last couple of years.  (I was late to the boat.)  While I prefer the novels, the graphic novels are perfect for an afternoon of fun.

5. The Complete What Ukulele Players Really Want to Know, Barry Maz -
No explanation needed.  Am loving learning to play my ukulele!

Unfinished:
Life's just too short.  I retired these to the unfinished shelf, knowing darn good and well I didn't care if I ever finished them.

1.  Tell the Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifke Brunt - It's just too sad.  Perhaps because of my age, I've always been drawn to such tales from the AIDS epidemic.  They were part of the great awakening of my heart to LGBTQ issues, and  led me to where I am now.  This is actually an amazing book, but it was just too sad, and I couldn't - and didn't need - to do it.

2. Good Guys, Steven Brust - Once upon a time I adored Steven Brust.  He was one of the first two or three fantasy authors that was recommended to me in college, and he would change my reading life forever.  But darn.  This is the second of his recent books that I've bought and not finished.  He's too much of a man's man in his writing.  He just writes the sort of boy books I don't care for.

3.  Gold, Fame, Citrus, Claire Voye Watkins - Actually, it's another quite good book.  Just not my cup of tea for some reason.  Don't regret the purchase  (was the sale table) and did very much appreciate the writing and the world-building.  Just not my thing.

August:
A major life change.  Trying really hard.  Found my reading self again!

1. Strange Practice and 2. Dreadful Company, Vivian Shaw - The first book kept showing up in various lists and in the sale table, so I finally decided to try it out.  I bought the second within minutes of finishing the first and started it immediately.  Before I loved fantasy I loved Gothic horror, and I really enjoyed this delightful take on the genre.  Greta Helsing - doctor for the undead - such a fun idea!  It wouldn't work, though, if there wasn't heart at the center...and these books have plenty of that as well.

3. European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewomen, Theodora Goss -
It pains me to say this.  I adored Goss's first book about the Athena Club.  This one desperately needed a mean editor to cut it roughly in half.  The basic idea was solid, but there were way too many wasted words.  Seriously...it dragged badly in much of the book.  And what happened to Mary's spine?  A disappointment.

4.  Running Is My Therapy, Scott Douglas -
An excellent scientific look into the mental health benefits of running.  It was a little more in depth than I had expected, so I skimmed parts.  Nevertheless, it confirmed what I already knew!

5. Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck -
I discovered this through the blog of a fundraising consultant that I follow, and to my delight it's actually a rare case of a self-help book that's actually helpful.  I've been working through it for some time, and appreciate what it's helping me to discover.

6. What Belongs To You, Garth Greenwell -
Beautiful language, and an exploration of human connection.  I don't know that it's for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

7. Wake, Anna Hope -
This was an interesting book about WW1. (I've a soft spot for books about both world wars.)  While it honestly wasn't the best book on the subject that I've ever read, it was most certainly an interesting way to explore what war does to people by focusing on three different women.  Worth reading.

8.  The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry -
Best book of the month, without question.  On the top 5 list for the year!  When I finished, I felt much as I did years ago when I finished A.S. Byatt's Possession - agitated in a good way, desperate to talk to someone about it, overwhelmed with just how good of a book it was.

9. A Good American, Alex George -
George is a local writer who I've known about for some time.  As he just opened a delightful indie bookstore, with one of my best friends as his manager, I decided I'd probably best read his book!  (I've had a copy for ages.)  I'm actually surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.  It's not at all the sort of book that usually tickles my fancy - being the type of lyrical family saga in which not much actually happens other than regular life - but then again, it's about German immigrants in my state, so it touched on my own family.  Glad I finally read it, and am delighted by the new bookshop!

10. The Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff -
Wow.  Another amazing book!  Picked it up on a sale table (for no good reason, really) and decided to clear it off of my to-read shelf finally.  The author's introduction did a much better job of pricking my interest than the actual description of the book had, and once I got into it I had serious trouble putting it down.  Was a great way to end my month!

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