The funny thing about making resolutions is that you never know what the future will bring you, so you never really know if your resolution will be practical, or even possible. I mean, a girl can vow to lose fifty pounds, but if she gets pregnant that just is not happening. (No, no! Don’t do it! I can see you doing it- your brain is jumping to conclusions! I’m not hinting at anything, mom and various baby-crazed friends!) You can vow to travel more, but if you break both of your legs in a skiing accident you’ll probably be more home-bound than expected. Or maybe your priorities will shift and your resolution to write a new chapter in your book every day won’t matter as much as making what you do write really good.
As I’ve stated in earlier posts, I’m probably not going to meet my goal of reading 104 books this year, and I’m okay with that. Instead of continuing my obsessive reading habits of years past, I’m spending a lot more time with my husband and friends, and I’ve made time for some other stuff in my life, like cooking more and adopting a dog and writing more and taking really long, refreshing walks.
But lest you think I’ve given up on my great love of reading, here are a few of the books I’ve read since the spring:
The Magicians by Lev Grossman: I really wanted to love this book. The premise is everything I adore. I love fantasy oh-so-very-much, and the prospect of a book about a sort of Hogwarts for grown-ups seemed so promising. (And this book is for grown-ups. Like, pay-all-their-own-bills grown-ups. Anyone under legal voting age need not apply.) The world Grossman built at Brakebills was fascinating, and the story was solid and well told, but I just couldn’t love it. It was, in a word, stark. Cynical and jaded would also have sufficed. And I am none of those things. I can normally stand them in doses, but even Grossman’s wordsmithing genius could not sweeten the morose tones enough for me. I probably won’t read the sequel.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: Move over Twilight. This is a story that has Vampires aplenty, but it’s actually well-written, and it won’t make your teenager think a boy secretly watching her sleep is romantic and desirable. Diana Bishop is a witch who doesn’t want to be, Matthew Clairmont is an old vampire of great power, and Ashmole 782 is the magical manuscript that draws them together. And also attracts he attention of some of the most dangerous and influential members of the underground world of magic. No big deal. Harkness takes all the preconceived notions of magic and modern fantasy and turns them on their ear so effectively that it creates a wholly unique experience. I really enjoyed this book, and I will definitely be reading this sequel.
The Death of King Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, retold by Peter Ackroyd: Any Arthurian fan or folklore buff will enjoy Ackroyd’s modernization of the classic Le Morte d’Arthur. He remains true to the spirit of the original stories while making the language more digestible and taking out some of Malory’s superfluous repetitions. Not a text-book retelling, but perfect for the layman enthusiast.
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson: This delightful little young adult fantasy is a quick but good read. It’s not as deeply developed as say, the first Harry Potter or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Seriously. If you haven’t read that one yet, do it!), but it’s the first of a trilogy, so I’m hoping Wilson will broaden and deepen the story as we go. It really annoys me when authors don’t fully develop the potential of a story just because it’s for kids. Children aren’t stupid, they can handle a real story and probably do it better than many adults. So please, Mr. Wilson, please develop this well. There is so much potential here! End impromptu rant.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: Speaking of a well-developed children’s story, I just have to re-visit this beloved classic every now and then. As the term “beloved classic” implies, it does not disappoint. In fact, it’s so well-loved that this little blurb was probably unnecessary.
The Story of Charlotte’s Web by Michael Sims: I started this book last year, but never got past chapter three. It just wasn’t the right time. Until now. I’m about three-fourths of the way through this book that is both the story of the creation of one of the worlds best-loved books and a biography of its brilliantly eccentric creator. I have long loved all of E.B. White’s children’s books, but now I’m falling in love with the man himself. I’m going to have to read some of his essays very soon.
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman: I’m about half-way through this novel which follows the lives of various reporters at an English-language newspaper in Rome. Written with a journalistic sensibility, but still somehow plump with detail, I am really loving this book. So far my favorite chapter was the second, in which a lazy obituary writer goes to interview a famous, dying intellectual…without telling her he’s interviewing her for her own obituary. One of the best things about Rachman’s writing is the one-liners. My favorite? “If history has taught us anything, Arthur muses, it is that men with mustaches must never achieve positions of power.” Hipsters beware.
I’ve read several other books as well, but I’ll turn them into a part two for the sake of time and space and not getting bored.
Wait. What’s that? Adopted a puppy you say? Tell us about him, you say? Well, okay. I guess I can do that before I skadaddle out of here.
This is Oscar.
He’s the Boston Terrier we adopted a few weeks ago. We think he’s about two years-old, and despite the fact that he always looks like he’s frowning, he is actually very cheerful and snuggly and sweet. He loves every one, including Cambria, who is okay with him being here as long as he leaves her food and toys alone. And as long as she does not get left out of anything and is still the Queen of everything. Naturally. I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot of our new boy in the future. Those goggly eyes and scrunchy face are so adorably photogenic that I may or may not have used up all the memory on my phone and had to erase a bunch of duplicate shots. Oooops!
10 responses to “What I’ve Been Reading, Part 1”
Shmandy, I came up with the best resolution for next year, it came to me while reading your blog and then thinking about how i did both this year and last year with our resolutions…..but i still need to figure out details, or enough detail to run it by you…~shmelly
Charlotte’s Web is the VERY first book that I read in one day! I remember it so vividly.
Hi Amanda! I’ve been following your blog for a while and read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland because of you (and Amazon… it really understands my taste in books). I really enjoyed it. I don’t know if you’re aware, but the sequel is coming out next month. I’m pretty excited about it, and thought you would be, too! I’m glad you’re coming back from your break!
It excites me so much that someone read a book because of my recommendation! I feel very legitimate now. 🙂
I did not know the sequel was so close to coming out- I can barely stand the excitement now!! Thanks for letting me know!
Oscar is adorable! I’ve been thinking of adopting a puppy off and on for about a year, but haven’t gotten there yet. I have not read ‘A Discovery of Witches,’ although I have purchased it on my Nook. I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed it, and I’m also happy to hear that there will be a sequel! I can’t remember – are you an e-reader person at all?
I e-read some. I’m kind of weird about it because I read a few books on there that I really liked and then wished I owned, so I try to buy books that I think I’ll like but won’t love. Ha! Also, I read a lot of the free samples to try to decide ifI want to buy books are now.
That’s sort of my approach as well. If I’m truly in love with a book, I’m buying a paper copy!
Congrats on the new baby!
I have been meaning to write a blog post on how “Discovery of Witches” can fill the gap in one’s life left by the summer break of the crap show The Vampire Diaries. It could still happen, I guess. I’ve been slowly reading the sequel, but am sorry to say it’s way cheesier and less good.
Oh no, that’s disappointing. Is there one more after that? Maybe the final volume will redeem it?
That’s so sad. 😦 I have plans to buy/start Shadow of Night probably next week, and I’ve really been looking forward to it. I hate when series’ get blatantly worse as they go on. It’s like the author knows they have you hooked because the first was so good, so they stop trying. Boo lazy authors!