Musings

[Blog] Revisiting Old Reads

A couple of months ago, I listened to Delia Owens’ beautiful novel Where the Crawdads Sing. Aside from thoroughly enjoying it in its own right, it also reminded me of another novel: A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. This is not particularly surprising. Both stories follow a young girl with a strong attachment to the surrounding swamp/marsh, a knack for collecting remarkable specimens, and a less-than-ideal home life. So, once reminded of Limberlost and how much I’d enjoyed reading it as a kid, it seemed like a good idea to revisit it.

Now, I don’t actually remember how old I was when I read Limberlost. I was young. Possibly very young, but I really couldn’t say. The book was gifted to me by a dear friend who had also enjoyed reading it when she was a kid, and rightly figured that I would as well. I bring this up because upon picking it up again, I was a little surprised to find that it was not quite what I remembered. Blame it on my tastes maturing and me growing up. That’s not to say it’s bad, per se, but it certainly doesn’t carry the same nuance that the books I most appreciate now do.

Another point worth bringing up: I have absolutely nothing against rereading books. In fact, I’m of the opinion that the best books are the ones that you get more out of every time you read them. I’ve read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit at least three times each, and probably more. I recently returned to the Touchstone trilogy by Andrea K. Höst and have every intention of doing it again. And there’s so many others. Like Frankenstein, which I didn’t particularly enjoy the first time but want to see if I get something more and different out of it now that I’m older. Or Fahrenheit 451 which I did enjoy both times I read it. Or a dozen others that come to mind without my having to think about it all that hard.

But not every book needs to be reread. And not every book needs to be reread by everyone who read it once. Especially not when we’ve all got more books we want to read for the first time than we can reasonably expect to get through in one lifetime. With more written every day.

With this in mind, it’s reasonable to ask why I’m bothering to finish this read-through. With so many things I want to read that I haven’t touched yet, why spend the time to reread something when I’m already not finding the same wonderment between its pages that I did the first time? There’s several reasons, of course. And fortunately, this isn’t one of those questions with a right or wrong answer.

In this case, the easiest answer is that it’s a mix of curiosity and nostalgia. Curiosity because I want to see if reading through to the end again lets me find now what I found then. Nostalgia because while I don’t remember many of the finer details of the story, I very much remember how it made me feel. And, I suppose, I want to spend a little while with the person I was when I was a kid, and maybe to . The slightly more cynical answer is that I want to poke at the story to figure out why I feel differently about it now. Both answers have at least a grain or two of truth.

As of the writing of this post, I’m about halfway through my read of Limberlost. It’s going relatively quickly, and the fact that it isn’t a terrible slog certainly helps. Whatever else it is, it’s not a difficult read. It’s also proving more enjoyable than I was afraid it would, though whether that’s because of my own revised expectations or the story itself gaining its feet I couldn’t say. Possibly, too, finding out when it was written helped shift my view as well; the book is more than a hundred years old, and reading it almost more as a piece of history than with the critical eye I might turn on a piece of contemporary fiction has its merits.

At this point I really have no idea how I’ll feel about it by the time I finish. Certainly right now I don’t regret picking it up again. Just as certainly, though, the experience is entirely different than the one I was expecting. But then, I’m tempted to say that’s one of the best reasons to reread something at all.

Musings

[Blog] Reading!

As of yesterday, I have officially read as many books this year as I did in the entirety of last year. Or in other words, having finished reading thirty five books by the end of May, I am well on my way (and ahead of pace!) for my overly ambitious goal of seventy five by the end of the year. Assuming I don’t get completely derailed when I go through a big move in a month or two. Heh.

On a definitely related note… I’m currently in awe of Connie Willis’s ability to plot out stories. And by “in awe” I mean “feeling marginally inadequate because wow she’s good”. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that her WWII time travel story Blackout/All Clear is flawless, it’s easily one of the best things I’ve read this year and a display of formidable skill. A very slow burn story, but once it gets going, boy does it. And the way she weaves a thousand different plot threads, themes, and references into a sudden and cohesive whole that appears out of nowhere and goes straight for your emotions…

…let’s just say I’m still recovering.

And trying to figure out how I can get that good. Or. You know. Anywhere close to it.

The answer, as much as there is one, is to keep writing and to keep reading. So I guess I should get on that. This next Tanner and Miranda scene that’s causing me so much trouble isn’t going to write itself, after all!

In the meantime, what about you guys? Read any good books lately?

Musings

[Blog] Checking in ’22

Technically, this post is a little late. Not the most auspicious start to the new year, perhaps, but that’s okay. Now that we’re almost two weeks in to 2022, I can already say that my reading life, at least, is much more robust than it was last year. Also, apparently I’m on a Brandon Sanderson kick; I can’t believe it took me so long to finally get around to reading The Bands of Mourning, and the wait for the fourth Wax and Wayne book is going to be a bear. I guess I’ll just have to distract myself with more books.

As for writing, I’m still puttering along, doing definitely more than nothing and yet never enough. I’m still trying to beat out the general structure for Tanner and Miranda, which is going way slower than I’d like. Mostly because I have some decent ideas but not enough depth to them that they feel full and real.

More or less accidentally, I took several weeks off from planning and structuring both that and last November’s NaNo, which was actually rather needed. I was edging up on burnout. Oops. But I’m feeling refreshed and ready now, and once I kick off the faint accumulation of dust, I’m looking forward to digging in to both with new eyes and a fresh perspective. Which is what I’m off to do right now!

Musings

[Blog] Fluff Reads

A couple weeks back, I was bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t managed to do as much reading this year as I’d liked. That is still technically the case, but it’s certainly gotten better– enough that I at least don’t feel guilty when I tell people I’m an avid reader.

For the most part, that’s meant that I’m reading through the last five books of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. They’re fun. Horatio Hornblower in space, basically. The space battles are incredibly detailed, and the characters are fun. And it’s undeniably light reading, for the most part. As much as I enjoy them, I can’t argue that they’re high literature in any way.

And that’s just fine.

It can be easy to fall into this idea that there’s less value in “lower” stories. Most people don’t go so far as to say that you shouldn’t ready anything but the best stories, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a general belief that it’s more valuable to spend your time reading them than the alternative. If there’s no way you can read everything worth reading over the span of your life, why waste time on anything but the best?

To some extent, that’s a reasonable point of view. There are so many fantastic and truly well crafted stories out there, and it would be a loss to not read and enjoy them. But at the same time, sometimes you don’t have the focus to appreciate or even follow the complexities you find in those sorts of stories. Or sometimes you just want to read something fun and easy– just like you sometimes just want to eat some popcorn instead of a real meal. And that’s why it’s so nice to have easier reads. Like the Honor Harrington series.

Yet just because a particular story can accurately be described as a fluff read doesn’t mean that it loses all capacity to touch the reader. Sometimes reading something light and easy what it takes for us as readers to let down our guard more than we would with something else. There’s a point of diminished returns, of course. If something is too poorly written it will distract from any good points it might actually have. But outside of that, if a story touches you, it touches you. And sometimes a fluff read can touch you just as much as anything else. Or if not, then it can entertain you and prove enjoyable for a while, and that is valuable too.

Musings

[Blog] Focus/Practice

It’s been one of those weeks (months?) where I’ve been having a really hard time reading. Chalk it up to the fact that I’ve chosen a bunch of really long books (like, more-than-nine-hundred-pages long), or just the fact that my attention span is more or less non-existent (SQUIRREL). Either way, the end result is that I just haven’t gotten through as many books by this point in the year as I’d like.

I’ve also, to beat a dead horse, not been writing half so much as I’d like, though I’ve at least been writing more recently than I have in a while, so there’s that. Given that reading is one of the best ways to immerse oneself in stories in general, and given that that’s one of the best ways to inspire one’s own writing, I can’t help but wonder if the two aren’t related. Then again, if I haven’t been reading much because I’ve had a lack of focus, that exact same lack would make writing just as difficult, if not more so.

There’s nothing particularly profound about any of this. Rather, this post is mostly just me bemoaning the fact that, whether there’s a good reason for it or not, I feel horrifically unproductive. It’s also me scrabbling back to a regular habit of weekly posting, which also happens to have the side effect of keeping those writing muscles more or less functional. On the bright side, it appears to be working, too. At least, the writing is starting to come more easily than it has in quite some time.

TL;DR: I haven’t been reading or writing as much as I’d like, and I’m not sure if the one is the consequence of the other or just both symptoms of the same thing.

Musings

[Blog] Just Add Dragons

HEADER

I’ve talked a bit in the past about the stories– books, movie, video games, et al– that have helped develop who I am today, but I haven’t said a lot about the books I’m currently reading. And in the hope that some of you might find it interesting (and also to give some well deserved plugs), I’d like to talk about the ones I’ve been enjoying recently!

Oddly enough, there’s been a bit of a Napoleonic Wars theme, between Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Eagle and the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. Sharpe’s Eagle is the first (by publication order) of a series of historical novels that follow the adventures of Richard Sharpe, a British soldier in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. With apologies to any history buffs reading this, I don’t know a whole lot about that era and the Napoleonic Wars, but my understanding is that the books are well researched and accurate to actual events. I’m about halfway through Eagle at the moment, and so far it’s been highly entertaining, if not the sort of thing I’ve read a whole lot of in the past. Given the snark and the audacity of the main character, I may well have to fix that in the future.

As for Temeraire, the series bears some similarities to the Sharpe series, in that it’s also well researched, follows the adventures of a soldier in the British military, and takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, with one addition. The fact that the addition is dragons just makes it even more fun. I’ve currently read the first four books of the nine book series, and I’ve enjoyed each new book more than the last and definitely plan to read the rest.

I’ve also been reading Luke R. Mitchell‘s The Harvesters Series. Starting with Red Gambit, these are post-apocalyptic high adventure, complete with monsters, mech suits, and magic, and they’re an absolute hoot. If you’re looking for something that’s full of action and just a whole lot of fun, I’d definitely recommend checking them out.

What about everyone else? Any books you’ve been enjoying lately?

Musings

[Blog] A Good Reread

HEADER

I like books. If you’re here, I suspect you have at least a passing fancy for them as well, which means we’ve already got something in common. I imagine it also means you are familiar with the phrase “so many books, so little time”, and you may have even, in passing, considered having it engraved on your headstone. Or perhaps not.

What I mean to say is that we understand in our bones that we will never be able to read everything there is to read, because there’s just not enough hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the month, etc. There’s not even enough time to read everything that you would enjoy reading, as evidenced by massive stacks of books and an outsized to-read list on Goodreads (or in your head or wherever you keep it).

And then, to add to the trouble, there’s the books you want read again. For me, those are the ones that get neglected the most, because when I start looking for my next book to read, I automatically go to the stacks of books I haven’t yet read.

I can’t speak to it’s efficacy, but I’ve tried to get around the problem by just reading more books at once. I used to try to stick to one or two at a time, one fiction and one non-fiction, just to keep things simple. I don’t remember exactly when I started breaking that rule, but once I started it’s been getting worse and worse, and right now there’s a stack of books almost a foot high on my bedside table.

I see no problem here...
My bedside table.

The thing is, some books need to be reread. You’ll catch things you didn’t see the first time through, that you couldn’t have seen the first time through. Aspects of certain characters will suddenly make more sense. Foreshadowing will be that much more foreboding. Themes and symbolism will become that much clearer, and their arguments will be that much more potent.

Or, to put it another way, you’ll enjoy it even more the second time around.

All this is probably coming to mind right now thanks to the fact that I just finished my second read-through of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising (which if you haven’t read, I would highly recommend and suggest you follow it up with the rest of the series), and I noticed so many things that I didn’t see at all when I read it the first time. Heck, it even woke up my sleepy inner English major, and when I finished I had at least three ideas for short essays.

But I digress. Regardless of your feelings, if any, for the aforementioned book, the fact remains that there is great benefit in rereading. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I forget a little too often.