I have this problem. If I could confess one of my dirty little reading secrets, it is this: I often spend more time making long lists of books that I want to read than I do actually reading books. You know how some people get distracted online by social networking sites? Yeah. For me, that’s how it is with my online book wish lists.
I tend to keep a running list of books I want to read, a list that can run for several pages. Some of these books stay on the list for a few years before I get to them.
Recently, I combed through my book wish list, deleting books I’ve already read or tried to read. I requested several books from the library that I still do want to read, and I’ve started working my way through some of these.
Here are a few that I’ve finished in the last couple of weeks.
Thornspell by Helen Lowe
Helen Lowe is from New Zealand, which is close to . . . guess where? Australia. Yes, you know how I feel about Australian authors. I’m still baffled about how much talent comes from down under. Thornspell is both fantasy and retold fairy tale. The book recounts the story of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of young Sigismund, a prince who lives next to an enchanted wood wherein, he is told, lies a cursed castle. As he grows up, he receives training in combat and magic from a mysterious mentor and faces danger from an evil and powerful fairy. The ultimate ending is expected but still freshly imagined and not simply rehashed. The author even manages to play at times upon assumptions about how the tale goes, surprising both the reader and the prince.
The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal
Eilis O’Neal has a really cool name, and according to her website, her real middle name is Arwen. This is her first novel, and O’Neal is a strong storyteller. The story involves a switched-at-birth plot, latent magic, helpful and suspicious sorcerers, and romance. I appreciated the strength of the main character and also the surrounding relationships. I really appreciated the lack of a love triangle, which I find to be somewhat overdone in YA fiction. This romance was grounded in friendship and seemed to provide a foundation for the main character to grow, rather than become a source of intense anxiety for both character and reader. I found this portrayal of romance more realistic and refreshing than much of what I’ve read recently. I’m looking forward to O’Neal’s work in the future.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
I have to confess that I started this book earlier this spring, and I read about half of it. I thought it was an interesting concept, but I just didn’t finish the book in the busyness of the semester. I heard from a few of my friends, including Audrey, about this book, and their reviews were so positive that I wanted to see what I was missing.
I checked out the audio book. This is one of my new strategies: if I try a book in one medium without the success I want, I try it in a different format. And I’m glad I did. I fell in love with this book over the hours I listened to it.
I love Stiefvater’s prose. She takes time with her writing, not just her storytelling. Several times I found myself thinking about how to use a particular section as a mentor text for my students’ writing. Her sentences are worth lingering over, and this, I believe is one reason the audio book was so powerful.
The Raven Boys is a book to take your time reading. It takes a long time for the story to unfold; there are several important characters, and they each have rather fully developed back stories. Stiefvater spends time exploring each character’s history, motives, prejudices, and thoughts about other characters. The story itself is also complex, mixing Welsh history, earthen magic, Latin, psychics, and class conflict in a small Southern town. For these reasons, it might be best recommended to teen readers who are already experienced in reading fantasy.
This book is the beginning of a series, and I am looking forward to The Dream Thieves, the next installment.
What are you reading this week?
(“It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It’s a great way to keep track of what you’re reading and see what others are reading each week.)