Reading challenge

So I haven’t forgotten my new year’s reading challenge, though I don’t seem to be reading the books I originally set out to for it. Here’s the list, with those read in bold. (I still do very much plan to read A Most Improper Magick once it’s out, and Carbon Diaries 2017 as well.)

Debut novel: Indigo Springs, A.M. Dellamonica
Second novel: Fat Vampire, Adam Rex
Third novel: Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, Wendy Mass
Fourth novel: A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whelan Turner

Fifth novel: Liar, Justine Larbalestier
Sixth novel: Territory, Emma Bull
Seventh novel: Paper Daughter, Jeanette Ingold
Eighth novel: Grace, Elizabeth Scott
Ninth novel: Heart on My Sleeve, Ellen Wittlinger
Tenth novel: Billie’s Kiss, Elizabeth Knox

I loved Indigo Springs for its compelling and messy and original magic, for that magic’s apocalyptic consequences, for its characters, and for taking treating straight and gay relationships in more or less the same way, without fuss though not without awareness of the different social contexts of each. I loved Fat Vampire for its raunchy humor and for giving us a vampire who’s neither beautiful nor likeable, but not exactly the evil villain of the piece either. I loved Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life for Mass’ gentle writing and real-feeling characters.

All three of these books also got me thinking about endings, too. In Indigo Springs I mostly couldn’t decide whether the ending was too easy–and whether the story was really through. I’m a fan myself of stories where the emotional arc lands and is complete even though not all the plot things are, so I’m not sure it didn’t work, either, though–I’m still thinking about it. I’m still thinking about the ending to Fat Vampire, too, though more and more I’m feeling that I do like it. It’s–somewhat experimental, is I think all I can say without spoilers, and even that might be too much. Interesting for sure, and I am glad the book took a chance on it rather than going for something more straightforward, which I don’t think would have been satisfying.

Not sure how to talk about the Jeremy Fink ending without more serious spoilers. So I’ll put it behind a cut, but if you’re reading this from elsewhere and feel strongly about spoilers, YOU MIGHT WANT TO SKIM AHEAD NOW. Because in Jeremy Fink … a significant part of the mystery that consumes are protagonist is rigged for his benefit, and not real, and … that bothered me, a lot. This is a strange thing for a fantasy writer to say, but … I want the things that happen to characters to be real, at least within the world of the story. So I felt pretty cheated there, even though there were aspects of the mystery that seemed a little too easy to be real that I’d already been questioning. But I still did enjoy the prose and writing and characters.

All of this also has me thinking about how some books are primarily journey books–about the terrain traversed, and some are destination books–about landing that ending one has been building toward just so, and some are both–which maybe could be an entire post of its own.

I adored Wendy Mass’ Every Soul A Star (astronomy, the meaning of life, finding your place in the universe while waiting for a solar eclipse–great stuff), which was written a couple books after this, which I think also might have gotten in the way for me a little with Jeremy Fink, which was just as well written, but less strongly a book I’m wired for, if that makes any sense. On the other hand, I also adored Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday, and it and Fat Vampire were so completely different from each other (even aside from the first being middle grade and the second YA) that knowledge of one didn’t get in the way of reading the other at all for me.

As for A Conspiracy of Kings … Megan Whelan Turner, Gen and Eddis and (less in this book) Attolia and (more in this book) Sophos … I bought this the day it came out, and Turner’s prose and storytelling went down easy, just like with all the books before. I don’t know if I liked this one better or worse than the others–I was too busy swallowing it in one gulp to think about it much. I liked being in Sophos’ point of view, didn’t mind seeing less of Gen, and am in awe of Turner’s ability to hide information from the reader while in the first person without making me feel cheated. Must reread the four books together sometime. Loved the journey, and was a little troubled by the ending (not in a this-didn’t-work way–in a this-did-work way), and am glad to hear there are two more Attolia/Eddis/Sounis books in the works.

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