Happy New Year, everyone! What an exciting time of year, where we all can start fresh, look back at old goals and see how far we’ve come, and make new goals to reach toward. In last week’s post I reviewed some of the milestones and bigger events that sprang up throughout 2019, but I never touched on the reading part, so I’d like to take some space with today’s Stack of Books to do that.
For the last couple of years now I’ve liked to take on the Goodreads Reading Challenge, which allows you to set a number of books you’d like to read over the course of the year and tracks your progress every time you hit ‘read’ or ‘I’m finished!’, tucking the titles into a neat little corner where you can look over them all. I’ve tried to be modest with my goals, because I never know what’s going to happen. Last year’s goal was 20, and I actually managed to read 40! Now, some of those were short stories, and at least two of them I never actually finished, but a full quarter of them were audiobooks, which I listened to during market baking days. I revisited old friends, like Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, met some new favorites, like The Raven Boys and The Way of Kings, and tried some stories outside of my usual genre, like the sci-fi of the Lorien Legacies and the historical fiction of Agincourt, both of which I enjoyed. (The fantasy-romance, though, not so much . . .) If you’d like, you can check out my entire year in books here.
Today’s Stack of Books consists of the last books I read in 2019 and the first one I finished in 2020, and I think they’re all pretty great reads!
Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making ─ I’ve never been much for reading non-fiction, but I realize it’s a flaw and am achingly slowly trying to read more of them, so when this book came out, by an artist that I’ve admired for years, I thought I’d give it a shot. Plus, the more I read about it, the more I realized it had some things I needed to hear. Wow. This book is beautiful. It has some hard truths in it, things I’ve come to learn about myself in my own path of trying to make something beautiful. It’s also shown me that someone I look up to is also a real human with flaws, too, and who struggles with some of the same things that I do. Praise God. Heroes are just as scared, broken, and fallible as the rest of us, but the difference comes in what one does in the face of those things, either crawling into a corner or moving forward. This book proved both an encouragement and a hard knock for me in that regard. Making art isn’t easy, it takes work, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to go anywhere or amount to anything ─ like standing on one side of a wide river and looking across to the other bank, unable to fathom how I might cross. But I have to trust the Creator who gave me these gifts and to use them for his praise and glory, to seek him in every aspect of it, and take courage to walk through the doors he opens, because it might just lead to a stepping stone, which will lead to another and then another, and then who knows? I might eventually cross that scary river. Each chapter focused on a different topic, and the stories therein were fascinating, and I can’t help but see ample evidence of God’s hand at work through this man’s life, and it’s amazing to see how the Lord has used Peterson to influence and bless so many by taking his God-given gift and pursuing it through mountains and valleys. I highly suggest you grab a copy and give it a read.
The Inquisition ─ The second book in the Summoner trilogy, and just as entertaining as the first book, if not a little better with higher danger and stakes. I still think it could benefit from some tweaking here and there, and the betrayal and revelation at the end felt a little too out of the left field and rushed, respectively, but the pacing, plot, and characters all remained awesome. It reminds me of Harry Potter meets the colonial era meets high fantasy, making for an interesting world and a fun read.
Castle in the Air ─ Jones strikes again! I think it’s safe to say I’m fairly in love with the quirky, whimsically magical worlds of Diana Wynne Jones. This book was another great companion for the last couple of evenings, full of misadventures that, somehow, always work out. I love how all the seemingly random and convoluted parts unravel by the end, and it was good to see Howl and Sophie again.
The Battlemage ─ The third and final chapter in the Summoner trilogy, this one was chocked full of travails, hardcore survival, and political intrigue. I felt that Fletcher became too capable of a leader too suddenly, and after the battle at the mountain pass, the boss battle with Khan at the end wasn’t as exciting, but the fighting scenes themselves were detailed and alight with a fantasical, revolutionary flair, using muskets, rifles, and rudimentary cannons along with magic and swords. There was also a part earlier in the book where the characters come across a ruin while in the ether, but the plot never took it anywhere, so I have to wonder at the reason for having it in the first place, but the dragons were cool. I got a bit excited about that, and I thought how they were developed was interesting. Overall I enjoyed the story, its intensity and diversity of characters, plot, and worldbuilding.
Green Rider ─ I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would, especially with a female protagonist (which I usually find obnoxious). Karigan is pretty great, spunky and strong-willed. There’s also The Horse, who is awesome for his own personality and loyalty. The story itself felt like a throwback to the classic fantasy era, wrapped up with mysterious magic, ancient and forgotten history, dark powers from long ago, and some political upset. It was fun, enchanting, and exciting.
I enjoyed all of these rather much, and can’t say it was a bad way to fare 2019 well and start off a new year and new challenge. This time I set my Goodreads goal to 40, which feels a bit high for me (though I’ve seen others exceed 70+. Kudos to fast readers!). With what we’re anticipating for this year (around the farm, mostly, but also with what I’d like to accomplish with writing) it’s hard to tell if I’ll be able to read that many, but what’s life without a little adventure? Most of us rise to expectations, or at least try our hardest, so I’m excited about the challenge I’ve set for myself as well as by the worlds and people I’ll meet in all of those books!
I’m going to try again to go through the collection I have at home before buying new ones, especially since I’m trying to be wiser with my resources (super hard with so many good books out there, people!), so we’ll see how that pans out. How about you? Do you have any reading goals for the new year? What books did you like most from this past year?