Bookrace 2015: Reading Update

Bookrace 2015: Reading Update

Reading since last update:

The Lost Books of the Bible: 13 Controversial Texts

Maureen Ash, The Alehouse Murders (Templar Knight)

Maureen Ash, The Death of a Squire (Templar Knight)

Maureen Ash, A Plague of Poison (Templar Knight)

Kameron Hurley, We Have Always Fought

Catherynne M. Valente, Silently and Very Fast

Donald Maas, Writing the Breakout Novel (yearly re-read)

Peter Robinson, Cold is the Grave (DCI Banks)

Peter Robinson, Aftermath (DCI Banks)

Peter Robinson, Close to Home (DCI Banks)

 

Notes:

The DCI Banks mysteries are clever, credible, and solid without being earth-shattering. They always start slow, but I end up reading all night. I like Banks, but he could stand to go a novel or two without noticing a nipple.

The Lost Books of the Bible was just a refresher for me on some of the excluded books I’d forgotten. I’m reading Jubilees now. Mostly to familiarize myself with Jewish Biblical literature for Medieval rabbis and the like. Talmud’s coming up, but that’s a hell of a read.

Silently and Very Fast is intensely clever, the folklore of artificial intelligence. The fairy tale syncretism is brilliant and beautiful. In places, it’s very affecting, but for the most part, it’s more interested in being clever than in really touching me. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’ll read it again and again, because it does what it does very well, and I’m more than a little envious of her ability to create new fairy tales.

We Have Always Fought is a fascinating book of essays by a self-aware, self-conscious thoughtful writer of diverse characters and strong, interesting women. There’s a lot to think about here, and I’d definitely recommend it. My favorite piece, I think, is on “Persistence”. Her idea that success isn’t determined by milestones and achievements, but rather in continuing to do, in the process of writing, in the act of picking yourself one more time than you fall may well prove to be revolutionary for me. Just like Pollocking.

Writing the Breakout Novel never fails to be provocative and instructive. I read it every year, or every time I start a new writing project, in part to remind myself that I actually want to push myself to write something bigger and better than my last book, and in part for the actual instruction. Usually I balk at the chapter on subplots, because my brain just hasn’t been able to encompass it. This year, it blew my thinking out of the water for my medieval Jewish female Robin Hood story, providing me with a way of making the story more than I thought it was. I’d discovered Nicholaa de la Haye previously, and wanted to include her but didn’t quite know how. Then along came Maas with subplots that comment on the main theme, et voila. I needed to know whatever I could of Lady Nicholaa and her castle.

Which was how I ended up reading Maureen Ash’s Templar Knight mysteries, in which Lady Nicholaa figures prominently. Not only is her research on medieval Lincoln fascinating, but the mysteries themselves are quite good. They’re not exciting, especially, and plagued by a prolonged decision-making process on the part of the primary character, but they’re solid, worth reading, and a good example of developing a mystery from the context, rather than applying an idea to a setting. I’m sure I’ll be returning to the series, but in the meantime, they’ve given me a lot of food for thought.