Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 - The Year I Nearly Dropped Out

This year marks a real low in the number of times I've posted something to this blog. Sometimes I think I should just give it up altogether since there are such long intervals between posts. One of the key pieces of advice about blogging successfully is consistency, and I've really failed in that aspect this year. And it's not like I'm contributing a lot to the world of thought when I do write something. Plus, the world is in such a contentious mood, and sometimes it seems safer to just not say anything.

But I feel sort of invested in what I've written--if not this year, at least the posts from the past. Even more than that, I like the idea of having a place to muse about my readings, even if that doesn't happen very often and even if I'm not "successfully building an audience." I would really miss the Musing Reader if it went away.

At the beginning of the year, I joined the reading challenge on Goodreads, and I set the modest (or so I thought) goal for myself of reading 20 books. I didn't make that goal, either; I read 15 books, which at least is a "C" for the year (teacher, ha ha). I tell myself I would have done better and might have even finished the challenge if I hadn't bogged down in the late summer while I was doing the final edits for my third novel, which came out in September. I didn't count it as one of my 15 books, although I read it (with an eye peeled for inconsistencies and typos) at least twice during late August. I still haven't read it as a finished product, so I think it's going to be one of the first on my list for 2017. I also bogged down in reading a very dry historical book that is research for the next novel percolating in my mind.

In addition to the numerical challenge on Goodreads, I used the "Read Harder" challenge from Book Riot and the "Dare to Live Fully" challenge from to give some structure to my reading for the year. Because of those challenges, I read a book published last year, a book published in the 19th century, and a book published in the decade I was born; I read a dystopian book and a horror book, two genres that normally would not be on my list; I read another of Shakespeare's plays; I read a book that had strong political themes and a book that featured religious differences. I read a steampunk novel, a samurai mystery, and a couple of self-published books by local authors. It was an interesting year, although I didn't find myself really engrossed or invested in anything I read.

In keeping with my end-of-year tradition, here are my nominees for my regular categories:

Best Discovery - The book I enjoyed most this year was Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Maybe it's because I read it shortly after the presidential election, but I was so relieved to read something in which the characters were kind to each other.

Saddest Disappointment - I was bitterly disappointed by Johnny Osage, both because I have really enjoyed other books by Janice Holt Giles and because it is set in the same time and place as my first novel. I was looking forward to it for those two reasons and actually had been putting off reading it because I didn't want to be influenced in writing my own work; unfortunately, I found it to be both boring and disturbing (if those two things can co-exist).

Biggest Accomplishment - In 1995, I started reading George Orwell's 1984. It was the worst possible time for me to read that book because I was a brand-new mother undergoing the shock of that significant life change, and it was just too depressing, so I quit. This summer, my daughter was reading it as a pre-assignment for her senior English class, and I decided to try it again. It was still a depressing and miserable book (and I'm glad I finished it during the summer rather than closer to the election), but I finished it this time. Good for me.

Once is Enough (Books I will probably never read again) - This probably applies to just about everything on my list this year.

Books I Thought Would Be Amazing But Were Only So-So - I thought Dearly Beloved by Anne Morrow Lindbergh would be better than it was. This book would have been much better, in my opinion, as a short story than stretched and padded as it was to create a full novel.

Favorite Re-Read - There was only one book I read this year that I'd read before, and I'm a little sheepish about admitting it since it's a picture book. But not really - it's a very touching book with a good message, so Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig is a book I'll probably read again and again.

Favorite Historical Fiction - I read two historical novels that I enjoyed pretty well this year. The first was The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (one of the few books I blogged about this year). The other was one of the books my son left in his bedroom when he moved away to college - The Sword that Cut the Burning Grass by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. I'll admit I read it just because I needed a "book set in Asia" for one of my reading challenges, but I learned quite a bit about Japanese culture, religion, and mythology - and it was a quick, fun read.

Biggest Reading Failure - I guess my biggest reading failure of the year was that I started off so well, reading three books in January. But then I hit a snag between February and June and read only three books in those four months. I don't know why.

Favorite Classic - I read three works this year that could be considered "classics": 1984 by George Orwell, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (another read from my daughter's senior English class), and The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare. The Taming of the Shrew had quite a few faults, but it wins my vote as "Favorite Classic" simply because I really, really didn't like either of the other two (I described them both as "miserable" to my family).

Favorite Love Story - I didn't read anything that could be considered strictly a romance this year, so my favorite story about love was Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. One thing I really enjoyed about the book was that the father was a loving, gentle man rather than a stereotypical harsh, distant father. Love wins in just about every situation when Opal is dealing with others, like the girl who seems snobby and the brothers who seem to be bullies. It just seemed that the characters approached the world the way a dog does - with acceptance and love. Very refreshing.

Besides the books mentioned above, I also read Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson; A Lasting Bond by Angie Richardson; Snakebite by Beryl Wealand; Arkansas in the Gold Rush by Priscilla McArthur; Motherhood, the Second Oldest Profession by Erma Bombeck; and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

I'm setting my goal for 2017 at 20 books once again. Here's hoping I make it - and that I'll find time to muse.