A Retrospective of My Reading in 2017

As an avid reader, I like to keep track of the books I read throughout the year and then at the end of the year, reflect on what I’ve read, looking for patterns and choosing my favorites. In 2017, I read mostly fantasy novels and that also means several series or books in a series. Winners for various arbitrary categories: [drum roll please]

Surprise novel of the year: Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I enjoyed it on several counts.

  • It’s not a series.
  • The heroine, Agnieszka, is not a ravishing, Amazon-type character, but rather is a very plain, frumpy peasant girl who on the surface has nothing to recommend her but who is gifted with powerful magic.
  • The setting is old-world European, layered with magic and the supernatural.
  • While the survival of her community is at stake, the outcome is not dependent on the massing of armies for one final battle that decides the fate of the world.

Most read author: Brandon Sanderson. Not sure why as I’m not an avid Sanderson fan, but I ended up finishing the two Mistborn trilogies and started his ambitious projected 10-book series, The Stormlight Archive. The best of the lot was The Way of Kings, the first in that series, which focuses on Kaladin Stormblessed, one of many characters who will each have a book devoted to his or her backstory and how he or she fits into the grand scheme of things. I have to say that Sanderson’s world building is phenomenal, including the history and mythologies of the peoples populating his world. On my list for this year is Oathbringer, the third book in the series.

 

Best series: A toss-up between King Raven, by Stephen Lawhead, a fresh retelling of the Robin Hood legend, and The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb, which takes place in the same world as and enriches one’s reading of the Farseer series. It is best read between The Farseer Trilogy and The Tawny Man Trilogy.

 

Best classic fantasy: Homer’s Odyssey. While perhaps not technically a fantasy, it certainly is a precursor to the genre, including such elements as the hero’s journey, the flawed hero, and the supernatural.

Best fantasy novel of the year: Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb, the final book in the three trilogies chronicling the life of FitzChivalry Farseer. It is a bittersweet choice; check out my review at https://wordpress.com/view/annehcampbell.com and you will understand why. I recommend the entire series; if you have not waded into it, start with Assassin’s Apprentice. You have an advantage starting now in that the trilogies are complete, and once you start, you won’t have to wait for the next in the series to be released.

Reading resolutions for 2018

  • Read a greater variety of authors and genres, including more classics.
  • Read fewer series, which should be doable if I keep the first resolution.

What about you?

What were your favorite books or authors of 2017? What is on your must read list for 2018?

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Best Selling Author John Grisham at Princeton

Credit: (Mandatory) Carrie Devorah / WENN 2005

Author JOHN GRISHAM 
Credit: Carrie Devorah / WENN

 

I took advantage of an opportunity to hear John Grisham speak at Princeton University in an interview format. Princeton had invited him as his novel Camino Island,  his 30th,  opens with a theft of F Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton’s Firestone Library. He was very engaging and offered us a look into the mind of an author.

 

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The Literary Mushroom

The other day on my early morning walk, I came across mushrooms that had, no doubt, come to life with all the rain we have had. They are intriguing as one day I walk a field and there are none, and the next day they have sprung up overnight. Emily Dickinson captures this mystery with these simple lines:

Anne H Campbell 2017

“The mushroom is the elf of plants,

At evening it is not;

At morning in a truffled hut

It stops upon a spot”

Not only do they appear magically, but the variety seems endless. The mushroom I found yesterday is gone today, but another kind has emerged somewhere else. Continue reading

George Macdonald’s Malcolm: Too good to be true?

As an author, I often come across the advice that protagonists should not be squeaky clean but should be flawed in order for them to be three-dimensional. I thought about this as I was reading George MacDonald’s The Fisherman’s Lady and The Marquis’ Secret, two novels that follow the rise of Malcolm MacPhail from fisherman to marquis. I doubt, however, that Malcolm would consider his new title a step up, for in his mind a person is to be judged by his moral rectitude, not by his station in life. That, of course, is an invitation for the reader to judge Malcolm’s character, and at first, my sense was that he had no flaws. As a result, I didn’t find him to be an engaging character.

Malcolm’s positive traits are many: hardworking, loyal, dependable, honest, truthful, respectful of women, unassuming, longsuffering (to a point), and on top of all that, humble. I could list even more! He is respected by his community, and most of the women are particularly fond of him because he is not afraid to face ridicule when he joins them in their tasks as fishermen’s wives. For a fisherman, he’s well educated and reads Shakespeare in addition to the Scripture. The Bible is not just another tome of literature for him, however. He is God-fearing and seeks to live according to the Bible. So, I’m thinking this guy’s too good to be true. Continue reading

Update on sequel to Sword of Deliverance

I have come to the end of drafting the sequel to Sword of Deliverance, which is a way of saying that I am far from finished. It is currently fermenting, proofing, or simmering—whichever culinary metaphor you like. But here’s what I can tell you about it.

The sequel chronicles what Brandan calls, at the end of Deliverance, his journey back from a very dark place. While he and Meredyth have come through their ordeals, problems lurk below the surface waiting to bubble up, particularly psychological issues. One of Brandan’s is a condition called moral injury, which is, briefly, damage to one’s moral integrity. This disorder has come to the forefront because of returning veterans who are wrestling with the fact that they have committed acts that go against their moral beliefs. Symptoms include guilt and shame, self-condemnation, an inability to forgive oneself, and difficulty with personal relationships.

Caveat lector: For those who have not read Sword of Deliverance, from here on this post hints at plot spoilers. Continue reading

Book Review: The Confessions of X

What can I say in praise of The Confessions of X by Suzanne M. Wolfe that has not already been said? Evocative. Poignant. Bittersweet. Beautifully wrought like a fine mosaic. True-to-life. When I finished it, I could only sit, tears welling up and trickling down my face. To do anything else would have been to deny it the reflection it deserves.

The Confessions of X is a fictionalized memoir of the only woman Augustine of Hippo loved. He refers to her in his Confessions but never names her. When we finish her memoir, we still do not know her name, just her nickname, Naiad—water nymph—given to her by her childhood friend, Nebridius. In that regard, she stands for all the nameless women throughout history whose lives were intertwined with the lives of famous, powerful men. The last haunting words of her memoir could be her epitaph as well as that of all women like her. Continue reading