I switched to reading a single book at a time for the rest of the year. I feel as if I like reading one book at a time a bit more. I can get through it a bit faster and can focus more. (Though, I’ll go ahead and say I already plan on ignoring this preference at least once in 2019.)
Midnight Riot, by Ben Aaronovitch
I picked up Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch in mid-November once I finished The Obelisk Gate. I was skeptical about it at first but decided to explore this option anyway. Time was running out and I knew I wanted at least one more full book in before the end of the year.Midnight Riotis the first book in a multi-part series about a police officer who is suddenly thrust into a case involving ghosts and various other fantastic, mythical creatures. I loved the main character and its cast. I loved the world building and the magic system, and I was overall intrigued, enough so that I plan on continuing the series in 2019. But maybe because it was the first book, or I'm not used to the genre that makes up the other half of the book (the primary genre being urban fantasy), but more parts than I would like to admit simply dragged. There were times when I found myself having to push myself to get through another few pages because I had lost interest; I wanted to DNF it more than once. Now, I will remind you, I plan on picking up book two, so it wasn't THAT bad. I'm going to chalk it up to being an acquired taste. This is by far nowhere near the bottom in terms of favorites, possibly somewhere in the middle.
The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValleI finished Midnight Riot on December 11th and decided that I could squeeze in a short story: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. It popped up a few times when searching for books this year, and it was short enough that I could squeeze it in at the end. I knew it got kind of "dark," and that was pretty much it. I've never read anything Lovecraftian, so seeing that this was inspired by him got me interested. It wasn't until after I read the story -- less than 24 hours to finish -- that I found out it was actually a retelling of one of Lovecraft's stories. Even without this knowledge, I LOVED THIS STORY. It was dark and, from what little I do know about Lovecraft, hit the mark. Apparently, he's super racist and I doubt I'll find anything appealing from how now; there's too much bias and I won't be checking out the original version of the story LaValle retold. However, this does open my mind to other genres I would have originally skipped.
But, as I stated, this was a very quick read. And there were another fifteen days left in the year? Yikes.
Various Magic: the Gathering short stories
This is a perfect segway into what else I read this year: many, many short stories. I’m a pretty big fan of Magic: the Gathering, and apparently I’m what is considered a “Vorthos” player. I love the Magic story and all that makes up the multi-verse. I remember downloading Magic Duels for Xbox (R.I.P.) a few years back and learning the ropes, but ultimately forgot what I learned. Then, as the Universe would have it, some coworkers were learning to play from some other coworkers and I was fully brought on board into this crazy world. I started playing sometime during the Battle For Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch blocks. (Benthic Infiltrator is my BABY!) As the world was getting ready for the next set, Eldritch Moon, I discovered there were short stories associated with the universe. I wasn’t fully back into reading at this point, but this helped me ramp up and get used to it again. I’ve devoured the short stories ever since.
This year I had the pleasure of reading through all the short stories for Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, Nicol Bolas, Vivien Reid, and Ravnica, as well as finally catching up on the Magic: Origins stories and the prequel to Battle for Zendikar – I saved Children of the Nameless by Branden Sanderson for 2019. I enjoyed almost every one of the short stories, but anything with Jace is instantly boosted to the top (he’s my favorite; sue me). I loved learning about Nicol Bolas and Ugin, and about this weird world of Dominaria where so much history has taken place. Vivien Reid’s story started off rocky for me; there was entirely too many big words that kept breaking my flow, but once I got used to it it was a very pleasurable read. I would love to know what the word count is for all the stories. It could easily come out to two whole books, possibly three. And I still need to make my way through all the older stories that I’ve missed.
Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha ChristieIn 2018, I also decided to get in to shape a bit more. (Hold on, there's a connection to reading, I promise.) I started tracking my steps once I realized that 10k steps a day burned a great deal more calories than I would have guessed. As a result, I took lots of works, especially after lunch. A good thirty-minute walk around the city gave me a lot of free time, so I decided to start listening to things that weren't just music. Now, I've neglected to mention this, but I bought the audiobook version of Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie, earlier this year and managed to get through it (over the course of a few months) by listening to it during my lunch break. This was before all the walks were implemented. I'm so used to actually reading the words that it was a challenge to actually get through it. Not to mention the narrator, while AMAZING, spoke with an accent, and the book is somewhat old, so the style of speaking and writing is a bit much, and it's British. Too many factors caused me to stall, but I managed to make it to that really fucking weird as ending. Like, seriously? THAT'S how you ended the book? REALLY!? I said all that to say that I decided to try audio stories again during my walks and found a podcast that was perfect for that: EscapePod. I've listened to COUNTLESS short stories on there and have fallen in love with the podcast so much. I have so many favorites: Texts from the Ghost War; Moar Cat Pictures, Plz; Mother Tongues; and the one story that blew me away, And Then There Were (N - One). My god. I'll be listening to that podcast even more in 2019. I hope to get through the entire backlog one day. Now, back to reading. I finished The Ballad of Black Tom, with over half a month left until the end of the year. "What the hell," I decided. "Let's pick up another book!" So, I decided to read Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. I may have mentioned this when I talked about reading Kindred by Octavia Butler, but I don't really care for period pieces, especially when Blacks are treated so unjustly. It is not my cup of tea and I'd rather just not. But, apparently, if you slap a little sci-fi in it, I'm all for it. Dread Nation was SO GOOD. Zombies, in MY late 1800s/early 1900s? Why, yes, I think I will. I do have some small issues with the book, like not expecting the ending to be unfulfilling or the scattering of random things that seem to be important but aren't, but it seems as if Ireland is setting this up to be a series and I'm not yet ready to let go of Jane and Katherine. Moar, please!
I finished Dread Nation mid-day on the 31st of December, and couldn’t be happier with what I’d accomplished for the year. I went from barely reading for years on end to making reading part of my everyday life. I hope to, at least, read as much as I have this year but I’m shooting for more. I’ve already got a full set of books ready and waiting for me, but that sounds like another blog post for another day.