A Fall Reading List
Leaves fall from the trees. Smoke billows from chimneys. People don fuzzy sweaters. Now that Chez Cherry has acquired a couch, I’m going to curl up in front of my fireplace with a big, cozy blanket and get back to basics.
It’s time for a fall reading list.
1. Farlig Midsommar (Tove Jansson) [Swedish]
I’m a little out of season for reading this one, but it’s the first new Mumin book I’ve got my hands on in about five years. I also have Sent i November and Trollvinter. I’ve read them both over and over again (although I much prefer Trollvinter). Each time I read them, I understand a little bit more!
Essentially, reading the Mumin books in their original Swedish is an exercise in teaching myself Swedish through immersion. As children, we learn to read and speak our native languages through sheer force of repetition. Think about it: You probably learned to read by having your parents or another adult make sounds at you as you tried to peer at the book and follow along with the squiggles. Eventually, the squiggles became letters, which became words, which were attached to particular sounds. Sounds become speech, speech conveys meaning.
I recognize all of the Swedish squiggles, but I’m less familiar with their sounds (I do have an audio component for my program), and I definitely don’t understand meaning most of the time. The Mumin books, aimed at nine- to twelve-year-olds, have some illustrations and use simple enough language that I can usually grab context. With repeated reading, I often discover new meaning and new words.
I’m excited for Farlig Midsommar because I’ve never read it before. I know the general outline from repeated viewing of the 1990 TV series, so I can really focus on understanding the words.
2. Permanent Ink (Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn)
Full disclosure: I follow both Gale and Vaughn on Twitter, which is how I even know about this book. From their excited tweeting about their writing and hearing some seriously good things about it, I decided to give it a whirl as one of my back-to-reading experiments. (I haven’t read any new fiction in probably five to six years. Thanks, job in publishing!)
I sampled Permanent Ink and while I’m not overwhelmed, I’m definitely feeling the writing over some of the other books I decided to try. The story seems well-constructed, not too rushed or dragging. Obviously, this is an early assessment, not having read the whole thing yet, but it’s exciting.
I’ve wanted to read some of Gale’s work for a while now, knowing about her Scoring Chances series with Dreamspinner’s. I’ve held back because I definitely do not want any cross-pollination into Slapshot! Even writers with the best of intentions, fully aware of the dangers of plagiarism, can pick up ideas, turns of phrase, and so on and so forth, without being fully cognizant of what they’re doing. And then it ends up in your work and you end up with a mess.
I think I’m comfortably into the Slapshot! universe to avoid the issue, but I’m erring on the side of caution and starting with non-hockey related titles.
3. Antisocial (Heidi Cullinan)
Probably the most controversial pick on my list. I also follow Cullinan’s Twitter account, which is how I heard about this book. I think the cover is gorgeous. It really appeals to the anime fan in me. I know Cullinan is a big fan of anime as well.
I sampled the title and, unfortunately, I’m not overly impressed with the writing. While the plot was set up, the writing style somehow fell flat for me. Then there was a building discomfort, even through the sample, about the use of the Japanese-inspired college as a backdrop. Everything about this book smacks of an anime/manage. Everything, from one of the MC’s disgruntled, antisocial natures to the other’s boisterous pretty boy with a rich daddy and a facade.
I wasn’t sold on the book after the sample. But recently, a lot of controversy has cropped up, centered on two issues. The first is the potential for cultural appropriation, something that had already become somewhat apparent to me. (I’m all for homage, but tropes of Japanese manga and anime can be adopted without the heavy dose of whitewashing–or could be adopted in a way that more knowledgeably winks at the reader–but it’s played straight here.)
Next is the apparent representation of the ace/aro community. I wasn’t aware the book’s marketing suggested it was supposed to be representative of this community, but allegedly there is some inclusion, and there’s some problems with the portrayal. Essentially, this is going to become an experiment in me finding out what not to do when it comes to writing ace/aro characters. Look for the sequel to this adventure, where I find good examples of portrayal!
4. Illegal Contact (Santino Hassell)
Why didn’t anyone tell me about Santino Hassell before?! I didn’t sample Illegal Contact, although this is the book I’ve seen promoted on Twitter. Instead, I ended up sampling another of Hassell’s works, through Kindle’s “recommended” and “related” titles function. I started reading the second book in a series, and I was instantly hooked. Hassell is in early contention for becoming a must-read author. We’ll see if Illegal Contact can hold up.
5. How to Love a Monster (Lyssa Dering)
I’ve been following Dering’s (mis)adventures in marketing this title. She did a lot of experimental things in the marketing platform for it, and I’ve gotten a lot of insight just from lurking around her Twitter.
I’m interested in how she describes her work as “dark” erotica, and I’d like to find out more what she means by that. Dering regularly tweets samples of her WIPs, so I’ve seen some of her writing, although I haven’t got a good grasp on her style yet.
6. Shelter the Sea (Heidi Cullinan)
Another entry from Cullinan, this time culled from her backlist. I downloaded the sample for book two of her “The Roosevelt” series after it cropped up on Kindle’s recommendations. I’d already sampled Antisocial, but wasn’t sold. I thought I’d give Cullinan a second chance.
Benefit of the doubt seems to have paid off: I’m much more impressed with the writing style of this book than I am with Antisocial. The book seems to alternate between the two MCs, and even in a short sample, Cullinan was able to establish two very different voices. It’s notable here that she writes in the first person, versus Antisocial, which uses the third person.
Finally, issues of representation likely crop up here as well, since the book deals extensively with (dis)abled/differently abled and mentally ill characters. I’m not an authoritative judge on the issue (although I can speak to anxiety and depression), but I’d be interested to see how Cullinan handles issues of representation here.
Two Books a Month
I’ve listed six titles here. Fall is approximately twelve weeks long, or three months (September 21 – December 21). That equates to two books a month, which I think is manageable. The most difficult book will likely be the one in Swedish, since it’s not my native language. I have to read at a much slower pace.
Of the books listed here, Antisocial may get a DNF. I’ve read some really bad and boring books, so I can usually make myself struggle through something. But that was in the past. Since I’m not doing this for class or money, I might just set it down and never pick it up again. No point in subjecting myself to torture at this stage.
Birthday Money Well-Spent
The only book I didn’t buy with birthday money was Farlig Midsommar, which I bought when I visited Stockholm in July.
Everything else is a present! YAY!