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Reading Challenge: A Book a Week in 2015

Perfect reading weather in Amarillo, TX

Any kind of weather is great for reading, but I have really enjoyed reading during winter. My new apartment has a nice fireplace, a sunroom, and a reading nook in the bedroom which overlooks the lovely tree in the picture above. This allows me to spend cozy days curled up with a book and a cup of hot tea or cocoa. It's wonderful, especially since one of my resolutions for this year is to read a book every week. Now that I'm no longer reading tons of material for college, I have plenty of head-room and ample time to devote to reading fiction. Here's what I've read so far this year:

January Readings:

Week One: A Dance with Dragons, George RR Martin

I actually regret reading this one, because now I have an undetermined amount of time to wait for the next one. A Dance with Dragons is the 5th installment of the Game of Thrones series, and the remaining two books have yet to be published. I won't include any spoilers, but the 5th book ends in a huge cliffhanger. If you're not familiar with the series, it is a detailed fantasy series ripe with plot twists, deep characters, incredible settings, violence, sex, and politics. The TV show is on HBO, so the sex and violence are exaggerated, but it is otherwise true to the books. This book is different from the first three, because the events happen simultaneously with the 4th book. I wasn't a fan of that method, but it worked well in this one. Not so much with the 4th book, which was hard to finish. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy or medieval stories. It can be tedious at times (do yourself a favor and skim the ample paragraphs that detail exactly what everyone is eating for each meal), but overall it is fun to read and escape to such a crazy world
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This is where the magic happens: my sunroom/office/studio.

Week Two: Divergent, Veronica Roth

I saw the movie ages ago, so I decided it was finally time to read the books. I loved this book, but it was hard for me to look past the awkward first person, present tense (as in: "I walk into the room and it is cold," etc.). First or third person past tense just feels so much more natural for a story, but nonetheless, I eventually got into the book. I think Ms. Roth's goal is to have the reader feel like they are actually the protagonist and that they are living the story. I can think of two other examples of this style that I actually enjoyed: The Hunger Games, and The Handmaid's Tale. The Hunger Games was still pretty awkward for me at first, but of course I love that series. Margaret Atwood does an incredible job of using it in the Handmaid's Tale, but she is a living legend so that's no surprise. Anyway, I digress. Divergent was probably the most awkward first person, present tense novel I ever stuck with reading... but it was still good. 

Why? Because as young woman, I relate to the protagonist. That's it. The story itself is a bit cliche and forced, but I still read it and enjoyed it. Roth's character Tris is really brilliant for a Young Adult novel. She's a little insecure (she refers to herself as unattractive), but somehow confident at the same time. She's unique (everyone wants to know they are different), but not so much so that the average reader can't identify with her. She's the girl that boy bands sing to. It works. I guess it helps that I joined the Army at a young age, so I felt some of what she feels as she goes through her training. 

Since I'm writing a Young Adult novel, I'm glad I read this. For the most part, I would only recommend it to the intended audience (young girls). Some YA novels can be enjoyed by anyone, but this one... maybe not so much. There is romance, action, suspense, drama, and it is in a somewhat neat sci-fi dystopia, but the forced perspective, heavy trope use, and writing style may make it difficult for some people to enjoy.
The gateway to magical worlds, the past, the future, and everywhere in beween: my reading nook.

Week Three: Insurgent, Veronica Roth

I don't have a lot to say about the sequel to Divergent, other than it is not as good. Of course with novels like these, the "origin" story will always be the strongest... but this one really felt like she was forcing the story and the characters to follow an inorganic path. It didn't feel right, and I almost put the book down. The ending was better than the beginning, so I'm glad I finished it, but I actually disliked it so much that I haven't read the final story in the series. I have heard that the last book is pretty terrible anyway. I may read it at some point this year, if I'm bored and there is nothing else on my plate.

The perfect place to wind down: in front of the fireplace. 

Week Four: The Stranger, Albert Camus

Since I'm not reading the final book of the Divergent series anytime soon, I decided to change things up a bit by reading my boyfriend's favorite author: Albert Camus. I've known about him for a long time; Nobel Prize for Literature, brilliant writer, etc, but this is the first time I've read any of his work. The Stranger was his first novel, which is hard to believe. It's incredible. Compared to modern writing, it may seem a little slow at first (I kid you not, he literally writes everything the protagonist does for an entire lazy Sunday), but the writing is beautifully detailed and simple at the same time. Every word fits perfectly. The second half of the book is much darker than the first. The ending was darker still. I liked it, but it was heavy for sure. I'll be reading his work for the entire month of February, and I couldn't be happier. If you've never read his work, turn off the TV and go do it!

Inspiration 

This is the first New Year's Resolution that I've ever made that I'm actually excited about keeping. If you don't read much, I seriously recommend trying something like this. Maybe not a book a week for starters, but why not a book a month? Even if you are incredibly busy, a book a month shouldn't be too much trouble. Reading does so much for you that TV, video games, and movies can't (although I have been enjoying all three of those lately too, it is important to diversify your media intake). When you read, you learn. Both non-fiction and fiction have lessons hidden in their pages, some obvious, some subconscious. Here's an article about how reading fiction affects the brain, for one example. If you have children, make reading a family event. Read to them, or if they are old enough, have them read to you. I promise, it will be fun, you will make memories you can cherish forever, and you will learn something in the process.

I'll be posting monthly on my progress, and I'd love to hear from you if you are doing something similar, or if you have any recommendations for what I should read this year! Thanks for reading this, I hope you enjoyed it and that you are inspired to pick up a book and read!

Libbi Duncan, The Cornucopia Woman


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