2017 in Books

I read a few books this year. Not from a reading list, because I’m perennially disappointed in my inability to stick to one. When you read for the love of reading, you tend to pull books off the shelf because they look appetizing, not because they’re on a list.

This past summer I studied abroad, didn’t work, slept like a hibernating bear, and read voraciously. This past semester, I was buried under several thousand pages of theology, but I came up for air with a few fictional texts. For the year to date, here’s my catalog of fictional things devoured. Let’s pretend that they were all on that book list at the beginning of the year, shall we?

Asterisks are re-reads. And yes, I included children’s books, but only if I deliberately read them, not drive-by read them during my frequent library loiterings. As always, there’s a substantial segment of YA, an odd spattering of middle-grade, and a few lofty classics. I think I read the way I drink coffee: I’m not [yet] snobby enough to shun Starbucks or cheap paperbacks.


Westmark by Lloyd Alexander

Persuasion by Jane Austen*

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë*

Night School by Lee Child

The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima*

The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima*

The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima*

The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

The Sorcerer Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eliot

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

Venetia by Georgette Heyer

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston*

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis*

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis*

Phantastes by George MacDonald

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

Jackaby by William Ritter

Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Home by Marilynne Robinson

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry* (Katherine Woods, y’all)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams*

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski*

The Floating Admiral by The Detection Club of 1931

P.S. Please note: this is not a recommended reading list. The proper title is “The [fiction that filtered into Rae’s brain this year and may influence later writing] List.” Quite a bit of this would overlap with a recommended list, but if you want that, we’d need to sit down and chat over coffee. Because I can’t recommend a book until I know you. Cheers.


The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real)

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.



Summer Reads

School ended 54 days ago, and I’ve been celebrating ever since. Sort of. I’ve been celebrating the end of required reading by doing it voluntarily: checking out a steady stream of books from the library and devouring them like they’re going out of print. Here are a few:

(Full disclosure: this is not a “Recommended Reading” list. Not all of these are books that  I would hand to a friend, or wave in the air and say, “Look, Mom!” Because…well…keep reading…)


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Firebirds edited by Sharyn November

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

The Killing Floor by Lee Child

Make Me by Lee Child

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funk

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

Sabriel by Garth Nix (reread because <3)


What’s Best Next by Matt Perman (technically this is a list of fiction and this one doesn’t belong here, but here you go.)

Next up: 

Lirael by Garth Nix (and then Abhorsen and then the one that’s not a reread: Clariel)

The Graveyard Book (Graphic Novel, Vols. 1 & 2) by Neil Gaiman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (maybe)

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Smoke & Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (yah, a lot of him on this list. Neverwhere is still one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. He’d almost have a free pass, if I gave that sort of thing [can’t do it, but that’s another post for another day].)

Rebel by Amy Tinterra

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Watership Down by Richard Adams


Yeah, summer has been pretty fantastic. But…(full disclosure continued)…

Here’s the funny thing about reading: you can read a lot of good things, or a lot of bad things, or a lot of bad things disguised as good things, and you can read things because you want to finish, or you can read things because you want to know, you can read out of curiosity, and you can read because you want to be brave, you can read because you think you should be able to, and you can read things because you think you don’t care. I love reading, and admittedly, some of the things I read are less than wonderful or read for less than wonderful reasons. For example: sometimes I read because I don’t like what my brain does in the silence of a train platform when the day is over or just beginning. I like to keep occupied, to stay involved, to color my world with something other than now. The Purple Line still reminds me of those wonderful little Ray Bradbury stories I read; just short enough to read one or two between work and the apartment, and gripping enough to feel the emptiness of space. How can one become claustrophobic on a train car when the unexpectedness of a story and the sense of another time and place has already caught you? I read because I love words and the way they can replace every other sense. You can see, touch, smell, taste, hear – all from the page. It’s powerful and freeing and extraordinarily personal.

It’s also dangerous. Dangerous because you have to come up for air and reorient yourself. Dangerous because the world within a story builds its own moral compass, and you’re cheering and pursuing and being dragged down paths that you would never choose in the daylight. You have to step back and revisit and resettle and understand what is real, what is true, and what, most importantly, is right. Reading a book to find your way is like using a compass in the Bermuda Triangle: it will be wrong, and you will probably get lost.

So in the midst of catching up on Book 1, Book 4, or Book 20, whether it’s the “innocuous” kids book or the “temporary” thriller, the most important book I’m reading is still the one next to my bed when I go to sleep and there when I wake up. It’s the one in my backpack wherever I go, and the one that will forever and always be the most rewarding and most fulfilling, and the one whose compass never needs readjusting. I have to read it first and last and in between and let it tug away at the things that shouldn’t be there and pull in the things that should. And that doesn’t just apply to the books.

tl;dr: Aslan says it best

The Little Prince: Chapter 21

It was then that the fox appeared.

“Good morning,” said the fox.

“Good morning,” the little prince responded politely, although when he turned around he saw nothing.

“I am right here,” the voice said, “under the apple tree.”


“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.”

“I am a fox,” the fox said.

“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”

“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”

“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince.

But, after some thought, he added:

“What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“You do not live here,” said the fox. “What is it that you are looking for?”

“I am looking for men,” said the little prince. “What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“Men,” said the fox. “They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?”

“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”

“‘To establish ties’?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”

“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower . . . I think that she has tamed me . . .”

“It is possible,” said the fox. “On the Earth one sees all sorts of things.”

“Oh, but this is not on the Earth!” said the little prince.

The fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.

“On another planet?”


“Are there hunters on that planet?”


“Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?”


“Nothing is perfect,” sighed the fox.

But he came back to his idea.

“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . .”

The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.

“Please–tame me!” he said.

“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me . . .”

“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the little prince.

“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me–like that–in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . .”

The next day the little prince came back.

“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . . One must observe the proper rites . . .”

“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.

“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all.”

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near–

“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.” And then he added:

“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”

And the roses were very much embarassed.

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.”

And he went back to meet the fox.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

Remember The Signs

“But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.” from The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis

What’s Up Wednesday?

Back around again for another week of Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk‘s wonderful bloghop!

What I’m Reading 4a45a-buttonsmallnoborder

Well…The Girl Of Fire And Thorns was due back at the library yesterday, but I’m going to suck it up and pay the fines on it until I finish. No way am I sending this one back unfinished. I LOVE this book! I’m less than halfway through, but it has been nothing but stellar. I can’t remember the last time I liked a main character this well!

What I’m Writing

Believe it or not, I almost skipped the bloghop this week. Because…I didn’t write a thing. Not a word. I didn’t jot down an outline, rattle off a scene, nada. I didn’t even get a chance to open the document. Sigh. This was not my best week.

3513d-readysetwritebuttonI don’t think it was the fault of my goals, though. I still want to train myself into writing each day, but I can’t commit more time than that half-an-hour chunk. This week it got stolen by [What Else I’ve Been Up To], but I’m going to try again. Half an hour a day. Every day.

What Inspires Me

Last week I didn’t manage to comment very much, but I still read every single post. If nothing else, the enthusiasm is encouraging. There’s nothing quite like hanging around people who are passionate about what they love to do. Thank you, fellow writers!

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Friday through Sunday got stolen by an impromptu trip back to my hometown. My track record with traveling is terrible; I got caught in very heavy rain driving out and back, and Sunday’s bout involved hail. I haven’t had a trip back this year that didn’t involve bad weather of some sort! Other than that, I got some much-needed sleep, and a lot of planning and prep done for the debate workshop I’m teaching there in August. Plus, my sis and I managed to sneak in time to see Red 2, which I loved even more than the first one. I’m a sucker for action movies, and it’s always fun to see retirees kicking butt.

Otherwise, my writing evenings were individually usurped by my mom’s birthday, three hours of volleyball, a children’s program at church, time with my grandparents, and being engrossed by The Girl Of Fire And Thorns. But, I’m starting to handle my work schedule and only pulled one 10-hr day last week. Yes! Being home earlier will help with the life-is-crazy thing, I think. 🙂

What’s Up on your Wednesday? Check out Jaime’s blog to join in!