Five Things I Love about The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The_Scorpio_RacesRemember how I said that I was going to read books by my favorites this year? Well my first go at that was The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I have long loved Stiefvater’s work. I adored Shiver, then was entranced with Linger, was almost disbelieving when I loved Ballad more, and thought the rounding out of the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy was wholly satisfying and beautifully written, to boot.

And while I was moving half a dozen times and spent a year or so while jobless and dirt poor, not to mention as I said in my last post, guilting myself into reading books I’d had longer but wanted to read less first (that’s a mouthful!)… Maggie wrote two books that I hadn’t read. Actually, that’s a bit of a lie. She wrote four. I didn’t read Linger or Forever until after both books were published. In any case, I was still playing catch up. So finally, despite the fact that I was already reading half a dozen books according to Goodreads… I just picked up Scorpio RacesAnd I ran through it. Here are the things I loved most:

1) The setting is 100% solid. Thisby felt like a real place. A place you could charter a boat to, and find it not much changed from when the book was set… which is not entirely clear, but hardly needs to be.

2) The horses. I was never one of those girls who drew horses and read horse books and wanted a horse for my birthday when I was a little girl… I wanted a unicorn. But seriously, while I would have relished the chance to learn to ride or spend time with horses, that just wasn’t in my life or something my family could afford, so it wasn’t something I thought about much. But it wasn’t the fact that there were horses in the book that impressed me. It was how they were written. I had a professor who said once that the hardest characters to write well are babies and animals, and that is something I’ve always believed, too. The horses in The Scorpio Races rang true.

3) The small-town feminists. Oh Peg Gratton and Dory Maud, I enjoyed every word out of you two. These are women who lead men around by the nose by pretending to be part of their game, and they had their eye out for young, eager, gender-role-challenging Puck. I loved how, rather than taking Puck under their wing exactly, they pointed her in the right direction and pushed her forward.

4) The family relationships. Puck’s relationship with her brothers, more to the point. Finn reminded me of my own little brother, not in his character, but in the feelings he evoked in me—protective, parental feelings, where you are sometimes surprised at the ingenuity and different person-ness of someone you helped raised. And Gabe. While I spent a good majority of the book being angry towards Gabe, I ended up empathizing with and even sort of loving him. It was so easy to understand, his desperation to leave. To have a life that wasn’t constant work and challenge and monotony and death. I can understand that.

5) The love story. This was exactly what I want out of a love story. Which is to say, nothing like most young adult romances (or adult, for that matter, as to the few I’ve read) are like. It is not about physical attraction or even romantic tension. Instead it is about finding someone who is so in tune with how you see the world that they become a part of you without you ever meaning for them to be. It is about respect and mutual understanding and being driven in just the same way. It was so, so satisfying.

These are not all the reasons to read The Scorpio Races, but they are what I loved best.

And since you’ve probably read it well before me, what did you think?

My Year of Favorite Authors

bleedys-icons-dockjpgI have a terrible habit.

I’m not talking about anything dark or sinister… just something that is self-frustrating. On the surface, it doesn’t even sound so bad, really. It is this: I like to save the best for last.

This is something I learned at a young age, as a dessert loving foodie. If you save the best bit until last, you don’t have the memory of that taste marred by something lesser.

Unfortunately, though, I don’t always leave this philosophy to food, and it makes much less sense in most other forms. For example: books. Every book lover knows that as readers, we work on a sort of hierarchy  and that hierarchy looks more or less something like the following:

  • Books I have to read right now
  • Books I want to read
  • Books I should want to read
  • Books I want to want to read (You know what I’m talking about. “Why don’t I want to read this?”)
  • Books I have to read (Okay, maybe this is just in school)
  • Books I don’t particularly care to read but that everyone else are reading that I don’t want to be behind on

You all have a hierarchy something like that, yes? Is that just me?

Anyhow. I have, many times, kept books from my favorite series or by my favorite authors in reserve after books of a lower order, as a sort of “treat.” In fact, this started out in school when I had to read books. I would read a “fun” book alongside it and allow myself the pleasure of something I wanted out of the fiction world after reading a chapter or two of what I was supposed to be reading. Somewhere along the path, it morphed into me reading something I sort of wanted to read alongside the book that I really wanted to read, so that I got both books done.

And then it flipped into something I can’t really explain… me keeping books by beloved authors beholden in some sort of guilty way, because I had so many other books that I hadn’t read yet, so I felt as if I didn’t deserve to read the newer books that I really wanted to read. Yes, I became a reader weighed down by her (unspeakably huge) to be read shelf. I was getting to the point where I was barely reading anything. The last handful of years I have read fewer books than ever before in a year, just passing twenty last year.

Just recently I decided this sort of practice was, in a word, ridiculous. It has led to me both being behind the times on books and authors I care about, and has dragged down the enjoyment of reading anything less than stellar. Not even that. Anything that had less than a stellar expectation point for me. Meaning I was stopping myself from discovering new book and author loves that really were stellar.

Last year, my goal was to read something more challenging. I picked up Bleak House by Charles Dickens, but I am a faithless lover when it comes to books, so I also picked up Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Suzanne Clarke, and The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky… and I overwhelmed myself. I’m pressing pause on two of the three, because I am still, yes STILL in the middle of all three of them. I’m some three-fifths done with Bleak House and honestly enjoying it, I just cannot read Dickens fast and enjoy it.

So this year I am going through my books and I am reading first and foremost the unread books I have by authors that I love, like Maggie Stiefvater and Jasper Fforde and series that I really enjoyed the beginning of like Colleen Houck’s Tiger’s Curse, and anything else that I’ve been eyeing. I will still keep Dickens by my side for glances when I feel like it, but I’m not pressuring myself when it comes to reading things I don’t particularly care to this year. Maybe next year I will feel differently, but that is to remain to be seen. For now, I’ve finished one book I’d been dying to read for an age (The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, more on that later), and am looking forward to more.

Do your reading habits change? Do you ever find yourself resenting the book you’re reading, because you want to be reading something else?