It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey
I am so excited/relieved that March is over and we're now in April. March is usually one of my favorite months, but this month has been strange. Actually, the whole first quarter of 2013 has been a bit odd for me for a variety of reasons. As a result I have let my 2013 reading challenges languish: 0 books read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, 0 books read for the Revolutionary War Challenge (although I did buy a copy of James Fenimore Cooper's The Spy), and 2 books read for the TBR Pile Challenge (My Life in France and Max Perkins).
One thing that's different about this year is that I've started writing fiction much more consistently than in years past. I now have a fantastic writing partner and a monthly deadline, both of which are helping me be accountable to my goals. So far I've written and/or revised three stories and submitted one to a contest. It's been years since I've submitted a story.
During this first quarter I also volunteered as a judge for a book prize. This is the second time I've served as a literary judge. The first time was for a short story competition hosted by my local NPR station, WBEZ in Chicago. I read 40 short stories for that and it was quite manageable. This time around the reading load was much heavier, 22novels. I think the novels started rolling in around late January and my deadline for reading and giving feedback was mid-March. This was a tough time frame for me as I'm a slow reader, and it meant cutting out pretty much all of my other reading. I'm glad to have gone through this process and look forward to seeing what the final outcome is for the books under review, but I'm so happy its over and I can read whatever I want to again! (At this time I can't say more about the judging process or what organization this was for.)
The first book I picked up after the judging was Louise Penny's The Beautiful Mystery. I was saving it for my birthday weekend and it was a delightful treat. Penny's novels are so full of humanity—humor, pain, confusion, knowing—and she's taking the characters down some pretty hard roads. I cannot recommend her Chief Inspector Gamache series enough. (But if you start it, note that it does take a couple books to rev-up, at least it did for me. Stick with it...you won't be sorry!)
I also read Prairie Silence, Melanie Hoffert's memoir of growing up gay in North Dakota and learning how to come home as an adult who speaks her truth. FYI for those of you in Chicagoland, Hoffert is doing a reading at Women & Children First on April 12th at 7:30pm.
The Selected Letters of Willa Cather. If you know a Willa Cather fan, buy it for them (or yourself!) when it comes out on April 16th.
What are you reading now? Have you read any standout books this year that are must-reads?