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Binge-Reading Series

March 7, 2014

It seems like everyone talking about television lately is talking about binge-watching a series. Netflix has even started to cater to that impulse, releasing an entire season of House of Cards, to much acclaim and discussion.

Grad school means I absolutely don’t have time to churn through an entire weekend’s worth of watching a series. I haven’t even caught up entirely on watching the new season of BBC Sherlock. My grad school addled brain can’t handle the intensity.

I’m amazed I’ve found time to read as much fiction as I have, given work and grad school. But, somehow, I’ve found a way to churn through multiple books of a series. On several different occasions over the past few months.

The Billy Boyle books. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two of these World War II mysteries, grabbed the next two for my Kindle and then forgot about them, and went off to read other things. I don’t know exactly what got me to pick up the series again, and discover that it had somehow grown to eight books. (Full list here). All of which I proceeded to read, one after the next. My favorite thing about the series is the glimpse at different settings and experiences of World War II. Billy’s adventures take him to Italy, Malta, and Northern Ireland. (Billy’s heritage as an Irish American from South Boston made that last one especially interesting.) Another good part of the series is the way Billy’s character matures through some dark, harrowing and violent events. In the first book of the series, Billy is young, brash, and frankly kind of a doofus. Later books leave their mark of danger and loss on him, and temper him into a more balanced character.

The Tiffany Aching stories by Terry Pratchett. This is sort of a series-within-a-series, as the books are part of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. It begins with The Wee Free Men and carries out into A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight. Young Tiffany is growing up in a village on the Chalk, where there are absolutely not witches. Ever. Tiffany is levelheaded for a young girl, brave, and good at making cheese. Tiffany is Granny Aching’s granddaughter. Granny Aching herded sheep, smoked terrible tobacco, knew everyone’s business and wasn’t a witch…. probably. Tiffany is a witch, has encounters with various mythical realms, and saves the day with a frying pan. Tiffany is also being looked after by the Nac Mac Feegle, tiny blue pixie men who like to fight, steal, drink, yell and swear, and are devoted to their Big Wee Hag. Just about every passage with the Nac Mac Feegle made me giggle. “Ach! Crivens!” The series was just what I needed: magic and adventure, some highly silly bits, and tensions and dangers far removed from the real world. I’d definitely read more of these.

The Mitford Years by Jan Karon. A friend who knows how much I love James Herriot recommended the first book, At Home in Mitford ages ago, and I found a volume of the first five books available as an e-book at the library. A few weeks (and a few stayed-up-too-late reading nights) later, I had churned through all five books. The stories center around Father Timothy, Mitford’s middle-aged Episcopal priest, and the doings of small town Mitford. Father Timothy has a giant dog who calms instantly when he hears Scripture quoted; a sullen teenage foster son named Dooley; Type II diabetes and a parish full of characters. I enjoyed the rural small town setting, that took place a few years ago, but because of the smallness of the town and the focus on individual lives, it could be anytime from 1950 to 1990. (a plot thread of being frustrated setting up the parish computer and modem was about the only thing that pinpointed the timeline). I enjoyed reading about a community drawn together by strong faith. I kind of envy them, really. The number of times when someone, faced with indecision and stress, would choose to pray about it, or the characters who make a decision to stop being antagonists, turning on the linchpin of discovering new faith. I found the books charming and comforting, good reads as counterpoints to my own stress. It also reminded me of the TV series Ballykissangel. Which I should try to find on Netflix and rewatch at some point.

Temeraire by Naomi Novik.

An alternate history of Napoleonic-era England. With talking dragons. I’m not honestly sure what led me to seek this out now. I have a long-standing prejudice against talking animals in fantasy. (Which reading the Diane Duane Cats of Grand Central series might be starting to shift).

I don’t remember who recommended these books to me.
I zoomed through the first, and have started reading the second. I like Laurence, adjusting to culture shock as he transitions between strict naval culture and more relaxed dragon rider culture. I like the sweetness of his relationship with Temeraire. I like Temeraire’s curiosity, and sense of humor. Temeraire kind of reminds me of the dragon in How To Train Your Dragon, lively and childlike.
I’ll probably be adding this series to my binge-reading list.

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