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The Importance of a Good Read

I've covered the importance of reading before; especially as a writer, but I came here today to do something a little different. I'm not marketing to writers with this, and I'm not here to talk about just a good book, either. I'm here because I just recently finished reading When Christ and his Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman, and I want to talk about it and everything it did for me.

I started reading this book a whopping three years ago. It's very large, with just shy of 800 pages of story, but I had a good routine at first. You know what? Let's start there.

This was the first book I truly committed to. I told myself, once I had started reading it, that I would see it through to the end. I am very proud to say that I have finally achieved that, even if it took me so long. Life has been crazy, and since I wasn't as voracious of a reader then as I am today, it was hard to make myself sit down and read. For the first few months, I read it sparingly, whenever I could, but weeks would pass in between reads. I caught onto the discipline, at some point, of dedicating time to read at least weekly. Sitting at home and reading was great for when I knew I wanted to write, because it really got my juices flowing, but I found that it was still quite difficult to have a predictable, repetitive process. To remedy this, I made the decision to start going out to read. That was my whole purpose of the trip: reading. I'd go to this awesome little salad place, get myself a salad, and sit and read while I ate it. One chapter, every single Monday. On certain weeks, I'd repeat it on my second off-day, or if I worked late, before I went in. I fell in love with the process as it became a habit. I started to remember characters and arcs and think about them outside of my time reading. I remember the exact chapter number of certain events that inspired me. I got so much out of just turning myself from someone who liked stories into someone who liked reading. I really felt a difference being made.

At a certain point, another factor came into my life that I will not be speaking about, but suffice to say that in the midst of everything, I lost my regiment. It fell apart slowly; I would still go out to read most weeks, but skip one for this thing or that, and then I would give myself more liberty to skip when I wanted to. So on. Eventually, reading became a rare treat. Each time I did it, I'd tell myself how badly I wanted to get back into it, and then I'd not do it again for weeks or months. That went on for about two years. I finally made the decision, while cleaning out bad habits, to get back into reading, and I am so glad that I did. I never stopped wanting to read, I just stopped reading. The habit took a few months to build, and stayed true even after a couple years of rain. Isn't that powerful?

Now then, today is actually September 5th, but you'll be seeing this on the 7th. It's a monumental day; as I have simultaneously submitted my manuscript for a professional edit, and finished this book. Crazy!

There'll be more news on that manuscript process in another blog, I assure you, but now I'd like to move onto the book itself.

It takes place in the early-to-mid 1100s, and focuses on the development of the Plantagenet Dynasty in England. This was a pivotal moment for our history as westerners, as it shaped a lot of what would become the later medieval society of England, and subsequently, what was carried over to the new world. We get to watch amazing things like crowns being usurped, accurate representations of sieges and battles, diplomacy, mercy, mercilessness, and more! There's romance, there's hatred, there's everything you could hope for in a good story. All things considered, I am deeply grateful to this book, but it isn't without its flaws, too.

Because the story spans such a wide period of time and has so many events to cover before its end, sometimes it can feel a little telly. There were some chapters that were almost entirely summary, and I was sitting there begging for some deeper characterization and prose. I don't blame the author for this, as the characterization in the book is strong enough to stand through it, but who doesn't want more when their favorites are on screen? Who doesn't want to know how they'd react to something like what is going on?

With that scope of the story, we also see some characters get too old to do much, and lose their screen time. One of the most important characters in the entire story gets tossed to the wayside about halfway through. Now... It makes sense, because the story then focuses on her son, but I sure would have loved to see a bit more of this fiery, amazing character! I mean, I'm willing to bet most of us totally fell in love with her when reading it. She's passionate, she's no-nonsense, she's made of total spirit. Yeah, it's prickly at times, but by golly don't we love to see it!

I think this could have been remedied by splitting the novel up so more expansion could be used, but I know all about that. I agree with the decision to keep it in one manuscript, for it ties together in a truly astounding way... But that just means it was an imperfect situation. I wish it could have been as perfect as it should have been, but the only way to keep it in one manuscript and give me what I want in terms of that depth is to have a manuscript that's 1500+ pages. I would totally read that, but I'm not sure if I'd have ever picked it up, if that's the case. That's the world we live in!

I am fully intent on moving onto the next book in the series, and I already own a copy of it. I'm leaving to go on a vacation today, but when I return, I'll be diving right into that book.

I will say, there was a moment I expected to take place in that book that occurred at the end of this one, and IT. WAS. HYPE.

For context, I already knew about some of the history that this historical fiction is based off of, so I know about what happens to our good friend Henry II. I didn't expect the introduction of a specific character at the time it was introduced, but boy am I happy to have witnessed it. I literally put the book down for several minutes and just looked around my back yard in awe. It was amazing.

All of this is to say that there is no reason not to dive into a book. It's okay if it takes you three years. It's okay if things get in the way. Just build that habit so you can experience all of the wonderful things I was able to experience. Whether you're a writer or not, you will benefit from reading. And if you think you don't like reading, as cliche as it is, you just haven't found the right book. What shows do you like to watch? Games you like to play? Stick to that genre. I completed other books while trying to read this one, and it was the habit built by one that interested me that allowed me to branch out. Books are truly like files to download into your brain to make you smarter. They do so much for you, and I seriously encourage you pick something up today and start reading.

If what I talked about specifically sounds like a good book, you can pick up a copy in the link I'm about to drop, and it'll also help support my while I chase my financial independence.

That's all I got for you today. Please leave a comment telling me about your favorite book, or a book you'd like to read. The engagement does me more favors than you know.

I post blogs every Thursday, so if you want to keep up with all of my crazy thoughts, subscribe to my newsletter and sign up as a member here at the Garden.

Thank you so much for stopping by to read. Here's that link!:

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