Tammy Marshall, "Novel Thoughts"

Up until the final days of 2020, last year wasn’t a good literary year for me. Overall, it wasn’t a good year in many respects for me and for pretty much everyone I know. However, as the final days of 2020 approached, I felt extra sad because I didn’t come close to achieving my reading goal for the year. Far too many depressing things happened, and I simply neglected my reading, even though I didn’t want to do that.

As I looked ahead with hope toward 2021, I also took a hard look at my reading accomplishments and made a vow to do better in the new year. Christmas came and one of my gifts were two Barnes and Noble gift cards, so I sat down a few nights ago and planned out my purchases.

For a while, I thought about buying the remaining books in George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, but I didn’t. I’ve had the first book, “A Game of Thrones,” sitting on a shelf with the books that I still need to read from the PBS Great American Read challenge of 2018 for a couple years now. I haven’t read it because I knew it was the first of five novels (so far) in that series, and I didn’t want to start the series without having easy access to the remaining books. During the time of the Great American Read, Martin’s series was so popular that his books were hard to come by at the library, so I decided to wait a while before starting the epic process of reading this epic series.

Fast forward to the very last day of 2020: I enter my town library to pick up my book club’s selection for January, and as I’m leaving, I casually glance at the cart of free books by the front door. I stop and do a double take. Are the four books that follow “A Game of Thrones” actually sitting there on a book cart marked free? Yes, yes they are.

So, I entered the library to pick up one book, and I left the library carrying four additional, and very large, novels.

I can now begin “A Song of Fire and Ice” with “A Game of Thrones” and then follow that with “A Clash of Kings,” “A Storm of Swords,” “A Feast for Crows,” and “A Dance with Dragons.” Perhaps by the time I actually finish reading all these books, Martin will have completed and released the remaining two in the series, “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring.”

If not, I’ll be fine because I have many other books to occupy my time.

Soon, the seven books that I bought with my gift cards will arrive. Two of those are part of a trilogy that I’ve been wanting to start. I already own the first, but, as with “A Song of Ice and Fire,” I haven’t wanted to read the first without easy access to the rest. This is a trilogy by Greg Iles that goes “Natchez Burning,” “The Bone Tree,” and “Mississippi Blood.” Iles and Martin are two authors who enjoy writing long novels, so I have my reading work cut out for me if I hope to read all eight of their combined books.

However, as we all begin a new year with the hopes that it will be far better than 2020 was, I know that, for me, one thing that will make 2021 better is to read a lot. I hope you will join me.

* * *

This month’s reading selection is “Years of Grace” by Margaret Ayer Barnes.

Contact Marshall at tamreader@gmail.com.

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