114: Some Writers Deserve to Starve - Elaura Niles. This book is quite a bit smaller than I thought. It's of a size as the bathroom reading joke books, but there is actually a good deal of valuable information in this little book. Elaura Niles writes about 31 common misperceptions of the publishing industry and gives writers seeking publication advice about agents and publishing and how to present oneself and good tips. There is very little info regarding actually producing a good manuscript, but if you have one then this book can help prevent you from falling into some traps and missteps while seeking publication. It's a decent and short book that is worth checking out.
115: Messenger - Lois Lowry. Lowry finishes the trilogy she began with The Giver and continued with Gathering Blue. Now in Messenger she focuses on a character named Matty (Matt from Gathering Blue). Matty is living with Kira's father in Village, where the ruined people go and are accepted. Village is led and guided by Leader, a young man we know better as Jonas from The Giver. Village was a welcoming place until the villagers started Trading and giving up part of what made them kind and they become secretive and vote to close Village to outsiders despite the fact that all of them were once outsiders. Matty is sent to post notices in Forest, which is also getting dangerous, about the closing of the village.
Messenger is a better novel than Gathering Blue but not quite up to The Giver (but that is a difficult thing to attain). Here there is more action and there is a better sense of the threat posed by Trading and the hardening of the hearts of the villagers when they only look to themselves. The story here is stronger than Lowry's previous effort.
116: Lucky Girls - Nell Freudenberger. This collection of give short stories is Freudenberger's debut collection and it is astounding because she was signed to a generous contract on the strength of the opening story in the New Yorker. With that pedigree and level of expectation it would have been easy for Lucky Girls to fail to live up to expectations. The work here is strong, though. The last story, "Letter from the Last Bastion" is possibly the best in the collection as there is a shifting understanding of who the narrator is, who she is writing to, why she is writing, and what she is writing about as this novella length story progresses. Lucky Girls features stories about girls, or women, in foreign lands (apparently Freudenberger has also done a fair amount of traveling despite being young) and the stories reveals an understanding of humanity in different cultures and all of the characters, American or otherwise, feel authentic.
117: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction - Drew Karpyshyn. Going from a well regarded short story collection to Star Wars may seem to be a bit of a down swing but good writing is good writing and it turns out that Path of Destruction is just a well told story. Set way back in the Jedi Vs Sith wars in the Old Republic, Path of Destruction tells of the end of the Sith as an organization and the rise of the Sith and the Law of Two which we hear about in the prequels. Why must there be only two Sith at one time, a Master and an Apprentice? Path of Destruction tells us why and how. Who was the founder of the new Sith religion/power? Darth Bane. This is his story.
Karpyshyn keeps Path of Destruction mostly focused on Bane. There are episodes where he gives the viewpoint of other characters, including some later in the novel of the Jedi fighting the Sith (a man named Hoth...hmm, where have we heard name before?), but the more Karpyshyn stays on Bane the stronger the novel is. Bane is an interesting character in why he joined the Sith and why he acts the way he does and Karpyshyn humanizes what could easily have been Darth Maul: the great evil Sith with a cool weapon but with no character. Bane is a drawn out character and one which messes with our sympathies because the "Bad Guy" is our protagonist and getting into his mind helps us understand him. From a perspective, what he began was one of the great evils of the Galaxy, but Bane is sympathetic and we understand why he did what he did. Understanding brings compassion, even for those who "should" be the wicked. Well done, Drew Karpyshyn. Well done.