Monthly Archives: December 2015

Wrapping up 2015

wrapping-up-2015

I set so many challenges for myself this year! What was I thinking? Arggh, not so much for the challenges themselves, but because that leaves me so much to cover now. I guess the only thing to do is dive in.

GoodReads Challenge

goodreadsThis was my primary challenge in 2015. I set a goal of 200 books on Goodreads, not including short stories, and I succeeded. Good old Goodreads did a cool graphic this year. Feel free to click on it and explore mine.

I read a solid 200 books, but (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts) on December 16th I broke my wrist and since then I’ve been reading only short stories and novelettes, which skews me GR number toward more like 250 ‘books.’

I don’t use stars here on the blog, but if you’re curious, 2015 breaks down like this when I cross post to sites that do. Plus, 55,363 pages isn’t too shabby, though it’s about 20k short of last year. But I managed a lot more writing this year than last year. So, I’m not disappointed.

all books

I appear to have what statisticians would likely call a central tendency bias (at least if this was a true likert scale). But I also read a lot of pretty middle of the road books this year and this is one of those moments when a picture is worth so much. It really brings that point home.

Blogger Challenges

I did an Author Alphabet Soup challenge and succeeded. OK, X got read on Dec 30th, but that counts. So, at least one author for every letter of the alphabet, success. You can double check me here, if you really want to.

I also challenged myself to clear off some of the books that had been on my To Be Read list for more than two years, not including shorts. This last bit was added in two weeks ago, when (again) I broke my arm and concentrated solely on short stories and novelettes in order to avoid having to type anything longer than a sentence or two in review. (Like this post.) A lot of the short stories had been on my shelves for a long time, but they weren’t counted in the challenge. Several reads this year were close to qualifying for this challenge, but short by a mere month or so. I didn’t count them either, though they’d be 2+ years old now (in Dec.).

I wasn’t great about going back and checking in with the Evie-Bookish blog, where the challenge originated, but I feel like I was quite successful in this challenge.

tbr challenge

I signed up for the Mad Reviewers review challenge to read & review at least 104 books (not counting audiobooks). I finished with more than 150, so I’ll call that a success.

Lastly, I signed up for two challenges with  book r3vi3ws: Indiefever and Firstreads. I was good about tagging these, but failed miserably at keeping the list on book r3vi3ws up to date. I did however, succeed at both challenges, reading indie books and authors new to me. In fact, the vast majority of the books I read were either indie or self-published.

Requests

I’m a bit disappointed in the number of requests I got to this year, though I shouldn’t be. I started the year with a goal of 3 a month (36 total), but later opted to concentrate more on my own writing (which I did) and cut it back to one a month. I read 25 books sent to me by authors. There were a couple that I didn’t finish and not everyone was reviewed on the blog, or at least not in an individual post. I tend to cluster shorter works. But here is the list.

2015 requests

Sorry the list and pictures aren’t in the same order. I couldn’t be bothered to redo it all.

Netgalley

It addition to the books I took on request, I also accepted a number of books from Netgalley, meaning publishers offered them free in exchange for a review but I had to request them. This wasn’t a challenge per se, but it didn’t feel quite right to include them with the requested reviews either. There were and additional 19 books here.

Netgalley 2015

Pop-up Challenges

I like to mix things up on occation and sometimes mini-challenges grab my attention. I did two this year. In March, I noticed that I had 4 books titled Blood Lust. So I opted to read them all back to back. It did not go well. The average star rating didn’t even reach 2! But here they are. I just basically find it amusing to see four of the same titles in a row.

Blood lust coll

Then, later that same month, I noticed that I kept scrolling past the same unattractive picture in my TBR list on Goodreads and realized that I had four books with essentially the same cover. Thus was born the Annoying Close-up Guy Challenge. I read all four of them back to back. It went a bit better than the previous challenge and seeing four almost identical covers in a row really tickles me. (I Know, I’m easily amused.)

Annoying closeup guy

Top Picks

Lastly, and I think most importantly, what were my favorite books of the year? This is a difficult choice. After agonizing and hair pulling, I chose the following as my stand-outs of 2015:

They are in no particular order and I did a list of six, rather than the standard top-five, just because it makes a better box. See?

I would eagerly recommend any of these books to fellow readers. In fact, I do. Go, go forworth and read them.

Edit: You guys! You guys, I owe the Mad Reviewer a huge thank you. I forgot to report back to the challenge page at the end of the year and she went above and beyond to track me down for my final review count so that I could be entered in the drawing for a prize. And in the end, I won a $50 Amazon gift card and paperback copy of The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet, an ebook of The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet and an ebook copy of Aranya by Marc Secchia. That is super cool. Thank you!

 

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai, by Ruiyan Xu

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of ShanghaiI had doubt about getting this book finished by the new year, but I managed it. The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai, by Ruiyan Xu, was the X book for my author alphabet soup challenge and the last letter to complete it. I picked it up from the local library.

Description from Goodread:
Li Jing, a successful, happily married businessman, is dining at a grand hotel in Shanghai when a gas explosion shatters the building. A shard of glass neatly pierces Li Jing’s forehead—obliterating his ability to speak Chinese. The only words that emerge from his mouth are faltering phrases of the English he spoke as a child growing up in Virginia. Suddenly Li Jing finds himself unable to communicate with his wife, Meiling, whom he once courted with beautiful words, as she struggles to keep his business afloat and maintain a brave face for their son. The family turns to an American neurologist, Rosalyn Neal, who is as lost as Li Jing–whom she calls James–in this bewitching, bewildering city, where the two form a bond that Meiling does not need a translator to understand.

Review:
I’ll admit that the book makes the reader think about the importance and intimacies of language, and finds a lot of ways to do this. It also highlights how damning or compelling it can be to have someone who either encourages or discourages self-sabotaging behavior when you’re in crisis. So, I can’t call the book crap. But I found it painfully over-written (as if a book about language can’t be composed of simple, straight-forward words and sentences—pretentious), slow and boring and I disliked almost all the characters almost the whole time, Rosalyn especially.

novelette clear out

novelettes

I had planned to do this all in one post, but I obviously underestimated how many shorts I have. Do those things breed in the cloud, you think? Anyhow, I basically just started with the shortest and have been reading them in order of length, skipping anything that’s part of a series I have the rest of. You can go here to see those that were between 15 and 39 pages in length. I’m picking up 40-50 pages here, which technically puts us in novelette territory. I suspect I’ll need a second or third post to get them all in, so I’m breaking them up by 10s. (These are mere approximations, of course.)

As a reminder of why I’m doing this: it’s difficult to type with a broken arm, so I’m concentrating on things I can write short reviews of.


The Nog Sistersby Ian Fraser: Much better than I expected. Complete stand alone story that’s a bit like Peter Pan in that children could read it and not grasp some of the adult inferences (which were my favorite parts). I wouldn’t call it a children’s story though. Good for making readers think about the importance of perspective.

A Calling for Pleasure (Damned If You Do)by J.L. Merrow: Really cute and hot. Extra points for Rael’s tail and being a freebie, but minus for the cliched ‘scorned woman turns murderous’ schtick.

The Witch Who Made Adjustmentsby Vera Nazarian: I enjoyed it quite a bit. Tommy was delightful and I liked the witch’s calm demeanor in the face of the town people’s anger.

The High King’s Golden Tongueby Megan Derr: Cute and well-written, as has been everything I’ve read by Derr. This one was a bit sappy for me and I’d have liked a bit more development in the relationship.

Angel All Yearby Sally Clements: Meh, rushed, overly romantic, uses pointless misunderstanding as the climactic event and has odd word usage. Didn’t light my fire, not even a little bit.

Daywalker: The Beginningby Tessa Dawn: Meh, ok, I guess, if you’re into snarky heroines. I thought there was too much unnecessary background that was obviously meant for the future series and not enough meat to the story itself and I dislike sudden understanding and success with a power a character never knew they had until that moment. Not much point to reading it unless you plan on reading the rest of the series, which isn’t out. So…

A Very Sacrati Christmas… or Late Wintermas, by Kate Sherwood: Super cute. I enjoyed it every bit as much as the book (Sacrati).

The Trouble With Troubleby Kathleen Lee: It was ok, cute, but a little too heavy on the ‘been hurt before so can’t get close to another human.’ I thought dude who wouldn’t take no for an answer was a little creepy and I thought the ‘jump to worst conclusion, react without verification’ schtick was cliched. It also ended with the pre-2015 m/m romance version of a wedding proposal, which was too pat for a short story.

The Whalerby Steve Roach: Kept me interested and is a complete, stand-alone tale.

Rorie, by L.L. Loremir: Can’t say this one was a winner. Rushed, far too wordy, too much sex, and repetitive. Rorie’s name isn’t even introduced until 43% and even then authors insistence on calling him ‘the royal,’ ‘the nymphling,’ ‘the half-nymph,’ ‘the young man,’ etc was infuriating. ‘The royal’ is the worst though. The story is only 43  pages long and the word royal is used 116 times!

Mountainby Liu Cixin: Not my favorite Liu Cixin so far. Creative & science heavy, as always, but felt very much like it focused on the unimportant in the face of other, wider-scale, more important things. It did eventually culminate in an interesting epiphany for the MC though.

Something Realby Julia Alaric: A little rushed toward the end, but cute. Two awkward geek boys (one maybe a little asperger’sy) meet and find love on an international space station.

Savage Possession, by Moira Rogers: Basically just Porn With Plot, but I thought it fairly un-erotic. Too much indelicate pounding and what I consider ugly language. Plus, I thought the bondage made no sense in context and the ‘romance’ felt unsupported. I did think it interesting that they were at war with the humans. Don’t find many stories about our enemies.

Spirit Flightby Jory Strong: Literally, almost ALL sex, from start to finish. Ugly wording and I marked several passages with variations of ‘what does that even mean’ or ‘how does a XXX even do that?’ Far too much emphasis on male ownership and far too little female agency in evidence.

The Last Rebellionby Lisa Henry: I am super conflicted about this one. Marvelously written, and I’m told true to the prompt, but so much rape and torture that I just felt bad reading it. And outside of Stockholm Syndrome, I just don’t get the men’s eventual actions. But the magic of FICTION is that sometimes the last chapters can absolve the first and the book, as a whole, can simultaneously be horrifying and gratifying. By the end I was enjoying it.

Vampire Slave, by Yamila Abraham: I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. I’ve read the beginning of several of Abraham’s stories now and I have the exact same response to all of them. I always get sucked in by the manga-like covers (this, like the others, is not manga or yaoi BTW) and enjoy the writing and characters but HATE the serialization. This is not a complete anything, not a complete story, not a complete chapter. It’s barely a start and I’m not about to pay, what ends up an exorbitant amount, to finish it. Even having said all that, this is not my favorite of their works.

Chances Are, by Lee Brazil: I quite enjoyed it and would be interested in continuing the series, though there seemed to be a lot of missing back story. I don’t really understand the whole Pulp Fiction, four overlapping series thing but I simultaneously liked seeing the characters from Wicked Solutions and Triple Threat here and am annoyed at the chaotic reading order it creates. But I liked the story.

Wicked Solutionsby Havan Fellows: I quite enjoyed it and would be interested in continuing the series, though there seemed to be a lot of missing back story. I don’t really understand the whole Pulp Fiction, four overlapping series thing but I simultaneously liked seeing the characters from Chances Are and Triple Threat here and am annoyed at the chaotic reading order it creates. But I liked the story.

Triple Threatby Laura Harner: I quite enjoyed it and would be interested in continuing the series, though there seemed to be a lot of missing back story. I don’t really understand the whole Pulp Fiction, four* overlapping series thing but I simultaneously liked seeing the characters from Chances Are and Wicked Solutions and am annoyed at the chaotic reading order it creates. But I liked the story.

*Technically this is four overlapping, five book series (20 stories + a joint conclusion) but I only have the first of 3.