Tuesday, December 26, 2017

2017 in Review: January through March

I made a really big list

I'm a list maker, so of course I HAD to make an end-of-the-year list recapping all of the books I read in 2017. It's like a snapshot of reviews, but you can click on the titles to go to my full reviews.

I don't know if anyone but me actually reads these lists, but I enjoy making them. I find it fun and helpful to reflect on my reading habits throughout the year and see how my personal life impacts my reading life. This also helps take my focus off the quantity of books I've read and instead focus on the quality of the experiences I've had with each book.

Last year this process also helped me realize how much pressure I was putting on myself to read certain books and how that wasn't making me happy. I realized how my book choices gave me insight into other areas of my life and how I was able to see some things a little clearer as a result. I was able to make changes based on these reflections last year, and I'm happier for it.  "Lessons learned" has been a theme of mine lately, and looking at my reading experiences through this lens has added more depth and value to my reading experiences. 

The Guests on South Battery by Karen White
I kicked off the new year with the latest from one of my favorite series. I actually started reading this book on Christmas while camping in Big Bend National Park. I remember watching as the sky got darker and darker and I switched from reading about Jack and Mellie and delighting in how comforting and wonderful it was to return to their world to watching the most spectacular starry sky I have ever seen in my life. It was an amazing experience.

Unfortunately, the book itself was only ok and it felt like a series that should have ended but is hanging on gaining points for nostalgia and the familiarity of the retread stories rather than because it's still fresh and stands on its own merits. But, I'm a sucker for nostalgia and sometimes you don't need everything to be perfect in order to still have a perfectly wonderful experience. That was a nice reminder to start off the new year. 

Haunted Memories (Saranormal #2-5) by Phoebe Rivers
I've had this series on my TBR for what feels like forever. They're short, they're sweet, they're far weightier than I was expecting, and they're kind of depressing as a result. Sara is so stressed all the time and I found that wearing after a while. I read through book 5 across January and February, and I think moving forward I might space them out more so it's not so weighty all at once.

That said, I also really like these books and I'm surprised at how much depth of character is involved in such short books. I really do want to get back to them and finish up the series, but that wasn't in the cards for 2017, and that's ok. Maybe in 2018! 

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
This was a total impulse read. I'm more used to carefully planning out my reading with lists and formulas and then rigidly holding to The Plan, so impulse reads are almost guilt-inducing and rarely do I even let myself indulge in them. Well, 2017 has seen me trying to let loose and go with the flow more, and that includes my reading. Mariana is a perfect example of that approach paying off. I was utterly absorbed and enjoyed every minute. This is one of those books that is staying with me long after I've finished it, it keeps beckoning me to re-read, and I get happy just thinking about it. The book might not have been perfect, but the experience certainly was. Notice a theme for January 2017?

One Salt Sea (October Daye #5) by Seanan McGuire
I was tearing through this series toward the end of 2016, but then partway through this book I completely stalled out. I don't know why, it just felt...boring. The characters were doing the same old things and the story here felt more episodic. I don't know. This is definitely a case of wrong book, wrong time though because when I picked it up again a few weeks later I enjoyed every page.

This was  nice reminder that there's a time and a place for things and if something isn't working, there's nothing wrong with putting it aside for a little while. One Salt Sea was my lesson in "don't force it" and, again, letting go of controlling things and just going with the flow. I'm sure there's an ocean metaphor in there somewhere.

Ashes of Honor (October Daye #6), Chimes at Midnight (#7) by Seanan McGuire
A lot of bouncing around and a lot of characters becoming pretty routine, but "right time, right book" let this all seem fun and familiar rather than frustrating and boring. Sure, objectively part of me was starting to feel like I really should be more bothered by the declining quality of the books, but the rest of me said, "Shut up, it's fun" and that was that.

The Winter Long (October Daye #8) by Seanan McGuire
January ended with mediocre-but-fun October Daye, but February started with THIS is why this series kicks ass October Daye. All of the things I loved about this series in the beginning came back full force and I was invested in unraveling this mystery and reveling in the character depth that I had so loved in the earlier books and had been missing lately.

A Red-Rose Chain (October Day #9) by Seanan McGuire
And then this book. I loathe this book. What the hell happened? Political lecturing rants, poorly drawn characters, retread plots, it was awful. I almost gave up on the series after this one, which was extra disappointing after my hopes were raised so high with The Winter Long.

Ugh, I'm getting irritated just writing all this and thinking about this book again.

Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry
I needed a palate cleanser while I decided whether or not I wanted to continue on with October Daye, and Queen's Daughter seemed like a good place to start. I've had this book sitting unread on my shelves for years (literally, I bought it in 2013), and that was really starting to annoy me.

So, I entered this book with expectations and irritation, which admittedly isn't the best place to start and probably not fair to the book. Thankfully, Susan Coventry knocked it out of the park. Joan's life is full of frustration and disappointment, but the book was written in such a way that I couldn't help but connect with Joan and feel for her. The history came alive and historical characters like Henry II, Eleanor, and Richard I all felt appropriately nuanced and complicated. I love reading books like this!

Once Broken Faith (October Day #10) by Seanan McGuire
And we're back. This was the final (at the time) book published and I kinda missed the characters, so I decided I did want to give it another shot. And so I did. And it was ok. Not back to awesome, but back to familiar, comfortable ok. The ridiculous episodic nature even felt comfortable and silly in a way that made me happy rather than annoyed. I'm glad I picked it back up and was able to replace my last memory of the series with a better one. Lesson learned? Second chances sometimes pay off.

Dream Magic by Joshua Khan
February ended with a sequel that I had been really looking forward to reading. I love this series, and the sequel did not disappoint. After all of the ups and downs of the October Daye series, I went into this sequel (of a book I loved) with not a small amount of worry. It's funny how invested we readers can become in the stories we love. It must be a lot of pressure being an author!

The Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien
Another book with expectations. Though not as high as my hopes for Dream Magic, I had mixed feelings about the previous Anne O'Brien book I read that, over time, faded to mostly positive feelings. So I wasn't expecting anything wonderful, but I was expecting to like this book despite (because of?) a large degree of expected fluff. And that's pretty much exactly what I got. I like being a serious historical reader, but sometimes it's fun to let go and imagine silly, fluffy, and even preposterous stories for historical figures. Especially when romance is involved.

The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell
Another impulse read inspired by a fellow blogger's review. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've been happy all year long thinking about these stories. This book sparked genuine, belly-aching laughter and made me feel lighter and happier. This was a great reminder that even amidst catastrophe and sadness, we can still find humor...and life will be a lot happier overall with that approach.

Desolation Island (#5) by Patrick O'Brian
I've been trying to read this series for years, and while I loved the previous books, I also struggle with them. This led to a five year gap between reading the fourth book and then picking up this fifth book. This is my husband's favorite series and he really wants me to read them, so I have a not small degree of guilt wrapped up in the whole thing as well.

But, my lesson learned here is that it's important not to force a book before its time, regardless of what pressures there are to read it now. I enjoyed this book far more now than I would have five years ago.

The Fortune of War (#6) by Patrick O'Brian
I had serious reservations about this book because I knew this was the one where Jack was going to engage American ships, and while it's all fine and good to read historical fiction and root for the British when the enemy is the French, it's a whole different ball game when the enemy is the United States. To say I felt conflicted is an understatement.

Thankfully, O'Brian handled everything perfectly and The Fortune of War is tied for first as my favorite books in this series. This was the first book in the series where I felt like I was reading it just for me and not because of any outside pressures. Coincidence that this is also one of my favorites? Maybe, but maybe not entirely.

Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
*sigh* Another book with expectations. I've heard wonderful things about Elizabeth Chadwick. I also like the time period. I had high hopes. They weren't realized. The book was ok. I'd even say it was good. But it wasn't great.

I could have been disappointed. I could have even been annoyed because I own a copy of this book. Instead, I felt triumphant. Why? Because I read a book that had been sitting unread on my shelves for four years and two moves. And it's over 500 pages long!

So, lesson learned? Liking or not liking a book is not the sole measure of success. Appreciate the silver linings and unexpected measures of success.

Next up

Well, that pretty much sums up my January through March reading adventures. A lot of impulse reads and pure pleasure reads. While I spent a little time with guilt and obligation, the beginning of 2017 focused more on figuring out what I wanted and then going with it. In reflecting on my reading feelings during this time, I felt engaged and happy.

Most of my lessons learned focus around allowing myself to make choices that align with what I want, finding the right time for the right book and not forcing it if it's not right, being happy in the moment, and flexibility and awareness in allowing different aspects of reading to bring happiness.


  1. I read these lists! Yeah, not forcing a book is very important. Although I feel like I kinda have the opposite problem -- I have a tendency to drop a book without giving myself a proper chance to get into it. There's always another book nearby, so if I'm not immediately engaged in a book I'm like, "Well, maybe that one over there..." Which is not good, because sometimes books take a little time to warm up to! I've had cases of books where I've DNFed more than once after a couple chapters, then come back to them later and eventually finished. One of those turned into one of my favourite series (The Bone Season). I'm very much a mood reader, though. I have to be feeling in the mood for a story, otherwise there's not much of a chance I'll be into it.

  2. You've read some great books this year. I'm sorry you were disappointed with Lady of the English as I really enjoy Elizabeth Chadwick's books, but I'm glad you liked Desolation Island and The Fortune of War - I read both of those this year and loved them.


It's all about friendly conversation here at Small Review :) I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Be sure to check back again because I do make every effort to reply to your comments here.

Because I am absolutely terrible about following through with blog awards, I can't in good conscience accept any more. Thank you very much for thinking of me though!

Spam WILL be deleted. Attacks on myself or other comments WILL be deleted.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...