Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 in Review: April through June

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 2016. It's like a snapshot of reviews, but you can click on the titles to go to my full reviews.

In the past I've categorized the books based on rating or on "type" of book (like, "fluffy books" or "special shelf books"), and I've both left out and included rereads. This year I've decided to just run straight down my "Read in 2016" list and cover every single book that appears there, in the order in which I read them. 

My Fair Gentleman by Nancy Campbell Allen
I read this one while on a business trip to El Paso, so I mostly associate it with a five hour drive each way, a big hotel, college accreditation, El Paso traffic, and border patrol. Admittedly, I could wish for better associations.

The book itself, much like the trip, was just ok. I had higher expectations because I've enjoyed the other books I've read in the Proper Romance series, but this one was just ok all around. Ok characters, ok plot, ok romance. I don't remember much of it except that it was a pleasant diversion.

The Afterlife Academy by Frank L. Cole
After surprising myself with how much I ended up enjoying Shadow Magic, an unsolicited review book I had received back in 2015, I decided to try to knock out a few more backlist review books.

The Afterlife Academy was fun and I'm glad I read it, but unlike Shadow Magic, this one hasn't stuck with me and I don't feel any particular need to seek out more books by this author or pine for this to become a series. Fun and done. 

Iris the Colorful by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
The Goddess Girls series has been a solid pick for me for years now, and that's still true. But, it seems I started a trend of "nice but forgettable" reads in April, and Iris the Colorful continued that trend.

Red by Liesl Shurtliff
The trend continues! Nice, but forgettable. This was another review book that appeared unexpectedly and since I was already in a bleh reading rut I figured what did I have to lose? At least it won't be yet another book sitting unread on my shelves for years to come.

With All My Heart by Margaret Campbell Barnes
If this wasn't a historical fiction book, it probably would have fit right in with my April theme since everything was all sort of "nice" without being particularly engaging.

The saving grace was that this IS a historical fiction book, so even if it's kind of "just ok" it still taught me stuff. For the first time ever, I actually looked at Charles II in a new light and my interest was actually piqued regarding the English Civil War and Restoration periods.

So, ok book, you get points. Perhaps the trend is broken?

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
This is the first book I finished in May, so already things were starting to look better. I've been doing this thing for the past two years where I've been slowly rereading old favorites alongside my actual reading. I don't devote solid blocks of time to reading these and more pick them up for a handful of pages or a chapter every few days, so they tend to take a month or two to finish. It's been a nice way to revisit favorites without feeling the pressure of fitting them in or neglecting other books.

Revisiting Brightly Woven about five years after first falling in love with it was enjoyable. I realized I still love it just as much as before, but in a less flailing way now and more like relaxing in a warm tub kind of way. I still wish there was a sequel.

A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux
May's good outlook continues! I had heard of this book, shelved it, and then ignored it for a little while until deciding on the spur of the moment that It Was Time. I picked it up, was touch and go for the first chapter or so, and then I was completely sucked into the book void.

I don't remember what was going on in my life at the time, but this book took over everything. I adored it.

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
Ugh, and then I read this. It had it's moments, sure, but overall this book made me finally face the music: Rick Riordan and I need to part ways.

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
Ok, back to positive. May seems to have been filled with a lot of pendulum swinging in terms of book enjoyment. This one was unexpected. After the Apollo Disappointment, I figured even a mediocre book would seem ok in comparison, so I picked up Nightspell, which had been sitting unread on my shelves for years.

What a surprise! This was another experience where I was totally sucked into the book, barely able to come up for air. Probably one of the most surprising books of the year.

Rapunzel Cuts Loose by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
I polished off May with a solid middle-of-the-road bet. I haven't clicked with the Grimmtastic Girls series as much as the Goddess Girls series, but it's still a good standby.

State of Fear by Michael Crichton
June opened with another husband read. It's been years since I've read a Crichton book, but he's always a good bet if you want something fast-paced and thought provoking. The tiny chapters helped speed things up, too. I can't say this was my favorite Crichton. The plot was a little rocky, but the information he built the plot around was interesting and gave us plenty to talk about.  

The Rules of Gentility by Janet Mullany
After all that modern seriousness, I was in the mood for something sparkling and historical. What better genre to fit the bill than a Regency? This one was even supposed to be a comedy and, bonus, it had been sitting unread on my shelves for three years.

And...it was ok. Some things I enjoyed, but there was a crudeness to the humor that just did not fit in a Regency. It was like Regency's naughty bad cousin came to visit and every time things started to look like they were going well and the music would swell, she'd let out a bellowing burp and scratch her crotch. So, mixed feelings on this one. 

The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer
Ok, lesson learned: If I want a Regency (yeah, yeah, I know this is technically a Georgian), go to the master herself. I've only read a handful of Heyers, but so far every one has been a win. This was no exception and it gave me all the sparkling historical, romantic, capering around I was searching for. I will definitely read this one again, after a suitable amount of time has passed.

Reflections and next up

Yikes, April through June! This second quarter was definitely not as smooth as my nice, steady, comforting January through March. I tried "being good" and holding myself accountable to goals instead of desires, and that did not work out as well. Though, on the positive side, I did feel very goal-oriented and it was nice crossing some of these books off my TBR, finally.

My general feelings about this period are tumultuous and unsettled. I yo-yo'ed back and forth between a few super good books, some not very good books, and lot of so-so books in between.

So, lessons learned? While I do love my goals and I'm not ready to give them up (plus, I do want to read those TBR books!), I think I need to spread them out more so I'm reading maybe one or two "obligation" books sandwiched between more comfort "me" books.

Stay tuned for July through September!


  1. Wow! The Afterlife Academy looks like just my type of book (just from the cover!) so thanks for introducing us! :D

  2. Love this recap...definitely adding NightSpell to my wishlist!

    1. Oooh yes, please do! I think you'll enjoy it.


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