Monday, December 26, 2016

2016 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 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. 

The Art of Disney's Dragons by Tom Bancroft
Oh Disney, I expected more from you. The pictures were nice, and the presentation of the book was top notch with its thick glossy pages and velvety cover accents. Alas, I need more than superficial prettiness to keep my interest, and The Art of Disney's Dragons failed to provide the depth, backstory, connections, and interesting tidbits I was hoping to get. It really is just a book of pictures.

I didn't really read this first, but I forgot to put the date in Goodreads and now I have no idea when I read it.

The Lacemaker and the Princess by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I started out the year by picking up a book I've had on my shelves for a few years. Also, it was a shortie, so I figured I could kick off the new year with an easy win.

This is one of those historical fiction books that focuses on a fictional character whose life intersects with those of real historical figures. In this case, the historical figures are Marie Antoinette and her daughter Marie Therese. It's a middle grade book, but it has enough substance to make its mark for both the fictional and real characters and, despite its short length, The Lacemaker and the Princess has stuck with me all year. 

The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White
So, this is one of those series that is probably going to appear on my lists most years (it's a good thing I participate in the Reread Challenge!). I love this series. It's a comfort read with feel-good characters and mystery plots that are actually engaging on their own.

This entry is thanks to the audiobook, which is possibly even more enjoyable than the print books thanks to the fantastic narrator who manages to perfectly capture each and every character.

The Cat Who Came in off the Roof by Annie M. G. Schmidt
This book was a surprise, both literally when it showed up unexpectedly at my door and also storywise. It has an old-school vibe that makes me think of things like the original 101 Dalmatians book or classic Disney animal stories like Lady and the Tramp. It's proper, yet silly, and everything comes together in a way that is charming. This is one of those books that makes me wish I had children so I could add it to their library.

Mouse Scouts by Sarah Dillard
This was another unexpected book delivery, but unlike The Cat Who Came in off the Roof, this one left little impression on me. It's nice for the intended age group, but it lacks staying power.

Beauty by Robin McKinley
I feel like this is one of those "classic" books I somehow missed when I was younger. Unfortunately, I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had read it when I was younger. It was nice enough, but I've read so many fairy tale retellings by now and this one just didn't stand out in any way.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
I reread this book for two reasons: first, because I love it (and still do), and second, because I was hoping to jump-start my interest in rereading Heir of Fire in anticipation of the book that comes next (can't remember the title! The one with the pink cover).

For reason number one, yay, the book still held up! There are certain books that I'm worried I'll like less on a reread, and after petering out with Heir of Fire, I was worried Crown of Midnight was going to be one of those books. Thankfully, I loved it just as much as when I first read it. For reason number two though, I was motivated to pick up Heir of Fire, but I didn't finish it and the pink book (and now the grey book) are still unread. I'm sad that I've lost my motivation for this series when I love the first two books and prequel novellas so much. I'm still holding out hope though that the way to go for me will be to wait until the whole series is published and then marathon it.

Heir to the Shadows by Anne Bishop
Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series is one of my comfort reads, and Heir is the fluffiest of the bunch. It's a transition book filled with healing, love, acceptance, and cute animals. I end up rereading this whole series almost yearly, but Heir gets reread the most of them all.

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
I read this book because my husband asked me to read it. He's a big fan, but he tends to like "manly" historical fiction books with blood, guts, and fictional main characters, whereas I tend to prefer "ladies" historical fiction books with dresses, court drama, and real historical figures as the main characters.

So, here's what happened: I was immediately sucked in and ended up finishing the book in about two days. I was so into Utred's story and the real historical parts with Alfred and the Danish conquest. And yet, when it was over and I was able to surface for was also really easy to move on to another book and leave the rest of Utred's story for later.

The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford
I was doing really well in the early parts of 2016 with reading the books that showed up unexpectedly rather than putting them in a pile for "later." The second book in this series arrived in early February and it was short and looked darling and so I decided to just drop everything else I was reading and get the first book from the library.

These books fall into the middle grade category of books that are totally appropriate for the target age, but also offer that little extra something that makes them equally appealing to adults. It's something in the characters and the human moments that really let them resonate with all ages, but the mysteries are also pretty fun.

Hidden Truth by Dawn Cook
I really don't get this series and me. I really enjoy these books, and yet they are a struggle to get through. The characters are appealing, the world building is intriguing, and, really, there isn't anything I don't like about this series. It's such a me series. I even find myself thinking on scenes fondly and wanting to dive back into this story.

And yet. I struggle to finish each book and I've totally stalled out in the beginning chapters of book three. I don't get it. I really do want to pick up book three again, preferably before I forget everything that happened in books 1 and 2.

Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery
Anne has been a bosom friend almost all my life, but it wasn't until this year that I read more than just the first book. So, you could say I had high expectations. Thankfully, Anne of Avonlea lived up. I can't say I loved Davy as much as I'm guessing I was supposed to, but that's ok. We can't be children forever, and while it can be bittersweet seeing favorites of childhood slip away, there is still enough wide-eyed innocence in here to make me appreciate the transition. There's a side story about a woman who lost love in her youth that is told in such a deliciously dreamy way with the most perfect, vivid, descriptions of her home. Another gem from L. M. Montgomery.

Dreams Made Flesh by Anne Bishop
The beginning of 2016 was all about comfort reads. I felt a little ridiculous reading the main trilogy so soon after having just reread them, so I picked up this short story collection to fill my comfort read needs.

The Case of the Girl in Grey by Jordan Stratford
While it looks like I read a lot of books in between this book and the first one, really I started this book the same day I finished the first one. I tend to read multiple books at once, and that usually means I finish a slew of books all around the same time. Anyway, the sequel was just as engaging as the first and definitely solidified my interest in the series. Oh, added bonus: there are pictures! The illustrations are charming and suit the stories well. The third book comes out in January and I am definitely reading it as soon as I can. The books are so short that it's easy to drop everything and squeeze them in.

Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher
Hm, I read a lot of books this year that I did not review. Sometimes, like with the Anne books, it's because they're so good but I don't know what to say exactly. Other times, like with Shadow Spinner, I just don't have all that much to say.

Like Beauty, it's too bad I didn't read this one when I was younger. It's a nice enough retelling of the Scheherazade story (told from the perspective of a side character), but it didn't stand out or capture me in any way. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't particularly memorable either.

Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery 
Voting. This book will always make me think of voting. Mostly because I read a good chunk of it while waiting in line for three hours to vote in the primaries. I had come from work and so I had my giant purse with my computer, notepad, book, and all my other purse stuff. I felt like my shoulder was going to break right off by the end of that night. Oh, and I was hungry, since dinner wasn't happening until after the three hour wait, which didn't happen until after a full day at work. Can you tell how cranky I was?

Thankfully, I had Anne by my side. Not so happily, she was being stupid about Gilbert, Marilla was left behind, and Anne spent all her time in college with a mostly new cast of characters (who, yeah, ok, I did like them). I don't like change. I wanted the comfort of Anne and all her sparkling childhood. But, growing up is a part of life, and I grudgingly fell victim to Anne's many charms as she stepped, and misstepped, into the world of semi-adulthood.

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens
This was a reread, but this time on audiobook. I was desperate for more Tradd Street southern ghostly goodness, but I felt it would be unseemly if I listened to the rest of the series again after spending most of 2015 reading and listening to those books. So I figured The Restorer brought me to Tradd Street once, so maybe it could fill the void. Plus, the much anticipated fourth and fifth books in the series were coming out this year, so I figured it couldn't hurt to brush up on the story.

Unlike the Tradd Street reader, this reader cannot do a southern accent to save her life. It's grating. And yet, it still helped fill the void. I would have continued on with the series on audio, but book 2 (my favorite!) wasn't working right and kept skipping.

In the Shadow of the Crown by Jean Plaidy
Jean Plaidy is a solid standby. Never amazing, always reliable, and far more telling than showing. Her books almost border on narrative non-fiction for all the giant sections of telling. But, while objectively I guess that's not all that great in a novel, I actually don't mind it at all. The most evocative part of this book was the trainwreck spiral toward the end where Mary desperately wanted her husband to love her, and he just didn't. And then she died. Childless and alone. *sob*

Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan
I really was surprised by how much I loved this book. The cover is awful, but the contents are inventive, fun, and surprising with characters I cared about and intriguing world building. I'm definitely on board for the sequel.

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery
I adore everything about this book (except the romantic interest's name, sorry). Valency's self-discovery, the romance, the appreciation of nature, everything. Talk about a comfort read, I want to wrap myself up in this book and cocoon myself away from the world and all its craziness.

I've been holding myself back from rereading it mostly because my rule of thumb when it comes to rereads is to try not reading the same book more than once per year. But bring on 2017, because I can't wait to experience this book again!

Next up

Well, that pretty much sums up my January through March reading adventures. I spent the first part of 2016 wrapped in a whole lot of both new and old comfort reads. While there were a few forgettable experiences, most have stayed with me through the year and I'm looking forward to either diving into them again or continuing on with their sequels in 2017.

I didn't really plan out my reading here, which mostly seemed to work out well. I went where my reading whims took me, which included a mix of review books, rereads, books that have been on my TBR a while, and books grabbed at random. Overall, the first quarter of 2016 went pretty well.

1 comment:

  1. Awww, I'm sorry to hear Beauty didn't impress you :( It's one of my favourite YA fairy tale retellings, but admittedly I read it (and re-read it, and re-read it) in my formative teen years, so it's likely nostalgia plays at least some small role in my love of it. Have you read other Robin McKinley books?

    Also, I'm not sure voting is the best thing to associate with Anne of the Island, haha. (Actually, I'm quite sure it's not!) Still, at least you had an entertaining book along to keep you occupied while you waited. I think Anne of the Island is my favourite of the Anne books that I've read (I am one of those unusual readers who wasn't incredibly charmed by Anne as a child. I found her too talkative and fanciful in an annoying kind of way. *hides* So then when she grew up a little I actually started liking her more, lol.)


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