Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 in Review: July through September

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 Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell
I last saw Utred back in February, but it took me all the way until June to pick this series back up again. Like I said about the first book, it wasn't that I didn't enjoy it, it's just that I didn't feel a particular urge to fly through the whole series at once. Utred's personality is appealing with his suppressed rage, but it's also best in smaller doses.

I started this in June and finished it during the beginning on July while on the road to Colorado. While the summer heat and fun of a road trip didn't necessarily match with violence, war, and exile in wintery England, some parts of the drive and navigating July 4th tourists were reminiscent of the battles.   

Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil
Another surprise from Disney, and another mixed bag of nice pictures and a disappointing lack of substance. Unlike the Dragons book, this one had much more formatting and tidbits of information, which I did appreciate. I wish the information had delved deeper into analysis, critique, comparison, or historical backstory rather than keeping things at surface level descriptions.

Still, this gave me something to page through while drinking my morning coffee, which became a nice part of my morning routine. 

Written in Red by Anne Bishop
I haven't actually reviewed this one and that's mostly because I don't know what to say. It's very Anne Bishopy, which is to say it's a weird mix of strange-riding-the-line-of-ick and fluffy, warm, feel-good love, friendship, and personal growth.

There was something about this series that made me hesitate until now, but I decided to bite the bullet and give it a try because I felt like I *should* and it seemed to be pretty popular among my Goodreads friends.

The good parts were definitely good. And, for the most part, I'm ok with Anne Bishop's style of strange. But, sometimes this series crossed over that line from "this is definitely weird, but I can make this work" to "I'm not sure I can make this work" kind of ick. I ended up DNF-ing the second book because it was worse in that one. The Others are a little *too* other-y, and that made the romance a hard to swallow. The romantic lead was also just not working for me.

Henry VIII and His Six Wives by Maureen Peters
Talk about a romantic interest that's hard to get behind! This was a pretty cut and dry rundown of Henry's six marriages with a smattering of historical context thrown in and a whole lot of skipping around and Big Events condensed down into a few sentences. It felt like a Cliff's Notes version, which isn't a bad thing, but it made for a pretty forgettable experience. A review book I requested and therefore felt obligated to read, even when it was clear I wasn't 100% feeling it. 

Wi'tch Fire by James Clemens
July continued with the same unsettled trend of April through June, with one shining exception: Wi'tch Fire.

I used to reread this series constantly, but I hadn't read it in a few years and I was definitely due for a reread. Thankfully, picking this up was like going back to an old friend. I grabbed onto this book like a starving hitchhiker with a piece of beef jerky.

It's funny how reading books for me is such a hard thing. That was definitely an unexpected effect of getting into reviewing, but it's something that I'm slowly coming to terms with. I like reviewing books and I like being able to support readers, authors, and publishers, but it definitely has affected how I read as a hobby, for myself, and that hasn't always been a good thing. I realize a lot of this year and last I've been searching for that balance.

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
So, case in point: I was first introduced to Lindsey Leavitt through an unsolicited review copy of Princess for Hire, which I loved. It was sparkling, fun, inventive, and just plain fluffy. I wanted something light like that, and so I impulse grabbed Going Vintage from the library. It was vaguely on my mental TBR, but picking this book was so not According to Plan. But so what?

It was exactly what I was looking for. This book made me happy, content, and thoughtful. It was fuzzy and grounding. I also read it during the beginning of August when there was a flipping riot in my apartment complex that culminated in a call to 911! So, yeah, I'm glad I had my comfort read with me!

Chantress by Amy Butler Greenfield
Another book not according to The Plan! Ha! August was a time for throwing off the shackles of obligation reading and returning to reading for me. Hastings was going out of business and I spent much of August making multiple trips to their two locations and loading up on books. It wasn't hard to see why they were going out of business: even with their 50% off sales, the new books were still more expensive than buying on Amazon! But the used books, that was where I scored big.

Chantress and its sequel were among those I picked up and I gave in to the urge to start reading as soon as I brought it home. I loved the blend of historical and fantasy. I mentally put this one with the Maids of Honor series, not because they're really similar in plot, but because they're similar in feel, which is a good thing for me.

The Conquering Family by Thomas B. Costain
This book rocks! The book follows English history from the days of the Norman Conquest and the beginnings of the Plantagenet family, through Stephen and Matilda's civil war, Henry II's rise and rule, Richard's crusading escapades, and closing with John's bitter demise.

The historical chronicle is enough to keep me entertained, but it was Thomas B. Costain's witty and humorous writing that really brought this history to life. It's a hard book to find (look, I can't even find a decent image of the cover!) but it's well worth the effort to track this one down. I read this one with my morning coffee over the course of a month, and it was time very enjoyably spent.

Poor Unfortunate Soul by Serena Valentino
Yep, this was a review book. But, it was also a "me" book. It's ridiculous and actually has very little to do with the Sea Witch (and the parts that do aren't that great), but it's also fun in its absurdity. It reminded me of the same vibe I got from The Isle of the Lost, which is a similar lack of quality but still somehow fun kind of vibe.

Grave Visions by Kalayna Price
As soon as I saw this one in my library, I snatched it up and started reading. I'm getting a little tired of the love triangle and things feel like they're getting a little stale and stuck in a holding pattern. But, the characters are still enjoyable and I'm still into it. I also really enjoyed the actual mystery in this one, so at least the plot still crackles even if the romance is fizzling. This was a satisfying way to close out August and definitely reinforced that I'm much happier when I'm reading for myself.

Wit'ch Storm by James Clemens
I'd been continuing my slow reread of this series and wrapped up book 2 by the middle of September. The gross factor in this series really increased in this book with the introduction of all those creepy spiders. I had forgotten one gory death in particular and while I remembered most of the broad strokes, it's been long enough that the details have long faded and this experience is a nice mix of familiar and new.

The Visitor by Amanda Stevens
This is one of the few review books I requested this year and one of my most looked-forward-to books in a while. It's been four years since the last book was published and I was worried this series either 1) Would be dropped or 2) Would come back, but come back wrong. Thankfully, the series came back, and it came back right. I still don't like the Devlin/Amelia romance, but Amelia is still a great character and the central mystery was just as creepy, engaging, and satisfying as those in the previous books. I have book 5 waiting for me, which hopefully I'll get to sooner rather than later.

These were the only books I got to in September (it was a busy month at work), but I'd rather have two solid books read than a slew of only so-so books.

Reflections and next up

July through September was much better and it seems like I unconsciously figured out that reading for goals wasn't working for me as much as just reading what I wanted to read. It took me most of July to figure that out, but by August I was back on track and picking books according to no schedule, goal, or list except what I wanted in the moment. Much better. 

 Next up: Closing out the year with October through December!


  1. I really need to start those Anne Bishop & Amanda Stevens series!!


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