Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 in Review: April through May

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 Year of Cozy by Adrianna Adarme
Total impulse read. I don't remember if I saw this on Overdrive while browsing new books or if this one popped up on Goodreads, but however the book came to my attention, it was the idea of an entire year of cozy that piqued my interest. The book itself was less impressive and while I don't think I'd bother to make any of the recipes or crafts, I did appreciate the feel and sentiment of the book. The "live" activities were the highlights for me and they just felt good to read about, reflect on, and even try.

The Initiation by L. J. Smith
I was feeling crappy and down and all around bleh due to The Great Turmoil of 2017. So, enter nostalgic comfort read! I love L. J. Smith's blend of 1990s nostalgia, silliness, and tropes. At this point I've, wow, I've read this series over two decades, and I'll probably pick it up again.

So, lessons learned here? The thing that was bothering me enough to send me into the safety of an old comfort read wasn't actually such a big deal in the long run since eight months later everything has worked out even better than I imagined it ever would. That's a nice reminder of perspective and something I hope I recall during my next crisis- this too shall pass.  

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
I went from one comfort read to another. While I may have been feeling awful at the time, I mostly now just remember how much I enjoyed revisiting this book. My takeaway here is that it's important to focus on the enjoyable aspects of a situation and appreciate them, even if they are just one aspect of a larger sucky situation.

The Surgeon's Mate (#7) by Patrick O'Brian
After zipping through the previous book in this series, I immediately picked up The Surgeon's Mate...and then took almost a month to get through it. I was enjoying it, but I wasn't as gripped. I've learned by now to take my time with this series and not force it and when I do that, regardless of whether I'm reading fast or slow, I'm enjoying the experience.

Three Singles to Adventure by Gerald Durrell
I had such high expectations for this book, but unfortunately it did not live up to them. I wanted this book to be more of the Corfu trilogy, but it wasn't. I might have enjoyed it more had I approached it for what it was, rather than what I wanted it to be. Note to self.

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
I read this book for a class, and I'm very glad this was assigned. The stories were funny, inventive, and inspiring. My biggest takeaway is to take risks, try things. They might not all turn out the way you want them to, but oftentimes they'll turn out better than you expected, in part because of the experience in taking that risk.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Some of this was really lovely, but my overall impression is kind of meh. It's strange, when it think of the book overall I don't have a great feeling. Mostly meh, bleh, with a dash of disappointment. But when I think of the actual scenes, I have a hard time not listing off every scene as a joy and savoring them all over again. I'm not sure what to make of it, except I think this is another case of judging the book based on my expectations rather than the book's reality, and while it did not meet my expectations the reality was too nice to ignore.

The Graverobber's Apprentice by Allan Stratton
Nice, but forgettable. Not every book will stay with you forever, but that doesn't mean the time spent reading them is wasted or less. I enjoyed this book while reading it, and then promptly forgot most of it soon after. Little glimpses find a way to peek through, though, and I think most of the reason I'm dismissing this one is because it reminds me so much of Jason Khan's books and those stand out more. Well, upon reflection, I suppose I do like this book more than I thought.

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
I felt a little strange reading this book, like it should be too young for me to enjoy as a proper adult. Which is absurd because 1) I read plenty of children's books and don't feel the same level of shame, and 2) I wanted to read it, so there. Though my childhood was filled with Winnie the Pooh, I don't think I've ever actually read the books. I can see now why they're treasured classics, and I'm happy I read this book.

The Changeling Prince by Vivian Vande Velde
The turmoil of April continued into May and I dove back into another comfort read. Vivian Vande Velde has been a long-time favorite and I'm always happy when I continue to enjoy her stories both old-to-me and new.

A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh
Well, I hoped to love this, but instead it was just ok. Mostly because I've read other books with similar stories. That's ok though. The whole experience made me recall those earlier books and appreciate them all over again, which was nice.

The Conjurer Princess by Vivian Vande Velde
After reading The Changeling Prince it seemed natural to pick up The Conjurer Princess, a sort of companion novel/sequel. I actually read this book first many, many (many) years ago. I even remember where I was standing in the library when I picked this book off the shelf. Such happy memories browsing the library shelves. In the Internet age, the way I select books to read is entirely different from the way I used to find them. Now I pretty much know about all these books before I find them on an actual shelf (or digital shelf). Back then, every library trip was an exploration and discovery of the unknown. Pros and cons both ways, and I'm glad I've experienced both.

Horton Halfpott by Tom Angleberger
Short chapters, light reading, and humor. Not a nostalgic comfort read, but perfect for when I needed to dive into a distraction that wasn't particularly demanding in any way. Not every book needs to be meaningful or make an impression. Sometimes they're just fun...

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
...and sometimes they're amazing! I was absolutely absorbed by this book. It was told in funny way that almost made it seem real. I can't fully describe why I enjoyed this experience so much, and I almost don't care to try. I just loved it.
The Tudor Tutor by Barb Alexander
But not this book! Ugh, what a chore. Barb Alexander spent so much time trying to be funny that the whole experience just felt grating. Such a contrast to authors like Thomas B. Costain who seem to just genuinely delight in what they are writing about, regardless of who reads their books, if anyone, ever. Barb Alexander instead felt almost apologetic for enjoying history and fake in her efforts to wrap events in a blanket of smug sarcasm. Like a tween who mocks their blankie when their friends discover it, but still secretly love it. Just...own it. Own what you enjoy, love it fully and without regard for the judgments of others.

The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtauld
Well, you win some, you lose some. I'm rarely a fan of the "traditional feminine princesses are bad" and "princesses who reject this are good" trope. Reading these two books back to back, and during The Great Turmoil of 2017, was another nice reminder of the importance of being true to oneself. 
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Wow, this was a total surprise! I've seen these books around for years, but never thought they were for me. I probably never would have given them a try if it weren't for Helen's review, but I am so, so glad I did. This series is a new favorite and my lessons learned to wrap up May include: don't be so quick to judge without knowing more about something! 

Next up

I usually chunk these into quarters, but April, May, and June were massive reading months! The Great Turmoil of 2017 hit hard during these months, and yet I still managed to read a ton of books. While there were a few so-so picks in there, there was something worthwhile gained from every reading experience. That my memories of this time focus more on the enjoyable book experiences and less on the tumultuous life happenings is a nice reminder of the importance of this new "go with the flow" philosophy I've been trying on for size: don't loose sight of the good things, and the rest will work out.

1 comment:

  1. I totally know what you mean about browsing the library. I've found some of my favourite books that way! (I now have a library three blocks away, so I still do a lot of browsing.)

    Also, I love Van de Velde and I haven't read either The Changeling Prince or the Conjurer Princess, so yay for discovering new books by favourite authors! (I do love finding book recs on blogs, too.)


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