Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 in Review: August through October

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.

Kristina: The Girl King by Carolyn Meyer
Carolyn Meyer? Check. Royal Diaries series? Check. Quick read? Check. Book I won't have access to soon? Check. All signs pointed to reading this book now, and so I read it. Glad I did, wouldn't have missed it if I hadn't. It did lead to a few hours of Internet research to learn more about Kristina. Can't say I like her all that much, but she was interesting to read about. 

Tudor by Leanda De Lisle
Now this book, I'm glad I read. It's massive and I zipped through it like a champ. Am I seriously proud of myself for reading a long non-fiction book? You betcha! This was the final book I read in the Read It Now Or Lose It library situation and I just squeezed it in before it was too late. I took chapter breaks between packing boxes and turned the final pages just as I was closing the final boxes. This was more than just a typical Tudor rehash, and while I'm just fine with the rehashes, I appreciated the different angles, people, and theories de Lisle put forth.

The Visitors by Sally Beauman
Like Mariana, this was an impulse read. I don't even recall how it came to my attention, but I am so glad it did. This is a strange book that I typically would have been annoyed with. The characters aren't very likable, the plot wanders, and there is a disconnected muddle of side stories. And yet, I adored it. I was enthralled. I spent hours upon hours Internet researching everything I could find about the discovery of King Tut's tomb and life during that time after finishing this and I still want more.

I read this over my initial Scoping Things Out Trip, through my Great Journey, and turned the final pages on the third day in my new home making this the first book finished here. Momentous indeed.

Treason's Harbor by Patrick O'Brian

I started this way back in June but didn't finish until the last day of August. That's ok. The delay is no indication in my enjoyment level, as I really loved this book. Trekking through the desert, the dog, mistaken romances, double agents, huzzah! I had a lot of fun with this book.

One memory experienced while reading this book that oddly stands out is sitting in a restaurant in New Mexico waiting for our to go order. The food was one of the most god-awful culinary experiences I've ever had, but the trip was exciting (road tripping, five states, three time zones, a group project across four time zones, wondrous sights, multiple job offers, finding a new home, giving and getting reference checks, and two plane flights all crammed into a single week!)
Cashelmara by Susan Howatch
What a strange, wonderful book. I started this while waiting at the DMV, which is pretty appropriate considering it's length of over 700 pages (the last notable DMV book I read was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Huh, I guess moody books with dark blue covers is also appropriate for the DMV).

Looking back at these past few books they're long, they seem like they should be difficult, and while I'd normally be proud of myself for reading them, I'm even more elated that I tackled all of these during such a crazy time in my life when I was told I couldn't do something and then I ended up achieving above and beyond. I was feeling pretty invincible.

The Secrets She Carried by Barbara Davis
My memory association with this book is waiting in the car in the U-Haul parking lot while we rented a trailer. Everything about this book felt like my beloved Tradd Street books, but a paler, lesser version. So, it wasn't spectacular, but that's ok. I normally would have been a lot more annoyed with this book for failing to meet my expectations and therefore leaving me in the depths of despair, but instead I enjoyed it for what it was.

Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock
This is the kind of plot teenage girls dream about living. Or, at least, my teenage self totally would have wished this to happen to me. Pure escapist fun.

The Time-Traveling Fashionista: On Board the Titanic by Bianca Turetsky
This was a fun, quick, and surprisingly historical-fact-packed read. I'm looking forward to the rest of the books in the series, even if I'm not jumping to read them immediately.

I've carried this book around through three moves, and after packing and lugging over 30 boxes of books, again, I decided to make a dent in some of my unread books. Trouble is, I ended up liking them! Or, well, I guess that's a good thing overall, even if it does mean I get to pack and move them again in the future.

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
This was an unexpected delivery from Disney...several months ago. I ended up loving this one, too. Extra bonus: knocked off another book from my unread shelf!

Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne
And another old review book, though thankfully it hadn't come out yet by the time I decided to pick it up. Extra motivation to read it now. I start my day out now with about two hours of reading before heading off to work, so my memories with Rosemarked are coffee-fueled and sunrise tinged. Add in an enjoyable read, and these were wonderful mornings.

Aphrodite the Fair by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Ah, this series continues to deliver. After Medusa, Aphrodite is probably my favorite Goddess Girl, which came as a big surprise (I would have totally thought Athena or Persephone). She's just so nice and cheerful, which makes her an enjoyable character to be around. Lesson to remember: people like being around people who make them feel good.    

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Royal Bastards and Rosemarked got me back into a serious YA kick and reminded me again why I loved the genre. Rebel of the Sands was good, but not quite as good. The main character was trying a little too hard and the Big Reveal felt contrived. Overall it was an enjoyable read, but I wasn't invested in the story enough to get more than a chapter into the sequel. Also, I felt like I'd had my fill with YA again. It's like going for that last bite of cake, realizing you're stuffed, and putting your fork down instead. It's nice to feel sated. 

The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White
Reread on audio. I love these books. I listened to this over the course of most of the year and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.    

Seven Kings of England by Geoffrey Trease
My requests from NetGalley have been pretty few and far between lately because I just don't like having the obligation of a review book I've requested. I was in the mood for a book like this, but I still almost didn't request this one because of all the pressure of obligation. The short page length was the final nudge I needed. I'm glad I took the plunge and disappointed I can't get my hands on any of his other books. I love historical non-fiction when you can tell how much the author is just geeking out over a topic they love.   

My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Ok, I know I've been trying to adopt this whole easy going, go with the flow approach to things, and it's mostly working out for me. You know the whole "if thoughts that concern you start floating across your awareness, just acknowledge them and then gently let them float on past you" schtick? Yeah, that wasn't happening with this book. I'm just annoyed with it. It was...not good, and I've come to expect more from Margaret Campbell Barnes. *pout* Lesson learned: I guess I can't always be zen.

The Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium
So, it took me a little while to get these books. I picked up one of them soon after reading the Corfu trilogy and saw in the author's note a comment about how the book was a mix of stories and some had elements or whole plots that were made up. I put the book down. I didn't want to read about made up things. I wanted to read about Gerry Durrell and his charmingly dysfunctional family and I didn't want those experiences tainted with lies.

Clearly I felt strongly about this. But, then I realized Gerry Durrell writes about so much more than just his family. He's actually a pretty good short story writer, and that's what this book is: a collection of short stories. For the most part they were all absorbing, at turns funny, sad, absurd, and even frightening (the Gothic story!) and always populated with larger than life characters. They're the kind of stories I want to share with others and I'm very glad I gave these books a second look.

Next up

August, September, and October were months of triumph and cheer. I felt like Valency living in her Blue Castle and still in disbelief that taking bold risks had paid off so spectacularly. My reading reflects this, with a mix of genres, age ranges, and books I would normally shy away from or would have had more disappointing experiences with.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you loved Royal Bastards, that's one I'm looking forward to! Also, I've added Cashelmara to my TBR now -- it looks like the sort of read that would be good when I'm in the mood for an atmospheric (kinda Gothic?) family saga.


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