Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 in Review: November and December

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.

Medusa the Rich (Goddess Girls #16) by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Medusa is my top favorite Goddess Girl and reading her stories is always so much fun. I hope we get more from her perspective (and her snakes!).

The Brightest Fell (October Daye #11) by Seanan McGuire
The Brightest Fell came out in September and I got my copy toward the end of October. So, I started reading it almost as soon as I got it. I let it sit for a few weeks. Barely. More like a week. Ish. Well, whatever the amount of time, it wasn't even a month, and I'm delighted that I both acquired and read a book with such a quick turnaround time.

Plus, I actually liked the book. Simon made an appearance again, and I like Simon. I'm officially over the frustration, anger, and disappointment of Hot Mess Book #9 (of which we shall not name) and I'm back to loving this series. It is so flawed, and there are truly legit things that annoy me about it, but overall I think it's fun.

Tears of the Giraffe (Lady Detective #2) by Alexander McCall Smith
Yeah I wasn't expecting to pick up another book in this series so soon, but I did. I like these books. The stories are sweet, the writing style is endearing, and I love the characters. The mysteries are pretty good, too, though they were less interesting and less of them in this book. No matter, I just like spending time in this world. My husband and I also started watching the mini-series and we're thoroughly enjoying it.

Behind the Palace Doors by Michael Farquhar
I was in a very dabbling mood in November, but I enjoyed each book I picked up. I was shocked at the end of the month that I had only read four books, but I guess it is what it is.

Usually when I see changes in my reading like that I try to see what was going on in my life to cause that, and usually the reason is something like I was very busy or I was unhappy. This time I think the answer is daylight savings time. My leisurely morning of two hours of reading was reduced by adding in an extra hour of sleep most days. It is hard getting up when it's still dark outside!
House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier
I first got this as a review book way back in 2012. I tried reading it then, but couldn't get into the slow beginning and ended up DNF-ing it until the mood felt right. Five years later, I guess I was in the right mood! Instead of feeling slow, the start felt languid, like honey. Something to savor and sink into. I loved it. And then wham, bam, thank you ma'am we're done! The final third of the book was a poorly constructed whirlwind that seriously left me wanting. Which, I guess is fine? The beginning was so nice that I don't regret my time with the book at all, even if it feels unfinished. 

Marrying Off Mother by Gerald Durrell
Now that I know what to expect, I entered this book with no expectations except that I knew Gerry Durrell was going to introduce me to some interesting characters and give me a few amusing diversions. And that's exactly what I got. Interesting indeed. While the experiences Gerry Durrell provides are wide, varied, absurd, and even sometimes strange, they're always an adventure. His stories often leave me feeling like a happily bemused old lady saying, "Well, I suppose that's nice, dear." I'm looking forward to reading more.  

Katheryn the Wanton Queen by Maureen Peters
I requested this from NetGalley last year and then stewed in guilt over not having read it. I just wasn't in the mood, until now. I wanted something diverting but not particularly demanding, and a Tudor rehash fit the bill nicely.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
I have been waiting to read this book for months! I read the first book over Christmas last year and finished it during our trip to Big Bend. Texas has made me a cold weenie, so I was shivering and completely expecting to wake up with frostbitten fingers if I was lucky and entirely frozen, fallen off fingers and toes if I was unlucky (I think it was maybe in the 40s overnight. Yeah, cold weenie). So, the bitterly cold setting of The Bear and the Nightingale was a perfect fit.

It seemed only natural that I should read the sequel in December as well. I couldn't quite wait until Christmas, but it was even colder here with daytime highs only reaching the low 30s and there's snow in the mountains. The setting was perfect. And, even better, the book was just as magical and amazing as the first.

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
I can't believe it's been over six years since I last read this! The Princess Curse has a firm spot on my Special Shelf, and after this reread that spot is easily retained. I was looking over my challenge lists, as you do at the end of the year, and realized I hadn't reread as many books as I had loosely set out to read.

I say loosely because I didn't actually have a specific number in mind. I partake in the challenge to 1) help me not feel guilty about rereading, and 2) make sure I focus some of my reading attention on rereading old favorites because this is something I enjoy but often deny myself. So, when I realized I had been a little light on the rereads, I decided to pull up my Special Shelf and pick a book I wanted to revisit. I rarely reread books for this reason (usually I turn to them as comfort reads), so this was a nice experience. Lesson learned: reread old favorites for no other reason than because I get to revisit an old favorite.

Shattered Mirror by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
The Princess Curse reread was a smashing success, and so I decided to pick up another. I have a soft spot for the first four books in the Den of Shadows companion series, plus they're super quick reads. I read the first book in the series last December, so it felt somehow right to pick up another this December. I feel entirely in carefree vacation mode now. 

A True Princess by Diane Zahler
I wanted another quick and light book, but I didn't feel like rereading again. A True Princess has been on my TBR for a while and on my shelf for about a year and while I haven't been blown away by her other two books I've read, they were both nice and light. And, those covers! I don't know if it was my mood, my expectations, or what, but I enjoyed this book a lot more than I was expecting. It still wasn't amazing, a solid 3.5 star read, but I really appreciated it for what it was.

The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
I read this book slowly across much of the year. Each chapter is like it's own self-contained short story, so this worked. It was nice to be reminded of the perspective of childhood, where friendship, comfort, kindness, and learning are what matter and worries can always be fixed with love.

Morality for Beautiful Girls (Lady Detective #3) by Alexander McCall Smith
I'm surprised at how much I enjoy this series. It remains consistently good and I like revisiting these characters and Botswana. The mysteries are at turns interesting, amusing, and thought-provoking. I like how the characters are growing, and yet staying true to themselves. Definitely a series I hope to continue in 2018.

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.

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