Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Reading Year In Review 2017: The Numbers, The Best, The Honorable Mentions

Let's get this out of the way upfront: 2017 was not a great year and it naturally bled through into my reading.  Outside of the occasional book(s) I pick up in the name of "professional development," I would say that 99% of my reading is "leisure reading."  It's stuff I WANT to read not that I HAVE to read.  And, you know, when everything seems to be on fire (literally, figuratively...), losing myself in a book is just hard.  It's so much easier to mindlessly "tune out" in front of the TV or by playing Candy Crush.  But that being said, it's now 2018 and hope springs eternal.  Especially since I managed to get through 70 books this yearI know, right?!  I can hardly believe it myself.  My goal is always 100, but given my reading malaise this year, I'm counting 70 as a win.  Here's how the grades broke down:

A = 2
B = 33
C = 17
D = 11
F = 1
DNF = 6

God, that's depressing.  I've always been stingy with my A grades, but to only have 2 is extreme even for me.  And I'm afraid this lack of OMG BEST BOOK EVER squee is going to reflect in interesting ways when I now talk about the books that I read in 2017 that "stuck with me."  Yes, I'm predominantly "known" as a romance blogger and this list is going to be rather thin on the romance.  I know, I hate it too.  And before any of you ask, "But Wendy what about Books X, Y, Z that I see cropping up on everyone else's year end lists."  The short answer?  I haven't read them.  The longer answer: they're buried in the TBR, I'm always perpetually behind and I'm notorious for dragging my feet when I hear a whole lot of endless squee'ing.  I know folks.  It's not one of my finer traits, but there you have it. 

But enough of the Wendy Pity Party.  What were the books that had enough oomph to them to "stick with me" this year?  So glad you asked!  Let's start with the romances:

Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino (2016) ::shudder:: New Adult Contemporary
Well, it finally happened.  This book by Carlino is the first New Adult book I've managed to finish (everything else I've ever tried has ended in a DNF) and I was sucked in but good.  Adjunct writing instructor heroine still struggling to find her voice and withering in a relationship going nowhere discovers that the latest hot literary bestseller is the story of her screwed up childhood.  Which means her first love, the boy she left behind, is the mysterious writer everyone is talking about.  This is a book within a book and it's not perfect.  There are flaws, and yet?  I didn't care.  Carlino sucked me in with her voice, the angst, the gut-punch.  I read a New Adult book and I actually liked it.  Miracles can happen.
Never Say Die by Tess Gerritsen (1992) Romantic Suspense (Harlequin Intrigue)
An early Gerritsen romantic suspense novel this one holds up amazingly well, but it still needs to be read like a "time capsule."  To finally get some closure for her dying mother, heroine travels to Vietnam looking for answers about her MIA father, who flew secret missions for Air America.  Hero is former military turned independent contractor who is from the Han Solo School of Romance heroes.  This was a real find.
Temptations of a Wallflower by Eva Leigh (2016) Historical Romance
I finished out 2017 by listening to quite a bit of erotic romance on audio for a Day Job related project and I'm not going to lie, it's largely been a slog.  This book by Leigh is the third book in a trilogy and is marketed as a historical romance, but what this book has in spades unlike my recent slog through erotic romance, is passion and tension.  OMG, the tension in this book is delicious!  An extremely well done Big Secret plot, a vicar hero stuck under a domineering father's thumb, and a heroine bristling against what society deems as an "acceptable life" for ladies of her class.  I was meh on the first two books in this trilogy but this one?  It's so well done.  And yes, it stands alone.
Seriously, that's all I got.  My B grades were steady this year which means I read a lot of "good" books, but very few that elevated themselves to turning me into an annoying squee'ing fangirl.  Here's hoping for more romance reading excitement in 2018.  Now, on to the notable books I read this year that weren't romance:

It's You by Jane Porter (2015) Women's Fiction
A time slip novel that moves between present day and World War II.  Heroine still grieving over the suicidal death of her fiance' and the unexpected death of her beloved mother, heads to northern California when her father falls and breaks his wrist.  While there she befriends a prickly older woman in his retirement community, which is where the World War II story comes into play.  There's quite a bit of tell over show here, but the heartbreak drips off the page and the author brings her present day heroine out the other side stronger than before.  Also, there's a nice, light romance here to keep Porter's romance fans happy.
The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner (2017) Women's Fiction
Drama, drama, drama!  Lawyer heroine's office affair comes to light and she's promptly fired.  Already at loose ends, she soon discovers a half-sister she knew nothing about and a grandmother she didn't know existed which means...her mother has been lying to her her whole life.  This is a compulsively readable, multi-generational drama that follows the lives of four related women.  There's also several romances weaved into the story.  A fantastic beach read.
What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin (2016) Suspense
A humdinger of a suspense novel, nominated for an Edgar Award this past year.  Heroine fresh out of prison for murdering a Hollywood Big Shot in 1980 comes back under suspicion when her father-in-law (and the Big Shot's BFF) is found murdered in his study.  Tabloid sleaze, seedy Hollywood backdrop, and oodles of secrets.  Highly recommended.
The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince by Mayte Garcia (2017) Memoir
Garcia's openness, frankness and her willingness to lay herself bare on the pages are what make this one of the most memorable celebrity memoirs I've ever read.  It's romantic and heartbreaking.  Uplifting and tragic.  A literal gem on audio, the fact that Garcia was not nominated for a Grammy (she reads the audiobook) is a crime.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016) Memoir
You don't need to be a fan of The Daily Show to enjoy this book.  Noah tells stories from his childhood: funny, irreverent, beautiful and tragic.  Another great one on audio.

And that's it for 2017.  While I managed to get through more books than I thought possible, I'm a little disappointed that there's not a wider representation of the romance genre on my year end list.  What I do know?  I'm perpetually behind on my reading and my Kindle is stuffed to the gills with books that others in Romancelandia have really enjoyed.  So my reading resolution for 2018 is to push forward and get to some of these long neglected books in my TBR. Onward and upward!


S. said...

Stay strong, Wendy!
As you say about the TBR challenge, any read done is a good one!
Keep going, and I hope this year will be better for you!


Dorine said...

I really like your list, Wendy. Like you, my 2017 was rough, and I ended up with 70 books read. I went into the realm of children's books to get it done. LOL I decided to be less lofty with a goal of 50 this year.

My romance reading is pathetic - I just can't find many that make sense to me. I still have hope and a huge TBR to dig through to find some in 2018. So far, my January short short is promising.

I'm glad to see Renee Carlino on here. I'll put this one on my list. I enjoyed After the Rain and Wish You Were Here, so you might want to try those. After the Rain is the one I am most confused about - why I enjoyed it so much, but I really did and haven't forgotten it over a year later. I don't know why she pulls me in but I keep coming back for more.

I run from the rambunctious squee books as well -- I might put them on my shelf, but I get far, far away from the squeeing before I read them. I wonder why we do that? LOL

To be honest, every one of your books on this post look good to me. I'll have to add to the TBR, especially Gerritsen, who I've wanted to read, and the Jane Porter one. But, wait! I want to read What Remains of Me and The Forever Summer.

You're a bad influence and I love it! LOL

Wendy said...

S: I hope so too! My goal this year is to get through some of the long (looooong) neglected ARCs on my Kindle.

Dorine: I have After the Rain in my TBR! I don't know what it was about that Carlino book. It's not perfect and there were things about it that should have annoyed me more but....they didn't. I was simply riveted while reading it.

My brain literally shuts down over too much hype. It's not just a problem I have with books, I do the same thing with movies and TV shows. It's fear of disappointment maybe? That I won't like it as much as everyone else did and I'll be "missing out?" Or it could just be because I'm a head case LOL. Says the girl who can't muster up any enthusiasm to see the new Star Wars....

Dorine said...

That makes sense on the possibility of disappointment. I hate that feeling of "I don't get it". LOL None of Star Wars movies held the same magic as the first for me. That's probably part of why I haven't rushed out either.

After the Rain is very different. There are definitely parts I should have hated, and I remember being annoyed, but I couldn't stop reading, either. Authors that mix me up like that fascinate me. LOL

It'll be fun to see what strikes us this year. :)