Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Reading Year in Review 2018

I think we all can agree that 2018 was a dumpster fire of a year and yet, somehow, I managed to get through 95 books.  My reading goal is always 100, so while I did fall short, 95 is the most I've managed to get through since 2014 (when I read an incredible 119).  Here's how it all broke down (and yes, I count DNFs):

5 Stars (A Grade) = 7
4 Stars (B Grade) = 27
3 Stars (C Grades, includes some "low B-") = 38
2 Stars (D Grades) = 10
1 Star (F Grades) = 3
DNF (Did Not Finish) = 10
Audiobooks = 28

My A grades were up this year (although pretty consistent from previous years - I rarely assign 5-Stars in the double digits), my DNFs were up a smidge, my audiobook numbers were down (shorter work commute after I moved last year!), and my C grades outpaced my B grades (which is not great).  But, I'll take it.  This was the most productive reading year I've had in a dog's age.

Now, for what everybody cares about: the books!  A reminder that this is a recap of what I loved and read during 2018, but not necessarily books published in 2018.  I'm perpetually behind, so most of my Best Of list will be books that will, hopefully, be lurking in TBRs already or easy to score at your local library.

Note: Title links will take you to full reviews

The Romance:

Burn Down the Night (2016) and Wait For It (2017) by Molly O'Keefe - After not a single romance garnered an A grade from me in 2017, I vowed to start off 2018 on the right foot - with an author who consistently works for me.  The final two books in a quartet series, Burn Down the Night gives me the closest thing I've read to a true Bad Girl Heroine in the genre and Wait For It is an example of an Asshole Hero done right.  I didn't read these books so much as inhale them.

Breathe (2016) by L. Setterby - My contest judging this year was largely meh, but holy hell where has this book been all my life?!  A perfect example of starting a book, reading the first sentence, and just falling head over feet right into the world.  I'm so hooked that I downloaded the Wattpad app to read the next book in the series (still being released in weekly installments as I write up this post).

An Extraordinary Union (2017) by Alyssa Cole - A historical romance with legit high stakes conflict.  I loved this heroine so much I'm thinking of taking the Gone Fishin' sign off of my ovaries.

The Tycoon's Socialite Bride (2014) by Tracey Livesay - Here it is, the best category romance I read this year.  Livesay hit all her emotional beats, right on time.  I loved the heroine's family baggage and the hero bent on revenge but not needlessly cruel (although this one does rip your guts out in parts).  Don't think you like category romance?  Try this one.  It's damn near magical.

Indigo (1996) by Beverly Jenkins - Arguably the book that Jenkins is best known for, and it's easy to see why.  She puts so much into this story, addressing racism, colorism, and sexism, without preaching from the pulpit or losing sight of the romance.  Also, I've always felt that Jenkins' strength (well, besides her dynamite heroines) is her world-building.  The community she creates in this story, using the Underground Railroad as a backdrop, was so well done.

The Soldier Prince (2018) by Aarti V. Raman - This is my cracktastic read of the year, basically a category romance about a former Black Ops-style soldier, who is really a prince, who falls in love with a struggling college student waiting tables in a New York City deli.  This one is full of ALL THE TROPES and I couldn't get enough of it.  Raman needs to publish the next book in this series, like, yesterday.

Delicious Temptation (2015) by Sabrina Sol - Believable baggage (seriously, families can be the worst), and I loved the East LA family bakery backdrop.  Is it because I live in southern California and know the area?  Maybe.  Because Sol writes it so very well.  My runner up for best category read of the year.

Not Romance, Still Awesome:

The Broken Girls (2018) by Simone St. James - It's to the point now where I'm a squee'ing unreasonable fangirl for Simone St. James, but seriously, I loved this one.  A time slip novel with converging 1950 and 2014 plot treads and a nice "romantic elements" secondary thread involving the 2014 heroine and her cop boyfriend.  

Grant (2017) by Ron Chernow - A long book (47 hours on audio!), this one is worth the time investment.  Grant's life exemplifies the old "truth is stranger than fiction" adage.  That this man, basically a failure is every other aspect of his life, defeated the Confederacy, saved the Union, and became President is simply remarkable.  This is my new Read A Book Already book.  Plus, I learned stuff.  Which is always nice when reading non-fiction.

Jane Doe (2018) by Victoria Helen Stone - The revenge thriller I didn't know I needed.  A cool, methodical heroine who exacts her revenge against the worst sort of hypocritical DudeBro.  I loved every blessed minute of it.

Charlesgate Confidential (2018) by Scott Von Doviak - A crime novel set in Boston with three converging timelines. It did take a while for me to sink into this story and I did have to read about the damn Red Sox way too much for my liking, but this one is excellent.  Excellent world building.  Excellent mystery.  Interesting characters.  It kept me guessing all the way to the end.

Comfort Read/Author of 2018:

Marcia Muller - Every reader I know has what they call "comfort reading."  Either a favorite book or author, maybe a favorite genre.  For me, that's mystery.  I fell in love with reading via mysteries.  I devoured them as a teen, so there's a really high nostalgia factor at play here.  Given what a mess 2018 was, it's probably not surprising that I read 14 books in the Sharon McCone series this year.  I got through books 3 - 15 and one short story collection this year, in a mix of audio and print.  Technically these were all rereads for me, revisiting books I first read or listened to on audio as a teenager and in my early 20s.  Yes, some held up better than others, but the world building! The character arcs! I wanted to read more in the series this year, but other obligations have kept me from them.  I plan to pick up again with book 16 in 2019.

And that's my Year In Review for 2018.  I'm quite pleased with myself, but continue to hope for bigger and better in 2019.  The goal, once again, is 100 books.  Let's see if I make it.


Miss Bates said...

What a great list! I've been sticking to tried and true and have been feeling in a bit of a rut: you gave me some names to look for and have NEVER steered me wrong, Jessica Hart's Promoted to Wife and Mother, 'member that one? Still one of my favourite categories.

Jill said...

I have a hard time coming up with "best of" lists b/c years tend to blur together to me. I was reading a recap of year's events and I thought "wait that all happened this year?!"

Also, I found I got a lot more reading towards the end of year when I stopped reading internet news and social media. I don't want to completely cut myself off, but it's something to ponder for myself for the new year. . .

Probably my favorite read of the year was the "Star Dust" series by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner. My favorite read is usually one I'm surprised by and the first of this series I read on a whim and gobbled most of the rest. "Earth Bound" was definitely my favorite. I don't particularly love space program stuff (much to my husband's disappointment), but I felt like all of these got the stories got the time and people's attitudes of the early 60s so right. And the characters all feel like individuals, not heroine archetype meets hero archetype. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it makes it easier for me to burn out on a series where all the characters feel the same.

Vassiliki said...

Agggh!! I accidently used John's account to comment. This is why you should never comment on a blog after midnight >.<


S. said...

Very good list!
I also can't keep up with books only published in the year... my best of has titles from several years, not just 2018.

Best of luck with this year's reading!

Rowena said...

95 books is a great number. 7 books got 5 stars too? That's awesome!!

The 13, 1 and 2 stars? Yikes.

Still, this was a great breakdown of your year in reading.

Happy reading in 2019 and Happy New Year, Wendy! I hope we get to see more of each other this year!

Lori said...

I know you felt less than great about how your reading as going a lot of the time last year, but I'm glad that it turned out to be a pretty good year overall. I read a lot this year (almost 190 books), but I didn't end up with any more A reads than you had. I'm a really tough grader & almost never give anything an A, but that wasn't the only reason I had so few. This wasn't a bad reading year for me, but not much of what I read stood out as great. My hope for this year is that I'll find more things that I truly love.

Wendy said...

Miss Bates: I'm really pleased with my list this year - I feel like it's a good eclectic mix - although a little light in the pants on historicals. I couldn't seem to sustain a historical reading "mood" in 2018. For every one I read I seemed to read 3 contemporaries. Historicals are my first love in the genre, so I'm hoping to get back to them in 2019. Lord knows my TBR is full of 'em.

Jill: I had a couple of weekends late in the year where I limited myself to social media and I'd read like 2-3 books! I need to do more of that! Ugh, and I really need to read that Barry and Turner series. I've got several in the digital TBR.

Vassiliki: I'm not seeing "John's" comment! I even checked my spam and awaiting moderation folders. I'm so sad!

Sonia: God bless people who can, but I'm always late to the party or running behind on my reading. So many interesting books and I'm such a slow reader!

Rowena: In 2017 I only gave out one 5 star rating and it was for a biography! So to have 7 this year, and some of them be romance, was a big improvement. My 1 and 2 stars were a bit higher this year because *whisper* I did some contest judging and couldn't DNF. Otherwise my DNFs would have been much higher.

Lori: Yeah, I only read 70 books in 2017, so 95 in 2018 was a BIG improvement for me. I'm a really slow reader, so hitting 100 is a challenge - as evident by the fact I haven't done that since 2014. My A grades were so dismal last year that I loaded up the start of 2017 with books by authors that I was *pretty sure* I was going to love. That helped tremendously and got me started off on the right foot.