Thursday, January 21, 2016

Best and Worst of 2015

HERE is the complete list of books I read in 2015.  There was a lot more not listed that I started and just completely gave up on but overall I'm pleased with the amount.  I think it's my biggest year yet and considering I knocked off some huge books I'm proud as punch over it.

All that considering, there were a few that I really loved and a few I really disliked over the year.  In no particular order they are-

Best of 2015:

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
This book wasn't my favorite as I read it.  I liked it a lot but it was dated, of course, and a lot more in depth than it needed to be.  But it was one of those classic novels that stuck with me for weeks and then months afterwards and I ended up liking it more after I finished than when I was reading it.  I think watching movies and miniseries of some books helps me to connect better and I always end up liking them more after they're finished.  I read a library book version of this but it just clung to me so hard that I got a permanent version for my shelves.

Orhan's Inheritance byAline Ohanesian
I won this in a giveaway through Goodreads but based on the description I would have picked up on my own anyways.  I love books set in the middle east and this was no exception.  There were a few things I thought almost maybe dragged the story down a little but it wasn't enough to make me give it less than five stars.  A must read.

The Death Note series by Tsugumi Ohba
This was the first complete manga series I've read and I was devoted from start to finish to it.  Even when it started to lag about halfway through and even when I forced myself to order the last couple of volumes I was still immersed in the story line.  I loved all of the Shinigami that were introduced but none more than Ryuk.  He made the entire series so enjoyable and was one of my favorite new characters of 2015.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
I make no excuses for my complete obsession with books set during WW2 and this one was my favorite of the year.  A lot of people might have gone for All the Light We Cannot See but I didn't connect to that one near as much as I did to The Nightingale.  This book made me cry and made me hope history could be rewritten even if I knew how it would end.

A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
I only read the first three books in this series in 2015 so I'm not sure if I'm supposed to put the entire series on my Best Of list or not but I'm including it because it was one of the biggest shockers of the year for me.  I have had the first four books for ages now and have kept putting them off but finally I decided there was no time like the present and just went for it and I'm so happy I did.  The writing was really easy to follow (even if there were a million characters to keep up with) and I looked forward to finding out where all of my favorite characters ended up by the end of each book.

Sarah Addison Allen
I read all of Sarah Addison Allen's works this year and rated all of them 4/5 stars.  Yes, they were cheesy and utterly predictable but that didn't in any way diminish my enjoyment of them.  They were books I could pick up during a slump or after a particularly meh book and would immediately love books again.

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
I was totally not expecting this book.  For some reason I kind of grew sick of YA this year and started to downvote a lot of my ratings on Goodreads because of it but this one was a total surprise.  I think the fact that it was a historical type book mixed in with futuristic themes saved it for me and I was engrossed on every page.  It's one that I read through the library but would be interested in picking up my own copy one day, which is rare for me.

The Help by Kathrynn Stockett
This book sat on my shelf for awhile.  I was actually refusing to read it because I thought it sounded so boring and I thought the movie looked racist and horrible.  I finally picked it up because I saw the movie was going to be on and I wanted to tape it so I figured I should read it before watching.  I ended up crying all the way through the book and crying again all the way through the movie.  Same with-

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Another book-to-movie that I had zero desire to pursue until I thought it was a good time to watch the movie.  Sometimes you need to set things to the side and let them gnaw at you until you decide to read them and that was this book for me.  I watched the movie and thought it was absolutely beautiful and was disappointed in myself for reading ten pages of the book and giving up a couple of years ago.  Picked it up again and sped right through it.

Ramona series by Beverly Cleary
When I was younger this was one of my favorite series of books and I was excited to read them again with my daughter.  She loved them as much as I did and would beg me to read just a little bit more each night.

Room by Emma Donaghue
Room devoured me.  Room took me inside of it for the one day I sat doing nothing but reading it.  Room smothered me in emotion and covered me in tears and then spit me out with no way of knowing what was up and what was down when it was finished. 

Worst of 2015:  

The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
This was really boring.  Like, really boring.  I get that it is a classic.  I'm sure at the time it was written there were very few mainstream mentions of adultery and it was a big deal.  But nowadays this book is just not a big deal.  I think classics need to be rethought for classrooms and changed every once in awhile because times move on and they just aren't relevant anymore.  This is one of them.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
This book took me ages to get through.  I ended up getting an audiobook of it and spending all day cleaning my daughter's room just so I could finish it.  She threw up that day.  I will forever remember that I listened to the last few chapters while cleaning up my daughters vomit.  I'm not sure which is worse to be honest. As soon as I read in the introduction that Melville thanked Nathanial Hawthorne I knew I was in for a bumpy ride.  I need more Queequeg and less how to gut and kill a while please. 

Re Jane by Patricia Park
Re Jane was such a disappointment and I hated that.  Considering I listen to Korean music about 99% of the time and Jane Eyre is my favorite book you would think this would be something I loved but it was a real clinker.  I felt the plot made Jane out to be completely unrelateable and her actions made me cringe through the entire book.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Such a boring book that I started to skim the remaining pages.  The plot had so much potential and it completely blew it for me.  I hated Minnow's character and felt zero connection with her so after that I had no real reason to want to finish other than the fact that I couldn't give mark it as completed and tossed out until I was done.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
This was one book that absolutely did not need to be published.  It had nothing at all to do with it's predecessor and it felt like a badly written fanfiction that was published spur of the moment.  The writing style was nothing like TKAM and it was painfully obvious.

The Diviners by Libba Bray
I didn't really hate this book but the more time that passes since I read it I start to dislike it even more.  I think it was just how annoying and self-involved the main character was.  And if I had to read the syllable 'ski' tacked on to every word one more time I was probably going to scream.  It didn't help that I listened to this on audiobook and the author couldn't really pull off separate character voices.  Jericho sounded like Frankenstein and it really bothered me...

You can see more of my reviews on Goodreads.
I'm not the most in-depth reviewer but I do enjoy telling everyone when a book I've read is complete garbage.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Book Goals for 2016

2015 Book List
2014 Book List
2013 Book List
2012 Book List
2011 Book List

I read 131 books in 2015 and that doesn't include the massive amounts of books I started and read a good chunk of before giving up.  It was overwhelming and tiring and I went through a few big bouts of readers slump along the way, but I managed to make a pretty good dent in some book goals so it was all worth it.  I probably could have made it to 150 if I hadn't hit the slump that lasted from the end of November all the way to the last week of December.

My original big book goal was to do quality over quantity and even though I read more in 2015 than 2014 I still think I read some good quality books.  I managed three of the Game of Thrones books and clicked off quite a few large classics I have been wanting to read.  My Newbery list didn't really get much smaller but I can always keep hammering away on that one pretty quickly since they're all short books.

I wanted to get to War and Peace in 2015 which never happened so that's one I'd like to try for in 2016.  Maybe when I make it through the other two Game of Thrones books I can get to it.

I'd like to try more nonfiction books in 2016.  Every year I say this and every year I'm a little disappointed at how few are on my list.  There's a lot on my TBR shelf so I'm going to make it a point to try and do at least one every couple of months.  I read a lot of historical fiction so even though I didn't read many nonfiction books I did have quite a few books based during WW2 done this year.  It's my favorite historical period so I'm always grabbing the ones I see about it.

My 2016 book goal is going to start at 50 and I'll adjust it later if I think it needs it.  The big classics are what gets me every time.  It took me ages to read Moby Dick because I disliked it so much so I could have read three books in the time it took me to read that one.  Same with a few other classics I disliked.  Usually I'm really good at refusing to finish a book I'm not enjoying but I try to keep going with the big name classics just so I can mark them off as read.

Here are the main lists I use to find books to read:

Newbery Books
Books Everyone Needs to Read

I've also found that it helps if I have a movie or miniseries to watch as I read the story.  It makes it easier to follow along if I read a bit, watch the move up until that point, read some more, then watch a bit again.  They become a lot easier to understand if I have context.  I heard War and Peace is going to be a miniseries sometimes in 2016 so I am planning on recording it and reading as I watch and maybe that will make it easier to go along with.