2015 Reading in Review

In addition to my Goodreads account, I track my reading on a basic spreadsheet. I really love spreadsheets, and looking at my spreadsheet just seems more fulfilling than seeing the same statistics on a website. Starting with The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and ending with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, I read 257 books in 2015. My most active month was October with 39 books, and my least active month was June with 6 books. It’s interesting that neither October nor June stands out in my mind as being different from any other month.

I read quite a few books, but it was surprisingly easy to pick out 10 favorites because I realized most of the books I read in 2015 were fine but not necessarily ones I loved reading. I hope to change that in 2016, but I’ll save that discussion for my next post about 2016 reading goals. I decided to skip ranking my top picks, so here are my favorite reads from 2015 ordered by author’s last name:

  • When a Scot Ties the Knot – Tessa Dare
  • Fractured and Formidable – AJ Downey
  • Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith
  • Mackenzie’s Mountain – Linda Howard
  • These Broken Stars – Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
  • The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
  • Craving Flight – Tamsen Parker
  • The Hurricane – RJ Prescott
  • Archangel’s Blade – Nalini Singh
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton

Most Read Authors in 2015:

AUTHOR # OF BOOKS READ
Nalini Singh 9
AJ Downey 6
Annabeth Albert 6
TS Joyce 5
Tempeste O’Riley 5
Skylar M. Cates 4
Dannika Dark 4
Tessa Dare 3
Linda Howard 3
Celia Kyle 3

I started out the year with a few reading resolutions.

  1. Read 150 books.
  2. I read 257 books, so this goal was accomplished.

  3. Make more mindful reading choices and stop delaying reading books I think I’d enjoy.
  4. I’m calling this one partially achieved because I’ve been less distracted by all the free books available for my Kindle, but I’ve also still managed to avoid some of the books I’ve been meaning to read for years. It’s silly to read as much as I do and not get to the books that most interest me. I need to stop saving them for a rainy day.

  5. Read at least 1 nonfiction book per month.
  6. I finished 2015 with 14 nonfiction books, so this was another win.

  7. Focus on one of my cookbooks each month.
  8. I did use my cookbooks more in 2015, but I didn’t always focus on a particular one for an entire month.

  9. Post weekly on this blog.
  10. This was my big fail for the year. Instead of 52 posts, I ended 2015 with 22 posts. I’ll continue to work on this one, but that’s another topic for a post about my 2016 goals.

Did you have reading-related goals in 2015? How did you do? Did you read any books that you’ll be recommending to everyone you meet?

SCWBC15 – Second Update

Remember that time I mentioned trying out a reading challenge and then read a lot less books? I did manage to read 7 books in December though, so I thought it was time to update my Semi-Charmed Winter 2015 Book Challenge progress. Most of these books had also been on my shelf for quite some time and were so much fun to read that I wonder what other gems might be hiding in my stuffed bookcases.

10

10 points: Read a debut book by any author.: The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (387 pages, 4 stars)
This book was on my shelf for almost 4 years before I read it for the challenge, and it ended up being one of my favorite books of the year. People had been telling me I’d love it, and it was beautiful. Reading the book felt like being reminded of a long-ago dream, and I highly recommend the book to anyone who thinks mixing Victorian England, a circus open from sunset to sunrise, and real magicians sounds intriguing.

15 points: Read a book published under a pseudonym. — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Megan M.: The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith (455 pages, 4 stars)
Here we have a book that was a gift and sat on my shelf for 2 years before I finally read it. I’m someone who enjoyed Harry Potter but didn’t throw myself headlong into the fandom or anything, and I’d tried Rowling’s Casual Vacancy with no luck, so I didn’t feel strongly about reading another book by her. The story reminded me that I should read more mysteries, and I’m looking forward to reading more about the detective Cormoran Strike and his employee Robin Ellacott.

15 points: Read a book with “boy,” “girl,” “man” or “woman” in the title (or the plural of these words).: The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen (269 pages, 4 stars)
One down, and six to go. Yes, I owned 7 books by an author I’d never read. I kept hearing good things about her, and the books sounded like my kind of thing with the mix of small towns and family magic, but I just never got around to reading any of them. Reading the others will be a higher priority now that I’ve read this one because it was adorable. Read this if you like a little romance mixed with small town secrets and touches of magic.

20 points: Read a book with a person’s first and last name in the title.: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton (301 pages, 4 stars)
I picked this up on a whim because of the gorgeous cover, and now I can say that the story is also gorgeous. The imagery and language have really stayed with me since reading it, and it’s another of these picks that ended up being among my favorite books of the year. Although Ava Lavender stars in the title, the story begins in the early 1900s with her great-grandparents. We then see how the loves and sorrows of each generation play out over time.

20 points: Read a food-themed book. — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Jamie @ Whatever I Think Of!: Come Here, Cupcake – Crissi Langwell (352 pages, 3 stars)
I had intended to read another book for this category, but I had read so many good books with elements of magical realism that I wanted to try to stick with some kind of magic. This book popped up in my Kindle Unlimited recommendations and seemed like a good fit for the category and that desire for some magic. It was my least favorite book of the month but still an enjoyable read. The heroine Morgan has discovered that she can infuse her baking with her emotions, and she is trying to deal with family secrets and her powers while falling in love. I enjoyed the magical elements, but the romance felt a bit flat to me. It’s interesting how many books have explored this idea of food-related magic in such different ways.

previous points: 35
total points: 115

Currently reading:
15 points: Read a book with a one-word title.: Rook, Sharon Cameron (456 pages)

SCWBC15: Check-In #1

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m participating in the Semi-Charmed Winter 2015 Book Challenge, and it’s time for my first progress report. I’ve changed books in a few categories, and I’m feeling pretty good about things a week into the challenge even though I was really disappointed in my “book that takes place outside of your country of residence” pick. That’s one time that impulsively choosing a book from Overdrive did not work out in my favor. My big surprise so far was the short read I picked because Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant was a Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee in Best Horror, and horror is not my usual genre, but I really enjoyed the story.

#SCWBC15 Check-In #1

5 points: Read a book that has between 100 and 200 pages: Rolling in the Deep, Mira Grant (128 pages, 4 stars)

As I mentioned earlier, this was a pleasant surprise for me. Within a small amount of pages, Mira Grant made me care about a cast of characters, and I think she did a fantastic job of quickly sketching out the relationships between everyone. The story centers on a documentary-type TV production, and it often made me think of a screenplay as I read because I could easily visualize everything. If you’re a fan of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, then you might want to give this story a try.

10 points: Read a book that does not take place in your current country of residence: Belle Epoque, Elizabeth Ross (336 pages, 2 stars)

The summary grabbed me with an agency in 19th-century France that rents out “plain” girls to socialites who think they will look even lovelier when compared to a plain companion. I think I expected more secrets and intrigue because this was supposed to be a secret agency, and all the companions had cover stories to make them seem suitable to be part of society. I didn’t get any of that because the protagonist is a young girl who reacts to everything around her, rather than acting on her own initiative. If she were a fleshed-out character, maybe I could have overlooked some of her annoying traits, but instead she just felt flat. In short, the ideas behind this book were interesting, but the execution didn’t work for me. After finishing the book, I saw the author had taken the inspiration for the agency from a short story by Emile Zola, so I might need to read that at some point.

20 points: Read a book with a verb in the title: When a Scot Ties the Knot, Tessa Dare (384 pages, 4 stars)

Something about Tessa Dare’s books works for me. She makes me laugh and swoon, and I fall in love with her characters. Miss Madeline Gracechurch is a shy young woman, so she invents a soldier sweetheart to take herself off the marriage mart. She even goes so far as to write letters to this imaginary man, and unknown to her, her letters reach a young man with the same name as her imaginary man. When the war ends, he comes for her.

previous points: 0
total points: 35 points

Currently reading:
15 points: Read a book published under a pseudonym: The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith (455 pages)

A Winter Book Challenge to End 2015

A few minutes ago, I finished my 250th book of 2015. After meeting and increasing my Goodreads book goal twice, I’m going to hold at 250 and declare myself a winner with a month left in 2015. That means I’ve averaged about 22 books a month, and it’s a little above my typical total for years past except for 2012 when I somehow read 488 books. I still can’t explain that one.

Anyway, by all quantifiable measures, 2015 has been a good reading year, but yet, I’m left with mixed feelings about it. Nothing really stood out, and part of that is because I’m still hoarding books I’ve been meaning to read for months. One of my book-related goals at the beginning of this year was to stop with the hoarding, but that’s the goal I’ve completely failed at accomplishing. It’s weird to say I’m in a slump because I’m reading a ton, but I can relate to this Book Riot article about having an “off” year of reading. I want to have a little more enthusiasm about what I’m reading, and I think I need a little challenge to kick me out of this rut.

This is where the Semi-Charmed Winter 2015 Book Challenge comes into play. There are 12 categories with assigned point values, and because a couple of categories include 2 books, there’s a total of 14 books. I’m a month late to the challenge, but it still has two months left, which is plenty of time to read 14 books. It will be fun to see how many points I can collect in this final month of 2015.

Semi-Charmed Winter 2015 Book Challenge
photo via @mcstroup

5 points: Book that’s 100-200 pages long
My selection: Nightbird by Alice Hoffman


10 points: Debut book from an author
My selection: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


10 points: Book that doesn’t take place in my current country of residence
My selection: Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross


10 points: Book that someone else is using for the challenge
(Submitted by Kristen at See You in a Porridge)
My selection: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (used by Kimberly at Love YA Books)


15 points: Book published under a pseudonym
(Submitted by Megan M.)
My selection: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)


15 points: Book with “Boy,” “Girl,” “Man,” Or “Woman” in the title
My selection: The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen


15 points: Book with a one-word title
My selection: Rook by Sharon Cameron


20 points: Book with a person’s first and last name in title
My selection: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton


20 points: Food-themed book
(Submitted by Jamie at Whatever I Think Of!)
My selection: Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America’s First Lady of Food by Susan Marks


20 points: Book with a verb in the title
My selection: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund


30 points: Two books with the same title by different authors
(Submitted by bevchen at Confuzzledom)
My selections: This is the hardest category for me, but for now, I’m choosing Claimed by Evangeline Anderson and Claimed by Elle Kennedy.


30 points: Two books (1 nonfiction and 1 fiction) about the same subject
My selections: My subject is murder in Victorian England, and I’ll be reading the nonfiction book The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders and the novel A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn.


Wish me luck! I received The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross today from my library through Overdrive, so one of those will be my first read for the challenge. I’ll post updates here on the blog as I complete the categories.

Nonfiction Catch-Up

One of my 2015 reading goals was to read at least one nonfiction book each month, and it’s been a few months since I gave an update about that goal. I’ve read 1-2 nonfiction books each month so far this year, and these are a few picks from the last 5 months.


Spinster - Kate Bolick
Spinster by Kate Bolick

This is a combination of Bolick’s own “spinster wish” with stories from five women who inspired her along the way. I first became aware of the book because of the inclusion of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and the historical elements were definitely the most compelling bits for me. Spinster in Bolick’s usage is “shorthand for holding on to that in you which is independent and self-sufficient, whether you’re single or coupled”, and that’s definitely a concept worth exploring.


That's Not English - Erin Moore
That’s Not English by Erin Moore

I’ve been a bit obsessed with British pop culture for most of my life. I think watching old episodes of Doctor Who with my dad started it for me. I was drawn to this book by the subtitle, “Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us”. The book’s structure is a lot of fun because each chapter focuses on one word and describes the usage of that word in each country and what that might say about the cultures. Cheers, knackered, and gobsmacked are some of my favorite inclusions. I highly recommend this book if you’re an Anglophile or interested in the English language or simply enjoy having fun facts to share with your friends.


Between You & Me - Mary Norris
Between You & Me by Mary Norris

Mary Norris is a “Comma Queen” for The New Yorker, and this book is both a memoir and a writing guidebook. Norris speaks about her years at The New Yorker and also highlights grammar lessons she’s learned during that time. I enjoyed both aspects of the book, but my favorite section was probably the discussion of protecting an author’s voice at the “cost” of proper grammar.


So You've Been Publicly Shamed - Jon Ronson
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

I’ve seen a few presentations from Jon Ronson and enjoyed them enough that I decided to pick up his book. My opinion is that the presentations were more interesting because they were tighter. The book takes more of a ramble to get to the point, and it’s not even that long a book. Individual chapters are stronger than the overall book, and I think a series of essays might have been a better format for the material, but it’s still worth a read for the case studies at the front of the book.


Laura Ingalls Wilder Pioneer Girl
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder & Pamela Smith Hill (Editor)

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder were a huge part of my childhood. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography contains Wilder’s complete first draft of her story along with notes from Pamela Smith Hill, author of a previous biography of Wilder. This is a beautiful enrichment of the stories I first read as a child, and I had so many nostalgic, happy feelings as I was reading. I may find myself rereading the Little House books soon.


Cookbook Catch-Up

One of my 2015 reading goals was to make more use of my cookbooks. Each month I’ve been picking one cookbook from my collection and trying at least 2 new recipes from it. It’s been a few months since I shared my progress, but I’ve enjoyed going through my collection and haven’t missed a month yet. So far, none of the recipes have made into our regular rotation of meals, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m trying new things every month.


The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

The stories included with the recipes are very chatty and engaging, so it’s easy to see what Deb Perelman is such a successful blogger. I found the format a little harder to navigate because of how ingredients and steps were split across multiple pages, but that was a fairly small issue that didn’t keep me from enjoying the book. My husband wouldn’t be upset at all if her lemon bars and raspberry ricotta scones became frequent treats. My personal favorite was the Fingerlings Vinaigrette, a potato salad that includes mustard vinaigrette and pickled celery. I’m really intrigued by the buttered popcorn cookies, but I haven’t tried those yet.


Gourmet Today
Gourmet Today by Ruth Reichl (Editor)

The size of this cookbook makes it a little unwieldy, but the range of recipes is worth the hefty size. Ruth Reichl states that the purpose of the cookbook is to reflect the changing tastes of America at a time when salsa began outselling ketchup, so there’s a mix of new and old. The Korean marinated beef was a big hit and also a super quick meal with scallion soba noodles from the same cookbook. The beef and broccoli was not a hit and was just okay, but I think a little less sauce and a little more spice would have made that a better pick for our tastes. My favorite was the blackberry upside-down cake because it was fairly simple but looked and tasted amazing, which made it a nice treat to share with guests.


The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen

If I see America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Illustrated, or Cook’s Country on a cookbook, then I need it. I love the layouts and the recipe development sections. This particular cookbook has product recommendations, kitchen tips, and other helpful information without the longer trial-and-error reports. We tried and enjoyed the Chinese chicken salad and Mediterranean tuna salad, and my husband was crazy about the lemon mousse even though he’s usually not a fan of Greek yogurt. The New York cheesecake sounded interesting, but I’ll have to get over my aversion to cottage cheese before I attempt that one.


The New Best Recipe
The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated

This is another massive cookbook, and it’s from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, so there’s a lot of wonderful discussion about the different things that were tried on the way to perfecting each recipe. It’s too much preamble for some people, but I love reading through it. Maybe I’m showing my inner nerd? I made the gingerbread cookies twice for celebrations at my husband’s office. The second time was at the request of people who loved them the first time he took them, and I’m sure I’ll make those again as the holiday season starts. The coconut chocolate chip cookies are also good though not quite on the “These are amazing!” level of the gingerbread cookies. The Spaghetti Puttanesca is probably the meal most likely to become a staple for us because it’s got the perfect amount of olives and capers in the sauce, and it’s quick and easy. The sandwich bread recipe didn’t turn out great, but I don’t have the best luck baking my own bread.


One Big Table
One Big Table by Molly O’Neill

This cookbook is a joy to read with all the little tidbits of food history in it. It’s a true celebration of home cooks in all different kinds of homes across America, and even if I never used a recipe from it, it would be worth having for the stories. I love how the recipe title often include the cook’s name, and it reminds me of the church cookbooks that I loved as a kid. As a bonus, the recipes we tried were also tasty. Norma Naranjo’s tamales are not a quick meal, but the thick chile sauce paired with zucchini is even better than I imagined. That was my first time having any kind of squash in a tamale, but it will not be the last time. I still have a few of these in my freezer. The macaroni and cheese recipe from Helen Griffin Williams is a fairly basic baked macaroni and cheese, but the construction of it involves cubed cheese and a custard-like sauce. If you’re someone like me who considers cheese a major food group, then you have to give this one a try.


Some themes become very clear as I go through my cookbook collection. I tend to purchase big cookbooks, and while I enjoy pretty food photography, I’m more interested in things like personal food-related stories and/or informational sections about food science and general kitchen tips.

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors From Whom I’ve Read the Most Books

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. I’m a life-long list lover, so I decided to do my first Top Ten Tuesday post today and list the top 10 authors from whom I’ve read the most books.

My initial thought was that I could grab a quick list of my top authors from Goodreads, but I’ve only been a member of Goodreads since 2007 and only a really active member since 2010 or so, so I have a lot of prior reading history that’s not documented there. My list will be in no particular order and will start with favorite authors and childhood loves because I’ve read most of their available works. Then I’ll fill in remaining spots with the top names from my recent years on Goodreads.


Charles de Lint

I was introduced to de Lint through a post in the first online journal I ever read in 1996. Willa mentioned one of his Newford story collections, and within a week, I’d bought the first 3 books in the Newford series. At that time, those were the only ones available, and I waited for each new installment eagerly over the years. He’s now mostly moved on to other projects, and I’ve not kept up with his releases as much, but I still count him as one of my favorite authors.


C.S. Lewis

I can’t say with certainty that I’ve read everything Lewis published, but I have read all of his published fiction multiple times, and I’ve read several collections of his non-fiction essays ranging from literary analysis to religion and his poetry. My favorite of his non-fiction is Mere Christianity, and my favorite novel from him is Till We Have Faces.


Diana Palmer

I’m fairly sure that the first romances I read as an early teen were not written by Diana Palmer, but she is the first romance author I remember recognizing on the shelf and deliberately reading everything I could find from her. I looked at her bibliography a few minutes ago to get an estimated number of how many of her books I’ve read, but I stopped counting at 60. That number surprised even me, but I guess it shouldn’t have because her Long Tall Texans series alone has 45 books in it, and I knew I’d read all of those.


L.M. Montgomery

The Anne of Green Gables series was my introduction to L.M. Montgomery, and I didn’t stop there. Looking at the online bibliography I found, I believe I’ve read everything she published. Her novel The Story Girl was the source of my first online handle, and I was StoryGirl on several platforms throughout the late 90s.


Carolyn Haywood

Whenever I think of the small local library my family visited every week for years, I immediately see the children’s section where all my favorite books were shelved, and the Betsy and Eddie books by Haywood stand out in my mind.


Maud Hart Lovelace

Lovelace is the other author who comes to mind along with Haywood whenever I think of that library near my childhood home. I was in love with the Betsy-Tacy and Deep Valley books.


Lois Gladys Leppard

I read the first 18 books of the Mandie series and really enjoyed the setting and the mysteries as a kid, but they fell off my radar by the time I was leaving middle school. I just checked, and the series has ended due to the author’s death and contains over 40 books now.


Kristen Ashley

According to Goodreads, she is my most read author at 42 books, and that’s probably my real total because I believe I found her in 2011 right around the time I got back into using Goodreads. My first book by her was Three Wishes about a girl who inherits a genie and uses one of her wishes to wish for the perfect man like the men she read about in romance novels. I rarely hear people mention that one when they talk about Kristen Ashley, but I still really enjoy it. Oddly, her Rock Chick series is often mentioned as a favorite by people who read her, but it’s my least favorite of her many series. I’ve spent the last couple of years buying her books and then saving them for some unknown reason, but I will definitely read them at some point.


Nalini Singh

I’ve read 24 books by Nalini Singh, and that’s mostly due to two series: Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter.


Evangeline Anderson

The books in the Brides of the Kindred series are almost entirely responsible for the 16 books I’ve read by Evangeline Anderson, but I haven’t read the most recent one in the series yet.

Starting a Series in the Middle

In the not-so-distant past, I always started a series with the first book, and if I enjoyed that first book, I’d read the rest of the series as long as new books were published. I didn’t skip books or mess around with the order, and I pushed through books that focused on side plots that didn’t interest me at all simply to be able to say that I’d read the whole series.

All of that changed over the last couple of years, and I haven’t been able to pinpoint any reason for it. Maybe it’s because I buy fewer books and no longer have that compulsion to own all the books in a series and to display them together on my shelves. Maybe I got tired of series that felt bloated with more and more books coming out that never matched the sparkle of the first few. Maybe I realized that spending any time reading books I didn’t enjoy wasn’t time spent well.

Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh

My recent binge read of the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh was the catalyst for thinking about how I read series. I’ve had lots of people suggest the series to me, but nothing about the blurb for the first book screamed “Read me!” to me. It’s harder to interest me in an urban fantasy these days after reading so many of them back-to-back a few years ago. I’ve also learned that I’m more of a vampire and shifter fan than an angels and demons fan, so a series about an Archangel didn’t entice me. Angels do, however, create vampires in the Guild Hunter world, so that caught my eye.

The final push to start the series came from a conversation on Twitter where multiple people called Dmitri from Archangel’s Blade their book boyfriend. He sounded dark and gruff, and I’m a sucker for that. My only hesitation was that the book is the 4th in the Guild Hunter series, but I finally decided that I didn’t want to read 3 books to get to the one I thought sounded good. Instant gratification scored a win when I saw my library had the ebook on Overdrive, so I began reading immediately. I read it in one sitting because I couldn’t stop reading.

If I read and loved the 4th book, I must have been wrong about how much I’d enjoy the series, so I had to read the rest! I did read the entire series, and it turns out that I was actually right about my lack of interest in the overall series. The story of Dmitri and Honor in Archangel’s Blade is my favorite of the series so far, and the focus of most of the other books (Elena and the Archangel Raphael) doesn’t do a thing for me. I would have missed out on a really great read if I’d started the series with the first book because I would have never made it to the 4th book. After reading 2 books I really enjoyed (Archangel’s Blade and Archangel’s Storm) and 5 that were okay but not among my favorites, I’m looking forward to reading book 8 later this year only because the blurb for that one doesn’t mention Raphael and Elena. It feels a little weird to have overall good feelings about a series while having no interest in the core couple.

My 2015 Reading Habits

Robin at Dear Author asked some questions in her post The State of our Reading Habits (2015 edition) that are related to thoughts I’ve had the last few months as I pay a little more attention to what I’m reading. I thought I’d address some of her questions here.

With all the Romance being published right now, are you reading more of it? And if so, what are you enjoying most? Do you feel like your reading tastes are adequately represented by the current market, and if not, what would you like to see more of? What do you wish would trend out of fashion for a while? And how have your reading habits changed, if at all, since self-publishing became so popular? Do you anticipate any change as agency pricing makes its grand return?

Romance Reading Habits

Over the last two years, romance has made up the bulk of the fiction I read, and I’ve read mostly fiction. Before that, I read a lot of romance, but I also read urban fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction set in the Victorian time period, and a smattering of young adult along with whatever else interested me. I read a number of series like Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris, The Hollows by Kim Harrison, Night Huntress by Jeaniene Frost, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, and Anita Blake by Laurell K. Hamilton. If you’re familiar with any of those series, then I’m sure you can see a theme there with the mix of fantasy and romance and kick-butt heroines in the style of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I still want to get around to the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, but I picked up the first book in that series right as my interest in those types of books was dropping, so it didn’t really stand a chance back then.

Most recently, I’ve read in the broad category of contemporary romance with books that range from Amish settings or other inspirational types of stories to more erotic reads with all the requisite billionaires and secret princes and SEALs and cowboys and combinations of all of the above. The rise of self-publishing has brought a lot of those books to me because I pick up free books for my Kindles (old Kindle keyboard and slightly newer Kindle Fire HD 7″) and then buy additional books from those authors I enjoy. This habit has also made me more likely to simply stop reading a book and move on to something else. When I was buying paper books, I rarely started a book I couldn’t finish because I put in more effort to ensure I was getting books I’d enjoy. As I pick up more free books, I also find more books that don’t work for me, and I’m fine deleting those and moving on.

I have way too many ebooks now that are just waiting to be read in addition to shelves and shelves of unread paper books. This year, I’m making an effort to sort through my unread books of both types and see which ones still interest me and which ones can be filed away or given away. I think I’ll be buying fewer books even as I read a similar amount as I have over the last few years. The books that I do end up purchasing will likely be ebooks that cost $2.99 and less.

Romance Trends

I’m all aboard the trend that reminds me of the old category romances I first read as a kid. I like younger, inexperienced heroines paired with slightly older alpha males. Butting heads is fine with me, but I want there to be some obvious tenderness too. Also, inexperienced doesn’t have to become too stupid to live because those heroines make me crazy. Shifters probably aren’t considered trendy any more, but those are a newer love of mine after I burned out a bit on vampires. I particularly like bear shifters because they’re often portrayed as bigger men and women, and I’ve enjoyed many gentle giant heroes who were bear shifters.

I’m completely over the trend of romances released as multiple short stories. These serials irritate me, and I don’t mind potentially spoiling myself on a storyline as I read through reviews to make sure I’m not picking up a book with a cliffhanger. I don’t buy romances for cliffhangers. Just give me my happily ever after please. Related to this, I’m also tired of contemporary romances that are released as trilogies or longer series with the same main hero/heroine pairing. I enjoy series set in towns or families where each book is a standalone with a different couple and past couples pop up with updates, but I don’t want to wait months for another book about the same couple.

Ebooks or Paper or Audiobooks?

My fiction reading is primarily done on my Kindles, and that’s only increased over the last few months with my library’s expanded ebook options and my Scribd subscription. I have the Kindle and Scribd apps on my phone (Samsung Galaxy S3), but I find reading on it to be less enjoyable and rarely do it. Buying paper books is mostly reserved for special editions of favorite authors like Charles de Lint who has released some beautiful books through Subterranean Press.

I have a few non-fiction books in ebook format. If it’s something I want to go back to in the future like a cookbook and/or is heavily annotated, then I still prefer paper. Otherwise, I’m fine with ebooks for nonfiction too. I’ve yet to find any way that I enjoy audiobooks. This could be related to my inability to enjoy most talk radio and podcasts. I often get impatient with the pacing, and disembodied voices just don’t seem to hold my attention.

New Year, New Reading Challenge

The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition by C.S. Lewis

I’ve pledged to read 150 books again this year with the Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge. I’m already 1 book behind, so that’s lovely. The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition by C.S. Lewis will most likely will my first completed book as it’s the book I’ve started reading. I sometimes have multiple books going at once, but I still think that will be the first I finish this year.

I’ve never really done much with New Year’s resolutions, but I do have a few book-related goals this year that I’ll share and track here.

  • I want to make more conscious reading choices rather than just reading whatever pops up next on my Kindle and plowing through all the free books. Related to this, I want to stop hoarding books I really want to read like I’m saving them for some special occasion. I should actually read them instead of just anticipating the read! (I’m looking at you 2014 Kristen Ashley releases!) Also, I want to read some of the hardcovers and paperbacks on my shelves instead of defaulting to my Kindle because it’s handy.
  • As part of those conscious choices, I’d like to read at least one non-fiction book each month. I don’t care if it’s a celebrity memoir or a political economics book.
  • It would be nice to get more use out of my huge collection of cookbooks, so I’ll highlight one of them each month and select 2 recipes to try during that month.
  • I’m committing to weekly posts here at my shiny new blog. Some weeks may have more than one new post, but I think once a week is a good goal as a start.