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.

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

The first read of the year for me was technically a reread, but this was my first time reading the annotated edition of an old love, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. In another of his works, Lewis wrote, “The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers, ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work. Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty, or thirty times during the course of their life.” Based on that, I still have a few more reads of this work in my future.

The Screwtape Letters was first published as a serial in a weekly magazine in 1941. Lewis imagined a series of letters from Screwtape, a senior demon, to his nephew Wormwood. Wormwood has been assigned his first human patient to secure, and his uncle gives him lessons about effective temptation and human nature. Lewis uses Screwtape’s perspective to share interesting insights about what really makes humans tick. Wit and satire make the letters enjoyable to read while presenting a serious analysis of our relationships to God, Satan, and each other.

Although references to “The War” clearly mean World War II, Lewis used no dated examples, and descriptions of “The War” could apply to any war. Wars and vices like envy, vanity, greed, and lust will always exist, so the situations the patient faces are much the same ones that humans face today. In this way, the letters can speak to people of all ages from all walks of life. The fact that the patient is never named lends to that feeling.

An annotated edition of The Screwtape Letters was released in 2013 on the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death with annotations written by Paul McCusker, director of the Focus on the Family Radio Theater dramatization of The Screwtape Letters with Andy Serkis (Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy) as Screwtape. As far as I know, this is the only book by C.S. Lewis to have been released with annotations, and I hope it’s not the last. The notes do not attempt to interpret Lewis’s words or add commentary based on Lewis’s biography. These annotations are explanations of literary references and World War II English phrases and pointers to other writings by Lewis on selected topics.

Although I read a lot of ebooks, I would encourage anyone interested in this work to go with the hardcover edition. I’ve yet to see any annotated ebooks that work as well as a physical copy, and this particular hardcover is a beautiful addition to your bookshelf. inside view of the hardcover edition of The Screwtape Letters: Annotated EditionEach page of the book has two columns of text, with the original text in black in a large font and the annotations in red. This layout is easy to read whether you’re a casual reader or someone who picked this up for a deeper study.

"All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be. This is elementary." - C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape LettersI appreciate Lewis’s insights into spiritual matters and the human heart, and every time I read anything by him, I walk away thinking that he talks about temptation in a way that resonates with me. He wrote of the deepest things from a Christian point of view and explained them in a way that works into my soul. During this reading of the book, I was reminded of several quotes that had been sitting in my brain without sources. I created a few small images to better commit them to my memory, and I thought I’d share one here that I’m currently using as the lock screen on my phone.

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.

I’ve promised myself that I will come back to blogging in 2015, so this is a quick early start. Books were my first love, so it’s fitting that I finally dedicate a blog to the books that send me out of this world.

In this first post, I’ll share some data from Goodreads about the books I read in 2014. I read 176 books, and I gave most of those books 3 stars. Only 1 book got 1 star, and I had 5 5-star reads.

My 5-star reads in 2014:

  • Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell
  • Firefly Hollow by T.L. Haddix
  • Yes to Everything by Shayne McClendon
  • Unrestrained by Joey W. Hill
  • Old Loyalty, New Love by Mary Calmes

Most Read Authors in 2014:

AUTHOR # OF BOOKS READ
Mary Calmes 4
Kristen Ashley 3
Lynette Bernard 3
Terri Anne Browning 3
Evan Grace 3
J.S. Scott 3

I’m surprised that I didn’t read more than 4 books from any one author this year. It seems like I read books from more authors this year than in past years and did fewer author binges. I believe 2012 was my year of the author binge with Kristen Ashley and Diana Palmer leading the pack.