I enjoyed doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge (my second year - last year I committed to and finished 80 books, plus a few more) because it gives me a reference frame for viewing my addiction to books and also is - to me - interesting to see my reading journey over the course of a year. I'll definitely be doing another one next year. I may have missed cataloging a couple of books I read -- especially non-fiction since I don't always read those books linearly and extra especially don't for the ones I use for my novel researches. I also don't list the dnfs - the did-not-finish books -- for the obvious reason that I did not manage to finish them.
The books range from fiction to biographies, memoirs, writing craft, and fantasy to Regency romance (a recent but enduring addiction - I'd like to find more of these that are to my taste, i.e., clean -- I'm eager also to find some good gay Regencies -- recommendations are welcome), mystery, quantum physics and science fiction to self-help, U.S. history to Celto-Germanic history (gee, I wonder why I read that? hmmm....) and many historical novels (a recently rediscovered addiction).
This was the first year since 2012 that I personally did not publish a book. More about that -- no, I don't really want to dwell on it -- but the six-word, happy-for-now-ending short story is: I was sick. Now I'm better.
Barring any major life catastrophes, the lack of publishing will change in 2017. So, yes, I have plans to publish stuff next year.
Here are my top ten favorites of 2016, not necessarily in order, but who cares? It was hard enough just to pick ten, thank you very much. The links goes to the Goodreads page for the books because I don't want to influence your buying power. Some of these may also be available through your local library - I obtained many of them through mine.
"Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power."
Two words: giant robot. Need I say more? This was a surprising debut novel (with a sequel on the way) that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I look forward to the next installment. Warning: largely epistolary but enjoyable despite that (And I usually hate, hate, hate epistolary novels).
2. A Murder in Time (Kendra Donovan #1) by Julie McElwain
Murder mystery+time travel+regency+romance(?) = just my thing. A few suspension of disbelief problems, but nothing overtly fatal to my enjoyment of the story. I look forward to the sequel of this one as well.
3. How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown
"A heartfelt and personal journey filled with both humor and drama, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is the book for anyone, young or old, who has ever imagined exploring the universe—and who among us hasn’t?"
Part memoir about astrophysics, the life of a scientist, and the politics involved, I was gripped from beginning to end - I read this one in three days, pretty fast for non-fiction. And the book fulfills on providing the answer to its title.
4. World War Z by Max Brooks
"The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity."
It's epistolary (in the form of interviews). Once again, with feeling: I hate epistolary novels. It's about zombies (sort of). I hate zombies. But the format worked, and the zombies were...different and I ended up loving the book. It was a gripping and 'fun' read. Note: I also hated the movie, which, in my opinion, had very little to do with the book in terms of plot or...anything. Even Brad Pitt couldn't redeem the movie. But--read the book. Do it.
5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads:
Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn"
I don't know how to describe this one. Rich and sensual, engrossing and poignant. I loved it because it was fantasy, pure but not simple, was historical (Victorian), and it made me cry. I want to read it again.
6. Size 12 Is Not Fat (Heather Wells #1) by Meg Cabot
"Heather Wells Rocks! Or, at least, she did. That was before she left the pop-idol life behind after she gained a dress size or two -- and lost a boyfriend, a recording contract, and her life savings (when Mom took the money and ran off to Argentina)."
The series has to be taken as a whole (five books total of which this is the first one) to be appreciated. I am not (usually) a chick-lit reader, but decided to try this one after being treated to the opening in one of the WMG Publishing writing workshops given by Dean Wesley Smith that I took last year. I think I blew through all five books pretty quickly, each finished within a day or two. They are fun and harmless in a good way, much helped by Ms. Cabot's infectious writing style.
7. Blood Song (Raven's Shadow #1) by Anthony Ryan
"Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order. The Brothers of the Sixth Order are devoted to battle, and Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate, and dangerous life of a Warrior of the Faith."
I decided to give this one a try because the entire trilogy was available through my library, and I was glad I did. A coming-of-age story with some pretty wonderful fantasy world-building stuff. I hoped early on the celibate part wouldn't drag on...don't want to say anything more about that. If you have a hankering for some epic fantasy, this should do the trick very well. The series doesn't end as well as it begins, but the series is well worth reading all the way through.
8. Heart of a Lion: A Lone Cat's Walk Across America by William Stolzenburg
"Heart of a Lion is a story of one heroic creature pitting instinct against towering odds, coming home to a society deeply divided over his return. It is a testament to the resilience of nature, and a test of humanity's willingness to live again beside the ultimate symbol of wildness."
A heartbreaking account of how America has (and continues to) destroy its apex predators. The description is a little misleading in that this incredibly well-researched and documented non-fiction book is mostly about the practice of predator eradication in the U.S.A. The heroic creature is featured on his journey throughout the book, but it's not mostly about him. Note: if you want to hear about a happy end for the fate of cougars and their relatives (and wolves) in the U.S., don't read this book. Despite that, the book is very well written and the prose is a joy to read.
9. Ross Poldark (The Poldark Saga #1) by Winston Graham
"Tired from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark returns to his land and family, only to find his father has died, his estate is derelict, and the girl he loved is engaged to another. But then he rescues a half-starved urchin girl and takes her home; an act which, it turns out, will alter his life."
It's a saga! Eighteenth century, with the first book just post-American Revolution and just pre-French Revolution. An interesting time period, and one that I'd read about this year in a lot of detail. The setting is Cornwall, with rich descriptions fitting the grandness of the themes and the depth of the characters. There's also a BBC series (and a scrumptious Ross Poldark!) that I'm now dying to see after blowing through the first four of the twelve series books. I've already bought the fifth - the ebooks are quite reasonably priced (unlike some other series I've read lately, *cough* Georgette Heyer's Regency Romances *cough*) -- and hope to get through them all (meaning: I hope the series stays strong throughout so I don't tire of it.) I'd not believed that a man could write such convincing romance until I started reading the Poldark Saga, and the prose is still highly readable and enjoyable, given that the first book was published in 1975.
10. Snipers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
"The Carnival Sniper-as famous as Jack The Ripper. And like Jack The Ripper, never caught, his identity lost to history. In 1913, the Carnival Sniper terrorized Vienna, murdering the famous and not-so-famous alike."
The description doesn't really do the story justice. Snipers is an alternate history mystery that takes place in pre-war Vienna, with plenty of action and some surprising twists and turns that keep the reader guessing right up to the end. It's exactly my thing, and I've seldom read an alternate history that I've enjoyed this much.