Tuesday, 1 January 2019

What I read last year

The year 2018 was a fairly good reading year for me, quality-wiseat least the books I finished. Quantity-wise, it could’ve been better, even though I reached my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of fifty-five books. What slowed me down was that I seemed to pick more than usual number of books that I couldn’t finish for one reason or another. They were mainly books that I picked for free and then found boring. When there are social media and streaming network services that the books have to compete with, a book has to be above ordinary to hold my interest. I started a number of romantic books, for example, where after the first four or five chapters I was heartily bored with the couple for whose happily ever after I was supposed to root. That’s something I need to learn from for my own romantic books.

The reading list that I’d composed in the beginning of the year had fifty-six books, of which I managed to read twenty-one. That means more than half of the books I read came from outside the list, including the books that I couldn’t finish. Most of my reading was urban fantasy, with twenty-three books, and two of the three young adult books could be listed under urban fantasy too. Fantasy was a good second, with eleven books, then sci-fi with seven, historical romance with six, and contemporary romance with four. I only read one mystery last year, but some of the urban fantasies I read, especially Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books, are mysteries too.

I tried to write a review of every book I read on Goodreads, however short. I gave seven books full five stars. Most books I gave four or three stars, but none less than that, likely because I didn’t finish reading the books that would’ve deserved a poor rating.

The best book I read last year was White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock. It’s a young adult book about Peter, a highly intelligent boy with sever anxiety and other issues that are described and handled wonderfully. His mother is kidnapped which leads to events that force him to question his entire life. It’s a mystery that lives up to its slogan, and its US title, ‘this story is a lie’. It kept me guessing to the end, and I’m still not sure readers were given the truth in the end. I highly recommend it to everyone, not just people who generally read YA books. Read my review here.

Two books by Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest and The Cruel Prince both got five stars from me too. They are very similar stories of human teenagers interacting with the fae, so much so, that the first book reads like a rehearsal version of the latter. The first is set in the ‘real’ world and features siblings of a very dysfunctional family that live in a town with connection to the fae. It would’ve been an excellent YA story even without the fantasy element, with the way the protagonist is forced to take stock of her childhood that she’s mostly supressed. Read my review here. The Cruel Prince is set in fairyland, and the protagonist, Jude, is a human with a fae father, who’s kidnapped to the fairyland with her siblings and is forced to cope among the cruel fae. She is highly ambitious, and she doesn’t let anything come to her way, which makes her slightly unlikeable character that you end up rooting for despite. Read my review here. The next book in the series, The Wicked King, comes out this month, and I’ll be definitely reading it.

The Archived and The Unbound by Victoria Schwab are other examples of excellent young adult urban fantasy that I read the past year. Mac is a teenager whose job it is to fetch the ghosts of the dead that have somehow managed to escape the library they’re kept in. In her ‘real’ life, she has to cope with a death of a sibling that has pretty much destroyed her family. The strength of the two books lies in Mac’s growth story, as she comes to terms with her loss. Read my reviews here and here.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman returns the readers to the world of His Dark Materials series, and does it wonderfully. I had my doubts that a book without Lyra could be interesting, but I was wrong. Malcom was a wonderful protagonist, and the story held my interest from the beginning to the end. I’d link to my review, but it’s very short and repeats pretty much what I said here.

The last five star book on my reading list is Planetfall by Emma Newman. It too featured a protagonist with a broken mind, and the gradual revelation of the depth of her illness was brilliantly done. The setting, a remote planet with its firstpresumablyhuman colony was interesting, but in the end the story was more about Renata. The ending wasn’t really to my liking, but the book was so good, I could overlook it. Read my review here.

There were a couple of new acquaintances on my reading list. Kate Locke with her Immortal Empire steampunk trilogy was a great find. I read a few Tessa Dare’s historical romances, which were a hit and miss with me, and I didn’t finish all the books that I started. Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season was a good book, but I couldn’t get behind the second book in the Bone Season series, and so didn’t continue with it. The Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho was a delightful first book in a series, a mix between Georgette Heyer’s Regency romance style and fantasy. The second book in the series comes out this year, and I’ll definitely read it.

The rest of my list pretty much comprised of my favourite authors and the latest instalments of their series, none of which disappointed. They’ll remain my stables this year too. The new list has sixty-six books, and I hope to read most of them this year. I’ll let you know how that goes. Stay tuned.

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