2011: The Summary

I could say that it’s taken so long to pull this post together because of the rigorous analysis and detailed research that has gone into it… but that would be a lie.  2011 has probably been the year of procrastination for me.

*

My very favourite books of 2011 (more or less in the order in which I read them)

Links are to my Goodreads reviews (warning – I do tend to descend into fangirl gushing when I fall in love with a book, so don’t expect massively coherent thoughts).  And I will add links to the final two one when I (finally) finish writing up all my 2010 reads.

*

New-to-me authors I’m glad I read this year

  • Stephanie Perkins
  • Antony John
  • Kirsty Eagar
  • Sara Creasy
  • James Anderson
  • Jordan Sonnenblick
  • Kaje Harper
  • Kelly Hunter
  • Sonya Bateman
  • Madeleine E. Robins

*

Author most glommed this year

Unlike last year when I had to check, I knew this one instantly – Kelly Hunter.  I fell in love with her writing in the last quarter of the year and probably read her entire backlist within a month – that would be 11 books.  Now I’m stalking her new releases page.  She’s gotten me back into category romance – something which I would have sworn was impossible a year ago.

*

The statistics

Trend analysis time!  Heh.  I know, I know.  Humour me.


2011 2010 2009 2008
# of books read 144 141 115 155
# published during current year 73 (51%) 77 (55%) 55 (48%) 73 (47%)
# of authors read 91 88 71 88
# of new-to-me authors 26 (29%) 29 (33%) 22 (30%) 27 (30%)
# of library books 24 (17%) 20 (14%) n/a n/a
space space space space space

No major changes in habit there really…  I read (just a bit) more in 2011, the proportion of 2011 v. pre-2011 releases stayed roughly the same as in previous years, with a slight drop in the number of new-to-me authors.  I could do better on the library numbers (I’ve four books checked out as I type this) but, well.

*

And finally… in keeping with tradition – here’s my graphical breakdown of 2011 by month and genre:

Of the 144 books I read in 2011, a lot of them were romance.  And while I was on holiday in December, I wasn’t during October – in fact, I was spending most of my waking hours at work.  I blame that on the Kelly Hunter glom.

Advertisements

Jamie-Love (and Other Links)

I said previously I loved Sarah Rees Brennan‘s tumblr – well, this post* made me crack up.  She has a crazy sense of humour.  I cannot wait for her new releases this year.

*Unfortunately, it only works if you’ve read her Demon books.  Which if you haven’t, you really should.  Because I adore them.

***********

I posted previously about enjoying the free Lightspeed & Fantasy Magazine short stories online – they’re also offering (paid) subscriptions that will allow you to get a monthly issue on your ereader, with a exclusive subscribers-only novella.  Here’s a free sampler as a taster.  I haven’t gotten around to reading this yet, but I’m tempted.

***********

Lois McMaster Bujold‘s released PROTO ZOA, an e-collection of her early short stories – I don’t think I’ve read any of them previously, so yay!   And I came across this Catherine Asaro novella on Amazon UK – it’s called THE CITY OF CRIES and is part of her Skolian Empire series apparently.  I can’t find much information on it, apart from that it’s also available in this hardback AURORA IN FOUR VOICES, which I kind of want, but it’s $30 for the book AND $30 shipping to the UK?? Sigh.

More Mini-Reviews (with Some Goodreads Rating Thoughts)

Heh – talk about ready-made content.  Here are the remaining books I read last April and added to Goodreads probably about a “couple” of months later.  Note I am still adding my 2011 reads there (umm… I think I’m up to September now – I mean, I hope I am), so take that timeline with a pinch of salt.

Speaking of Goodreads and the latest author/reviewer kerfuffles (I’m not adding any linkage, but if you’ve managed to miss the fun and want to know, ask!), I’ve been scanning through the numerous posts and commentary.  Just because.  I don’t think anyone’s made any new arguments, but one thing that did strike me was an example cited where an author said something along the lines of “I can’t believe she  wants to “fan” me on Goodreads after only giving my book three stars”.

Bearing in mind that was just ONE author and therefore not representative at all of the author community… it did make me think.  Because (and naming no names), I’m pretty sure there are authors that I “fan” (i.e. follow) there because I tend to love their books – however, let’s face it, not every book is great and if I’ve read quite a few of their books, there are bound to be a good distribution of grades in there.

Here’s my Goodreads rating breakdown by the way – you can see it’s sort of a normal distribution, skewed towards the positive:

Do authors get upset if they see books rated “only” three stars by readers who call themselves fans?  I “fan” authors (off-topic, but ugh, I hate that phrase) because I want to see their new releases and posts on Goodreads, and either I’m too lazy to add their blog to my blog reader or they don’t have one.   Maybe it’s more terminology than anything else, and with Goodreads classifying you as a fan if you want to follow an author’s updates, using that function carries slightly different connotations to what I’m using it for.

And also, three stars is actually a good rating – it’s “I liked it” in Goodreads-speak, as opposed to “It was ok” (2 stars) or “I didn’t like it” (1 star).

So did I have a point to this?  Uh, not really.  Only that I may think twice about listing myself as an author’s fan, especially if I’m not going to be one of thousands.  Maybe.

If you’ve read this far, well, on to the rest of my April reads – and hmm… this is possibly the more negative half.  As before, copied over from my Goodreads shelves, with some additional comments in italics.

***********

The Chase (Fast Track, #4)The Chase by Erin McCarthy (contemporary romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve liked previous books in this series, but this one was a bit of a disappointment. The plot was ever-so-slightly OTT and I never really believed in the characters’ motivations. And okay, I never quite came to like Kendall herself.

I loved the first three books in this series, but the more recent ones have missed the mark somewhat.  I’m still going to be getting the next book in this series – whether I then continue really depends on how much I like it!

***********

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4)City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (YA urban fantasy)

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Well. This sort of read like fanfiction for the original trilogy.

The expanded version (because this sounds as though I’m disparaging fanfiction, and I’m not – I love good fanfic, operative word being good) is that well, I didn’t quite see the point of this book.  It wasn’t a new story – instead it took the original trilogy and sort of negated that story arc.  And the characters stagnated.  Does that make any sense?  

***********

Misfits (Adventures in the Liaden Universe, #15)Misfits by Sharon Lee (SF)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am loving the fact that Sharon Lee & Steve Miller are releasing their Liaden Universe chapbooks in ebook format.

This one was another great “fill-in-the-gaps”-type short story – we get to see Miri from another person’s perspective, and it had a totally satisfying ending.

Oh yes, I continued my Liaden short story glom.  Can you tell I was thrilled to be able to read their backlist in e-format?

***********

Eidolon (Adventures in the Liaden Universe, Volume14)Eidolon by Sharon Lee (SF)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just because “Shadow Partner” fills in the backstory for “A Day at the Races” (in Two Tales of Korval) so perfectly…

I really liked this one – it had my favourite Liaden characters in it, and as I said, it took a previous short story and just added so much more depth and colour to it. 

***********

Alien in the Family (Katherine Alien in the Family by Gini Koch (SF romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

And this book, unfortunately, is where I draw a line under this series.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s still fun, but in the end, there were too many things that niggled me about the book to get into it and continue with the series.

It felt as though there were too many plotlines, combined with some slightly-off pacing and plotting – the big action finale takes place around three-quarters into the book, with the last quarter focusing on Kitty/Jeff’s wedding… which had zero conflict or tension.

Also, trying to keep the character names straight drove me mad – for instance, Kitty would think of someone as Reader, but call him James. There were more than enough characters already – having different names for each person made it even more difficult to remember who was who.

And finally, this came across as a bit of a throwaway comment in the book, but really pulled me out of the story and was possibly the tipping point in my decision to finish with this series: [spoiler – highlight to read] Kitty gets changed into a sexy outfit, the other character essentially tells her to get a cover-up and then they have this exchange:

He took my shoulders and turned me around. “God, it’s as bad from the back. Really, go put on some clothes.”

“I don’t have a wrap, okay?”

“Find one. Before I rape you.” He gave me a gentle push toward the bedroom.

??!!!!

Fair enough – there had been some romantic tension between these two previously and this was meant as a joke, but seriously?? I thought we had moved on from rape being a female’s fault for dressing “inappropriately” – even as a joke. Aarrghh. However it was meant, I have to say this episode yanked me out of the story and had me fuming a little. I would have said I don’t normally get on my high horse about books having to have the RIGHT message, but really.

[end spoiler] I just don’t have enough invested in either the characters or the story to continue reading this series.

Oooh, I had a bit of a rant here – it was my feminist side getting up on a soapbox.  But I’m not continuing with this series – my non-enjoyment was starting to outweigh my enjoyment.

***********

An Unlikely Countess (Malloren #11)An Unlikely Countess by Jo Beverley (historical romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Slightly mixed feelings on this book, not one of the stronger Malloren books, IMO.

What I didn’t like first – and these are very much YMMV* things: One of the plotlines I’m not particularly keen on is when characters purposely mislead others, and this formed one of the bigger conflicts in this book. Secondly, Jo Beverley has always excelled in historical detail, which is why I love reading her books, but this book was possibly too realistic in parts – and with her spelling out the chasm between local gentry and the aristocracy, I sometimes felt the obstacles to a forever kind of HEA were too much. Prudence didn’t come across as having the strength/character to eventually grow into the role demanded of Cate’s countess. And I found the eventual villain and explanation slightly over-melodramatic.

Having said all that, I liked Prudence and Cate’s relationship – their initial attraction to each other and subsequent romance felt very organic and real. And I was fascinated by the feudal nature of the Yorkshire society and the non-London settings – most historicals are set in London society so this was a refreshing change.

So yes, a good read, but not a keeper for me.

*YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary

Jo Beverley has written some books which were keepers for me, but her recent ones have been more solid reads – still good, but lacking that spark that elevates them to magic reads.  Her new release is coming out soon-ish, IIRC – I’ll be getting it but possibly not rushing out to buy.

***********

Outcast MineOutcast Mine by Jamie Craig (SF m/m romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Very much a case of it’s not you, it’s me.

Alien sex just doesn’t do it for me – however, great premise and good writing. I’d read more by Jamie Craig, I’ll just steer well clear of anything with a hint of aliens.

Ummm… yeah.  My review says it all.  I did like the SF setting, but it was too… out there for me.  Hey, I tried.

***********

Paris A to Z (Coda Books, #6)Paris A to Z by Marie Sexton (contemporary m/m romance)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m probably in the minority here, but this book didn’t really work for me. Maybe because it’s been a while since I’ve read the previous books, but I kept on losing track of who was who. It felt a bit like because the author knew her characters so well* that there was a lot of assumed knowledge which didn’t necessarily translate well to someone not as fully invested in the world she had created.

*And to be fair, it’s book 6? I have read the previous books, I swear.

I know a lot of people loved this.  It just didn’t work for me.

***********

The Mask of Night (Charles & Mélanie Fraser #4)The Mask of Night by Tracy Grant (historical mystery)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It has been quite a while waiting for this book, and it was a pleasure to sink back into Tracy Grant’s complex world of Regency intrigue.

I love how things were not always what they appear to be at first glance, and how Ms Grant peels away the layers of the various relationships in this book, each reveal providing a fresh take on things. Melanie and Charles’ relationship remains rather complicated – the revelations in the previous books have put their marriage at risk, but they are both determined to work at it and learning to trust each other again. Painful, but potentially so rewarding.

I will say the sheer number of characters and the rather intricate political plotting lost me at times – possibly not helped by it being years since I’ve read the previous two books. But I have the latest book, Vienna Waltz, in my TBR pile, and am looking forward to reading more in Ms Grant’s world.

I’ve been meaning to start VIENNA WALTZ for ages now – it’s been sitting on my Kindle for months and I still haven’t opened it.  I think it’s because Tracy Grant’s books require a level of mental concentration to really get the plot – one that has been sadly lacking on my part for a while…

Some Mini-Reviews

Some of my Goodreads posts from last April – I was going to title this “April Reads Part 1” and then got a bit embarrassed that it would be eight months late.

I’m going to be reposting my Goodreads reviews here by the way, because I find it more convenient if they’re on my blog – so sorry for the dupes for those of you who follow me on Goodreads!

They’re pretty much word-for-word identical, though I have added some commentary (in italics) around reading order and context.  Uh, that sounds grander than what I actually mean.

***********

Raw BlueRaw Blue by Kirsty Eagar (young adult)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this because of Angie’s review, which made me hunt down the ebook version immediately.

Well, raw is right. RAW BLUE is hard-hitting, yet full of the uncertainty and the “growing-up” that I love about YA books.

The Aussie voice is wonderfully authentic and so different from the other books out there that it immediately felt refreshing while doing the trick of immersing me in Carly’s world on the other side of the planet.

And surfing – where do I start? I’ve never surfed ever in my life, and I admit I have no more than a passing interest (if that) in the sport, and yet it didn’t matter at all. Carly lives and breathes the surfing culture, therefore I did as well.

RAW BLUE ends with Carly trusting in herself, independent, and willing to grow up – and if she still has some open issues to work through with her family and friends, you close the book with the feeling that she’s ready to do so.

There’s a bit of an Aussie YA moment in the spotlight, and I think that’s because they have genuinely different voices to the rest of the YA books out there. 

***********

Touched by an Alien (Katherine Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch (SF romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the quirkiness and humour in this book, but Kitty, the heroine, was just that little bit too clever and, well, perfect. There was more SF and world-building than I expected (never judge a book by its cover?), although arguably the characters spent a lot of time explaining and theorising.

For me, this was *almost* a good ‘un, but never quite made it onto my list of 2011 favourites. The ending, however, totally worked and I definitely want to read the sequel.

Which I did…

***********

Alien Tango (Katherine Alien Tango by Gini Koch (SF romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the sort of book where you keep on reading because you have to know just how it ends.

It’s addictive reading, but I have to say Kitty, the heroine, veers between being too clever (the only person who figures out what’s happening, really?) and being incredibly dense at times. I found this one somewhat reminiscent of early Mary Janice Davidson‘s Betsy books – plot combined with crazy humour that somehow *works*, and oh, the fact that everyone falls in love with Kitty.

Having said that – see addictive comment above. I still want more.

Famous last words… 

***********

Calamity's ChildCalamity’s Child by Sharon Lee (SF/fantasy)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was surprised by how much I liked these two short stories – the first one, “Sweet Waters”, being about a Liaden scout crash-landing on an isolated world and integrating himself into local culture. Bittersweet but satisfying at the same time – the sort of story begging for a sequel.

The second (non-Liaden) story, “A Night at the Opera”, was something completely different – a fantasy/mystery in a world reminiscent of Caroline Stevermer or Patricia Wrede turn-of-the-century fantasy novels, with sly references to Nick & Nora Charles. A one-off story from what I gather, but I certainly wouldn’t mind reading more stories set in this world.

This was when Sharon Lee and Steve Miller was releasing their short story backlist as ebooks and I, well, just bought them all.

***********

Halfling Moon (Adventures in The Liaden Universe Number 16)Halfling Moon by Sharon Lee (SF)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two short stories that fill in a couple of gaps in the Liaden universe post-I Dare – definitely worth reading for Liaden fans.

I liked the first story especially, as it focused on the characters who have been off-stage in the latter books as well as giving a glimpse of the next generation of the Korval clan.

I don’t think I reviewed all the Liaden shorts on Goodreads – only the ones that left a bit of impact.

***********

Juggling Briefcase and BabyJuggling Briefcase and Baby by Jessica Hart (contemporary romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I posted the original review on my blog.  One of the rare few this last year.

***********

Song of Scarabaeus (Scarabaeus, #1)Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy (SF)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started reading SONG OF SCARABAEUS trying to keep my extremely high expectations in check (because everyone appears to have really loved this book) but I’m glad to say this book totally met my expectations and more.

SONG is very much a romance, but also an excellent SF story at the same time. Sara Creasy has built an inventive, yet accessible world – I was initially worried the jargon would be hard to grasp, yet I sank easily into her world right from the start.

The story is written deep in Edie’s perspective, and her backstory is slowly unveiled. I loved how she developed, growing stronger and more independent, over the course of the book. And Finn mmm… well, he just grew on me.

The writing was spot-on – there were some beautiful sentences that really struck me, as well as some genuinely horrifying images towards the end, and the story held my attention from beginning to end.

There was an almost-cliffhanger ending, which for once, I didn’t care about as I get to pick up Children of Scarabaeus straightaway.

I will say – the book title? SONG OF SCARABAEUS totally makes sense *after* having read the book, but it didn’t really do anything to draw me to the book and I still find it difficult to spell Scarabaeus!

***********

Children of Scarabaeus (Scarabaeus, #2)Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy (SF)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought the first book, Song of Scarabaeus, was good – well, CHILDREN OF SCARABAEUS was even more satisfying.

I may have mentioned previously that I love reading books that focus on the same set of characters over time because we get to see them grow, and CHILDREN just proved that to be true. Both Edie and Finn have matured since SONG; Edie, especially, is so much stronger in this book, which in turn meant I could really believe in Edie and Finn’s relationship and HEA. As with SONG, the world-building had depth and I found myself sinking back easily into Sara Creasy’s universe, this time with the added benefit of knowing and caring about the characters from the start – learning more about Finn’s background in particular was a bonus.

The plot reveal caught me by surprise – I probably should have guessed, but didn’t. And there was possibly a slight tinge of deus ex machina towards the end to wrap things up, but I didn’t really care by that point.

A very excellent duology – easily one of my favourites of the year – and I look forward to seeing what Sara Creasy writes next.

I devoured these two books – I am impatiently waiting for Sara Creasy to announce her next project.

***********

Oh-So-Sensible Secretary (Harlequin Romance)Oh-So-Sensible Secretary by Jessica Hart (contemporary romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really liked the heroine’s first person POV in this book – I found it fresh and engaging, more please!

What I didn’t care that much for was the well-used plot – the heroine pretending to be in love to get her ex back and then falling in love with the hero. Having said that, it was done well. And as a bonus (as I managed to read the sequel Juggling Briefcase & Baby first), I loved Lex’s sardonic cameos in this book.

Good read.

I picked this up after loving the previous Jessica Hart – I think 2011 was the year I started getting back into category romance.

Books for January

Or maybe book.  I’m not sure why, but January tends to be a really slow month for new releases that interest me.

So there’s only one book this month that I’m thinking of getting (and note the thinking, because previous books in this series have been a bit hit-or-miss for me:

Julie Hyzy‘s AFFAIRS OF STEAK (cosy mystery): I love the White House setting of this series, but the characters sometimes grate on my nerves.  I’ll still probably get a copy when this books comes out though.

Blurb:

White House chef Olivia Paras and her arch nemesis, White House Sensitivity Director Peter Everett Sargeant, must work together to solve the double murder of one of the First Lady’s assistants and the Chief of Staff-before they become the next victims of a merciless assassin with a secret agenda.
Out Jan 3
*
And yeah – that’s it.  However, I’ve recently discovered Fantasy (and now Lightspeed Science Fiction & Fantasy) online magazine – I’m enjoying browsing their free stories.  The Naomi Novik one (“Vici”) was previously published in THE DRAGON BOOK anthology and I’ve read it already, but it was a lovely funny re-read.  And there’s a Seanan McGuire contribution, “Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage”, which combines loving pokes at old-school fantasy adventures with a bit of a haunting twist. And well, lots more which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.