I undertook something of a reading challenge this year, though I didn’t attack it as strongly as I could have. This was a category checklist provided by a Habitica (HabitRPG) challenge, and frankly, some of the genres just didn’t interest me. Which defeats the point of the challenge, I know, but my main goal was just to expand my reading horizons a bit and maybe pick up something that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I didn’t want to get frustrated over it and just took it casually. I think next year I’ll just go with trying to read a certain number of books before 2016 (!) is over and post about each book as I complete it, but for now, here’s a recap of what I read in 2015, complete with reactions.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Full Series)
I finally read the full HGTTG series. This is a cornerstone of scifi so it’s been on my To Do list for a long time, and I finally got my hands on a really thick book that was all five books in the series rolled into one. The series was very much something that slowly rolled downhill for me. I loved the first book, really liked the second, kind of liked the third, and really disliked the fourth and fifth. There were moments in each of the last three that I loved, little sparks that had the spirit of the original, but they just didn’t measure up. I was bored and slogging through those last three for the most part. They’re important scifi books, so I’m glad to have them under my belt, and I could appreciate the imagination that went into the world building of this series. So many different worlds with their own histories… all so wonderful! Also, Agrajag was amazing on his own. Totally worth all that plowing.
The All Souls Trilogy: A Discovery of Witches / Shadow of Night / The Book of Life
I had received a copy of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness as a birthday gift a few years back. I didn’t get to it until around April this year. Didn’t expect to like this book. Had a romance between a witch and a vampire as the focus, and my feelings on romance books are lukewarm at best. But I ended up loving this book so much, I went out and picked up the next two books in the series and polished them off within a week. The romance was the center of the plot, but the characters were far deeper than I expected, and there were strong elements of history and science woven into the narrative and the world building. I ended up being fascinated by the alchemy references and how Harkness tied it to her rules of magic within the universe of the books. Also, her vampires are genuinely dangerous with an emphasis on predatory, not cuddly fluff-nuggets that make “ideal” romantic partners and glamorize immortality. Definitely a plus.
Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman. You can’t go wrong, right? And yet…
This was a really fun book, and I enjoyed it for the most part, though for some reason, I couldn’t love it. The pacing just felt a bit slow, then a bit fast, then slow again, and the climax was jarring to me. I liked the book, certainly, and many parts made me smile while reading, but I didn’t love it for whatever reason. I guess it was just one of those books for me. We all have them. This turned out to be one of mine.
The Relic Master Series: The Dark City / The Lost Heiress / The Hidden Coronet / The Margrave
Once upon a time, I went to my local library, picked up a book called The Oracle Betrayed by Catherine Fisher, and absolutely fell in love with it. Went back to the library for the sequel, only to discover they did not carry it, and neither did any of the neighboring libraries. For some reason, I have never obtained a copy on my own, and I have been in suspense for years.
I don’t know why I’ve done that to myself. I should change that.
But anyway, since that book was missing, I picked up The Dark City by Fisher since the library clearly had all of the book in this series in stock. Gave it a read, and ended up really enjoying it. Made a point of checking out the other three books before someone else could snap them up.
These were fast, easy reads. The series is a blend of science fiction and fantasy (science fantasy, I guess you’d say) and while they’re not perfect, they had several strong characters and an engaging plot that I really enjoyed. The plot set up in The Lost Heiress probably could’ve been done away with since it didn’t really go anywhere in the end and I wasn’t thrilled with the conclusion of The Margrave but I’m still glad I read these books. They were interesting and it was very clear that Fisher had built up a huge amount of lore around this world and given it a solid basis to rest on. Worth a read if you’re looking for something light and easy.
The Bone Clocks
I picked this book up at the Brooklyn Book Festival last year. Ever since seeing the movie Cloud Atlas I’ve wanted to read the book, and since this was by the same author, I figured it would be an all right place to start.
The writing is absolutely beautiful, and there’s an incredibly strong voice for each of the narrating characters. I could get behind the core concept of the book, but the problem was, for the first 3/5 of the book, I had no idea what the book was actually about. It seemed that every time the plot showed up, the narrating character would either die or be made to forget what was going on. Then I would have to start all over again with a different character as they were slowly, very slowly introduced to the supernatural forces at work in the background before being yanked into action, then made to forget about everything. It got irritating very fast and by the time I got to the climax, it didn’t feel like a climax. It felt like something slapped into the book from another book entirely.
I learned after finishing the book that this is part of a series following a character named Marinus, so maybe my problem was that I came in at what felt like the end of the story, but I still wasn’t too thrilled with the plot of this book by itself. It was so hard to get into, and every time I did, it was like a timer went ding! and I had to shift to a new character before anything REALLY happened.
Liked the movie. Thought I’d give the book a shot before seeing the second movie. I think I liked the book better than the movie. I have to say “think” because all of the suspense had been drained away by the fact that I knew what was going to happen, but I do know that the characters were deeper in the book and there were a few things that made me say, “This should’ve been in the movie. It’s so much better this way.” I wasn’t terribly enthralled with the book, though, so I don’t think I’m going to finish the series. I didn’t like the Insurgent movie, either. It felt fragmented and was a bit goofy in my eyes.
Right. So. Another cardinal sin of mine is having not read this book prior to this year. I started it back in the summer of 2009, but I put it down when I went to college. Never picked it up again until October of this year. And I have been struggling. It may be because I am rereading a book that I wasn’t really into before, but honestly, it feels a little dated. The language itself is fine, not like those books that pepper in old-timey jargon that just breaks the world in half every time you see it, but the characters feel too archetypal for me to actually get into any of them, and I don’t like how often the writing slips between perspectives. It’s sometimes nice to see two different characters’ takes on a situation, but in a lot of cases, things are spelled out so explicitly it starts to get a little awkward to read. I also just generally don’t like writing that slips between perspectives without some sort of break in between. Some of the transitions work perfectly fine and the book flows with the changes, but others are so abrupt as to be awkward. It’s making it difficult to get through, and I’m not sure I’ll actually have Dune finished by 2016.
Final book tally for 2015: 16
I thought I’d read more than that… I think some editing projects made the tally seem higher, but I’m not counting those here. For 2016, I’d like to try to read even more. We’ll see how that goes.
Goal for 2016: 20