2015 in Books

_2015I’m going to go ahead and write my reading review before the new year this time, because I don’t have the slightest intention of finishing another book before 2016 rolls around. Aren’t you so happy? It’s like an early Christmas present, only it’s an early New Year’s present! That no one actually wants!

By way of shortcut, if you want a straightforward list of books read this year, you can get that here for another couple of weeks, and then here afterward. Or you can check my Goodreads 2015 reckoning if you’d prefer.

Every year I go through and make lists and graphs to analyze my reading, to absolutely no purpose because it’s not as if I ever make adjustments or anything. I read what I like when I like to read it and do my best to feel no shame when that ends up being a long string of vampire-infested romance novels. (Although, I’d argue strenuously that this year’s quasi-embarrassing series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood, might be more accurately described as romance-infested vampire novels.) Then I take those lists and graphs and turn them into a blog post that I’m sure pretty much no one actually enjoys except myself — and they are a highlight of my New Year every time. 🙂

If you’re the rare individual who actually does find this interesting, you can find my previous years-in-books here: 2014, 2013, 2012,2011, and 2010.

I track my books on Goodreads and do their annual reading challenge, in which you just set a goal and try to read that many books. This wasn’t a particularly great year for my reading, and I honestly wouldn’t have met my goal if I hadn’t included a handful of picture books that I read with Henry or on my own in December. This has been a really full-speed-ahead year at work, plus I’ve spent the majority of the year in varying degrees of “pregnant with a two-year-old,” so my stats are down. But since I just do it for the fun of it anyway, I’m not concerned.

This year I set a goal of 75 books and ended up reading 81. That isn’t as great as last year’s even 100, but it isn’t the worst of the past six years I’ve been tracking.

Books_Read_2010-2015_View_2

That comes out to about 25,000 pages this year.

Pages_Read_2010-2015_View_2

As a teacher, I definitely have “seasons”  for reading. I obviously get a lot more read in the summer than in the school year, usually with a spike in December/January due to Christmas break and the really long dark evenings here. I like to track month-to-month reading, again just for the heck of it.

Here’s this year in books, monthly:

Books_Read_in_2015Pages_Read_in_2015
That’s a nice bump in books in December, but not so much pages — lots of picture books. 🙂 As anticipated, my real peak reading took place in July.

And of course, because there’s no such thing as too many graphs, I compared monthly reading for the past six years:

Books_Read_2010-2015Pages_Read_2010-2015

These are kind of interesting to me (although getting harder to read each year — may no longer be a usable format) because I can see not only how each year stacks up to the next, but whether I have a consistent trend in terms of when I’m doing my reading. Why was the late winter of 2011 such a humdinger? What was the difference between the late fall of 2011 vs. 2013? Intriguing.

As previously noted, this year I devoted a lot of pages to J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, which is an interesting beast. I absolutely despise the titles and covers of these books, to the point where I have on many instances refused to read them in public and do my best to hide my updates on them from my Facebook and Goodreads feed. Why, you might ask? Well, let me allow some pictures to speak for themselves.

covers

At a glance, it’s pretty obvious what these books are about, right? Lover this, lover that, shirtless people necking. What are you reading, Mrs. Baker? Scandalous!

In fact, although there are some pretty detailed steamy scenes in each of these, they really aren’t romance novels at all. They’re urban fantasy action/adventure stories about a group of vampiric soldiers who fight a (somewhat vaguely-explained) ongoing war against bad guy slayers while also battling various psychological or physiological battles in their personal lives. Lots of fight scenes, suspenseful storylines, intrigue, etc.. And in fairness, in each book, one of the vampires falls in love and is saved (literally and/or figuratively) by the object of his affection… so I guess that’s what makes them romance novels, in a blood-drenched Byronic sort of way. They’re fun, fast-paced, and don’t require a lot of emotional or mental investment, which is pretty perfect for me at this stage in my life. So yeah, romance-infested vampire novels, rather than vampire-infested romance novels.

But I mean… seriously. Were these titles and cover art decisions really necessary? Were they Ward’s idea or did she fall victim to a publisher who wanted to market these their way? The titles alone sometimes have only a tangential relationship to the plot — my “favorite” probably being Lover Avenged, in which vengeance played a really minor role in the big scheme of things. And the covers? Again — seriously? Of the sampling above, only Lover Avenged and perhaps Lover Mine (top left and bottom right corners) really reflect the characters within in any way; the others are all anonymous torsos airbrushed to emphasize the HOT SEXINESS of these books while I’m just sitting here, reading about vamp-warriors beating the crap out of bad guys and trying to hide the cover of my paperback. Stupid problems, I know.

I read a fairly unmemorable smattering of fantasy in an attempt to find another series that held my interest as effectively as the Dresden Files. The best of these was the Monster Hunter series by Larry Correia, an author I wrestled with because I find his Sad Puppy associations quite distasteful, but whose books are pure fun for someone who likes the sort of books I like. His Hard Magic series, which was the interesting blend of alt-history urban fantasy, was also a lot of fun. I also finished, with some sadness, Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, which I enjoyed very much and will probably end up re-reading at some point.

I also read some rather good picture books, a couple of decent graphic novels, the slightly-disappointing next installment in Kiera Cass’s Selection series, the really-quite-good Seraphina, and the excellent-as-expected Lock In and The Human Division (AND I got to meet the author!) I also read a couple of good “serious” books, my favorite of which was All the Light We Cannot See by homeboy Anthony Doerr. Oh, and I read the first two volumes in the Game of Thrones series, which I enjoyed, but hadn’t been especially inspired to go on to the next book just yet.

My least favorite books of the year were Halfway to the Grave (just unremarkable), Go Set a Watchman (yep, should not have been published), As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride (which I really wanted to like but just found disappointing), The Unbearable Lightness of Dragons (ditto, but not surprised — I haven’t been able to enjoy these books since the focus shifted away from Aisling Grey), and Loki’s Wolves (for which I had high hopes, but turned out to be a weak Percy Jackson knockoff — and given my mediocre opinion of PJ, that’s saying something).

And my 2015 obscure recommendation for all y’all out there in DYHJ-land?

The Giant Beard that Was Evil

I really got a kick out of this graphic novel. It’s unlike anything I’d ever read before. Thought-provoking, aesthetically intriguing, and readable on multiple levels — like, I’ve had sixth graders check it out and find it fun and silly, and I’ve also imagined a unit where I use it with twelfth graders alongside 1984 to discuss dystopia/utopia, societal norms/taboos, and philosophy. It may be a little hard to get your hands on it, as it’s not the cheapest book ever, but it was published in October 2014 so you can still find it on Amazon and in your better libraries (like mine ;)).

Lest I forget, here’s my annual Pie Chart of Genre Happiness:

Genre_Breakdown_2015

 

I categorize books into as many genres as seem appropriate — usually between 1-3 — and see how things break down. Every year, urban fantasy/paranormal romance makes up a good chunk of my reading; it’s just what I like to read for fun, especially in the dark winter months. Picture books honestly make up a bigger chunk than is represented, but I only count them once, and then only if they have something akin to a plot, were worth the trouble to log into Goodreads and mark them down, and if I remember to do it (or am coming up short on my yearly goal and need to bump up my stats). This year was shockingly bad for MG/YA books — I’ve had a hard time getting my mind to focus on “professional reading,” which this is for me, and there haven’t been as many new releases that commanded my attention. Will need to try harder next year. Somehow my label for general/realistic fiction lost its tail; it’s the sagey-green wedge between fantasy and graphic novel.

 

A little attempt to catch up… [part one]

I’m going to focus this post on Impending Baby and then do a second post on H, which will be password protected because lots of pictures and stuff. If you don’t remember my password for H posts, shoot me a text message or leave a comment, and I’ll hook you up.

This has not been a good year for me in terms of blogging. I used to have some creative energy and time to think about my own writing and record-keeping, but for some reason this year at work has never slowed down, not for one minute, and that on top of the whole pregnancy thing has really shoved DYHJ to the extreeeeeeeme back burner. But now it is almost 2016, and I am almost a mother of two, and I’m the only human awake in the house right now, and it is really just inexcusable of me not to at least make some effort to catch up.

SO first and foremost… last time I posted was early SEPTEMBER, and in that post you learned that H is going to have a little brother! As of this past Friday I am 37 weeks along, so we are well within that “any time now” window (although my midwife strongly believes that we’ll go all the way to 40+, same as with H). There are a lot of differences between a first and second pregnancy, it turns out, and most of them make me feel guilty — I haven’t had the luxury to really “commune” with this kiddo in the same way that I did with H, or to really think about him with my full mind and attention. That’s a lot due to having a 2-year-old in the house, and a lot due to being unusually hectic and harried at work, and somewhat to do with not having a long solitary commute this time around.

Anyway, it all really makes me hope that there’s not really anything to theories about psychic mother-fetus connections, and that Baby doesn’t realize he’s being shortchanged in the whole “mama’s attention” thing! Ten years from now when he stumbles on this blog and reads this, I hope he knows how ENORMOUSLY I love him and how excited and anxious I am to see him and hold him, preferably somewhere where he can’t squish my bladder.

Baby is strong and active. He squirms and gets hiccups, although mercifully less often than H, who drove me insane with his near-constant bouts. While H spent a fair amount of time trying to see if he could kick his way out of me via my sides/ribs, Baby assumed the head-down position fairly early on and has been less of a terror on my ribcage. The flip side to that is that he’s taken up more than his fair share of real estate that by rights belongs to my lungs and bladder, so I’ve been like the extremely asthmatic incontinent person for some time.

All in all this pregnancy has been a lot more difficult than H’s, although that said, I know I’m still WAAAAAY down there on the “easy pregnancy” end of the spectrum. My problems with nausea (which were always more of a “hair trigger barf reflex” issue than an actual nausea) persisted well into my third trimester, and the heartburn/indigestion train is on track for a 40-week run. I’ve been a lot more uncomfortable, experienced elevated food/skin sensitivities, and had more trouble with walking and getting up/down than the first time around.  And all through my second trimester I was so tired and weak and sick and just not myself… no appetite… well, it turns out I was pretty badly anemic. So I’ve been on OTC liquid iron supplements and a more iron-rich diet ever since it was diagnosed, and it has helped tremendously. I didn’t fully realize how bad off I was until I addressed it! My appetite returned, as did my personality and my general ability to deal with life… Just in time, of course, to have missed that golden “second trimester window” and to slide straight into “can’t move and have to pee all the time” era, but oh well. 🙂

People have been asking and asking and asking about Baby’s actual name. Somehow they don’t believe us when we tell them that H’s little brother will be named Gotham, Xerxes, Ozymandias, or any of the other great options we propose. (What do y’all think of Archimedes?) It’s funny but R and I haven’t really talked a whole ton about the name. Early on there was a name that I mentioned as being one that I really loved and somewhat regretted not using the first time around, and it has sort of stuck there in our minds and blocked other names from entering the conversation. I’m not ready to say yes, this is the name, definitely for sure, but we have been playing with middle names that go with it, and haven’t come up with anything we like better. My only real hangup about said name at this point is that it is not at all an uncommon name (I greatly prefer traditional names for boys, it turns out) and combined with our common last name, I’m terrified to Google it and see how many other people (and what kinds of people) would share it with our little Batbaby.

This last month of pregnancy has — well, it hasn’t crept up on me, but I am not ready for it. I feel ready for the delivery and for having my Baby, but I don’t feel ready to have a fourth person living in the house yet. I have one week left of Christmas vacation and am going to spend a considerable portion of it trying to rectify this situation…

Can’t wait to find out what Baby looks like! For a long time there I had this tendency to imagine H Part Two, but then I looked at baby pictures of myself and my little sister, and R and his little sister, and reminded myself that siblings don’t necessarily look very much alike at all. I know that genetic probability doesn’t exactly favor my chances of getting a little redhead, but it is still marginally possible. We can bank on blue eyes (there’s a small statistical possibility of green, but not a good bet) but will he be a dimple-templed little Brokawling like his big brother? Will he have the longer, more angular facial structure his Aunt B was born with? Will he be basically bald like H, or will he have a full head of hair? Will that hair be dark like his daddy’s, blonde like my dad’s (and H’s), or… could it be red like mine, and his Aunt M, and my mom and grammy? Will he be a snuggler? Another independent little cuss? Will he love music and trains and letters and numbers and Muppets like his big brother? Will he be a good eater? A good sleeper? Will he take his sweet time talking, or will he go full speed ahead to try to catch up? What will he weigh? Will he get the Baker eyebrows? The Hoffman eyes? And what will H think of all this anyway?

With any luck, I’ve got 3-4 weeks to wait before I find out. 🙂 I’ll try to do better about posting here in the meantime, or at least, I’ll come back to introduce him. 🙂