On My Bookshelf: My 2015 Reads

Cozystyle 2015 Books I Read Image

Happy 2016!  I can hardly believe we’ve started a new year, much less that it’s almost the middle of January.  It’s been awhile since I posted, so I wanted to pop in and also share that I will be posting on a regular basis going forward.  I have tons of things to share, but I thought I’d start the year off by posting about what I read in 2015.

So, last year I set a goal (Goodreads challenge) of reading 25 books, basically the same goal I’ve set the past few years.  But, I really wanted to focus on good books – books I really enjoyed and wasn’t feeling like I had to slog through.

During the holidays (2014) we watched The Red Tent on tv.  I’d had the book on my bookshelf for years, literally, and had never read it.  I’m so grateful that the mini series reminded me that this book had sat for far too long unread and I decided to pick up the book and start it on January 1st.  A friend was going to read along as well so that we could discuss the book.  The book is The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  I loved this book. I loved Dinah’s “voice”. I loved the small details like the Taweret pitcher Benia gives her, the lapis ring of Rachel’s, the widemouthed frog idol, etc. Overall I loved the pivotal role that the community of women plays – sharing, teaching, loving, comforting, grieving with each other.  This book left me with a similar feeling as from The Mists of Avalon or The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I highly highly recommend it.

The next book I read was the complete opposite end of the spectrum – Fifty Shades of Grey.  This was actually a re-read for me.  I wanted to read it again before seeing the movie on Valentine’s Day.  I enjoyed visiting Christian Grey again and if you’d like to check out my previous post on this series, you can find that here.  As for the movie, I’m glad I went to see it and thought it was well done.  My only comment is that I wanted Christian to have a little more…something.  More fire to him?  I only re-read the first book, I imagine I would re-read the others if/when movies are released.

Next up I decided to pick up Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  I was gifted this book in December and after reading Attachments, I was really anxious to read Fangirl.  I loved this book.  I loved that it was about writing fan fiction, particularly since I’d just finished reading Fifty Shades (originally fan fiction) and I’d spent a good amount of time immersed in the world of reading fan fiction.  I can’t say enough good things about her books, her characters, and specifically in this one her stories within a story. I really enjoy Rowell’s writing and will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.

After Fangirl, I moved on to a book that Eric had picked up on one of our trips and enjoyed so he recommended it to me, particularly since it had to do with art and archaeology.  He was right, I did enjoy it.  This book is actually part of a series and I haven’t read the other books in the series, but I think this book can stand on its own.   I didn’t feel I was missing anything from not having read the others.  I enjoyed this book and following the story from the Vatican to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and all the twisting turns in between.  Coincidentally, at the same time I was reading this book we were watching a show called Dig that was excellent and had a lot to do with some of the same subject matter and focused on the Temple Mount.  If you missed the show when it was on, I highly recommend it.  Anyway, I will probably read more books by Silva in the future, likely circling around to read the other books in this series.

Next up I read Sublime by Christina Lauren.  I have read several other books from them (the Beautiful series and Sweet Filthy Boy, the first book in their Wild Seasons series), in the adult romance genre and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I was anxious to see how their first YA book was.  Sublime is a beautifully haunting and romantic ghost story, and it did not disappoint!

Sublime

After finishing Sublime, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to read.  I dug around on my shelves and came across the last book that my friend Missy had loaned me/recommended.  So far from her I’d read a couple of the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse series, the Stacia Kane Downside Ghosts series (my post on those here), and Stacia Kane’s Megan Chase series (no post yet – coming soon!).  I’d put off reading Kushiel’s Dart because it was the lengthiest of the stack.  But, I decided I was ready for something a bit more substantial.  I ended up picking this book up, reading it for awhile, and then setting it aside.  Mostly it was because I was not getting much time to read and this book was involved enough that it did not lend itself to reading it in 5 minute increments.  So, I set it aside for a couple other ebooks that I’ll get to in a minute.  I took a trip to Michigan mid-November and had a flight and a LOT of time in the airport at both ends, which for most folks would be annoying but I was thrilled.  It felt so decadent to do nothing but sit and read for hours.  And because of my long reading stint, I was able to really sink my teeth into the book and really enjoyed it.  Never was I bored with it, never was I uninterested, but the intricacies of the plot, characters, and intrigue required a fair bit of focus which I did not have in great supply. Even after setting it aside for days or weeks at a time though, I never lost the thread of the story. Carey’s debut novel is impressive, and detailed, and shockingly not on every best seller list. I am sure that this book has been passed over by readers due to Phedre being not only a courtesan, but more predominantly an anguisette (deriving pleasure from pain). I think that’s what makes her a much more complex character and understanding her nature is exactly what makes her memorable. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series, and I am sure it will not disappoint.  If you like Game of Thrones, I think you would enjoy this book.

Ok, so I mentioned that I set Kushiel’s Dart aside at a couple of points to read some ebooks.  One was a free ebook called Club Shadowlands.  Meh.  The other was Iced by Karen Marie Moning.  You may have read my post on the Fever series (here if you haven’t), and Iced is a spin off of that series.  Same world, but you are now following Dani O’Malley rather than Mac.  I didn’t love Dani as a character previously, so I honestly never had any interest in reading Iced.  But, the quickest way to get me to read a spin off focused on a character I’m not that into?  Tell me that there’s a new book featuring Mac and Barrons that this one leads into.  KMM surprised me with this book.  It was an enjoyable read and Dani didn’t bug the crap out of me like I thought she was going to.  I feel like I understand her a bit better having been in her head now.  I’m also very curious to see where KMM is going to go with Dani’s character.  She’s far too young for her possible suitors to become anything at this point, but I feel like that’s where we’re headed.  So…maybe she’ll go through some sort of time shift and age several years miraculously?  Who knows, but it was enough to keep my attention anyway.  So, I’d recommend reading Iced…particularly if you want to get to Burned.  *evil grin*

Iced

The last book I read in 2015 was A Discovery of Witches.  I’d had this one on my to be read list for awhile and sitting on my bookshelf for far too long.  I was immediately hooked by “the combination of magic and history” as a friend put it.  As an Art History major, I found Diana’s studies about alchemy and ancient texts (which crosses over into the art history realm) fascinating.  As Diana struggled to learn more about her own history and explore her powers, I found that it was echoing a similar process I’ve been going through (not magical, obviously!) with finding and reacquainting myself with my authentic self.  I cannot wait to read the next book in this trilogy!  This one was another I would highly recommend.

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So, that’s my 2015 year in reading and I’ve got a fun plan for my 2016 reads that I’ll share soon.  Happy reading!

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Fifty Shades of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

 

Betwixt and between reading Game of Thrones, I read the Fifty Shades series.  Again.  It’s the first time I’ve read them in their published form, I previously read them in their original form as, you guessed it, Twilight Fan Fiction.  While the story is good, entertaining, and full of lemons (those steamy scenes), I was kind of surprised to see it published and getting so much attention.

So, let me back up and look at this from a couple different angles.  I don’t typically read Fan Fiction, but I got completely addicted to Twi fanfic a few years ago (don’t judge).  So, that’s where I originally read Fifty Shades (originally Master of the Universe).  And while it’s completely enjoyable, and one of the better fics I read, it wasn’t remarkable.  Now, I’m not bashing it, just saying that it wasn’t so far superior that I could have foretold it would be published and catch on like it has.  And one of the things that ended my illicit love affair with Twific was that so many authors were 1) using this as a way to “try out” their work before pulling their fic off the site with the intention of publishing it and 2) the drama-llama goings on with authors getting their panties in a twist and pulling their fics.  More than once I was left hanging when I was in the middle of reading something and it got pulled.  Fine.  I’m done.

But, now let’s look at this from another angle.  Why, once published, has it caught on the way it has?  Is it because there are hordes of Twific fans that are showing their support?  Is it because it falls in the romance/erotica category and therefore has a ready-made readership?  Is it because it allows so many women to read about something they feel is “naughty” and show how “edgy” they are by reading about some light BDSM?  Is it because everyone is reading it, so you have to too?  Or is it just because it’s a good story?

Couldn’t tell you what the answer is.  But, I can only say what I’ve observed.  At the beginning of this widespread read-along, there were a lot of facebook posts and blog posts and such where women were fanning themselves and winking conspiratorially at each other and hinting around at how glad their husbands were that they were reading Fifty.  And while I think it’s great that suddenly it became “mainstream” to be reading smut, I was a little surprised at the turn of events that occurred next.  Suddenly those same women that had been fanning themselves and congratulating their own inner goddesses were turning snarky and critical over the books.  Suddenly it’s all “no one has sex like that” or “no one has that many orgasms” or whatever other complaints.

But really, whatever happened to the term “suspension of disbelief” or have we forgotten that pretty much any romance book you pick up is not going to be a reflection of real life?  There’s not a lot of hot billionaires that look like Robert Pattinson running around wanting to get all alpha male on someone (which is a shame, really).  And do they have sex more than they talk through their issues – yes?  But who the fuck cares?  It’s a book.  It’s fun reading about their sexy times. But if you want a good laugh, check out this review (you have to click on the “read spoiler” link – because that’s really the best part).  I think it’s great we can laugh about how bad this is (Showgirls, anyone?) but there’s a difference between admitting that reading this is the equivalent of eating a fluffernutter sandwich and picking it apart because it’s not a reflection of your reality.  Neither is Lord of the Rings.

But, rumor has it that if you really want to read a good book along these same lines, this is the one to read…

I can’t comment on it, because I haven’t read it (yet).

But, here’s what I love about the Fifty Shades books: I love me some Edward and Bella (regardless of what we’re calling them), I love their email exchanges – they are, in my opinion, some of the best parts of the books, I love Elliot’s “laters, baby”, and I love the image of Fifty with his faded jeans on and the top button unbuttoned.

I’m glad I re-read them, and I’m glad that it also made me go back and read a couple other of my favorites in the fanfic world.  And it’s really good escape reading, which I appreciate.  Now back to my book about World War II.

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