January 2021 wrap-up

The first month of the new year is already over, my life is kind of a mess right now, but somehow I completed eight books this month and considering that at least one of them was a proper brick, I’m pretty happy with that. Most of them are, as usual, fantasy, and three were new releases. So let’s get into them!

Continue reading January 2021 wrap-up

End of the Year Survey and Stats – 2020 edition

2020 is somehow over, and here I am trying to wrap up what I read during this very strange year. The questions were inspired by the annual survey over at The Perpetual Page-Turner, but I didn’t answer all of them, so please go check her out if you’re curious about the rest.

SURVEY

Favourite book of the year?
Oh, we start with the hardest one already. I have read a few new favourites, but to reduce it to only one title? I guess I’ll have to start cheating right from the beginning…
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins; The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling; The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky; A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H.G. Parry, just to name a few.

A book you thought you were going to love but didn’t?
Once again, too many answers for just one question. To name just a few, I would say The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson; Gods of Jade and Shadows by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart; The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton.

Most surprising (in a good way) book you read?
Troubles by J.G. Farrell, because I was expecting a pretty heavy historical fiction novel, but I got a story full of interesting characters and humor; Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman, because it was much quieter than I expected but also so much more wholesome; The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas because I didn’t think a YA retelling could grip me that much; and Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, because some of the ideas were truly mind-blowing.

Best series you started, best sequel and best series ender?
So, in an attempt not to repeat myself too much, I’d say the best series starter was Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir; the best sequel was Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch; and the best series ender was without a doubt The Crippled God by Steven Erikson.

Favourite new to me author?
Basically all of the authors who wrote my favourite books of the year? Can’t really narrow it down more than that.

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read or was out of your comfort zone?
I would say Beach Read by Emily Henry. Not only it was a cute romance – which is NOT my genre at all – but it also had some deeper topics and I actually teared up around the end.

Most action packed/thrilling/un-put downable book of the year?
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is a book I read in one sitting, so I’d say it totally counts. I’m sure there were others I couldn’t put down, but nothing comes to mind right now.

Most memorable character you read this year?
Oh, I’m torn on this one as well! How is that even possible? I would say Gideon, from Gideon the Ninth, with her sometimes grating personality but also humor; Murderbot without a doubt, the most relatable non-human I ever read about; and it might sound ridiculous, but David from The Library at Mount Char did make quite an impression on me. Not entirely a positive one, but memorable? Absolutely.

Most beautifully written book?
Is it too cliché to answer with a poetry book? I read Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong and it was really good. But also The Future Is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente, which is one of my favourite authors of all time. Even though I still have to read a lot of her works, she just has a way with words.

Most thought provoking/life changing book?
The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I really enjoyed both books and they sparked reflections afterwards. As well as a desire to read more by the author.

A book you can’t believe you waited until this year to read?
Probably Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. The Lies of Locke Lamora is one of my favourite books of all time, so I can’t believe I waited almost four years before picking up the sequel. Hopefully I don’t leave the third one for as long.

The book that shocked you the most?
Home After Dark by Riley Sager, even though not exactly in a positive way. While the twists were really surprising, the last one was… less than credible, to say the least. I’m still not over the absurdity.

Favourite book you read from an author you’ve read previously?
Probably Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. It took me a couple of years before I finally picked up another of his books after the First Law Trilogy and I wasn’t disappointed. His characters are masterfully realised.

Best book you read in 2020 that you read solely on a recommendation from somebody else?
Driftwood by Marie Brennan. Super-interesting worldbuilding and structure, and I only read it because I saw a random review on Goodreads that talked about it. I was really surprised by how much I liked it.

Best 2020 debut?
Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. Simply beautiful.

Best worldbuildind/most vivid setting?
I think the Malazan series wins this one hands down for best (or most extensive) world-building. But if we are talking about vivid setting, then I would say both volumes in The Singing Hills Cycle by Nghi Vo.

A book that put a smile on your face/was the most fun to read?
Without a doubt, Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall. The banter between the two main characters is absolutely perfect, and the protagonist’s inner monologue is a lot of fun as well.

A book that made you cry (or nearly cry) in 2020?
Well, at this point it’s a bit hard not to start repeating myself. I cried when reading Beach Read, but I also had tears in my eyes (and goosebumps) for the last 200 or so pages of The Crippled God by Steven Erikson. But I think The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu had me tearing up at some point as well…

Hidden gem of the year?
A book that I haven’t heard many people talk about, and that’s The Seventh Perfection by Daniel Polansky. Beautiful writing, vivid setting, and written in a very peculiar style.

Book that crushed your soul?
Wildfire by Carrie Mac, hands down. I was so upset when I finished the book that I kept thinking about it for days after. It messed up my sleep!

Book that made you the most mad (not necessarily something you didn’t like)?
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I though I was going to love this book, but it just made me angry instead. Lots of potential, terrible execution.

STATS

Let’s talk about numbers now!

In 2020 I read 148 books and abandoned 5.
37 of those were 2020 releases, and 112 were backlist titles (of which 9 were re-reads), so all in all about a fourth of my total were new releases and I’m pretty happy about that. There are still a lot I didn’t get to, though.

80 of the books i read were from new-to-me authors, the rest from authors i had already read in the past. Somehow, only 14 of the books I read where debut novels – even though they didn’t necessarily come out this year.
Also, about 59% were by female authors, and I’m not mad about it.

I read in total around 55,5k pages, which translates to an average of 150 pages a day. It’s a lot more than I usually read, and that’s probably because 2020 forced all of us to spend a lot of time locked inside.
The shortest book I read was Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences by Mark Twain at 29 pages, while the longest was Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson, at 1294.
The average length of the books I read is around 370 pages.

As for the ratings, my average rating for this year is 3,59, which is a little less than last year.
I had 19 five star books (15% of the total), 39 four stars (31%), 39 three stars (31%), 8 two stars (6%) a couple of one star and a few ratings in-between.

Of the 148 books I read, 12 were audiobooks, 10 were physical books and 126 were ebooks, so give or take 85% of what I read was on my kindle.

Let’s now have a look at the genres, shall we?

My most read is fantasy, with a whopping 74 novels (49%); horror, mystery and nonfiction follow with 11 books each (7%), then Scifi with 10, historical fiction with 7, and the rest have only a handful of entries each (paranormal, contemporary, poetry, romance, classics and anthologies).

Since most of the books I read are fantasy, there are bound to be series in the mix. So let’s have a look at what I started, finished, or simply made progress with.

If I didn’t miss anything while jotting down my notes, I started (but not completed) exactly 20 new series this year. As if I didn’t already had about a million “in progress”. Some of them I’ll be continuing on, while for some others one book was more than enough for me.
A few of the books I read are supposed to be the first in a series, but since there are no news about the sequel’s release, I’m not going to count them as series for now.

I have completed 9 series. Some of them I had been reading for some time already, a few I started and completed this year. Not too bad, all things considered.

And I also made some progress on 5 other series I’m in the middle of, but without reaching the end.

So that’s it for this year in reading, and if you’re still here after all of those numbers, well, thanks for not falling asleep halfway through I guess. Personally, I can’t wait to do this again next year and see how they compare!
Is there something I forgot to talk about, or anything you think I should add to this list? How was your reading year?

Stay safe, and happy reading!

Books I DNF’d in 2020

I don’t like abandoning books, especially if I spent a good amount of time trying to get through them. The perfectionist in me wants me to complete everything I start, but sometimes it’s just too much.

So here’s the list of books I gave up on this year, and a few reasons why they didn’t work for me.

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer (2019)

I didn’t really have an issue with this one. The story and the characters were somewhat interesting, but after about 15% of it, I just put it down and never felt the urge to pick it up again. I guess I was not in the right mood for it, or maybe it just wasn’t intriguing enough to keep me reading. My bad about this one.

The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2018)

I read the first couple of chapters of this and decided it was not for me. In such a short amount of time, the protagonist had already managed to make a few really stupid decision, and I was not in the mood to follow her after such a shaky beginning. There was a time when I was more understanding of this kind of stuff, but as time passes I realise that I don’t have time to read every single thing that crosses my path, and I have to cut my losses.

Imprison the Sky by A.C. Gaughen (2019)

I hesitated to abandon this one for a very long time, and mostly for one reason: this is the second book in a series of companion novels, and I had enjoyed the first one. But while that one had offered something a bit new, I didn’t really care for the characters of Imprison the Sky and after months of not picking it up I just gave up. It wasn’t even bad really, just not what I wanted.

The Deep by Alma Katsu (2020)

I think I talked about this one in one of my monthly wrap-ups. This was supposed to be a supernatural twist on the sinking of the Titanic, but I read half of it and nothing supernatural had happened yet. It follows two timelines and a great amount of point-of-view characters, none of which was doing anything remotely interesting. It was also extremely unfocused, reading at times like a historical social drama, at times like a psychological mystery, and at least up to the point I got to there was very little that could be defined “supernatural”.
I was bored to tears, but this one has been mostly well received, so don’t take my opinion for sacred.

Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter (2018)

I was in a kick for mystery at some point during the summer, and I thought this one sounded interesting. A married couple goes on a sort of retreat to analyse the husband’s past traumas, but both have kept secrets from each other, and when they start to surface it might destroy them.
I was listening to this one on audio, but I kept getting confused by flashbacks coming out of nowhere. I also didn’t like the protagonist too much, and after a third of the book or so I just gave up. I was curious about what had happened in the past, but maybe the audiobook was not the best way to read this one.

The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James (2020)

Oh boy did I hate this one.
It’s the story of Harriet, who dies and wakes up as a ghost in an abandoned building. The other ghosts are mostly friendly or indifferent to her, and there’s some kind of hierarchy regulating them in the building. My problem was that I despised the protagonist, and the other characters were just walking tropes: the funny one, the apathetic one, the one in love with his best friend, the one who acts cool but is actually shy, etc. As for the protagonist, she was a horrible person and I just couldn’t stand to follow her a moment longer. I think I read about a third of this one before giving up.

Burn Red Skies by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero (2020)

I think this one is an Indie book, as I can’t find information about the publisher anywhere. I’m not even sure about how I came upon this book, but I read about half of it before giving up. There was nothing really wrong about this one, but the world-building was very confusing, some of the scenes didn’t really make sense, and some parts were simply too unrealistic. I also had to keep reminding myself that half of the characters where older than I thought; I kept imagining them as teenagers based on the way they acted and talked, but was reminded from time to time that it was not so by descriptions of wrinkles, grey hair, and simply by people talking about each other’s age.
I believe this could have been a really interesting and original story, but it definitely needed another round of edits to fix some of the problems.

So these are all the books I gave up on for one reason of another this year. Do you DNF books, and if so, is it a permanent decision?
I might consider picking up some of these ones again in the future, so let me know if you think I should give one of them a second chance.

In the meantime, stay safe, and happy reading!