Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Year-End Wrap-Up

My most liked Instagram pics of 2016. From top left: A used bookstore in Jimbocho, Tokyo; a new keyboard; crackers and cheese for the Readathon; The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan; a Sherlock word poster; southwest sunset; moi at the Hollywood Roosevelt; Calypso wants a cookie; and geisha in Kyoto.

The end is nigh... The end of the year, anyway. I know a lot of my internet peeps are happy to see 2016 out, but personally I had a pretty good year. I got to go to Japan (!!!), which was amazing; I published my first cocktail book, The Introvert's Guide to Drinking Alone; and my friends and family are all healthy and happy (insofar as the existential horrors and toil of daily life allows, of course). All told, 2016's probably been one of the better years I've had in awhile.

hakone open air museum
My personal favorite photograph that I took in 2016.

But enough of that, let's talk about something we really care about: books! I did not read many books this year at all (according to Goodreads the count is currently up to 85), but on the plus side there were more high points than there were last year. Some books of note:

the hating game
Favorite Romance Novel: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

This is by far the best romance I read this year, maybe even in several years. I'm a sucker for books where the hero and heroine fight all the time, but Thorne takes it to another level by making Lucy and Joshua's "games" hilarious and ridiculously entertaining. These two had crazy-ass chemistry and their romance was so intense I never wanted to put the book down. Plus the entire world of Lucy and Joshua and their office is wonderfully realized and fleshed out. If you're wondering if the hype about this book is true, it is. Read it!!

a study in charlotte
Favorite Sherlock Adaptation: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

I read quite a few Sherlock adaptations this year (shocking, I know), but my favorite of all was A Study in Charlotte, a YA novel narrated by the modern-day descendant of John Watson, Jamie Watson, and featuring the misadventures of Sherlock Holmes' great-great-great granddaughter, Charlotte Holmes. There was some pretty dark stuff going on in this book, but it never turned dour, thanks to Jamie's self-deprecating humor. There were also a ton of fun easter eggs for fans of the original Conan Doyle stories. Can't wait for the next volume!

drops of god
Best Binge-Worthy Series: Drops of God by Tadashi Agi

I spent most of July mainlining this manga series, which follows the adventures of Shizuku, son of a famous wine critic, and Miyabi, his friend and a sommelier-in-training. The plot revolves around Shizuku trying to figure out what the "12 Apostles" of wine are before his rival, Issei Tomine, does. It sounds like a nutty basis for a manga, but it totally works. I love the multi-dimensional characters, the storyline feels like it moves organically, and the art is absolutely gorgeous. Even if I didn't enjoy learning about wine, I'd still be all about this series.

drops of god
Tasting DRC Richebourg, Drops of God, art by Shu Okimoto

and then there were none
Favorite Classic/Audiobook: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I'm not a huge fan of Agatha Christie, but after watching And Then There Were None on PBS, I was curious enough to give the audiobook a try. First of all, Dan freaking Stevens. It's so nice to hear his voice. I missed him so much! Second of all, even if you're completely familiar with the plot, the story is still a compulsive read. It's not about ten strangers stranded on an island so much as it is about moral ambiguity and facing personal demons. All of the characters deserve what they get, yet there's a sense of horror in their comeuppance nonetheless. While I would have preferred it if Christie had left the question of whodunnit unanswered, this is one of those deceptively simple novels that nearly anyone can get into.

marrying winterbourne
Biggest Disappointment: Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas

This was probably my most anticipated book of 2016. I loved Cold-Hearted Rake, Kleypas' previous novel in this series. But what I loved MOST about that book was the romance between Lady Helen and the department store magnate, Rhys Winterborne, which ended in a cliffhanger to TBC in this book. I was all set to be swept up in their romance, but it's hard to be swept into a story when NOTHING FREAKING HAPPENS. I swear to god I felt like I was watching paint dry. For the first half of the book, every other paragraph was exposition and backstory. DO. NOT. CARE. I nearly DNF'd it and I have never said that about a Kleypas book, not even the ones I thought were stupid. Total waste of time.

the black widow
Runner-Up: The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

I'm not even sure I should count this one, since I kind of abandoned it 50 pages in. Not in a firm DNF way, more of in a I-don't-really-want-to-read-this-right-now-and-oh-look-it's-due-at-library-shrug-oh-well kind of way. Usually Silva can pull me right into a story, but that didn't happen with this book, and I think part of the reason was the politics. Of course all of Silva's novels are political, but in this one it felt like the political aspect overshadowed everything else, including the plot and character development. I just wasn't in the mood to deal with it. This might be the book where Silva and I part ways.

a lady in the smoke
Favorite Mystery/Debut Author: A Lady in the Smoke by Karen Odden

Finally, I have to mention A Lady in the Smoke, a book that has pretty much everything I could ask for from a Victorian mystery: trains, romance, aristocratic ladies hiding their true identity, family secrets, crusading journalists, a scrappy pickpocket that could give Artful Dodger a run for his money. There were a few boring sections, but by the end I was an extremely satisfied reader. The romance subplot was really well-done, too. I hope Odden publishes more books in the future!

2016 By The Numbers:

  • 85 books total (a lot less than I wanted to read, tbh)
  • 17 of those books were romance (probably the first time since I started keeping track on Goodreads that romance hasn't accounted for at least half of my reading)
  • 19 books were mysteries
  • Only 3 were classics. Compare that to 2015, where I read 19 classics
  • 23 books were by male authors, 56 were by female authors, and 6 were either a male/female team or idk–pretty much the same percentages as last year
  • Of those 23 books by male authors, nearly half were nonfiction reads: 10
  • 22 books were published in 2016, less than last year

Tell me about your reading highlights this year!

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