December 31, 2007 - Issue #289

From the Desk of Laurie Likes Books:

My Year in Reading

Links to most of the books mentioned in this column are to reviews written on my personal blog.

I think I may be on to something. It's been more than a decade since I read as few books as I read in 2007, and yet I enjoyed reading more this year than I have in a long while. And after proclaiming last year that "I can't remember the last time I loved so many [books] in a single year," that's saying something.

I wrote this column on December 27th, after having read just 52 books throughout the year. For a few months I kept my promise to stop buying new books, and when I did start to buy again, late in the year, didn't pore over lists of new releases. Instead, when we visited bookstores, I browsed and bought, buying far fewer books than I have since the early 1990s. How many books did you buy this year, and did your buying habits change?

Romance Novels
 
A
B
C
D
F
 
Contemporary
0
5
1
2
0
8
Romantica
0
2
3
0
2
7
Eur Historical
2
3
0
0
0
5
Series
0
3
1
0
1
5
Paranormal
0
4
0
0
0
4
Frontier/Western
0
1
2
0
0
3
Fantasy
0
1
0
1
0
2
Regency
0
1
0
0
0
1
Rom Susp
1
0
0
0
0
1
Sub-Total
3
20
7
3
3
36
Non-Romances
Urban Fantasy
0
4
1
1
0
6
Absurdist Fiction
1
2
0
0
0
3
Action
0
0
1
0
0
1
Erotica
0
0
0
1
0
1
Fantasy
0
1
0
0
0
1
Historical Fiction
0
1
0
0
0
1
General Fiction
0
0
0
1
0
1
Non-Fiction
0
1
0
0
0
1
Women's Fiction
0
1
0
0
0
1
Sub-Total
1
9
2
3
0
15
Total
4
30
10
5
3
52

Seven out of ten books I read this year were romances. The sub-genre I dipped into most often (22%) was Contemporary. And though I put myself on a Romantica ban for much of the year, Romantica still managed to be my second most-read sub-genre, at 19%. I didn't love any Contemporary or Romantica books this year, but I had more luck with the former than the latter. More than half of the Contemporaries I read earned B level grades from me: The Royal Mess and Drop Dead, Gorgeous!, both by MaryJanice Davidson; To Catch a Cheat by Kelley St. John; Linda Howard's Diamond Bay (originally released as a Series title but reissued as a single title); and LuAnn McLane's Trick My Truck, But Don't Mess with My Heart, which has a 2008 pub date. On the other hand, fewer than a third of the Romantica I read earn recommendations (Wild, Wicked, & Wanton by Jaci Burton and Sylvia Day's Wish List), and the same percentage (29%) earned F's. Did you gravitate toward one or two sub-genres this year, and how successful were they for you?

I didn't read many European Historicals this year - just five, or 14% - but I liked them all. Two of the three that were published in 2007 (The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell by Samantha James and Elizabeth Hoyt's The Serpent Prince) earned DIK status from me, and none of the five, which also included Amanda Quick's Reckless, The Sinful Nights of a Nobleman by Jillian Hunter, and Julia Quinn's The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, earned lower than a B level grade.

When I first began to read romance novels, I read historicals exclusively; most were European Historicals, with a good number of Medievals as well. Over time that changed, but the change was slow; when Medievals dipped in popularity, so did my reading of them, but by then I'd also branched out to other sub-genres. First were Contemporaries - giving lie to the idea that it was impossible for me to get into the fantasy if the setting were current - and next were Series romances, which proved that it wasn't only lumpy, dumpy, and frumpy spinsters who read them. In a few years I'd added trad Regencies, then Frontier/Westerns, Paranormal and Fantasy romance, and finally, Romantica.

As all those other sub-genres were added, there simply wasn't time to read as many European Historicals as I once did. But because I began as such a traditionalist romance reader, had you suggested to me a decade ago that this would occur, I'd have looked at you as though you were looney tunes. I'd love to hear how your romance reading progressed, what led to the expansion in your reading horizons, if any, how long the process took, and what, if anything, surprised you about your journey.

I read the same number of Series romances as I did European Historicals, but unlike the historicals, I had less luck with Category novels this year. I did like three of the five - At the Millionaire's Request by Teresa Southwick, Lucy Monroe's Pregnancy of Passion, and The Italian Boss's Secretary Mistress by Cathy Williams - but another earned a C, and worse, yet another earned an F (I wrote about that wall-banger in an October ATBF). Every year I try and stay away from Series romances, but they're like slightly stale candy to me; I reach for them even though I know they may not be very tasty because there's bound to be something fresh in the candy dish. What is your reading equivalent - it can be a sub-genre or an author - of slightly stale candy?

By contrast, the Paranormal sub-genre worked extremely well for this year. Paranormals accounted for slightly more than 10% of the romances I read in 2007. All (Sleeping with the Fishes and Swimming without a Net, both by MaryJanice Davidson, Marjorie M. Liu's The Last Twilight - with a 2008 pub date - and Wolf at the Door, by Christine Warren) earned grades in the B range, and three of the four were read in the last month or so. Less successful were Frontier/Westerns, which represented 8% of my romance reading for the year. I'm not sure why I chose so badly in the Frontier sub-genre, but only one of the three I read earned a B level grade. The other two earned C's from me. Was this a particularly good - or particularly bad - year for one sub-genre for you?

While I liked every Paranormal romance I read this year, I had a more mixed reaction to Fantasy romance this year, which accounted for roughly 6% of my romance reading. One of the two Fantasy romances I read earned a B level grade - the other earned a D. Although I enjoyed Jacquelyn Frank's Elijah, I made the decision not to read what came before it, or what will follow it, in her Nightwalkers series because I just don't want to commit to yet another series featuring other-worldly creatures. This may be the first time I've made a conscious decision to not read a series after liking a book within it...have you ever come to a similar decision? Contrast that choice with that to glom Liu's Dirk & Steele series after reading The Last Twilight; so far I've picked up five of the series' previous books and am nearly finished with one of them.

I read just one book each in the trad Regency and Romantic Suspense sub-genres. The former, A Christmas Bride, by Mary Balogh, was published a decade ago, and after I read it I realized how happy I am that I've still got a stash of Balogh's trads left to read when the mood strikes. The latter was Ice Storm, the most recent of Anne Stuart's Ice series, and IMHO, the best of the four books released in that series so far - it's the only Ice book to earn DIK status from me (the others earned B level grades and came close to DIK status, but didn't quite reach those lofty heights for me). Stuart, btw, is the only Romantic Suspense writer whose books in that sub-genre are auto-buys for me. I'm not a big fan of of Romantic Suspense, but since her Ice series began, I've looked forward to each and every release. The same also goes for J.D. Robb's Futuristic Romantic Suspense in Death series, and though I continued to buy her this year, I did not read her as either Robb or Roberts. Are there any authors on your auto-buy list whom you continued to buy in 2007 but did not actually read?

The above account for the romances I read throughout 2007. Of the non-romances that constitute the remainder - 30% - of my reading, most were Urban Fantasy (40%) and Absurdist Fiction (20%). Half of the Urban Fantasy I read was written by Keri Arthur and all of the Absurdist Fiction was written by Christopher Moore. I did well with both types of fiction. Two-thirds of the former earned B level grades from me - three by Arthur (Dangerous Games, Embraced by Darkness, and Tempting Evil) and one by Charlaine Harris (Definitely Dead). One of the remaining third earned a C- and the other, disastrous read, was a D.

As for Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job was my only DIK of the year to have been published earlier than 2007 (it was released in 2006), and it was my only non-romance DIK). Other Moore reads from 2007 are Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, and You Suck: A Love Story, a sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends. I've categorized all three as Absurdist Fiction because one of the reviews I read in preparation for my interview with the author last month called him a writer of Absurdist Fiction. FYI, this line of dialogue in Fluke -"Oh, that's heinous fuckery most foul." - is the best line I've read in any novel...ever. Is there a particular line of dialogue or sentence you've read throughout the years that has stayed with you because it's so brilliant?

Although I'm nearing the end of another Moore release, I'm putting an end to my glom-read of his books for now; too much of a good thing is still too much. That said, my entire foray into Moore's world has been well-worth it; the lowest grade he earned from me, for You Suck, is still in the B range.

2007 was definitely a different kind of reading year than I am used to - I read far fewer books and didn't plan which books to buy based on monthly releases. I also didn't go on the [at least] one large glom a year I tend to experience. Instead I went on a few mini-gloms, for Christopher Moore (three books...well, three and a half), MaryJanice Davidson (four books), and Keri Arthur (three books), as well as a more leisurely than usual glom-buy for [most of] Liu's Dirk & Steele series. Each of these changes, I'm convinced, removed some of the pressure out of reading that can come from feeling a need to "keep up" with what's new, what others are reading, and the self-imposed stress of fleshing out a backlist. Do you ever feel pressure or stress to read or buy this book or that book...right now?

That said, I don't plan to read as few books in 2008 as I did this year. Tthe changes I made increased my joy in reading enough that I'm more enthusiastic about reading than I have been in some time.

While much of my reading this year came from my personal library rather than the bookstore, three-fourths of what I read was published in either 2006 or 2007. The oldest book was published in 1983, and three are yet to be published. In a weird sort of book-end effect, grades for both that oldest book - an F for Jayne Ann Krentz's Gambler's Woman - and a D for the one farthest in the future, Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde, are low. I feel incredibly lucky that so many worthwhile reads fall within those two bookends.

For a full list of the books I read in 2007, including links to my [mostly] blog reviews, click here.

So, what did your reading year look like?

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Questions To Consider:

In the "olden days" when this column was part of The Archives of Laurie Likes Books and I used email to communicate with readers, questions were interspersed throughout the column. They were not summarized at the end as we do today, but I thought it might be fun to combine both methods this time around. Here, then, are questions to consider:

How many books did you buy this year, and did your buying habits change?

Did you gravitate toward one or two sub-genres this year, and how successful were they for you?

How did your romance reading progress, what led to the expansion in your reading horizons - if any - how long did the process take, and what, if anything, surprised you about your journey?

What is your reading equivalent - it can be a sub-genre or an author - of slightly stale candy? (You reach for them even though you realize they might not be very tasty.)

Was this a particularly good - or particularly bad - year for one sub-genre for you?

Are there any authors on your auto-buy list whom you continued to buy in 2007 but did not actually read?

Is there a particular line of dialogue or sentence you've read throughout the years that has stayed with you because it's so brilliant?

Do you ever feel pressure or stress to read or buy this book or that book...right now?

What did your reading year look like?

 

TTFN, as Tigger said to Winnie the Pooh,
Laurie Likes Books

 

LLB's List of 2007 Reads
Post to the Archives for this Column

 

(AAR uses BYRON for its romance reference needs)

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