Books I Read in 2014 (all 200 of ’em)

As threatened, here is the epic 2014 books-read post (cross-posted from my LiveJournal).

So, at the beginning of 2014, Goodreads sent me an email saying “look at these n books that you read in 2013. How many books will you read in 2014?” And my first thought was, wait, I read more than that in 2013, I need to keep better track. And my second thought was… Can I read even more books in 2014? Which, in hindsight, was maybe not that healthy a goal, when you’ve got a reading habit as compulsive as mine. But anyways.

I set myself a goal of 250 books in 2014. What?? Yeah.

I’m happy to tell you, I did not reach it. I might have, however, had I not started and abandoned so many duds, and also started and been distracted from so many interesting-at-first nonfiction reads. Without actually tracking it, I’d estimate I abandoned at least 30 books in 2014. I’ll pick up 5-10 of those this year and finish them…I think…

Anyhow. The statistics for 2014:

Books read, according to Goodreads: 194. (It’s likely there were more – I’m willing to call this 200, because there were a couple re-reads that didn’t get marked for 2014, and doubtless a few that weren’t added at all – oh, and there were a few compilations in there that had multiple novel-length stories).

Pages read: still waiting for the stats to update, but at an average of 350 pages/book, let’s call it 70,000 and be done.

First book read in 2014: I didn’t track this. Might have been Heart of Steel, by Meljean Brook.

Last book read in 2014: To Beguile a Beast, by Elizabeth Hoyt.

Trends: Historical romance (primarily Regency), steampunk romance, YA fantasy.

Best book not finished: The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. I had too much going on and set this aside for when I can read the entire trilogy at one go, giving it the attention it deserves. It’s a four- or maybe even five-star read that hits all my YA fantasy hot spots – Celtic mythology, dream lore, private school boys with troubled pasts, and so on.

Year in Summary:

So as I said, I was trying for 250 books this year, which was a lofty goal, since that would mean finishing a book every 1.46 days. That pace is quite reasonable, actually, when we’re talking about romance novels – that’s about the speed I read them at – but since I do occasionally take my hand out of the potato chip bag, er, I mean, read other things, it threw my pacing off. That plus the false starts knocked me down to 200, which I think is a better number anyways.

My resolutions for 2015 are to read 200 books; to be quicker to give up on duds; and to start on re-reads for the sake of my budget. Oh, and to finish some of the poor abandoned nonfiction books that are languishing in my Kindle!

I discovered some fun new authors in 2014: Lisa Kleypas, Laura Kinsale, and Courtney Milan, to name a very few. I’m excited by the direction in romance, where the heroes and heroines have started to resemble actual human beings. They now come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and races; have flaws and even disabilities; and are often not magically cured by book’s end. There’s a trend toward couples learning to work through things instead of love/sex magically fixing it all (though there is still a lot of that, because, romance novel!!). The sex itself has gotten more explicit (where’s my fan?) but also more realistic, again, in that it’s sometimes awkward, requires cleanup, and occasionally makes situations worse instead of better. All this and we still get a happy ending in every book? YES PLEASE.

I discovered that I’m very interested in early 20th century American history, and started a few books on that topic. Unfortunately, history books still put me to sleep, so I can get about ten pages read at a time. This year I’ll try to read them earlier in the day so I get a little more headway made. I’m thinking that once I’ve absorbed enough about 1910-1950 there will maybe be something to write about it. That’s the hope anyway.

Now, on to some blurb about the books themselves.

 My Top Ten from 2014, in no particular order – these were five-star or four-star books that stuck with me long after reading, for one reason or another.

The Goblin Emperor, by Katharine Addison (Sarah Monette).
This was one of the best books I’ve read in years. Lovely, lush worldbuilding, and a storyline that reminded me, in all the right ways, of something I would have read twenty years ago.

Captives of the Night, by Loretta Chase
Hard to explain without getting long-winded; the hero and heroine are tragically linked and have fantastic chemistry. Plus there’s murder, intrigue, secret identities, and exotic locales.

Devil in Winter, by Lisa Kleypas.
I was torn between this and Kleypas’ Love in the Afternoon, for the top ten list. Both were deserving. This one wins because the hero is one of those irresistible rakes – bad boy with a hidden heart of gold. You know, the type we romance novel readers just love.

Unraveled, by Courtney Milan.
Another author who has multiple books in my five-star grouping, and another book that wins because of the hero. This guy… geez. I wish that I was Miranda, darling.

One Good Earl Deserves A Lover, by Sarah MacLean.
A great writer whose books have the worst names ever. No, really; I honestly shied away from them for months. I’m so glad I took the chance; she too is a solid four/five-star writer. This one’s top because it’s got the best/steamiest historical romance sex scene I’ve read all year. And the hero never even touches the heroine! Reminds me of a guy I used to know, but I digress.

Ruin and Rising, by Leigh Bardugo.
If you haven’t read the Grisha Trilogy – you should. This YA series based loosely on Russian folklore, with magic and amazing worldbuilding and vividly depicted characters, is one of my favorites of the decade so far. The final book in the trilogy was every bit as heartbreaking as expected and (MILD SPOILER ALERT) one of the few books where I might have preferred the unhappy ending to the one we got.

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.
I feel like a sell-out even listing this, but yeah. It was sentimental and heart-string-pulling and the saddest thing I’ve read since Where The Red Fern Grows (my standard for books that make me cry like whoa). I won’t ever read it again but I’m glad I did, just once.

Wicked As They Come, by Delilah Dawson.
Here’s one I took a chance on, knowing I would either hate it (good odds) or love it (slim odds). LOVED IT. I think it’s been described as vampire-carnie-steampunk? It’s completely out-of-genre for me but turned out to be exactly what I needed to read. Loved it and read the other two in the series as well; the second was great, the third… meh.

Bitter Spirits, by Jenn Bennett.
This and its sequel, Grim Shadows, were two of my favorite books of 2014. Set in San Francisco during Prohibition, they’re romance/adventure/paranormal with strong heroines, nice big heroes (I mean BIG, and you may know I like large men), and fantastic secondary characters. Plus, San Francisco! 1920s! I am eagerly awaiting the third book, due out in May.

Shadowheart, by Laura Kinsale.
I discovered Laura Kinsale this year, and I’m so very glad. She writes lovely flawed people. This is possibly her darkest book, which is no doubt the reason it’s my favorite of hers(Seize the Fire is actually tied for that position). The hero, Allegretto, is about as conflicted as it gets; and I spent a large part of the book wanting to slap the heroine across the face. That said, I’ll be rereading it this spring and I can’t wait.

 

So, what did I learn in 2014?

I like my romances historical, not contemporary; preferably with lots of sex. I like strong heroines but don’t mind if they have some dumb going on. I prefer my heroes dark and naughty but ultimately redeemable. And if I can get a bit of foreign location thrown in (as in, anything but the British Isles) I’m happy as can be.

 

Now I’m off to start the first book of 2015: The Duke of Dark Desires, by Miranda Neville. It has all of the above, as far as I know. I’ll be in bed with a good book!