It is that time again--when I tally up the books read over the last year. Except this time I'm doing something a little different: I'm also listing the books I reread. (Normally I only list the “new” books I read in the course of a year.) 2015 wasn't as big a reading year for me for NEW material; I found myself starting the year with some old favorites, actually...
The new titles are marked with a green bullet, the old with a blue bullet.
1 Monstrous Regiment—Terry Pratchett
It saddens me deeply to realize that one of the greatest writers I've read has passed away...Terry Pratchett had an absolute gift when it came to telling a story. In my opinion all of his Discworld novels are not only comedic gold, but genius fantasy in general. As is usual with Pratchett's writing, this one has a cast of compelling characters, and not only will it make a reader LAUGH, but it will make a reader THINK as well.
2 Men At Arms—Terry Pratchett
Another Discworld novel, this one involves the cast of the City Night Watch, continuing the adventures of Sam Vimes whom we were introduced to in Guards! Guards! Over the course of the series, it's quite something to see how the City Watch rebuilt its image...
3 The Gun Seller—Hugh Laurie
Noir spy thriller. With liberal dosing of dry British wit. Hugh Laurie proved his writing chops in creating this little piece of fiction. Humorous, cynical, and somewhat reminiscent (to my mind) of certain classic pulp action adventure novels. The pace was clipping, keeping a reader moving from one scene to the next with ease.
4 Blandings Castle—P.G. Wodehouse
Both the first new book of the year, and my very first Wodehouse! I can see why Wodehouse is a classic name among those looking to read a humorous story. This one was a collection of short stories, all VERY enjoyable. And I'm now quite pleased to say that I'm hooked on Wodehouse's writing.
5 Bachelor's Anonymous—P.G. Wodehouse
Because the previous book was not nearly enough Wodehouse, I picked up this one for a spot of good reading as well!
6 The Tough Guide to Fantasyland—Diana Wynne Jones
A writer that really deserves more attention; to any young (or old) reader out there who has NOT read one of Diana Wynne Jones' books...please do so in all haste! I can recommend you start with her Chrestomanci series. This was an amusing little guide to “Fantasyland” that I read cover to cover, though it makes for superb “flip reading” as well. Go to a random page and enjoy her wry observations about the clichés found in fantasy fiction.
7 Shaman's Crossing—Robin Hobb
I'd only read the Farseer trilogy by Hobb before this...so far this has a slightly less bleak outlook, but I suspect the series will take some dark turns in the next two books if/when I find them. I...don't think Robin Hobb writes any “happy” stories.
8 Gunman's Goal—Max Brand
Revisiting the first Max Brand western I'd read. It remains a rollicking good adventure.
9 Bardic Voices Book III: The Eagle and the Nightingales—Mercedes Lackey
Perhaps the weaker of the three books, it's hard to say. I'm divided on Lackey's writing; there's nothing WRONG with it, but I find she does tend to reuse certain themes and characterizations at times. There's a bit of typical “young adult fantasy” meets “romance novel.” Some of it can be rather soap opera-ish, and sometimes I feel the relationships are “too perfect” to be believable.
10 Sheepfarmer's Daughter—Elizabeth Moon
11 Divided Allegiance—Elizabeth Moon
12 Oath of Gold—Elizabeth Moon
This was an interesting fantasy trilogy to read, with quite a strong female lead. (Both physically and emotionally.)I was pleased to see that Elizabeth Moon didn't adhere to typical tropes. There was a bit of disconnect between the books though. The first one was a straight up military fantasy; the second one was like something out of Dungeons & Dragons as the element of magic was really introduced and expanded upon, plus a lot more demi-humans showed up; the third found a balance between the two, I think. The end of the trilogy wasn't quite what I was expecting, either, which pleased me.
13 Spellsinger—Alan Dean Foster
Some fun, light, fantasy adventure, but a little disappointing because it set it up so neatly for a sequel. It felt like only the surface of the story was scratched before it ended. I'll have to keep an eye out for the other books.
14 The Wrecking Crew—Donald Hamilton
Men's action adventure novel. 2nd in the Matt Helm “American spy” series. Okay, he's not much of a spy in the traditional sense. Why he has the codename of “Eric” I sure don't know! I suppose it's typical of the genre, but I wouldn't know, having only read a few of the early Executioner novels. In my mind I cast Josh Halloway as Matt Helm; tough and uncompromising, I got a lot of that Sawyer feel from the first season of Lost.
15 Death of a Citizen—Donald Hamilton
The 1st in the Matt Helm series. (Yeah, I read them out of order--I couldn't find this one before.) I was told the series was pretty violent, and I suppose it is, but it didn't seem too bad too me. Perhaps I'm desensitized. I would call it "brutal, without dwelling on the brutality."
16 Intrigues—Mercedes Lackey
17 Redoubt—Mercedes Lackey
18 Bastion—Mercedes Lackey
Yes, yes, as divided as I am on Mercedes Lackey's writing, I STILL end up reading her books. This series doesn't change my opinion either. Except that it was heavier on the young adult fiction aspect in the fact that it had a “school type” setting. And again, those sort of “romances” where two characters are automatically drawn to each other, and it just seems to work out so WELL for them. Even when it turns out the school chums have a bit of a tiff with each other it was all due to the mental influence of a really bad chap. How can they get along so well? No disagreements? No fights? And why is it that animal companions are always so willing to please their human counterparts? THEY never have disagreements either? Oh, well.
19 Of Mice and Men—John Steinbeck
My first classic in a looooong time. I'd never read any of Steinbeck's work before. A decent book to start out with. It made me cry, though.
20 Sammy Keyes and the Curse of Mustache Mary—Wendelin Van Draanen
21 Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception—Wendelin Van Draanen
A prime example of good young adult fiction. Wendelin Van Draanen writes compelling young characters, and Sammy Keyes was always one of my favorites growing up. There's a refreshing sense of HONESTY in her. A realness. It's also a good series to introduce younger readers to the mystery genre.
22 Mistborn—Brandom Sanderson
Recommended by my good friend, this fantasy novel was a pleasant surprise for me. While I predicted where some of the plot was going, it had a few surprises for me; the world is an intriguing setting and the magic is deeply compelling, as I hadn't read anything like it before...There's a sense of “science” behind the magic system of the Mistborn world that makes it feel incredibly real in a way. I'll be definitely looking forward to more books in the series!
23 Howl's Moving Castle—Diana Wynne Jones
One of my favorite finds this year! I got a chance to read the book, AND watch (most of) the movie. Both have their merits. The movie was a good adaption while still being its own separate entity.
24 Death Masks—Jim Butcher
25 Blood Rites—Jim Butcher
Two more titles in the Dresden Files. And I'm still torn on the books. They are NOT an example of good writing. They're strictly what I would call “popcorn reading.” The plots are generally predictable, the side characters are only there to benefit the main character, and the one “strong” female character gets consistently sidelined. But there's something about Butcher's writing that, while not good, is at least entertaining to me. I read them DESPITE myself. I suppose they'd be a “guilty pleasure” if I actually felt bad about gleaning enjoyment from crappy books or movies.
26 Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes—Wendelin Van Draanen
27 Killer Mine—Mickey Spillane
This book actually had two stories in it. The first of the same title, and the other one was called Man Alone. Both were quite enjoyable. I love Mickey Spillane's pulp action adventures with his hardboiled detectives. Also: The first (Killer Mine) should totally be made into a movie, starring James McCaffrey. Actually, McCaffrey should just read aloud all of Mickey Spillane's books. Please? Can someone get on that? I WILL PAY MONEY FOR AUDIO BOOKS READ BY JAMES MCCAFFREY. ALL THE MONEY.
28 The Delta Factor—Mickey Spillane
Because the previous book wasn't enough Spillane for me. Again: someone make movies out of Spillane's books. Please.
29 The Rope Trick—Lloyd Alexander
Lloyd Alexander was one of those classic names in young adult fiction. I don't know if he's as well known anymore, but I was first introduced to his work through his Prydain Chronicles. I proceeded to read every other book by him I found and I felt like revisiting this one. It held up well with my memory. Nothing too spectacular, but nothing horrible, either. Lloyd Alexander would certainly reuse character themes throughout his books, so that some would seem rather similar from novel to novel.
30 First Test—Tamora Pierce
31 Page—Tamora Pierce
32 Squire—Tamora Pierce
I keep forgetting there's a 4th book since there was such a gap for me between the last three and it! Oh, well. This was a quartet continuing in Pierce's Tortall series, and these three books were actually the FIRST I'd read in the series. Probably just as well. I was familiar with her Circle of Magic quartet and quite enjoyed it, but if I'd started with The Lioness quartet as an introduction to Tortall...well, I found complaint with her early books. (Mainly with the character of Alanna being something of a complete Mary-Sue/Marty-Stu combination.) This quartet had a lot more polish, and Keladry felt like a much more “real” character. In the typical young adult fiction fashion, it involves a “school type” setting, but it offers a bit of adventure as well. A good introduction to the world of Tortall, I felt.
33 Book 1 in the Nightrunner series: Luck In the Shadows—Lynn Flewelling
A slightly odd fantasy novel in that it began with a sense of the expected adventure for the first half of the book, but the second half moved on to some spy-like court intrigue and stuff. It felt a little unsettling at first because the opening clearly gives the sense of an EPIC fantasy, with some great evil stirring; and then next we're thrown into another part of the fantasy world and it's more about learning a stealthy trade and playing at court games of intrigue. I didn't MIND the complete turnaround, it just seemed WEIRD. And, as usual with a fantasy book. This is hardly a standalone. I hope I'll be able to find the rest to figure out just WHO the bad guy is and what his motives are.
34 Shadow Moon—George Lucas and Chris Claremont
WELL. It CLAIMED to be a continuation of the Willow movie--THIS IS A BLATANT LIE. I'm honestly not sure how I was able to get through this whole book (it was a MESS), except that I was compelled by a horrified fascination at the butchery of some of my favorite movie characters. I don't mean physically (although--spoiler--all the characters from the movie, except for Willow, Elora Danan, Rool, and Franjean, died), but these weren't true representations of the characters AT ALL. I can't even say that it was only the characters IN NAME because throughout the book WILLOW goes by another name entirely! The grubby little barbarian-like brownies, Rool and Franjean aren't true to character at all. Elora Danan grows up to be this spoiled, chubby BRAT. Mad Martigan and Sorsha died off page in the prologue! I'm not even going to apologize for that spoiler, because if anyone who watched the movie is thinking about reading this book: YOU'LL BE WASTING YOUR TIME. I think what happened was this...George Lucas, because he's the sort of man WHO CAN'T LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE said “hey, I have an idea for the continuation of the plot laid out in Willow” (even though it ended on a fine note) for some reason he went to CHRIS CLAREMONT X-MEN COMIC WRITER and this...this...THING was created. Knowing that the novel Claremont had written just before this one had a similar name, I suspect what he did was take one of his own manuscripts and slap the characters' names from Willow onto it. I don't know. Honestly? This book is a mess. Even if I hadn't realized there was a movie before, after reading it I STILL would have said “dude, Claremont should stick to writing COMICS”. Sorry for the rant, but unless you wish to indulge in a bad piece of fiction (which, apparently, I did), this book will only waste your time.
35 The Removers—Donald Hamilton
Another Matt Helm novel. After the previous book, I was sort of put off from reading for a while.
36 The Pearls of Lutra—Brian Jacques
37 The Long Patrol—Brian Jacques
Revisiting a couple titles from his Redwall series. I found I actually enjoyed The Pearls of Lutra more the second time around than when I had initially read it all those years ago. However, I think there was something of a typo in the Long Patrol. It had a couple mole characters from the previous book and I'm quite sure their genders were swapped around. That was a little annoying, but I suppose these things happen. (Perhaps there was a considerable gap between writing, but I would've expected an editor to pick up on it or something...)
38 Steadfast—Mercedes Lackey
Yes, the last new book of 2015 is one by Mercedes Lackey. And, yes, it was somewhat typical of her writing. With a bit of silly melodrama, and the sort of relationship that ended up growing without any effort. It wasn't BAD, it just wasn't anything SPECIAL.
So that was my 2015 reading list. Only 25 NEW titles read, with a few old ones revisited.
Here's hoping for some good reads in 2016! (I'm looking forward to diving into Naomi Novik's 4th book in her Temeraire series!)
...In sad news...Yesterday I found out that Lemmy Kilmister passed away.
WHY? WHY DID THIS HAPPEN??
IN HONOR OF LEMMY KILMISTER, EVERYONE...ROCK ON!
Play heavy, sing loud.