Best of 2019 and the Year in Review


This was a year of significant change for me. I took a break from blogging back in the Spring/Summer to deal with some family illnesses, career changes, and other 'life' events that demanded my focus, and I honestly wondered if I was simply just done. Fortunately, reading from my shelves, without the pressure of release dates or the obligation to review, not only helped me through some difficult days but it brought me back to the joy of reading.





So, having taken the time to really think about what was important to me, to consider how my reading tastes and overall philosophy have changed during a decade of blogging, I shifted from Blogger to Wordpress with a new focus, a new drive, and a new outlook on both life and books.





By The Numbers









This year I read 80 books, which is down about 23% from last year. As part of my focus on simply being a reader again, I've stopped counting DNF reads, choosing to delete them from my shelves rather than negatively tag them, so I can't tell you how those numbers compare.





Despite the lower number of books read, I had 13 perfect 5-star reads this year, almost twice as many as last year. That's the most important number for me, as it reflects my new focus and renewed love for reading.





At a quick glance, it looks like the genre shelving breaks down as 40% Fantasy, just over 20% Romance/Erotica, and nearly 17% as Urban Fantasy/Horror. My most under-represented genre? That would be the 6% Science Fiction (although that will grow next year).





♀




More importantly, the shelves were 35% female-authored, which is strangely on par with last year, but will certainly increase with a full year of the new focus. Looking deeper into the social demographics, I had 50% female-fronted reads (which is absolutely fantastic), 22% female-led/dominant relationships (which is pretty exciting), and just under 25% LGBTQIA representation (which is up a tad from last year).









Most Popular Reviews









Going strictly by blog traffic, this year's most popular reviews were Awaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter (a 4-star female-authored read), Not Your Average Love Spell by Barbara Ann Wright (a 4-star female-author, female-fronted, LGBTQIA read), and Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson (a ZERO-star piece of transphobic trash).





Looking at Goodreads votes instead, the most popular reviews of the year were (sadly once again) Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson, Seraphina's Lament by Sarah Chorn (which deserves all the attention it can get), and Old Bones by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (the first in their Nora Kelly series).









My Best of 2019





This year's batch 13 perfect 5-star reads were an interesting batch, a mix of authors both familiar and new, stretching across multiple genres.





Before I get too deep into things, I have to call out my single greatest thrill in over a decade of reviewing. The wonderful Julie E. Czerneda named a character after me in A Dragon for William and I don't think I will ever stop smiling about that. It's a small part, and really has no bearing on my 5-star review, but I love it.









With 2 perfect reads in the same year, Jenn Lyons has to top the list. The Ruin of Kings was a book I called the best epic fantasy I had read in ages, a complex story that is so much more than the sum of its parts, while The Name of All Things was an even better all-around book, a sequel that adds to the story, transforming expectations and setting up an even bigger next chapter.





No Man of Woman Born is the only perfect read I did not review this year, which I feel terribly guilty about, but it was one of those plucked-from-the-shelves, read-for-pure-pleasure, no-expectations-or-obligations reads from my reviewing sabbatical. So, I want to call it out here and draw some worthy attention to Ana Mardoll's fantastic collection, which is as magical and lyrical as it is inspiring and empowering.









Since Romance/Erotica became a shelf to be reckoned with this year, usurping horror as my second most read genre, I would be remiss if I didn't call out a few reads there. The Harpy by Key Barrett was an incredibly powerful historical romance, with all the tension and thrills of the era, and an erotic exploration of trust versus risk in a female-led relationship. Uncharted by Robyn Nyx offered the most fun I’ve had between the covers of a book all year, a well-written romance with engaging characters, action-packed adventure, sexual chemistry that’s off the charts, and a refreshing feminist mythology. And then there us Double Six by Brenda Murphy, an exquisite an erotic romance, full of emotional depth, with one of the best explorations of the psychology of the power exchange that I have ever read.





But, without further ado . . . drum roll, if you please . . .









After much deliberation and a deep appreciation for so many stellar reads this year, I have to go with The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon as my best-of-the-best for 2019. I loved it while reading it, and didn't want it to end. I felt sad for leaving the world behind when I was done, and my appreciation for it has only grown as the year has progressed. I cannot wait to see what Shannon writes next, and all her hints and teases about another standalone story in her fantasy world has me ridiculously excited.









The Year Ahead





If the last year taught me anything, it's that nothing is ever guaranteed and the future is not set in stone. We can plan and hope and dream, but sometimes life insists on detours to a new, possibly better, destination.





I do know that I have found the joy in reading again, and that I am refreshed with the new blog and new focus. No more compartmentalizing or apologizing, and no more second-guessing myself as to whether I should publicly put a book on the shelf or whether I should be honest about what I'm feeling.





This is who I am, how I live, and what I read.





I'm looking forward to the new year.


Comments

  1. You really did reinvent yourself this year, Bob, since it took me MONTHS to connect the dots and realize you were the same Bob from Beauty in Ruins🀣🀣 Now that the year is ending I can safely confess that! Hope you have a wonderful 2020😁

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  2. Thank you! Part of that was deliberate, wanting a fresh start, and part of that was work-related, with a harsh new social media policy at the office necessitating a separation of profiles. There was just too much risk there.

    It was actually my cameo in Julie's novella that prompted me to reclaim something of the past and blend the identities with a co-branded blog. :)

    Happy holidays and a happy new year!

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  3. I honestly love the new blog and the fact that it's on wordpress - it's so much easier to navigate! And I'm trying hard to squeeze a few more books into 2019, and if I can, I'm definitely hitting up Ruin of Kings!

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  4. It was a learning curve at first, and I'm still slowly (selectively) moving over some old content, but I do like the overall look and interface much better than Blogger. And I've got 2-3 more to squeeze in before the end of the year too. :)

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  5. I love this post, and I hope you keep doing (and reading) what you love. I didn’t manage to read The Ruin of Kings or The Priory of the Orange Tree. I will need to make them a priority in 2020.

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  6. Hallo, Hallo Bob!

    As you previously knew - we were able to connect via Twitter when I, myself, realised I had known you as "Beauty in Ruins" myself - and was thankful to reconnect with a bookish spirit and blogger I had enjoyed reading previously. Throughout the coming year, I am looking forward to reading your blog more regularly and will be making sure you're linked in my sidebar as I regularly use those links to find my routes through the blogosphere to bloggers who are blogging in a way that I love seeing!

    Similar to you, I had to re-focus my own blog for 2020 - as I'm doing a heap of bingo card challenges to help encourage myself to get through 210+ backlogued reviews which happened during a select period of years of personal adversities, health crises and other upheavals which allowed the situation to snowball. So you'll be seeing a lot of interesting posts forthcoming from me across genres of interest throughout 2020.

    Secondly, one thing I learnt steady on as a book blogger is that if we don't own our opinions, our thoughts and our feelings about the stories we're reading we're not being as transparent as we need to be as book bloggers. This is why I personally have been transparent about those feelings - including how I developed my 'fly in the ointment' sections where I talk about what takes me out of a story or what elements of the story are not meshing well with me as a reader. I also became more honest with myself about finding DNF stories even as a book blogger who gets books on blog tours or from publishers for review purposes. Its a walk we all have to journey through - how we blog, how we assess the stories we're reading and even, as you said, sometimes our focus changes per genre or thematics of interest... even the way we approach how we blog can change.

    I love how you've outlined your changes, talked a bit about why you changed and how hopeful you are about the future - of not just your social presence through your blog but personally how encouraged you've become through your readerly life. That's all wicked wonderful because we're all someone outside our blogs and our social presence online -- the best takeaways for all of us is being comfortable in what brings us the most joy - I too, could relate to having moments of angst with my readerly life and I am thankful I could reclaim mine as readily as you could reclaim yours.

    PS: I am reading the Night Edge series this forthcoming year -- it has been held over whilst I worked through and/or transitioned through a lot of things on the personal front so when I saw you were named in a novella within that world, I cheered for you! I've had this honour once myself in a Romance story and it does make your heart feel warm when a writer chooses to honour you with a named character. Likewise, this is my second attempt at reading her Fantasy and I am hoping to reside inside this world as readily as I had the Clan Chronicles which reset the bar for me in Space Opera.

    OOh! I had forgotten -- I started reading PRIORY during #WyrdAndWonder Year 2 - I'm going to be rereading it in 2020 as I was so dearly nervous about continuing it as #dragonfiction for me isn't an easy subniche of Fantasy to explore. I am dearly sensitive when it comes to dragons and their worlds, so I am hopeful that I will find myself able to stay within PRIORY and not feel myself pulling away... also, this year for Wyrd and Wonder Year 3 I have a month-long focus on dragon fiction over and beyond the other selections I am making to highlight throughout the month. You should join us - May 2020. We're socially @WyrdAndWonder via Twitter; also linked in my profile.

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  7. I love the idea of the ‘fly in the ointment’ sections. It's interesting to call out what took you out of the story, even if it didn't ruin the overall read. No book is perfect, of course, but sometimes there are elements that we do struggle to overcome a bit more than others.

    Even before the challenges of last year, I found myself with a sort of split personality, creating all these clever little tags and featurettes to excuse or almost apologize for talking about certain books. It was like keeping them at arms' length so nobody made any judgements or assumptions. That was exhausting. It was stressful. It bothered me more than it empowered me to explore. So, when I came back to blogging, I decided it would be with all filters off. None of us watch, read, or eat the exact same thing day in and day out. We live variety and diversity, so why should being honest about it seem so strange? LOL

    Good luck with Priory. I really didn't know that much about it going in, it was a BIG book I could take down to Cuba with me for reading on the beach, but I loved it and I would jump all over another book in that world - and she's talked about two books, not sequels but stories in the same world.

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