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.