Looking back at 2018 for Books and the Blog

As we kick off 2019, I wanted to take a glance back at 2018. 258 books read (plus comics, picture books, short stories, and the like that I don’t know how to count) — I exceeded my goal (nothing like exceeding an arbitrary number to boost the ol’ ego), 380 posts (short of my goal by a couple hundred, and worse — 15 fewer than 2017, which was down from 2016. This is a trend that I need to reverse). I had some strong gains in traffic — views and visitors — actually, strong gains doesn’t quite cut it. Consider my mind boggled. I’m also seeing good growth in followers here and on various social media fronts, which is encouraging as all get out — not just growth in numbers, but I’m actually interacting with people (and vice versa).

So here’s my breakdown of books by genre, like the one I did last year. Genre labeling is more difficult this year, I read a lot of hybrids, but I tend to go with the overarching genre (for example, Brassley’s The Drifting Lands books are fantasy novels in a SF setting, I went with Fantasy). Mystery/Suspense/Thriller is back to where it should be. Fantasy jumped up a bit, and Urban Fantasy took a dive. It’s been forever since I’ve read a Western, I guess (at least one that wasn’t a hybrid with Urban Fantasy or SF or something) — and I had to add a category for Poetry. Theological books went down in actual numbers, not just percent — but I read some big, technical stuff this year that take a lot of time/energy to read, so I’m not too bothered by that. Still, for someone who doesn’t plan too thoroughly, the percentages stay remarkably the same from year to year — tastes (and series I follow) apparently stay the same.

Genre 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
Children’s 11 (4%) 7 (3%) 5 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Fantasy 30 (11%) 7 (3%) 31 (13%) 17 (9%) 11 (7%) 15 (8%) 12 (6%)
General Fiction/ Literature 22 (8%) 29 (10%) 27 (11%) 17 (9%) 7 (4%) 30 (16%) 30 (14%)
Horror 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (.4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Humor 3 (1%) 1 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (1%) 3 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller 107 (38%) 102 (37%) 61 (25%) 64 (34%) 62 (37%) 63 (33%) 73 (35%)
Non-Fiction 22 (8%) 10 (4%) 11 (5%) 8 (4%) 4 (2%) 2 (1%) 11 (5%)
Poetry 1 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Science Fiction 25 (9%) 27 (10%) 37 (15%) 16 (8%) 17 (10%) 14 (7%) 11 (5%)
Steampunk 3 (1%) 1 (0%) 2 (1%) 7 (4%) 3 (2%) 3 (2%) 11 (5%)
Theology/ Christian Living 25 (9%) 30 (11%) 33 (14%) 42 (22%) 42 (25%) 37 (19%) 10 (5%)
Urban Fantasy 29 (10%) 45 (16%) 36 (15%) 19 (10%) 20 (12%) 26 (14%) 48 (23%)
Western 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (0%)

Have a great 2019, hope you find plenty of good things to read!

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Flashback Friday – Thank You, Goodnight by Andy Abramowitz: A book about a one-hit wonder by an author who I hope has a few more in him.

Long, tiring, but good week. But there’s just nothing left in the tank for something new, so I’m going to repost about couple of books from the past that I loved.

Thank You, GoodnightThank You, Goodnight”

by Andy Abramowitz
Hardcover, 338 pg.
Touchstone, 2015
Read: June 30 – July 3, 2015

In most instances, space between people grows like mold, neglected just long enough to be noticed. You intended to wipe it clean, but the more of it there is, the more daunting a task it becomes to erase it. Not so with me and the band. I’d discontinued those people as if they were a premium cable channel that I’d finally realized was broadcasting nothing I wanted to watch.

From passages like that, a nice mix of thoughtful, sentimental, with a bit of a grin; to the out-and-out funny, like the funniest suicide attempt I’ve read in a long time, possibly ever (something worthy Save Steve Holland’s Lane Myer, but longer); this book covers the spectrum. Not only covers it, but does so with assurance and panache. It’s one of those first novels that makes you wonder what could possibly be done as a follow up.

Teddy Tremble is a successful enough lawyer for someone who’s heart isn’t really in it, while still being good at it. He’s sort of coasting through life — being good enough at his job, good enough with his girlfriend of forever, good enough for his social circle, but not good enough for his father (but after meeting him, you understand that’s just a given). He’s forty-ish and realizes that life is going to pretty much stay this way. On the whole, he seems okay with that — but in the back of his mind he knows he’s not. He won an Academy Award. His band was huge for a little while in the 1990’s, before his hubris ruined things. Sure, things are good enough now, but once upon a time they were great.

Then through a truly humbling and bewildering set of circumstances, Teddy comes across a group of huge Tremble fans. Seriously, die-hard doesn’t begin to describe these people. Think something akin to the kind of people that organized the first Star Trek convention back when it wasn’t a cultural phenomenon, just a short-lived and then canceled show. This changes everything. The adulation, the attention, the satisfaction of performing gets under his skin and he starts writing music for the first time in a long time.

Pretty soon, he’s (forgive the cliché) trying to get the band back together — his agent and producer are on board, convinced that what he’s written exceeds his former quality. Incidentally, both of these characters are the kind that we readers hope to come across — supporting characters that threaten to steal the entire novel, but when used properly just make the whole thing better.

Anyway, with these two on board — Teddy just has to convince the rest of the band to give it a shot, to trust him. Maybe even to forgive him for what he did to them so long ago. Then he has to convince music fans to take them seriously. Neither of these tasks is going to be easy. Both are practically impossible, really.

The book starts out as pretty entertaining, definitely amusing. But it doesn’t stop there — it gets better, deeper, emotionally richer all the while. By the time I got to (and through) Chapter 20, I tweeted that, “Not sure I need to read another word (am going to), but that was as close to perfect as it gets.” I’m still thinking about it a month later.

At various places through the novel, Teddy observes: “One day I’ll die, and this will be one of the things I did with my time.” I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one sentence used so many different ways with so many different meanings depending on the context. Sometimes he’s says it wryly, sometimes caustically, sometimes wistfully, sometimes with pride. It’s one of those writerly things that when you see it in action, you wonder why more people don’t try it.

Each of these characters — the agent, the producer, the bandmates, their (sometimes very odd) families, Teddy’s girlfriend, associates in the law firm, and others — are well-drawn. Occasionally familiar, without being stock characters or cliché, each character ends up being strong enough that you want to spend at least a little more time with them. But Abramowtitz is too capable of steward of his resources and gives us just enough to leave us wanting more.

I’ve seen a lot of comparisons of Thank You to Hornby’s High Fidelity and Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You. I don’t get that. Maybe it’s just because these people haven’t read anything else by these authors — they should be comparing this to Hornby’s Juliet, Naked and Tropper’s One Last Thing Before I Go (to be fair, I have seen a little of this comparison, but no one else that I’ve seen has tagged Juliet). These three cover some of the same territory, and Abramowitz comes out looking really good in that company. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Juliet, I know I liked it more than most people I know. But I don’t think it was as good as it wanted to be or as it thought it was. Thank You seems to do the things that Juliet was wanting to do but didn’t get done. I’m not necessarily saying it’s a better book (I might lean that way), but this is more successful in the areas they overlap. Similarly, while I wouldn’t say that One Last Thing is a bad book, it can’t hold a candle to this one. I’m not trying to make this a competition, but for this first-time novelist to get things better than old pros like Hornby and Tropper says so much about him.

One day I’ll die, and reading this will be one of the things I did with my time. I’m so glad it was.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Looking back at 2017 for Books and the Blog

As we kick off 2018, I wanted to take a glance back at 2017. 260 books read — I exceeded my goal (nothing like exceeding an arbitrary number to boost the ol’ ego), 395 posts (short of my goal by a couple hundred, and worse — almost 50 fewer than 2015!). I had some strong gains in traffic — views and visitors — and I’m also seeing good growth in followers here and on various social media fronts, which is encouraging as all get out.

So here’s my breakdown of books by genre, like the one I did last year. Genre labeling is more difficult this year, I read a lot of hybrids, but I tend to go with the overarching genre (for example, Artemis is a SF and Crime hybrid, I went with SF). Mystery/Suspense/Thriller is back to where it should be. SF and Fantasy took the hit to make up for that. it’s been forever since I’ve read a Western, I guess (at least one that wasn’t a hybrid with Urban Fantasy or SF or something). Theological books went down in actual numbers, not just percent — but I read some big, technical stuff this year that took a lot more time/energy to read, so I’m not too bothered by that. Still, for someone who doesn’t plan too thoroughly, the percentages stay remarkably the same from year to year — tastes (and series I follow) apparently stay the same.

Genre 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
Children’s 7 (3%) 5 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Fantasy 7 (3%) 31 (13%) 17 (9%) 11 (7%) 15 (8%) 12 (6%)
General Fiction/
Literature
29 (10%) 27 (11%) 17 (9%) 7 (4%) 30 (16%) 30 (14%)
Horror 0 (0%) 1 (.4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Humor 1 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (1%) 3 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Mystery/
Suspense/
Thriller
102 (37%) 61 (25%) 64 (34%) 62 (37%) 63 (33%) 73 (35%)
Non-Fiction 10 (4%) 11 (5%) 8 (4%) 4 (2%) 2 (1%) 11 (5%)
Science Fiction 27 (10%) 37 (15%) 16 (8%) 17 (10%) 14 (7%) 11 (5%)
Steampunk 1 (0%) 2 (1%) 7 (4%) 3 (2%) 3 (2%) 11 (5%)
Theology/
Christian Living
30 (11%) 33 (14%) 42 (22%) 42 (25%) 37 (19%) 10 (5%)
Urban Fantasy 45 (16%) 36 (15%) 19 (10%) 20 (12%) 26 (14%) 48 (23%)
Western 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (0%)

Have a great 2018, hope you find plenty of good things to read!

Looking back at 2016 for Books and the Blog

As we kick off 2017, I wanted to take a glance back at 2016. 241 books read — I exceeded my goal (I don’t remember what it was at the beginning, but I revised it a couple of times and still beat it by 6), 444 posts (short of my goal by a couple hundred), I had some good gains in traffic — views and visitors (not as much as the previous couple of years, but that’s better than a loss). I’m also seeing good growth in followers here and on various social media fronts, which is encouraging as all get out.

So here’s my breakdown of books by genre, like the one I did last year. Mystery/Suspense took a hit this year percentage-wise, but not as much as I thought it did. SF and Fantasy jumped up to make up for that. it’s been forever since I’ve read a Western, I guess (at least one that wasn’t a hybrid with Urban Fantasy or SF or something). Theological books went down in actual numbers, not just percent — but I read some big, technical stuff this year that took a lot more time/energy to read, so I’m not too bothered by that. Still, for someone who doesn’t plan too thoroughly, the percentages stay remarkably the same from year to year — tastes (and series I follow) apparently stay the same.

Genre 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2012-16
Children’s 5 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)

5 (0%)
Fantasy 31 (13%) 17 (9%) 11 (7%) 15 (8%) 12 (6%) 86 (9%)
General Fiction/Literature 27 (11%) 17 (9%) 7 (4%) 30 (16%) 30 (14%) 111 (11%)
Horror 1 (.4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%0 0 (0%) 1 (0%)
Humor 0 (0%) 1 (1%) 3 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 4 (0%)
Mystery/Suspense 61 (25%) 64 (34%) 62 (37%) 63 (33%) 73 (35%) 323 (32%)
Non-Fiction 11 (5%) 8 (4%) 4 (2%) 2 (1%) 11 (5%) 36 (4%)
Science Fiction 37 (15%) 16 (8%) 17 (10%) 14 (7%) 11 (5%) 95 (9%)
Steampunk 2 (1%) 7 (4%) 3 (2%) 3 (2%) 11 (5%) 26 (3%)
Theology/Christian Living 33 (14%) 42 (22%) 42 (25%) 37 (19%) 10 (5%) 164 (16%)
Urban Fantasy 36 (15%) 19 (10%) 20 (12%) 26 (14%) 48 (23%) 149 (15%)
Western 0 (0%)

0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (0%) 1 (0%)

The Best Novels I Read in 2015

Before we get to The Best of, if you’re really curious, here’s a list of every book I read in 2015.

This list was harder to put together than last year’s — you think this’d be easy, look at the 5-star ratings, pick 10. But while I stand by my initial ratings, there are some in the 5-Star group that aren’t as good as some of the 4 and 4½ books, although for whatever reason, I ranked them higher (entertainment value, sentimental value…liked the ending better…etc.). Anyway, I came up with a list I think I can live with.

Last year, I did a Runners-Up list, too. There are too many to bother with this year. Which is a good thing — a lotta good books last year. I also did a worst of 2014, which I didn’t do to be mean last year — but for some reason feels mean this year, so I’ll skip that, too.

(in alphabetical order by author)

Thank You, GoodnightThank You, Goodnight

by Andy Abramowitz

My Review
Rock ‘n Roll, Love, Inevitable Maturing, and that certain feeling you get while doing something with your friends.
4 1/2 Stars

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's SorryMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

by Fredrik Backman, translated by Henning Koch
My Review
Part tribute to J. K. Rowling, part coming-of-age (even if that age is early teen), part love letter to the Ideal of Grandmothers. This’ll get ya in the cockles of the heart.
4 Stars

Long Black CurlLong Black Curl

by Alex Bledsoe
My Review
Bledsoe took his perfect little world, and shined a spotlight on its dark underbelly, somehow making the community even more appealing. Stronger, although more fragile than before.
5 Stars

The Aeronaut’s WindlassThe Aeronaut’s Windlass

by Jim Butcher
My Review
Assuming the next volumes are as good, if not better, this is the beginning of Butcher’s best series to date. It could also be the a promise that he can’t deliver on. I’m betting on the former.
4 1/2 Stars

A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark

by Harry Connolly
My Review
One of the few really unique Urban Fantasies out there. Every other new UF can sort-of be compared to another/several others — but not this one.
4 1/2 Stars

The Way Into DarknessThe Way Into Darkness

by Harry Connolly
I set this one (and the two earlier novels in the trilogy) aside to give myself time to think about them before blogging about them. I never got back to it. A working title for this series was “Epic Fantasy with No Dull Parts” (or something like that) — he pulled it off, staying true to the conventions of the genre while turning them on their head. A great conclusion to a great trilogy.
5 Stars

The DrafterThe Drafter

by Kim Harrison
My Review
Harrison did everything she needed to do here after bringing her 13 novel series to a close. She wrote something that should appeal to her long time fans, but didn’t try to reduplicate her success. A brand-new hero, a brand-new world, with brand-new powers (and problems!). This one rattled me, kept me guessing, and kept me on the edge of my seat.
5 Stars

Last WordsLast Words

by Michael Koryta
My Review
Thoughtful, suspenseful, claustrophobic. A great introduction to a character I hope to see featured in several novels in the future.
4 1/2 Stars

A Red-Rose ChainA Red-Rose Chain

by Seanan McGuire
My Review
McGuire — much like Toby Daye — doesn’t rest on her laurels, but keeps pushing the series forward in directions no one would’ve guessed.
4 1/2 Stars

UprootedUprooted

by Naomi Novik
My Review
This take on a traditional tale just blew my mind — the perfect bit of storytelling.
5 Stars

Thank You, Goodnight by Andy Abramowitz

Thank You, GoodnightThank You, Goodnight”

by Andy Abramowitz

Hardcover, 338 pg.
Touchstone, 2015
Read: June 30 – July 3, 2015

In most instances, space between people grows like mold, neglected just long enough to be noticed. You intended to wipe it clean, but the more of it there is, the more daunting a task it becomes to erase it. Not so with me and the band. I’d discontinued those people as if they were a premium cable channel that I’d finally realized was broadcasting nothing I wanted to watch.

From passages like that, a nice mix of thoughtful, sentimental, with a bit of a grin; to the out-and-out funny, like the funniest suicide attempt I’ve read in a long time, possibly ever (something worthy Save Steve Holland’s Lane Myer, but longer); this book covers the spectrum. Not only covers it, but does so with assurance and panache. It’s one of those first novels that makes you wonder what could possibly be done as a follow up.

Teddy Tremble is a successful enough lawyer for someone who’s heart isn’t really in it, while still being good at it. He’s sort of coasting through life — being good enough at his job, good enough with his girlfriend of forever, good enough for his social circle, but not good enough for his father (but after meeting him, you understand that’s just a given). He’s forty-ish and realizes that life is going to pretty much stay this way. On the whole, he seems okay with that — but in the back of his mind he knows he’s not. He won an Academy Award. His band was huge for a little while in the 1990’s, before his hubris ruined things. Sure, things are good enough now, but once upon a time they were great.

Then through a truly humbling and bewildering set of circumstances, Teddy comes across a group of huge Tremble fans. Seriously, die-hard doesn’t begin to describe these people. Think something akin to the kind of people that organized the first Star Trek convention back when it wasn’t a cultural phenomenon, just a short-lived and then canceled show. This changes everything. The adulation, the attention, the satisfaction of performing gets under his skin and he starts writing music for the first time in a long time.

Pretty soon, he’s (forgive the cliché) trying to get the band back together — his agent and producer are on board, convinced that what he’s written exceeds his former quality. Incidentally, both of these characters are the kind that we readers hope to come across — supporting characters that threaten to steal the entire novel, but when used properly just make the whole thing better.

Anyway, with these two on board — Teddy just has to convince the rest of the band to give it a shot, to trust him. Maybe even to forgive him for what he did to them so long ago. Then he has to convince music fans to take them seriously. Neither of these tasks is going to be easy. Both are practically impossible, really.

The book starts out as pretty entertaining, definitely amusing. But it doesn’t stop there — it gets better, deeper, emotionally richer all the while. By the time I got to (and through) Chapter 20, I tweeted that, “Not sure I need to read another word (am going to), but that was as close to perfect as it gets.” I’m still thinking about it a month later.

At various places through the novel, Teddy observes: “One day I’ll die, and this will be one of the things I did with my time.” I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one sentence used so many different ways with so many different meanings depending on the context. Sometimes he’s says it wryly, sometimes caustically, sometimes wistfully, sometimes with pride. It’s one of those writerly things that when you see it in action, you wonder why more people don’t try it.

Each of these characters — the agent, the producer, the bandmates, their (sometimes very odd) families, Teddy’s girlfriend, associates in the law firm, and others — are well-drawn. Occasionally familiar, without being stock characters or cliché, each character ends up being strong enough that you want to spend at least a little more time with them. But Abramowtitz is too capable of steward of his resources and gives us just enough to leave us wanting more.

I’ve seen a lot of comparisons of Thank You to Hornby’s High Fidelity and Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You. I don’t get that. Maybe it’s just because these people haven’t read anything else by these authors — they should be comparing this to Hornby’s Juliet, Naked and Tropper’s One Last Thing Before I Go (to be fair, I have seen a little of this comparison, but no one else that I’ve seen has tagged Juliet). These three cover some of the same territory, and Abramowitz comes out looking really good in that company. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Juliet, I know I liked it more than most people I know. But I don’t think it was as good as it wanted to be or as it thought it was. Thank You seems to do the things that Juliet was wanting to do but didn’t get done. I’m not necessarily saying it’s a better book (I might lean that way), but this is more successful in the areas they overlap. Similarly, while I wouldn’t say that One Last Thing is a bad book, it can’t hold a candle to this one. I’m not trying to make this a competition, but for this first-time novelist to get things better than old pros like Hornby and Tropper says so much about him.

One day I’ll die, and reading this will be one of the things I did with my time. I’m so glad it was.

—–

4 1/2 Stars