Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Wrap-up and Some Mini Reviews

Again, I fell short of my Cannonball Read 7 goal, but am happy that I at least made it to double digits with 10 proper reviews in 2015.  I've signed up for only 13 for 2016, so even with planning a wedding, I may get there.

Looking back at my book list for 2015:

My favourites of 2015:

The Martian by Andy Weir, closely followed by The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper.  I just finished that, so I will do reviews for those books as my first of 2016.
The Martian cover
I have now also seen The Martian movie, which I enjoyed.  As expected, they had to leave some parts out, but it kept the feeling of the book.  I enjoyed both, but, unsurprisingly, I recommend reading the book first.

My worst of 2015:

The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare.  There was a lot of excited buzz about the first books when they came out.  I didn't pay much attention and just put them on my wish list.  I really regret not having paid more attention.

I have a lot of artist friends and I think maybe some of them liked that art plays a significant role in the beginning.  There were moments of cleverness, so I could see potential and hoped things would get better as it went on.  No, it got worse.  The characters didn't develop, and instead seem to get even more flat and repetitive. I wanted to yell at them for being so stupid a lot of the time.  I don't think they learned one thing through all of their many life and death experiences, except perhaps Simon at times. 

By coincidence, the movie, City of Bones was on TV just after I read the series.  It wasn't a very good movie, but I thought it was better than the book.  It cut out some of the worst parts and made some things make more sense.   The books could have benefited from some heavy editing like is required for a movie.  

I was so annoyed at these books that I didn't even want to give them the extra exposure of a review on Cannonball Read.  The first three books were a mix of ebooks and audiobooks.  After that, I only lasted because I was listening to audiobooks, but they kept putting me to sleep.  You know it isn't a very good story when you can't stay awake night after night.  I was forcing myself to get through them just because I had put so much time into them and hoped they would get better.  I gave up soon into #5.  It took me that long to start looking at some reviews to see if it was worth continuing and what I found said it wasn't.  I was really mad at myself for sticking it out so long.

I have no idea why she is such a popular YA author.  There is much better out there.  And looking into Cassandra a little bit now, I see I also missed a whole mess of plagiarism and cyber-bullying accusations going back before these books.  Grrr.

The biggest disappointment of 2015:

The Princess Bride audiobook.

The most pleasant surprise of 2015:

Watermelon Summer by Anna Hess.  Also White Hart by Sarah Dalton.

Both of these were given to me during the YA Spring Fling Giveaway in 2015.  With no expectations for free books, I was happy to enjoy them so much.  I would definitely read more by both authors.

White Hart is the first in a trilogy.  I have purchased the 2nd book, so plan to re-read White Hart to do a proper review before continuing to the second book, Red Palace.

- X -

Other books of the year:

1) Torchwood - The Sin Eaters by Brain Minchin (audiobook), narrated by Gareth David-Lloydm who plays Ianto Jones in Torchwood.

My library has only a handful of these short BBC productions.  They are basically Torchwood short-stories given from Ianto's perspective.  If you like the Torchwood TV show, then this is a fun bonus.  I'm not sure if they hold up if you aren't already familiar with the characters.  I plan to listen to the rest of the ones my library has and hopefully do a proper review of them.

Probably 3 stars.

2) The Work: My Search for a Life That Matters by Wes Moore (audiobook), narrated by Wes Moore
The Work cover by Wes Moore
I can't remember much about this now except that I liked it.  I liked Wes as a narrator with a slow, conversational style.  It boiled down a lot to the importance of opportunities in his life that instilled in him the importance of learning to learn and debate and to get different world views.  He struggled to find meaningful work, rather than just working to survive and accumulate money.

One criticism as an audiobook, there is a lot of name dropping, which can be hard to follow if you aren't familiar with the names and don't know the spelling to look them up.

I liked it enough that I would read his first book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, but I didn't run out and get it.

Can't remember if it would be more than 3 stars.

3) Sky Dragons by Anne McCaffrey & Todd McCaffrey

What you would expect if you have been reading the Pern series.  I suggest starting with them in the order they were written, if you aren't familiar with the series.  So far the ones I've read that were with Todd McCaffrey haven't been anything special, but are OK if you are already a fan and just want more.  Todd is lacking something his mother had when he continues the series on his own.

Probably 2 stars, unless you are a big fan.

4) I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I read this while dealing with some stressful health issues.  It didn't stick with me at all - because of that, not because it was a bad book.   Re-reading the library description, I can recall that I liked it, but no real details.  It was recommended as good for fans of Rainbow Rowell, and I'll agree with that.

Can't remember well enough to know if it would be a 3 or 4 stars.

5) Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris (audiobook),
narrated by Neil Patrick Harris.
I wondered how he would handle the "choose-your-own-adventure" style in an audiobook, but it was well done. I was both interested and entertained.  Having Neil read it himself, is certainly worth listening to the audiobook version.

4 stars, only not 5 stars because I don't think it is the type of book I would read again.

6) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I can't even remember for sure what version I read, but I think it was the ebook.  I think I put a hold on both library versions and took whatever came up first.  But, I do remember that I really liked it and I wish I had done a proper review when I still remembered it. 

I was hesitant to read Station Eleven until I looked it up to specifically to see that there was no sexual violence in it.  This is mostly set in a time years after an apocalyptic event brings the end of civilization which is all too often a setting for a lot of sexual violence in an adult book.   But fortunately, this leaves that out.  It is far enough in the future to be past the initial chaos, although there are still dangers.  I enjoyed following the characters of the travelling entertainers and seeing how everything wove together by the end.

 I would like to reread it again someday and maybe do a proper review then. 

4 stars 

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

Rating system:
1 star (didn't like); 2 stars (OK); 3 stars (good); 4 stars (very good); 5 stars (favourite)

Also check out Cannonball Read for a variety of book reviews from many others.

No comments: