Saturday, January 14, 2017

2016: Black and white and read all over

Amid all the stories about how few people read books, I’m awed by the numbers read by some of the book bloggers I follow. At Rose City Reader,  the total was 108 in 2016 despite the blogger’s complaint that a busy year at the day job detracted from reading time. At Shelf Love, the total was 92 as of posting time on December 31, 2016 (but another one or two might have gotten read before the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve).

I only managed 77. I’m OK with that. What I’m not OK with is not having reviewed more of them – only 33. That will change for 2017, as will my ability (I hope) to link all previous year’s reviews to this site. Until that happens, I’m attaching the following abridged list of 2016 reviews.

And because I appreciate reviewers who explain how they arrive at ratings, here’s my criteria: did the book do what the author (as best I can determine) meant to do? If done well, whether I was personally crazy about the book or not, it got 5 stars, that is, 5 out of 5 in Amazon’s and Goodreads’ systems, which equals a grade of A. A 5-star rating for a DIY book, for instance, doesn’t mean it’s classic literature. It just means it’s a really good DIY book.

Readers may notice that my ratings skew on the high side. That’s because if a book really doesn’t hold my interest (or accomplish what I perceive the author intended to do) I simply stop reading. I don’t get paid to do reviews, and it’s not worth my time to struggle miserably through a book for the dubious joy of posting a 1-star (grade: F) or 2-star (grade: D) rating. The very rare 2-stars are for books that I believed had some merit or interest despite their low achievement.

So, a drumroll please, for the 2016 reviews:

  1. The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean Auel (historical fiction, 4 stars)
  2. The First Order, by Jeff Abbott (thriller, 4 stars)
  3. Painted Horses, by Malcolm Brooks (historical fiction, 5 stars)
  4. Come, Tell Me How You Live, by Agatha Christie Mallowan (memoir, 3 stars)
  5. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, by Brian Grazer (memoir, 5 stars)
  6. When the Sun Bursts: The Enigma of Schizophrenia, by Christopher Bollan (psychology/nonfiction, 5 stars)
  7. Mean Streak, by Sandra Brown (thriller, 4 stars)
  8. Wolf Winter, by Cecilia Ekback (historical fiction, 4 stars)
  9. Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist, by William R. Maples (science/memoir, 5 stars)
  10. Congo (1st Edition), by Michael Crichton (science fiction/thriller, 3 stars)
  11. Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back, by Janice P. Nimura (history/biography, 5 stars)
  12. Running on Red Dog Road: And Other Perils of an Appalachian Childhood, by Drema Hall Berkheimer (memoir, 5 stars)
  13. Zero Cool, by Michael Crichton writing as John Lange (thriller, 4 stars)
  14. The Venom Business, by Michael Crichton writing as John Lange (thriller, 2 stars)
  15. The Peking Man is Missing, by Claire Taschdjian (historical fiction, 4 stars)
  16. Submarines under Ice: The Navy’s Polar Operations, by Marion D. Williams (history, 4 stars)
  17. You Shall Know Them, by Jean Bruller writing as Vercos, (fiction, 4 stars)
  18. Around the World Submerged: The Voyage of the Nuclear Submarine Triton, by Edward L. Beach (history, 5 stars)
  19. Hollow Man, by Mark Pryor (thriller, 5 stars)
  20. Eligible: Another Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Curtis Sittenfeld (fiction, 5 stars -- although nobody in my book group agreed with this assessment!)
  21. The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer, by Skip Hollandsworth, (history, 5 stars)  
  22. Alan Turing: The Enigma, by Andrew Hodges (biography, 5 stars)
  23. The Last Lost World: Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene, by Lydia Pyne and Stephen J. Pyne (history/paleontology, 5 stars)
  24. The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience, by Kent A. Kiehl (memoir, psychology, 5 stars)
  25. Murderous Minds: Exploring the Criminal Psychopathic Brain, by Dean A. Haycock (memoir, psychology, 5 stars)
  26. Personal: A Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child (thriller, 5 stars)
  27. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson (horror, 5 stars)
  28. The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers, and Set Up Your Novel for Success, by Jeff Gerke (self-help, 5 stars) (Is anybody else wondering what’s with all the lengthy subtitles for nonfiction books?)
  29. Stillwater: A Jack McBride Mystery, by Melissa Lenhardt (mystery, 4 stars)
  30. Interference, by Kay Honeyman (YA romance, 4 stars)
  31. The Man Who Lives with Wolves, by Shaun Ellis (memoir/ethology, 4 stars)
  32. The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim (fiction, 4 stars)
  33. The Nun’s Story, by Kathryn Hulme (fiction, 5 stars)

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