What Fra asked Karen
It is that time of year when we draw conclusions and reflect on the most significant reading we have done. Today I am interviewing Karen, founding member of our Inglorious blog, splendid friend and amazing person throughout.
So Karen, tell us what were the 5 (ish) books you loved the most in 2015?
That’s actually a much harder question to answer that it looks, because you get caught up in the moment and the experience of reading, and that can change from book to book.. I have changed this about 10 times !
Champion of the Scarlet Wolf 2 – Ginn Hale. A magnificent end to a marvelous series. I totally loved this.
Focus on me – Megan Ericsson. NA done totally right. Dealt with issues that are very much close to my heart, in a non patronising way.
Sutphin Boulevard – Santino Hassell. Another book that didn’t dodge difficult subjects, and in Michael I found my protagonist of the year.
A Seditious Affair- KJ Charles . Clever informed writing by KJ who gets better with each book.
Nightingale – Aleksandr Voinov
I’d like to give an honorable mention to Cam Girl by Leah Raeder, because months after reading it, I can still remember the emotion it stirred up. It’s not perfect but it was brave and beautiful.
Many books were hyped this year – did you find the hype to be reflective of the actual quality of the book? Which stood up to the hype and which didn’t?
This is a hard one, I generally read what either what I want to, or what we want to review for the blog. So books like Crash and Burn by Abigail Roux, which was massively hyped, I didn’t read as I didn’t enjoy the couple of books in the series that I read.
There was a lot of hype around Sutphin Boulevard, but for me it was totally justified, the urban grittiness of the setting and the rather sweet love story of characters who felt real was rather special.
I was swayed by the hype for In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish, and I think that because my expectations were so high it couldn’t live up to the hype.
On the whole I think that it can be a really difficult balance to get right in the digital age, promoting your book.
What were your high and lows on line this year?
My highs were continuing to interact with a terrific group of people who in the main were supportive and positive about each other, and meeting more people. Actually meeting some of them and after getting to grips with Whatsapp talking to them as well. Being able to talk with people I would find it difficult to meet in my off line life has been a real pleasure, and I have learnt a lot as well.
On the low side, I think seeing how easy it is for people to be attacked by on line warriors, and how much in fighting there can be has been an eye opener for me. On a personal level I was surprised and hurt by the reactions of some people I considered friends.
Any New Year’s resolutions – bookish or otherwise you’d like to share with our readers?
I think in 2016 I will read more selectively, but also try and not be so M/M centric.
I will carry on in my endeavor to not go on Twitter when at work…*laughs hysterically*
What Karen asked Miki
I think that it’s fair to say that while we’ve been friends for a while, our reading tastes can diverge, so have you read anything this year that you have really enjoyed, and then wondered why others aren’t getting it ?
Not from this year, but I want to say Rhi Etzweiler books. There weren’t any released this year, but I feel Rhi´s talent is not sufficiently recognized, perhaps because Rhi doesn’t follow any of the parameters that seem to be required or mandatory to be a dignified and very popular “m/m author”
Other than that, I really enjoyed some particular books of certain authors. The m/m genre has disappointed me a bit this year because I feel it remains sometimes in a straitjacket, and because of how repetitive it is after a while. I think there is a lot of conformism, a tendency to adapt or play along with the rules that the editorial system impose. And of course, the many prejudices that are easily approved. So my short list of books I truly enjoyed this year: Nightingale -AV, Sutphin Boulevard -SH, and several of KA Merikan.
We have primarily read M/M for the blog, does that represent the bulk of your reading in 2015 ? What other genres./authors have you particularly enjoyed ?
Honestly I read much more outside the m/m genre than inside. Comics, novels, short stories. I think it’s a good idea to suggest something different. Therefore I recommend these comics: Internationally, Saga; and among Argentine authors: Hexmoor, Ich, El delirio de Ani, Sudor Sudaca, among others.. And doing a little trap, I also recommend it as a required reading, the long-awaited English edition of the classic of classics: The Eternaut (El Eternauta).
I think it would do well to certain types of readers to expand the boundaries out a little, out of the comfort zone, and read other things, from other cultures.
I enjoy historical novels, science fiction, and some contemporary. I have some favorite authors, but overall I follow recommendations and thematic.
Have there been any specific trends in books that you’ve liked ? And any that you’ve disliked ?
There have been more missteps this year than moments of pleasure, to be honest. I quoted in the first question which books I liked a lot. Considering, then, only books inside the genre m / m, there were some books completely shocking and offensive, such as Let it snow (yes, it’s actually 2014 but never mind) or Against the Grain. It’s countless the number of prejudices, clichés, and xenophobic ideas that both have. Sorry to the many fans, but that´s the honest truth. Read them again.
Any book or any author that you want to applaud for being different ?
Eeeeeeeh. Mmmmm. At this point of the year, I can only say Aleksandr Voinov, Rhi Etzweiler. And sometimes Santino Hassell. I didn´t feel that with his last book, tho.
And finally – do you see your reading trend continuing for 2016 ?
Of course. But I will choose the books within the genre with more care, and taking into account many more variables.
Miki: What are the books that you most enjoyed this year and why?
Fra:2015 has been overall an excellent reading year for me. I have discovered new authors and new books and I have also reinforced my likes and dislikes when it comes to the immense joy that reading is for me.
I always find trying to bed down favorites of anything such a difficult task, but I have been thinking about this quite a lot and I am happy to say that this list will not be interminable.
When it comes to reading: a meaningful story, flawless writing, engaging character and complex world building are really what do it for me. As such this year I have read many books that satisfied one or more of those tenets but only a handful that meet all of those requirements. In no particular order
The Foxhole Court trilogy by Nora Sakawic was such an amazing discovery it made me want to start blogging about books. Relentless plot, incredible characters wrapped in layers of layers of economical and splendid writing. Highly recommended and a series which has made my top 10 of favorite series of all times.
Nightingale by Aleksander Voinov – this was one of my most anticipated novel of the year. In fact 2015 has been the year of discovering Voinov: with all the travel I have done this year his books have been my go to for entertainment in the long, lonely hours after work in exotic places.
I have been following the progress of the “bird” book for quite sometime. Deeply set in a very specific historical period this book tackles very difficult issues with a sure plot, elegant characterisation and an eye for history not found in many contemporary writers.
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell, another highly anticipated novel. With Hassell being one of my favorite writers I really was looking forward to seeing what next for the splendid co author of the incredible In The Company of Shadows. This book was rather splendid itself: gritty, real, with complex characters woven within the world they inhabit – a true treat and one of my recommendations for all
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson if you know me, you know YA is where it’s at for me. This book was breathtaking and heart breaking with a hint of magic realism sewn into the narrative.
Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, another YA book and a late entry at that. This book is the most beautiful book ever. I mean it in the physical sense of the word. Narrated through dossiers, video surveillance reports, frantic IMs and ASCII Codes this takes a known SF plot and takes it to places where no author had gone before!
A Seditious Affair, KJ Charles, another late entry but another highly entertaining beautifully written novel. With revolutionary politics, incendiary literary references and a very romantic plots indeed; this was my favorite romance read of the year.
Honorable mentions go to Ginn Hale for everything of hers I read this year but especially for the Champion Of the Scarlet Wolf that made me fall back in love with Fantasy; Santino Hassell for Stygian, TJ Klune for The Lightening Struck Heart and Quill Carter for The Suicide King part 1
Miki: Taking that into account, what readings outside of the m/m genre would you recommend? Those books that you think everybody should read.
M/M has been quite a discovery for me this year, there are a number of authors in the genre who I will keep reading year after year.
However the genre itself is growing rather stale and formulaic and I have grown weary of it. Also – and especially in the last few months of 2015- it has been plagued by rather vicious issues, some of which have left me heartbroken and back on my meds. So right now mm romance is really not where I want to be when it comes to reading next year.
My recommendations are for checking out more YA next year, perhaps start with the 2 above and then go for a discovery trail of a genre that holds some of the best writing around at the moment.
At a minimum I’d recommend anything by Patrick Ness, Melina Marchetta, Malory Blackman, David Levithan,Juno Dawson. But really pick up any YA now and you are guaranteed to have some quality writing in your hands. If you are not sure give me a shout, I’d be happy to help.
Personally I am going to read more Fantasy – an old of love of mine, the discovery of Ginn Hale rekindled the flame and I am looking forward discovering some great authors here.
Right now I am reading Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards trilogy and loving it. In general I would highly recommend any book that tells an amazing story not because it has to play to some audience “want” but because the author loves the story and wants to tell it no matter what.
Miki: Were you disappointed with any book release?
Was I ever?!? I mean this year I have become unfortunately acquainted with the “OMG SO HYPER ABOUT THIS BOOK IS GOING TO BE AMAZING” syndrome.
I mean some of the books in the above category have been so hyped that I seriously thought we were talking about Pulitzer winners. So I have now learned this: if only one person seems to have read a book and bangs on and on and on about how PHENOMENALLY good that book is? I am going to whip out all my pinches of salt and very likely not read it.
I guess in this category was without a doubt In The Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish, I have never in my entire life come across a book so hyped up which failed to meet even the most basic of expectations – in this case some goddam editing of the 185+ uh, um, ugh would have possibly helped this poor book. With formulaic, unedited and immature prose, a narrative full of plot craters and two of the blandest main characters EVER (see I can do hyped as well) this book was a dreadful disappointment to me.
My other biggest disappointments this year were ALL of the sequels to the rather catchy Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousin. I stopped reading the sequels at book 3 to be completely honest. They were all plagued with cardboard characters, totally unengaging stories and plots and – good grief – they managed to utterly destroy two of the best ever secondary characters.
I was very sad about these books being not up to par and more than pissed off at the over hyping of them, but I do think that they opened my eyes in terms of the formulaic, repetitive and over hyped fiction which is dragging m/m down lately.
Miki: What are your most anticpated readings for 2016?
Right this minute my most anticipated reads of 2016 are:
The second book in Quil Carter’s The Suicide King which is thankfully coming out in the next couple of weeks. Quil’s books are dark, horrific, triggering and very violent but his story telling is flawless and the plot edge of your seat good and the characters incredibly well fleshed out.
I am – together with many, many people – also really looking forward the final instalment of Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat. It has been years of pining and longing and it will be finally here in February.
Santino Hassell has a couple of books coming out this year and I am looking forward those. I hope he fully embraces the awesome author that he is and writes all of the stories he wants to write this year.
Aleksander Voinov could publish his shopping list and i’d be eagerly awaiting that: he is one of the best authors out there at the moment and as both Return on Investment and Nightingale have clearly demonstrated he can take on very difficult subject matter and make it into a thing of beauty.
Ginn Hale and T.J Klune have both sequels to my favorite books in the make and I am really looking forward to those as well.
KJ Charles has books in the works that I am dying to read and I am going to look out for Vanessa North who was one of the pleasant surprises in m/m romance this year.
There’s a ton of YA books I am also looking forward to: Maggie Stiefvater, Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Sarah J. Maas, VE Schawb, Leah Bardugo, man the list is long so I am going to stop it here with the caveat that it is by no means complete.
All in all an excellent year of reading and talking about reading with some incredible people. Also a year of difficulties and an eye opener on the true nature of a crumbling community which I am delighted to be taking a distance from in the New Year.
Thank you for reading, what were your favourites of 2015 ?