Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review

Another reading and blogging year has come and gone and it's time to look back at the highlights and see what kind of year 2015 was here at My Reader's Block.
Challenges remain one of my biggest passions (after reading, which comes after collecting, of course). Over the course of the year, I signed up for 42 challenges but I didn't manage to complete every one of them. Two perpetual challenges got the better of me--but I'll be back after you, Century of Books and One Million Pages, so look out in 2016!  I started with my very own Vintage Mystery Challenge and was busy signing up right till the end--joining Michelle's Christmas Spirit Challenge in November to carry me through to the New Year. 

Of course there was also a bit of hosting going on here at the Block, too. The most popular are the Vintage Mystery Challenge and Mount TBR. I'm so grateful to everyone who joined me in the Reader's Block Bingo Hall for another round of mystery bingo. Up next in vintage mysteries is a year-long scavenger hunt. So, if you like mysteries and pay attention to the covers, then this might be for you. Check it out at Vintage Scavenger Hunt. The Color Coded and Read It Again, Sam Challenges were also popular. I also tried my hand at a Reading Challenge version of Password. That wasn't quite as popular as I hoped, so I'm shelving that one for the moment. It's possible I'll change it up a bit and give it another try in the future. But the overwhelming favorite remains the Mount TBR Challenge with participants in the blogging world as well as on GoodReads. Thanks to everyone who joined me in my own personal brand of challenge-madness!  

It seems to be a recurring theme...but I continue to regret my loss of blog-browsing time. Someone stole a few of my hours somewhere--or I'm just slowing down as I get older [did I really say that?]--and I apologize to all my friends out here in the blogging world.  I'm still peeking in on most of you--but it's more of a fly-by, I'm afraid, with very little commenting.  I did manage to get through nearly all of the reviews--especially for the Vintage Mystery Challenge, the challenge that is nearest and dearest to my heart. I want to send a shout-out to the bloggers who make this such a great place to visit and chat and read: Sergio at the Fedora, John at Pretty Sinister Books, Yvette at In So Many Words, Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, Curtis at The Passing Tramp, Steve at In Search of the Classic Mystery, Noah at Noah's Archives, Rich at Past Offenses, Freda at Freda's Voice and Cheryl and Gina and all the others that I'm having an almost-senior moment and forgetting. You all continually feed my reading and/or challenge addictions and help my never-ending TBR pile to grow.

 Thank you once more to all of the wonderful people out here in the blogosphere--those who follow and just take a peek now and then, those who comment, and those who have become close blogging buddies--especially those of you who share my love of vintage mysteries; I have appreciated your knowledge and insights on my favorite genre. I also appreciate the Golden Age of Detection group on Facebook. It has been wonderful getting to know new folks there as well as getting to know of my blogging friends a little better. We have also started a Tuesday Night Blogging Club (modeled after Christie's Tuesday Night Club)--where we get together and blog about various Golden Age authors. That's been a special treat in 2015 and I look forward to more Tuesday meetings in 2016. Thanks as well to all who sponsored the many challenges which helped feed my reading/challenge habit--they were all great fun!  I hope you all have a fabulous New Year!   

And my year-end stat totals:

Total Books Read: 164
Total Pages: 37,873
Percentage by Female Authors: 40%
Percentage by US Authors: 56%
Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors: 5%

3 Australian
2 Canadian
2 French1 Swedish

Percentage Mystery: 76%
Percentage Fiction: 93%
Percentage written 2000+: 15%
Percentage of Rereads: 8%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100%
Number of Challenges fulfilled: 42 (95%)

The Best Reads of 2014 (no rereads allowed)

Five Stars: 
The HItchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov  
Xenogenesis Book 1: Dawn by Octavia Butler
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever (Original Teleplay) by Ellison, Adapted by Scott & David Tipton
Strange Wine by Harlan Ellison 
Game Without Rules by Michael Gilbert  
Call for the Dead by John le Carré
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen 
Four & 1/2 Stars:

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards
The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey 

Four Stars:
 Too Many to List--40 over all

And, finally, the overall P.O.M. Award Winner for best mystery of 2015 [excluding rereads] goes to two books that surprised me mightily. I'm not usually a spy thriller kind of girl. But both Game Without Rules by Michael Gilbert and Call for the Dead by John le Carré were clear winners this year.

Michael Gilbert's short story collection Game Without Rules is the best collection of stories devoted to espionage and counter intelligence that I have ever read. The most amazing thing about these stories by Gilbert is that even though they are short, they pack a heck of a wallop. Each story could have been expanded into a novel--the themes are so rich and story-worthy--but Gilbert's economy and deft descriptions make it possible to tell the essentials in an action-packed short without losing any of the important points. Straight, to the point storytelling with believable plots and characterization make for a prize-package of reading.

Le Carré reeled me in with his descriptive story-telling. A "toad"-like man may not have been my ideal spy when I began, but I was completely convinced of his abilities and his reality by the end. The picture of post-war Britain that le Carré paints is brilliantly rendered--I looked up from my book in the final chapters fully expecting to see the fog swirling round me and to hear the river traffic below the bridge. The story itself reads less like a spy-thriller to me than a more traditional mystery. Smiley is following up clues in the best Scotland Yard fashion. I absolutely will be on the look-out for copies of the other Smiley books.

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