Yearly Reading Challenge, 2015

Despite my best intentions, I was just shy of reaching my goal of 100 books in 2015. In retrospect, that goal was overly ambitious considering I’m a full-time PhD student and am usually reading books for my dissertation. Still, I got to 98, largely thanks to the help of comic books and graphic novels. While much shorter than traditional novels, I’m still counting them as they are excellent stories. Here’s the final list for 2015:

  1. Unexpected Eden by Rhenna Morgan
  2. Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson
  3. Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare
  4. The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn
  5. What a Wallflower Wants by Maya Rodale
  6. Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
  7. Trade Me by Courtney Milan
  8. Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh
  9. I Loved a Rogue by Katharine Ashe
  10. The Muse: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jessica Evans
  11. The Devil Wears Kilts by Suzanne Enoch
  12. Rogue with a Brogue by Suzanne Enoch
  13. Mad, Bad and Dangerous in Plaid by Suzanne Enoch
  14. Lick by Kylie Scott
  15. Rock Hard by Nalini Singh
  16. S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 by Mark Waid
  17. S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 by Mark Waid
  18. S.H.I.E.L.D. #3 by Mark Waid
  19. Four Nights with the Duke by Eloisa James
  20. Unwrapping Her Perfect Match by Kat Latham
  21. A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
  22. Avengers: The Children’s Crusade by Allan Heinberg
  23. Play by Kylie Scott
  24. Still the One by Jill Shalvis
  25. Stealing Rose by Monica Murphy
  26. All I Ever Need is You by Bella Andre
  27. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson
  28. Ms. Marvel #12 by G. Willow Wilson
  29. Ms. Marvel #13 by G. Willow Wilson
  30. Young Avengers, Vol. 1: Style > Substance by Kieron Gillen
  31. S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 by Mark Waid
  32. Never Enough by Lauren Dane
  33. Star Wars: Princess Leia, #1 by Mark Waid
  34. Star Wars: Princess Leia, #2 by Mark Waid
  35. Young Avengers, Vol. 2: Alternative Culture by Kieron Gillen
  36. Young Avengers, Vol. 3: Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space by Kieron Gillen
  37. Lead by Kylie Scott
  38. Deep by Kylie Scott
  39. The Navy Seal’s E-Mail Order Bride by Cora Seton
  40. Wild Invitation by Nalini Singh
  41. Inhuman, Vol. 1: Genesis by Charles Soule
  42. Inhuman, Vol. 2: Axis by Charles Soule
  43. Inhuman #12 by Charles Soule
  44. Inhuman #13 by Charles Soule
  45. Inhuman #14 by Charles Soule
  46. Inhuman Annual #1 by Charles Soule
  47. Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh
  48. Ms. Marvel #14 by G. Willow Wilson
  49. Ms. Marvel #15 by G. Willow Wilson
  50. S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 by Mark Waid
  51. S.H.I.E.L.D. #6 by Mark Waid
  52. A-Force #1 by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennet
  53. Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
  54. Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
  55. Alone with Mr. Darcy by Abigail Reynolds
  56. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud
  57. Saga, Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan
  58. Saga Vol. 4 by Brian K. Vaughan
  59. Ms. Marvel #16 by G. Willow Wilson
  60. S.H.I.E.L.D. #7 by Mark Waid
  61. Inhuman: Attilan Rising #1 by Charles Soule
  62. Inhuman: Attilan Rising #2 by Charles Soule
  63. Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis
  64. Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot
  65. A-Force, #2 by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennet
  66. Taming Lily by Monica Murphy
  67. All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue by Sophie Jordan
  68. Dangerous Books for Girls by Maya Rodale
  69. Three Schemes and a Scandal by Maya Rodale
  70. The Wicked and The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen
  71. The Wicked and The Divine, Vol. 2: Fandemonium by Kieron Gillen
  72. Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler
  73. When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare
  74. Ms. Marvel #17 by G. Willow Wilson
  75. A-Force #3 by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennet
  76. Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh
  77. Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh
  78. Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren
  79. Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh
  80. Dirty Rowdy Thing by Christina Lauren
  81. Dark Wild Night by Christina Lauren
  82. Ms. Marvel #18 by G. Willow Wilson
  83. A-Force #4 by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennet
  84. Imaginary Men by Anjali Banerjee
  85. Saga, Vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan
  86. All I Want by Jill Shalvis
  87. Bitch Planet, Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  88. Paper Girls #1 by Brian K. Vaughn
  89. Some Like it Scot by Suzanne Enoch
  90. Again, My Lord by Katharine Ashe
  91. A-Force #5 by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennet
  92. Ms. Marvel #19 by G. Willow Wilson
  93. The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean
  94. Ms. Marvel #1 (reboot) by G. Willow Wilson et al
  95. All-New, All-Different Avengers #1 by Mark Waid et al
  96. The Klaus Brothers 1-3 by Penny Watson
  97. Sweet Cinderella by Penny Watson
  98. Shattered Empire by Greg Rucka

Onward and upward to 2016!

 

The Rogue Not Taken

The Rogue Not TakenSophie Talbot might be an earl’s daughter now, but she wasn’t always and life in London society rife with whispers and gossip about her sisters, the “Scandalous S’s.” When Sophie unwittingly becomes the centre of a new scandal, she runs away, desperate to try to claim a life for herself away from the ton‘s scorn. Stowing away in the Marquess of Eversley’s carriage, she plans to go unnoticed. Unfortunately for Sophie, Kingscote (the Marquess) quickly discovers her, convinced she’s trying to trap him into marriage. He’s determined to avoid matrimony, Sophie is determined to get away from him as well, and this wild road trip is following rules of its own.

The Rogue Not Taken is Sarah MacLean’s latest book and the first in her new Scandals and Scoundrel series. I have a special fondness for characters and couples in the first books in all of MacLean’s series (e.g., Callie and Ralston, Bourne and Penelope), so it’s no surprise to me that Sophie and King quickly found their way into my heart. This novel combines some of the best romance genre tropes to great effect: a young woman disguised as a footman, a pre-Victorian road trip with carriages rattling towards Scotland, and (one of my personal favourites), the hero and heroine who despise each other – until they don’t at all. But the very best part of this book, for me, was Sophie, because I immediately felt a connection to her.

While reading The Rogue Not Taken, there were three particular threads that stood out to me. The first, and perhaps most obvious, were the parallels between the scandal sheets of Sophie’s London and the tabloids of the 21st century. MacLean herself has said repeatedly that Sophie and her similarly S-named sisters are modelled after the Kardashians, but she also contemplates the idea that the media, whether it’s an 19th century ladies’ newspaper or a 21st century TMZ report, rarely reports the whole story. Scandal sheets and tabloids often distort the truth and package it with the specific intention of selling copies. In MacLean’s novel, Sophie and King both find themselves wrapped up in this environment. Sophie yearns to escape society’s critical eyes, while King clearly judges Sophie based on half-truths and outright lies he’s heard around town. Their relationship grows and develops when they learn to look past preconceived notions.

A second story thread in The Rogue Not Taken deals with Sophie’s feeling of being overshadowed by her more outgoing and scandalous sisters. I self-identify as an introvert, and am surrounded by well-meaning extroverted family members, many of whom have larger than life personalities. So I felt a kinship with Sophie as she struggled to make her own way in the world. At the start of the novel, she has long resigned herself to being the plain and boring Talbot sister, and often finds it difficult to make her own voice heard within her family. It’s bad enough when King automatically (initially) judges Sophie based solely on her family name; my heart broke for her, though, when I realised she believed all the gossip about herself, instead of trusting her own strength. Thankfully, MacLean doesn’t write weak heroines; King has a particular talent for insulting Sophie and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, but Sophie routinely calls him out on his rudeness (and, as a reader, I cheered).

The third and final story thread that caught my attention when reading was Sophie’s desire to return “home” – without realising that life changes how we view our past and what was once “home” may no longer be so. We all eventually try to find our own place in the world, but sometimes that means that we can’t go back, because we’ve changed too much. When Sophie tries to reclaim the happiness of her childhood, she’s forced to confront the reality that time, people, and places have all moved on. In contrast, King has spent most of his life outrunning and avoiding his childhood. It’s only when his adventure with Sophie brings him home that he’s able to make peace with the past. Life often takes us in the direction we’re meant to go, but that can also mean letting go of – and grieving – the choices we’re not going to make. Sophie and King confront that truth in The Rogue Not Taken, and the results are spectacularly emotional – in the very best way.

The Rogue Not Taken is yet another triumph from Sarah MacLean. I’m a huge fan of historical romances where the heroine does her best to buck society’s trends and MacLean has added another worthy example to that canon. Sophie is witty, intelligent, stubborn, and independent. At times, it seemed impossible that anyone could deserve her, especially King, but his journey is just as hard-won. The Rogue Not Taken is a fantastic novel and I can’t wait to see what MacLean comes up with next! 

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

[Photo Credit: Goodreads]

Best of 2015 According to Me

Best of 2015Well, bookworms, 2015 is almost over, and while I normally wait until the last week of the year to publish my annual “best of” list, I’ve decided to post it a bit earlier this year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: PhD programmes are no joke! Most of my reading time has been consumed with reading books and journal articles for my research; pleasure reading comes in fits and spurts whenever and wherever I can find it.  Still, I read enough to be able to find 10 excellent reads with you.

So without further adieu (and in no particular order), I present The Librarian Next Door’s Best Reads of 2015:

Novels:

  • The Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh (especially books 1, 5 and 6 – so far!) – Sarah Wendell at Smart B*tches recommended this series to me and said it would change my life. SHE. WAS. RIGHT. I had barely finished the first book when I went out and promptly bought as many of the others as I could. I’m still somewhere in the middle, but that just means there’s more fabulous story left for me to discover.
  • Trade Me by Courtney Milan – Milan ventures into contemporary romance with this fantastic start to a new series. Exceptionally well-written, full of emotion, and wonderfully real, Tina and Blake’s story has quickly become a favourite to re-read over and over. Also, yay diversity!
  • Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren – Bought and read on a whim, this story is exactly as advertised: a little bit sweet and a little bit filthy. It’s easy to fall in love with Ansel, but you’ll love Mia even more. Plus, there’s France, ballet, costumes (yes, costumes) and seriously hot make-up sex. You’re welcome.
  • A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev – Gorgeously written, steeped in contemporary Indian and Indian-American culture, and featuring a deeply emotional love story, Dev shone brightly in her debut. She’s since released a second book, but I highly recommend you start here. Worth every minute.
  • The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean – My review of MacLean’s latest will post next week, so I won’t give too much away here. Suffice it to say, if you’re a MacLean fan, you absolutely will not want to miss this crazy 19th-century road trip with a heroine from a Kardashian-like family and a hero named King.

Comics and Graphic Novels:

  • The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie  – Ancient gods reincarnated as modern-day teenagers and pop stars with devoted followings. Sound crazy? In Gillen and McKelvie’s hands, it is anything but. Expertly plotted and beautifully drawn, this is THE most-read comic book series of the year for me.
  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples – Part epic space-fantasy, part mystery/thriller, part dynastic soap opera, and part coming-of-age story, this series is reportedly heavily influenced by Star Wars (yay!) and features some of the best world-building I’ve read in a comic series to date.
  • Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro – A women’s prison. In space. With shades of Margaret Atwood, 1984, and Quentin Tarantino. This is hands down the best feminist comic on the market today, and if you aren’t reading it, you’re wrong.
  • Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona – Kamala Khan is Marvel’s first Muslim superhero, but she’s also a teenage girl who suddenly has super powers, a curfew, and parents who are trying to instill respect for their heritage and religion. Consistently exceptional with each new issue.

Non-Fiction:

  • Dangerous Books for Girls by Maya Rodale – I’m generally not a big non-fiction reader in my free time, but Rodale’s excellent exploration of the history and reputation of romance novels is one of the most readable and enjoyable books I finished this year. An absolute must-read for any romance fan.

It’s your turn, bookworms: what were your favourite books in 2015? Which ones did I miss? Hit the comments to let me know. And a very Merry Christmas (in two days!) to all who celebrate!

[Photo Credit: Indie Reader]

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