Revisiting My Goodreads Recommendations



A year and a half ago, I wrote a post called "Dear Goodreads, Do You Really Know What Science Fiction I Want to Read?", where I took a look at their recommendations for me in SF. I did a similar set of posts for the Amazon behemoth and I've been working on another post in the series for Google Play Books.

Then I logged into Goodreads recently on a whim and headed over to their Browse tab. I'm not obsessive about updating my reading there these days, nor have I been actively avoiding doing so. It's been awhile since I've thought about it, so I figured the list of recommended reads would be similar to what it was at the beginning of 2019.

It wasn't.

Curiosity go the better of me on this one, so I've changed course from the standard fourth week book review, and today I'll be diving in headlong to see what has changed in the last nineteen months. I'm using a similar methodology to narrow down the list to 10 as last time (1 recommendation per book I've already read/added to my lists). a different methodology to narrow down their list.

Why?

In this case, it is because almost all of the recommendations were based on three books. This time I'll be grabbing the first 10 or so that actually fall into science fiction, not just the ones tagged that way. I also plan to note each book's rating on Goodreads, but I won't be including the book that inspired the recommendation. I will be including a note stating if it was on the list last time, of course.
Unless otherwise noted, summaries for the books are taken from the Goodreads description unless otherwise stated.

The List:

Renegades (Renegades #1) - Marissa Meyer (4.16 out of 5 stars as of 7/25/2020)

Summary:

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone... except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

Will I be adding it to my TBR list?

To the maybe section. I'm easing my way back into dystopian fiction. Cinder, also by this author, is already on my TBR list. Once I've read that, it could move onto the main list.

Love Beyond Time (Time Series #1) - Nancy Campbell Allen (3.97 out of 5 stars as of 7/25/2020)

Summary:

Amber Saxton is a bright young LDS doctor on the cutting edge of twenty-first century medicine. But when she has a head-on collision with a swinging door, life as she knows it is suddenly reduced to a heart full of searing memories when she awakens in another time and place. How can she practice modern medicine of a Civil War battlefield — and how can she get out of this mess? She longs for her comfortable apartment and her dear little Primary class, but she's trapped in a world that is not her own. And it's anything but friendly.

Meanwhile, Tyler Montgomery, and overworked accountant, is spending the night at his computer, prepareing for an audit, when two of his worst nightmares walk through his office door. The last thing he remembers is a blow from the butt of their sawed-off shotgun — until he comes to in a tiny room adjacent to a nineteenth-centuy Army hospital. I've died and I'm not in heaven, he thinks.

Amber and Tyler have just begun the adventure of their lives, fraught with danger, intrigue, and unbelievable discoveries at every turn. Thrown together in a world apart, they must somehow find their way back to the present. But first, they need to find each other and learn what matters most in life. Can they meet the test — or will it cost them their lives before they can unravel the mystery of generations past?

Will I be adding it to my TBR list?

No. The description reads like it needed to be proofread (at the very least). It makes me think I'm in for more of the same if I pick up this book.


Summary:

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one... except the "thing" inside her.

When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch...

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on even if it seems no one believes her.

Will I be adding it to my TBR?

Yes. Steampunk is still a subgenre I'm interested in.

Saga, Vol. 1 (Saga (Collected Editions) #1) - Brian K. Vaughn (writer), Fiona Staples (artist) - (4.19 out of 5 stars as of 7/25/2020)

Summary:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

Will I be adding it to my TBR list?

To the maybe section. The description got my attention, but it is part of a graphic novel series and I've never had much interest.

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) - N.K. Jemisin (4.3 out of 5 stars as of 7/25/2020)

Summary:

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze -- the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years -- collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She'll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Will I be adding this to my TBR list?

No, but only because it is already on the list.

Kindred - Octavia E. Butler (4.25 out of 5 stars as of 7/25/2020)

Summary:

Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given... 

Will I be adding it to my TBR list?

No, because it is already on my TBR list.


The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1) - John Scalzi (4.11 out of 5 stars as of 7/25/2020)

Summary:

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible -- until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war -- and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal -- but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals -- a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency -- are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

Will I be adding it to my TBR List?

No. I can't quite put my finger on what about the description puts me off of this book, but it does.


My two main issues with the Goodreads recommendations the last time around are the same this time. 
  1. The number of fantasy stories on a list that is supposed to be science fiction.
  2. The number of recommendations that are based on such a small number of authors (in this case, Gail Carriger, Nnedi Okorafor, and Ally Condie). 
I'm not sure I was expecting this to have changed. The number of fantasy stories on this list plays into a greater issue I have with how SciFi and Fantasy get classified together in general. 

When it comes to how Goodreads generates recommendations, I'm not so sure the problem is on their end. They state on their website that they base recommendations on books you've read and rated on their site. I've never been good about leaving ratings, but perhaps it is time for me to change that habit. 

Also, the fact it only just occurred to me that the second problem is at least partially my fault is bad. I know it. I can only resolve to do better as I move forward.

Let's just agree to come back to this in another eighteen months and see how well Goodreads works for me then.

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