Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 End of Year Survey

This survey was originally made up by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner! 

2015 Reading Stats

Number of books I read: 90, although I may fit one more in yet...
Number of rereads: Only 12 this year! 
Genre I read the most from: YA Contemporary, with 22, although if you add adult contemporary, I read 37 contemporary altogether.

Best in Books 


1. Best book I read in 2015 I think that would have to be A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri for this year. 
2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn't? I loved Donna Tartt's The Secret History, but so I was hoping I would like her other book, The Goldfinch, just as much... but, I did not. 

3. Most surprising (in a good way or a bad way) book you read? When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid. Both the way it was written and the ending surprised me, in both the best and worst way possible. 

4. Book you "pushed" the most people to read, and they did? Um, probably Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, which I always push quite often. I also pushed A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea quite a bit as well, and got my mom to read it. 


5. Best series you started in 2015? Ooh, Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock was really good, and so refreshing for YA. I haven't read any of the other books in the series yet, but I'd like to. Best sequel of 2015? The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski, the sequel to The Winner's Curse - it was so good and intense, I think I read it one sitting. I'm so excited to read The Winner's Kiss!
Best series ender of 2015? Shadowscale by Rachel Hartman (I know it's only a duology, but that still counts). Either that or Winter by Marissa Meyer.

6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2015? Jenny Han! I'm glad I could add to my stack of well-written YA contemporary romance with To All the Boys I've Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You. 


7. Best book from a genre you don't typically read/was out of your comfort zone? I don't typically read historical fiction, but I quite enjoyed Consumption by Kevin Patterson, as well as A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri. 

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? Winter by Marissa Meyer, probably. Sheesh, I felt like I had run a marathon after finishing that book, but I was definitely sad it was over! 

9. Book you read in 2015 that you are most likely to reread next year? Well, Jenny Han's duology, definitely, and hopefully Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. 


10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2015? I love the cover of The Weight of Feathers by Anna Marie McLemore, which is a beautiful, dramatic and magical story about two show families. The cover of Listen, Slowly by Thanha Lai is also beautiful. Oh, and the cover of Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard, which is what got me to pick up the book initially.

11. Most memorable character of 2015? Even though it was a reread, I'm going to say the characters from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, since they are so well written and I can never get them out of my head. 

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015? A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri, definitely. I mean it made me cry, so. 

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2015? Probably this biography I read of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy by Eric Metaxas. That man was amazing and everything he did and said is extremely inspiring to me.

14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2015 to read? What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang, which I waited for way too long to read, it actually turned out to be quite good. Now I'll probably wait way too long to read the sequel. 

15. Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2015? This is a passage from Heather O'Neill's The Girl Who Was Saturday Night. The way she writes is so smooth and clever:
"Every writer has to invent their own magical language, in order to describe the indescribable. They might seem to be writing in French, English or Spanish, but really they were writing in the language of butterflies, crows and hanged men."


16. Shortest book you read this year? Summer Point by Linda McNutt. Longest? The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, that thing is like 900 pages.

17. Book that shocked you the most? When Everything Feels Like The Movies by Raziel Reid. 

18. OTP of the year? Lara Jean and Peter K. :)

19. Favourite non-romantic relationship of the year?  Mai and Ut from Listen, Slowly by Thanha Lai. I love little girl friendships. :)

20. Favourite book you read in 2015 from an author you've read previously? Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta. I'd read it before, when I was 15, and hated it (actually if you look at one of my previous end of year posts, I think it makes it to the "worst books" list). This time I loved it, and don't understand why I didn't like it so much the first time.

21. Best book you read based solely on a recommendation from someone else/peer pressure? I read both Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller and Deathless by Cathrynne M. Valente because of Tumblr. (They were both great).

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015? Um, I forget his name, but a character from one of the short stories in the Christmas anthology My True Love Gave to Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins. 

23. Best 2015 debut you read? The Weight of Feathers by Anna Marie McLemore was really good. 

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year? Maybe the whole world of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. 


25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most fun to read? Reading Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak by Victoria Jason was pretty fun, as well as Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I always seem to enjoy well-written memoirs. 

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2015? A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri. 

27. Hidden gem of the year? The first book I read, Althea and Oliver, by Cristina Moracho. I haven't really heard many people at all talking about it, and it was really well written and had a really interesting premise. Also The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari, about a girl pretending to be a boy to play cricket under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. It was great.

28. Book that crushed your soul? Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. 


29. Most unique book you read in 2015? When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid was quite different from anything I've ever read.

30. Book that made you the most mad?  Most of the books that made me really mad this year I didn't finish, so... none?  

Blogging/Bookish Life

1. New favourite book blog of 2015? I could barely keep up with my own blog, much less anyone else's... 

2. Favourite review that you wrote in 2015? I think one of my favourite reviews is the post I did reviewing three books I read set in the Canadian territories. Actually, all the CanLit reviews I did this year were pretty fun.  

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog? Maybe my 5 TBR List Tips.  I didn't do a whole lot other than reviews this year, though. (Which is kind of funny considering last year my goal was to do more reviews!)



4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, etc)? NerdCon! So fun. 

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life of 2015? I always love talking to writers and authors on Twitter, and letting them know when I loved their book. 

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year? Trying to balance school, reading and blogging. (I failed). 

7. Most popular post this year on your blog? My Around the World Reading Challenge post, probably because I linked to it so many times over the year, haha.

8. Post you wished got a little more love? My post about The Book Faeries, where I talk about how my family gives my brother books to read. (The cycle is still going, too). 

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, bookstores, etc)? 49thshelf.com is great for CanLit recommendations, and a bookstore I discovered is Half Price Books when I went to Minneapolis in October to go to NerdCon. Unfortunately, my city doesn't really have any great used bookstores like that. :(

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? I kind of finished my Around the World Reading Challenge, but I definitely completed my Across Canada Reading Challenge, reading a book set in every province and territory in Canada. 

Looking Ahead

1. One book you didn't get to in 2015 but will be your number one priority in 2016? Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt, which came out in October but I haven't had the chance to read yet!



2. Book you are most anticipating for 2016 (non-debut)? The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater!! So excited.

3. 2016 debut you are most anticipating? I haven't seen any I'm interested in yet, but I'm sure I will!

4. Series ending/ a sequel you are most anticipating in 2016? See #2! Oh, also The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2016? Blog more than once every couple of months... I'd also love to keep reading books with international settings, especially books by non-American or North American authors. In 2015, I wanted to read more books by non-American authors than by American authors, but I didn't succeed but I would love to try for next year! (So, recs anyone?)

If you want to do the survey, you can find it here! Stay tuned for January 1 for my annual year-end wrap up post (with a bit of a twist, this year). :)

Monday, October 26, 2015

My Dream Literary Collection

I'm not usually one of those kinds of people that likes to collect books, just for the sake of it. I'm not one of those people who needs to buy the same book every time a new hardcover version comes out. However... Invaluable.com, an online auction site (which also has antique books for auction!) asked me to share what my dream literary collection would like, and there are definitely some gorgeous books out there that I would love to have on my shelf.

1. Harry Potter box set




I read Harry Potter when I was 16 (a little late to the party, I know) but I borrowed them all from a friend. I have an old paperback copy of Chamber of Secrets I think, but that's it. I know that I'd love to reread these books over and over again, so I would love to own them. And this box set is just absolutely gorgeous. I loove the illustrated covers, and the sparkly stars on the bindings.

2. Barnes and Noble Leather-bound Classics


(source)


I saw a picture of these once on Tumblr, and they look amazing. They have gorgeous detailing and illustrations on the front, and they're classics, so they'll never go out of style. I also love anything with fancy swirly designs, which most of these do.

3. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare




I think it'd be really cool to own all of Shakespeare's works, and a version of them in thick, old heavy books because it kind of seems like that's the kinds of books his writing should belong in. 

4. Penguin Cloth-bound Classics



Another series of classic novels that have caught my eye, just for how pretty and pleasing they are. I love the understated patterns on the binding that carry over to the covers. Timeless. 

Of course, there are many more books that I would love to own, but these are some that I thought would look the best on a shelf. :) 


What books would you want to have in your dream literary collection?

 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

NerdCon: Stories Recap

So this weekend I had the opportunity to go to NerdCon: Stories. It was a convention held in Minneapolis, about any kind of storytelling. Of course this meant that there were a lot of authors there, but there were also other people who tell stories, such as podcast writers, actors, and screenwriters. It was put on by none other than Hank Green, one half of the Vlogbrothers and the guy who also puts on VidCon, if you've heard of either of those. I went with a friend from high school. We drove down Thursday early morning, and then came back Sunday. The con itself was Friday and Saturday. 

My friend and I got to Minneapolis around 4pm on Thursday. After resting at our hotel for a bit, we went to what else but a bookstore and bought some used but very new looking books for cheap. 



Day 1

On Friday, we went early to the convention centre to register and just ended up waiting around for awhile for the main stage doors to open. At 8:30 the doors finally opened and we all crowded into the main auditorium, to hear the opening speech from Hank Green who basically said he doesn't quite know what this is either, but thanked us all for being there. 



After the morning main stage entertainment, my friend and I went to our first panel called Telling the Truth, moderated by Hank Green with panelists Paola Bacigalupi, Leslie Datsis, Jacqueline Woodson, Ana Adlerstein, and Nalo Hopkinson. They talked about telling the truth, both in nonfiction and fiction, and what that means. Both Jacqueline Woodson and Nalo Hopkinson were very eloquent speakers and said lots of important things, unfortunately I did not take any notes and forgot all the cool things they said shortly after. There was one part where they were talking about the important of telling diverse stories, and someone asked whether they feel a certain responsibility to represent all these different perspectives. Jacqueline Woodson replied with "it's not a responsibility, it's my world." I definitely need to pick up one of her books. 



After that panel, we went to the Nerdfighter Q and A with Maureen Johnson and Hank and John Green. It was basically just lots of ridiculousness and laughter. 

The other panel we went to that day was The Benefits of Diverse Stories, with Liz Hara, Desiree Burch, Jacqueline Woodson, Dylan Marron, and Jacqueline Carey. I did take notes for that one, but it would take too long to recap all the great things that were said. I would suggest following all the work of the panelists, and of course, following We Need Diverse Books. If you're not part of the discussion of the importance of diversity in stories, you need to be. 


Then we went to the closing main stage, got supper and then went to the Storytelling Circle at 6pm, hosted by Leslie Datsis. That was fun. There was a big group of attendees gathered in kind of a circle, and people would raise their hand for the opportunity to share their 5-minute story, on the theme of "Firsts". I thought it had the potential to be really annoying, but I guess the people who would want to share their stories out loud in front of people tend to be better at that than say, me. It was actually fun hearing all these different stories from people you'd never meet in your own life, and there were some pretty interesting stories too.

Day 2

This morning we got coffee early and then headed to the small vendor room so we could walk around when it wasn't too busy. Then we waited around for the start of Stephanie Perkins signing. We weren't allowed to line up until an hour before, and then we were ushered in to the room to sit in chairs, so it wasn't bad at all waiting. While we were waiting to meet her, my friend and I met a girl from Chicago and ended up talking to her for an hour. Then we met Stephanie Perkins! She is just as adorable and lovely as her books. It is a funny thing, because you meet this person and chat for a bit, and then they're never going to remember you. But I think it's fun to see the person behind the book. 



I think that was a cool thing about the panels, is I got to see some of my favourite authors, like Stephanie Perkins and Maggie Stiefvater, talk about things out loud, in person. You just get to see more of what people are like when you see them in real life, even if you don't interact with them directly. It's fun to realize that these authors are exactly like what you'd expect from reading their books. 

After the signing, we went to a panel with Stephanie Perkins, Pat Rothfuss and Maureen Johnson on writing sex, and then the next panel was about writing (or trying not to) write stereotypes with Liz Hara, Jeffrey Cranor, M.T. Anderson, Tea Obreht and Maggie Stiefvater. That was also a really great discussion. Listening to all these people talk made me want to devour all their books or podcasts or whatever they produce. Mary Robinette Kowal, the moderator for the stereotypes panel, seemed so intelligent and fun and I've never even heard of her books. 



We stayed for the last main stage, which was just insanity, and then left the con to meet up with a friend of mine who lives in Minneapolis. 

All in all, my first convention experience was pretty great. It was nice that it was the first year and relatively small, since that's more within my comfort zone. Also that meant that there were only four things to choose from at any given moment, rather than like, thirty. It's cool to see and participate in these things in person that I usually only experience online. 

So I actually think that NerdCon is pretty cool. :)  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

CanLit Reviews: Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak by Victoria Jason

Just in case you weren't aware, I just recently finished my Across Canada Reading Challenge, where I read a book set in every Canadian province and territory. After I had finished reading books from every territory, my dad talked about a book he knew that was set in Northern Canada that had been written by a relative by marriage who had kayaked through the Northwest Passage. It turned out my grandma had a copy of the book, called Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak, which she kindly lent to me. 



Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak follows the travels of Victoria Jason as she kayaks from Churchill, through the Hudson Bay, along the Arctic coast and up the Mackenzie River, spread over four summers between 1991 and 1994. She began the journey with Don Starkell, the well-known adventurer who had kayaked down to South America from the Red River in Manitoba (he also wrote a book about it, Paddle to the Amazon). She spent the first two summers kayaking in partnership with Don Starkell until complications caused them to have to stop, and then the last two summers she did the journey solo. "Kabloona" is the Inuit word for stranger.

The book is split into four sections, each section covering one summer. In that way it almost seems like four books in one, because you go through the drama and intensity of the journey and then relax as she returns home, only to start out on another voyage in the next chapter! But each section of her travels is filled with wonderful stories, description of Arctic scenery, and incredible joy in her task. 

I think it's the enthusiasm that Victoria Jason has for all aspects of the North that really make this book memorable. Her enthusiasm and love of the North is contagious, and it comes through crystal clear in her writing. I could picture the towering pillars of ice and wide open Arctic skies and ocean as if I was really there, and it blew me away just like it did Victoria Jason.

You not only get to experience the grand and wondrous geography of the Arctic, that includes animals such as musk-ox, caribou and walrus, but also the people. Each person Jason meets along the way is mentioned by name, and becomes an important character in her story. The way she writes makes it clear that the Inuit people and culture have a special place in her heart.

One person you can definitely tell that Victoria Jason has no love for, however, is Don Starkell. What a jerk! In the first two sections while she travels with him, it just seems to be a continuous battle against his ego and rash stupidity. I'm sure it wasn't pleasant for Jason to have to deal with him, but it made for interesting reading, since there was the added agony of wondering when she would drop this jerk. Even so, Don Starkell's idiocy didn't quell Jason's obvious passion for paddling and the North.

If you are at all interested in reading more about the Arctic, or if you just want to read an incredible geographic adventure story, I would definitely suggest picking up this book.

You can find it online at Turnstone Press here.
You can also find it on Chapters.ca here.
I would also encourage you to look up and read a bit about Victoria Jason, who passed away in 2000, even if you don't plan on reading the book. She really was a fascinating woman.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

Hello! Thought I would do a What's Up post so that I can update on you on various happenings, since mostly all I've been posting lately is book reviews (but hey, at least I've been posting, right?)

What's Up Wednesday is hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk.






WHAT I'M READING

I'm almost finished reading Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak by Victoria Jason, which you have probably never heard of. It's by an author from Manitoba who went up north to kayak along the Northwest Passage and the Mackenzie River. The book follows her journey kayaking in the north over four summers. It is soo well written and beautifully describes the Arctic scenery. A review will be forthcoming!


WHAT I'M WRITING

I've been mostly failing at my Write Whatever Every Day challenge, but I'm definitely thinking of writing more. I feel like just relaxing all the pressure is a good step, because now I'm starting to think of ideas again. Instead of thinking of things in terms of books or short story ideas I could publish, I'm just thinking of ideas in terms of writing pieces, which could be anything. So I have a few ideas going of what I can write. I just need to sit down and write them, so I guess that's my goal.

WHAT WORKS FOR ME (a new section introduced a long time ago that I've never used haha, about what works for me in regards to writing)

One of the things they say you can put under this section is inspiring quotes. Here's one from author Anne Lamott, who wrote Bird by Bird: "Publishing isn't all it's cracked up to be. But writing is."

WHAT ELSE IS NEW

I'm back at school! I'm now in my third year of undergraduate studies, and I have actually decided what to major in. I handed in the form and everything. I am majoring in Intercultural Studies and minoring in Communications. And I talked to an academic adviser and I could potentially graduate next year. We'll see, though. Anyway I love school, so it's nice to get into it again. I'm also working part time, but I'm hoping to not do that for too long.

What are you up to? What have you been working on?  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

CanLit Reviews: Too Much on the Inside by Danila Botha

Full disclosure: the author sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Too Much on the Inside is a simple, short book about four characters from all across the world converging in one spot in Toronto. There is Dez from Brazil, Marlize from South Africa, Nicki from Israel, and Lukas from the east coast of Canada. The book is told with alternating POVs from each of these four characters. Throughout the book you get to see their interactions with each other, and learn about their lives before moving to Toronto in short snippets. I honestly think a lot of people would enjoy the simple, straightforward style of this book and the small observations about life from the places these characters are from, as well as in Toronto.

However, I kind of wanted something that went deeper. The writing was very simple, and I felt like I was being told the characters' emotions instead of really feeling the characters' emotions. I think it had the potential to be a really beautiful, emotional story with the lives of these four characters' intertwining, as well as learning from their pasts and moving forward. The premise is great, which is what made me want to pick up the book in the first place. But it just stayed on the surface level, and relied on ancient tropes and cliches rather than doing anything new or interesting. Even the problems that each character had had an obvious solution, which was just postponed until the end when the characters conveniently found themselves and realized something that I could have told them after the first couple of chapters.

I liked the idea of the story, but it just didn't work for me, because it didn't make me feel anything. I didn't care enough about the characters to want to spend more time with them after the last page.

You can find it on Goodreads here.
Danila Botha's website

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Write Whatever Every Day

For most people, January is goal-setting month, the month for resolutions for living better, healthier, and getting stuff done. For me, September always seems to be the time when I think of ways that I can improve my life. It does make sense since for the past 15 years I've been starting school in September, so it's always made me think of fresh new starts. So, anyway, I've given myself a new goal.

It started when I was organizing some old journals of mine that I've kept from when I was younger. A lot of those journals I used for writing, and flipping through them all I could think was, sheesh, I used to write a lot. And I wrote about anything and everything. I had a story here, a snippet there, a random description of my writing space in another book... and the list goes on. Until recently, I hadn't written anything that wasn't a blog post or an essay for school in half a year. Why don't I write as much as I did when I was ten? I mean, some of the reasons are obvious, but why don't I want to write as much as I did when I was ten?

Sometimes I feel like I put too my pressure on myself in my head. I go to work on a book, and think about everything wrong with it and how far it has to go, and then just do nothing. I think of a short story idea and immediately think of all the contests I could enter it into if I make it really good, and then it just blocks me. Or I think I should work on something but don't like any of the projects or books I currently have going.

So, I decided I'm going to write like I did when I was ten. I'm just going to write whatever, every day. I'm not going to commit to a word count, or a certain project or book, I'm just going to do whatever I want. I'm going to write fanfic or paragraph descriptions of nature, or a journal entry or a short story about something that happened in my life. I'm just going to write, for me and only me, and have fun doing it. I'm not going to write anything for essays or scholarships or critique partners. It's just for me, because in the end, I do like writing, and I want to start doing it again.

I think I'll try to keep it up for the month of September, and if it goes well, hopefully I'll continue. And if you want to keep me accountable, that would be more than welcome!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Review: A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri

Have you ever finished a book and afterward had your heart pounding, tears running down your cheeks because of how amazingly emotional and intense the last few chapters were? 

Yeah, this was one of those books. 

I wasn't into it right away, but it definitely didn't take me long to actually want to sit down and read it rather than doing something else. The premise was interesting and kept me in suspense, the writing was good, and the characters were fun to spend time with because their personalities were written so well.



A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea follows a portion of the life of a young girl, Saba, living in Iran during the 1980s. The prologue starts with a hazy memory that Saba has of her mom and twin sister getting on an airplane to go to America, but then after that her and her father don't hear from them again.I love how it's never obvious what happened to them, and even members of her family and people in her circle of caregivers in her village aren't really sure, even after she asks. It makes it so that the entire story doesn't just rest on the main character suddenly remembering. 

However, while the suspense of what happened is what moves the story forward, it really becomes a background piece to the real heart of the story, which is Saba's character. The book follows Saba from when she's fourteen to when she's in her late twenties, and her growth over that time while she struggles with her own choices and fears. Above all it is a story about the transformation of Saba's views of herself, others and the world around her that come as a result of her own life experiences. Saba's character is inspiring to me, not because of any determination or strength she has - in fact for a lot of the book, she spends time taking the easy way out - but because she learns and grows. Really, what more do you need to make a good character?

There is so much that is good about this book. Not only are all of the characters fleshed out and present within in the story, but the writing itself is exquisitely clever. I love when authors can write one sentence that reveals everything in a way that strikes you right in the heart. I don't know how some authors do it, draw out such emotion from me with just a handful of words. (Yes, it made me cry). 

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a well-written, beautiful book about a young woman’s life in Iran, and her finally coming to have the courage to stand up to herself, and I definitely think everyone should read it. 

You can find it on Goodreads here.  

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