Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What I Read This Year: 2016 End of Year Survey

I did this end of year survey for the past two years, and I'm doing it again! The survey was created by Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner.

 2016 Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 65, a lot less than last year.
Number of Re-Reads: 11
Genre You Read The Most From: Fantasy and contemporary remain my favourite genres... YA Fantasy, with 11 (most of which were rereads), adult contemp with 9, and YA contemp with 7 (wow is that the first time it's been more adult than YA??).

1. Best Book You Read In 2016? I read a lot of good books, but they were all so different I can’t pick a best book this year... see below for some of my recommendations. 

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? I've loved all of Stephanie Kuehn's books, so I was super excited for her new book, The Smaller Evil, but it was probably my least favourite book of hers, maybe because it was similar to another book I read by her. She's still an amazing author, though, and Charm and Strange was one of my best books of 2014.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (recommended by someone on an episode of Witch, Please). You'd think a book that takes place over not very long about the mundane life of an English butler would be boring, but it was the most fascinating thing ever.  There is so much going on under the surface, and the narrator's voice is sooo well crafted. Ishiguro is a genius.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)? I don't know if anyone read it, but I definitely brought up Rebecca Traister's All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Birth of an Independent Nation a lot. So fascinating, so relevant.

5. Best series you started in 2016? I started, finally, to read Throne of Glass because my best friend was reading it. It has been on my TBR forever, but I honestly don't think I would've liked it as much if I'd read it sooner. I love Celaena, she's great. (Although now I'm reading Crown of Midnight and... aghh Sara J. Maas is mean.)
Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016? The Raven King, for both! So good.
6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016? E.K. Johnston! Well I knew about her before, but I'd never read any of her books, and I fell in love with her book Exit, Pursued by a Bear (I even did a book pumpkin of the cover!) Hermione is the best, and I'm so happy there are YA books like this now.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone? Probably Boring Girls by Sara Taylor, which is an adult thriller, I think. So out of my comfort zone, but I loved it. I also did a review here.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? Either Boring Girls or The Raven King!

9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? I mean, it was already a reread this year, but definitely The Queen's Thief series since BOOK FIVEEE

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2016? Made You Up by Francesca Zappia has a fun cover (and was what initially attracted me to the book, way back before it was published, didn't get around to reading it until now...) but I liked the covers of most of the books I read this year.

11. Most memorable character of 2016? Bish from Melina Marchetta's Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil. MM does her characters soo well.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?  Ice Diaries by Jean Mcneil had so many gorgeous turns of phrase, and depicted the Antarctic beautifully (also, a great book if you're doing the book-from-every-continent challenge... too bad I didn't find it last year!!)

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016? Another book I have pushed at a lot of people: Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of New Hollywood by Mark Harris (recommended by Literary Disco). It was about the Oscars of 1967 and how Hollywood was changing (and failing to change), intertwined with the history of the sixties and its effect on Hollywood. SO fascinating, I could not put it down by the end, and even though it's like 800 pages it was too short. Also, even though it was published in 2008, it is interesting how incredibly relevant it still is. Everyone should read this book, it is so great. You should also listen to the episode of Literary Disco on it.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas... I think I've had it on my TBR list since I started blogging when I was fifteen.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016? I don't know if it's my favourite, but a passage I like that I wrote down, from Expecting Adam by Martha Beck:

“He looked back at me with steady eyes, and I knew what I had known – what I should have remembered – all that time: that his flesh of my flesh had a soul I could barely comprehend, that he was sorry for the pain I felt as I tried to turn him into a “normal” child, and that he loved me despite my many disabilities.”

16.Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2016? Shortest is probably North End Love Songs byKatherena Vermette, a gorgeously written book of poetry about growing up in the North End in Winnipeg. Longest book is either Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris, or Riel: A Life of Revolution by Maggie Siggins.

17. Book That Shocked You The Most I read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and I just kept thinking, how does he survive this!?!? And then he did. What an incredible story of survival.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!) Since I read Queen's Thief I can count Eugenides and Attolia :), but I'll also say Chaol and Celaena from Throne of Glass.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year The friendship in Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta! Of course. Even though it's her first adult novel, it's so very, very Melina Marchetta.

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure: Throne of Glass, haha.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016? I can't pick! :)

23. Best 2016 debut you read? I don't think I read any debuts this year... I just can't keep up.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year? The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. Maggie Stiefvater knows how to build beautiful places into her stories, and not just in the sense that they're aesthetically pleasing, but also that they just mean so much to the characters (and, by extension, the readers).

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read? Tell Me How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan. :)

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016? Swing Low: A Life by Miriam Toews. If you ever want to cry, just read something by Miriam Toews. She knows how to write humor, but also deeply sorrowful stories.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year? Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin. I love fun, magical MGs. :)

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul? Swing Low: A Life by Miriam Toews. It doesn't help knowing it is a true story about Miriam Toews’ family.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016? The Miracles of Ordinary Men by Amanda Leduc. Such an interesting concept, and it was done super well. I wasn't super satisfied with the ending, though, but the rest of it was good.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)? Couldn't think of anything, then remembered that I had to read The Shunning by Beverly Lewis for a class last semester. So mad that I had to read it (and do a presentation on it).

Book Blogging

1. New favourite book blog you discovered in 2016? I haven’t really kept up with reading very many blogs... recommend me some!

2. Favourite review that you wrote in 2016? Probably my review of Boring Girls by Sara Taylor.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog? I like my post, Why I’m Glad I Wasn’t a Teen Author and my post on Growing Up.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)? I don’t think I participated in any events this year... oh except I did this annotation project of a Queen’s Thief book with some Queen’s Thief fans. I’m excited to do some more things with that fandom in the new year in anticipation of the new book!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016? The Thick as Thieves announcement, definitely. I mean when you’ve been waiting five or six years for another book, and an announcement is finally made, it’s a big deal!!

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year? Well I've talked about how I have trouble finding books I can really get into, so that’s one thing. I also found it hard to do all of my 2016 reading goals, apparently. I find it really hard to challenge myself in my reading when it’s so much easier to read fun books, especially when I’m busy with school.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)? Funnily enough, my review of Boring Girls by Sara Taylor, and my review of Life Among the Qallunaat by Mini Aodla Freeman, which also happen to be in my opinion the best posts I wrote this year.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love? My post Why I’m Glad I Wasn’t a Teen Author, as well as my post about accomplishing my goal of writing 50,000 words before the end of December!

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? Probably the podcast Witch, Please!, a podcast with two (Canadian!) feminist lady scholars discussing Harry Potter. Soo interesting and funny, and relevant, considering all the stuff going on with JK Rowling and the Harry Potter universe these days. They just did an episode discussing the Fantastic Beasts movie.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? Uh... I did really terribly with my reading goals this year, although I did read quite a bit of CanLit, and a lot of diverse #ownvoices.

Looking Ahead: Books

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017? Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo! I loved Shadow and Bone and its sequels, but I’ve put off reading Six of Crows and its sequel (mostly because there are like 30 holds on it at the library). But I want to read it!!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)? Thick As Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner!!

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating? After the Fall by Kate Hart! I have wanted to read her book since I read a first chapter excerpt on her blog years ago, and I’m so excited she’s finally being published! She also has consistently over the years had great blog series, from her cover analysis, to her Badass Ladies You Should Know series.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017? See #2!

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017? I want to actually accomplish some of my reading goals next year. I was looking back at previous blog posts, and my reading challenge posts have always been the most well received so I think I’m going to do that. And I’ve been saying this for years, but I’d love to actually have a blog post schedule, even if it’s only once a month or something. I want to have written more than 13 blog posts by the end of next year (okay so that would mean more than once a month... whatever)!! I have also been thinking for awhile about completely redoing the layout of the blog. We'll see how that goes.

Stay tuned for my 2017 reading goals!

What are your best books of 2016? Goals for 2017? Any suggestions for how I can spruce things up around here?

Friday, December 23, 2016

5 Books by Indigenous Authors You Should Read

It's December, and 2017 is nearing, so I thought I'd revisit some of my 2016 reading goals and see how terribly I did (although seriously who wrote these goals!? They are super broad and they aren't measurable or specific... whoever wrote them should probably read my post on how to write goals.)

One of my goals was to "read more books by Indigenous authors, not just from the US and Canada but outside as well."

I didn't read as many books by Indigenous authors as I would have liked, and none outside of the US and Canada (books by Indigenous authors are very hard to find), but I thought I'd share the ones I did read.

1. Life Among the Qallunaat by Mini Aodla Freeman.

I did a review of this, so you can check that out, but I really enjoyed this book. I loved the author's voice, her story was so interesting to read, and I'm so happy that this book was republished otherwise I don't think I would have ever found it. Good on ya, U of M Press. (Also they favourited the tweet of my review, so that's fun).

 2.  Sanaaq by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk (translated from French, translated from Inuktitut)

I was a bit surprised by this book, since the cover makes it seem like a dark, harrowing tale of life up North, when it's actually just a lot of short, quite funny stories about Inuit life. The writing was very direct which was hard to get into sometimes, but it was interesting being immersed in that culture for a bit and enjoying reading about the clumsy happenings of the community.

3. Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit Issues in Canada by Chelsea Vowel

I picked up this book because I've read a lot of glowing reviews of it in various publications, and its hailed as being super accessible to read. There was also one review I read that said that the author contests the arguments of John Ralston Saul, and I had to read A Fair Country for a course this semester so I was curious what she had to say. The reviewers are right - Indigenous Writes is a super accessible introductory book, aimed at Canadians ignorant of Indigenous issues in Canada. It provides a starting point for understanding Indigenous issues in Canada. The chapters are kind of written like (in depth, very well researched) blog posts. Reading this book definitely changed my perspective on a lot of things, and I definitely agree with Vowel that all Canadians need to become more aware of these issues.

4. North End Love Songs by Katherena Vermette

Recently I realized that while I like writing poetry, I don't really read a lot of poetry. One of the best ways to learn about writing is to read, so I bought this poetry collection at my local bookstore a few weeks ago.  This book of poetry has been highly regarded, and in 2013 it won the Governor General's Award for Poetry, which is one of Canada's highest literary awards I think. Let me just say that it definitely deserves the award, what a gorgeous book of poetry. This collection of poems brings you deep into the life and emotion of living in Winnipeg's North End. Now I'm excited to get my hands on her new novel, The Break.

Annd bonus 5. Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie 

I was browsing in the children's section at my local bookstore to get a gift for my friend's baby's first birthday, and stumbled across this book. The fun thing about picture books is I could read it in five minutes on the spot at the bookstore. It's SO CUTE. It's about a boy who doesn't like that he has the same name as his dad, and wants his own name. It is super funny and a great father-son story. I ended up buying it for my friend's kid to read when he's a little older. ;) 

Who are your favourite Indigenous authors? Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Monday, December 12, 2016

I Won! (Lessons from a First Draft)

Remember The Deal? Well, I won! I have written 50,000 words of a thing. A very, very messy thing (seriously, the MC has two different ages and two characters have two names), but it's a thing.

How it went down:
Me: Guess what? I won! I finished writing 50,000 words!
My bro: Huh.
Me: Give me a prize!
Bro: *hands over our cat walking over his desk*
 -end scene-

I don't really need a prize though. The last time I finished a draft of anything was in 2014, if my calculations are correct, so I feel fantastic. I think I started this book idea sometime at the beginning of this year, just on a whim, writing out some frustrations, and then it turned into a full length thing because it was the only idea I had. It's also contemporary, which is something I haven't written a lot of yet.

You know, no matter how many blog posts or writing tips I read, I never learn as much about writing as I do when I'm actually WRITING (although I did make use of Chuck Wendig's tips for how to get unstuck once).

my outline

So, some lessons I learned while writing this draft:
1. Not really a lesson, but in the back of my head the whole time I was definitely thinking about an author's advice (I think either Shannon Hale or Kiersten White) about how first drafts are about discovering who your characters are more than anything. That made it a lot easier to have fun writing. :) And I definitely know the characters a lot better now.

2. Writing out of order is great!! It's something I've never done before, but it really helped me to just get words out, just thinking, "What's a fun scene I can write? Okay, I'll write that!" even if it was the end, and I only had 20,000 words at that point.

3. Don't think, JUST WRITE. Literally the answer to everything. Don't care about being perfect, don't care about anything, just get words out. There's no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting, as one of my profs likes to say.

4. Writing is fun. This is something I forgot for a long time, because I was frozen with a desire to be perfect and fear of failure and weighed down with waay too many of my own expectations. When did I forget that it's fun making up characters and getting to know them? It's fun when you write something and just think "all of this is crap!" and then you reread a part and realize, hey, you know what, that's kind of funny. Maybe I can do this thing??

5. This is NOT the end. Not by any stretch. For one thing, I need to fix all of my consistency mistakes (my MC was 16 when I started writing, and I switched her to 18 half way through, and I also switched two characters' names). I also need to put all the scenes in order. But at least I have something to work with now!!

I want to keep talking about this, because it's been soo long since I've been excited about writing and it feels great. I really hope I can keep it up. I'm excited to dig into the second draft soon! Hold me to it!!

What have you learned about writing over the years? How do you stay motivated?


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