This is a personal post about an awful incident I witnessed at my library a few days ago. You may wish to skip this one. Writing it out has been helpful for me. I don’t usually talk about my personal life on the blog, and I debated whether I should share this. I’ve decided to post it because my library is such an important place to me, a safe place, a comfortable place, an almost sacred place. Discovering books, writing my blog, reading books, all these activities I do at the library are so closely tied into who I am. I have so much love for my beautiful library. I visit at least once a week. It was the place I missed most when I spent a year in Japan. I wrote a lot about it in 2014 for the Summer Library Reading Challenge. My library is four stories tall and known for its impressive wall of windows and open staircase. You can see in the photos.
This is what happened: I was on the fourth floor. I saw a man fall from the fourth floor. I had been working on a book review at one of the public computers. Only later did I learn the man had become deeply upset by something he may have seen on the computer, just a few stations over from where I was working. I didn’t notice him until someone yelled, “What are you doing?” I saw a man clinging to the glass. So many people rushed to grab him – even I instinctively took a few steps towards him even though I was probably 50 feet away – but then I heard people scream and I closed my eyes and covered my ears.
I wrote out a long version of this story, with all the details of what I did and saw and felt in the moment. I don’t think that needs to be shared publicly. I’m glad I wrote it, though. Writing it out has been something of a purging process for me.
On Thursday I was shaky, unable to comprehend that what I had seen has really happened. The man was in critical condition. Maybe he would make it. I cried and cried on Friday, when I read that he had passed away. He was 25 years old, the same as me. On Saturday I settled down a bit. Every now and then I had a burst of selfish anger, like “Why did this happen?!” Today I feel pretty good. This helped. I’m not thinking about it non-stop. I didn’t know the man personally (how do his loved ones feel?), I didn’t see the worst moments (my heart breaks for those who did). Mostly I’m a little nervous about how I’ll feel when I go back to the library. I’ll have to remember that the library remains the the exact same place I know and love.
Welcome to my seventh annual ‘Wrapping Up, Looking Forward’ post. In this post, I like to take a general look back at how I did with my goals in 2016, and set some new goals for 2017.
I posted 62 times. This number falls just two short of my goal of 64. Although I didn’t follow the schedule I had dreamed of (8 posts/month, one review/week), I am satisfied with the posts I did write. I’m going to keep this goal – min. 8 posts/week, including one review or brief thoughts.
I read 114 books, smashing my goal of 84. My success can be largely credited to my participation in the Cybils as a round one judge for middle grade fiction. I believe this is the first time I’ve read 100+ books in a year. When I started 2016, I set my reading goal with the expectation that I would read very little during my four months of travel in New Zealand. I actually read 29 books while travelling. Most of the books I read were whatever my hosts happened to have lying around. Between travelling and Cybils, I had just four months to freely read and borrow from the library whatever I felt like. I am looking forward to taking charge of my reading choices in 2017. Hopefully I will make a better dent in my TBR list!
read 63 books toward
their goal of
I didn’t make my reading challenges a priority during the middle part of the year, when I had ample reading time and no other obligations. Thus my poor performance . I am less bitter about this than last year, though, as travelling Middle-Earth and participating in the Cybils were wonderful experiences that I was happy to prioritize over reading. I started to recap my challenges, but the numbers are so low, best to pretend I just didn’t have any. Instead let’s move right on to my personal challenges for 2017! 😀 I have three goals with specific numbers, but also a number of undefined goals (i.e. read more than in 2016).
- 6 books by Indigenous Canadians
- 4 books about Japanese spirituality
- 5 books about/by J.R.R. Tolkien (not including re-reads)
- Read more picture books and graphic novels (esp. ones people assume I’ve already read…)
- Read more classic middle grade and speculative fiction middle grade
- Read more non-fiction
- Reread more!
This year, I also want to participate in some ‘official’ challenges. I don’t have any specific goals, but I hope these challenges will help me expand my reading horizons. Diversity Bingo originated on Twitter. Naz @ Read Diverse Books is hosting a reviewing diverse books challenge that complements the bingo. I found another bingo (apparently I like concept of bookish bingos) for Canadian literature, which feels especially appropriate given that it’s Canada’s 150th anniversary this year. This one is hosted in the Goodreads group Canadian Content.
That’s it for my 2017 goals! I may adopt additional challenges throughout the year. I haven’t yet planned to participate in any events, but I’m sure I will. Now that I have a couple years of book blogging under my belt, I don’t feel the need to plan out my year in much detail. I think I know enough to wing it 😛 How was your 2016 reading year? What goals or challenges are you undertaking in 2017?
I am excited to share that Cybils 2016 (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards) finalists have been announced! From October to December, I served on a panel of five judges who read through the 100+ nominees in the middle grade fiction category. I had a great time discussing books with Karen, Sarah, Mindy, and Ryan. We had a lot of strong books to choose from this year. Without further ado, here are the middle grade finalists and a few of my thoughts on each:
- Slacker by Gordon Korman – Slacker is Korman in his element, writing a hilarious tale about Cameron, who just wants to play video games. He creates a fake school club (the Positive Action Group) to convince his parents that he’s participating in extracurricular activities. His plan backfires as other students become interested in joining the club. I grew up reading old editions of the Macdonald Hall books, so it felt a little strange for me to read a Korman book where kids are playing PC games and using cell phones. Regardless of the time period, Slacker is classic Korman.
- Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan – Check out my Family Reads post on this one.
- Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson – A humorous yet moving story about three students who plan a special day for their favourite teacher, who has an aggressive form of cancer. Narrated in alternating chapters from the perspectives of the three boys, the reader learns about the friendship between the boys and why Ms. Bixby was such an important teacher to each of them.
- In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III – Jimmy McLean, a Lakota boy, undertakes a road trip with his grandfather. They visit historical locations with connection to Crazy Horse. As they travel, Jimmy’s grandfather tells him stories about Crazy Horse (which sometimes differ from the official White versions of the history). This is a great story about an important Indigenous historical figure, grandson-grandfather relationships, Indigenous identity, and American history.
- Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand – I would have loved this book as a kid. Finley has depression and anxiety, but she doesn’t know that. When she has to spend the summer at her grandparents house with a bunch of family she’s never met, she takes to writing fantasy stories about the woods around the home. What’s the story behind the burned out home in the forest? Some Kind of Happiness deals beautifully with the struggles of mental illness that some children face.
- Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm – My first impression of this book was “historical fiction for kids as it should be”. Set in 1934 Key West, Florida, money is short and Beans Curry (marbles champion) wants to help his mother out. He strikes up a working deal with a local smuggler. What could go wrong? A fun tale with a unique setting.
- Ghost by Jason Reynolds – I have never been a reader of ‘sports book’, but here is a book that will appeal to sports fan and non-fans alike – even if the feature sport is track. Ghosts is a story about a kid finding something he loves doing, and learning how to push himself and be better. This is the first book I’ve read by Reynolds. Now I can see his appeal!
You can read more about each book in blurbs written by my fellow panelists on the Cybils website. The awards process will now move onto round two, where another group of judges will select a single winner from this shortlist. Winners will be announced on February 14. I think these are all excellent books and I’m glad I didn’t have to choose just one! There are 12 other categories (including picture books, young adult, and audiobooks) so be sure to check those out too.
Hosted by Jamie @ Perpetual Page Turner, I like how this survey delves into the specifics of books read. I did remove some of the questions that don’t apply to me, so be sure to visit the original post if you’d like to complete the survey. My annual overview will go live on January 2nd as I want to wait until the Cybils shortlist is announced.
2016 Reading Stats
- Number of books read – 114. I smashed through my goal of 84 (largely due to my role as Cybils round one panelist). I’ve also never read 100+ books in a year. So proud of myself~
- Number of re-reads – 5 (White is for Witching, A Darker Shade of Magic, Charlotte’s Web, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, The Lost Flower Children)
- Genre you read the most from – I don’t keep track by genre, so here’s the middle grade/young adult/adult/non-fiction split: 56 (49%) MG, 12 (11%) young adult, 27 (24%) adult, 19 (17%) non-fiction. I read more non-fiction than I thought, and less ‘adult’ than I had initially planned.
Best in Books
- Best books read in 2016 – Last year I broke this down by genre. This year I’m just going to pick a bunch 😛
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik (fantasy)
- The Witches of New York by Ami McKay (magical realism/historical fiction)
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (middle grade fantasy)
- George by Alex Gino (middle grade contemporary)
- What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi (short stories)
- Solving the Procrastination Puzzle by Timothy Pychyl (non-fiction)
- The North Water by Ian McGuire (historical fiction)
- The Ice Master by Jennifer Niven (non-fiction)
- Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t – The Shadow of the Wind. Totally fell flat for me. Wasn’t really what I was expecting/hoping for.
- Most surprising book read – I enjoyed Allie, First at Last, a lot more than I expected (nominee for the Cybils middle grade fiction).
- Favourite author discovered – Kelly Barnhill. Looking forward to more of her middle grade fantasy!
- Best book from a genre you don’t typically read – The North Water
is from a genre that I sometimes enjoy (historical fiction) but it was hyper-masculine, which is not something I typically look for in my books.
- Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book – Scythe is the newest release from Neal Shusterman, one of my favourite authors. There’s something about his prose that makes me want to blaze through his work.
- Most likely to reread next year – Uprooted by Naomi Novik
- Favourite cover – I read a lot of books with great covers this year. My instinct answers The North Water, The Witches of New York, and Two Naomis.
- Most memorable character – Eleanor St. Clair from The Witches of New York. I love all the ladies in this book, but Eleanor struck me as someone I would connect with.
- Most beautifully written – I can actually think of a few different books that could be described as beautifully written this year. The girl Who Drank the Moon probably tops the list.
- Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read – I started The Silmarillion…
- Shortest book – Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl (96 pages)
- Longest book – The LotR aside, A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab (509 pages)
- Most shocking book – The North Water for its graphic descriptions
- OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship!) – Don’t really have one this year. Perhaps Adelaide and Dr. Brody in The Witches of New York.
- Favourite non-romantic relationship – Also have to go with The Witches of New York for the camraderie between Adelaide, Eleanor, and Beatrice.
- Favourite book read by an author you read previously –What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
- Best book read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure – The Girl Who Drank the Moon. I believe I read this after reading Briana’s review.
- Newest fictional crush – Dr. Brody from The Witches of New York. What a gentleman! *-*
Best 2016 debut – A Song to Take the World Apart by Zan Romanoff (I think it’s the only 2016 debut I read…)
- Best world-building – Scythe. I always enjoy how Neal Shusterman works world-building into his novel, especially how he modifies language.
- Most fun to read – Insert Coin to Continue by John David Anderson. Boy wakes up one day to find his life now resembles a video game.
- Book that made you cry – Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by, coincidentally, John David Anderson. That epilogue!!
- Hidden gem – Based on a low number of Goodreads ratings (110), The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw
Your Bookish Life
- New favourite book blog discovered – I will pick the one that was mostly recently updated at the time of drafting this post and go with Les Reveries de Rowena.
- Favourite review on your blog – The Evolution of Alice by David Robertson
- Best event that you participated in (real or virtual) – Attending bookish panels at NerdCon: Stories, including one on mental health in YA literature.
- Best moment of bookish/blogging life – How about meeting picture book illustrator/author Jon Klassen with my best friend of the same name? That was an excellent moment.
- Most challenging thing about blogging/reading life – Maintaining a regular blogging schedule when the rest of my life doesn’t have a regular schedule.
- Post you wished got a little more love – 6 Books on Dying in Modern Times
- Completion of challenges/goals – Well. Nevermind that haha. (More on completion of goals in my January 2 post).
- Book you are most anticipating (debut) – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Book you are most anticipating (sequel) – A Conjuring of Light (ADSOM conclusion) by V.E. Schwab
- One book you didn’t get to in 2016 but will make a priority in 2017 – Don’t want to break with tradition, so I have to say Tolkien on Fairy Stories
- Book you are most anticipating (non-debut) – Borne by Jeff Vandermeer
- One goal for your reading/blogging life –I’ll post more about goals in a couple days, but I would love to read 100+ again next year.
- 2017 release you’ve read and recommend – I have three ARCs of 2017 releases that I haven’t read yet…I’m most looking forward to Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin.
And that’s a wrap on 2016! I finished off the reading year with White is for Witching, my favourite book. Now I’m off to a New Year’s Eve dinner and party. See you all on the other side 🙂