Wrapping Up 2017, Looking Forward 2018

Wrapping up, looking forward

Welcome to my eighth 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 2017, and set some new goals for 2018.

Posting and Reading Overview

I posted 81 times. I had a vague goal for posting this year, thinking about two posts (incl. one review) a week. I didn’t distribute my posts in an ideal manner, but (factoring in a two month hiatus) I did hit that goal of 80 posts/year! I also wrote 39 review posts, so that just about works out as well. ūüôā

I read 85 books, falling short of my goal of 100. I read over 100 books in 2016 so I inspired myself to strive for that goal again this year, lol. Though I realized I would have grad school to contend with, I still wanted to aim high.  This year I will adjust my goal to account for four busy months of grad school (I found two months in the term were hectic, but the first and last month were much more manageable).

2017 Reading Challenge

Jenna has
read 1 book toward
their goal of
100 books.
hide

 

Reading Challenges

  • 5/6 books by Indigenous Canadians¬† – Almost made it…should have read a different book than¬†The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian¬†ūüėõ
  • 1/4 books about Japanese spirituality¬†¬†¬†I keep setting this goal but I don’t keep reading these books ūüėõ
  • 6/5 books about/by J.R.R. Tolkien (not including re-reads) – Finally! A success!
  • Read more picture books and graphic novels¬†– This goal went well in the first half of the year but I kind of forgot about it. I think I’ll make it a quantitative goal for 2018.
  • Read more classic middle grade and speculative fiction middle grade¬†– I did read more in these genres than I did last year, so that’s something!
  • Read more non-fiction¬†– I read 17 non-fiction books, which is pretty good for me.
  • Reread more – I reread 6 books. Oh well.
  • 7/12 2017 Diverse Reads Challenge¬†– This challenge consisted of monthly themes. I plan to read the books I didn’t get to in the next couple of months.
  • 15+ reviews for Read Diverse Books¬†– I stopped keeping track of this challenge when I realized the host blog was no longer active, but I am certain I passed the mark.
  • 0/6 Diversity Bingo 2017¬†– I don’t think I read any books for this challenge… I have noted the prompts that address gaps in my reading and will continue look for books that fulfill them.
  • 2?/12 Canada 150 Bingo – I halfheartedly participated in this challenge. As with the challenge above, I think some of the prompts are interesting and will keep them in mind in the future.
  • 6/15 points Newbery Reading Challenge – Although I didn’t make the goal, I squeezed in two books that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise.

2018 Goals

My stance on participating in official challenges seems to swing back and forth on a yearly basis. I won’t be participating in any official challenges this year. Two full terms of grad school will limit my reading time. I want to really hone in on my own goals and interests, so I’ll just be setting some personal goals for myself.

  • 7 books about/by J.R.R. Tolkien¬†(not including re-reads)
  • 6 books by Indigenous people raised in Canada
  • 3 books about Japan
  • 20¬†middle grade speculative fiction books
  • 6 rereads (not including the usuals)
  • 10 graphic novels¬†(does not count towards book total)
  • 2 posts/week¬†(not including hiatuses)
  • 75 books read

My goals are largely similar to 2017. I may think of some more specific targets over the next few months. I plan on taking two two-month hiatuses during the busier times of my semester (February and March; October and November). I’m not sure how I’ll tackle posting then, but I’ll try not to disappear as much as I did last semester.¬†How was your 2017 reading year? What goals or challenges are you undertaking in 2018?

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2017 Mid-Year Check In

2017 Mid-Year Check InTime for my 2017 mid-year check in. The year’s been clipping along nicely, hasn’t it? Somehow I’ve managed to keep a good handle on my reading and blogging for this first half of the year! I suspect my habits will change when I start an MLIS programme in the fall. I have not modified my goals to reflect the change in lifestyle. We’ll see how it plays out. I will likely take a hiatus in August or September, depending on how many posts I can scheduled ahead. Now let’s take a look at my 2017 personal reading goals (progress on official challenges is documented here).

Personal Reading Goals

  • 54/100 books read – Four books ahead! (At of time of writing on 4 July). I have been at or ahead of my goal for most of this year. I intend to keep ahead until September. After that, no promises…
  • 3/6 books by Indigenous Canadians¬† –¬†On track. Doesn’t include the Indigenous graphic novel (Will I See?) I read and reviewed.
  • 1/4 books about Japanese spirituality¬†¬†¬†This goal needs some work. I just blazed through¬†Japanese Pilgrimage¬†last weekend, which reignited my interest in reading about the Shikoku Henro.
  • 3/5 books about/by J.R.R. Tolkien (not including re-reads) – Not bad! I should reach six.
  • Read more picture books and graphic novels (esp. ones people assume I‚Äôve already read‚Ķ) – Hurrah, I have been doing this! I started reading a manga series (A Silent Voice). I have read all the picture books on my TBR. I¬†noticed I’d been slacking on this goal a bit in the past few months. I’ve been making an effort to pick it up this month. I should especially pick up more graphic novels.

These last three goals have been a bit of wishful thinking…I’m surprised at how much contemporary middle grade I’ve been reading! I will attempt to keep these goals in mind moving forward, but unlike the goals above, I’m not too concerned about pursuing them. I’ll read what I want to read.

  • Read more classic middle grade and speculative fiction middle grade¬†
  • Read more non-fiction
  • Reread more!

Blogging

I didn’t set any specific blogging goals this year. In the back of my mind, however, I’ve still been aiming for at minimum 8 posts/month, with ideally 2 posts/week (one review, one other). At least I’ve been making the minimum goal! (if you average it out, haha.) I have been putting more effort into book photography and graphics. I’ve also been finding a lot of inspiration from other bloggers for non-review posts. June ended up being a bit heavy on that front. I will try to get the balance right (‚ôę get the balance riiiiiiiight, whoo Depeche Mode¬†‚ôę) in the upcoming months.

Ratings Recap

I have done an informal review of the 50 books I read this year, ¬†but I’d still like to take a closer look at Goodreads ratings (as I have in past years). This helps me keep an eye on quality (as opposed to just quantity, which my goals above measure). I have an inkling that the reading’s been particularly good this year. My general goal is to increase the number of 4 and 5 star reads and decrease the number of 3, 2, and 1 star reads – thus improving the over quality of my reading.

  • I’ve read 12 ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ books.
    • Compared to last year: +4, and doesn’t include any rereads (four 5 star books in 2016 were rereads).
  • I’ve read 31 ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ books.
    • Compared to last year: +12
  • I’ve read 8 ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ books.
    • Compared to last year: -1
  • I’ve read 2 ‚ėÖ‚ėÖ books.
    • Compared to last year: -1
  • I’ve read 0 ‚ėÖ book.
    • Compared to last year: -1

Not bad!! I’m very pleased with those numbers. I think I’m getting the hang of picking better books (I may also be a little more generous with my 5 and 4 stars than I’ve been in the past…). 2017 is turning out to be a great reading year. Compiling a best of at year end will be difficult.¬†How is your reading going this year? Are you keeping up with any challenges, goals or resolutions?

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The 50 Books I’ve Read So Far in 2017

My mid-year check in is still coming on 5 July, but I decided I also wanted to do this post as a way to:

  1. remind myself of all the great books I’ve read this year
  2. easily share my reviews thus far
  3. offer a brief thought on books I won’t be reviewing (some books will still receive a review later on)

Links to my reviews where applicable. Since it’s ??¬†Canada Day ??¬†: books in red = Canadian author, books in orange = Indigenous author.

  1. * You Will Not Have My Hate¬†by Antoine Leiris – Incredibly moving, carefully written account of the days after the Bataclan attacks in which Leiris’ wife died
  2. Beast¬†by Brie Spangler – Transgirl love interest helps cismale narrator overcome his transphobia (though I liked Jamie and thought she was well-written as a trans character, she’s something of a manic pixie dream girl). Dylan’s an unlikable guy but I liked that he had his own body image challenges.
  3. Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians by Danielle Martin РA balanced look at practical ways we might improve our health care system, Martin presents her ideas in an easy to read and understand manner. The ideas still seem like distant dreams rather than possible realities, however.
  4. Before the Fall¬†by Noah Hawley – I gave this book four stars but I’m not sure why? Changing to three. Looking back, it was a quiet yet gripping story. If you like slow paced thrillers, you might enjoy this.
  5. Beowulf¬†by Anonymous, translated by Seamus Heaney – Easier to read than I expected! Still enjoyable even when you know the whole story. Now that I’ve finally got a basic translation under my belt, I can tackle Tolkien’s Beowulf.
  6. Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada by Lawrence Hill РDrawing on interviews from over 30 biracial Black Canadians, Hill paints a comprehensive picture of the varied experiences these Canadians have had because of their racial identity. This book also got me thinking a lot about my own White privilege.
  7. The Girl Who Beat ISIS by Farida Khalaf РAn intense read, this first person account of a young Yazidi woman persecuted by ISIS gave me a personal look into some of the atrocities happening today.
  8. The Wizard’s Dog¬†by Eric Kahn Gale – I thought this book was going to be too silly for me, but it was a lot of fun. Cute premise. The illustrations are a bonus.
  9. When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin РProbably the most gorgeous book I will read this year. This is the kind of middle grade fantasy I could read all day.
  10. Neverhome¬†by Laird Hunt – I liked the narrative style. The plot started off interesting but couldn’t keep up steam for me.
  11. The Uncommon Reader¬†by Alan Bennett – A fluffy little story about the Queen’s evolution from non-reader to writer.
  12. Son of a Trickster¬†by Eden Robinson – the first volume in a trilogy, Robinson has written a unique story about an Indigenous teen (the titular son of a trickster) that’s both hilarious and heartbreaking.
  13. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older РThis is a very cool book about some very cool kids. A YA urban fantasy that even those who avoid the genre can enjoy.
  14. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden РA wonderful read for a cozy winter evening. Looking forward to the sequel.
  15. Minds of Winter¬†by Ed O’Loughlin – A much longer book than I usually prefer…the intertwining of a number of historical Arctic (and one Antarctic) expeditions make this an intriguing read.
  16. Tolkien in Translation¬†edited¬†by Thomas Honegger – ¬†Lots of great essays that got me thinking about the topics. Must read if you’re interested in Tolkien or translation.
  17. Handbook for Dragon Slayers¬†by Merrie Haskell – Fun middle-grade fantasy, just the sort I would have liked as a kid (even if there weren’t as many dragons as expected).
  18. The Hate U Give by Thomas Angie РLives up to the hype. Not good just because it tackles an important topic, but also an overall excellent YA novel.
  19. A Secret Vice¬†by J.R.R. Tolkien – A great companion to¬†On Fairy Stories.¬†The work by the editors enhances the text by giving it both context within Tolkien’s personal live and historical context.
  20. Mad Richard¬†by Lesley Krueger – Not the sort of book I’d usually enjoy. Still readable if dry at times. Probably good for historical fiction fans.
  21. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist¬†by Sunil Yapa – Family Reads discussion coming 18 August…forgot to publish it in June!
  22. The Plants of Middle-earth: Botany and Sub-creation by Dinah Hazell РAnother lovely physical book, I enjoyed this slim volume for its look at the philosophical implications of grand tale via its plant life.
  23. Sputnik’s Children¬†by Terri Favro – I felt like I was taking a gamble when I requested this book for review. That gamble paid off in this 1970s alternate universe coming of age tale.
  24. Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: A Book Lover Bridges the Digital Divide¬†by Merilyn Simonds – A reflective memoir about what makes a book. I liked following Simonds’ steps as she created a beautiful book of her poetry, with every aesthetic aspect of both the physical and digital book considered.
  25. Music of the Ghosts¬†by Vaddey Ratner – Another haunting yet vivid tale. The characters all found their way to my heart (erm, I don’t want to sound mushy but that pretty much covers it).
  26. The Break¬†by Katherena Vermette – Speaking of haunting tales…this novel, about a family of Indigenous women that’s set in my hometown and written by a local M√©tis woman, cuts deep. I’m still trying to find the words to review it. I wish I could get this book into more people’s hands.
  27. Daughter of the Pirate King¬†by Tricia Levenseller – A fluffy tale that was less piratey than I hoped, but still fun. I’ll probably read the sequel.
  28. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian¬†by Sherman Alexie – I finally read this book…it’s definitely good, but it’s too bad he¬†seems to think he’s the only Indigenous author of note out there.
  29. Ten Degrees of Reckoning: The True Story of a Family’s Love and the Will to Survive¬†by Hester Rumberg – Possibly the most devastating experience I’ve ever read about (considering both fiction and non-fiction). I picked this up yesterday when I had time to kill at the library and blazed through it. I actually like that Judy herself didn’t write the book. That would have been too close, too intimate, too intense. Hester writes with sensitivity. She creates a respectful sense of Judy’s life, before, during and after the incident, without going into too much detail (unlike with other memoirs/biographies, though, I didn’t feel that she left out key details to be ‘polite’.)
  30. ¬†The Little White Horse¬†by Elizabeth Gaskell – A new-to-me author that I picked up for the first time for a reading event. Her writing has a very particular style – old fashioned in a way that I sometimes get in the mood for. The unicorn’s minor role was a bit disappointing, but other story elements made up for it.
  31. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler¬†by E.L. Konigsburg – Another classic I hadn’t heard of before I started book blogging. I loved the New York setting, as many readers before me have. I wish I had this book as a kid. I might have identified with Claudia.
  32. Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George РFinally read the follow up to Tuesdays in the Castle, two years later! Just as fun as the first. I will continue with the series.
  33. Amina’s Voice¬†by Hena Khan – The book description gets it pretty spot on: “brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl‚Äôs voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other”. I especially liked the relationships Amina has with her friends and family.
  34. A Conjuring of Light¬†by V.E. Schwab – Oof. Well. Wasn’t sure what to expect with the conclusion of this trilogy but I suppose it was alright.
  35. The Luck of the Karluk: Shipwrecked in the Arctic¬†by L.D. Cross – Great introduction to the tale of the¬†Karluk for those who haven’t heard of it.
  36. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo РAn own voices YA novel about a transgirl protagonist, post-transition. Just as good as you would hope it to be.
  37. Icemen by Mick Conefrey РI liked learning about different Arctic adventures I had never heard about before. Lots of fascinating stories in this one.
  38. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman РThis may be my new favourite contemporary YA ever? Excellent novel with bi and ace rep.
  39. Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Issues in Canada by Chelsea Vowel РShould be required reading for all Canadians.
  40. Drift & Dagger by Kendall Kulper РI loved reading my annotated copy of this book. I think I liked it better than the first book!
  41. In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle РMy second novel by Beagle. Another unicorn story, but a very different one. I loved the fairy tale atmosphere of the real world setting.
  42. More Happy Than Not¬†by Adam Silvera – A difficult read that wasn’t to my taste.
  43. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods РA great contemporary middle grade novel race and identity, especially Black biracial identity.
  44. The Castle Behind Thorns¬†by Merrie Haskell – Another Haskell book! I enjoyed this one a bit more than¬†Handbook, because I didn’t have any expectations of dragons. I liked the unique setting and the role of religion.
  45. Borne by Jeff VanderMeer РVanderMeer did not disappoint in his first book since The Southern Reach trilogy.
  46. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right¬†by Arlie Russell Hochschild –¬†A mind-blowing eyeopener. I learnt so much about right wing America.
  47. Rooftoppers¬†by Katherine Rundell –¬†A historical middle-grade novel that had been on my TBR for a long time. I will be reading more of Rundell in the future.
  48. Yours Sincerely, Giraffe¬†by Megumi Iwasa –¬†Spotted this book at the library. Read it as a bedtime story. Giraffe is bored so he writes a letter as far away as possible. Penguin gets his letter and writes back. Cute premise, cute illustrations, fun story.
  49. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore РOne of my favourite books this year. Somehow, it was a beautiful as everyone has said. (And the romance is on fire too!)
  50. Star-Crossed¬†by Barbara Dee – Contemporary MG novel about a girl realizing she’s bi. Somehow pulls off having a Shakespeare centered plot. Great conclusion.

And that’s that! I fudged the list a bit – I left off one book I finished last week so I could use that nice round 50. If you have questions about any of these books, I’d be happy to answer them.

What are some of your favourite books from the first half of 2017? Are there any books you wish you had skipped?

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Defining My Personal Canon

Personal Canon

I have read a lot of books. So many excellent, wonderful, marvelous books. But how many of them have had a lasting impact on me? This is the question I began to ponder after reading Lory @ Emerald City Book Review’s post about her personal canon. I have plenty of favourite books that have influenced my reading and writing preferences. Fewer books have made a lasting impression on my personality, my beliefs, my habits, etc.

This list is an attempt to pinpoint the fiction books that have influenced me as person, not just as a reader (non-fiction may get a separate post). I’m trying to be a little more specific than favourite books. These aren‚Äôt just favourites. Nor are they necessarily books I would read over and over ‚Äď they are books I selected because they left a mark on me.

Some of these books I have reviewed here on the blog. Most I read before I started book blogging. I haven’t prioritized or otherwise sorted this list. Links lead to my review or Goodreads. My brief notes are an attempt to give insight into why a book is special me to, but for most books the connection is so personal and so many years old, it’s difficult to describe!

  1. Dear as Salt by Rafe Martin with illustrations by Vladyana Kykorka Рpicture book from my childhood exquisite illustrations, style of storytelling, fairy tale
  2. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi Рpersonal connection, Gothic atmosphere, inspiring young author
  3. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – my gateway to Tolkien, an enjoyable and re-readable book
  4. The Lord of the Rings¬†(FotR | TTT | RotK) by J.R.R. Tolkien –¬†incredible book, never read anything else like it, so much to absorb, can enjoy for the rest of my life, always expanding
  5. Inkspell by Cornelia Funke Рparticular kind of fantasy, with adult characters not dumbed down
  6. Zen Keys by Thich Nhat Hanh Рintroduced me to Zen meditation
  7. Hitching Rides with Buddha by Will Ferguson Рlikely planted the seed of my interest in Japan and the idea that I could go there and teach
  8. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami Рprotagonist and story line I could deeply identify with, a new style of storytelling
  9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – blew me away, unlocked something about stories and memories
  10. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson Рapparently I love a creepy house story apparently, plus dear Eleanor.
  11. The Sight by David Clement-Davies – wolves, dark forest fantasy, always reading when in mountains.
  12. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – first demonstrated to me that I can enjoy storytelling that’s not pure fantasy
  13. Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale РThe Final Chapter by Russell T. Davies Рinsight into the writing process, how that beloved season of Doctor Who developed
  14. The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarity Рrelatable for teenage me, an epistolary novel I liked
  15. The Southern Reach (Book 1 | Book 3) trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer Рunique book, making my mind work and engage with the story

I’ve read 800+ books, yet I’ve got only 37 books on my Goodreads favourites shelf, and just 15 books here. I thought I would have come up with more! Perhaps I’m being too strict with my criteria, haha…At least this reminds me to give my favourites shelf a tidy ūüėõ¬†What books would you include in a personal canon?

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What Happened on Thursday

Millennium Library ArchitectureThis 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.

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