Archive for December, 2017

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My year in review, 2017

December 31, 2017

I am almost afraid to review my reading year because I really didn’t feel as though I had an especially good one. Usually I have no trouble getting upwards of 50 books in a year – an average of about one book per week. I know there are scads of people who read a lot more than that – like a hundred books and more. I am not sure how they accomplish that unless they read for a living. In any case, I didn’t get nearly as much reading done during the summer as I would have liked and I think I spent wayyyy too much time on my phone. My kids gave me an iPad for Christmas this year and I am going to have to be super careful not to fall into a technology hole. Truthfully, I’d rather be reading, but sometimes at the end of a long day at school it’s just easier to turn on the TV or troll through Facebook. But 2018 is a new year. (And  good riddance, 2017. You sucked.)

Every year for the past few years, I have participated in The Perpetual Reader’s year-end survey. It’s a fun way to take a look back at the reading year that was. Here’s my 2017 edition.

 

Number Of Books You Read: 46
Number of Re-Reads: 2
Genre You Read The Most From: YA

 

best-YA-books-2014

1. Best Book You Read In 2017?

hate

The Hate You Give – Angie Thomas

Everyone was talking about this book, and for good reason. I fell in love with the characters in this book and appreciated a glimpse into a world of which I know nothing.

Runner- Up (for book that was the most fun to read)

kindworth

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson

A total page-turner by a new-to-me author.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

I know I am in the minority here, but I HATED the ending of this book with a fiery passion.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

I started my 2017 reading year off with Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight, which I was sure was going to be a great beginning because I thoroughly enjoyed her book Reconstructing Amelia. Not so much for this one.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I didn’t really push any of the books I read this year other than The Hate U Give. I intend to encourage a lot of people to read that one in my YA Lit class next semester.

 5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?

Series. Blech.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?

Peter Swanson. I will definitely be adding more of his books to my tbr shelf.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I don’t tend to read outside of my comfort zone. Is that bad? Occasionally I read some YA dystopian  or fantasy stuff…just so I can talk about those books with students…but I’m not really a fan. (Unless it’s Patrick Ness. I will always read him.)

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Ohhh. The Kind Worth Killing was pretty thrilling. I also recently finished The American Girl by Kate Horsley and it was pretty un-put-down-able.

 9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Nada.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?

thornhillIn its simplicity, Thornhill. It is a beautiful book all around.

11. Most memorable character of 2017?

No question: Starr Carter from The Hate U Give.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?

Probably Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017?

The Hate U Give. Do you see a theme emerging? I also really got a lot from Jen Waite’s memoir A Beautiful, Terrible Thing. It wasn’t life-changing because in some ways it merely reflected back to me a life I had already sort of lived; however, I did find it thought-provoking.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? 

20th century

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill. I read Heart-Shaped Box pretty much when it first came out and loved it. I bought 20th Century Ghosts not long after, but it has languished on my tbr shelf for ages…like years. Finally got around to it.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2017?

Nothing stands out…and half of the books on my list are at school. So, I got nothing.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017?

Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You – Todd Hasak-Lowy (656 pages)

Nutshell – Ian MacEwan & This Gorgeous Game – Donna Freitas (tied with 208 pages)

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Sandra Brown’s Seeing Red shocked me with how BAD it was.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Can’t say I have one this year.

(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

100% the Carter family in The Hate U Give.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Of the books I read in 2017, several were from previously read authors:

 

Of those titles, I probably enjoyed I Found You the most enjoyable.

21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

I never feel pressure to read any recommendations – except for book club picks, I read what I want.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?

I got  nothing.

23. Best 2017 debut you read?

The Hate U Give.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Probably Salt to the Sea.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Geesh, looking over the books I read this year – most of them were pretty grim. Maybe that’s why I had such a hard time reading this year. Chopsticks was fun to read because it was a story mostly told with pictures.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?

Not even a lump in the throat this year.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

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The Truth Commission – Susan Juby

Quirky, funny and Canadian.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Nope.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?

askthedark

Ask the Dark – Henry Turner

The narrator’s voice was super unique and memorable. Creepy story, too.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Behind Her Eyes pissed me off. A lot. Even as I kept turning the pages.

book-blogging

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2017?

Didn’t spend too much time reading blogs this year. I keep saying that that’s something I am going to change. Yeah. I’m going to get on that.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2017?

billy_idol_dancing_with_myself_final_cover-1

I like the review I wrote for Billy Idol’s memoir Dancing With Myself.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

I don’t think I posted anything that wasn’t a review this year.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Still really enjoy my occasional chats on CBC’s Information Morning. Here’s one I did in May 2017.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017?

Meeting Fantasy Chick from Litsy. I participated in a #secretsantagoespostal event and I got matched up with someone who lives about 15 minutes away from where my son attends university. Instead of mailing her gift, I was able to arrange to meet her and hand it over in person. That was cool.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

I felt sort of lethargic this year – in all aspects of my life. I wonder if it was the political climate…or too much work…or I dunno. I am hoping 2018 will be better.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Other than a visit to my home page, my page “What is a ludic reader?” got the most love.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

I don’t really keep this blog for the ‘love’ although it’s always nice when people interact with the posts.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I enjoy Litsy. I love Book Outlet just a teensy bit too much.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I always say I am going to read x amount of books…but I think I will give myself a pass this year. I’m just going to read.

looking-ahead-books-2015

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018?

Too many to name but top of the list: John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down. It’s been on my bedside table for six weeks.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)?

Don’t follow this stuff, really.

3. 2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

See above.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018?

Nothing. I have an aversion to series.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018?

I would like to try vlogging.

 

 

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Salt to the Sea – Ruta Sepetys

December 7, 2017

salt-to-the-sea-bigcoverA couple years ago I read Ruta Sepetys’ novel Between Shades of Gray with my grade nine students and we all really loved it. Salt to the Sea treads familiar ground, telling the story of four very different young adults fleeing their homes to escape advancing Russian troops during World War Two.

There’s Joana, a Lithuanian nurse, who had fled her homeland four years earlier for the relative safety of East Prussia and who is now on the run again.

There’s Florian, a talented Prussian artist who had been working for the Nazi cause  as an art restorer.

There’s Emilia, a pregnant fifteen-year-old from Poland.

And there’s Alfred, a self-aggrandizing sailor for Hitler’s navy.

Joana, along with an old shoe-maker, a little boy and a tall woman named Eva,  is already making her way towards Gutenhafen where she hopes to board a ship that will take her to safety.

Germany had invaded Russia in 1941. For the past four years, the two countries had committed unspeakable atrocities, not only against each other, but against innocent civilians in their path. Stories had been whispered by those we passed on the road. Hitler was exterminating millions of Jews and had an expanding list of undesirables who were being killed or imprisoned. Stalin was destroying the people of Poland, Ukraine and the Baltics.

Emilia and Florian meet by accident in the woods. They don’t speak the same language, but Emilia sees Florian as a white knight, a title Florian does not want or even believe he deserves. They soon meet up with Joana and her group. They are all heading in the same direction and it is at the port where they meet Alfred.

The novel’s short chapters and alternating points of view make it a perfect novel for younger readers, although the subject matter is quite often upsetting. As happened with Between Shades of Gray, I fell in love with these characters (well, not Alfred) and I so wanted to see them find their way to safety.

Salt to the Sea, while a work of fiction, is based on the real life sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff,  “the deadliest disaster in maritime history, with losses dwarfing the death tolls of the famous ships Titanic and Lusitania.” In her author’s notes, Sepetys tells us that in 1945, it is estimated that 25,000 people lost their lives in the Baltic Sea.

I think one of Sepetys’ gifts is her ability to create flesh and blood characters, giving voice to the thousands of innocent children and men and women whose lives were irrevocably changed by the horrors of war.

I loved the time I spent with these brave young people, and only wish that the ending hadn’t felt so rushed. This was the one little niggle I had with Between Shades of Gray, too. I would have happily read another fifty pages just to have a little more time with these characters.

 

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I Found You – Lisa Jewell

December 3, 2017

IFoundYouIn present day, Lily Monrose’s husband is missing. Newly married, Lily is frantic to find the man she loves, the man who came “home with gifts, with ‘two-week anniversary’ cards, with flowers.” Her husband, Carl, is “certainly never more than a minute late,” but he’s seemingly just vanished.

Alice Lake is a single mom with three kids who lives in a ramshackle cottage by the sea in Ridinghouse Bay. One day, from her window, she spies a man sitting on the beach.

He’s been there all day, since she opened her curtains at seven o’clock this morning, sitting on the damp sand, his arms around his knees, staring and staring out to sea.

Finally, Alice goes out to see if the man is okay and he admits “I think…that I have lost my memory…Bcause I don’t know what my name is. And I must have a name.”

Alice invites him in to her home and together they try to uncover who he is and where he came from.

In 1993, we meet Gray, 17, and Kirsty, 15, who are staying Rabbit Cottage in Ridinghouse Bay with their parents. They are on holiday, enjoying their family time when they meet Mark, a boy just a little older than Gray and for whom Gray takes an immediate dislike.

When Mark stops to chat to the family on the beach, Gray notes that the

smile on his face [looked] to Gray suspiciously like triumph. As though this ‘spontaneous’ conversation with his family was not just a passing moment of friendly human interaction, but the first brilliant stroke of a much bigger master plan.

Gray is right to be wary.

From these seemingly unconnected threads, British writer Lisa Jewell weaves an often riveting account of family, love and obsession. Although I was less interested in Lily’s situation – something about her irked me – I was wholly invested in Gray and Kirsty.  Their relationship was really believable and their part in the story provided the most heart-pounding moments.

As for Alice and her mystery man, well, obviously I don’t want to spoil anything. Alice is a likeable character, kind-hearted  and slightly reckless. As they work to peel back the layers of missing memory, the threads of this story start to come together. I found some of the machinations a bit clunky, but overall I Found You had me turning the pages way past my bedtime.