A reflection on my 2019 reading year…

Happy New Year!

For the past several years I’ve completed a little reading survey, a sort of look back at the reading year that was. I normally spend a few hours reflecting on my year, choosing most favourite and least favourite books and talking about other bookish things that happened to me, but I usually do that in advance of January 1st. This year I had to return my daughter to university and then I spent a couple days with my best friend and her family out of the city…so no time to get that post ready in advance. I do like to think about my reading year, though, so here are some random thoughts.

Goodreads provides a handy overview of your reading year at the end of their challenge. This is mine. I think I had a pretty good year. I read nine more books than I did in 2018, and I hope to up that number again this year by spending WAY less time on the Internet. My reading goal for 2020 is 70 books, but I would love to surpass that.

myabsolutedarlingOf the books I read in 2019, a couple really stand out.  Gabriel Tallent’s debut novel My Absolute Darling was a difficult book to read, but the protagonist, Turtle, has stayed with me. As I said in my review, this book will not be everyone’s cup of tea; however, if you can stomach the subject matter (sexual abuse, violence), it is so worth the read because of the incredible beauty of Tallent’s writing and the novel’s stunning main character.

I also really enjoyed Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House , Tara Westover’s Educated , Iain Reid’s Foe, Tim Johnston’s The Current, Joanna Briscoe’s You (not to be confused with the thriller by Caroline Kepnes),  and Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere

I read a lot of terrific YA this year. It’s relatively rare to read a total YA dud these days – and to be honest, if the book really sucks I just move on – but I read some stellar YA titles in 2019.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds –  a novel in verse about the aftermath of gun violence. A quick but powerful read that belongs on every school library bookshelf

A List of Cages by Robin Roe  – a tremendous novel about two boys who meet again at high school, and how that chance encounter and one boys innate kindness saves the other boy’s life. Literally.

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck – I cried real tears when I read this book. It is YA perfection.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera – smart, thoughtful, heartbreaking and – not a spoiler – they do both die at the end. LOVED it.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – twisty, gothic, beautifully written… a page-turner with a beating heart

I read some mediocre books this year, too…and many of them were really popular books. These are books that were just okay for me – certainly not, imho, worth the hype.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane landed me in a little mini Twitter shitstorm. First time EVER I had an author and her minions come at me, even though I didn’t think (and still don’t think) my review of her book was all that critical. The book just didn’t do it for me.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a serviceable thriller and I had no trouble reading it, but I just didn’t think it was worthy of all the fuss. For me.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer was one of  last year’s book club picks and it just didn’t float my boat because I didn’t really care too much for the main female characters, which is a problem in a book about women.

The Perfect Nanny  by Leila Slimani – was it the translation? I dunno. I just found this book about a nanny who kills the children she is charged to care for S-L-O-W

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – I felt as trapped at the novel’s main character, Count Rostov

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James – this was my book club pick last year and it just had too much going on

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel – captures the zeitgeist of gender identity and, overall, does it well, but I still had some issues and couldn’t give it a hearty thumbs up

Other bookish things that were exciting this year:

fitch1 - CopyI stumbled upon, purely by chance, Sherree Fitch’s magical bookstore, Mable Murple’sBook Shoppe and Dreamery in River John, Nova Scotia.

Fitch’s children’s books were on permanent rotation in my house when my kids were little, so it was pretty exciting to find the store and then find the author herself chatting to patrons.

I purchased my copy of A Velocity of Being here and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you love books, this is a MUST read.

I also had the opportunity to meet Lauren B. Davis, author of one of my favourite books, Our Daily Bread, when she read from her newest novel, The Grimoire of Kensington Market. Davis and I have interacted a little lauren davisbit on social media, and in fact back when my book club read Our Daily Bread, she graciously offered to answer any questions we had in real time via Twitter.

I intend to make going to author readings more of a regular habit in 2020, as I do love to see them in person. I am so sorry I missed my opportunity to hear Craig Davidson read from his book The Saturday Night Ghost Club, which I read in 2019 and really liked a lot.

One other thing I did in 2019 that I have never done before was to make a vlog. I had a crazy busy few weeks and let my read books pile up and knew I would never get around to writing reviews about them, so I thought, what the heck, I’ll talk about them instead. Not that easy, people. If you want to waste 20 minutes, you can watch that here.

Overall, it’s been a great reading year and I look forward to discovering new favourites in 2020. I hope you’ll visit often and stay a while.

 

 

Easter ‘Book’ Hunt

So, before I begin preparing Easter dinner for the family, I thought I’d participate in The Savvy Reader’s Bookish Easter Egg Hunt. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend this rainy Sunday morning, and so with tea in hand I present my own book eggs.

1. Roses are red, violets are blue… Nope, I can’t rhyme. Instead, find your favourite book about love!

This is too hard because I love me a great love story, especially if it comes with a heaping helping of angst.

timetraveler

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

Henry and Clare and time travel and so many tears I couldn’t see the pages. Skip the crap movie and read this amazing book.

2. Dystopian novels are so 1984… Find a great dystopian novel!

knife-of-never-letting-go

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

Although I didn’t groove to this book the first time I picked it up, I did give it a second chance and I am so glad I did. I am not really a fan of dystopian novels, but this series has it all: sympathetic protagonists, cool premise (everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts), a relentless bad guy…and don’t even get me started on Manchee, the main character’s dog. The next two books in the series are The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men.

3. Book it to the library for a book that has aged like fine wine. Find a book you’ve read more than once and gets better every time you read it.

velocity

Velocity – Kristin McCloy

Velocity and I go wayyyyyy back. I bought the book at The Strand in the late-eighties and have re-read it many times. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I continue to love this book.

4. This book blue us away. What blue book can you find?

blue eyed

Your Blue-Eyed Boy – Helen Dunmore

I am a bug fan of Helen Dunmore, a British writer who, sadly, passed away in 2017. If you haven’t read her yet, I can highly recommend her work. Her novels have elements of psychological suspense, complicated family relationships, and beautiful writing always.

5. Past, Present and Future walk into a bar. It was tense. Find a book that plays with time in an interesting way.

 

life-after-life-

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson’s brilliant novel plays with the narrative form, skip-hopping readers through the main character’s life (lives), though it is not as confusing as it sounds. And very much worth the effort.

6. Check your shelf before you wreck your shelf. Find a great self-improvement book.

selp helf

Selp-Helf – Miranda Sings

I didn’t review this book back when I bought it, but I chose it for this category because I don’t really read self help books…plus, I love Miranda.

7. I like big books and I cannot lie! Look for a book that’s more than 500 pages.

fingersmith

Fingersmith – Sarah Waters

This book clocks in at 548 pages and won me best book at my book club the year I chose it (2010). It’s a fantastic novel set in Victorian England and, trust me, you won’t be able to put it down once you start reading.

8. I was in a relationship with an apostrophe, but we broke up… It was too possessive! Find a book with a complicated romantic relationship.

 

one-day

One Day – David Nicholls

This was actually a hard category for me because I LOVE me some complicated relationships…especially if the lovers are really damaged people, but in the end, I chose One Day because it’s awesome.

9. Take my advice… I don’t use it anyway. Find a book that you would recommend to everyone.

 

I am constantly recommending books – here, in my classroom, on the radio.  I could have chosen a million books, but I stopped at five:

Sadie  – Courtney Summers is one of my favourite YA writers and this book, her latest, is soooo good. Everyone should read it, not just teens.

A Short History of the Girl Next Door – Jared Reck is a teacher and this is his debut novel. I cried at the end of this book. LOVED it and recced it hard in my classroom.

My Sunshine Away – M.O. Walsh’s coming-of-age novel is beautifully written, suspenseful and heart-breaking and everyone should read it.

Everything I Never Told You – Celest Ng’s novel is just perfect and has stayed with me for a long time.

Descent – Tim Johnston has written a page-turner and  family drama in language that is beautiful without bogging the story down. And, trust me, this is one helluva story.

10. 4 out of 5 dentists recommend hockey. Find a good sports book.

now is thetime

Now is the Time for Running – Michael Williams

Although there is soccer in this book, it’s mostly about what happens when two brothers are forced to leave their African village.

I don’t read that many sports-related books. 😦

11. Bonus Question! Find a book cover with your name on it.

christie

The Christie part.

Happy Easter!

1,001 Ways to Be Creative – Barbara Ann Kipfer

1001-Ways-to-Be-Creative-cover-300x300Creativity is a funny thing. I look around and see all these people who are tremendously creative. Both of my children are talented artists. My daughter spent many years studying ballet and is a beautiful dancer. Both my children are musical; my son taught himself to play guitar. I have other friends who are artists, painting with words or yarn or fabric or glass or clay. Some put their art on a plate. But I am probably not the only person on the planet who feels like they don’t have a creative bone in their body. I don’t draw or paint. I don’t dance. I can’t sing. The one thing I do like to do is write.  I love to do it and have been doing it for as long as I can remember.

In her book 1,001 Ways to Be Creative,  Barbara Ann Kipfer suggests that creativity “isn’t only about artistic skills; it is a way of seeing the world. It gives you the power to shape your life, unify and balance your interests, and emphasize your uniqueness.”

I love that Kipfer gives readers permission to explore their creativity. Honing it, she suggests, gives you “that inexplicable burst of inspiration that suddenly allows you to see from a new angle or bring something new into existence.” We might call that ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and its value to every-day problem solving should not be under-estimated.

1,001 Ways to Be Creative offers is a lovely little book that will surely offer inspiration to people like me who probably don’t realize that they are creative (or could be) in a million different ways (or a 1,001) every single day. It’s all in how you look at it.

Kipfer’s suggestions include things like:

356. Ask a stupid question.

429. Look for the unusual in everything you do.

464. Use sealing wax as a dramatic way to end a letter.

494. Change your look for one day.

764. Observe, collect, analyze, and compare patterns.

868. Carve a face in a fruit or vegetable

Kipfer  “speaks to all who seek greater creativity in their lives.”  You can easily start your creative journey with this book.

Thanks to TLC for the opportunity to review this book.