June Summary

I know, it’s halfway through July and I’m only now posting my June Summary, it’s shameful, but it’s also summer and I am having so much fun doing all the outdoor activities! For this reason, I haven’t been reading quite as much and I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a slump. I had a great start to June, but things kind of floundered a bit after that. I struggled to finish my book club selection and I really only managed to read so many books because 2 of them were audiobooks and 1 was a poetry anthology. But enough excuses, here’s my June Summary:

Books read: 8
Pages read: 2,589
Main genres: Historical Fiction
Favourite book: The Great Alone

I have to start with talking about The Great Alone because I am obsessed with this book! It’s been a month and a half since I read it and still cannot stop thinking about it! It definitely tops my list so far as best book of 2018 and I’m not sure anything will be able to top it because I loved everything about this book, even though it tore my heart to shreds. It’s set in Alaska in the 1970’s and it has made me totally obsessed with everything to do with Alaska and I am now dying to go there. I don’t want to get too much into the plot of the book, I wrote a lengthy review of it if you want to check it out, but honestly, just get yourself a box of tissues and go read it immediately!

My love of The Great Alone inspired me to pick up two other books about Alaska in June. I finally read my copy of The Smell of Other People’s Houses, which believe it or not is set in the exact same time period, but in Fairbanks Alaska. This is a short YA book with the most gorgeous cover and the most disappointing story. I did not like this one, the plot was too shallow and lacked any really emotion. Secondly, I read Robert W. Service’s most popular poetry anthology from the early 1900’s, Songs of a Sourdough, which is mostly about the Yukon and Alaska. It’s referenced several times in The Great Alone and I was already familiar with some of his poetry (the cremation of Sam McGee), but I’m thrilled I picked this one up because it has some great poems in it and I love the rhythm of his poetry and sense of place.

I read one mystery novel in June, The Dry by Jane Harper. I quite liked it as it had a good balance of mystery, investigation, and flashback to a previous mystery, which I always love in a good PI novel. This book now has a sequel called Force of Nature, which I am dying to get to because it sounds like it might have a bit of man vs. nature conflict going on, which is always interesting.

I listened to 2 audiobooks. I ran out of credits on Audible and my library’s collection of audiobooks is truly shameful, so I found a free version of Jane Austen’s Emma that I decided to listen to. It took me like 2 months to get through this one though, and while I thought the narrator did a great job, it was just so flipping boring that I couldn’t love it. I also listened to Girls Burn Brighter, which I did like, but which was just so depressing that I found it hard to listen to. It’s a sobering book about human trafficking, but it was also much heavier than I was ready for. I gave both audiobooks 3 stars, because I do appreciate what both authors were trying to do with these books, but I didn’t love either.

Finally, I read two other historical fiction novels for my monthly challenge (The Great Alone was the first one): I was Anastasia and Fruit of the Drunken Tree. I did like both of these books, but sadly neither blew me out of the water and they were both pretty standard 3 star books. I did learn some neat history from both of them though, so I commend them for that.

And that’s it for June, I will try and be more speedy in July I promise!

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March Reading Challenge

I have to admit, I’m pretty pleased with myself and how my January and February challenges have gone. If I hadn’t challenged myself to read them, I don’t think I would have got to any of the books on my February challenge, and they were all really good, so I’m glad I finally set aside time for them.

It can be kind of hard to pick them up sometimes. I like being able to just pick up and read whatever I’m feeling in the mood for, which can be a challenge when I’ve already set myself 3 books for that month, plus my monthly book club read. But it has been paying off, so I’m going to try and stick to it for now.

I’ve got a huge list of challenge ideas, so every month I’m torn about which one to pick, but I’ve been wanting to just do a generic Fantasy challenge, so I decided to go very broad on my March picks. I’ve got a huge pile of fantasy novels at home, so it’ll be nice to set aside some time for them. So my March Challenge is:

Read 3 Fantasy Books

Like I said, I’ve got a huge stack, but I do still want to be intentional about which ones I pick, so I’ve settled on 3 that have all gotten great reviews and that I’d like to finally get to. My only concern is that these are first books in multi-book series, so my TBR will only grow and I have a feeling I’ll be trying to fit some sequels in there too. My March picks are:

  1. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  2. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  3. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

The Thief is a older fantasy series that was first published in 1996 and had 4 books, but the author just published a 5th book last year, so it seems to have been getting a lot of hype again. To be honest, I don’t actually know what any of these 3 series are about, but they’ve been on my TBR for ages because they’ve all gotten such great reviews. I know The Thief focuses on a thief (duh) who the King has released from prison to try and steal something for him and I believe each of the books in this series are from a different point of view, but are all political fantasy-type novels about a place called Attolia. So I’ll see how accurate my description is and report back!

The second book I want to read is the first in the Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin and is called The Fifth Season. Again, all I know about this series is what’s in the goodreads synopsis, but it’s about the world ending and it sounds brutal! I’ve heard so much good stuff about this series and I’m excited to read it because it falls more within the adult fantasy/science fiction genre, whereas most of the fantasy books I read are very much YA fantasy books.

And finally, I’m planning to read This Savage Song, which is the first book in Victoria Schwab’s OTHER series. I read the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy last year and at the time I wasn’t as obsessed with it as everyone else seems to be, but I think I may have just read it at a bad time (mid-summer when I was super busy), because even though I didn’t love it, I can’t stop thinking about it. I keep recommending it to people and I feel like I want to re-read the whole thing. So I’ve decided to try her other series, which is a duology, but has likewise received fantastic reviews. This book has monsters! And embarrassingly that is the extent of what I know, but I promise a full synopsis in my review!

I feel like I should start reading these books right away to leave time to fit in some sequels in between them, but I just received an ARC for the Beartown sequel, Us Against You, which was my absolute favourite read last year, so I definitely have to read that and potentially also re-read Beartown before I can get around to these. So I think this may be a very successful reading month. Winter is almost over in Vancouver and transition seasons tend to be my best reading months because I’ve finished up my winter activities, but the hiking season hasn’t started up yet, so here’s too lots of books!

January Reading Challenge

Happy New Year everyone! I had a great year of reading in 2017 and I’m looking forward to starting my monthly challenges and reading lots more great books in 2018.

At first I thought this exercise might help me reduce my TBR, but after picking my first monthly challenge I quickly realized it’s actually going to result in the discovery of a lot more books to add to my TBR. Oh well, you can never have too many books right?

I am super excited to announce my first monthly challenge for January! After doing a quick brainstorm I think I have enough challenge ideas to last me for the next 3 years, and I’m really happy with my choice for next month. I’ve decided my first challenge will be:

Read 3 books about immigration

I don’t want to pigeonhole myself on the first challenge, so I’m leaving it very broad. But oh my goodness, picking just 3 books was so hard!! I tried to find books representing a good variety of experiences, the three I settled on are:

  1. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
  2. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  3. American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Girl in Translation showed up on almost every list of books I looked at about immigration stories (along with Breath, Eyes, Memory, which I’ll have to make time for in the future as well). It’s about a Chinese-American girl and “the countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires”. It was published in 2010 and has been on my TBR for ages, so at least I’m making a little progress!

Pachinko was nominated for the National Book Award in the fiction category this year and lost to Sing, Unburied, Sing (which I read earlier this year and was quite good!). I’m really excited for this one because so many immigration stories are about immigration to America, but Pachinko is a historical novel about a Korean family who is forced to move to Japan in the early 1900’s in search of jobs. Added bonus because I’ve been wanting to read this one as well.

American Street is a new book that I added to the list at the last minute. When I realized Pachinko had been nominated for the National Book Award, I took a look at the other nominees and saw American Street had been nominated for the young adult category ( side note: Far From the Tree won this one, which I LOVED). American Street tells the story of a young Haitian girl whose mother is detained by US immigration when they try to enter America and her challenges adapting to life in Detroit. I’m happy to include this one as it’s a YA contemporary novel.

I think it’s a pretty good mix of books – I’m a little disappointed I don’t have any African immigration stories, but I read both Americanah and Behold the Dreamers last year, so I’ll keep those in mind as I read these. I also wanted to include a Canadian immigration story, but I just finished listening to One Day We’ll All be Dead and None of This Will Matter, which is a series of essays written by Buzzfeed’s Scaachi Koul about what it’s like growing up in Canada with immigrant Indian parents. I really liked this one and would definitely recommend!

So evidently this isn’t my first foray into books about immigration, but I’m looking forward to reading these 3 acclaimed novels. Wish me luck and feel free to join in by reading any of these books. I’ll check back in with reviews in a month!

Top 5 Reads in 2017

This is the sister-post to my Top 10 Books of 2017 post. I read way too many books this year to pick only 10, so I split them into my 10 favourite new releases and my top 5 favourites that weren’t published this year (but that I read this year). Here’s the other 5:

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (Fantasy)

I talked up the Shades of Magic trilogy in my other post, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone was definitely my favourite fantasy series that I read this year. This is the first book in a trilogy about a world of angels and demons that have been at war for decades, but the war is slowly starting to bleed into the human world. Karou is a art student in Prague; she was raised in the human world by two beings, Brimstone and Issa, that could only be described as monsters. Brimstone and Issa never enter the human world, but through their shop, Karou can open doors to anywhere she wants in the world and begrudgingly runs errands for Brimstone all over the globe. Until one day when an angel, Akiva, shows up a destroys all of Brimstone’s portals, disconnecting Karou from those who raised her and leaving her stranded alone in Prague.

It’s a pretty epic story and it had some really amazing characters. There were so many interesting concepts and fantasy elements introduced into the story and Taylor’s writing in this series is fantastic! But setting was key for me. I loved Taylor’s depiction of Prague and later Morocco. She created a really good atmosphere and I loved learning all about Karou’s Prague and Akiva’s world.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand (Young Adult)

If any book bridges the gap between genres, it’s this one. I’ve listed it as Young Adult, but it’s also part Historical Fiction, part Fantasy, part HILARITY. I picked it up because I loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and pretty much every review I read compared it to My Lady Jane. Together they were definitely the two funniest books I read this year.

My Lady Jane is essentially the re-imagined history of Lady Jane Grey, the 9-days queen from the 1500’s who reigned for 9 days and then literally lost her head. It’s told from 3 different points of view – Jane, King Edward (who dies and leaves Jane as Queen), and G (her betrothed) – and it’s actually written by 3 different YA authors. The premise of the story is based in fact, but the authors take a lot of liberty after that and infuse some fun fantasy elements into the story. I loved it! Plus I discovered they’re writing two more novels about historical Janes, so watch for My Plain Jane next year!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Mystery)

Why have I never picked up an Agatha Christie novel before this year? They are so much fun!! I read 3 of her books this year, but And Then There Were None was definitely my favourite. From what I understand this is the quintessential Christie novel. 10 strangers are invited to attend a party in a mansion on an island owned by a wealthy mystery host, but when they arrive they find the host missing. One by one the guests start dropping dead and with no way off the island everyone starts to descend into a state of panic. After a thorough search of the (small) island reveals no one else is present, the remaining guests must face the dark realization that the killer is hiding in plain sight. So deliciously fun!!

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Memoir)

Confession, I didn’t even know who Trevor Noah was until my book club picked Born a Crime as one of our monthly reads. I always say I dislike memoirs, but I may need to change that opinion because I’ve read several this year and I loved all of them! I wasn’t expecting much out of this book, but Noah delivered a hilarious, yet sobering, story about his experience growing up ‘coloured’ (mixed-race) in South Africa both during and after Apartheid. If you’re interested in learning about how he ended up on The Daily Show in this book, you’ll be disappointed because he doesn’t talk about it, but if you’re looking to learn a bit more about what it might have been like growing up in post-apartheid South Africa while simultaneously having a good laugh, then this is the book for you! I loved Trevor’s writing and I’m now a fan of both his stand-up comedy and The Daily Show!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Science Fiction)

This was another book club selection that I was not interested in reading, but then loved once I started it! Dark Matter is one of those fast-paced, un-put-downable novels. I don’t even know how to describe this novel. Jason Dessen is abducted one day by a masked assailant and wakes up in a life that is not his own. In this new life he is a renown Scientist, but his wife is unknown to him and his son has never been born. Jason is pulled into a world he never knew existed, but more than anything, he just wants to return to the wife and son he’s left behind. In order to do so, he must go on an epic journey through both space and time. I thought the plot sounded so bizarre, but it was so enthralling! You don’t need to be a big sci-fi fan to enjoy this!