Category: 1001 Books

2016 Year in Review #2: Best books, worst books, and my book of the year

Despite restricting myself to only 35 new-to-me books in 2016, I had trouble narrowing down a top and bottom five. I also set out to document my 35 books on Instagram but kind of failed… I managed to get a few decent pictures though!

Best books of 2016, in order of when they were read:

  • Birdie by Tracey Lindberg: Like nothing I’ve read before. A travesty that it didn’t win Canada Reads, Alberta Reader’s Choice Awards, and wasn’t nominated for many others. If there ever was a book that Canadians need now, and that has literary merit and does something new with the novel. this is it!
  • Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood: Yes, we’re all mad at her right now. And this book, about how horrible women and girls are to each other, is perhaps fitting. I went through the strangest emotions while reading this: a mixture of sadness and relief that I’ll never have a daughter.
  • After Claude by Iris Owens: So good I read it twice this year. So funny for the first two thirds that I forgot how devastating the last third is.
  • The Diviners by Margaret Laurence: There are a lot of reasons to love this book. I’ll choose the fact that we witness the heroine lose her virginity in a scene where she is in total control, and she doesn’t 1) instantly orgasm 2) marry the guy 3) pay for it for the rest of the book. Sex positive CanLit circa 1973.
  • Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys: Speaking of books that are ahead of their time! All these books are about strong women (but not “strong women”) and Sasha is the strongest and brittlest of them all.

Book #7 and future winner of Canada Reads. This book blew me away. #bookstagram #canadareads2016 #CanLit

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Spring. Also book 11 of 2016, THE DIVINERS by Margaret Laurence. #bookstagram #amreading #readingoutside

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#FridayReads and #FridayWaits to get my dang phone fixed (they're on 39, time for a few pages)

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Disappointing books of 2016, in order of when they were read. I don’t have pictures of all these, because, ugh.

  • The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson: Read more like an educational pamphlet than a graphic novel.
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: I love an unreliable narrator. In fiction. In memoir, not so much…
  • Bluets by Maggie Nelson: I just didn’t get it. Nelson is a writer I think I *should* like but just… don’t. And the fawning over her is just too much. I listened to her on a few podcasts this year and the hosts just grovel, Wayne’s World “we’re not worthy” style.
  • In-Between Days by Teva Harrison: I didn’t connect with the drawing style. When you look forward to the text-only pages in a graphic novel, that’s not good.
  • The Dead Ladies Project by Jessa Crispin: If Eat Pray Love was re-imagined as Eat Read Fuck. Which is funny since Crispin wrote a takedown of EPL (and even stranger, a defense of it six years ago.) This was my biggest disappointment. Crispin is an OG book blogger who’s gone on to be a respected literary critic. She is contrarian and sarcastic and smart. But this book swung between too show-offy and obscure and too juvenile (pretending not to know what the solution is to an affair with a married man that won’t leave his wife…) Won’t stop me from pre-ordering Why I Am Not A Feminist, though!

 

And now, the 2016 Reading in Bed Book of the Year:

Continue reading

2016 Year in Review #1: The Stats

You may notice something different about this year’s stats, compared to other years. Let’s see how long it takes to spot it…

smell

I smelled 0% of the paper books because that’s weird.

Books Read

  • Books read in 2016: 35, down from 69 in 2015. That was on purpose, though. And I’m not counting rereads, kids books, or books I read for work.
  • Shortest book: Bluets by Maggie Nelson (112 pages)
  • Longest book: Cecilia by Frances Burney (1,056 pages)
  • Format: 97% paper, 3% ebook, 0% audio (compared to a third of my reading on ebook and audio last year)

About the Author

  • 100% female (58% in 2015)
  • 34% person of colour (up from 20% 2015)
  • 37% Canadian (same as 2015) 38% American, 11% British, and 1 each: Korean, Japanese, French, Filipino. 
  • Three Edmonton-area authors this year, being generous with one who moved recently!

… did you catch it? Yes, I did the #readwomen thing this year, and my experience will be covered in a separate blog post. Brace yourselves: unlike many who do this sort of thing, I did not come to any shattering realizations, and I *cannot wait* to read some dudes in 2017.

The book that started it all.

The book that started it all.

Genres and Lists

  • 11% classics (same as 2015), 63% contemporary lit fic (about the same as previous years), 11% nonfiction (all memoirs), and a handful of erotica, poetry, and graphic novels.
  • 1001 Books for a total of 127 read.

Probably gonna mix it up a bit next year, say, read some nonfiction that isn’t memoir?

Ratings

  • 17% were rated five stars (up from 11% last year), 49% were four stars, 23% were three stars, 14% were two stars and poor Nora Roberts gets just one.
  • The most underrated book was After Claude, which I rated a 5, compared to average 3.55 rating on Goodreads. Which I assume is due to people getting offended, which is the whole point.
  • The most overrated book was The Liar, which I rated a 1, compared to average 3.94 rating. It was just bad.
Lemme in, Something Awful! I won't stay long, I promise!

Lemme in, Something Awful! I won’t stay long, I promise!

Blog Stats

  • Headed for about 17,000 page views in 2015, down from 23,000 in 2015. And 11,000 visitors, down from 15,000.
  • I’m not panicking, because my review of The Fault in Our Stars, which amassed 7,000 views in 2013-2015, was viewed just 400 times this year. Looks like kids writing papers have moved on to another book. Similarly, my review of Sleeping Beauty is not pulling the numbers it used to (nor am I seeing as much filth in my search terms). I think a lot of my traffic in 2014/2015 was artificial due to people landing on those posts – and quickly clicking away. They were never my readers anyway. The moral is: never review YA or erotica.
  • An Oryx and Crake readalong recap from 2013 continues to perform, due to a post on a Something Awful forum which I’m sorely tempted to pay for so I can see what it is… anyone a member? Hit me up!
  • On course for 45 posts this year, up from 39 posts in 2015.
  • Most viewed post of 2016 is that mysterious Oryx and Crake one.
  • Most viewed post that was actually written in 2016: Intro post of the Cecilia readalong, likely due to a little help from CBC.
  • Least successful post in 2016: Short Story Advent Calendar Video Reviews. Same as in 2015, it’s a Booktube post. Okay, I get it, you guys don’t like the Booktube…

Stay tuned for best books, disappointing books, and 2017 plans, of which I have several!

2015 Year in Review #1: The Stats

While my family enjoys the traditional new year’s eve feast of microwave popcorn and mini-watermelon slices (it was in our produce box this week!) I shall avail you of my blog stats. Stay tuned for my favourite books of 2015 and 2016 plans.

69dudesBooks Read

  • Books read in 2015: 69, up from 64 in 2014 and 52 in 2013.
  • Shortest book: We Should All Be Feminists (49 pages)
  • Longest book: City on Fire (944 pages)
  • Format: 64% paper, 20% ebook, 16% audio (which would be up from 0% audio in any previous year, and represents the biggest change in the way I read.)

About the Author

  • 58% female (Same as 2014)
  • 20% person of colour (same as 2014)
  • 38% Canadian (down from 55% in 2014) 35% American  16% British and 1 each: Argentinian, Nigerian, New Zealand, Malaysian, Italian, Brazilian, Angolan, German. 
  • Six Edmonton-area authors this year, up from two last year.

I didn’t pay much attention to gender and race this year, but ended up with the same “diversity” stats as last year. I put “diversity” in quotes because these stats and challenges generally leave a bad taste in my mouth. (That’s a whole other post, but this or this can give you an idea why.) I was curious about how my reading fell out, though, so I did the calculation. I notice that I expanded the number of author nationalities (at the expense of #CanLit, oops) while still reading a large majority of Canadian, American, and UK authors.

The book that started it all.

The book that started it all.

Genres and Lists

  • 10% classics (down from 19% in 2014), 51% contemporary lit fic (about the same as previous years), 14% non fiction (up a bit from last year), and a handful of YA, erotica, romance, memoir, graphic novels, and a thriller.
  • 1001 Books for a total of 126 read – and reread two more.

I’m further and further away from the reason I started this blog. Not saying that’s good or bad… stay tuned for 2016 plans!

Ratings

  • 7% were rated five stars (down 13% in 2014), 41% were four stars, 36% were three stars, 16% were two stars. I DNF’d one book that was headed for a one-star rating.

This year is a bit of a slump. Only a few books blew me away. As usual, I tend to rate books lower than the masses on Goodreads:

  • I rated 26 books higher. The most underrated book was The Bear, which I rated a 5, compared to average 3.31 rating. Yeah, I have a lot of feelings about this book.
  • I rated 40 books lower. The most overrated book was We Should All Be Feminists, which I rated a 2, compared to average 4.44 rating. Not because I don’t agree, but because there was nothing new or challenging.

Infinite Jest 20th Anniversary editionBlog Stats

In my bed: April 2015

Insert “excuses for not writing wrap-up posts, that no one noticed I didn’t write, and the excuses are also humblebrags, and/or pleas for pity and/or compliments” here.

Let’s just call this 2015 so far.

Recommended reading
4 and 5 star reads that’d I’d recommend to almost anybody:

the bearLuminariesNWWhenEverythingFeelsbringupablutions

  • The Bear by Clare Cameron (review, sort of)
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • NW by Zadie Smith (audio)
  • When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid
  • Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel (audio)
  • Ablutions by Patrick deWitt

Book Haul
Some notable acquisitions. Follow me on Instagram if you care to see my book mail and also my children.

Goose Lane Editions goodies

Goose Lane Editions goodies

  • The Secret Library by Haruki Murakami courtesy of Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf
  • Mrs. Dalloway courtesy of Robert at 101 Books. I won a contest and could pick any of the 101 books, so of course I picked his most hated book.
  • Humans 3.0, Knife Party at the Hotel Europa, and Where the Nights are Twice as Long courtesy of Goose Lane Editions: My mom saw these books at my house and told me several times how attractive they were. She was petting them. She likes shiny things.
  • Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz courtesy of Hello Hemlock. Read along in May and get ready to discuss in June.
  • Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother by Hollie Adams courtesy of NeWest Press

Up to the Challenge
I am doing some reading challenges this year:

Also an excellent excuse to rewatch the mini-series. Boissiney sez: don't hate the player.

Also an excellent excuse to rewatch The Forsyte Saga mini-series. Boissiney sez: don’t hate the player.

  •  The Forsyte Saga Chronicles with Ali of HeavenAli and others, because why challenge yourself to read just one Victorian novel when you can read nine that total like 2700 pages? I’m on book two and loving it.
  • Book Riot Read Harder Challenge or at least one aspect of it. I find reading bingo challenges to be a bit… much. I will never keep track or remember to check things off. So I zero’d in on one square in Book Riot’s bingo card: read a book someone recommends to you. I’m taking that to mean someone in real life. So far, I’ve read The Japanese Lover by Rani Manicka (recommended by my mom,) Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer (my husband,) and next up, Let the Elephants Run by David Usher (my brother.) I wouldn’t have picked any of these books on my own.
  • Back from the DNF is my own little challenge and I hope to knock off another book or two.

Reading local
A little local non-fiction:

howtoexpecthowtoexpect2

  • Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything by Timothy Caufield which I wrote about here.
  • How to Expect What You’re Not Expecting: Stores of Pregnancy, Parenthood and Loss edited by Jessica Hiemstra and Lisa Martin-Demoor. I’ve already passed this on to a friend. I didn’t notice the dedication till I was about to mail it. A really beautiful book.

Where I’ll be
You might find me at these places IRL and on the internet over the next few months:

Lynn Coady and body guard

Lynn Coady and body guard

  • The 2015 Kreisel Lecture with Lynn Coady. Actually happened a few nights ago. Serious literature + Grover = awesome. More to come.
  • WriteReads talking about Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis. Yes, the other book won the vote. I changed my mind.
  • Book Bloggers International talking about book blogging in Canada. I am really feeling Reading in Winter’s absence right now, as she has written about this topic so eloquently in the past!
  • The Yeggies winning the Best in Arts and Culture Award (hopefully)
  • Book Expo America in NYC with ebooksclassics and JFranz.
  • The Group-Along: Yes, I’ve decided on my annual read-along and it shall by The Group by Mary McCarthy, inspired by this post on Uncovered Classics, by the fact that McCarthy is from Minnesota and now so is my sister, who always gamely joins my read-alongs, and by my years of devotion to Sex and the City (pre-movies,) which took inspiration from this book. Watch for a sign up post later in the summer.

2014 Year in Review #1: The Stats

Are we sick of year in review posts yet? No? I really enjoyed doing multiple, detailed posts last year, but Bookstravaganza took up most of my December so I’m gonna keep things simple this time round. Stats today, best and worst books tomorrow. And maybe top literary crushes (okay, definitely top literary crushes!)

Books Readwpid-20140530_135813.jpg

  • Books read in 2014: 64 (up from 52 last year)

I thought I might hit 75 this year, but it was not to be. Without the Novellas in November and Bookstravaganza boosts, I would have ended up around 52, just like last year. I can live with that!

About the Author

  • 58% female (down from 67% last year)
  • 19% person of colour (up from 12% last year)
  • 55% Canadian (up from 42% last year) 22% American  16% British and 1 each: Argentinian, French, Irish, Russian, Guadeloupean. 
  • Only two Edmonton-area authors this year.

I put a bit of effort into reading more authors of colour this year, and I guess nearly 20% is alright – it’s tough to know, honestly. With gender I’m going for parity, but what’s parity with race? 20% is pretty representative of our population here in Edmonton, but if you expand to Canada, or North America, or world wide, your target would be very different. So my goal with regards to authors of colour next year is to review more of them. That’s where my power as a blogger lies. Some of the best books I read this year were by authors of colour, and I didn’t review them. More on THAT tomorrow.

Genres and Lists

  • 19% classics (down from 35%), 53% contemporary lit fic (up from 48%), 9% non fiction (up from 6%), and a handful of YA, poetry, erotica, romance, and historical fiction.
  • 8 1001 Books for a total of 123 read
  • I’m kind of defunct on The Classics Club. I erased my list because it wasn’t speaking to me anymore. The idea, though, was to read 50 classics in five years, and I read 12 classics this year, so I’m on track.

Ratings

  • 13% were rated five stars (down from 19%), 45% were four stars, 30% were three stars, 13% were two stars, and thankfully, I did not read a single one-star book this year because I decided not to continue with the Fifty Shades trilogy. I will totally see the movie though. For research! And stuff.

Compared to the average Goodreads rating…

  • I rated 27 books higher. The most underrated book was Villette, which I rated a 5, compared to average 3.72 rating. How dare you, people who rated this book less than a 5! It’s perfection!
  • I rated 37 books lower. The most overrated book was Me Before You, which I rated a 2, compared to average 4.31 rating. Apologies to Kristilyn and Brie, who are probably not my friends anymore.

Blog Stats

 

Stay tuned for more 2014 year in review, hopefully before it becomes ridiculously late in the current year!

In my bed: June 2014

Is there such thing as reverse-seasonal affective disorder? I get the urge to hibernate in summer. I crave sleep and comfort food. This summer, I’m not just choosing reading over blogging, but sleeping over reading. And lately, TV over both. I may have to stop smugly saying “actually, I don’t watch TV” if this keeps up. Damn you, OITNB.

There are tons of literary references and shout outs though. Hey Ian MacEwan!

There are tons of literary references and shout outs though. Hey Ian McEwan! via booksofoitnb.com

In addition to reading and blogging ennui, I’m buying books and not reading them, which I understand is normal book blogger behaviour, but it’s not normal for me. And I’m just not loving the books I’m reading lately. I don’t think it’s them. I think it’s me.

Sometimes, when I’m in a rut, I give something up for a while. I’m running low on things to give up, though. I’ve done social media-free months. That’s boring. I gave up caffeine and TV last year and am still off both, OITNB notwithstanding. I quit smoking. I don’t do drugs and I haven’t been drunk in five years.

No, I’m NOT going to quit blogging. But I do need to do something a little drastic… Continue reading

A Tale of Two Cities: The Afterword

I had this great idea for my TOTC wrap up post. Okay, I stole it from The Afterword Reading Society. I wanted readers to give me a tweet-length review and compile them here. We had a real diverse set of reactions and I wanted to convey that, and it might help those of you who are on the fence about reading this book. Also, what could be better than tweets and books?

Then I wrote my wrap up post really fast and forgot to do it. So here are a few mini-reviews. Now I’m really done with this book. If you’re jonesing for another read-along, check out Moby-Dick on Roofbeam Reader or The Hobbit on Another Book BlogContinue reading

A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along: Wrap up and contest winner

#1Tale2CitiesButton

We had everything before us, we had nothing before us.

That’s an excerpt from the first paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities. The “best of times” bit is the only part that’s ever quoted, but the whole thing’s pretty good. And this bit in particular sums up how I feel upon finishing this book and this read-along. On the one hand, well, that’s done (or as the Habs might say this week, “c’est tout.”) On the other hand, TOTC is like many classics: once you get that first reading out of the way, there’s lots more to discover. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along Update #4: Friend Zoned

 Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!

#1Tale2CitiesButton

Another late post. Shall I grovel and apologize for my wasted life and lack of morals, a la Sydney? Nah, let’s just get to it! We read to the end this week. Are YOU finished?

Miss Pross, Like a Boss
My favourite character has been Madame Defarge almost the whole way through, UNTIL NOW. I always liked Miss Pross. Her wild exaggerations, her creepy devotion to “ladybird,” her even creepier idolization of her brother, and her complete disdain for the French make her a “character” in the same way that Jerry is. I loved that she and Jerry end up together, abandoned by the main players, and that Miss Pross saves everyone in the end and busts a cap in Therese’s ass – who saw that coming?

Friendzoned
First of all: the whole concept of “the friendzone” is gross and sexist. However. Sometimes the term just fits. And Sydney is in the Friend Zone like whoa.

Up until now, the only “friend zoned 19th century French literary character” I knew was Eponine from Les Mis. We all cringed for her as Marius used her to get to Cossette. But Sydney Carton takes it to a whole new level – he never even really confesses his love, and doesn’t even get to die in Lucie’s arms.

eponine

The End
We all knew how this was going to end. We all knew the last line. But it still had an impact. I rushed to the end, but slowed down on the last pages, and that last line hit me, big time. I may have cried (I totally cried.) I have to say, though, I don’t know if Clueless was correct in its analysis that Sydney meant “Tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people.” Sydney sacrificed himself for Charles, but, it was really all for Lucie, who he was obsessed with. I didn’t think this was really a “friendship” novel, at least, not the way I thought it would be.

it is a far

The Best of Blogs
I’m catching up on blogs, so if you aren’t here, link in the comments!

Tune in next Monday for: final thoughts and contest winner!

Did you cry at the end?

A Tale of Two Cities Read-Along Update #3: It Gets Better

 Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!

#1Tale2CitiesButton

I’m so late with this post, I considered just rolling it into next Monday’s. But, this section was important because it turned things around for me. I was feeling very “I’ve made a huge mistake” (say that in a Job from Arrested Development voice) about this whole thing until after page 200. But I swear, it kept getting better and better. I hope most of you are hanging in there!

Why I got back into #1Tale2Cities in this section:

1. Dr. Mannett & Mr. Lorry
I love the scene where Mr. Lorry talks to Dr. Mannett about this affliction, without actually talking about it. A predecessor of the “I have this friend…” I found these two charming in this scene, and I started to understand the role Mr. Lorry plays in their lives.

2. Madame Defarge and The Vengeance
Still bad-ass. First of all, we learn Mme. D’s first name is Therese, which is also my middle name. Then she acquired a sidekick named “The Vengence.” They also behead a couple people in this section. Madame D. also tells Lucie off, which is all good in my books. Lucie is begging for mercy for her husband and child because sisterhood or whatever and Mme. D is all, cool story, Citoyenne, but I will fully kill your husband in the name of la revolution!

coolstory

3. Sydney
Yes, his constant grovelling is annoying. In this section, though, I realized what his ultimate role was going to be – and having finished the book, I know I was right. And I love that. I love that this book is somewhat predictable. It’s a comfort read in a way. Pretty good for a book in which people are horribly killed and mutilated and what not.

4. The Grindstone
I just love this:

The great grindstone, Earth, had turned when Mr. Lorry looked out again, and the sun was red on the courtyard. But, the lesser grindstone stood alone there in the calm morning air, with a red upon it that the sun had never given, and would never take away.

But it’s not all good news…

1. Lucie
She still sucks.

That’s pretty much it. I like everyone else except Lucie. I might like Lucie, if I knew anything about her.

The Best of Blogs

Check out these posts from the #1Tale2Cities readers-along:

If you write an update post this week, link it in the comments and I’ll update here in the main post.

Tales Heard Round the Internet

Tune in next Monday for: the end! 

Did anyone else think it got a lot better in this section?