Tagged: The Cat’s Table

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!

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Reading in Bed Year in Review #4: Best Books and Blog Stats

I love statistics. You’re probably sick of them by now, what with the many end-of-year blog posts, but I love how they’re both meaningless and mean everything; how “numbers don’t lie” but they can tell whatever story we want them to tell. Here are the numbers that made up my year of reading.

…but first, a public service announcement: Goodreads has a sweet stats thiny that shows you how many books you’ve read, how many pages you’ve read, how you rated your books, and more! Go to “My Books,” then “stats” which is on the left side in tiny font, then click “details.” It’s magic! Here’s mine. You can also export your books to Excel to do EVEN MORE analysis – click “import/export” in that same tiny, left hand menu.

Books ReadFavs

  • Books read in 2013: 52 (Book a week!!)
  • Books read in first six months: 12
  • Books read in last six months: 40

I knew my reading picked up after I finished Moby-Dick this summer but I didn’t realize the extent till now. I never thought I’d read 50 books in a year, but it looks like I could reasonably go for 75 next year!

About the Author

  • 35 Female (67%) 16 male (31%) 1 various (2%)
  • 22 Canadian (42%) 16 American (31%) 9 British (17%) 2 French (4%) and 1 each: Columbian, Russian, Irish. 
  • 48 white (88%) 6 visible minority (12%)

I didn’t restrict myself to female authors this year, but I did stack the deck a bit by choosing female authors on the Classics Club list, and, by accepting review copies from independent presses – I have a feeling that female authors are over represented in smaller publishers. I won’t set any specific goals for next year, but I’d love to read more books by minorities.  I’m sure I’ll still read lots of CanLit, butI gotta read some more World Lit too, beyond the States and the UK. Anyone got any good world lit reading challenges happening? I’ll probably do the Russian Lit one but would love to broaden my horizons even further…

Genres and Lists

  • 18 classics (35%), 25 contemporary lit fic (48%), 3 non fiction (6%), 3 YA (6%), 2 romance (4%), 1 anthology (2%)
  • 11 1001 Books for a total of 115 read
  • 11 Classics Club picks for a total of 11

Ratings

  • 10 five star reviews (19%), 19 four star reviews (37%), 14 three stars (27%), 3 two stars (6%), and 2 one star reviews (4%).

Compared to the average Goodreads rating…

  • I rated 22 books higher. The most underrated book was The Testament of Mary, which I rated a 5, compared to average 3.56 rating.
  • I rated 28 books lower. The most overrated book was Dragon Bound, which I rated a 1, compared to average 4.19 rating.

Blog Stats

discostu

  • 17,000 page views in 2013. Compare that to 900 in 2011 and 3,500 in 2012. As Disco Stu would say, “if this trend continues, HEY!”
  • Most viewed post of 2013: What’s The Deal With Infinite Jest? It’s a year later and I still don’t know what the deal is! It’s funny because I wrote it in a very unplanned, stream of consciousness style, which I don’t often do. I’m just happy to share the WTFness and the DFW love.
  • Most viewed post that was actually written in 2013: The Fault in Our Stars: Use Your (Literary) Allusion. I get searches for “Fault in our stars allusions” on a daily basis, particularly in the summer, which tells me that a lot of students write papers on TFioS, and makes me realize how different writing papers must be these days.

And now, on to the good stuff: my best and worst reads of the year!

Continue reading

Reading in Bed Year in Review #2: Shorties

The year in review continues! See my first post about literary crushes here.

I read (or am reading) a few longer books this year, notably Moby-Dick and Middlemarch, but today I’m celebrating my favourite short reads: sentences and short stories.

Favourite Sentence (Tie)
1. “Her head was back, looking up at the stars, if there were stars.”

Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table, which I already gushed about here. “…if there were stars” gets me every time.

2. “Ladies can eat me and call it a juice cleanse.”

Sarah Nicole Prickett railing against “ladies” in “Where Are All the Women.This was my first encounter with @snpsnpsnp and I’ve faithfully read her articles and essays since. Sometimes her writing fuels my “don’t call me a Millennial” angst and sometimes I don’t get what she’s saying at all. Often, though, she nails it. This line made me do a reading double-take – did I really just read that? Yes, I did.

Favourite Short Story
Oblivion_Stories_book_coverThis should have been a tough call, seeing as I read several wonderful short story collections this year, including Hellgoing, The Progress of Love, and 40 Below. It wasn’t tough at all, though. Incarnations of Burned Children by David Foster Wallace from the collection Oblivion wins by a mile.

Calling it my “favourite” doesn’t feel quite right – should your “favourite” cause so much trauma? I read this story near the end of the day at work. I had an inkling it might be a harrowing read, but it was only nine sentences long – perfect for a little mental break. How bad could it be? Nothing could have prepared me for the emotions I experienced. It wasn’t just that it deals with a young child’s severe injury, it deals with parenting, love, life, death, and most traumatizing of all, how each of us is utterly alone and can never really know another person. Reminder: Nine sentences. After attempting to calm myself down for ten minutes, I left work early and picked up my kids because I just couldn’t deal.

It wasn’t Infinite Jest, or any of his essays, or his famous Keynon College commencement speech that convinced me of DFW’s genius. It was this completely devastating story, that left me reeling for weeks. Part of me wants to buy Oblivion, but part of me can’t allow these words to physically exist in my house. Hence the trouble with “favourite.” Here’s the story, but please, please, do not read this at work or if you have to function anytime in the near future.

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

TheOceanAtTheEndMy rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis:

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

This book was set up to fail in my eyes. My expectations were set way too high. Gaiman has been recommended to me by bloggers I respect, by strangers on the internet, by book store staff.  I read early reviews that proclaimed this the best book that every booked, and I believed them. There was no way the experience of reading these 180 pages could live up to the hype. Especially once I realized that I read a book earlier this year that does everything this book tries to do, only better. Continue reading

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje

The Cat's Table

My rating: 5/5 stars

Release date: August 30, 2011

Publisher: McLelland

Synopsis:

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly “Cat’s Table” with an eccentric and unforgettable group of grownups and two other boys. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys find themselves immersed in the worlds and stories of the adults around them. At night they spy on a shackled prisoner — his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.

With the ocean liner a brilliant microcosm for the floating dream of childhood, The Cat’s Table is a vivid, poignant and thrilling book, full of Ondaatje’s trademark set-pieces and breathtaking images: a story told with a child’s sense of wonder by a novelist at the very height of his powers.

Is there such thing as an earworm, for text instead of music? A wordworm? If so, I have had a wordworm, off and on, since finishing The Cat’s Table. I find myself mentally rereading the end this passage compulsively:

We stepped back, further into the darkness, and waited. I saw the man move the strap of her dress and bring his face down to her shoulder. Her head was back, looking up at the stars, if there were stars. Continue reading

Reading Roundup: February 2013, with Bonus Literary Events!

I’m back at work and feel like I’m struggling to read my minimum ten pages per day, yet I still have updates! And on the 1st of the month, too! WHO AM I?

Books Read

  • North and South BBC Elizabeth Gaskell

    I liked the mini series better. Blasphemy, I know!

    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. 3/5 stars. This was my first official Classics Club selection, and I didn’t love it. There are only so many times I can read the word “languid” before it loses all meaning (and I like the word languid!) But I did appreciate the main character, who was thoroughly modern. Review to follow!

  • Belinda’s Rings by Corrina Chong. 4/5 stars. Loved it. Completely original and completely familiar at the same time. The only book I can compare it to right now is White Oleander. I know some people didn’t like White Oleander, but I did, so that’s a compliment. Review and hopefully author Q&A to follow!
  • The Magic of Saida by M.G. Vassanji. In progress. I’m struggling to get into this book. I’m not sure what’s holding me back. The writing is great and the story is compelling. Maybe I’m getting bogged down in details, as I am wholly unfamiliar with Tanzanian history and culture. I’m not giving up yet!

Books Obtained

None!

  • But one is on its way. The kind people at MacEwan Book of the Year are sending me a copy of Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb. I know very little about it, but I love the title! 

Books I Want to Read – adding to the To Be Read pile

  • Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer. Book Riot says, “Buy It. Buy All The Copies You Can Find, and Use the Extras To Decorate Your Town With Amazing Prose.” And I say, okay then.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke. This was suggested to me when I was let down by The Night Circus.
  • Bumped by Megan McCafferty. It’s YA, but I’m intrigued by the premise – in a society where adults have become infertile, teenage girls become surrogates in droves. Brought to my attention by this post at Book Riot (love that site!)

Bonus: #Yeg Literary Events

I’ve noticed an upswing in literary events in Edmonton. Here are just a few.

  • Pecha Kucha NigPecha Kucha Night 15 yeght 15 is at The Expo Centre on March 7, 2013. Jason Lee Norman will speak about the 40 Below Project (if you’re paying attention, you might remember I submitted a story. It was rejected, but the email was VERY nice,) and Caylie Gnyra from Little Cree Books will speak about “Language Ally.” And look at the gorgeous  Night Circus inspired poster!
  • Rosina, the Midwife by Jessica Kluthe launches at Spinelli’s Bar Italia on March 23rd, 2013. I probably can’t make it, but I am really looking forward to this book! Check out the Facebook page for the event.
  • The MacEwan Book of the Year for 2013 is The Cat’s Table by Michael Odaantje, and the author will appear on March 21st at MacEwan downtown campus. I’m buying my ticket tonight. For $22 I will get a copy of the book, get it signed, and hear Odaantje talk about it. What a deal! There is also a FREE panel discussion about the book on March 7th at 12:30pm. All the details are here.
  • Check out the Metro Writers in Residence website for lots of writing-focused events. I attended a discussion about blogging this past Sunday. Not only was it free and super informative, but I met one of the Writers in Residence, Omar Mouallem, and blogger extraordinaire Shareen Ayoub – go check her out; I guarantee you’ve read nothing like it! Mini-review of the blogging session to follow!

And now, I have reading to catch up on. And sleep. Not necessarily in that order.