Yearly Wrap-Up — Books Read in 2016

Hey there,

The year is almost up – just a few more weeks to go – but I thought I would get working on my wrap-up. I don’t anticipate I will finish many more books before January first. Once work ends, we jump right into Christmas celebrations and then Boxing Day and there are a few days in between where I’ll get some reading in but I’m working on a Lord of the Rings reread which takes time and dedication!

I started this year with a big Star Wars focus because the release of Episode VII had me off-the-charts happy about being immersed in that universe again was my favourite thing. I slowly transitioned into Parisian themed books, anticipating my trip to Paris in the summer, and had splashes of 1920s themed authors or historical fiction which touched upon life in Paris in the 20s. Late spring into summer transformed into non-fiction about fashion, beauty and the like. And then autumn brought about young adult novels and interesting pieces of fiction. It’s a very curious thing to write all that down and see how my “reader moods” changed over the course of a year!

Alright, here’s a list (though I know I’ll forget a few) and I’ll just be putting titles, not authors, because time etc…:

  • SW: Before the Awakening
  • SW: Smuggler’s Run
  • SW: Weapon of a Jedi
  • SW: Moving Target
  • SW: Young Jedi Knights – Shadow Academy
  • SW: Bloodlines
  • SW: Darth Plagueis (best SW book I read this year)
  • SW: Ezra’s Gamble
  • SW: Rey’s Survival Guide
  • SW: Lost Stars
  • SW: The Force Awakens
  • SW: The Dark Disciple
  • The Gardener of Versailles
  • Finding Myself in France
  • A Family in Paris
  • Paris Street Style
  • The Diary of a Nose
  • A Year in Provence
  • The Sweet Life in Paris
  • Parisian Chic
  • Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
  • The Paris Wife
  • Hemingway in Love
  • A Moveable Feast (x2)
  • The Sun Also Rises (reread)
  • The True Gen (halfway)
  • The Vogue Factor
  • Leave Your Mark
  • #Girlboss
  • The Little Book of Feminism
  • Love x Style x Life
  • Capture Your Style
  • The Cursed Child
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Six of Crows
  • We Have Always Lived In The Castle
  • House on the Hill
  • The Miniaturist
  • Red Queen
  • Cruel Crown (halfway)
  • A Monster Calls
  • Caraval
  • The Forgetting (Best book I’ve read in 2016 and easily one of my favourite books of all time)
  • LOTR Fellowship of the Ring (reread)

Did not count: movie companions, information books, magazines, reference texts, graphic novels/manga/comic books, crappy books I read halfway but then returned or got rid of, etc

In total: 44 books are listed as having been read this year. This doesn’t take into consideration the ‘Did Not Count’ list, and I read a whole bunch of those. I’d same my numbers are pretty good considering there are 52 weeks in a year and some of those weeks are so busy that I didn’t read a thing (eg. this week…).

I think for the new year, I’ll stick to the same reading goal and not put too much pressure on myself.

How many books did you read this year? Do you set reading goals for yourself?

xo
C

The Fellowship of the Ring – How Joining Tolkien’s Fandom Changed my Life

Hey there,

Sorry  for the silence on here. The last week and a half have been chaos and madness, and things are just starting to quiet down and go back to normal. As such, I’m taking advantage of sitting in silence with a book or closing my eyes for a few moments to give myself a little compassion and self-care. Rarely has my computer been open, which means writing has been neglected.

Along that journey of chaos, I made the decision to begin rereading Lord of the Rings. I chose this world in particular because I wanted something I would feel no pressure or expectation to read (it’s not an ARC, I don’t need to write a review because it’s been read by me before, I know what I’m getting into, etc) because I needed to just take it easy and take it slow. And boy, am I glad I chose LOTRs, because now I’ve fallen back in love with the world and I have no desire to climb out of it! I’m obsessed! But let us have a look at LOTRs through my life…

My obsession first began when I was in the sixth grade. My favourite teacher – Mr. Lefaive – read the class The Hobbit every day after lunch recess. I say read but what I really mean is “acted”, because he read  the book with such enthusiasm, he did voices for each character and put a little “fun” into every song he read. He also had a hand traced map of Middle Earth posted on our classroom bulletin board. How could I not fall head-over-heels into this world when it was introduced to me in such an impactful way?

It was the year 2000 when the build-up for the release of Peter Jackson’s LOTR movies were happening, and in 2001, I was once again given this magical world on a silver platter. LOTR became my life. Any magazine with a mention of it was purchased. The books were purchased from Costco in a complete set (and enjoyed slowly and enthusiastically). I had the “book of the film”. I had the soundtrack (which is currently playing in my car stereo system). I had the Frodo action figure (still in box in my basement storage). My parents took me to the Two Towers exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. LOTRs was my life. It was the first fandom I fell hard into, and that love and adoration still ripples through me now.

I saw a bit of myself in all the characters. I recognized my own internal conflict and struggles mirrored in the struggles of Frodo, of Biblo, of Gandalf and Aragorn, and see it even more clearly now. Tolkien wrote characters that were so human and yet so divine. He wrote of innocence, of unity and trust, of strength of heart, of courage. Those resonate with me even more so as an adult with the own “weight” of my own “ring of darkness” that I carry. How real, how true, how honest and how beautiful is Tolkien’s story?

When I had the opportunity to visit Oxford (my most favourite place in England that I’ve visited) and walked the university, I loved thinking of Tolkien – and Lewis, as he’s another favourite of mine – walking the same path or writing in the offices by the windows. It was such an honour to see where he spent so much of his time and where he imagined much of the world I so love.

Just prior to the release of The Hobbit on film, I decided to get a Tree of Gondor tattoo which is not seen by many (and I often forget I have it) but is spread across my ribs on my right side. A symbol of death and rebirth and representative of the crownless king – much like I am the crownless queen of my own destiny – along with the role the universe played in my youth, it meant a lot to me and I wanted to carry it with me, always.

When the Hobbit was being released into theatres, I had just started dating J and he saw my excitement about being back in Tolkien’s world again after such a long wait. He got me a Hobbit shirt, and a beautiful map replica, and a “nerd box” he got me even had Thorin Oakenshield’s key (/pen) inside of it. Unfortunately, the movies really let me down in comparison to LOTR and the perfection which it is, so much so that I’m actually working through rewatching them because I had forgotten them all. It just didn’t bring back the same feeling that I had when I was young (but I did cry my eyes out at the end of the third Hobbit movie because I realized this world in film is likely closed for good, and that hurts).

Unlike The Hobbit films, rereading LOTR has brought back that child-like adoration of the world. It is bringing back to me the same excitement, enthusiasm, and sense of comfort that I once had. I am truly obsessed all over again! I want more, more, more. I don’t want to put the books down (sometimes I fall asleep holding them). I want to collect different editions of the book. I want to expand my knowledge of the universe. I want to get art and film books that didn’t exist when I was young, or I had no knowledge of. I want to collect, consume, adore each part of this world.

It’s truly a fitting time of year to indulge in these texts, because it brings about a Hobbit-like desire to sit by the hearth with a warm drink (or a big glass of ale) and a lot of heavy, hearty food and just give oneself up to the story and journey along in the world. My obsession may be paused once Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is released because that fandom is the one that has one of the strongest pulls on my heart, but for now, it feels good to be in so deep into Tolkien’s universe. I feel like I’m home.

What universe do you always seem to fall back into?

xo
C

November Book Stack! An Overview of a Not-so-Productive Reading Month

Hey there,

November was a little bit crazy! Between writing Progress Reports and planning for Parent/Teacher Interviews at work, and writing and organizing my application for a Masters program, my reading took the hardest hit from this busy month. I even managed to have two half-reads this month; I hate starting books and then having such a difficult time finishing them. It’s such a let-down when I can’t complete it, due to loss of interest or just poor, poor writing. Anyway, let’s get to the stack!

A couple of these books on the list were more thoroughly reviewed on my blog, so I’ll link them when appropriate. It’s probably my smallest stack yet, but it has also been my busiest month. I think the holidays will bring about more reading time. But as you can see, I’m still into the fiction swing o’things.

This month, I read:

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – I highly recommend this one if you’re into a dystopian world with a gang of misfits ransacking the living quarters of the most important/richest people in this universe. 4/5 stars
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, the manga edition – Don’t. Waste. Your. Time. 2/5 stars.
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Hess (not featured in the photo; I’m lending it to my sister-in-law)- Um. Read it, and have your life changed. 4.5/5
  • Fantastic Beasts Screenplay by J.K. Rowling – It was like getting to watch the film all over again, in my head! What a fantastic screenplay and an even more fantastic film.
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber – What an awesome, irking, dark novel! Highly recommended if you are into magic, the supernatural, and Hunger Games type books (please keep in mind that I hated the Hunger Games series, but I’m comparing the plots, here). 4/5 stars.

My DNF (Did Not Finish) list is as follows:

  • Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – Oh. My. God. Go read my Goodreads review. Beautifully descriptive book about nothing. I’m not kidding you. 2/5 stars (only because it has great potential).
  • Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard – I thought this would be an easy read that I would fly through but I’m quite bored by the second novella. I really, really, really loved the first novella in this book. I might finish this, sometime soon…

What am I reading right now? Well, I’m currently in a reread kind of mood. I find comfort in rereading old favourites. They get me out of a slump, they ease the stress and expectation that can sometimes come from a new book, and they bring me back into calmer moments in my life. I’m working on making my way through Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien (which is compounded into my antique edition at over 1000 pages, so this will be a slow tackle, I’m sure). I’m also reading Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston, a Star Wars canon novel, which I bet I will be even more excited to read after watching Rogue One and I have Star Wars fever. I already bought my tickets for the pre-release night and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

So what did you read this month? Anything worth adding to my (already giant) TBR pile? Let me know in the comments!

xo
C

Book Review #8 – Pride & Prejudice Manga Edition

Hey there,

I received an advanced copy of this novel. My review is in no way influenced by this.

Pride & Prejudice in a manga format was immensely exciting to me! But to adapt Jane Austen’s awesome novel into an edition such as this was an ambitious one.

I found the text and dialogue chosen to be appropriate and to tell the story in a smooth and easy-to-read format. I flew through this book with little difficulty grasping the story’s progression. I found the art/illustrations of the characters to be quite beautiful. But, despite it being a manga (and, as such, the next being expected), I found the exaggeration of character drawings and the “Japanese style” emotions displayed with sweaty foreheads, chubby characters having meltdowns, lines of expression around bodies of characters to symbolize movement and jumping in excitement or panic, and some of the way that the protagonist’s’ self-thought was shown to be very silly. Pride & Prejudice is such a classy, sophisticated, and romantic novel, and it could have been adapted in manga format without getting silly and ridiculous.

I think for someone who is unfamiliar with Jane Austen’s writing or feels a bit threatened by the text, this manga edition is a great introduction to her story, Pride & Prejudice. I will definitely recommend this to a few students who know of Austen but never felt inclined to read her works. It’s on the right track but overall didn’t impress me too much.

Overall:
2/5
Pros: lovely illustrations, nice and easy flow, good introduction to Austen
Cons: ridiculous “manga” art that doesn’t fit with the story, didn’t add to the story in any way (I prefer reading the novel)

Book Review #7 – Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Hey there,

finally finished reading Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. It wasn’t a difficult novel to read but it was quite dense, it had a lot of detail, and wasn’t a book you could read in broken one-chapter-at-a-time pieces because there was a lot to keep up with.

I didn’t read the Grisha Trilogy prior to getting to this book, so I’ll be honest, the world and terminology were a little confusing at  first. I wouldn’t say that reading the Grisha Trilogy is a necessity to understand and love this book but I definitely feel like it would make the universe (and the characters) a bit more clear for the reader.

Six of Crows was immensely detailed, packed with quality dialogue, outstanding characters that I fell in love with, and captivating chapters. I found myself swooning over so many different aspects of the characters which were revealed to me as I read. This is also the first time I looked at fandom art of a YA novel! The official poster of the characters and the fan art that followed were exactly as I imagined the characters in my mind! I loved the full-figured, never satisfied character of Nina. I loved the mysterious, fast-fingered Kaz. I loved, loved, loved all things about the Wraith, Inje. I could go on – that being said, this is a book with a WHOLE LOT of characters. If you don’t like books with a lot of storylines and a lot of perspectives, this book won’t be for you. Those kinds of books are not usually up my alley, but this one was different.

What I liked about this book, in particular, is the flawlessness of the author to link all these characters and stories together. They all exist individually but all work together SO beautifully. No character feels like an “outcast” in this crew. No perspective seems out of place or unnecessary to the story.

But that’s not to say that I wasn’t overwhelmed at times. I was. There were some chapters where I felt I had to re-read previous chapters in order to refresh my mind on terminology or secondary or tertiary characters. That may have been because I didn’t read the Grisha Trilogy, but these books are advertised as being separate reads from the GT so that shouldn’t have been a requirement to my understanding of the books.

There were definitely parts throughout the book where I wanted to know more, I wanted to read on, I was on the edge of my seat. But then there were also parts in the book where I just wanted to get the book over with so I could move on to the next book in my TBR pile. But let me make this clear: I LOVED the book.

Overall…
Rating: 4/5
Pros: 
amazing characters, amazing universe, amazing dialogue, fantastic plot
Cons: I was eager to end it and not overly-excited about continuing onto the next book