End of Year Book Survey

There’s nothing I love more than keeping up with book bloggers who have inspired me so – and so of course I want to jump on the bookblog train and participate in part of Jamie’s (The Perpetual Page-Turner) End of Year Book Survey!

N.B.: This includes all books read in 2016 – they do not have to be published in 2016. 

 

Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 135 (may get one or two more before we ring in 2017!)
Number of Re-Reads: 10
Genre You Read The Most From: Young Adult and Contemporary

 

Best Books

1. Best Book You Read in 2016

AH! This is a tough one to answer. I culled 7 favorite books in this post but I really don’t know if I had a FAVORITE, favorite. Some Kind of Happiness meant the most to me when I read it and still is very meaningful in my life, and one I love recommending. But I think my favorite book for the fun and the reread factor is A Court of Mist and Fury. Pumped for the third book in that series coming out in May 2017!

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

I think Eligiblethe modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It was one of my very few one-star reviews this year. It was just. so. bad. Considering how well-reviewed it was, I was surprised by how much I hated it: sloppy, uninteresting, chock-full of too many “hot modern topics” and it just had none of the charm of Austen (or any of the other excellent modern retellings of P&P).

3. Most Surprising (in a good way or bad way) Book You Read in 2016?

Lolz, the President’s Daughter series by Ellen White Emerson. They were a series originally written in the 80sish but modernized (ish) to today (so they have random mentions about characters using the capital-i Internet, etc). It’s exactly as it sounds like – a teenager’s mother becomes president and her life is turned upside down! I have a weird obsession with pieces of fiction about kids in the White House, and I really enjoyed zipping through this series. The last one, Long May She Reign, was particularly good, emotional, and full of depth.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (and they did) in 2016?

A Man Called Ove continues to be my #1 recommendation.

5. Best Series You Started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

Series Started: Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken
Sequel: Court of Misy and Fury, by Sarah Maas.
Series Ender: Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo (does a duology count as a series?)

6. Favorite New Author You Discovered in 2016?

I had been a little lax on Leigh Bardugo (I think I read one of her Grisha books, but I’m not sure). Considering how much I loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, I may need to go back and revisit…

7. Best Book from a Genre You Don’t Typically Read/was Out of Your Comfort Zone?

Two very sad but ultimately hopeful memoirs, both recommended by my roommate (who used to work for a book publisher and is GREAT at hooking me up): When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi) and Let’s Take The Long Way Home (Gail Caldwell).

8. Most Action-packed/Thrilling/Unputdownable Book of the Year?

Guardian and Proxy by Alex London.

9. Book You Read in 2016 That You are Most Likely to Re-Read Next Year?

I’m a broken record, but definitely Court of Mist and Fury (just purchased on a Kindle deal yesterday)

10. Favorite Cover of a Book You Read in 2016?

Geminabut less about the cover and more about the insides 🙂

11. Most Memorable Character of 2016?

Definitely Finley from Some Kind of Happiness.

12. Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2016?

I just finished it, but I found the above-mentioned memoir When Breath Becomes Air beautifully and lyrically written. The author wrote it after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer; he was a neurosurgeon with a degree in English Literature to boot, and was able to capably pull in thoughts about what it means to be alive from a scientific and a philosophical standpoint. Bring the tissues.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/Life-Changing Book of 2016?

I can’t shut up about Lean In (a little late in reading it, I know).

14. Book You Can’t Believe You Waited UNTIL 2016 to Finally Read?

Anything by Sarah Vowell. I didn’t LOVE her books, but considering the world we live in now, her researched take on history, politics, and humor is much needed.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From a Book You Read in 2016?

“If you are afraid, sad, tired, or lonely; if you feel lost or strange; if you crave stories and adventure, and the magic possibility of a forest path – this book is for you.”

-Some Kind of Happiness

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read in 2016?

Shortest: Paris for One, Jojo Moyes

Longest: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
17. Book That Shocked You the MostThe Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time – does that count as shock?

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

I didn’t read a ton of shippy stuff this year, but I did love the relationship between Syd and Knox in Proxy (Alex London).

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship of the Year

Everyone in Britt-Marie Was Here.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 from an Author You’ve Read Previously

Leave Me by Gayle Forman. She’s an automatic read for me.

21. Best Book You Read in 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY on a Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. Everyone in the world says this is an amazing book; when I tried to read it last year I found I couldn’t get past the first 100 pages. I decided to get into this again in 2016 because so many people loved it. And… I just don’t. I certainly didn’t hate it, but I’m not hooked and not putting the next books on the top of my list.

22. Newest Fictional Crush from a Book You Read in 2016?

Hmm. This is an easy gimme, but Ezra (the Darcy stand in) in First & Then (Emma Mills) is very swoon-worthy.

23. Best 2016 Debut You Read?

Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman, by Lindy West. Lots to think about here!

24. Best World-building/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

I’ll keep saying it, but the Illuminae/Gemina series just really grabs me.

The Sun Is Also A Star (Nicola Yoon). It’s not a happy ending in the traditional sense (although I think it’s happy) but it’s just so enjoyable to read.

26. Book That Made You Cry or Nearly Cry in 2016?

Ugh, so many. I’m a crier. Most of the Harry Potters, definitely Sisterhood Everlasting (the last book in the Traveling Pants series), the memoirs I mentioned above, Some Kind of Happiness.

27. Hidden Gem of The Year?

I wish more people would read Some Kind of Happiness. How many times do I have to say it, people?!

28. Book that Crushed Your Soul?

Sisterhood Everlasting kills me every time. One time I started to reread before a plane ride, then remembered it makes me ugly cry and realized instead I needed to read it all in one night, lest I embarrass myself in the air the following morning.

29. Most Unique Book You Read in 2016?

Ugh, broken record, but Gemina. READ IT.

30. Book that Made You the Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

I think Lean In because it made me SO angry that there’s still so much fighting women have to do for equality.

 

And there we have it! I have a lot of repeats in my recommendations above, but you try to sift through 100+ books and remember everything about them *blushes*

I’m so proud that I was able to smash my reading challenge of 100 books this year! I think for next year, I need to cool it on the library books/new book request as soon as they come out, and focus on my personal library. I have such a backlist of both virtual TBRs on my Goodreads (which I want to organize this week!) and my actual bookshelf that I want to start to go through those.

Another 2017 book resolution is to read at least 4 classics (I think I can handle one a quarter!). There are just SO many I haven’t read, or read way back in high school, that I would like to revisit them.

We’ll see what 2017 brings!

 

My 2016 Favorites

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: when all the “best of” book lists come out! And because this is essentially my private journal, I would be remiss to not list my own favorites and a reflection on my stats.

(According to my Goodreads)

BOOKS READ: 131

NUMBER OF PAGES: 47,918

MY AVERAGE RATING FOR 2016: 3.6 (I’m pretty kind, huh?)

 

MY 2016 FAVORITES, in no particular order

(Note: While I reread and rating as 5 stars some of my favorites this year, including the Harry Potter series and Sisterhood Everlasting, I elected to leave them out of my tally)

First, a pre-script:

Turns out a good chunk of my favorites are follow-ups to books I read in 2015. So you know what that means, folks – you basically get DOUBLE the books to catch up on, because the first books in these series/duologies/trilogies are some of my other all-time favorites!

Gemina, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This feels a little silly because I just flailed about this book last month, but I STILL AM OBSESSED WITH IT. I go into much greater detail in my blog post, but it’s such a miraculous and creative book with everything a girl could want: interesting plot, fun characters and character development, and have I talked about the design too much, or what

Pair this with a delicious 2015 Illuminaewith a flirty dessert of the final in the trilogy in 2017.

Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo

UUUUGH another recent flailCrooked Kingdom is the amazing and fun follow-up to Six of Crows. Goodreads tells me this is a duology, which is only terrible because I could read about these characters for the rest of my life (and probably will, because I just got the boxed set for Christmas). Considering these two books combine capers, action, amazing heroines, tons of crime, and just a dash of romance, how could  I not love it?

Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah Maas

Okay, this is the last “second in a series” book that I read, loved, and 5-starred this year, but it (and its predecessor) really are some of my favorites. Picture Beauty and the Beast, but add in more sex, and you have this book. It is kinda young adult, but shows two adults in a relationship actually, you know, having a relationship, and there is something so satisfying about that (although it makes me blush to think of my mother reading the same passages I am. Oh my!). Steamy, romantic, kick-ass, and the second book completely flips the premise of the first book on its head. I can’t even imagine what Maas is going to pull off in the third one.

Some Kind of Happiness, by Claire Legrand.

The first book I posted about, and one of my top reads for 2016 (and my life). There’s not much more I can say about it. It’s beautiful, quiet, hopeful, sad, and the perfect description of what it is like to suffer from anxiety. As the book starts: If you are afraid, sad, tired, or lonely; if you feel lost or strange; if you crave stories and adventure, and the magic possibility of a forest path – this book is for you.

Leave Me, by Gayle Forman

To be honest, I was a bit surprised I had rated this five stars – I remembered it more as a four-star read – but I must have been in a generous mood that day! Gayle Forman is an automatic read for me, after absolutely loving If I Stay/Where She Went and Just One Day/Just One Year (Just One Day is genuinely one of my all-time favorites). I didn’t love this one QUITE as much but I think I will in the future when I’m closer to the main character’s experience (who is a middle-aged mother). Even without identifying 100% with the MC I still loved it deeply – which is the hallmark of an excellent novel and novelist.

Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys

I read this one way back in April and TBH don’t remember a whole lot about why I liked it, but it’s been popping up on a bunch of “best of 2016” lists so just read what one of them have to say about it, OKAY?! Do I have to do all the work for you?!

Quality of Silence, by Rosamund Lupton

Look ma, I can read adult books, too! (Although to be fair to me, Leave Me is adult, A Court Of Mist and Fury should be considered adult, and the whole disparagement of the Young Adult genre disgusts me as much as people mocking “chicklit.” ANYWAY). This novel was incredibly interesting for its third, main character of Alaska. Sure, there’s mother-daughter dynamics, looks at man’s impact on the environment, thriller mystery, even a MUUUURDER, but the look at desolate Alaska is what grabbed me. (Best paired with a viewing of the TV show Fortitude, which is super creepy and awesome.)

High Dive, by Jonathan Lee

Probably my most impressive-sounding book this year when someone asked me, “So, what’re you reading about now?” This book explores a fictionalized telling of the attempted assassination of Margaret Thatcher. Most interesting for me as a dumb American who was not alive when this took place, this book was based entirely on a true story and thus gave me a really cool look into a piece of recent history (including the tensions between England and Ireland, and some of the history of the IRA) that I knew very little about.

 

And there you have it, folks! For such a voracious reader, I’m apparently very picky in my ratings. I’ll try to be a little less selective next year.

Coming up soon, my LEAST favorite books of 2016! You’re on notice, BOOKS.

 

Behind-the-scenes look: I originally intended to get to 10, but by the time that I sifted through my 5-star books of 2016 and removed the ones that were rereads of old favorites, turns out I hadn’t given a huge number of books high ratings!

 

Unbought and Unbossed

As  I’ve grown wise in my advanced age, I’ve been thinking a lot more about how amazing women are and how feminism is more important than ever, especially as it becomes grossly apparently that people hate women. (See: how women are treated in public, in private, in the workplace, in government, by government, and basically everywhere.)

In the spirit of that, I’ve been diving into one of my new favorite podcasts, Stuff Mom Never Told You. In the well research twice-weekly podcast by How Stuff Works (which also produces one of my favorite other podcasts, Stuff You Missed In History Class), the hosts Cristen and Caroline “get down to the business of being women from every imaginable angle.

In the few short weeks I’ve been listening to it, they’ve examined the history of retail work and how women and particularly women of color have factored in it; the “bury your gays” TV trope in which LGBT characters are routinely killed off on television shows; and the history of “weather girls” and social workers, to name just a few careers dominated by women. (The main takeaway I’ve gotten from the career-focused episodes is that women comprise the majority of the worker bees and men a disproportionate number of leadership roles, even still today. BUT EVERYTHING’S TOTALLY FAIR AND AMERICA IS THE LAND OF THE FREE OKAY).

Far and away the most interesting episode I listened to recently was on Shirley Chilsom, a genuine kick-ass lady and one I wish I had known about from infancy. In the spirit of Shirley, here are the most inspiring things about her.

Shirley Chilsom

There’s SO much to dive into, and honestly you should look to more researched literature on her to get a good understanding (the podcast episode is a good place to start) but here are some of my favorite Shirley facts:

  • She was the first African American woman elected to Congress
  • Girlfriend was one of the truest politicians who worked for the people, and for ALL people. She was intersectional way before it was popular, folks. Just a few of my favorite facts:
    • She was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus
    • She advocated for improved access to education, was instrumental in the formation of WIC, fought for the rights of immigrants, and sponsored a bill to expand childcare for women
    • She freaking RAN for PRESIDENT in 1972 and while she knew she wouldn’t get the Democratic nomination (because remember, America not only hates women, they also hate black people. Freedom!), she hoped to get enough delegates to leverage the eventual nominee – George McGovern – to create an ACTUAL representative government with a female Cabinet member, and a Native American as Secretary of the Interior.
    • Her campaign slogan? “Unbought and Unbossed.” May that be ALL of our slogans.

And, of course, some genuinely inspiring, or genuinely horrifying that things are still the same 40 years later, Shirley quotes to lead us into the Christmas season.

“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl.'”

 

“In the end, anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing – anti-humanism.”

 

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

 

“That I am a national figure because I was the first person in 192 years to be at once a congressman, black and a woman proves, I think, that our society is not yet either just or free.”

 

When You Don’t Love What Oprah Does

Some books you hear about over and over again in a year. Everyone proclaims this is THE BOOK of the year as it makes all the “Best of” book lists. That book this year was The Underground Railroad. It actually had its publishing date pushed up a month as Oprah selected it for her Book Club – and when Oprah says jump… (At least, I remember hearing that fact once and just assume it to be true. No research here!).

And so, I diligently put it on my TBR list, and had a slightly comical affair this fall trying to read it (it came into my library pick-up pile twice and both times I had to return without reading it – the curse of a 7-day hold/no renewal possible book coming in the day before you’ll be out of town!). But third time’s a charm and I finally was able to read it.

WHAT I READ:

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

My impression was a shaky 4-star book (more like 3.75 but I rounded up to 4). Perhaps I’m just a cold-hearted person, but in short I felt the plot and basic structure of the book to be VERY strong and the character development to be slightly less strong. For me to rank it as a 5-star read, I need it to have both.

#FirstFifty Synposis:

This sweeping story starts with the main character’s grandmother getting kidnapped from Africa to be forced into the slave trade. We go through the first few decades of Cora’s life, including her mother, Mabel, escaping and leaving Cora on the plantation as a ten-year-old; Cora establishing herself as a potentially-crazy-but-not-to-be-messed-with-force to the other slaves; and the plantation thrown into confusion when their (relatively) kind owner dies and his much stricter brother is poised to take over. Just when things seem to be getting even worse, Caesar approaches her with a proposition: attempting to escape via the Underground Railroad.

 

And nwo, skipping the gifs in order to move on to my next “sorry everyone in the world that I didn’t like this one” book – The Mothers.

Immediately after finishing The Underground Railroad, I picked up The Mothers – another oft-praised book of 2016. And once again… I found it a little wanting. #sorrrrrry

WHAT I READ:

The Mothers, by Brit Bennett.

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

This one had the opposite problem from the above book – I found the characters to be really interesting, but the plot (while full of very serious and well-handled topics) to be not the MOST compelling to me. This one I gave 3 stars, but consider it more like a 3.5.

#FirstFifty Synopsis:

Nadia, a super-smart 17 year old destined for greater things than her small coastal Californian town, is grappling with the recent suicide of her mother and finds comfort in the arms (i.e., bed) of Luke, the local football star whose college career gets cut short when he suffers an injury. A few weeks before she is due to leave for college, she discovers she is pregnant, and makes a choice that will set into motion the remainder of her life, Luke’s life, and the lives of the mothers around her.

 

So, what did I learn from this experience? Even the books you’re meant to like just might not tickle every fancy needed. I REALLY enjoyed reading them and heartily recommend to others, but sometimes a book can fall just a little bit short. Even books aren’t perfect, my friends.

Why I Will Always Love Gilmore Girls

My reasons for loving the television show Gilmore Girls are certainly not unusual ones. I love it because of the mother-daughter relationship, and the strong relationship I have with my own mother; I love it because I love seeing a main female character who just loves reading and learning and that’s okay; I love it because who doesn’t want to live in Stars Hollow?!?! More than the plot itself, I’ve come to also love it for critical reasons: the writing is sharp, the dialogue is equal parts hilarious and gut-wrenching, (most of) the story development is strong; and it is just a genuinely strong piece of television history.

giphy

Gilmore Girls has featured in almost every major milestone in my life. I don’t remember when I first started watching it – I don’t think it was right from the beginning, but surely it wasn’t too deep into the series – but it became our mother-daughter tradition to watch it religiously every week. We eagerly bought the DVDs sets (and termed the DVD menu background song “The la-las”) and watched them constantly. In fact, my father – who was most often on his computer in the loft above our living room – boasts that he’s heard almost every episode, although he’s literally seen almost none of them. He would sometimes surprise us by saying things like, “I can’t believe what Luke did this week, can you?”

giphy1

So, Gilmore Girls established itself in my life as a show that demonstrates the bond of mother-daughter relationships, normalizes them, and most importantly, made it okay to say that your mom is your best friend. We continued to bond over the show as it entered its 7th and final season in the original run, and I started my first year of college. While we couldn’t watch together, my mom saved the series finale for me on our TV at home and we watched it together, just like old times.

I continued to watch the show religiously in my mid-20s, post-grad school and very much unemployed. I actually DVRed the episode ABC Family played every day at 11am and looked forward to my daily watching ritual – never mind the fact that we owned all seven seasons and I could watch any episode at any time, without commercials. (Sometimes you just want someone to pick for you, you know?)

I dove deeper into the fandom when I discovered the Gilmore Guys podcast and learned how to think critically about one of my top two favorite television shows (Buffy being the other). It’s by no means a perfect show – Rory and Lorelai are often garbage people, and most of Rory’s boyfriends weren’t really that great (although I am definitely #TeamLogan for the original series). But, the community it brings together, and the fandom is brought back into my life, has been an integral part of the last two years of my life.

nuaemtksvuox

So, imagine my excitement when Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life was announced. Finally, more episodes from one of the best shows on television, with the ending as originally envisioned by the series showrunner and written by a damn amazing lady (ASP, we love you). There are definite flaws in the new episodes, and things I didn’t love, but overall I was as pleased as punch to see my three favorite Gilmore girls back in Connecticut. (And yes – I actually LOVED the Rory storyline).

The only thing I didn’t love was that I wasn’t able to watch it with my mother, as she was selfishly living out her retirement dream and sailing to the Bahamas at the time. But, she’s saving her first viewing of the new episodes for when I’m home for Christmas. And so, we will settle in with popcorn and wine (something we couldn’t do the first time around), and likely cry together when we hear the “la las” and get to see our female role models.

In short: Moms are cool, my mom is amazing, and this show is everything to me.

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