In 2017, I read 152 books. I think I had scheduled myself to read 75, because I figured with grad school and thesis-ing, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Turns out, when you have to bus for an hour-and-a-half every day to get out to your co-op job, you still get to read lots! I’ve included a list of some of my favourite books from the year, although it’s certainly hard to remember each book clear enough to know if it was one of the best.
Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher #1) by Kerry Greenwood – check out the series on Netflix, too! Australia in the 1920s, she’s a lady who becomes a lady detective. And she gets to sleep around like James Bond, but no slut-shaming!
As Death Draws Near (Lady Darby Mystery #5) by Anna Lee Huber – another historical mystery, but during the Victorian period. The main lady’s got gumption. Her husband is pretty smoldering, too.
Favourite SciFi or Fantasy:
I read most of Lynn Kurland’s The Nine Kingdoms, and I straight-up couldn’t pick a favourite of the series. It’s just as grungy as Lord of the Rings, but faster, and actually has women.
Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6) by Sarah J. Maas – this book was a departure from the usual characters we follow, but I grew to love it. I can’t wait until the next book!
A Court of Wings and Ruin (A COurt of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas – I wasn’t a fan of the first book, but the second and third totally redeemed it. Such a great YA fantasy.
Winter on Diamond by Soren Bondrup-Nielson – got me pumped to go on a canoe trip through Temagami, and I was able to look for some things that happen in their story!
Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer – this book is seriously creepy. It’s way too relevant to Trump-era, of the zombies people become and sociopaths… I got to a particularly scary part as I was drifting off to bed, and since Nic was away on a work trip, I had to put on Netflix to sleep to.
Company Town by Madeline Ashby – kinda Newfoundland oil rigger? Post-apocalyptic. People can get 3d prints of body parts, and virtual body parts to appear perfect.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – without giving up too much of the shocker, Evelyn decides to share her story finally, about all of her personal story.
The Virgin Cureby Ami McKay – about a girl who ends up in a brothel in New York, it’s pretty sad. Very well-written.
What did you love in the past year? What are you looking forward to reading in 2018?
In July I read 16 books, and I boosted my GoodReads 2016 challenge from 100 to 150 books. I’m now at 116, and still going strong. There were a bunch of duds in my to-read list, so some I pushed through (“The Goddess Test” and “Bone and Bread,”) and some I just stopped reading .
“Bone and Bread” – Saleema Nawaz [3/5]
Since this is the 14/15 Canada Reads books, I had to keep going even though it was both depressing and kind of confusing. The book takes place in Montreal and Ottawa, around Quebec’s attempts to separate from Canada. We start the book discovering Beena’s sister has died from prolonged years of anorexia. Quickly we also find out that Beena’s dad died when they were young, and when Beena and Sadhana serve their mom a chicken on her birthday, she dies. Beena is an orphan at age 16-and-gets knocked up. Yup, pretty depressing book. It’s also super confusing with the jumps in time.
“How to Be an American Housewife” – Margaret Dilloway [3/5]
“Buying on Time” – Antanas Sileika [3/5]
“The Goddess Test” Goddess Test #1 – Aimee Carter [2/5]
They could have done this a lot better. It’s a modern take on Hades and Persephone-Kate trade’s herself in order to save her friend’s life. She promises she will stay with Henry (or Hades) every winter for eternity, and needs to pass certain challenges to be allowed to stay. We don’t find out what the challenges were until at the end, and you feel so uncomfortable about the Stockholm Syndrome the whole time.
“The Devil’s Queen: A Novel of Catherine de Medici” – Jeanne Kalogridis [4/5]
This book was really interesting. I haven’t read much in that era that wasn’t based around England, so it was cool to learn more Italian and French history. I love how historical novelists will pick and choose which rumors to decide are truth-Kalogridis showed Catherine as sacrificing a pregnant prostitute during some black magic in order to have her own children. The novel was well-written and super juicy.
“Working Stiff” Mattie Winston Mysteries #1 – Annelise Ryan [4/5]
This was a fun new murder mystery series for me. Mattie Winston is a former ER/Surgery nurse who ends up working for her friend at the coroner’s office. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s girlfriend happens to be Mattie’s first dead body.
“A Disguise to Die For” Costume Shop Mystery #1 – Diane Vallere [3/5]
“A Murder in Time” Kendra Donovan #1 – Julie McElwain [5/5]
This book was a surprise-Kendra is an FBI profiler who goes on the run to catch a bad guy. In the process, she goes through a time portal, back to 1815 England. Kendra is mistaken for a maid. During her time, she ends up hunting for a serial killer of prostitutes. She’s a badass, and definitely shocking for the people in 1815. But be warned, some of it is definitely too creepy to read right before bed.
“His Majesty’s Hope” Maggie Hope Mystery #3 – Susan Elia MacNeal [5/5]
I really can’t get enough of this series. This book, Maggie is the first British woman to be sent over the lines as a spy into Germany, to retrieve important information. She ends up befriending her half-sister-their mother is high up in the Nazi party, and presumed dead in England.
“Death of Riley” Molly Murphy Mysteries #2 – Rhys Bowen [3/5]
“Me Before You” – Jojo Moyes [5/5]
I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book, since I expected it to be very Notebook-ish, but I cried the whole time. Lou Clark is hired to be a caregiver for Will Traynor, a quadriplegic who is understandably very upset with his new lifestyle. Definitely a very emotional read.
Six months into the year and I have read 100 novels and non-fiction books. Wow. I’m definitely under-employed and bored from my job. Now that I’ve hit my goal of 100 in 2016, I’ll probably re-adjust to be 150 or so since I start grad school in September. I probably won’t read for fun much then. In undergrad I did read for amusement, but it wasn’t my priority. I read 14 books in June, plus a few that I cut off after 20% of the book because they weren’t great. This month I’ll only include a couple reviews because I’ve definitely gotten tired of writing all those paragraphs.
“Rule of Two” Star Wars: Darth Bane #2 – Drew Karpyshan
“Grace Among Thieves” Manor House Mystery #3 – Julie Hyzy [4/5]
“Razing the Dead” Museum #5 – Sheila Connolly [4/5]
“Out of Circulation” Cat in the Stacks #4 – Miranda James [3/5]
“Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” – Elizabeth Gilbert [1/5]
This book had been recommended to me by several people. I thought it was terrible. Gilbert wrote “Eat, Pray, Love,” which I vaguely enjoyed. If I wanted to do a creative profession right now or was at a creative block, maybe I would have enjoyed it. However, I found myself gritting my teeth to get through the 100+ pages.
“Undead and Unemployed” Undead #2 – MaryJanice Davidson [4/5]
“The Amazing Absorbing Boy” Rabindranath Maharaj [3/5]
I have 2 Canada Reads books to read after this one, I’m so close! This book is about a boy who emigrates to Canada to be with his inventor father. Turns out his father has been unemployed all the years he’s been there, and Samuel ends up making the money for them. The book is full of interesting imagery drawn from the comic books he found in Trinidad as a child. Wasn’t my top 5 for the Canada Reads list, but still interesting.
“Woman: An Intimate Geography” – Natalie Angier [4/5]
Angier’s huge book discusses different topics about women’s bodies-how we become female in the womb, hormones, sex, and it’s all very well-researched and explained. It was so empowering to learn so many cool facts about my body! My only gripe was that it was incredibly heteronormative- all the relationships she would mention (except a few) were between a man and a woman. Maybe it would have made the book longer to include other options, but I was disappointed on that missed mark.
“The War Against Miss Winter” Rosie Winter #1 – Kathryn Miller Haines [4/5]
Rosie Winter lives in New York during 1943. She’s a struggling actress who works as a secretary for a private detective. Her boss shows up dead, and she discovers his underhanded involvement with the mafia, and sets out to prove his death was murder, not a suicide. It’s a pretty fun book, so I look forward to reading the next ones in the series.
“The Book of Lost Tales, Part 1” History of Middle-Earth #1 – J.R.R. Tolkien [3/5]
If you’re a super nerd, this series is wonderful. It’s a bunch of short stories Tolkien wrote to piece together his universe, and his son Christopher published posthumously. It wasn’t the most riveting read, but some stories I remembered references to, so that was good.
During the month of May I read 17 books, putting me at 93 for the year. I’m almost done my Goodreads 2016 challenge– 100 books! I guess I could probably update it to be 200 books since we’re almost halfway through the year, but with possibly starting a third part-time job soon, and grad school in the fall, I don’t want to pressure myself. Not that I’ve been feeling pressured to read all this, my brain is just so bored with my job (I work front desk at GoodLife, and it doesn’t use much brain power most of the time) that I have to fill it with stories. This month I decided to include my ratings out of five like I put on my Goodreads account.
“That Old Flame of Mine” Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mystery #1 – J. J. Cook [4/5]
Stella Griffin moves to Sweet Pepper, Tennessee, for a break from her situation back home in Chicago (typical cozy mystery, found her partner cheating on her). Stella works for three months in Sweet Pepper to start up a volunteer fire brigade. One of her friends, Tory, dies in a house fire. Turns out it’s murder.
“Poles Apart” Terry Fallis [5/5]
Terry Fallis is a Canadian political satirist. I discovered him through some magazine article which featured one of his books, “The Best Laid Plans,” which is about an old, grumpy man who ends up becoming an MP because the other options in the riding were terrible. It’s great. “Poles Apart” features Evertt who is inspired to create the Eve of Equality, a feminist blog. Literally overnight his blog breaks the internet and he gets thousands of followers. Everyone wants Eve to come out in public and show herself. In typical Fallis style, things go wonky.
“Sitting Practice” Caroline Adderson [4/5]
# 11/15 Canada Reads! – Iliana and Ross get married. Two weeks after their marriage, Ross crashes the car, and Iliana is paralyzed from her hips down. The book follows them for a couple years while he tries to deal with his guilt, and Iliana is hurt that they aren’t intimate after the accident. It’s really well written, and very weird.
“Guilty as Cinnamon” A Spice Shop Mystery #2 – Leslie Budewitz [3/5]
Pepper runs a spice store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. One of her friends who is in the process of opening a new restaurant is discovered murdered. The victim’s old boss happen’s to be Pepper’s ex, and he is the main suspect. It’s allright. I’ll probably get the third book in the series and see if I want to continue.
“Slayed on the Slopes” Pacific Northwest #2 = Kate E. Dyer-Seeley [4/5]
The first book in the series was super exciting for me to find: a cozy murder series with a character who is in her twenties, just graduated from journalism. Finally, someone whose stage of life is relate-able to me! I get kind of tired of all the women in their thirties and forties who’ve just gotten divorced and moved back home to start some ridiculous business that somehow stays afloat despite being very specific. Meg works at an adventure magazine despite not knowing how to do any of the things she writes about. In the second book in the series, she is featuring the Range Riders, a new mountain rescue team. While they’re stuck in a cabin at the top of a mountain during a blizzard, the leader of the team is murdered. Meg has to solve it.
“Magic and Macaroons” Magical Bakery Mystery #5 – Bailey Cates [4/5]
Very cute series. Katie Lightfoot is a hedgewitch who uses “intentions” to infuse her food at her bakery with whatever is necessary-figs in the muffins for the writer with writer’s block? A young woman collapses at Honeybee Bakery, mumbling about a voodoo talisman. It turns out she is the niece of an ex-detective who was hunting down dark magic. The detective turns up murdered by voodoo ritual. Katie has to hunt down a voodoo queen to find the murderer and the missing talisman.
“Murder with Ganache” Key West Food Critic Mystery #4 – Lucy Burdette [3/5]
Hayley Snow writes for Key Zest magazine. Her best friend, Connie, is getting married. Hayley’s teenage stepbrother disappears from the rehearsal dinner. The family discovers him on a small island, beaten and bruised after having stolen a jet-ski with a new friend. The new friend is discovered dead on the other side of the island.
“Dead in the Family” Sookie Stackhouse #10 – Charlaine Harris [4/5]
In the previous book, the faeries have been locked in their dimension, except for Sookie’s cousin Claude and a few others. Sookie’s vampire lover, Eric, is visited by his sire, and is being challenged for his control of Shreveport. As usual, there’s lots of ridiculous drama, but I’m going to be sad when I finish the series.
“The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle” Book Club Mystery #2 – Laura DiSilverio [4/5]
Amy-Faye is helping her brother open his new pub. Derek’s business partner ends up murdered at the grand opening. Derek is under suspicion, for Amy-Faye and her whole book club band together to help the pub going as well as prove it wasn’t him.
“Niko” Dimitri Nasrallah
I’m almost done the Canada Reads books! This was # 10/15. Niko is born in Beirut during civil upheaval. Niko’s mother dies in a bombing, so him and his father escape. In Greece, Niko’s father manages to contact his brother-in-law who sponsors Niko to immigrate to Canada when he is twelve. The theme for the Canada Reads list this year was to do with starting over, and Niko certainly does this. It’s interesting and upsetting to read about his experience as an immigrant in Canada.
“Plantation Shudders” Cajun Country Mystery #1 – Ellen Byron [4/5]
Maggie Crozat helps her parents run a B&B in their old family home in Louisiana. An old couple stays with them-the man dies of a stroke, and the woman from arsenic poisoning. Maggie has to clear the name of their B&B so they won’t lose customers-and, of course, the arsenic is found in their kitchen.
“The Cakes of Monte Cristo” Piece of Cake Mystery #6 – Jacklyn Brady [4/5]
Rita’s cake shop, Zydeco Cakes, is catering a big New Orleans ball. In a clumsy accident at the store, an old, cursed necklace is discovered. Rita brings the necklace to be appraised, and the jeweller is discovered murdered.
“Minister Without Portfolio” – Michael Winter [3/5]
After a breakup, Henry goes to Afghanistan as a contract electrician. On a mission, one of his friends dies, so he returns to Canada. The friend’s girlfriend is pregnant, and they get together. Very typical of the weird stuff that happens in Canada Reads books.
“Copy Cap Murder” Hat Shop Mystery #4 – Jenn McKinlay [4/5]
Scarlett gets hit on by a creep at a big party. The creep ends up murdered. Scarlett has to prove that it’s not her quasi-boyfriend’s fault. Always a fun series.
“Better Homes and Corpses” Hamptons Home & Garden Mystery #1 – Kathleen Bridge [4/5]
Meg has moved to Montauk where she has established her decorating business, Cottages by the Sea. Meg visits her old college roommate, Jillian, in the East Hamptons. Jillian’s mom has been murdered.
“Frozen Tides” Falling Kingdoms #4 – Morgan Rhodes [5/5]
For the first hundred pages I couldn’t remember the previous books in the series, so I was extremely confused. I finally figured out what was happening. Basically everyone is very confused, and hunting for elemental crystals. I can’t wait for the next one.
“The Bitter Kingdom” Fire and Thorns #3 – Rae Carson [5/5]
When I realized this was a trilogy, I got incredibly mad. The series just kept getting better, and I wish it kept on going. Queen Elisa is a #GirlBoss, defending her country against civil war, invasion, and evil magicians.
I definitely slowed down this month with my reading. January-March I read over 20 books each month, but I think this time I was distracted, so I got 13. I had more shifts a week at work, read some longer books, and took more time to enjoy what I did read.
I was so upset when I realized this was the final book in the series- they just kept getting better. Queen Elisa is a fugitive in enemy territory, rescuing her love, and newly fueled by her visit to the source of the earth’s magic. If you didn’t love the first book, the second one is better. The third is the best.
Amelia is the manager at Castle Rock, a rock concert venue in Atlanta. Her boss, the owner, falls off the balcony and dies. Or course, it’s murder. Amelia’s co-workers and friends are implicated in the murder, so she has to investigate. It’s a pretty good novel, except the denouement at the end was longer than the climax “oh-turns-out-you’re-the-murderer-stop-trying-to-kill-me session”.
My friend Karissa recommended this book after we discussed how much I loved “Station Eleven” and “The Heart Goes Last.” It is another really depressing post-modern book about how much the world is going to suck soon. In this case, we used up most of the water (I hate that that is slowly happening), and there is a huge sand dune which covers most of south-western US which is slowly absorbing the landscape. Luz is a very frustrating character because you hate her decisions. Most of the reviews talk about her “weak” character, but her world is pretty screwed up, so I can’t blame her. Luz and Ray are living somewhere outside LA, end up kidnapping/adopting a toddler, and then escape to the desert where they encounter a drugged-out cult.
I know I said that this month I read pretty slowly (for myself), but this book I flew through. I couldn’t believe how well-written and exciting it was. I loved it. Yelena has been in jail for a year after murdering her abuser. She is offered the role of taste tester for the Commander, and therefore learns lots about poisons. There is a rebellion brewing against the Commander of Ixia, and outlawed magicians are starting to show up.
This book always creeped me out, because Uncle Andrew is so terrifying. However, The Chronicles of Narnia is my favourite series. I love the descriptions of when Aslan creates Narnia. It’s a beautiful allegory of the Christian creation story.
Another of the CanadaReads books. I did not read any descriptions before I started this book, so I was a little surprised with what I got. Maggie escapes a bad second marriage in Vancouver by working as a cook at a fishing camp in the middle of B.C. The swamp angel belongs to Maggie’s friend’s mother, who was a juggler, Nell. I didn’t love it, but I still can’t put a finger on why.
Darth Bane grows up on a mining world in the Outer Rim, and escapes from that world by becoming a Sith soldier. The Sith discover that Bane has powers in the Force, so he gets trained as an apprentice. Bane starts reading about Sith history, and realizes that the current Sith Brotherhood is corrupt and not the way to control the Force. Shit goes down.
Above I describe the third book in the trilogy. Queen Elisa has just conquered the invading Inviernos, a race of magicians, and defended her country. Many attempts are made on her life, and she discovers that as the God-stone bearer, she has a task to find the Gate of Life, where magic is most readily available.
Sort of an odd concept for a book. Ophelia is on the run after conning some rich Wild West guy, and ends up being mistaken for a murderer. She’s put in jail, and to make bond and prove herself, she performs a medium show. She can see ghosts.
At the grand opening of Booktown’s new B&B, Tricia encounters her long-lost (and drowned) love, who is using an alias, and his wife is murdered. Of course, Tricia has to balance her own mystery book store, her sister’s businesses, ridiculous personal situations, all while trying tot prove that her old love wasn’t the murderer.
“Do or Diner” A Comfort Food Mystery #1 – Christine Wenger
Trixie takes over her aunt’s campground and diner. The health inspector dies from poisoned food at the diner, so everyone thinks Trixie did it. She has to prove she didnt.
This book takes place 100 years before the Game of Thrones series. My KOBO version had illustrations in it, which was kinda cool, but if you get books like that, remember that it takes a while to load each page. If you clicked and it didn’t turn, and then clicked again, you’d have skipped a few pages. Anyway, the writing was a lot more juvenile than the normal series, but the stories were fun. Dunk is a hedge knight who gets adopted by Egg, a very small but knowledgeable squire. Turns out Egg is short for Aegon, and is one of the princes. Saw that coming with his purple eyes. Dunk is broke, and wants to get some money, and keeps getting into ridiculous fights
I haven’t made new year’s resolutions for a few years, I like to do goals. Goals are usually way more achievable, since they’re usually pretty specific. I don’t get upset when I don’t achieve them (like stopping to crack my knuckles), but I do usually try pretty hard.
My Nova Scotia honeymoon mug and my KOBO Aura
Re-read old favourites: The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Island of the Blue Dolphins
The short list will be announced January 20th, but for now I can start to think about the 15 that are currently listed.
Canada Reads 2016 is all about “starting over.” The show will feature books about transformation and second chances, stories of migrants, immigrants and others who are choosing – or forced – to make major changes in their lives.
Goodreads 2016 Challenge of 100 books.
I was proud of myself for achieving 200 in 2015, but at the end of the year when I was working full-time, I felt like I was rushing myself, and that I didn’t have time to read more literary novels.
Work up to a forearm stand and then a handstand! I’ve been able to do headstands for a while, but haven’t practiced the functional arm strength to do a handstand instead. Want to do it too? Here are some steps.
The picture on the left is my second time managing to balance for a few seconds, and now I’m working on transitioning from a headstand directly to the forearm stand!
Cardio 2-3 times a week.
I’m very good at getting in my daily yoga practice (30-60 minutes, depending on how my body is feeling), and getting weights in (since that’s my favourite part of my fitness routine), but cardio is a fight.
Before the Christmas Eve service with my wonderful husband
Relationships and Marriage:
A date outside our home at least twice a month.
While we love spending quiet evenings at home, (and saving money!) it would be great to explore a little more of our city. I also miss going for long walks like we did for a while.
Next Wednesday we’re going to take advantage of Wednesday night free admission to the AGO for our date!
Have one (or more!) friend date a month, to strengthen those relationships and get me out of my head
Continue my daily gratitude practice in my journal. I write in 3 things I am grateful for that day.
It’s a great way to find the positive things in your life if you’re feeling a little down. It really helped me when I was in my latest depression rut.
Take myself on one date a month.
I used to do that before, I’d go read in a coffee shop or check out the National Art Gallery, but I haven’t done that since moving to Toronto.
Cleanse my closet.
Even though I got rid of a truckload of clothes before moving to Toronto, I still have lots of stuff that I don’t wear and don’t want to get rid of. I need to. Maybe I’ll do a capsule wardrobe!
Find ways to engage my readers so that we can get a dialogue going
Well that was a lame title. But it’s true. Maybe I’ll get better at titles later. I was very thankful this morning that I wasn’t working, because my insomnia kicked in. I woke up at 3am for my 9:30am yoga class. I decided I could skip the class in favour for maybe napping in the morning. That didn’t work out, but I did read two books on my Asus tablet turned e-reader, “Shadowplay” (a fantasy novel set several thousand years in the future) and “Cloche and Dagger“. I’m onto my third of the day, another cozy murder mystery, “A Potion to Die For,” in time for Halloween. Check out my GoodReads widget on the side to see what else I’ve been reading. It seems like I’m going to hit my goal of 200 books in 2014. That’s awesome.
Pumpkin cinnamon rolls
I decided I needed to do some baking today to use up some energy. I came across a recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls, and knew I had to try them. I’ve never actually baked cinnamon rolls (I’ve done cakes and pull-apart breads, but never the regular thing) despite it being my favourite food. These instructions by Cooking Classy looked straightforward enough, so I made them. MAN were they good!
And cream cheese icing wowwuhh!!
My neighbour’s cat, Timmy really likes to visit for scratches, and I let him into the kitchen a tiny bit, despite being very allergic. I suffered hives for a while after he left, but he was so content getting his belly rubbed and purring that I couldn’t let silly hives stop me.
He kept getting confused by the string on the curtains
Kisses from my Timmykins
It was a beautiful day out, so I kept the screen door open to let in the breeze. 15 degrees right before Halloween? I’m definitely not in Ottawa…
Neighbour’s Japanese Maple still burning bright
I painted my nails with Essie’s “Wicked,” my favourite dark, almost black colour. Perfectly vampy. I hope y’all had a good Tuesday! Tonight we have a choir rehearsal for our concert this weekend!