Year End Wrap-Up

So, I’ve been seeing all of these year end wrap-ups, year in review, and top ten book posts and figured that I should probably jump on the band wagon and whip one up myself. Of course, I thought that this was going to be an easy one to write, so imagine my surprise when sitting down to reflect on my first year of book blogging hit me like a ton of bricks! So here goes…


My first (almost) year of book blogging

I call this an almost year because April will officially be my one year blogiversarry, but on the whole this process started last December when I was laid off during Calgary’s recession. I had been thinking about starting a book blog for some time and I suddenly found that not only did I still have the desire to do so, but now I also had the time. So, I started reading books, taking notes, and researching both tactics for success and some of the most popular blogs out there. And the best part? I even managed to wrangle some extra credit for my MLIS! You see, reading and critically assessing books is part of professional practice and this seemed like a great way for me to get into the habit of making this part of everyday life.

It really been a learning process though, and I’ve decide to include some of my main takeaways below:

  1. The book blogging community is friggin incredible! Sure, there are a few turds and Debbie-Downers in the mix but bye and large the diamonds are plentiful and you have to dig to find the coal. I discovered within days of launching my blog and Twitter that you need only express your interests, struggles, or intentions and there would be an army of bloggers happy and willing to offer advice. I was directed to FB groups, great twitter accounts to follow, outstanding blogs, authors and members of the publishing industry almost continuously. I was welcomed with open arms, and I’m left praying that the recent toxicity spreading throughout the community is short lived and this little phenomena is absolutely amazing.
  2. NetGalley is a blessing… and a curse! When I was first introduced to NetGalley I thought that I was in heaven. Seriously. I requested at random and with reckless abandon, and the TBR quickly grew out of control. Soon I found myself racing to finish reading before archive dates (here some of the titles disappear on the archive date, even after they’ve been downloaded as they are embedded with an ARC kill-date that accompanies publication) and that my blogging activities were starting to take over my life. Que the grumpy hubby. And so, I learned that pacing, balance, and fewer visits to NetGalley and only checking out books I knew I could read on schedule and were genuinely interested in was required.
  3. There ain’t no such thing as overnight success. Now, I’m not saying that some bloggers don’t rise to prominence like an Internet meteor, but it’s not by fluke and it’s certainly not overnight. This gig is hard. It takes effort, dedication, and consistency in both style and posting frequency to build a solid following. Those that do this best, make it look easy – but I’ve also learned that they’re the first to say how much it takes to make it all happen. Bravo my loves, you will always be an inspiration!

Hopefully I’ll have something more profound to say in April, but in the mean time I’m happy to keep reading, reviewing, and always trying to improve!


My top reads of 2017

I thought about ranking these, but I’m a little uncomfortable comparing YA to historical fiction and comics to literary fiction. So instead, I thought it would be best to pick my favourite book from each genre.

Historical Fiction

This was a hard genre to pick just one book in, so I settled for three. All are set in or around WWII, but they’re so different in terms of style and content that I don’t really consider them as being the same.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay makes this list because it was the first book of the year to make me full out cry. Heart wrenching and painfully real this is one story I simply couldn’t tear my eyes away from. It’s one of those books that has staying power, and I’m sure it will continue to grow in readership for many years to come.

The Life She Was Given by Ellen Louis Wiseman is the next one to have a found a permanent spot in my bookish thoughts. I hadn’t really realized how big of an impact it had until I tallied everything and discovered that this baby is my most leant-out copy of all the books I’ve read this year (a whopping 22 times!). I absolutely adored the touch of mystery and that tear jerker ending, and obviously haven’t stopped talking about it since.

The final work of historical fiction to make the list is Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Although YA by description, I can’t argue passionately enough that this book belongs to all age groups. Packed with exciting adventures, ample amounts of genuine evidence, and compounded by the setting this is a tale that explores the limits of humanity (good and bad). Interestingly enough, I wasn’t completely sold by Rose at the beginning of the book but she and the rabbits grew on me over time and have manifested themselves as permanents parts of my bookish memory.


YA

Strangers

Strangers by David A. Robertson was, by a long shot, my favourite YA series to be started this year. Quirky, mature, diverse, and undeniably Canadian this is one of the books that has me getting excited and shoving it into the hands of random strangers when I came across it at bookstores. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment, and can’t wait to see where it’s going next. My only regret is that it’s a little too old for the kids in my school, otherwise I would have purchased a ton of copies already.

Trell

Trell by Dick Lehr is another outstanding read that can’t be overlooked. Teachers, parents, and librarians take note – you need this book in your collections. Not only is it diverse and grapples with painfully relevant social justice issues, it is beautifully written. This is the kind of book that hooks readers without sympathy and doesn’t let them go until it’s chewed them up and spat them out the other side. I have no hesitation when it comes to suggesting it as a modern a relevant alternative to dated educational classics like The Outsiders and To Kill a Mockingbird (for the record, I love these books but so many kids simply can’t relate).


Comics & Graphic Novels

wendy

Although I read a good number of outstanding comics and graphic novels this year, The Wendy Project by Osborne & Fish was a clear stand out from the crowd. Not only does it deal with difficult and complex subject matter, it is simultaneously gentle and complex. The art and colouratim is extraordinary and carries just as much meaning as the text, and the result was that I was transported alongside Wendy into Neverland. If you’re new to graphic novels, this is a great place to start; if you’re a frequent reader of these beauties, The Wendy Project won’t leave you disappointed.


Thrillers

nemesisterNemesister by Sophie Jonas Hill was another early stand out. Rarely have a come across a thriller so twisty and genuinely fucked up that I am blown out of the water. But this was that book, this was that book by a mile. It was so good, in fact, that I *had* to read it again right after I finished it the first time.

The Missing Girls by Carol Wyer was another exceptional read. It didn’t matter to me that I jumped in to a series on book three – the fact that this could be done without missing a beat was incredible. I loved the style, the over arching themes, and of course our strong female lead. I’ve since gone back and read the first two books in the series but The Missing Girls remains the crowning jewel IMHO.


Some Final Thoughts

So there we have it, my top reads of 2017 and a few assorted thoughts on my first year of blogging. Thank you all for being so wonderful and supportive, and I look forward to what 2018 has to offer.

Love ya long time!

– J

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