Wednesday Wondering: Twenty-Eighteen Book Awards

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Time for another special edition of Wednesday Wonderings by yours truly, Friendly Bookworm! Unlike my other posts which consist of talking about specific books, here, I like to discuss and focus on different elements of literature and reading in general. So let’s get started!

I know it’s past the new year now, but hope that you will forgive my tardiness for this post. For this, I thought I would run an edition of Wednesday Wonderings and take some time to reflect back on how my reading went in this past year, and maybe even hand out some awards. But first and foremost let us rewind to January last year and start from the beginning….

I remember sitting and chatting with my younger brother about his course reading and he mentioned having to read East of Eden for one of his classes. I’m embarrassed to admit I have never heard of that book or that author, having completed an English literature degree (DOH!). After a brief conversation about the book and his studies, I opted to try reading the first chapter to test the waters. Of course, as you know now, I was immediately hooked and couldn’t put it down. This of course gave me the idea of trying to come up with a joint book list along with my brother – a nice idea that didn’t really pan out in the end!

It was a nice idea and I enjoyed compiling the book list together – we sat together and researched some books we were meaning to read, making sure to account of different time periods, genres and country of origins. That is how the 2018 Reading List come to be.

Of course, reality and life took it’s course so along the way some new books were added and I’m afraid there were two books that I didn’t get around to reading in the end, but let’s first focus on the positive.

Without further ado, I present to you, the first annual Friendly Bookworm Reading awards for the year twenty-eighteen! Let’s start with some positive surprises first…

 

The Dark Horse

I really did feel like I pushed myself this year in terms of my reading list, choosing books that felt like a nice read, instead of heavily researching or just going with old favourites. I read different genres from historical fiction, non-fiction historical books, biographical, dystopian, contemporary, adult fiction, black comedy, animal fiction, etc But the one book that really surprised me this year, and the winner of the Dark Horse 2018 award is definitely got to be Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance. I knew absolutely nothing about Elon Musk, but was absolutely sold on his life and what his plans are for this future of Earth after reading this. I think the reason is, that Vance wasn’t afraid to show different sides of Elon’s personality – the good, the bad and the ugly – making it feel authentic and inspiring.

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Wish I Liked It More

Obviously, no one wants a book to be a failure, especially when so many people seem to appreciate and enjoy it. For this one, there is a tie for me, as there are two books I’ve read this year that I really, truly wished I had enjoyed more than I did. These books I was really looking forward to, heard quite a bit about, and are kinda of a big deal. The two books that tie and take this title for Wish I Liked It More are Catch-22 and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I really struggled with the narration and writing style of these two authors. Catch-22 especially was a shock as I normally love character development, but I just couldn’t get past the author’s writing style to enjoy it. For The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you have no idea how much I wanted to like this as it’s a world phenomenon really, but it was just not meant to be for us. On well, onwards and upwards!

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The Letdown

It’s never easy being critical, especially of authors that you really like, but we are only human and some of our works can be better than others (trust me, I am first one to admit that some of my reviews are less than note worthy!). This year’s Letdown award is going to have to go to Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling. I absolutely love Bill Bryson’s writing style, and have read several of his other novels which thoroughly impressed me. Unfortunately, this one was an utter disaster. I was very shocked and surprised just how negative and critical he was – really didn’t inspire me to do much else than put it down!

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Favourite New Series

I actually ended up reading a few books that were part of a series (Mortal Engines, The Tale of Shikanoko, The Name of the Wind, Anne of Green Gables, One Damned Thing After Another and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and arguably The Silver Brumby). The winner for me though has had to be The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. I don’t normally get into fantasy (trust me I tried the Wheel of Time series and have been put off) but this series is just amazing and like nothing else. It gave me Harry Potter vibes , that’s how amazing it is, so therefore this book gets the Favourite New Series award!

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Favourite Book of 2018

So who takes the cake for 2018? This was really difficult as I did hand out a few 5 stars this year to books that really inspired and intrigued me, so how do I just pick one? After tossing and turning in bed a few nights, considering my options and re-reading my reviews I have come to the conclusions that my Favourite Book of 2018 award goes to: East of Eden by John Steinbeck! This book had some of my favourite elements of a novel figured out down to a T; historical fiction, varied and interesting characters and fantastic narration style. What more could you hope for?

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I think overall I did well this year, re-reading some old favourites, venturing out into different genres, and along the way I found some real gems, but also realised that not all famous books are for me. I’m nonetheless quite pleased with myself and my accomplishments. Let’s just forget the two books I never got around to reading….

Anyway, this concludes my Twenty-Eighteen Book Awards. If you want to check out all my reviews for this year, click here on my Reading List 2018. If that’s not enough reviews for your to peruse through, I recommend you check out my entire Book Review archive by clicking here.

If you’ve done all that, or can’t be bothered at this time, all there is to do now is to keep your eyes peeled on the big 2019 Book List reveal, coming real soon!

Q: How would you evaluate your reading year for 2018?

Wednesday Wondering: Character Connections

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Time for another special edition of Wednesday Wonderings by yours truly, Friendly Bookworm! Unlike my other posts which consist of talking about specific books, here, I like to discuss and focus on different elements of literature and reading in general. So let’s get started!

In my youth I was terribly obsessed with horses and animals more generally. I used to read The Saddle Club religiously, devouring all the available books in that series from my local library. One time, I even recall getting the poor librarian to ship one of the books in the series from a library across the province (I grew up in Canada where we have provinces, instead of “states” or “counties”).

At the beginning of my literary adventure/career, all that mattered to me were the plot lines (must be something to do with horses), the interesting adventures that characters went on (usually with their horses). As I grew older, however, my interest gravitated from plot lines towards the characters themselves. Why do they react the way they do? What are the different personalities that permeate each book? How do the characters themselves influence plot?

It was around this time that I did well in my English classes and actually took interest in the books we were were reading for them. Eventually, I learned to contain my obsession with horses and expand my book reading genre – which I am sure helped me a lot. It was so interesting to learn about different characters in different areas of the world. I loved reading about the American south, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, or learning about the Cold War through the allegorical novella Animal Farm by George Orwell. I realised that there were so many more elements in books beyond plot lines that would books so much more satisfying then just on the surface plot lines.

Now, a new book or a series could be in  a make-it-or-break-it situation if I’m to a fan of the characters. Take for example (and my boyfriend is going to be so upset when I write about this) The Wheel of Time series. The plots are extremely lengthy but all the characters are the same, especially the women. They all have the same characteristics which I don’t feel like I can connect to. The author, Robert Jordan, does a slightly better job with the men in the series, but it still doesn’t go far enough for me, or doesn’t offer a large enough range. I think this is something that George R.R. Martin does a lot better in his Game of Thrones series, as he does provide some variety.

Reading back through what I just read it might sound that if I can’t relate to a character then I dislike the book. Although that’s how I felt for a period in my life, take the Harry Potter series for example, my favourite character was Hermoine and sometimes learning about how she reacts in situations was more interesting for me than what was happening in the book or how the main character was reacting. Obviously she was fictional character but she possessed attributes that I could relate to and strove towards.

Now, I’m more interested to see the author using different characters to explore the human psyche. I think that’s why I loved East of Eden as much as I did. The plot line was sub-par but that wasn’t the purpose of the novel. The sense I got was that the whole point of the novel was for the author to explore how nature and nurture battled it out in the characters from their birth and analysed their behaviours and reactions to different scenarios. I thought this was so cool – it’s like people watching but knowing how they actually think or feel in the situations instead of just assuming or making up what they might feel.

Mind you this doesn’t mean that I gave up on plot all together. A book definitely needs at least something to push me along, but I’d just learned plot/adventure isn’t integral for me. Rest assured, if a novel has both then it’s absolute magic!

Q: Do you have any preferences when reading a new book? What’s most important for you?

Wednesday Wondering: The Reading Utopia

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Wednesday Wonderings: A chance for me to muse about anything and everything literature.

For this week’s Wednesday Wondering I am curious to hear your thoughts on your favourite reading spots. I stumbled across is absolutely amazing website of neat bookshops that I wanted to share with you:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/gallery/2014/oct/10/weird-and-wonderful-bookshops-worldwide-in-pictures

From keeping stock in the vaults of a building that was once a bank in Victoria, BC, to combining books with parties in Beijing, everyone has different preference as to where they enjoy picking up a good book and reading (maybe the latter not being as common?).

I have always preferred the reading nook, the little corner away from everything else in the world, the comfy couch to just stretch my legs over and snuggle up to a soft blanket with a good book. I can stay in that utopia for hours. Sadly, I have never really had this idealized nook in my life. It was always either on the bed (which gets pretty uncomfortable after a little while) or sitting behind a chair in the library when I went to school.

In the past I’ve done a lot of reading on my morning train commute to work (which I enjoyed quite a bit at the time as the train took us through the English countryside). It gave me about 45 minutes of peace and quiet before we stoped at the busy station and everyone squishes into the compartment like can of sardines. But let’s be honest, it’s not the same as reading by yourself.

Nonetheless, I think I am getting closer with the most recent move to putting together a proper reading nook! We actually bought a proper bookshelf which fits our books, which has been nice. Unfortunately it’s not big enough as we already have more books then space on the shelf! The next step is getting a comfy chair in there and a proper light! In my future house I will make every effort to re-create this little bit of paradise:

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I want to hear of your reading spot utopia. Do you listen to music? Do you need to be alone? Attach a photo if you have found your dream room online!

Wednesday Wondering: Ummm, where have you been?

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SO, this lovely July Wednesday I find myself wondering. What happened? Where did I go? Why did I seem to drop off the face of WordPress land? I will attempt to answer these question here. I over the past few months I asked myself the these very same questions. Several legit alibis popped into my head.

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  1. I travelled back to beautiful British Columbia for over two weeks at the end of April
  2. Prior to embarking on my journey back home I had to prep, pack and catch up with work before taking off on my holiday (and then after getting back too!)
  3. On a daily basis I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen (not for leisure but for work 😉 )
  4. Feeling the pressure of blogging

I do feel as though the first two defences are pretty legit. I had some “real world” issues to set straight. Before that trip I had not been home for over a year, and that in itself has been a test as I’ve always felt I’ve been very close with my family. Then during my trip home I wanted to spend that precious and rare time with my friends and family. Obviously then, after my 16 day vacay coming back and getting into my old routines was a bit more challenging…

So lets say April-May are legit excuses. So then what happened in June? Do I have a real answer? I am not too sure. I do feel like the pressure of committing to a blog was begin to be too much (does anyone else ever feel this?). I felt myself being forced and pressured into staying on schedule, reading a minimum number of books each month (regardless of the sheer volume of the book or personal matters) and the whole experience was becoming a chore instead of being enjoyable and fun. I did feel myself reading not out of delight but because I needed “to read at least 150 pages from that book to stay on track” or I “needed to start a new book quickly because I still didn’t have a quote for Teaser Tuesday”. That isn’t really what I set out to do on this blog. I set out to connect and continue my passion for all things literature, not create a headache for myself!

That’s not to say that every blog that I’ve ever posted became a chore. Not by any means at all! Majority of the time I really enjoy it (trust me I am not one of those girls that can do something they don’t like for long periods of time), it’s just sometimes life gets in the way and other times one just needs a break.

Moving on to reason number three: I spent a lot of my day starring and typing at a laptop screen. I absolutely love my job, but one of the necessities of it is using the computer for a full working day. That is a lot of expose to the computer screen. Some days just spending another hour looking at the screen, outside the working day, would drive me crazy. Plus, I can’t imagine it’s good for my eyes.

Verdict of my musings and wonderings this Wednesday? Moving forward I want to really try to keep to a regular schedule, but also accept that some weeks it just isn’t going to happen, but not let myself get down about that. I feel like in the past year I have accomplished a lot more than I ever thought possible and looking back on everything that I have managed to publish on this blog makes me feel really proud! i want to keep in contact with the reading community and share my thoughts on book all shapes and sizes!

For those of you who have stuck by me, and have not given up on me despite my absence, I am forever grateful and I hope to not disappoint in the future again! You guys are amazing!

Does anyone else ever feel this sort of ‘blog pressure’, or am I just a strange person? As a blogger do you think you put any pressure on yourself? Did you find anything to combat it?

Wednesday Wondering: Reading Challenge

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First off, Happy New Years to all my fellow bookworms! I have been absent for a couple weeks now, with the exception of the one book review posted by my significant other, and I do apologize for that but I was on holiday in other countries so it was challenging to get wifi for more than 10 minutes at a time to actually write something proper. But hey, New Year, New Me right!?

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My winter vacation skiing!

For this Wednesday wondering I would like to discuss Reading Challenges. There are probably hundreds of book challenges out there, from banned books, to non-fiction, to a set amount per year, etc. I have always been hesitant to join them mostly because I was worried that it would hamper my love of reading, and turn it into homework rather than enjoyment. I also find that some that have really high volume of books to read in a short amount of time sometimes force me to choose shorter books in an attempt to keep up. As you might have noticed from my past book reviews, most of my books are within a 300-600 page range makes challenges with huge number of books even more daunting. I don’t want to be choosing books based on how many pages they have and turn down better, fatter ones. I don’t like to discriminate based on size (tehehe).

No book discrimination here.

No book discrimination here.

But I have been unacceptably absent and my books read have declined to a slow trickle which in my eyes in not acceptable. I have decided to create my own personal challenge instead of joining an existing one. Below are the criteria I have decided to focus on.

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The books that I have chosen are as follows:

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I am really excited to bite into this challenge. I never really thought I would ever do a challenge but this year I have decided to try something new.

How do you feel about challenges? Are you frequently an active participant?