Sunday, January 14, 2018

Begin Again

You haven't written anything for two years. Well, aside from essays (and you've gotten quite good at those).

You remember a time when you were a girl who scribbled things with careless abandon. She was so happy, so unencumbered. The words poured from her pen, the tips of her fingers, like it didn't hurt her at all. Her identity was deep and rooted, known to herself and everyone else. Now it seems a foggy memory; the girl a distant stranger.

Other things occupy your time. School. Life. Friends. Books. The internet.

You don't spend time staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page on a screen, because you never get there. Instead, the blank pages are in your head, taunting you, reminding you of all you aren't and never were. You pretend to move on. Writing was a childish past time, nothing that could fulfill you later in life. Besides, everyone says writers write, which of course makes you nothing.

You think yourself in circles. You're just stuck; you're busy; you never really were serious about that writing thing; you're really, really, really busy. You'll get back to writing eventually, you tell yourself. You ignore the self-doubt and terror under the surface, that the blank page must stay blank because nothing you fill it with will ever be good enough. You'll never be good enough.

Maybe you'll never write again.

I wish you could see into the future, have the ability to turn around and look back at the whole picture. I wish you could see how you just need to grow up a little bit, to try something new, to learn to let go. I wish you could see the thousands of words you've put to a page, filling up that white space that so filled you with terror (and still does, to be honest, but you fight it). You're not the same scribble-happy little girl, but interpreting the world with words is something that will always be something you end up falling back into. I wish I could tell you that you'll find it again.

But you won't believe me.


I really, really wish I would have posted more about not being able to write anything during the time when I wasn't able to write anything, even just for those people who suffer long dry spells (including myself). Because I know it's easy with hindsight, when you are writing regularly, to look back and tell people it'll be fine, you'll get back into it eventually once you let go of your stupid perfectionism, learn a few tricks, and stop caring so much. And then suddenly you'll have almost two full-length books written! However, it's not so easy to see how you'll get out of a hole when you're in it.

But I'll say it anyway - you will find joy in writing again. It will probably be different this time; a different routine, on a different theme, more or different people cheering you on. But you will find it.

How do you get out of writing slumps? What advice would you give to someone trying to find joy in writing again?

Monday, January 8, 2018

3 Books I Read Because Other People Made Me

HA just kidding as if anyone could make me read books that I don't want to read (sorry, dad). But sometimes a nudge from a friend really helps to push me out of my comfort zone, or actually sit down and read a book I've been meaning to read for months. Here are a few books I've read recently based almost solely on the recommendations of others!

1. Waking in Time by Angie Stanton

Recommended by: I can't remember who recommended this to me... it may have been Lara? Someone on Twitter, anyway, when I asked for romance recs.

Well, whoever recommended it to me said it was cute, fun romance and they were so right. It was exactly what I needed after the crazy month that is November for university students. It was a simple, fluffy read, featuring romance and time travel and centred around a super sweet family story.  It was such a fun, relaxing read. ...Although I was trying to figure out the age logistics of someone from the 2010s dating someone from the 1920s. Like, is age just inconsequential when you hop from time to time? How does that work? (This is why I love time travel. So many questions. So many possibilities.)

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Recommended by: A school friend of mine who is getting an English degree. She read Frankenstein for an essay she was writing for class, and said that Frankenstein reminded her of herself in some ways, which I thought was intriguing. I've also been meaning to read Frankenstein for forever, and this was just the push I needed to actually sit down and read it.

It was... a lot different than I expected. I didn't know much about it, aside from the usual cultural connotations of Frankenstein, and that it's considered the first sci-fi novel. It was much starker and sadder than I thought it would be, and a lot of it takes place more internally than the sci-fi I'm used to reading. It was still good though, just made me think. (And also weirded me out a lot...) I'm not sure if I'd recommend it, necessarily, but it was interesting.

3. Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

Recommended by: A friend of mine that I worked with this past summer, who reads almost exclusively thrillers, which I would not have guessed upon first meeting her. She said it was one of her favourites of the genre.

If you aren't aware by now, I don't really read thrillers at all. I read Melina Marchetta's Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, but that's it (and it was so very familiar and similar to the rest of MM's work that it wasn't that strange). So reading Monday Mourning was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I gave my friend Jellicoe Road to read in return so I had to read it. It was really good! It's amazing how no matter the genre if there's good, self-aware and empathetic characters then I'm hooked. My favourite part of this book is how Reichs weaved in a message about the utter sadness of women being victims of violence into her mystery story. And it ended so, so well, despite being unexpectedly sad in places.

This recent experience with reading books outside of my comfort zone has made me want to read even more widely and outside of my reading comfort zone. What should I try reading (maybe a genre you haven't seen yet on the blog)? What books have you read solely because of others' recommendations?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Future (2017 Reading Goal Check In & 2018 Goals)

We've already got the review of all the books I read in 2017 post out of the way, so onto this year's reading goals! First, how did I do with 2017's reading goals?

1. Read 7 books by Indigenous authors, including at least 1 by an Indigenous author not from North America.

I actually read 9 books by Indigenous authors this year! All of them were Canadian books I believe, but I think that's pretty good. You can read a few of the reviews I did: Nobody Cries at Bingo by Dawn Dumont, A Two Spirit Journey by Ma-Nee Chacaby and From the Tundra to the Trenches by Eddy Weetaltuk, and Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl. I intend to continue reading more Indigenous fiction each year, both because they really do help open my eyes to a world I am entirely unfamiliar with, and also because they are just fun. Other books I read that I didn't get around to reviewing were Dawn Dumont's Glass Beads, and a Indigenous sci-fi short story collection, Love Beyond Body, Space and Time, edited by Hope Nicholson.

2. Read more books written by non-American authors than American authors. I will do it this year!! Third time's a charm!!

I don't think I quite did it, I'm still over in American authored books by a few, but if I don't count my rereads of Queen's Thief or Maggie Stievfater's The Raven Cycle, then I definitely read more books written by non-American authors! I'm counting it.

3. Read 3 books that have been translated from another language.

Thanks to Women in Translation month, I surpassed this goal! I actually ended up reading 6 books that were translated. I think my favourite of these reads were Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer and Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada. That book is strange at first, but in the end so fascinating. Please pick it for your next book club read.

4. Have 40% of the books I read this year be diverse #ownvoices books.

I got 34% for this year, a little bit up from last year but still not quite as high as my goal. There was definitely more diversity in the settings of books I read, though, thanks to WITmonth.

5. Read 5 books with non-Western settings.

4! So close... to be honest I kind of forgot about this goal. I'll try for more next year!

6. Do a reading challenge on the blog! Which reading challenge? Who knows, not me!

I am sooo happy that I found Women in Translation Month, it fits so well with my goal for this blog and my reading habits. I am definitely going to participate next year, and hopefully read a bit more women in translation from other non-Western countries and languages.

Despite the fact that I ended the year with a months long reading slump (which always happens when I'm stressed about school; I really should see it coming by now), looking back I'm really proud of what I accomplished in my reading and on the blog.


I've thought about it (not very much), but I actually don't think I'm going to make any specific goals for this year (which I know is not how you make goals, but whatever). I know I want to keep doing the same, reading lots of CanLit, lots of diverse literature, and reading even more widely than I do currently, whether that be through characters, setting, language, or genre. And I still want to keep reviewing and promoting books that I think deserve more love.

I have thought a lot over the years about what I want my blog to be; whether I should post more consistently, or do more posts that would get me more traffic than I currently have. I always come back to, no, Alyssa, do want you want. This is your space. Some people get to say that and still have thousands of followers, but I guess what I want to say now is I'm thankful for the platform that I have, and that I've come to terms with making a small drop in a bucket over waves. And I've come to realize just how important that drop can be. And now I can say that I'm glad that it's been my commitment to, well, stick to my own commitments for what I want this blog to be.

So going into the new year, a lot of what I did this past year is going to stay the same, but it's also going to change, because that's what I do. Over the past few years this blog has become less of a writing blog, more of a reading and book review blog. Which is great, because I never thought I would consider myself to like or be good at writing reviews, and now I do. But I've recently got back into writing, and I want to start talking about that more too - including sharing more of my own writing and my thoughts behind that terrifying process. We'll see how that goes. 

Basically, I have a few plans in the works (and by "in the works" I mean "I've had passing thoughts about"), I may update all this to be more concrete later, and... thanks for reading. 

Here's to 2018.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Review of All The Books I Read in 2017

Well, the year is coming to an end, which means it's time for my annual tradition of trying to make up for a year of not talking about books as much as I would like to by talking about them all at once!! This year I'll do it with the help of this survey done by Jamie over at the Perpetual Page Turner.

2017 Reading Stats

Number of books you read: 61!
Number of re-reads: 16, a few more than last year...
Genre you read the most from: Looking through the genres I read this year, I read a *way* wider variety of genres than I usually do, which is cool! It's always my goal to read widely. However, my top genres remain YA fantasy (mostly because of my rereads of both Queen's Thief and Harry Potter), and adult and YA contemporary.

1. Best Book You Read in 2017? I'm not sure... maybe Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer or Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro. Gosh I love sci-fi. Oh wait, no, I forgot Thick as Thieves came out this year... augh I can't pick! 

2. Book You Were Excited About And Thought Were Going to Love More But Didn't? I loved The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, but none of the books I've read after that have pushed boundaries quite like that one, including the one I read this year, Run, although it was still an enjoyable read.

3. Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read? Trafalgar!! In all ways. Well, not bad, but like, in that I was surprised to find that I liked it, and I was also surprised by the twists and turns and stuff. And now I remember how these end of year things go, where I just keep talking about the same good books over and over...

4. Book you "pushed" the most people to read (and they did)? If by "pushed" you mean "handed to and insisted they read it", then Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Always.

5. Best series you started in 2017? Best sequel of 2017? Best series ender of 2017? I almost forgot about Leigh Bardugo's incredible duology, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. I love when authors can both do amazing characters *and* crazy good action. However, best sequel I would definitely give to Thick as Thieves because, uh, Megan Whalen Turner.

6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2017? DAWN DUMONT. She NEEDS to be the next famous-even-outside-of-Canada author, because her work is incredible and absolutely hilarious. I loved her newest book, Nobody Cries at Bingo, and want to devour everything she has written and will write forever.

7. Best book from a genre you don't typically read/was out of your comfort zone? I pretty much don't read thrillers but a friend of mine solely reads them, so she gave me Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs. It was good! And I wasn't even (too) scared.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? Six of Crows, hands down.

9. Book you read that you are most likely to re-read next year? Thick as Thieves, definitely! I have been meaning to reread it all year. 

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2017? Probably Glass Beads by Dawn Dumont.

11. Most memorable character of 2017? Ugh, don't even know. The characters in Thick as Thieves though. MWT knows her characters and writes them so well

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017? Probably the most eloquently worded book was Rose and Poe by Jack and Todd, which I still intend to do a review of, so look for that soon! Either that or Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Gosh that author knows how tug on a person's soul.

13. Most thought provoking/life-changing book of 2017? Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Hit me in exactly all the right spots at the right moment. 

14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2017 to finally read? Six of Crows!! Also, Devil in Deerskins by Anahareo. I knew that book would be fascinating, and it was! Thanks U of M Press for providing with the final nudge I needed to read it. ;) 

15. Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2017?

“What do you think? I laid my hand flat on the table so that he could see the scars. Do you think we are needed? I mean people like us, who have strayed from the path, withdrawn? Who have no diploma, no education, no work, nothing to show, have learned nothing except this: That it is worth it to stay alive.” – I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar

 16. Shortest and longest book you read in 2017? Well, I read a short story collection, so that's pretty short (it was Love Beyond Body, Space and Time by Hope Nicholson). Longest... probably Thick as Thieves or Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. 

17. Book that shocked you the most? Thick as Thieves! Or Trafalgar. 

20. Favourite book you read in 2017 from an author you've read previously? Do I need to say it.

21. Best book you read SOLELY on a recommendation from someone else/peer pressure: Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs! Unexpectedly entertaining, and enlightening.

23. Best 2017 debut you read? AFTER THE FALL by Kate Hart, hands down.

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year. SPACE in Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer. 

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read. Oh! I read Waking in Time by Angie Stanton, and boy was that fun. Romance, college and time travel? Sign me up.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2017? Oh, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, definitely. 

27. Hidden gem of the year? After the Fall! Actually, all the books I read. Please just go back and read all of the reviews I did this year, find some gems!!

28. Book that crushed your soul?? Gilead. And Thick as Thieves, because page 287.

29. Most unique book you read this year? My sci-fi loves, Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer and Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro! Both so unique, and BOTH SO MUCH FUN. Go read. Now.

30. Book that made you the most mad (in a good or bad way)?  I don't think I actually got mad at any of the books I read this year. The ones I didn't like were just... blah... and the good ones were just too good to make me mad. Sad, yes, but not mad.

Book Blogging Life

New favourite blog you discovered in 2017? Guys, I can't keep up with my own blog, how can I keep up with new ones...

Favourite review you wrote in 2017? I think my review of Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro. Although I like most of the reviews I write now. I think I've gotten a lot better at writing reviews. 

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog? Either 5 Things To Remember When Looking for Diverse Books or 5 Strategies For Finding Under the Radar Books. Basically, my blog's mission statements.

Best event that you participated in (author signings, virtual events, etc)? Not really an event, but the release of Megan Whalen Turner's Thick as Thieves! I got together with an IRL friend of mine who is an MWT fan and we had a little Queen's Thief Party, it was lovely (and uber nerdy, just the way we like it). 

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017? Some lovely publishers decided to send me books to review, which is awesome! I love it that publicists think it's worth it to send books for me to review. :)

Most challenging part of your blogging or reading life this year? Balancing it with school, as always. And, now that I'm back into writing, trying to balance it with writing. And, as always, figuring out how to grow out of YA (although I think I'm getting the hang of it more now), and what I really want the blog to be. You know, just the little things. Oh, and keeping to my one-post-a-week goal. 

Most popular post on your blog? My review of Devil in Deerskins by Anahareo! I'm so glad because that book deserves to be read more.

Post you wish got a little more love? My post about J.K. Rowling, Megan Whalen Turner and Authorial Intent. I was hoping to get a bit more discussion going... Oh, and my Local Book Nook series! Read it, love it, participate!

Best bookish discovery? Can I just say Women in Translation Month?

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? Yes! I said I wanted to participate in a reading challenge, and I did participate in Women in Translation Month, which was one of the best things I did all year. Meytal Radzinski is a genius for coming up with that campaign and I'm so excited to participate again next year (and read waay more women in translation all the time!)

Looking Ahead

I seriously suck at keeping up with debuts and stuff so the only question from this section I'm going to answer is One Thing You Hope to Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life in 2018? One of my post recent posts was talking about how sharing writing is scary and I think I may have decided (as you can tell, I'm sooo committed) that I want to share more of my own writing on the blog. As for reading, for once I think I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing (although I'll go into more detail in a New Year's reading goal post!)

What are some of your best or worst books of 2017? Have you read any books that I've talked about this year? WILL you read any books I've talked about this year?? 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What's Up Wednesday feat. Christmas Cat

Happy December!

Christmas cat!

Well, I think I can say I have failed my goal of doing a post a week this year, BUT I haven't published this many posts since 2012, so I'm going to call that a success.

I don't have any grand ideas for today, so I thought I'd just talk about what I've been up to, in the style of What's Up Wednesday of course!

What I've Been Reading

As always happens when I start school, I go into a reading slump and don't really get out of it until I start reading fun, easy, fluffy books. So recently I've reread some of The Raven Cycle, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and the kind of companion novel Carry On, also by Rainbow Rowell. I also read somewhere in there Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, which I may do a review of still, since it was an unusual book that just seemed to find me at exactly the right moment. I also read Frankenstein and a fun YA contemp about time travel called Waking in Time by Angie Stanton. Now I'm reading Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs because a friend recommended it to me, and it is definitely not something I normally read, but it's fun so far!

What I've Been Writing

So, last year around this time I finished a 50,000 word very messy draft of a thing. Then in July this year I finished a second draft rewrite of that thing. Then in August I think? I started writing another story with the same characters, about the next step in their journey. It's another thing that's a lot different from everything I've written, but I love it and these characters so much. A few weeks ago I thought I might finish this draft before the end of year, which would be crazy. Two drafts in a year!?!? Now I don't think it's going to happen, since the holiday season is a lot busier than I thought (with all good things!) Anyway, it's been cool in the past couple of years to have gotten back into writing, although I'm writing about completely different things than I was when I fizzled out four or so years ago. I definitely want to keep working with these characters' stories for awhile yet. One day I will have the courage to share it with people. Maybe. (I'm working on it).
What Inspires Me Right Now

I think the Literary Inspired Web Series online community is something that inspires me right now. If you don't know, there are a bunch of young women who make literary inspired web series (often following in the footsteps of the famous Lizzie Bennet Diaries, although the series have changed a lot since then). It's cool seeing so many young women be brave and put their writing and work out there, and working together and... it's just so cool. It makes me believe more in myself and my own abilities when I see other women my age being so creative and productive and putting their work out there.

What Else I've Been Up To

Finished my second last semester of my undergrad degree!! One more semester to go. It feels good to be off school for the moment, and the blog ideas are slowly trickling back in... I have a few reviews I want to do, maybe before the end of the year, my traditional end of year posts of course, and I have a special surprise for January that I'm quite excited about! Other than that, right now my life is consumed with holiday stuff like working, baking, and watching Star Wars.

Also, I've been slacking off on my Local Book Nook project (because, school. If you're one of those students who is ALSO a consistent book blogger, you get all the prizes). But if you're interested in participating, please either leave a comment, DM me on Twitter or email me!

What are you reading or writing these days? How do manage to balance blogging, writing, and life?? Please tell me your secrets.


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