I read 68 books, including 20 YAs, 17 Graphic Novels, 13 Manga, and 10 Middle Grade Books. I read 18 Canadian authors (26% of books), and three books written by Canadians are in my top 10 (Courtney Summers, Kit Pearson, and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch). I am also pleased that almost 75% of the books I read were written by women, and 9 of my top 10 books were written by women. I do make an effort to read books by women, but this was not really a conscious effort this year because I was busy with Grad school, so I am very happy about these results!
I found some excellent new series this year, including many middle grade series (Star Darlings is my favourite new series, but also Grim Hill, Wolf Pack, and Percy Jackson), several manga and comic series (Card Captor Sakura, Ancient Magus’ Bride, and Gotham Acadamy), and some fun new YA (Wolves of Mercy Falls and White Rabbit Chronicles). I tried to focus on reading for pleasure and relaxation over reading with a purpose. While I didn’t discover The Infernal Devices series this year, I did fall in love with it, which resulted in me also falling in love with The Mortal Instruments series as well. Before I read TID, I didn’t have much appreciation for TMI.
I gave a quite high average rating of 4.04 for the year, which reflects how I felt about the books I read. I did not read very many difficult or overly thought provoking books, but the books I did read served their purpose of fun and escapism.
Many of my books were chosen for school assignments. I took a Reader’s advisory class that allowed be to explore reading itself, and the breadth of material available, as well as doing a research project about middle grade books that allowed me to examine content in great detail. In my RA class, I did a genre assignment on Romance novels, and actually found some great romance novels. That being said, I find I can only read romance sparingly. I also created a booklist of graphic novels suitable for middle aged women, and gave a book talk on the same subject, through which I was able to reconnect with some previously read graphic novels, (The Color of Earth, Marbles, and The Property), read new comics by authors I have already read (Are you My Mother?: A Comic Drama, and The Night Bookmobile), read some comics I had been meaning to get to (Through the Woods, and Embroideries), and discover some new comics written by women (A Year in Japan; Tangles: A story about Alzhemer’s, My Mother, and Me; Harvey; and The Squirrel Mother). Finally, I created a reading map for one of my favourites, Never Let Me Go, which was fun and educational, and something I would like to continue to do with books I love.
Through this class and my research project, I have learned the importance of reading Canadian authors, and the enjoyment I get from supporting them. I suppose this will be one of my reading goals for next year.
Top 10 Books of 2015:
1.All the Rage by Courtney Summers (5 stars)
There are too many wonderful things about All The Rage for me to put in a short blurb, but a good summary is that Courtney Summers gets girls, and she gets boys. She gets the patriarchy, and she explains it in a clear, respectful way, through a fast-paced, enthralling book that I found impossible to put down. Summers’ writing explains the issues surrounding sexual assault, rape, and other gender inequalities, but does so with beautiful writing. There were so many times I wanted to mark down all of Romy’s quiet thoughts, but I could. not. stop. reading.
“Helen Turner hates me and the way Helen Turner hates me feels like the worst kind of betrayal. A woman who doesn’t think about daughters she doesn’t have.” – Romy
2. Sage and the Journey to Wishworld & Libby and the Class Election by Ahmet Zappa (4 stars)
This is a middle grade book aimed at the younger side of that age group, but it had wonderful world building, fleshed out characters, and tells two stories for each character: First when the girls experience first-year life at their elite boarding school, Starling Academy, set in a fantasy-land like our own world, but nicer and more magical. The two girls, along with 10 others, are then invited to of the The Star Darlings, an experimental group to see how much energy is gained when young wish granters are sent to Wishworld (our world). The second story is about their journeys to Wishworld, where they learn about our world, making friends, and being a Wish-Granter. I absolutely loved that the principal of Starling Academy is essentially doing a research project, and I appreciate the differences between the Star Darlings, and that these differences are celebrated. Although they initially appears to be superficial differences (i.e. one of them likes performing, one likes reading), as the story progresses, the characters develop into realistic girls, with realistic similarities and differences.
3. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare (5 stars)
It’s hard for me to differentiate my thoughts between Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess, but I love the books so much I thought they deserved their own spot. The reason I have placed Prince above Princess, is because of the overwhelming amount of Jem we get in the second book, who is such a wonderful character. The writing in this series is also gorgeous, like when Tessa thinks: “She had never imagined she had the power to make someone else so happy. And not a magical power, either–a purely human one.”
4. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare (5 stars)
So my thoughts after I finished Clockwork Princess are that it “broke my heart and put it back together again”, and that is still a pretty good description of this reading experience. The Infernal Devices series is so much stronger in plot and emotion than The Mortal Instruments, Tessa is a much more relatable, strong, smart female lead than Clary, and Jem and Will are such better love interests than Jace. Not to be down on TMI, I still love that series, but I think TID shows the strength of Cassandra Clare’s writing ability.
5. Gotham Academy, Vol. 1 by Becky Cloonan (5 stars)
Gotham Academy is a comic that contains many of the things I love: A diverse cast, strong female characters, an eerie boarding school setting, fantasy or horror elements, and bubbly, colourful artwork. The characters are brave but also very realistic, and the main character, Olive is a smart, strong detective who effectively leads her small group of friends to solve mysteries at the school.
6. Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus 1 by CLAMP (5 stars)
Goodness, this is a wonderful manga series. It sensitively explores LGBT themes and issues. The artwork is gorgeous and floaty, reminiscent of Sailor Moon, and the story, while being about a 12-year-old magical girl, also explores loss, childhood, and family. The main character, Sakura, has a wonderful, realistic relationship with her brother and father, and often reminisces about her deceased mother.
7. Stardust by Neil Gaiman (4 stars)
I got a beautiful copy of Stardust for Christmas last year, and Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors, so I am working my way through his books. Stardust is charming without being quaint, and the main characters are fanastical but layered. I really related to Tristan, who has lived a sheltered, selfish life, but learns that there is a whole world of people and places through his journey. The story manages to weave multiple stories together by the end, and the cast of characters speak to the idea that no one is 100% good or bad.
8. The Whole Truth by Kit Pearson (4 stars)
This is a Canadian middle grade novel I read for my research project. It is set during the great depression, on Vancouver Island. It tells the story of Polly, who moves to the Island with her sister to live with her Grandmother, after her father disappears. I loved the ongoing mystery of what happened to her father, which had an excellent conclusion, the strong female characters and gentle male characters, and most of all, the main character, Polly, who is a smart, emotional, sensitive girl.
9. In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward (4 stars)
Sarah Ward is a new crime writer who I am going to keep my eye on. In Bitter Chill tells the story of two crimes side-by-side, one set in the past, one in the present. I loved the eerie atmosphere this novel set up, and the two fast-paced, exciting crime investigations kept me reading for two days straight. The crimes themselves have so many layers and intricacies, I had no idea what was going to happen.
10. Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (5 stars)
This is the last book I read this year, and I read it for my research project. Telling the story of Lida, a 10 year old Ukrainian forced into slave labour during WWI, this is a wonderful middle grade book, because it depicts the horrors of WWII slave labourers, without being overly horrific and graphic. The book still shows the horrors that happened to these groups of people, but in a more sensitive way. This is a fast-paced, enthralling, educational book recommended for any age group.