Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016 Wrap-Up & Reading Stats

Every year, I obsessively track my reading statistics. Then, at the end of the year, I use the few math skills I possess to turn the stats into graphs. Here’s what I read in 2016 (in graph form).

Quick Overview

Number of books read: 106 + 2 DNFs
Number of pages read: 33,326 pages
Number of rereads: 2 books
Approximate pages read per day: 91 pages
Approximate books read per month: 9 books
Oldest book: first published in 1819
Youngest book: first published in 2016


Pie Charts

Book Type

"Other" = plays and poetry collections

Book Type analysis: This isn’t surprising. Novels are my favorite genre, so I read a lot of them. I also like short story collections. In 2017, I’m going to focus on reading more nonfiction.

Target Audience

"Children" includes YA

Target Audience analysis: None of these stats include picture books. I don’t track the picture books I read because it feels like cheating. In 2016, I was aiming for 50% adult books and 50% YA/MG/Children’s books. I pretty much succeeded.

Author Gender

"Multiple" = books with 2 or more authors

Author Gender analysis: I don’t take author gender into consideration when I decide which books to read. Everything on this graph is random or coincidence. I don’t care about the gender of the people who write my books.

Author Birth Country

"Multiple" = books by 2 or more authors from different countries
"Other" = Vietnam, Germany, Russia, Canada, Ireland, France

Author Birth Country analysis: I guess this is scientific evidence that I need to read more authors from non-English-speaking places. 

My Star Ratings

Star Ratings analysis: On Goodreads, I give 3 stars to any book that I think is “average.” Almost half of the books I read last year were “above average” (4 or 5 stars). That’s good. It means I’m mostly enjoying what I’m reading.

Presence of Diversity

For a book to be put in the “strong” diversity category, it must:

Be #OwnVoices
Be a work in translation
Feature a point-of-view character who is a member of a minority community
Discuss issues that disproportionately impact minority communities

Presence of Diversity analysis: This is the first year I tracked diversity using “strong” representation and “weak/no” representation categories. (Note: “strong” doesn’t necessarily mean accurate.) I don’t think I’ll ever get to 100% “strong” diverse representation because the synopsis is still king with me. If a book sounds interesting, I’ll read it, no matter who the main character is.

How did your 2016 reading go? Did you meet your goals?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories – Stephanie Perkins (Editor)

My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories – Stephanie Perkins (Editor)

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year's there's something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

Review: This isn’t the usual type of book I read. It’s an anthology of holiday-themed love stories. Seeing the words “holiday” and “love” in a book description is a quick way to make me run the other direction.

Even though this isn’t my kind of book, I couldn’t resist it because it’s a YA anthology. Those are pretty rare, and they’re a great way to discover new authors. I was willing to look past my fear of sappy love stories this time. I’m glad I did. My True Love Gave To Me helped me add a few more novelists to my To-Be-Read List.

The best part of the anthology is its diversity. The characters come from different cultural backgrounds, and you get to see a wide variety of winter traditions. Everything from Solstice to Christmas to Krampus is represented in this book.

Despite the diversity, most of the stories are forgettable. I finished the book a few days ago, and it’s difficult for me to remember what most of the stories are about. None of them do anything unusual. They’re entertaining, but they don’t push boundaries. I prefer short stories that are more experimental.

I also think the romantic plots are forced in some of the stories. It’s like the authors knew that the characters had to meet on page 5 and kiss by page 30. I guess I prefer slow-burn romances because it didn’t always feel natural for a whole relationship to be crammed into 30 pages.

Out of the twelve stories in this anthology, these are the ones that stuck in my mind:

In Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow” a lonely cat sitter forms an unlikely bond with the woman who lives upstairs. This story is sad and funny and shows how holidays can bring different people together.

“I guess I don't really know what I want to do, either. Sometimes I feel like a shook-up bottle of soda. Like, I have all this passion that wants to explode, but I don't know where to aim it yet.” – My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan is about a Jewish boy who dresses up as Santa to surprise his boyfriend’s little sister. Unfortunately for the character, breaking into a house full of people on Christmas Eve night can have some unforeseen consequences.

“He says presents aren't important, but I think they are—not because of how much they cost, but for the opportunity they provide to say ‘I understand you.’” – My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

If you love food as much as I do, then you’ll appreciate Kiersten White’s “Welcome to Christmas, CA.” It’s a magical realism story about a diner cook who always knows which type of holiday food will make the customers happy. Just reading about the food made me happy.

“But people don't need to remember how it felt to be happy and safe in the past. They need to have hope that they can get there again in the future.” – My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

In “Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter, a girl impulsively trades plane tickets with a stranger in an airport. She ends up in rural Oklahoma with a family she’s never met. The reader spends the story wondering who this girl is and what she’s running from. The answer totally surprised me.

“I sang because that is what I do when I am happy and when I'm sad. I sang because it is who I am when I am being the best possible version of me.” – My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

This isn’t the strongest anthology I’ve ever read, but if you want to sit by the fireplace with some festive holiday entertainment, I’d recommend this book. Most of the stories are sweet, funny, romantic, and uplifting. I’m looking forward to reading novels by the authors in this book.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: Losing Faith In Faith: From Preacher To Atheist – Dan Barker

Losing Faith In Faith: From Preacher To Atheist – Dan Barker

Autobiographical story of journeying from fundamentalist/evangelical minister to atheist. Includes criticism of religion, fallacies and harm of Christianity, and invocation of freethought, reason and humanism.

Review: I think this is a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Losing Faith in Faith is a collection of various atheist-themed essays and articles written by Dan Barker, a former fundamentalist Christian preacher. They range from personal essays, to letters, to Bible analysis, to examinations of governments, to secular wedding vows. There is a lot of stuff going on here.

I came across this book on a used book website, and it immediately caught my attention because I’ve been skeptical of religion for my entire life. I have no issues with people who practice religion (as long as they’re reasonable about it), but I’ve never found a religion that makes sense to me. That’s why the title of this book intrigued me. I wanted to know how Dan Barker changed his beliefs so radically.

Unfortunately, the book isn’t what I expected. The title and synopsis made me think it was a memoir. Only a few of the chapters are about the author’s life. The rest of it is a very repetitive critique of Christianity. The author makes the same points over and over in multiple essays. (Probably because the essays were published separately before they were collected for this book.) I agree with most of the author’s arguments, but I didn’t learn much from him. The condescending tone of the essays is a huge turn-off. If you’ve been a religious skeptic for as long as I have, then you probably already know almost everything the author talks about. And, you’ve probably heard these same critiques of Christianity phrased in ways that are much less insulting to Christians.

I do think this book would be helpful for “baby” atheists. When I was a kid/teenager, almost all of my friends were Christian, and I had to defend my lack of beliefs fairly often. One girl even told me that if I didn’t start going to church, I’d grow up to be a serial killer. (Spoiler alert: I haven’t killed anyone. Yet.) Back then, I would have appreciated the chapters that explain the difference between religion and morality. You can be a moral person without practicing a religion. Religion doesn’t make people moral.

“I have something to say to the religionist who feels atheists never say anything positive: You are an intelligent human being. Your life is valuable for its own sake. You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind. You are not inherently evil—you are inherently human, possessing the positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy. Trust yourself.” – Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist

I did learn a few things from this book. I like the examination of countries that don’t have a separation of church and state. The author explains how the lack of separation impacts (or doesn’t impact) the lives of people. I also learned the true meaning of “Xmas.” When I was a kid, someone told me that Pagans and atheists invented the word “Xmas” so they could celebrate Christmas without “Christ.” I accepted that explanation without questioning it. But, it’s wrong. The “X” in “Xmas” comes from this Greek symbol, which means “Christ.” Basically, “Xmas” means the exact same thing as “Christmas.”

Interesting, right?

So, I did learn some stuff from Losing Faith, but I wish the book had focused more on the author’s life. He’s a Native American, and his grandmother was their tribe’s historian. I would have been interested to hear how his family went from polytheistic, to fundamentalist Christian, to atheist. I think I would have learned more from that than from what’s actually in the book.  

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Sunday Post #80 And #DAReadathon Wrap-Up

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist by Dan Barker.
  • On Wednesday I review My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Stephanie Perkins (Editor)
  • On Thursday I finally (FINALLY!) have my 2016 reading stats analysis. Get ready for graphs!

In My Reading Life

Last week, I finished Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson. Then I read The Vegetarian by Han Kang and The Unintentional Time Traveler by Everett Maroon. Right now, I’ve gone back to reading The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel and Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville. I had to abandon them briefly for #DAReadathon.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. #DAReadathon. It was great.
  2. I restarted Couch to 5K. I’m totally going to finish it this time. No quitting at week 7.
  3. Walking my dog. It’s been so cold that we have the whole world to ourselves. No one else is stupid enough to go outside.
  4. Getting rid of books to make room for new books.
  5. I’m 4 books ahead on my Goodreads goal. We have to celebrate now because that won’t last long.

#DAReadathon Wrap-Up

I participated in my first readathon ever! I’ve never bothered with readathons before because my entire life has been a readathon. But, I decided to give one a try. I liked the social media aspect of it. I’m super nosy about what people read, so it was great to go on Twitter and see people’s updates.

I was terrible at keeping track of points because I don’t do math, people! I also didn’t do very well with writing reviews. The reviews you see on this blog take me hours to write. I’m hoping that the half-baked, two-sentence reviews posted below count as reviews. Regular-sized reviews of these books will be up on the blog in February.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

Review: I have a mental illness; Jenny has several mental illnesses. We don’t have the same illnesses, but close enough for the prompt, right? Jenny’s other memoir, Furiously Happy, was one of my favorite books last year, so I had massive expectations for this memoir. I didn’t like it as much as Furiously Happy, but it’s still hilarious. Also, the cover is adorable.

Witness by Karen Hesse

Review: My favorite book from the readathon. It’s a children’s novel-in-verse starring an African American character and a Jewish character. The characters have strong voices. I loved them both immediately.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Persepolis review: I learned so much about the history of Iran from this memoir. History is always more interesting when you hear it from the POV of someone who lived through it. I need to find more books like this.

Between the World and Me review: So, I kinda hated this depressing memoir/letter/American history lesson. I felt like it was just angrily telling me things I’ve already heard from other sources. I know everyone loves this book, but it wasn’t for me. *Dives under desk to avoid rotting vegetables and flying hate.*

 The V-Word: True Stories about First-Time Sex by Amber J Keyser (Editor)

Review: An educational book that aims to give teen girls realistic expectations about losing their virginity. It has essays about first-time sex by straight women, trans women, lesbian women, and bisexual women. I would have liked to hear from an asexual woman and a disabled woman. Other than that, it’s a solid educational book.

The Last Summer of Reason by Tahar Djaout

Review: This book had been sitting on my TBR shelf for months. It’s a dystopian love letter to books by an author who was murdered for writing them. The book is unfinished because the author was murdered while writing it, but it’s an unsettling philosophical story about Islamic extremism.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Review: I avoided this book for a long time because of the hype. Then it won the Man Booker International Award, and I was like, fine, I’ll read it. For me, it lived up to the hype. It’s a slow-paced story about a woman’s decline into madness and the men who romanticize her mental illness in creepy ways. Also, it made me crave Korean food.

The Unintentional Time Traveler by Everett Maroon

Review: A teenage boy travels back in time and finds himself trapped inside the body of a teenage girl. This situation makes romantic relationships . . . complicated. The writing and editing aren't great, but the story is unusual.

So, points . . .

(This is me attempting math)

1623 pages read / 10 = 162 points (approximately)
8 books read X 5 = 40 points
8 reviews posted X 5 = 40 points
ID image on Twitter = 1 point
Using Twitter too much = 20 points
Photo of my readathon TBR = 1 point.

I think that’s 264 points for Ravenclaw? (I haven’t done this much math since high school, guys.) I’m exhausted and need a nap.

If you participated in #DAReadathon, how did you do?

Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other! See you around the blogosphere!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Discussion: Did I Actually Keep My 2016 Resolutions?

Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts At Midnight host the 2017 Discussion Challenge.

I love New Year’s resolutions. I’ve made them every year for as long as I can remember. Do I keep most of them? No, but just writing a list of resolutions is helpful. I get to think about everything I want to change and everything I want to stay the same. Resolutions help me reevaluate my life.

At the beginning of 2016, I made a list of reading and blogging resolutions. After I posted the list, I promptly forgot about it. I knew that I made resolutions, but I didn’t remember what they were. I thought it would be fun to look back and see if I accomplished any of them.

My 2016 reading resolutions

Resolution: Read more translations.
Outcome: Accomplished! In 2015, I read two translations. In 2016, I read six.

Resolution: Read 100+ books.
Outcome: Accomplished! This is the first time in recorded history that I read over 100 books in a year. I did it by making reading a priority and watching less TV.

Resolution: Read older books.
Outcome: Accomplished! Only six of the books I read last year were published in 2016. I think I did a good job of staying far away from the hype train.  

Resolution: Discover more books on my own instead of relying on bloggers for recommendations.
Outcome: Fail. I didn’t spend much time in bookstores last year. When I did go to bookstores, I mostly came home with books I first saw on blogs.

Resolution: Read more poetry, plays, graphic novels, nonfiction, short story collections, and books from small publishers.
Outcome: Um . . . success and failure? I read more poetry and plays in 2015. In 2016, I read more graphic novels, nonfiction, short story collections, and indie books than in 2015.

Resolution: Read more classics.
Outcome: Accomplished! I mostly focused on classic horror, but that counts right?

Resolution: Find “bizarre” books.
Outcome: I’m not sure. This goal is pretty vague. I guess I’ll proclaim myself successful because I did read some strange stuff.

Resolution: Read more prize-winning books.
Outcome: Does buying prize-winning books count? I paid attention to many of the major literary awards, but a lot of the winners are still sitting on my TBR shelf.

Resolution: Zero by ’17.
Outcome: *Dies from hysterical laughter.* Fail.

Resolution: Read the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson and the Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman.
Outcome: Half accomplished! I read (and loved) all the Unwind books, but I DNFed Mistborn. It was too dense for me.

2016 Blogging Resolutions

Resolution: Keep going. (Just keep swimming . . .)
Outcome: Accomplished! I had to take several hiatuses, but I’m still here. You haven’t killed me yet, blog!

Resolution: Learn to use Twitter.
Outcome: Slightly accomplished. Twitter and I will never be friends. I’ll keep trying. 

Resolution: Promote the blog (and don’t feel bad about promoting the blog).
Outcome: Fail. I discovered that I don’t know how to promote a blog. What do my fellow bloggers do to get followers? I’m not even sure how many followers my blog has.

Resolution: Comment more.
Outcome: Accomplished! (But I still feel guilty). I’m not the best at replying to comments on my own blog, but I do comment on other blogs every morning. It’s what I do while I eat breakfast. One hand for food, one hand for typing.

Resolution: Review more under-hyped books.
Outcome: Accomplished! One of the most common comments on my blog is “I’ve never heard of that book.” I think this means I’m doing my job.  

Resolution: Write more discussion posts.
Outcome: Accomplished! My goal was to write 12 discussions in 2016, and I did it.

Resolution: Support new bloggers.
Outcome: Accomplished! I now follow over 1000 book blogs on Bloglovin’. Whenever I find a book blog with only a few followers, I follow it. If I don’t follow you on Bloglovin’, let me know so I can correct that.

Resolution: Maybe more personal posts?
Outcome: Accomplished! I feel like I talk about myself constantly on here. You guys love reading about me, right? (Please don’t answer that question.)

Resolution: Be positive and spread the bookish love.
Outcome: I gave it my best shot. I hope my blog posts made somebody laugh, or think, or pick up a book that’s outside their comfort zone.

Resolution: Take pictures of books.
Outcome: I tried. I learned that I kinda hate book photography. It’s a lot like making graphics, which I also hate. I’ll stick to nature photography.

Let’s discuss: Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Did you meet your 2016 goals?