books and reading · pop culture

Year in Review: 2017

Despite being a total dumpster fire of a year, 2017 also marked a year of pretty extraordinary reading for me. My goals of watching 100 new movies fell way, way short, but I met and exceeded many of my reading goals. Here’s how the year shook out:

Reading:

Total Books Read: 426
Picture Books: 283
Middle Grade: 20
YA: 39
Adult: 85
Fiction: 391
Non-Fiction: 36
Audiobooks: 19
# of Pages: 44,823
Average # of Pages Per Day: _____
Average # of Books Per Month: ________

Watching:

I watched 49 new movies this year. My favorite movies of the year were: The Big Sick, Landline, and Thor: Ragnarok. This was obviously way short of my goal of 100 new movies in 2017.

Goals for 2018:

I have a bunch of specific reading goals for 2018, but here are a few broad goals:

  • 50 adult books
  • 50 YA books
  • 12 Middle Grade Books
  • 365 picture books (a picture book a day)

In terms of watching, I’m hoping to watch 52 new movies (one a week).

What are your goals for the new year?

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books and reading · reviews

Best Books of 2017

I read over 400 books this year, if I’m including picture books. I read a lot of stuff, and some of it was great. Some of it was terrible. These are the best books I read this year.

33375622Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado: A collection of short stories that blends realism and science fiction, humor and horror. These stories are all knockouts, racing towards conclusions while keeping the reader riveted. Subversive, feminist, and unforgettable. I can’t wait to see what Machado does next.

30231763 Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller: Another short story collection makes the list, with Mary Miller’s excellent collection of stories about women on the brink of something. At times claustrophobic, and at other times blisteringly acerbic, this collection of women all in search of different things was one of the best and most accomplished collections of the year. I loved it.

30304222There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker: A collection of poetry that uses pop culture references (and a lot of Beyonce references) to explore black womanhood in modern day America. This is intersectional feminism at its most sharp and inciting, and it’s a must-read, even for those who don’t dabble much (or at all) in poetry. 33876540

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter: Part legal thriller, part coming-of-age novel, the debut novel from actress Krysten Ritter knocked my socks off. She hooked me from the first pages and didn’t let up until the story’s gripping, violent end. This is a knockout of a novel, one that demands to be read. I can’t wait to see what Ritter offers next, whether it’s a film or TV project or another novel. Seriously, go read this one.

32940879Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed: The island is the only safe space left in a world that is burning. The fathers run the island, and their daughters are the wives-in-training in this dystopian fiction piece from Jennie Melamed. The book is a gripping account of a patriarchy gone wholly wrong (well, I mean, all patriarchal societies are), and Melamed’s tight prose makes this a haunting read, especially given the current political climate. Comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale abound, but this one stands on its own.

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Grit by Gillian French: Darcy Prentiss and her sister and their cousin work the blueberry fields in the summer in rural Maine. Darcy knows how to have a good time, and her reputation reinforces that. But all of this is her way of distracting her from the secrets she’s keeping, including one about the disappearance of her ex-best friend. This slow burn of a novel had me riveted from the start. It was a surprise of a book, one I just picked up out of a stack of new arrivals at the library, and I was so pleasantly surprised.

32075671The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Starr Carter is there when her best friend is shot and killed by a cop. He wasn’t armed, but the media surrounding the event becomes an absolute circus. Starr isn’t sure whether standing up and saying something is the right thing to do. One of the most buzzed about books of the year, this fresh, smart, moving take on racialized police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement is required reading.

 

 

What did I miss?

 

 

 

books and reading · reviews

Favorite Picture Books of 2017

2017 was the year I got really, really into picture books. I tried to read as many new ones as I could get my hands on, and I started figuring out which authors were my favorites, as well as really sharpening the library of titles I can choose from when it comes to storytimes. These are my favorite picture books of 2017:

34137106A Different Pond by Bao Phi: This semi-autobiographical picture book features Phi as a young boy, fishing with his father in Minneapolis. The story is contrasted with Phi’s father talking about fishing in his homeland of Vietnam. Gorgeous images accompany Phi’s lovely prose. It’s a striking, moving story, and it features some beautiful pictures of Minneapolis’s Lake Street.

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Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin: A little girl brings her stuffed fox to the playground, and a real fox steals away with it. The illustrations in this wordless picture book are so beautifully drawn, and the story so sweet that it’s impossible not to be sucked into it. Totally marvelous.

31145060Stay: A Girl, a Dog, and a Bucket List by Kate Klise: Eli the dog has been with Astrid the girl since she came home from the hospital as an infant. Astrid is getting older, and so is Eli, so Astrid decides they need to complete a bucket list of experiences together. These things include eating together at a restaurant and sliding down a slide at the playground. This novel, written and illustrated by a pair of sisters, made me ugly cry. But it’s also one of the sweetest, smartest picture books I read this year. The story perfectly encapsulates the love between humans and canines, and I completely loved it.

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The Storm Whale in Winter by Benji Davies: Noi is waiting at home while his dad takes one last journey to the sea to fish before winter settles in. But a storm comes in and Noi’s dad doesn’t return, so Noi sets out to look for him. When Noi gets stuck in the icy sea, his whale friend comes to the rescue. I actually read this sequel before Davies’ original tale, and I loved both so much. A sweet story about friendship and family, this moving little book is guaranteed to satisfy kids and adults alike.

31145118Out! by Arree Chung: Everyone in the family is ready for bed after a long day, except for the baby. When Jo Jo the dog goes to check on the baby, she finds that the baby wants OUT. Shenanigans ensue. Repetition of the same word and fun, colorful illustrations make this a crowd-pleaser, and yes, I love picture books about dogs. It’s a whole thing.

 

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell: A girl gets lost in the snow on her way home 29102937from school and encounters a wolf pup, separated from its pack. She helps him find his family, and then they return the favor. This simple, nearly wordless picture book had me crying, and so much of that is due to Cordell’s ability to express a myriad of feelings in his pen-and-ink-and-watercolor illustrations. I loved this compelling book about kindness.

What picture books stood out to you this year?

books and reading · pop culture

January 2017 Recap

This is how the month of January shook out for me. These are the things I watched and read:

Books:

Total: 49
Picture Books: 27
Middle Grade: 6
YA: 4
Adult: 12
Fiction: 41
Non-Fiction:8
Audiobooks: 5
Total Pages Read: 5596

Favorite Reads in January:
30231763Always Happy Hour: Stories by Mary Miller: A collection of stories about women in doomed relationships. While most are romantic in nature, there are a few where unhealth friendships or other non-romantic relationships are explored.  All of the stories are beautifully written, with searing truths about what it is like to be an American woman in this day and age, and Miller’s writing cuts right to the bone.  There are some standouts here; in particular “Big Bad Love” and “The House on Main Street,” but all of the stories can stand on their own.  This is one I’d like to own, so I can revisit favorite passages again and again.

The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan: I read this short middle 28594983grade novel in one sitting at the desk at work, and I had to work very hard not to sob while doing so. It’s a simple story narrated in large part by a dog who has recently lost his owner, a poet.  The dog rescues two children in a terrible snow storm, and the three form an intense bond. The result is a lovely story about the unconditional love dogs have for humans, the wonder both children and poets have, and the hope that life can bring. I loved it.

6527979The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na: A very cute, beautifully illustrated picture book about an elephant who cannot figure out what the thingamabob is supposed to do. It will captivate young readers and entertain adults, too. I have hopes of using this in a toddler storytime sometime this year, because I think it will be a hit. Il Sung Na is an author to watch out for.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo: Amanda has moved to a 26156987new town after a brutal attack and is hoping to start over as her true self. But she also knows she has to try to fly under the radar for her own safety, which becomes harder when she falls for a boy at her new school. A story about a trans girl by a trans author that doesn’t result in total tragedy or darkness, this is a contemporary, necessary story that’s important not only for cis teens but for trans ones as well. It’s romantic, universal, and engaging. I loved it.

Movies:

Total: 17
New: 11
Re-Watch: 6

Favorite Movies in January: 
hf.jpgHidden Figures: The Oscar nominations for this movie are well-deserved. It’s a fairly typical bio-pic, but it’s still compelling as hell and very moving. I loved every minute of watching these amazing women solve math problems and face unbelievable sexism and racism.

American Honey: Definitely overly-long (I couldn’t believe the ah.pngruntime was nearly 3 hours), but very compelling. Star says she’s 18 and might be telling the truth when she hooks up with a ragtag group of teens who travel the country in a van, selling magazines and partying in cheap motels. The result is a road trip movie that sort of meanders through its storyline, and if it weren’t for the excellent cast and interesting directing, it would fall apart. But the result is a beautiful movie more interested in examining the inner life of its female protagonist than anything else. I really liked it, but I’ll admit it’s not for everyone.