2015: My year in reading



Let’s just wipe a teensy bit of dust off of this blog here, shall we? Okay, so maybe it’s a little bit more than a teensy bit of dust, but with the arrival of the new year, I felt the strongest pull to write something before January 1st was over. Unfortunately this uncontrollable urge didn’t have a specific muse alongside it, but fortunately I always love writing about books and it seemed like the perfect time to recap my year of reading, something I haven’t done here since the beginning of 2012. So without further ado, let’s break it down a bit…

Reading challenge goal: 50 books
Total books read: 51 books! (see them all on Goodreads here)

I was thrilled to make my reading goal again this year. I know that a reading challenge isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and that many people think it’s problematic for a variety of reasons (ie. it pushes you to plow through books without enjoying them, it makes you choose short books over long books, etc.), but I’m a goal-oriented person who loves to read as much as possible, so for me it makes perfect sense. I have been a bit wary to increase my goal past 50 for many years now, however, but for 2016 I’m finally taking the plunge and jumping up to 55 books. I’m excited to gently push myself towards choosing reading over playing silly games on my phone (I’m looking at you, stupidly addictive Frozen Free Fall), and with the new job I’m starting on January 4th (social media editor at Today’s Parent magazine — very excited!), I’ll now be taking the subway to and from work every day instead of the streetcar, which means I can finally read on my commute (streetcar-reading makes me nauseous).

To briefly highlight a few of my faves, here are the top 3 books I read this year, alongside my short Goodreads reviews:

stationelevenFavourite book read in 2015: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I absolutely loved this novel. What a fantastically well woven story. Sure it relies on a lot of coincidences, but the way it all tied together was so beautiful and interesting that I didn’t even mind that a several of the plot points were rather convenient. I loved how while most post-apocalyptic stories usually just focus on the post- part, Station Eleven showed us the pre-, during, and post-apocalypse. The characters, too, were for the most part fantastic: I couldn’t get enough of Kirsten, Clark, Jeevan, and of course, the amazing Miranda. (Arthur was the only one who I couldn’t quite get behind, but alas.) Bonus points for being partially set in Toronto and having a strong Shakespearean bent! Highly recommended read.


deptofspeculationHonourable mention: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Oh, how I love a beautifully crafted short book. A novel that can make me feel real, intense feelings in under 200 pages is a winner to me. It’s impossible to explain this story, told in snippets and abstracts, but it’s more than worth the short time it’ll take you to read it…and it’ll definitely linger in your mind long after you’re done.



fangirlHonourable mention: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I didn’t think I could love this book more than Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park…but I think that maybe I did. Fangirl was definitely the most fun book I’ve read so far this year, yet it also managed to pull at my heartstrings so well. Cath was a fantastic character and the Harry Potter fangirl in me connected so well with her. Such an entertaining read, and now I also can’t wait to read Rainbow Rowell’s next novel, Carry On, her version of Cath’s fanfiction!

And because I love stats, here’s a few key stats I pulled out from my 2015 reading list:

Fiction: 47
Non-fiction: 4

Female author: 20
Male author: 31

Canadian author: 13
Non-Canadian author: 38

Adult book: 19
YA/kids book: 9
Graphic novel: 23 (22 from the Fables series)

Paperback/hardcover: 49
E-book: 0
Audiobook: 2

My stats this year surprised me somehow — I somehow forgot how many books I read from the Fables graphic novel series and its many spin-offs (and I still have half of the series to read this year!). For the uninitiated, Fables takes the classic fairy tale characters you know (and many you don’t) and turns them on their head. You could compare it to the TV show Once Upon a Time, but I think Fables is much more complex, twisted, and completely engaging. When the series opens, the fairy tale characters have all been forced into exile, living secretly in a small, magical part of New York City called Fabletown after being driven out of their homelands by an enemy known only as the Adversary. Things only get more complicated and fascinating from there, and although it’s definitely a big time investment to read this entire series (22 books in the original Fables series, 46 books in total including spin-offs and one-offs — I’m reading them in publication order, listed here), I’ve been loving the long journey I’m taking with these characters and highly recommend the series to any fairy tale lover.

Because I spent so much time with Fables this year, the number of female authors and of Canadian authors I read was startlingly low to me, and something I intend to focus more on in 2016. I also dabbled briefly into audiobooks at the beginning of the year which I’m still not sold on, but I can’t deny how fun it was to have Amy Poehler read to me on the TTC. As for e-books, I seem to have abandoned them completely after neglecting my e-reader for many, many months and then eventually giving it away to a friend mid-way through the year. Occasionally I still entertain the idea of downloading e-books on my phone to read in spare moments when I find myself without a paper book (ie. waiting in line, waiting for transit, etc.), but I haven’t committed to that plan yet. Maybe 2016 is finally that time…

What were some of your favourite reads in 2015? And what are your reading goals for 2016? Let me know in the comments!

My New Year’s resolution: Dance more, worry less


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dance-more-worry-lessI don’t know about all of you, but I kind of hate New Year’s resolutions. Not only am I not very good at keeping them, but I’ve always found it all a bit too cookie-cutter for me. I’ll make changes in my life when I’m good and ready to make them, and I don’t need the calendar to tell me when to do so.

But, despite my usual reluctance towards New Year’s resolutions, I’ve made a very important one this year: DANCE MORE, WORRY LESS.

Dancing is one of the best stress relievers I’ve found in life, and so over the past few years, I’ve found an awesome way to make dancing a regular part of my routine by being a den mother at Dance Dance Party Party Toronto. No idea what I’m talking about? Read on.

The short(-ish) and sweet summary: Dance Dance Party Party is a women-only freestyle dance session with only three rules: no boys, no booze, and no judgement. There are no instructors, and no dance moves to follow – it’s just an hour and 15 minutes of super fun dancing time! It’s like going out to the club with your friends, but you don’t have to dress up, pay cover, or get hit on by guys when you really just want to dance. And trust me, you don’t have to have ANY dancing talent whatsoever, either! We’re all just there to have fun.

I’m one of the co-organizers of the Toronto chapter (the original DDPP started back in 2006 in NYC), and I LOVE spreading the word about our dance parties. When I’m dancing in the Mad For Dance basement studio at 263 Adelaide St W., there’s really no place I’d rather be.

Want to join in on the fun? We’ll be getting our groove on in January on the 5th and 19th, both from 3:30-5pm at Mad For Dance. Get all the details over at DDPP Toronto.

Steep, Stir, Sip: An Intro to Loose Leaf Tea


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steep_stir_sipThose who know me well, know that I love tea. Not only do I have an exploding tea cupboard, but I’m fast developing an exploding tea drawer in my desk at work, too!

I started a new job at the beginning of January, and for the past two months I’ve been absolutely loving my new position as Web Content Coordinator for CityLine.ca at Citytv here in Toronto. Every day I get to work on managing and coordinating content for our website and social media accounts (namely Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest), as well as writing original pieces for the site, too. (Oh, and I also get to watch the show being taped every day while I take photos down in the studio – super fun!) This past week, I wrote an article that I’m particularly proud of and excited about because it’s about the obsession I referenced at the beginning of this post…tea!

Yep, I wrote a beginner’s guide to loose leaf tea, all about why you should be drinking loose leaf and what you need to know about all of the different tea families. And best of all, the article also features quotes from David Segal, the co-founder of DAVIDsTEA, whom I interviewed for the piece! I’m a huge DAVIDsTEA junkie, so getting to interview the man behind the tea was an incredible opportunity for me. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Whether you’re an ardent coffee drinker or you’ve been sipping green tea for years in order to reap the health benefits, you’ve no doubt realized that “tea culture” has invaded North America in recent years, and it’s not all coming in little round bags anymore. While tea has long since been a popular drink in Great Britain and Asia, it’s only in more recent years that Canadians and Americans have truly latched on to the tea craze, helping to make it the second most consumed beverage on the planet, after water. David Segal, co-founder of loose-leaf tea shop DAVIDsTEA, isn’t surprised that North Americans are jumping onto the bandwagon. “It can fit into your lifestyle so easily. You can have it in the morning or in the evening, it can be energizing, relaxing, soothing, or it can engage the senses. […] It’s such a diverse product,” explains Segal.

But why have loose leaf teas, in particular, become so popular and why should you choose them over the convenient bagged options? In terms of quality, loose leaf tea offers a fuller flavour than a bagged tea – this is namely due to the differing size of the tea leaves between the two forms of tea. While loose leaf tea is made of full or slightly broken leaves, bagged tea is made up of tea fannings, which are small bits and pieces of tea; when tea leaves get smaller, they dry out and their natural taste starts to dwindle. For the same reasons, loose leaf tea holds up better to multiple infusions of the same leaves – just pour some more hot water over the same tea leaves and literally get some more bang for your buck!

Want to read more? It’s all over here on CityLine.ca!

Are you a tea junkie or are you interested in trying out some more teas? Let’s talk tea in the comments – I’m really good at making tasting suggestions!

2011: My year in reading


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2011 is a proud year for me in terms of reading, as it’s the first year since 2007 that I’ve successfully reached my goal of reading 50 books in a year. Due to the combination of working on a mayoral campaign and writing my own book, I was woefully under-read in 2010, and I’m so happy to have gotten back on track again this past year.

To briefly sum up some of my reading highlights in 2011, here are the winners in a few categories, with my brief Goodreads reviews attached (and if you want to see everything I read in 2011, you can check out my 2011 Reading Challenge bookshelf on Goodreads – and you can friend me over there, too):

Half-Blood BluesBest New Book (published in 2011): Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

This book easily and thoroughly swept me up in its magic, transporting me directly into the times and places inhabited by its characters. Despite a few slower sections, the story was incredibly compelling and kept me on my toes right until the very end. The characters were excellently realized and although the period/cultural slang was a bit off-putting in the beginning, it quickly became very natural and definitely helped to immerse me in the story.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianBest YA Book: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (tie)

Fascinating YA read for young adults and adults alike. Alexie’s characterization of Junior is flawless and engaging, and the story’s exploration of both race issues and the struggles of growing up is just as messy and compelling as real life. Really great read, and I look forward to reading more of Alexie’s books.

When You Reach MeAbsolutely fantastic book. A delight to read and incredibly enjoyable to try to unravel its very clever mystery. If you loved Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time as a kid (I know I did!), you definitely must read this. Its plot is integral to When You Reach Me, but Stead’s book is still extremely charming and clever even if you have no knowledge of its related predecessor. I read a lot of YA, but this is definitely one of the very best books of that genre that I’ve read in a while.

The Incident ReportBest Canadian Book: The Incident Report by Martha Baillie

The concept of this novel was brilliant and expertly executed. Don’t for a second think that the storytelling might be limited by the incident report style – quite the opposite, in fact. Baillie’s prose is beautiful and detailed as she intertwines reports from her love life, her past, and actual library interactions. A quick and engaging read that you’ll easily gobble up.

OnceBest Short Story Collection: Once by Rebecca Rosenblum

Such a wonderful debut collection of stories. Rebecca Rosenblum is all at once self-assured and tentative, harsh and tender. A captivating look at human relationships. I’m really looking forward to reading her new collection, The Big Dream.

And because I love stats, here’s a few key stats I pulled out from my 2011 reading list:

Fiction: 44
Non-Fiction: 6

Female Author: 36
Male Author: 14

Canadian Author: 28
Non-Canadian Author: 22

Adult Book: 30
YA/Kids Book: 20

Paperback/Hardcover: 33
E-Book: 17

As for 2012, I still have a goal of reading 50 books (and you can follow my 2012 Reading Challenge on Goodreads, too – I’m still currently on book #1, Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant), but I’m not sure if I should try to put any other structures around my to-read list. I want to continue reading at least 50% Canadian authors (I was at 56% in 2011), and I enjoyed reading 40% YA/Kids books last year. Looking at my stats, I feel like I should increase my non-fiction reading, but I rarely feel the pull towards non-fiction, like I do towards fiction.

What were some of your favourite reads in 2011? And what are your reading goals for 2012?