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Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Published: October 14, 2014 / January 5, 2016
Pages: 213 / 291
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4 Stars

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you'll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo's clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list). 

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house "spark joy" (and which don't), this international best seller featuring Tokyo's newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home - and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

The KonMari Method of tidying up: keep only the items that bring you joy in your life. Seems like obvious common sense in a way, doesn't it? And yet I'm sure I'm not alone in owning many more items than necessary in my home - objects that are extras, or are kept around "just in case", or else are kept despite the fact that they are in varied amounts of disrepair. Well, Marie Kondo advocates getting rid of all of that stuff and keeping only the few items that are either a) used regularly or b) "spark joy" in order to keep your home tidy and your life de-cluttered and happy.

There are two issues I have when it comes to this method though. First, I really don't feel as though I have the money at the moment to take on what Marie Kondo is recommending. I mean sure, I would love to throw out/donate and replace all items of clothing that have holes and all the old objects in my home that are used second-hand, but unfortunately I am not working at this time and don't have much in the way of spending money. Kondo recommends tidying up all in one go instead of in little bits at a time, but this is just not a reality for me at the moment unless I was willing to get rid of almost everything I own all at once and not be able to replace it.

And secondly, I think I'm just too left-brained for some of Kondo's practices. Kondo believes that all inanimate objects are imbued with energy. And she advocates talking to all the objects in our lives, thanking them for the jobs they perform for us. It's just... a little too "out there" for me personally. It's not something I would be able to take seriously, and I know I certainly would not be able to feel such energies coming from objects to determine whether they "spark joy" in me.

Still, Marie Kondo makes a lot of other good points that I could see myself benefitting from. I know that lots of clutter in my home often makes me feel stressed. And it just seems like obvious good advice: if you don't love it or use it regularly, then don't keep it. I hope to start employing some of the practices that she talks about in her books (like de-cluttering by category instead of place and designating a "home" for all objects) and I anticipate seeing good results in the overall happiness and efficiency of my life. Though I will have to do it at my own pace (because of money issues) and in my own way (because I don't think any inanimate object has energy that could spark joy in me exactly as Kondo describes).

Anyways,  I would be curious if anyone reading this has tried the KonMari Method - did it work for you?

Author Links:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My 2016 Bookish Stats

For three years now, I have been keeping track of my bookish stats in an extensive spreadsheet so that I can compile the data at the end of the year, make some graphs, and keep track of the trends in my reading (see my 2014 bookish stats and my 2015 bookish stats). Yes, I am a nerd. But I will not deny my unabashed love for Microsoft Excel and all its many uses... 

So. In 2016 I read 175 books. I am proud not only of this number, but of the fact that I have been steadily increasing my number of books read every year by 25 books since 2011. So of course now that I am so close to *200 books* read in a year, I feel like I just have to challenge myself to do it, you know? Of course, I will need to read a bunch of shorter books this year to have a shot at meeting such a goal... We'll see what happens.

I consider it a good reading year when the majority of books I read are 4 stars and above. So I am happy to say that 2016 was a very good year for me in books as roughly 75% of books I read were 4 (or 3.5 rounded up) stars to 5 stars, with only a few duds.

Here is a breakdown of books read by genre from 2014 to 2016. Fantasy reading is back on top for me after that weird anomaly in 2015 when contemporary reads actually surpassed fantasy reads. I also read a lot more dystopians in 2016 (I read a few backlist series that I've had on my TBR forever, like the Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld and the Shatter Me Trilogy by Tahereh Mafi). And I've really been embracing and enjoying non-fiction a whole lot this past year.

I read zero review books in 2016, nor did I purchase any books. All the books I read in 2016 were either borrowed from the library or gifted to me (i.e.. FREE). Now this might be the stat I'm most proud of, and my wallet thanks me! Occasionally I do miss the days of receiving advanced books for review from publishers and all the excitement that went along with that, but overall I find I'm happiest not reading and reviewing on anyone's schedule but my own.

Only three data points here, but I'm pleased that I've managed to meet my goal to read more diverse books: in 2016, almost 25% of the books I read had a MC who was a person of colour.

I've also managed to read more books with an LGBT representation, with over 15% of books read in 2016 featuring a LGBT MC.

And finally, I've managed to increase the percentage of standalones I read in 2016 to almost 50% (probably all those non-fiction reads I read). I still love me a good series read, but I was getting a bit overwhelmed with the number of series I was taking on so I am happy I decided to do less series-reading in 2016.

So there you have it (if anyone did indeed read this post to the end...)! In 2017, I would like to continue to read more non-fiction as I really enjoyed it in 2016. I would also like to read more diversely and limit the number of series I have on the go. I am considering taking up e-galley reading for publishers again (though not in any major capacity), and I plan on maintaining my book buying ban for 2017. Here's to a good year in reading!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Stacking the Shelves: Holiday 2016 Edition

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews to showcase books that I have received for review, bought, borrowed, been gifted, or won to read.

Happy New Year! It's been a year since I participated in the Stacking the Shelves meme to show off my 2015 holiday book haul. I'm super excited and grateful for the books I got over the 2016 holiday season so I thought I would show them off as well:

To start off, a few books I received pre-holidays from the work I do as a bookkeeper for my dad's company:
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas - I ordered this shortly after completing Queen of Shadows, which I loved. I will hopefully get to reading this soon - certainly before the final Throne of Glass book comes out this year!

Leuchtturm1917 Dotted Hardcover Notebook (A5), Royal Blue - In the tail end of 2016, I decided to try my hand at bullet journalling and quickly fell in love. I've always been a planner and list-maker, but have always done so digitally - to varied success. With bullet journalling, there's something about planning in analog that just works for me and has been keeping me on track and motivated to be productive. So I decided to treat myself to a pretty new journal for the new year!

Holiday Gifts:
The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta - from Ambur of Burning Impossibly Bright
I've only read one Melina Marchetta book before - Jellicoe Road - and I found it to be so beautiful and impactful. So I'm looking forward to my next Marchetta read!

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson - from Sara of Just Another Story
I have heard nothing but the most amazing things about this author and this book and so I am stoked to read this!

Uprooted by Naomi Novik - from Micheline of Lunar Rainbows
Here's another one that seemingly everyone loved. I just KNOW that this one will end up being a favourite fantasy of mine!

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - from in-laws
My in-laws both loved this book a lot and thoughtfully thought I would like it as well.

As with last year, I can't help but feel SO lucky to have so many people in my life who are so thoughtful and know my reading tastes so well! I expect 2017 will be a good year in books for me :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

2016 End of Year Survey

The Annual End of Year Book Survey is hosted by The Perpetual Page-Turner

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?
In chronological order read: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Fire and Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson, Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas, and Vicious by V.E. Schwab. I read lots of great books this year, but these are the ones that ended up sticking with me weeks, months later.

2. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child had a ton of bizarre surprises in store and I'm still not really sure what to think of them...

3. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?
Definitely The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.

4. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?
Rae Carson! I was blown away by her Fire and Thorns Trilogy.

5. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I usually avoid depressing contemporary books like the plague, but I must admit that Me Before You by Jojo Moyes was a great reading experience.

6. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
The Fire and Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson - these books are so fast-paced, they accomplish more plot-wise in a few chapters than the average book, which takes thrice as long.

7. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
I would love to do a series reread of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, probably via audiobook.

8. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

9. Most memorable character of 2016?
Laura Ingalls from the Little House Series quickly won me over with her spunky tomboy spirit and I loved reading about her journey growing up as a pioneer in the Northwest US. Also: Marvin, the chronically depressed robot, from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

10. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.

11. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I wouldn't say this book was life-changing, but it definitely gave me a ton to think about.

13. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams! That book was originally published in 1979, is a classic, and is right up my alley so I don't know what took me so long.

14. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?
Longest: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas - 648 pages
Shortest: one of the numerous children's picture books I read to kids during my summer job

15. Book That Shocked You The Most
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff had some insanely fun shocking moments!

16. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
Yorick and Agent 355 from Y: The Last Man by Brian Vaughan.

17. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
The Raven Boys + Blue, from the The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.

18. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I had previously read The Scorpio Races - an all-time favourite of mine - so it is no wonder The Raven Cycle was a WIN for me in 2016.

19. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
When I heard from Micheline of Lunar Rainbows that the audiobook of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was read by the inimitable Stephen Fry, I KNEW I had to have it!

20. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

21. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
For sure The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams!

22. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

23. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
The final volume of Y: The Last Man by Brian Vaughan.

24. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?
Saga by Brian Vaughan and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. HELLO creativity!!

25. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?
Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas

26. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?
Throne of Glass #6 by Sarah J. Maas - the series ender!!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Top Ten Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

Top Ten Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

1. Jojo Moyes (Me Before You): This year I finally read the much hyped Me Before You (still have to see the movie adaptation though), and it was every bit as depressing as I was told it would be. Heh. It was a good story though and I would like to read more from Jojo Moyes.

2. Charles Darwin (Voyage of the Beagle, Origin of Species): Of course I studied Darwin's ideas ad nauseam in school, but I'd never actually read his books until this year. Origin of Species was a bit dry, but Voyage of the Beagle - in which Darwin recounts his thoughts from his 5 year trip exploring the Southern Hemisphere and developing his theory of evolution - was honestly FASCINATING.

3. Barack Obama (Dreams From My Father): Turns out this guy can WRITE! I listened to the audiobook of Dreams From My Father - narrated by Obama himself - and it was interesting to learn so much about his backstory. Slightly off topic: PLEASE DON'T LEAVE US BARACK!

4. Colleen Hoover (Confess): I finally read my first Colleen Hoover book this year and experienced the full extent of her trademark emotional drama in Confess. I would definitely like to read more from Colleen!

5. Rae Carson (Fire and Thorns Trilogy): I was blown away by Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns Trilogy this year (read my full review here). Queen Elisa is for sure one of my all-time favourite fictional rulers!

6. Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House Series): Looooved this autobiographical telling of tomboy Laura Ingalls growing up as a pioneer of the northern midwest US in the 1800s!

7. Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Saga): 2016 was also the year that I started to explore graphic novels and Brian Vaughan was easily my favourite graphic novel author I read this year. Completed series Y: The Last Man and ongoing series Saga are both excellent!

8. Catherynne M. Valente (Fairyland Series): Catherynne M. Valente is an author unlike no other... though it initially took a while to get into her writing in her Fairyland Series, I came to really love it for its uniqueness!

9. Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series): I was inspired by Micheline to finally dig into the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series by Douglas Adams on audiobook this year and while my interest definitely waned as the series went on, I loved my hilarious Douglas Adams experience!

10. Roald Dahl (The BFG, Esio Trot, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox): Okay, okay, Roald Dahl isn't a new author for me. BUT in some ways it felt like a new experience as I haven't read any of his books since devouring most of them as a wee child many, many years ago. I am about halfway through my Roald Dahl boxset that I got for Christmas last year and thoroughly enjoying every whimsical moment!