Top 5 Wednesdays: Cats & Dogs

I feel like this week’s prompt is pretty similar to one that came up not long ago about books with animals on the cover, although this one is a little more specific since it focuses only on cats and dogs! I have always wanted a dog, except for the fact that I’m not willing to pick up poop. I also like cats but don’t think I’d be able to have one because I’m pretty sure I’m allergic. I’ve never been tested, but every time I’m at someone’s house who has a cat (especially a long-haired cat), I end up with a runny nose, sneezing, etc. This week’s topic was supposed to be books that I think would be good for cat and/or dog lovers, but I decided to alter it a bit. I couldn’t really think of that many books that I’d read so far where the pets are particularly memorable, aside from Angus in Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson series. Instead, I decided to search through my TBR shelf on Goodreads and find books that I haven’t read yet that I expect will be good for cat or dog lovers or at least where the pets seem to be a focus. Since I haven’t read them yet, I obviously can’t be 100% sure how much of a role the pet plays, but many of these are books that I’ve at least heard have animals that have something of a prominent role. I decided to search for examples for both dogs and cats, and very quickly realized that cats were so much harder to find! I literally scoured through all 262 pages of my list on Goodreads just to scrape up a few examples that show cats. To balance things out a bit, I’m once again including more than 5 examples.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.


Top 10 Tuesdays: Things That Make Me Instantly NOT Want to Read A Book

This week’s topic was definitely one that made me think! I’ve definitely had books where my initial gut reaction is “nope” just based on the subject matter, but I don’t really actively think about books that I’m not interested in reading so it can be hard to think of why it lost my interest. I ended up browsing through many other people’s lists from the last time this was a Top 10 Tuesday topic back in 2017, but found that it was of little help since most of the factors people listed don’t really matter to me. As expected, a lot of people listed any kind of problematic content as an automatic no, but for me, it depends a lot of what the author’s purpose is in including that content and how it is addressed. I actually don’t have an issue with some characters in books just being bad people and expressing problematic views, since I typically find that it’s pretty clear that these characters are meant to be reprehensible. I also don’t mind some of the more widely hated tropes, although again, it depends a lot on how they are executed. When thinking about what usually puts me off a book, I realized I had to use more of a “never say never” approach since, ironically enough, some of my favourite books have fallen into most of the categories that I’ve listed below. Instead, I tried to look at it as elements that would give me that immediate sense that the book probably wouldn’t work for me, and at least delays me reading the book for a while, even if not forever.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

1) Boats/set at sea – This was the first thing that immediately came to mind, and I don’t even have a great explanation for why this bothers me. For some reason, as soon as most of the story takes place on a boat, I lose almost all interest. The only exception seems to be when it is a closed circle/locked room mystery set on a boat, since that at least provides a reason why the characters can’t escape so easily. Otherwise, I find boats and sailing so boring, and it makes it so hard for me to get into the book.

2) Westerns – This is the one genre that I haven’t been able to get into at all! I’m sure it’s a matter of just choosing the wrong books, but none of them even seem remotely appealing to me. I only read westerns when forced to by my reading challenge prompts, and it’s always a struggle to find an option that motivates me to even try. I just don’t find the setting interesting at all, and a lot of them just seem so similar.

3) Fame – This one is ironic considering The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is one of my favourite books, but I almost didn’t read that one at all because of the focus on fame. I’m not very interested in reading about characters who either are famous or, more often, who are hoping to become famous. I have slowly started to read a few more of these books lately and have found a few more that I’ve liked, but it’s still one where my initial reaction tends to be “ugh.”

4) Sports – I have zero interest in watching or playing sports, and that seems to have automatically translated over to also having zero interest in reading about them. I don’t mind when a character is involved in sports or even is a professional athlete, as long as the book doesn’t have a major focus on the details of the sport itself. If I don’t find it interesting to watch a sport being played, I can’t imagine finding it interesting to read a description of it either.

5) Police/detective series – I love mysteries and thrillers in general, so these are books that I theoretically should really enjoy, but my initial reaction upon seeing that a mystery/thriller is not a standalone is usually disappointment. Many of these series are so long that I’m not sure I want to commit to them, but I also don’t want to pick up books randomly and risk missing details that might have carried over from one to the next. I sometimes do come around to reading them in the end, but I’m definitely not as quick to pick them up as a standalone thriller.

6) Inescapable hype – Even though I’ve learned over the years that it is often worth it to trust the hype, I can’t help that initial annoyance with anything that seems to be endlessly shoved in my face. My natural inclination is to assume that the book can’t possibly be as good as everyone is claiming and feel like I’d just be setting myself up for disappointment. I usually do end up reading these books, but often long after the hype has died down and most people have moved on to something else.

7) Unusually short page count – To be clear, I am not talking about novellas or short stories! What I mean here is that the book is meant to be a full-length novel, but it’s considerably shorter than most other similar books. I have so many thrillers on my TBR that I keep putting off because they are 220 – 250 pages, which just seems too short to me. It’s possible they’d still be good, but my gut reaction is that it’s not enough room for the author to really develop the characters or the plot properly, so I’m not interested.

8) Christmas – I think this ties directly into my annoyance with anything overhyped. I’ve become a bit of a Grinch about the whole Christmas season because of being bombarded nonstop with it from November onward, and I get very easily burnt out on it. It’s also not a holiday that I personally celebrate so I don’t have a specific attachment to reading Christmas-themed stories, and often find them very cheesy. I don’t mind books that are set around Christmas if they are not too over-the-top focused on the holiday itself, but it’s a very fine line sometimes.

9) Mafia/mob/gangsters – It took me a while to think of this one, but I realized that I tend to actively avoid any book that has to do with this kind of organized crime. I’m not even sure why it bothers me, since I could see it leading to some potentially interesting thrillers, but any mention of these kinds of characters immediately loses my interest for some reason. I’m actually curious if I can figure out what it is about these characters that irritate me!

10) A confusing synopsis – I’ve realized very recently that nothing pulls me out of my immersion in a book faster than being confused! I don’t mind if it’s clear that it’s because the author is purposely leading up to a reveal that will explain things, but it really bothers me to feel like I’ve missed something or don’t know what’s going on at all. I think this is especially the case for a synopsis, since that is usually my first step for checking whether a book might interest me. If I have no clue what the synopsis is trying to tell me, it’s an immediate no, at least until I can figure it out.

Stacking the Shelves (#65)

I was surprised to see that it was already time for another Stacking the Shelves! This month has absolutely flown by somehow, probably because it is one of my busiest at work. The only time this month that I really actively remember looking for new books is a couple of weeks back, where I started looking at lists of upcoming 2024 releases. I know it’s still extremely early to be thinking ahead to 2024, but I find it so fun to see what some of my favourite authors have planned! I ended up adding a total of 58 more books to my Goodreads shelves this month, and although not all of those are 2024 releases, I would say close to half of them were. The downside of this, of course, is that many of these books don’t have a cover or a synopsis yet, which makes it harder to include on a list like this. I still like to add these books to my list when I see them as a reminder to check them out again closer to the release date, but I definitely remember choosing not to add a few that really had no detail at all yet, unless they were by an author I’ve already read and loved. There have been months in the past where I’ve added over 100 books to my list, so I think I’ve struck a decent balance for now of adding some that interest me while leaving some until later when I can find out a little more.

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme all about the books we are adding to our shelves each week. It is hosted by TyngaReviewsand ReadingReality.

1) Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? by Crystal Smith Paul

This book was a Book of the Month pick for this month that I opted not to take because I already had other books that I really wanted. I hadn’t heard of this book before and didn’t really look into at all until after I’d already shipped my box. However, once I actually read the synopsis, it reminded me quite a bit of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Even though I’m not that interested in fame or celebrities, this book has enough of a resemblance that I’m hoping I might like it as much. This book is about a white actress named Kitty Karr Tate, who dies and bequeaths her entire estate to the three St. John sisters, who are young, wealthy Black women. Elise St John, who is a celebrity herself, discovers one of Kitty’s journals that reveals the truth behind her ascent to stardom and threatens to expose a whole web of secrets. This book involves one of my favourite tropes of a person digging into someone well-known’s history to uncover their secrets, much like Evelyn Hugo or The Thirteenth Tale. Had I known that about the book when it first came up as an option, I likely would have chosen it even though I hadn’t heard of it before. This book is quite likely to be one of my add-ones in the coming months, depending on what else is offered. The next batch of selections should be coming soon!

2) Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

This author has been very loosely on my radar for many years now. I’ve had her book The Queen’s Rising on my TBR since 2018 but mostly forgot about it since I had so many other fantasy series on the go. This book is her most recent release which just came out at the start of April, and as soon as I took a proper look at the synopsis, it jumped straight up my list! This book is about a teenage girl named Iris who is just trying to hold her family together, with her mother suffering from addiction and her brother on the frontlines of the war among the gods. Iris knows that her best option is to win the promotion offered at the Oath Gazette, and she begins to write letters to her brother that she slips under her wardrobe door, not realizing that they are vanishing into the hands of her rival at the paper, Roman. When Roman starts to anonymously write back to her, they forge a deep connection that follows her all the way to the frontlines. While I’m not that interested in stories focused on war, I absolutely love when characters bond through letters and I also love stories of rivals falling for each other, so this sounds absolutely perfect. I have heard nothing but incredible things about this author in general, and I was surprised to see that every single one of her books so far has an average rating over 4 stars on Goodreads, which is pretty rare! To be fair, not all of her books have a ton of ratings (many are in the 6500 range), but it’s definitely an encouraging sign. I wasn’t really planning to read this author’s books yet, but I’m now thinking she might need to be added to my priority list for next year.

3) A Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand

This book intrigued me as soon as I saw it was the first authorized novel to build on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. For the sake of full disclosure, it’s probably worth mentioning that while I did read the original and enjoyed it overall, I definitely didn’t love it as much as everyone else seems to. I listened to it as an audiobook and while I enjoyed it at the time, I didn’t find it particularly memorable and even a bit less scary than I expected. I think it may be worth rereading at some point physically. This book is a contemporary story about a struggling playwright named Holly who has received a grant to develop her play, and decides that Hill House is the perfect place to get the time and space to work on it. Despite her hesitations, Holly’s girlfriend Nisa agrees to rent the house with her for the month, and soon a troupe of actors arrive. As the group settles in, strange things begin to happen around the house and Holly and her friends find themselves at odds with each other and with the house itself. I’ve been really getting into haunted house stories over the past year or so, and this one sounds amazing. It definitely helps that the cover art is absolutely incredible! I wasn’t that interested in this at first because all I remembered of the original is that I didn’t like it quite as much as I’d expected, but upon looking back at my notes, I saw that I gave it 4.5 stars so it was definitely something that I’d enjoyed overall! I actually wonder a bit if the contemporary setting of this story will make it work even better for me.

4) She’s Not Sorry by Mary Kubica

There’s no cover available for this one yet, but I wanted to include it anyway because it at least had a detailed synopsis already. This book is the author’s upcoming 2024 release, and it is about an ICU nurse named Meghan who is trying to find a balance between her work and being a single mom to her teenage daughter. When a patient named Caitlin arrives in a coma with a traumatic brain injury after jumping off a bridge onto the train tracks below, Meghan is shocked when a witness comes forward with details that call everything into question. According to this witness, Caitlin may have been pushed, not jumped on her own. Although Meghan tries her best to remain emotionally detached from all of her patients, she finds herself getting too close this time and becoming entangled in the lives of Caitlin nd her family, only to realize that doing so may have put herself and her own daughter in danger. Despite Mary Kubica being on my priority author list a few years back, I’ve fallen very behind in keeping up with her books. I’ve actually only read one so far, although I’ve had several more on my reading challenge plan lists for years now. This year alone, I have at least two that I’d like to read, and I’m hoping to prioritize them so I can catch up a bit before tackling more of her backlist. Her books always have interesting premises, albeit not necessarily the most unique, and I’d love to give more of her books a chance.

5) No One Can Know by Kate Alice Marshall

This author’s debut adult thriller What Lies in the Woods is one of my favourite books of the year so far, so as soon as I saw she has another adult thriller due out next year, I immediately had to add it to my list. This book is about a woman named Emma who has not been very upfront with her husband about her family. When she and her husband lose their apartment and run out of money right as Emma discovers she is pregnant, she is forced to confess that she has one more asset remaining — her parents’ house, which she shares with her estranged sisters. Although they can’t sell the house, they would be able to live in it, but returning to the house means letting her husband in on all her secrets, including the fact that her parents were murdered in the house and Emma herself was suspected of the crime. Returning to the house might lure her sisters back, but it also threatens to reveal secrets that the family and even the town down want revealed. This book sounds absolutely amazing, and I’m sure it will end up high on my list to read next year! It includes so many of my favourite tropes, and I absolutely loved the author’s writing style. I’m a little burnt out on books, especially thrillers, that focus on a character who is pregnant, but there is enough else here that interests me that I’m still very excited to try it. I still have many of this author’s YA books on my list to read this year too, and I’m looking forward to trying more of her writing!

6) My Darling Girl by Jennifer McMahon

This is another author who had been on my priority list last year, and I ended up reading two of her books so far. I was surprised to see that she had another horror/thriller coming out this October, and immediately added it to my TBR. This book is about a woman named Alison whose estranged mother Mavis has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and wants to spend her remaining days with her daughter. Alison reluctantly agrees to take her in, hoping that it will give her and her mother a chance to heal and repair their relationship after years of alcoholism and abuse. When mysterious things begin to happen as soon as Mavis arrives, Alison begins to suspect that her mother is not who she seems, and must figure out how far she is willing to go to protect her family. I was put off initially because the first thing I noticed in the synopsis was that the book was set around Christmas, but there doesn’t seem to be anything Christmas-y at all about the plot. This seems like the kind of horror/thriller that could really hinge on the idea of whether the creepy things happening are real or mostly in the character’s head given her relationship with her mother. I love how this author tends to balance between the realistic and potentially paranormal elements, and I’m very interested in trying this one. This is another author that I really need to catch up on.

7) A Killer in the Family by Gytha Lodge

I can’t remember where I first saw this book, but I suspect it was because the cover caught my attention while browsing my Goodreads feed. This book is about a single mom named Aisling who decides to upload her DNA to an ancestry site in attempt to find her long-lost father, whom she hasn’t seen since she was a teenager in Ireland. However, instead of her father, she is contacted by Detective Jonah Sheens saying that her DNA is a close match for the “bonfire killer” who has been terrorizing the neighbourhood. I definitely did not notice when I added this that it was part of a detective series, and to be honest, that does put me off a little unless I have the motivation to go back and read the four prior books in the series. I know that these kinds of series often don’t include a ton of crossover and can mostly be treated as standalones, but knowing that it is part of a series makes me automatically more aware of anything that seems to be drawn from earlier books and pulls me out of the story. I just looked at the synopses of the other books and they actually do sound very interesting, but I’m not quite convinced I want to commit to reading a series. I’ll leave this one on my TBR for now as a reminder to possibly come back to it later, but I can’t say it’s particularly high on my list at this time.

8) A Good House for Children by Kate Collins

This is definitely a book that caught my attention because of the amazing cover! It is this author’s debut, about a woman named Orla who agrees to move to an antiquated house on the Dorset cliffs after her husband suggests the change. Orla partly agrees that their apartment is too small, but mostly is too tired to argue with him. As soon as the family moves in, Orla finds herself unsettled as she hears voices when no one is around, doors open and close on their own, and her young son Sam seems to have made an imaginary friend. Four decades earlier, a woman named Lydia had also moved into that same house as a live-in nanny for a grieving family, and she too had noticed strange things going on and feared for the safety of the children. No one in either of these women’s lives believe them, writing their claims off as the imaginings of women who spend too much time with children, but both Orla and Lydia fear that the house is hiding secrets of its own. The premise of this sounds absolutely amazing, and one of my favourite kinds of Gothic-inspired horror premises. I’m not entirely sure of how the two timelines will connect since the synopsis made them seem completely separate, but I’m very curious to give this book a chance. As mentioned above, I’ve been getting very into haunted house stories, and I especially love the creepiness of children with “imaginary” friends, so this sounds like something right up my alley.

9) The Fury by Alex Michaelides

I’ll get the elephant in the room out of the way first — I really do not like this cover! The blue sections both seem weirdly out of place and almost jarring, but I suspect it probably relates somehow to the plot. I absolutely loved both of this author’s previous thrillers, so I was excited to see that he had something new coming early next year. According to the synopsis, this book is about someone named Elliot Chase who is going to tell the story of a group of people trapped overnight on an ex-movie star’s private Greek island, in a night that ended in violence and murder. It took me a little time to really figure out what this book was about since the synopsis seems to be told from the perspective of Elliot. From what I can gather, this book seems a little along the lines of And Then There Were None, with characters trapped together in an isolated location. It sounds very interesting and I’ve really enjoyed this author’s writing style, although I know his books don’t work for everyone, so I’m curious to try this one too. I wonder if the cover will somehow look a little better on the actual physical book, because it seems so strange. To be fair, I really hated the creepy cover of The Silent Patient too, and that ended up being one of my favourite thrillers, so it’s literally a case of “don’t judge a book by its cover!” I normally don’t let a cover bother me this much, but somehow I find this one super off-putting.

10) The Quiet Tenant by Clemence Michallon

I added this book to my list because it reminded me very strongly of Notes on an Execution, which is very high on my list to read this year. It is about a serial killer named Aiden who has been hiding his dark secret from his family, including the fact that he has a ninth victim Rachel currently imprisoned in the backyard shed. When Aiden’s wife dies, he and his 13-year-old daughter Cecilia are forced to move, leaving him with no choice but to bring Rachel along as a “family friend” who needs somewhere to stay, hoping that she will be too afraid to try to escape after five years in captivity. However, Rachel quickly realizes that Cecilia may be her way out, and as she tests the boundaries of their new living arrangement, she starts to form a bond with the teenager. When a local restaurant owner named Emily develops a crush on Aiden, she finds herself drawn into Rachel and Cecilia’s lives too, where she gets dangerously close to uncovering Aiden’s secrets. This book is told through the perspectives of the three women and explores the bonds between them and the impact Aiden’s crimes had on them all. Like Notes on an Execution, this book explores the lives of the women who are impacted by a killer rather than focusing on the killer himself. I love this whole concept, and the two books seem different enough that I think I’d really enjoy both.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Princesses

Despite the fact that The Princess Diaries was one of my favourite movies and I was absolutely obsessed with the Royal Diaries book series, I have never been particularly interested in princesses. I liked watching Disney movies with princesses, but often liked the movies that focused on other characters instead (ie. The Lion King, Hercules) because I found many of the princesses too passive. When I played games with my friends, who were mostly boys, I was a lot more likely to act out being lost in a forest and trying to survive, Halloween characters like vampires, or our own made-up characters who were usually animals. We played with Pokemon cards and video games. Even with my female friends, we usually played with My Little Ponies, Puppy in my Pocket, or animal toys a lot more than princesses. I liked princess stories that were based on real people or where the princess actually took an active role, like Ella Enchanted or The Two Princesses of Bamarre. I’m not saying this as a kind of “not like other girls” thing, just to illustrate the point that I’m not super familiar with books that feature princesses since it’s not something that I would typically seek out. Apparently this topic was chosen because it’s International Tiara Day, which is a holiday I have definitely never heard of. For this week’s topic, I decided to focus on some books with princesses that I’m interested in reading, instead of those that I’ve already read. Strangely, I found some books didn’t outright use the word “princess” in the synopsis, and instead referred to the character being the daughter of a king or queen, which seemed like a weirdly roundabout way to say it. I also purposely didn’t include any books that are directly about Disney princesses (ie. the Twisted Tales series) since it seemed too obvious. Like usual, since I’m only including covers, I’ll put more than 5.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Things That Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book

I was very surprised to see that it had already been so long since the last time this topic came up! My original list on this topic was all the way back in April 2019, and it’s a good thing I checked that list first, since many of my buzzwords are still the same. I’ve definitely read more books that would fit into each of those original 10 categories by now and likely have some stronger recommendations overall, but it was fun to look back and see if my reading tastes have changed at all since then. If anything, I would say that my tastes have likely become even a little more specific since then, which is not surprising given that I’ve read somewhere around 650 more books since then. A lot of the process of coming up with my new list involved looking at some of my favourite books and picking out what I liked about them that made me seek out other similar books, and also looking at some my 5-star predictions to pinpoint what it was that drew me to them. There are a few items that made my list this time that I’m actually surprised I didn’t think to include the first time around, although it’s possible that I just hadn’t read enough of them at the time to count them. As with my original list, I’m going to include just a few recommendations of books I’ve read that fit each category, and list a few examples that I have not read yet but want to because of these tropes or elements. If anyone has any recommendations that might fit any of these categories, please feel free to let me know!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

1) Dark Academia – I was very surprised to see that this didn’t make my original list, but I guess it makes sense since the trend really took off after I’d made my original post. I love dark academia because of the whole university and/or boarding school setting, which often has creepy elements like secret societies, a mystery, and sometimes explores the lengths characters might go in pursuit of knowledge or success. These books might also focus around the dark side of academia in general, or a some kind of unseal or even illicit activities. For me, it combines my interest in books with academic settings with a Gothic or mysterious atmosphere, and usually some very morally grey characters. I also like that thrillers, fantasy, and even some realistic fiction could fit into dark academia so there’s some good variety.

Some Examples: Ninth House, If We Were Villains, Vicious, The Maidens

On My TBR: The Whispering Dark, A Lesson in Vengeance, Ace of Spades, Babel

2) Podcasts – I’ve only very recently started listening to some podcasts myself, but it’s an element that I’ve really enjoyed in a lot of books already! It’s a bit of a spin-off of my original list where I mentioned books that included a focus on social media. I still love those in general as well, but I’ve definitely noticed that a mention of a podcast, especially a true crime podcast, in the synopsis is very likely to draw my attention. I’m not even sure why I tend to love books that involve podcasts since I read most of my books physically, and I feel like a podcast element would naturally fare better in an audio format, but it catches my interest every time. I suspect it has something to do with the idea of characters pursuing the truth about a specific story, and I often like how the authors incorporate the interviews or episode scripts as a kind of mixed-media element (which, ironically enough, is another item I was surprised to see I’d left off my original list!).

Some Examples: All The Dangerous Things, The Night Swim, Sadie, The Children on the Hill

On My TBR: I Hope You’re Listening, I Killed Zoe Spanos, The Last Housewife, Things We Do in the Dark

3) Haunted house – I used to actively avoid anything involving ghosts because of how easily they creeped me out, but over the past few years, I’ve discovered that I absolutely love most haunted house stories! I especially love the ones that play with the idea of whether the house is actually haunted or if it’s all in the character’s head. I’m taking the “house” part of this kind of loosely since it can really apply to any kind of haunted building. What I love about these stories is ultimately the thing that initially put me off them — they are often so creepy and tend to stick with me for a long time afterwards. However, some of my favourite books over the past few years have been haunted house stories so I think it’s time so switch it from something I avoid to something I’d actually seek out.

Some Examples: Home Before Dark, White Smoke, The Sun Down Motel, Delicious Monsters

On My TBR: How To Sell a Haunted House, The Spite House, A House With Good Bones, Just Like Home, The Invited

4) “Is my family member a monster?” – I’m not really sure if there’s a name for this kind of trope (if there is, please let me know!), but what I’m referring to are books where family members are grappling with the question of whether their relative could have done something horrific. I’m not necessarily thinking of literal monsters, although I guess that could be the case too. This is one of my favourite premises because it often leads to very complex character dynamics, especially when different family members take sides about whether they think the person could have actually committed such a horrific crime. Many of the books I’ve read along these lines so far are about parents facing the possibility that their children have done something bad, but it could also go the opposite way.

Some Examples: Defending Jacob, We Need to Talk About Kevin, A Flicker in the Dark

On My TBR: The Push, All That Is Mine I Carry With Me, Apples Never Fall, Saving Noah, The Perfect Son

5) Fairy tale retelling/fairy tale vibes – I love fairy tales and I can easily remember being shocked to find out how gruesome many of them actually were when I read the originals years later. Even now, I love books that are either actually retellings of fairy tales or else have that kind of fairy tale-like atmosphere. I’ve read several books over the years that remind me of fairy tales, especially those that actually involve elements like bargains, the “rule of three” or fairy tale creatures like fae, goblins, etc. I love when books capture that kind of fairy tale-like feeling in a completely new and unique story.

Some Examples: Uprooted, The Lunar Chronicles, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, The Folk of the Air series, Girls Made of Snow and Glass

On My TBR: Six Crimson Cranes, Gilded, For the Wolf, An Enchantment of Ravens, The Sisters of the Winter Wood

6) Interviewer, author, or caregiver uncovers a (usually dark) secret past – Again, I’m not sure if there’s a proper name for this trope, but I had several books that fit quite clearly into it. Essentially, what I mean by this premise is a person is brought into the life of someone, often an older and/or reclusive person, and through their work with them, uncovers a secret that they have been holding on to. In most cases, this happens because the person has decided that they are finally ready to share what happened, but only with that specific person. Often, these characters are some kind of interviewer or biographer, but in other cases, they might be a caregiver or employee of some kind. Many of my favourite books have fallen into this pattern, and it is a plotline that immediately catches my attention every time I see it. If anyone knows if there is a name for this trope, please let me know!

Some Examples: The Book of Cold Cases, The Thirteenth Tale, Verity, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

On My TBR: The Only One Left, The Wife Upstairs

7) Academic pressure/rivalry – This one may be a little randomly specific, but it is definitely something I look for. Even though it’s been years since I’ve been in school myself, I like books that focus on academic pressure because it’s something I found wasn’t really addressed much in the past. I was thinking specifically of books that involved self-imposed pressure, but I would even open it up to those that focus on characters who are pressured by those around them too, including rivalries with other students competing for the same opportunities. I definitely relate strongly to the perfectionist kind of character who pushes themselves to do well/feels anxious when they don’t! I think I’ve read more books in general that focus on this at the high school level, but it could certainly apply to college/university too.

Some Examples: Enter Title Here, Instant Karma, Radio Silence, I Kissed Shara Wheeler

On My TBR: This Is Not a Personal Statement, Today Tonight Tomorrow, The Gifted School, We Regret to Inform You, What’s Not to Love

8) Closed circle mysteries – I alternate back and forth between calling these “closed circle” vs “locked room” mysteries since there is quite a bit of overlap, but I think closed circle seems the most accurate overall. These are mysteries that take place, typically in a relatively isolated setting, where there is only a limited number of possible suspects who all had motive and opportunity to commit the crime (usually murder). The characters must figure out who among them could be the killer before more people fall victim. Many of my favourite thrillers involved this premise! I love them because it’s fun to try to figure out who the culprit is alongside the characters, and there are often some very interesting twists.

Some Examples: And Then There Were None, Reckless Girls, The Hunting Party, One of Us Is Lying, The Writing Retreat

On My TBR: Daisy Darker, The Guest List, Guess Who, No Exit, Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six

9) Hard-hitting YA contemporary – I very strongly considered making this one “anything by Tiffany D. Jackson” but I decided to broaden it a bit to include a few other authors as well. I don’t necessarily read quite as much YA as I used to, but when I do, I tend to prefer books that have something a little more to them than just a fluffy romance, although I do enjoy a good romance sometimes too. Many of my favourite YA books are hard-hitting contemporaries that tackle all kinds of difficult topics. These books tend to be more emotional and stick with me a lot. Many of the examples listed below are books that I read a few years ago, and have stuck with me ever since!

Some Examples: Monday’s Not Coming, The Astonishing Colour of After, The Cost of Knowing, Early Departures, Harley in the Sky, A List of Cages, The Nowhere Girls

On My TBR: Dark Room Etiquette, Far From the Tree, I’m the Girl, Off the Record

10) Returning home or reuniting with friends/family to uncover the truth – Again, I’m sure there’s an actual name for this trope, but I’m not sure what it is. What I mean by this is books where the main character was either involved or witness to some kind of crime or traumatic event in their past, and circumstances force them to return back home years down the line. Often, this puts them back in contact with their estranged family or a group of their friends who might also know what really happened. Something may be happening that indicates that their understanding of their past may have been wrong, and they must confront and/or uncover the truth before history repeats itself or someone comes after them to stop them. That probably seems extremely specific, but it’s a great fit for so many of my favourite thrillers, and it’s a plotline that always draws me to a book.

Some Examples: What Lies in the Woods, The Family Plot, The Family Upstairs, The Shadows

On My TBR: Such a Quiet Place, What Have We Done, Sharp Objects, Black Mouth

Recent Reads (#25)

I’ve been procrastinating a bit on this Recent Reads because I wasn’t sure how to mention these three thrillers without risking revealing any of the twists! I chose to group these three books together because they were all thrillers released in the past year or so that have to do with a character with sleep disturbances. Two of these books had been high on my list to read last year, but I somehow didn’t get to them in time and decided to prioritize both this year instead. The third was a book by one of my priority authors for this year. As I mentioned in my previous Recent Reads, one of my goals for this year was to read more thrillers overall. At this point, I am now a quarter of the way to my goal with 10 thrillers read so far, out of my minimum goal of reading 40! Thrillers are one of my favourite genres but I somehow always find myself reading fewer than I’d expect given how many of them I have on my reading challenge plans each year. As much as I love to read thrillers, I don’t always like reading so many back-to-back since they start to blend together a bit, especially when they have some similarities in their premises. However, in this case, I was very excited to finally have the chance to read all three of these books which were already so high on my list!

It may be a bit of a stretch to call this one “recent” since I read it all the way back at the end of March, but the first sleep-themed thriller that I read was Stay Awake, a book which had been on my 5-star predictions for last year and I was disappointed that I didn’t get to it. I didn’t get a copy of this book until much too late in the year, so I ended up pushing it back. Luckily, when I finally did pick it up, I ended up loving it! This book drew me in immediately with the author’s writing style, and I loved how she alternated between the perspectives of the main character Liv and the two detectives. For those who may not have heard of it, this book is about a woman named Liv who wakes up in a cab with no memory of how she got there, and the words “stay awake” written on her hands. Liv soon sees a news report of a brutal murder with a similar message written on the window, and finds herself on the run for a crime she can’t remember committing. I was generally more invested in Liv’s chapters overall because of how she was trying to piece together her memory of what happened and why she couldn’t remember. I did find the detectives a little annoying at times, especially because there was one detail they seemed to get stuck on that I thought they really should have been able to pick up on. I don’t really use the word “page-turner” to describe books very often, but it definitely fits for this one! It was very fast-paced and had short chapters which really kept the story moving and also kept me wanting to find out what happened next. While I did feel the book lost a little momentum toward the end, I also thought that might have been because I’d read it spaced over 4 days and could easily see myself enjoying it that much more if I’d been able to read straight through. I also noticed some awkwardness in the writing style toward the end that hadn’t seemed to be there the rest of the way through, however I loved the twists and reveals toward the end and had a great time with this book overall. This was my third time reading a thriller by this author, and although none have quite hit 5 stars for me yet, they’ve all been pretty close.

The second sleep disturbance-related thriller that I read fairly recently was Insomnia, and I actually intentionally wanted to read this one back-to-back (or close to it) with Stay Awake because I thought the contrast between a character who couldn’t fall asleep and a character who had to force themselves to stay awake was kind of funny. This book is about a woman named Emma who fears having the same kind of mental breakdown that her mother did upon turning 40, especially when she starts to notice the same signs of insanity in herself, causing her to worry that she might become a danger to her family just like her mother did. I had a little bit of a hard time with the prologue since it seemed so disconnected from the rest of the book at first, but got into it very quickly once the “main” story started and I loved the way the author captured Emma’s experience of insomnia. I loved how the author included flashbacks to Emma’s childhood with her mother and her sister Phoebe, and found many of her memories so creepy. I loved how the author slowly revealed details of what had happened to Emma in the past and genuinely seemed to call into question whether Emma could now be losing her mind too. I also loved the very realistic dynamics between Emma and her frustrated husband Robert as her paranoia seemed to grow the closer her birthday got. I loved the creepiness of Emma’s behaviour and how it was viewed by those around her, especially her young son Will. While I did enjoy the ultimate twists and definitely did not predict them, I also somehow found it a little underwhelming in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. However, I think it may be relevant to note that I was reading this book during a weekend where I’d learned that a participant in the day program I work for had suddenly died and I attended the funeral, so that naturally had an impact on my ability to read and enjoy things. I still ended up rating this book 4.5 stars, but it is another one that is arguably very, very close to a 5.

Very recently, I intentionally picked up a third sleep disturbance-themed thriller with the intent of discussing all three of these together, although to be fair, this book was already very high on my list to read anyway. Earlier this month, I read All the Dangerous Things, which is about a mother named Isabelle who has not slept more than a small catnap since her infant son Mason was kidnapped from her home a year ago. Isabelle teams up with the host of a true crime podcast in hopes of finding some new leads on her case, and in the process uncovers memories from her own childhood which make her question what really happened to her son. I’ll admit I was in a tiny bit of a reading slump when I picked this one up since I had recently read quite a few very long books, but luckily that did not affect my enjoyment of this one too much. This is my second book by this author, and once again, her writing style gripped me right from the start and I loved the way she built Izzy’s investigations into Mason’s disappearance, especially some of the commentary offered about the true crime community in general. I also enjoyed how the author slowly revealed more details about Izzy’s husband as well as about her childhood over the course of the book, although a few of the reveals seemed a bit sudden. I was also very pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t been able to predict the ending despite having about 3 separate theories about what could have happened, although arguably that could also be interpreted as the ending being a bit out of nowhere. While I wouldn’t quite say this book gripped me as much as this author’s debut A Flicker in the Dark, I still really enjoyed it and I would definitely be interested in trying more by this author in the future.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Mysteries

I’ve come to the realization lately that I have a very hard time differentiating mysteries from thrillers at this point, since there is so much overlap! I think the majority of the thrillers that I’ve read and loved would technically fit more closely as mystery/thrillers. This confusion gets even worse when I try to look at Goodreads for recommendations based on these genres, and often find many of the same books listed for both. To be honest, I’m not sure exactly how much the distinction really matters on a practical level, but it bugs me a bit that I can’t easily categorize the books. I even tried looking up the definitions to check what the main difference was, and according to this site, a mystery is primarily about solving a crime by piecing together the clues, whereas a thriller is typically focused on the character’s safety and survival with an element of danger. Another big difference is that in a mystery, the crime has already happened, whereas in a thriller, there is the fear or dread of a future crime or danger. Even with those definitions in mind, I still find that a lot of books are a blend of both genres. This week’s topic is to recommend some of our favourite mysteries because apparently May is “Mystery Month,” so here are a few of the mysteries that I’ve read and loved!

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Things Getting in the Way of Reading

This topic could not have come at a better time for me! I’ve definitely been feeling like a lot of things have been getting in the way of me reading as much as I’ve wanted lately, even if many of those things are completely self-imposed. It’s put me into a mild slump where even though I’m still reading every day, it bothers me that I’m not necessarily reading as much as I think I “should” or could be reading. One of my goals for this year was to try to make more time for reading because I’d noticed I got myself into a pattern of only starting to read late in the evening, after wasting several hours not really doing much, and then being annoyed that I didn’t read much. It’s completely fine to spend time on other things instead, but I think the fact that it’s frustrating me that I didn’t read kind of signals that maybe I want to allocate my time differently. I’ve generally been finding that I’ve had a harder time focusing on reading lately, even when I’m really enjoying the book, although that’s something that tends to come and go in phases throughout the year. I’m hoping that putting some thought into identifying the things that are getting in the way of reading will help me either change the pattern, or at least accept that it might be a time right now where I’m reading a little less and that’s okay!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

1) Busy/tiring work days – I’m not sure what exactly has changed since I’ve been at the same job for close to 10 years now, but for some reason, I’ve been finding it more tiring lately. There have been a few days where I’ve needed to take a quick nap (even just 20 minutes) after coming home to kind of reset, which is something I’ve never really done before! It’s also an especially busy time of year at work right now since we have all of our end-of-year paperwork, I’m starting to work on some of our biggest newsletters of the year, and we’re leading up to our annual play and art show!

2) Sleep – This one is mostly applicable on the weekends, since I tend to sleep through a huge chunk of the morning. I have trouble falling asleep early in general, so I definitely don’t get enough sleep through my work week, and end up catching up on it over the weekend (even though I know it doesn’t really work that way). I’ll often go to bed between 1 and 2 am on the weekends, and then sleep until anywhere from 10 am to noon! That means that everything else I have to do in the day gets pushed back until the afternoon, leaving me with less time to read, so I might stay up late to read instead, thus keeping the cycle going.

3) The heat – This one has only been relevant for the past few days, but we’ve had a few very hot days in a row within the past week and it’s definitely impacted my reading. I have a tendency to overheat very easily, and it’s harder for me to focus when I’m overheated. Even though I have air conditioning, my room tends to be the hottest in the house, especially because I keep my door closed if I’m on a video chat with friends or listening to music/watching a show, so it heats up that much more. At least the effect of this is only temporary, since once I adapt to the temperature change, I should be able to concentrate again.

4) True crime videos – I go through phases every so often where I’m a little obsessed with true crime (usually specific cases), and this has definitely affected my reading lately. I recently found a true crime channel on Youtube run by a woman named Stephanie Harlowe, and I got invested in watching several of her videos on a variety of cases. Her videos tend to be on the longer side (1-2 hours each) and are very detailed, so they are not the kind of thing I can throw on in the background while reading like I can with some other kinds of videos.

5) My own lack of focus – I guess this is a bit too vague to really include here since the question is about what is affecting my ability to focus on reading, but I’ve found myself getting very easily distracted while trying to read in general. Part of that is just my usual tendency to overthink, so I’ll often end up thinking about other things (ie. work, things I need to do, etc.) while I’m reading, which pulls me out of the book completely. It’s definitely a lot worse on days where I’m already tired, but I sometimes find myself getting distracted even when I really want to be reading!

6) Too many book choices! – This one may seem a little backwards, but I sometimes find myself having a hard time starting to read when I need to choose my next book to read! I have so many books that I’m excited to read right away and it’s tough to figure out what to read next, especially when I’m also trying to factor in how much time I’ll have and how much focus I think it will require. Even while I’m reading one book, I’m sometimes thinking ahead to what else I want to read next, which can be distracting.

7) Long books – This one may be cheating a bit since technically, I am still reading! I just find that I struggle in general with longer books because after a certain point, I start to feel a bit bogged down if I’m not reading as much or as quickly as I expected. Even though I often objectively look back on how long these books took and realize that the amount of time it took makes perfect sense (I average around 100 pages per day), it feels like it’s taking too long and I start to lose patience, even if it’s a book that I’m otherwise enjoying.

8) Discord chats – To be honest, I mostly use Discord to chat with one specific friend and sometimes I find those conversations can have a huge impact on my reading, especially since he likes to talk (or sometimes rant) about big political/societal topics, and I can find those conversations frustrating. Aside from that, I participate in a few public servers, but tend to find those distracting since there are so many notifications coming through. I’ve had to mute almost everything, but then I get distracted by looking to see if there are new messages, so that’s really no better.

9) Social media – I mostly use social media to post about my reading challenges, but I also play Facebook games and I like to browse threads on Twitter and, more recently, Reddit. As expected, these can all be a major time suck and it’s very easy to waste a very long time without even realizing it! I have a routine of checking a few of the sites/apps I use in the evenings when I get home, but it definitely takes up a lot of time that I could otherwise spend reading.

10) Pokemon Go – I am extremely late to the party with this app, but I never had a phone that could support it until the past year! I’m lucky enough to have a Gym that’s accessible right from my house so I can access items and Pokemon pretty easily, but some days, my coworker and I walk around after work to complete some of the missions, search for Pokemon, etc. The only reason I say this gets in the way of reading is because it means I get home later than usual, and delays everything else that I need to do before I can settle in to read, even though it’s fun!

7 on Sunday: Hyped Authors You Haven’t Read Yet

Even though I already had another post planned for this weekend, I didn’t want to skip this topic too! One of my goals over the past several years has been actively trying to read some of the authors that I’d been avoiding. In many cases, the authors that made it onto my lists have been those who were extremely hyped, to the point where I purposely chose to wait. Hype can get me excited for a book or author, but I find that there’s a tipping point for me where it just becomes too much and makes me not want to read the book for a while. I think when books get a little too overhyped, I tend to assume that they can’t possibly live up to expectations so they might not actually be worth it, and I also tend to feel burnt out by things that feel repetitive, so if I keep seeing the same books over and over, I get sick of them before I’ve even tried them. To be fair, many of the authors that I’ve prioritized are people who may not be so hyped, but their books keep interesting me to the point where I have their entire backlist on my Goodreads shelf before even trying one to see if I like their writing style. Luckily for me, in most cases, I’ve ended up really enjoying the authors that I’ve prioritized. For this week’s prompt, I focused on some authors that I’ve noticed seem very hyped that I haven’t tried yet, but all of them are on my list to try soon!

7 on Sunday is a new weekly project that was started by Grace of G-Swizzel Books, with a weekly topic for videos and/or blog posts! The official Goodreads group with topics can be found here

1) Holly Jackson – I actively avoided the Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series for a while because I’d lumped it in with other series like Charlotte Holmes and Truly Devious which didn’t particularly interest me at the time. I’ve since read and enjoyed both of those series in addition to other YA mystery/thrillers, so I’m now excited to try this one! I have the entire trilogy and even bought her newest book Five Survive, so I’m hoping I end up enjoying them all.

2) Ashley Audrain – I’m not sure how fair it is to call an author hyped when they’ve only had one book so far, but I’ve heard so much about The Push over the last couple of years and I’m a little upset that I didn’t read it last year given how high it was on my list! I’m planning to read this one in the next few weeks, and have even preordered this author’s second book which is coming out next month since it sounded amazing too.

3) Ashley Winstead – In My Dreams I Hold a Knife was another book that I heard a ton about at first, and it was definitely a case where the initial hype put me off somehow. Once I actually looked at what the book was about, I realized it was something I’d probably love! I’m also very interested in reading this author’s other thrillers including her upcoming release, as well as her two romance books!

4) Olivie Blake – I avoided The Atlas Six at first because I was confused its publication, since it started out as self-published and then got picked up to be traditionally published. I wasn’t sure how much would be changed between the two versions, so I decided to just wait. I haven’t read any of her books yet, but I’ve been very intrigued by the premises of all of them, and I’m looking forward to giving them all a try.

5) Taylor Adams – This author is a very new addition to my list, mostly because of his recent book The Last Word which sounds amazing! I’d been hearing about No Exit for a while but didn’t really think I’d like it at first, and I also think I had it completely mixed up with another thriller that I’ve already read. If I don’t get to any of this author’s books within the year, he will definitely be high on my priority list for next year!

6) R.F. Kuang – For some reason, I’ve been completely intimidated to try The Poppy War, despite hearing that it’s amazing! Both Babel and Yellowface also sound like books that I’d absolutely love if I give them the chance, but for some reason I haven’t been that motivated yet. I’m not even sure what it is that has been putting me off trying this author, so I’ll have to prioritize her soon!

7) Tessa Bailey – I still feel like I’m relatively new to the romance genre, but I think it’s fair to say that Tessa Bailey is a hyped author, especially after her Bellinger Sister series recently. All of her illustrated covers have won me over, and she is now on my list to prioritize this year. I’d mostly avoided her up until now because I wasn’t the most into romance and some of her covers made me assume it wouldn’t be something I’d enjoy, but I’m willing to give at least some of her books a chance!

One-Word Reviews For My 2023 Reads (#3)

As I was trying to schedule out some of the topics for upcoming posts to make sure there wasn’t too much overlap, I realized I was a little overdue for my next set of one-word reviews! It seems like sticking to the pattern of reviewing every time I hit 15 books works better than trying to fit it in at the end of the month, so I think that’s what I’ll keep it as for now. In addition to tracking my books on Goodreads and Storygraph, I also post each book to my personal social media with a number and the prompt and challenged it was used for, so at least I have a pretty good system for keeping track. I actually think my biggest challenge as this series goes on is going to be coming up with enough of a variety of words to use when reviewing each book. I don’t mind if some of the words are repeated in different posts, although I’m sure I’d be a little annoyed if I was repeating the same few every time, but I would like to try to challenge myself to come up with different adjectives as much as possible! I think the biggest challenge I have is that I find some words I want to use have more of a positive or negative connotation than intended, and without the room to add more context, I worry about misrepresenting how I felt about the book. The past month or so was quite a mixed bag of books, so it will be interesting to try to come up with words for each of them this time.

1) New Kid by Jerry Craft

One-word review: Realistic

2) Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

One-word review: Slow-paced

3) Mary Anne’s Bad Luck Mystery by Cynthia Yuan Cheng

One-word review: Underwhelming

4) Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

One-word review: Page-turner

5) Know My Name by Chanel Miller

One-word review: Powerful

6) Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

One-word review: Creepy

7) We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

One-word review: Adorable!

8) Hey Ladies!: The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year, and Way, Way Too Many Emails by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss

One-word review: Irritating

9) The Winners by Fredrik Backman

One-word review: Insightful

10) El Deafo by CeCe Bell

One-word review: Cute

11) An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong

One-word review: Informative

12) Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

One-word review: Interesting

13) Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare

One-word review: Dramatic

14) Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

One-word review: Lighthearted

15) Chain of Thorns by Cassandra Clare

One-word review: Long