The Would You Rather 2.0 Book Tag

I’ve been having a lot of fun with “would you rather” quizzes lately, especially the Would You Rather tag I did not too long ago. I was lucky enough to stumble across a sequel to it, which I found here. I am not 100% sure if this is the original, since I couldn’t find that information, but it looks like a fun one anyway!

1) Would you rather only do review posts or tag posts?

It’s a bit of a tricky question, since I’ve only recently started doing reviews. Tags are fun, but I’m already starting to run out of ones that I can answer well. I think if I had to pick, I would only do review posts since there is more room for me to choose what I want to write about.

2) Would you rather always see the film version first or never see the film version of a book?

I usually prefer to read the book first, since it bothers me when the film versions change things from the original book. Plus I find seeing the movie spoils the book! However, I think I would still prefer to always see the film version first because that way I would get to experience both. There are some really great film adaptations, and I would hate to miss out on the good ones.

3) Would you rather have a list of every book you’ve ever read (like Goodreads from birth) or still have the physical copy of your first favorite book?

I’m not sure if the second option is referring to any physical copy, or the actual original physical copy you really owned. I actually have a really, really hard time getting rid of books so I probably do have the physical copy of my first favourite book somewhere in the house. In terms of which I’d prefer, I would rather have a complete list, since I sometimes have a really hard time remembering all the books I’ve read over the years. I honestly can’t remember my first ever favourite book, so I don’t have much sentimental value attached to one specific book — I’ve just hoarded the majority of the picture books I remember reading.

4) Would you rather have an active in-person book club of non-book bloggers or have lunch with your best book blogger buddies once a year?

Definitely lunch once a year, although I don’t have any book blogger buddies yet. I would choose that over an in-person book club because I feel like it would be less of a time commitment. My time is already pretty limited. Plus, I’ve always hated group discussions. I’m naturally an extremely introverted person (I honestly would not be surprised if I had social anxiety), so I tend not to talk much in group settings like that, and I prefer discussing books online where I have time to think about what to say.

5) Would you rather have the time to read everything you want to read or the money to buy everything you want to read?

Very difficult question! I know I just complained that my time is limited, but I’m leaning toward having the money to buy all the books I want. I’m on the fence since I rarely buy books anymore. They are getting very expensive, so I’m always worried about wasting money on  a book I don’t like. However, with enough money to buy anything I wanted to read, it wouldn’t feel like such a waste. Of course, then I’d probably just complain that I don’t have time to read all my books.

6) Would you rather dream cast the film or have editing power over the script for the film version of your favorite book?

Definitely editing power over the script, to prevent them from changing everything! I’m not very familiar with current actors/actresses, so I would have no idea how to cast the movie anyway.

7) Would you rather have your favorite fictional superpower or your favorite fictional technology?

Probably superpower, if we count Harry Potter-style magic as a superpower. I’m not sure I know what my favourite fictional technology is.

8) Would you rather read an amazing story with a ‘meh’ ending or a ‘meh’ story with a spectacular ending?

Another very difficult question. I think it might depend on how long the story is. In a short story, I’d prefer a “meh” story with a great ending, but in a longer book, I’d rather have the majority of the story be amazing.

9) Would you rather not be able to read in a moving vehicle or not be able to read lying down?

I already can’t read in most moving vehicles, except for trains and the very rare occasion I take a plane, so I would choose that because it’s not such a change.

10) Would you rather reread your favorite book or series with fresh eyes, like the first time, or be able to un-read your biggest disappointment?

Definitely re-read my favourites as if they were new. I don’t actually have that strong a memory of my most disappointing read, so un-reading it wouldn’t help me much.

How Degrassi Got Diversity Right: The Importance of Diverse Stories

Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about the importance of diversity in literature, especially in YA fiction. It’s a topic that I’ve been struggling with for a while because of the way I often see it handled. One of my favourite things to do is go on GoodReads and look at what other people have to say about the books I’ve read or plan on reading, but lately I’ve noticed a trend that started to really irritate me. It seems that many reviewers expect that all books will be diverse, and lower the rating strictly because a book lacks diverse characters. It got me thinking about what it really means to have diversity in fiction, and whether every story needs to be “diverse.”

I will start by saying that I very strongly support the need for diverse representation in fiction, especially YA books which for a long time, seemed very lacking. However, I took issue with some of the complaints I saw in reviews I was reading. Reviewers might complain, for example, that a story focusing on male protagonists lacked female representation, or that the female characters in that story were stereotypical representations. Reviewers might complain about a lack of racial diversity among the characters. I’ve also seen the opposite — where books are labelled as diverse just because they happen to include a character who is LGBT, a person of colour, etc.

My main issue with these kinds of comments are they seem to take things too far in the other direction. Diversity is included for the sake of diversity, not to serve any real purpose to the story. After thinking about it for several weeks, and reading many others’ blog posts on these kinds of topics, I found I had only one strong example of diversity done well:

Image result for degrassi full cast all seasons

Image result for degrassi season 9 cast

Image result for degrassi full cast all seasons

For those who are not familiar, the above images are about 13 years worth of the cast of Degrassi: The Next Generation, a Canadian teen series about students at a fictional high school. Not only is the cast itself quite diverse, but the show also does an excellent job of representing the diversity of experiences individuals of the same age may go through. For example, the show has featured several LGBT characters, each of which has their own unique story. The characters range from a self-hating gay young man who is so far in denial that it comes out as anger and aggression, to a very flamboyant boy who is already “out and proud” at only 14. You have characters who take a while to realize what their sexuality is. You have a brilliantly handled transgender character. You have strong female characters, and stereotypically girly female characters. And most importantly for me, the characters’ race, sexuality, etc. is not the sole defining feature of the person, at least not for anyone in the main cast. The “gay kid” is a fully developed character who has more to him/her than their sexuality.

What stood out to me about Degrassi as a great example of diversity is that not only were the characters diverse, but so were their stories. Even characters who went through similar experiences went through them in unique ways. For example, the show had several teen pregnancy storylines, each with different results — some characters had the baby and put it up for adoption immediately, some attempted to keep the baby, some had abortions, and one even miscarried. Just about every character went through some kind of relationship drama at some point, but again, those stories represented a wide range of different experiences.

This is what we need from diverse literature. We need books from the genre as a whole to be diverse, not necessarily diversity thrown haphazardly into each and every book. Not every female character has to be a strong female character, just like not every girl or woman in real life would necessarily fit that mold. I would even argue that not every story even needs to have a racially diverse cast of characters. A few years ago when I was in college, our professor for a diversity class opened up a discussion to the room, which had students from many different areas of the city. Several of the white students commented that it was their first time being in a class with a black person, and several of the black students said the same about white classmates. So for me to go from hearing about that to seeing complaints that a book isn’t diverse or realistic enough because there were no characters of colour in the individual story seems a bit silly. People of colour are certainly underrepresented, especially in YA books, but adding them in does not necessarily make the book more realistic or more diverse.

We need diverse books so everyone can see themselves reflected on the page sometimes. People naturally tend to identify with characters who are more like themselves. We also need diverse books so we can have exposure to the multitude of experiences that are unlike our own — to learn about time periods, cultures, places, and lives that are different from ours. We need diverse books, but don’t necessarily need each individual book to be diverse. As long as the genre as a whole offers a variety of representations and stories, I would consider it diverse.

Top 5 Wednesday: Top 5 Books to Get You Out of a Reading Slump

Earlier this year, I posted about some “reading rut remedies” with the different kinds of ruts I’ve noticed myself falling into over the years, and how to find a way out. That post can be found here for anyone interested. Since I’ve started participating in challenges, ruts have been a bit less frequent, but they do still happen. When I fall into a rut, I tend to fall back on old favourites like Harry Potter or A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Another strategy I tend to use is to read something quick and easy to try and get myself motivated to read again. For me, a rut is most likely when books take me much longer than I intended to read, either because they don’t hold my interest or because I just don’t have enough time to read. Reading something on the short side and that is a lighter read has been my best bet for getting back on track.

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

1) Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

8909152I read this book last year as part of one of my reading challenges, and I liked it a lot more than I expected. This book is about a man named Lincoln whose job is to monitor internet security in his office, a task which includes reading his coworkers emails. He starts to read the interactions between two best friends, Jennifer and Beth,  and quickly becomes way too involved in their lives. While there are some potential ethical issues with the storyline, and I did not think the ending was the most realistic, it was a fun book to read and I really enjoyed it!

2) The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

9279177I’d heard a lot about David Levithan’s books, but never tried one until late last year. I was very interested by the very unique style in this book. The entire story is told in the form of dictionary-style entries, with each word “defined” by an episode from the characters’ relationship. This is a very short book, at just over 200 pages, so it reads very quickly. One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is that it is very careful to avoid gender-specific pronouns, so the story can apply equally well to couples of any orientation. I thought this book was very creative, and it was a fresh way to tell a fairly typical YA story.

3) Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

19547856I originally read this book because it was came so highly recommended all over the Internet. It is about a high school student named Simon who is gay and has developed feelings for a boy he has been chatting with online. A classmate discovers their chats, and blackmails Simon by threatening to out him if he does not help another boy get a date with a friend of his. I thought this was an adorable story, and I liked how Simon’s sexuality was important to the plot, but was not the central defining trait of the character. I was a little worried about picking up this book because of all the hype, but it definitely lives up to it!

4) The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka

407429Sometimes when I get into a reading rut, all I want is something guaranteed to be funny. This is a book I’ve read many times over the years, and it is one that I always come back to.  This is a hilarious parody of classic fairy tales from the brilliant Jon Scieszka. The illustration style is strange, but adds to the overall weirdness of the stories. This was one of the most popular books when I was in elementary school, although my most distinct memory of reading it was when I was practicing for a Shakespeare scene with my best friend in high school. When we got fed up of reciting our lines, we’d take a break with this book. It will take only minutes to read, but it is amazing!

5) Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

9780552574235This is another great YA book about a girl named Madeline who has a medical condition that causes her to have severe, unpredictable allergic reactions, forcing her to stay home. She quickly becomes friends with Olly, the boy next door. I’ve mentioned this book once before as one of my highlights of last year’s challenge, so I won’t go into too much detail (my comments about it can be found here). This book would be great for getting through a reading slump because it is a relatively quick read, with lots of illustrations and diagrams scattered throughout. I loved the interactions between the characters, and especially enjoyed how there was a twist to the end just when I thought the book was starting to get predictable.

The Would You Rather Book Tag

It’s been a while since I’ve done a book tag, so I thought it was a bit overdue. This tag was originally created by RayKayBooks, whose Youtube channel can be found here. It’s been a busy weekend, so this seemed like a nice quick tag to give a try. Here goes:

1) Would you rather read only trilogies or only standalones?

I would definitely prefer to only read standalones, although it would mean missing out on the few trilogies that I really enjoy (Hunger Games, for example). In general, I prefer standalones over series because I find series, especially trilogies, have a nasty habit of dragging in the middle. I also think reading only standalones would give me more variety of stories, since a lot of trilogies, at least ones that I know of, are from pretty similar genres. I think that would get pretty repetitive after a while.

2) Would you rather read only male or female authors?

I actually don’t pay any attention at all to the gender of an author when I decide to read a book. I pick books based on how interesting the plot summary seems. I guess if I had to choose, I’d pick female authors since the majority of the books that I read and most of my favourites are by females. I would hate to never be able to read another Jodi Picoult book!

3) Would you rather shop at Barnes & Noble or Amazon?

Barnes & Nobles doesn’t exist in my country, but even if I replaced it with Indigo, our equivalent, I would still prefer to shop at Amazon. Amazon tends to have better selection, and often lower prices. I actually was in Indigo earlier today and was shocked by how expensive some of the books were. $32 for a hardcover!

4) Would you rather all books became movies or TV shows?

To be fair, I don’t watch a lot of TV and I’m probably more likely to watch a movie version than a TV series just because of the time commitment. I think my answer would actually depend on the length of the book or series and the genre. In general, I have issues with movie versions because they tend to skip over and change a lot of the book, but on the other hand, I don’t think most books have enough material to make a compelling TV series, unless it was a very short miniseries. I guess I’ll pick movies.

5) Would you rather read 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?

As it stands now, I tend to read 2-3 books per week already, so I don’t think reading 5 would be too much of a stretch, especially with a loose interpretation of what kind of books. For example, 2-3 novels and a couple of graphic novels or children’s books would be no problem. I would much rather do that than read only 5 pages per day, since that’s not enough to get involved in any story.

6) Would you rather be a professional reviewer or an author?

If I’d been asked this a few years ago, I probably would have said an author, hands down. Thinking about it now, I’m leaning more toward professional reviewer. It seems like a lot more fun to read a lot of books and write about what I think of them than to try and write books of my own.

7) Would you rather only read your top 20 favorite books over and over or always read new ones that you haven’t read before?

This is by far the hardest question in this tag. As much as I would hate to never be able to read my favourites again, I think I’d have to say I’d rather always read new books. If I kept re-reading the same few books over and over, I’d get bored and they probably wouldn’t be my favourites much longer. At least with new books, I’d have a chance of discovering a new favourite.

8) Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?

Definitely a librarian. I have no interest in any kind of retail job, so I wouldn’t want to be in sales of any kind. I also think a librarian would have a bit more variety in terms of what I’d be able to do, like running programs for kids. Also, through doing my challenges the past few years, I’ve come to really love my public library because of how well-stocked they are and how easy it is for me to get books. I think it would be great to share that with others.

9) Would you rather only read your favourite genre or every genre except your favourite?

This is a tough one to answer because I don’t really have just one favourite genre. I’ve actually seen some versions of this tag which says “favourite genres,” but the original seems to be limited to just one. I would probably still choose to read only my favourite genre since at least I’d be reading something that I enjoy, whereas reading every genre but my favourite would probably wouldn’t interest me much.

10) Would you rather only read physical books or eBooks?

Well, I already only read physical books only so that’s an easy decision. I don’t have an e-reader, and find it harder to read off a screen than off the page. Definitely physical books only.

Top 5 Wednesday: Top 5 Non-Written Novels

This is the first Top 5 Wednesday category that I’ve really struggled with, to the point where I considered either skipping it or changing the category slightly. For a long time, I was a bit of a book snob when it came to graphic novels or audiobooks. I still don’t enjoy audiobooks very much, and I haven’t read a ton of graphic novels or manga. However, there are a few that I can think of that are worth recommending.

For the sake of variety, I am not going to mention some of the amazing graphic novels I’ve already recommended in other posts: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, and the With the Light series by Keiko Tobe.

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

1) The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

mauscomp_bI first found out about this graphic novel through a museum exhibit about it that I saw several years ago when I visited New York. This book is a very intense graphic novel about Art Spiegelman’s father’s memories of the Holocaust and his time in the concentration camps. Characters are illustrated as different kinds of animals to represent different groups, such as Jews and mice and Nazis as cats. Alongside this story, the novel also depicts the difficult relationship between Art and his father, and it was this aspect which actually stood out to me even more than the Holocaust story itself. I loved how the author chose to give a very raw, honest portrayal of his relationship with his father, without glossing over any guilt, resentment, or arguments there may have been. It is not an easy book to read, but it is well worth the effort.

2) The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

largeWhen I did my reading challenges last year, I purposely pushed myself to try more graphic novels, and this was one of the first that I decided I wanted to try. This graphic novel is an autobiographical account of Marjane Satrapi’s life, growing up in Iran and moving away when the wars started. I knew very little about Iran before reading this book, which made some of the story a bit confusing to me. For someone who hardly read graphic novels, and almost never reads non-fiction, I thought this book was very compelling and I really liked reading about how Marjane tried to find herself. Like with Maus, I appreciated how she did not try to sugarcoat the rough times in her life. I thought the honesty was very refreshing, and made it so easy to relate to her story.

3) Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba

81idnjn-r3lAside from the With the Light series, I had never read any manga before this year. I’ve watched quite a few anime, and Death Note was one of the first I’ve seen as well as one of the best. I have only read the first volume of the manga, but judging by the anime, I would highly recommend this series. It is a story about a young man named Light Yagami who discovers a “death note,” a book dropped by a shinigami (death god), which gives him the power to kill people whose names he writes in the book, with some very specific conditions. Light decides to use the Death Note to rid the world of evil, but when the authorities start noticing that criminals are suddenly dropping dead, they start to investigate. The majority of the story involves the battle of wits between Light and L, an eccentric detective hired to figure out who is behind all of the deaths. The anime seems to have stuck pretty closely to the manga, so I would imagine the story is just as compelling in this format as well.

4) The Graveyard Book (Audiobook) narrated by Neil Gaiman

2337265As I mentioned above, I never listen to audiobooks unless they are specifically called for as part of my challenges. The main reason for that is I have a really hard time keeping my attention on the narration the full time, unless I have something else to do at the same time. I listened the audio version of this book performed by Neil Gaiman himself last year because of a challenge prompt requiring an audiobook, and I was very impressed. Although I would still say that I did not get as much out of the story as I would have by just reading it in written form, it definitely caught my attention. Gaiman’s narration was very captivating, and I loved how he altered his voice for each character. Some of the writing style reminded me a bit of Harry Potter. This is definitely a book worth reading in any form, but the audio specifically is worth a listen if you enjoy audiobooks.

5) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

17571564This one may be a bit of a cheat, since a lot of the book is actually in written form, however about as much of it is told through comics and illustrations. This book has been the highlight of my year so far. I’ve been meaning to read this book for quite a while, ever since seeing Allie Brosh’s comics about “the Alot” and her dinosaur costume. Her style is an excellent balance of humour and insight, ranging from hilarious stories about her childhood to very meaningful chapters about her battle with depression. I thought she did an amazing job of handling serious topics in a way that makes them very accessible without minimizing the importance of the subject. I’ve recently learned that Allie Brosh has another book due out later on this year, and I am really looking forward to it!

What Makes a Good Read?

This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately, as I started writing reviews for this blog and started branching out a bit more with my book choices because of my reading challenges. I enjoy reading other people’s reviews of books, even when I don’t agree with their opinions. It really interests me to see what other people thought of books I’ve read, or books I’m thinking of reading.

In the past, I tried to avoid reading too many reviews of a book before I started because I didn’t want them to colour my opinion. Recently, I’ve been tempted sometimes to look at the reviews on GoodReads while I’m partway through the book, especially when it is a book I’m not enjoying much. In those cases, I tend to scour the reviews to try and figure out what I’m missing.

Just a couple of hours ago, I finished reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, a book that has been very highly praised in a variety of sources. After reading others’ reviews, I was left wondering if I read the same book as everyone else. All of the things that they praised were things I felt the book was missing — the pacing, the emotional impact, etc. I think the same can be said for a lot of classics as well as literary fiction. Many of my Goodreads groups have intense discussions about how we rate the books we read, and whether more emphasis should be placed on the technical quality or on your subjective enjoyment.

In the case of classics and literary fiction, there often seems to be a trend toward inflating the ratings because the books are “supposed” to be good. This can leave you in quite the bind sometimes when you don’t actually *enjoy* reading a book that you feel like you are supposed to enjoy. In the case of classics, most people assume that they are considered a classic for a reason, and anyone who didn’t like it just didn’t “get it.” For literary fiction, it often seems that people want to rate them highly because they are so heavily praised by critics. In both cases, it seems there can sometimes be a bias toward rating a book higher to put forward a certain image of yourself, usually as someone who is more intellectual or more well-read.

However, I think your enjoyment of a book should have equal, if not more, weight compared to the technical quality. In fact, many rating systems actually prompt readers to rate books based on their subjective opinion. GoodReads, for example, uses a 5 star system, with each star representing how much you liked the book. It becomes a bit more complicated when you try to break down what makes a book enjoyable. Each of us has different standards for what makes a book good. For me, I’m most interested in compelling characters and a plot that keeps my interest and attention throughout. If a book has these two elements, I tend to consider it well-written, even if it is necessarily the most technically proficient writing.

To end off, I’d like to open it up to everyone else: Has anyone ever struggled with rating a book because you feel like you’re supposed to like it? What’s the one most important element you look for to consider a book good?

Top 5 Wednesday: Book Trends You’re Tired Of

This week’s topic is one that I had a hard time coming up with ideas for. I am not necessarily up-to-date on the most recent releases, so I tend to be a bit behind on trends. However, there are still a few that get really irritating! I apologize in advance if this post is a bit all over the place. I’m having a lot of trouble organizing my thoughts on this one.

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

1) Prequels  and “Between the Numbers” Books!

This was the one and only trend that immediately sprung to mind when I saw the topic for this week’s post. In general, I think authors have, or at least should have, a strong idea of where they want their stories to go, and write the books the way they intend so the additional material just doesn’t seem necessary. I don’t mind sequels so much, but I am so tired of seeing the many prequels and between-the-numbers books in series that really don’t contribute much to the story. It’s one thing if the book actually makes a meaningful difference to the plot or characters, but I have yet to find one that really does so effectively. For the most part, they tend to veer off on tangents or offer very minimally different perspectives on the events we’ve already read (Four, from Divergent, for example). In many cases, these additions seem to happen because of fan demand, and often seem like more of a cash cow than a way to really build on the story.

2) Harem Relationships

I’m not actually sure if this is what it is called in books, but I picked up the term “harem” from watching anime. Basically, what I mean by a harem is a situation where a character immediately has multiple characters, sometimes every character, in love with them. The most prominent example I can think of is Bella Swan in Twilight. Aside from the triangle involving Edward and Jacob, there were also other characters who immediately show interest in her — and that’s even with the whole “I’m nothing special” kind of lead character. These relationship dynamics are especially annoying when the lead character constantly wavers between all their potential options, but I actually find them just as frustrating when every character automatically falls for the protagonist for no apparent reason. Even if the main character was a really great person, it is very unrealistic for so many people to show interest in them immediately, especially without even knowing them. I get that there is more drama/suspense when we don’t know who the protagonist will pick, but it’s hard to relate to a character who has 4+ people openly in love with them right from the start.

3) “Unique” Names

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against giving your characters a unique name to try to set them apart from other books, especially in fantasy novels where these kinds of names seem to fit with the world they are building (ie. Harry Potter characters). However, I find it especially irritating when the book is set in the real world because it just seems so unrealistic. I know that there are real people in the world who have very unusually spelled names, but I’ve found in books it tends to go one of two ways. Either every character in the book has bizarre names, or it is a game of “identify the protagonist,” with only the main character having an unusual name or spelling. In the first case, it kind of messes with my immersion into the story. I find it hard to believe that not a single person in that character’s life has a common name (not a single Daniel, Michael, Sarah, etc?). In the second case, it ends up being another artificial way to try and set the protagonist apart without actually differentiating them from other characters by personality.  And as a side note — what’s with so many characters being named Sloane lately?!

4) Unnecessary Vulgarity

I find this is especially a problem in YA books, where authors try to make their teens sound more authentic by constant swearing, sexual humour, etc. To be clear, I have no problem with profanity or graphic content in a book as long as it fits the story/characters, and actually serves a purpose. The most irritating example I read fairly recently was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, where nearly all of the dialogue between the two boys was extremely vulgar. I have no doubt that some teenagers really do speak and behave this way, but it really put me off the characters and took away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole. The vulgarity just seemed excessive, and it did not do much to really advance the plot or develop the characters. The same goes for gratuitous violence or sexual content. It’s not a problem for me if it is appropriate to the story, but I hate when it is used just for shock factor or to make a character seem more “real.”

5) Changing the Endings in Book-to-Movie Adaptations!

I have always had a bit of a problem with adaptations, since I tend to prefer whichever version of the story I encountered first. No matter which I try first, I always end up comparing. I remember sitting through the Harry Potter movies in theatres with my best friend, constantly signalling each other whenever the movie did something “wrong.” I get that not everything translates well from page to screen (or vice versa), and for the most part, I can enjoy the changes as long as they are handled well. What really bothers me, however, is when the movie version completely changes the ending! The same goes for when it makes significant changes to the plot, such as the recent Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children movie adaptation which changed major plot points and even switched around some of the characters’ abilities. I especially hate when the entire ending is changed, one of most obvious ones being My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. The story was written the way the author intended, so it’s always puzzled me that moviemakers would think they know better what people want to see. If they didn’t think it was a strong enough story, why would they make the movie?

Review: The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novel Series

The Baby-Sitter’s Club: Graphic Novels by Raina Telgemeier


51jmfvi-xcl-_sx342_bo1204203200_Author:
 Raina Telgemeier, based on the original series by Ann M. Martin
Genre: Middle Grade graphic novels
Date Read: March/April 2016

Reading Challenge: 2016 Rejects Challenge
Challenge Prompts:

1) A book in a genre you don’t normally read – Kristy’s Great Idea
2) A book you can finish in a day with a title that starts with the word “The” – The Truth About Stacey
3) A book with a word in the title that describes a time of day/night – Mary Anne Saves the Day
4) A book that is short but packs a real punch – Claudia Saves the Day

Plot Summary:
The Baby-sitters Clubs series is a middle grade series about a group of young teens who decide to start a babysitting service in their neighbourhood, after seeing the difficulty families have finding a sitter. Each of the books in the graphic novel remakes of the first four in the original series focuses on one of the main characters.

In Kristy’s Great Idea, we learn how Kristy develops the original idea for the club after witnessing her own mother’s struggle to reach a sitter for her younger brother. In The Truth About Stacey, the focus is on Stacey, who recently moved from New York and is embarrassed to let her friends know that she is diabetic. In Mary Anne Saves the Day, timid Mary Anne wants to prove to her overprotective father that she is more grown up, and the friends have their first major fight. In Claudia and Mean Janine, Claudia tries to cope with her beloved grandmother Mimi having a stroke, and her difficult relationship with her older sister Janine.

Why I Chose Them:
The Baby-sitters Club was a major staple of my childhood. It was one of the first series that I really latched onto, collecting and reading as many of the books as I could (in the main series at least, not necessarily the spin-offs). Growing up, I related strongly to several of the characters and have occasionally wanted to re-read some of the series. I chose the graphic novel series as a kind of middle ground, so I could revisit the stories but in a format that I don’t read very often. I actually read all of the books before I decided to take on the Rejects challenge, so I fit them into prompts after the fact.

Reviews:
When I first started reading this series, I was a bit torn. On the one hand, I thought they were very well done as remakes of the original series. Each graphic novel was true to the original story and to the characters, and I really enjoyed the simple and colourful artwork. It was great to see some of my old favourite characters really come to life in new ways, including the children that the girls babysat for. On the other hand, I was not really sure that these books really needed to be adapted into a graphic novel format. With the original books being so straightforward and simple to read in the first place, it seemed strange to remove most of the text. However, by the end of the fourth book, I was won over.

Kristy’s Great Idea (KGI) was a great introduction to the four main characters, and the origins of the club itself. I loved how each of the girls was illustrated in a way that showcased their personality and kept them distinct from other characters.This book really brought back memories of reading the original series. My one minor complaint with this book, and especially with The Truth About Stacey (TTAS), is how some of the major plot points really don’t age very well. The girls start their babysitting service at age 12, and are immediately trusted alone with infants and very young children. While I get that this was the case at the time when these books were set (although to be fair, a timeframe is never really established), it is not very realistic today and makes some of the plot a bit unbelievable.

In the first two books, I was also a bit put off by how much of an issue was made of Stacey’s diabetes. I can understand that someone her age may be embarrassed about being different from everyone else, but the reactions to her condition seemed very over the top. I remember this being irritating for me at the time when I read the original story (keep in mind that I was probably about 8 or 9 at the time), and it was even more frustrating now. You have to give the author some credit for staying true to the source material, but that doesn’t necessarily make the source any less problematic. The majority of TTAS ended up being about her attempts to hide her diabetes from her friends out of fear for how they would react, a storyline that did not age well for me.

One of the elements that the graphic novels really got right was depicting the emotions and dynamic relationships between characters, which made Mary Anne Saves the Day (MASTD) and especially Claudia and Mean Janine (CAMJ) stand out for me. In MASTD, the girls have a massive argument that breaks out over a relatively small issue, and quickly escalates into name-calling, hurt feelings and the silent treatment. Even though the fight was so silly, it was easy to see the impact it had on the friendships and it brought a new, deeper level to their interactions. This was also the first book, both in the graphic novel and the original series, where you really get to see Mary Anne’s personality come through. She is a very timid, quiet character who can be easily pushed around, and this book throws her right into the deep end when she has an emergency at a babysitting job that she must deal with alone.

The true highlight of the series for me was CAMJ, which ironically was one of the original stories that I had very little memory of. In it, we get a deeper look into Claudia’s home life, where she is struggling academically and faces constant comparison to her older sister, Janine, who is a genius. This book deals with Claudia’s relationship with her sister as well as their grandmother, Mimi, who suffers from a stroke, initially losing all ability to move or speak. Claudia is extremely close to Mimi and has a difficult relationship with her sister, who she feels is her parents’ favourite. I thought this book did an incredible job of portraying the relationship dynamics within the family, especially between Claudia and Janine. It is rare that a children’s book could tackle sensitive issues such as sibling rivalry and caring for older relatives in such an age-appropriate and meaningful way. This was easily the standout of the series.

Overall, while I am still not convinced that a graphic novel series was really needed, I found myself wishing that the rest of the books had been adapted as well. Raina Telgemeier did a fantastic job at bringing this series back to life, and I enjoyed reading them.

 

Ratings (10 point scale):

*Note: These ratings are for the series as a whole. I have also included an overall individual rating for each book

Plot: 7
Characters: 9
Illustrations: 10
Enjoyment: 9
Overall Rating: 8

Kristy’s Great Idea: 8
The Truth About Stacey: 8
Mary Anne Saves the Day: 9
Claudia and Mean Janine: 10

 

The Pokemon Go Book Tag

 

I have always been a huge fan of the Pokemon series. It started in third grade, when everyone suddenly became obsessed with the video games and the trading cards. Not too many of my friends were into it, but I was lucky enough to have a couple of close friends who I could play and trade with. I still have a massive collection of Pokemon cards, and play all the new video game versions! When Pokemon Go came out, I was interested but unfortunately my phone is not compatible. The hype around it died down pretty quickly, so I don’t feel like I missed out on too much.

This tag was started by Aentee at Read at Midnight (found here), and it is a very interesting one! I also really appreciate how she allows the rest of us to use her graphics!

Pokemon-Tag-01Starters

When I play Pokemon video games, I often go for the fire-type starter for a variety of reasons. One of which is that fire types tend to be pretty rare in the game compared to grass or water, so it’s good to get one while you can. Also, the fire type starters tend to be very cute!

As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved to read. I actually don’t know what the first book I read was, but the first one I remember really loving and reading over and over was A Boy in the Doghouse by Betsy Duffey. This book is about a young boy who badly wants a pet dog, but his parents won’t let him keep his new puppy unless he can manage to train it. The book alternates between the perspective of the boy and the perspective of Lucky, his puppy. I always thought the puppy was adorable, and his perspective was so funny! It was hilarious to see what he thought of his owner’s behaviour.

Pokemon-Tag02Pikachu

To be honest, I’ve always found Pikachu very overrated. It is cute, but there are other Pokemon that are much cuter. It is decent in battle, but again there are others that are better. Plus it drove me nuts in the anime how much Ash favoured is Pikachu and made really stupid battle decisions just as an excuse to use it! Pikachu in a rock type gym…really?!

I have always really loved Little Women and The Secret Garden. Both were stories that I’d read and watched many times over the years, and in many different variants. I love Little Women because I related so strongly to both Jo, for her desire to be a writer, and Beth, for her personality. I absolutely adored the story and it is one that I’ve re-read multiple times. I first discovered The Secret Garden through a cartoon movie version that I must have taped off the TV back when VCRs still existed. That movie made me fall in love with the story, and it is another of the classics that I’ve re-read so many times.

Pokemon-Tag-03-Zubat

Zubat is one of two Pokemon that drives me insane when I play the video games (Tentacool being the other one). Zubat’s a decent Pokemon, but there is nothing more infuriating than desperately trying to find your way out of a cave when you’re on low health, and being constantly accosted by Zubat that you can’t run from.

As I’ve mentioned a few times in past posts, I tend to actively avoid any book that I think is too overhyped. I’ve almost missed out on some great books because of this! I wouldn’t necessarily say this book is everywhere, but it was definitely in all of the YA recommendation videos I watched on Youtube, and yet I still have no interest whatsoever. The book is Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I have nothing against YA books or even romance, if they are done well. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to see what all the hype is about with this book. I’ve read samples of it online, and neither the writing style or the storyline appeal to me much.

 

Pokemon-Tag-04-Ditto

Speaking of overhyped, I’ve never been a big fan of Ditto in the video games. It’s great for getting more copies of Eevee so I can get all the evolutions, but in battle it was not so helpful. Pinning a Pokemon against a copy of itself doesn’t do much when most Pokemon don’t have an advantage over their own type.

There has been a huge trend, that only recently seems to be dying down, for dystopian YA stories. There were several series that I avoided for a long time because they seemed too similar, but finally decided to give a fair chance last year. The best of which was Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, a book that had quite a bit in common with many others but I was still very impressed by it! The story definitely bears similarities to others — love triangles, a “chosen one” type of main character, fighting against a corrupt government, etc. But at least it does them well.

Pokemon-Tag-05-Snorlax

I have quite a few classics that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, but actively avoided because of their size. I read a lot throughout the year, but I still tend to find very long books intimidating. 

The main culprit for this one would probably have to be  Anna Karenina. I saw the recent movie version when it came out a few years ago and I loved it, but I’ve been hesitant to try reading the book itself. I’ve heard so much about how confusing Russian classics are because of the language and the tendency to have tons of characters, but I would love to give it a try at some point!

Pokemon-Tag06-Gengar

Gengar has always been one of my favourite Pokemon, both in the video games and the card games. It was a staple in many of the Psychic-type decks I built because of its ability to damage the Pokemon on the bench and move damage around to different Pokemon. In the video games, it was quite a powerful Pokemon but also frustrating because you had to trade in order to get it — and I didn’t have anyone who played the games that much to trade with. 

There haven’t been too many books that keep me up all night recently, just because my schedule is too tight to allow that luxury. One book that definitely kept me up in the literal sense because it scared me so much was Little Girls by Ronald Malfi, by far one of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read. I’m a coward when it comes to ghost stories, but this one was so well-written that I couldn’t put it down, despite it literally scaring me off going to bed.

Pokemon-Tag07-NidokingQueen

I’ve also always been a fan of the Nidoran line, although their existence is a bit confusing. In the original games, the two evolution lines were virtually identical, so it seemed a bit strange that there would be two, really six if you include the whole evolution line, the same Pokemon in a limited set of 150. When the games branched out to incorporate the idea of gender differences in Pokemon, it at least gave a bit of legitimacy to the idea but still a bit odd that they were treated as completely separate.

I’ve never really been a big “shipper” when it comes to pairings in books. I usually end up liking whoever the author pairs together since the evidence points that way anyway. I guess one of the earliest pairs I was really a fan of was Ron and Hermione in Harry Potter, even though JK Rowling has since decided that putting them together was a mistake. Although their relationship was a bit rocky from the start, I really do think they are a good fit together and complement each other.

Pokemon-Tag08-Rapidash

Rapidash is such a cool Pokemon! It was one of the first Pokemon cards I got when I started collecting, and it was a great Pokemon to have on a team in the video games, especially in early games where fire types were so scarce. 

I’m going for a fairly obvious choice on this one, but I would have to say The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This was another example of a book that I actively avoided for a long time because of all the hype, but loved it as soon as I gave it a chance! The first book especially was very fast-paced and I devoured it so quickly.

Pokemon-Tag09-Eevee

Eevee was another of my early favourite Pokemon because it is just so adorable! I’ve always thought it was cool how it could evolve in so many different directions, but it can also be a pain when it comes to getting all the evolutions in the video games. 

 

I’m actually not a huge fan of spin-offs because they often come across as a way of artificially extending a story that’s already over. I don’t mind them if they have something to actually contribute to the characters or the storyline, but I find spin-offs are often tangents that don’t really add too much. The only exception I might make is for Harry Potter, on the condition that the books were the same quality as the original series. I would love to find out more about Hogwarts in the past.

Pokemon-Tag14-Magikarp

This Pokemon was one of the most frustrating to raise in the original games, but definitely worth it once it evolved! Before the games added items such as the Exp Share, Magikarp were a nightmare. They had no usable moves, and were very slow to level up. However, once they finally reached level 20 and became Gyarados, they became a real force to be reckoned with!

I’m not sure how much of this was really a surprise, and how much was just my own hesitance since I read it toward the end of my challenge. The book I have in mind is The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd. I had it slotted in for a challenge prompt last year, but kept putting off starting it until close to the end of the year. I even strongly considered switching it out for something else — but I’m so glad I stuck to it. As soon as I started reading it, this book quickly became one of my favourites of the year. I thought the main character was such an interesting protagonist, although I can see where people might complain about her love interests. I would definitely be interested in finishing this series.

 

Pokemon-Tag12-Legendary

I still remember battling these Pokemon in the original games, and how frustrating they were! Articuno has always been my favourite of the three. I think the games have gone a little overboard since then with releasing more “legendary” trios, and especially with the level of power they now attribute to legendaries. 

There are a few series that I’m excited to try, and that I’ve tried to incorporate into my challenges this year. Once again, these were a case of active avoidance until some of the hype died down, but is always seems to reach a point where I just have to give them a chance anyway. Some of the series are: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and The Selection by Kiera Cass.

Pokemon-Tag15Mew-MewTwo

Like the legendary birds, I can also still remember battling Mewtwo in the original games. Mew was always more frustrating for me since I had absolutely no way of actually getting one. I hated the idea that they would release a Pokemon that couldn’t actually be found in the games.

I’m actually not a fan of collector’s editions of items because I like to be able to actually read the book or use the item. I’d be too nervous about ruining it to touch a collector’s edition of anything.

Pokemon-Tag10-Egg

Pokemon eggs were an interesting addition to the game, and baby Pokemon are adorable! They’ve always messed with my system a bit though, since I like to catch everything (at least, everything that can be found in the version I’m playing), and I don’t really catch duplicates. The baby Pokemon can be frustrating when you can only get them after you already have the evolved version — just seems like a step backwards to catch the evolved one just to get the baby, whose main purpose is to evolve anyway.

There are quite a few debuts that I’m excited for. If I had to pick just one, I’d probably say I’m most excited right now for Caraval, since it’s received so many comparisons to The Night Circus.

Pokemon-Tag11-Lure-Module

I have no idea what this is, so I’m guessing it’s something specific to Pokemon Go. 

Definitely Jodi Picoult. I’ve always enjoyed her books. I don’t actually buy too many books anymore, but she is the one author that I would buy, no questions asked.

 

Pokemon-Tag13-Server-Down

Since I don’t play Pokemon Go, I haven’t experienced this myself, but I’ve definitely had it happen in other games! It’s frustrating to have whatever time you have available to play eaten up by server issues.

This book has been released now, but I’ve been very eagerly waiting for Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. Now that the book is finally out, I’ve been waiting and waiting to see if a paperback version will be released so it matches my copies of her other books — but no luck so far. I’m sure as soon as I buy the hardcover, they’ll announce the paperback!

Top 5 Wednesday: Current Favourites that Aren’t Books

Since starting to do my reading challenges over the past two years, a lot of my time has been consumed with books in some form — reading books, talking about books on Goodreads, looking for new books, etc. I’ve really been trying to strike a better balance this year, while still reading a lot!

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

1) Netflix

Like my tendency to avoid books that are overhyped, I find I’m also quite slow to catch on to trends and new technology. Netflix has been available for a long time by now, but I avoided it for years. I just didn’t see the point of paying for additional TV when I already had TV and most other shows were available online anyway. I slowly started coming around to it when we started using Netflix at work to stream movies for participants in our program, and fairly recently got a profile on my boyfriend’s account. While I still think the selection on Netflix is pretty limited, I’ve loved binge-watching shows that I probably never would have committed to otherwise. My first choice was Gilmore Girls, a show that I actively avoided when it was on TV. I finally succumbed to all the hype, especially around the Year in the Life series. It was a much better show than I expected! Currently, I’m binge-watching Friends (which I loved but never saw in full) and The Secret Life of the American Teenager (which is just ok).

2) A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix Series)

This may be a bit of a cheat since it is part of Netflix, but I have become obsessed with this series almost as soon as it was released. A Series of Unfortunate Events has always been one of my favourite book series, and the show was one of the main reasons I wanted Netflix at all. It has always frustrated me that the movie version never became a true series. As I mentioned recently in my review of the series, I thought this was a fantastic adaptation of the books that was very true to the original sources. As soon as I finished the last episode, I was torn between wanting three things: 1) to watch the series again from the beginning immediately, 2) for the next season to be released, and 3) to re-read the book series!

3) Pokemon

I have always been a geek when it comes to Pokemon games, and it was one of the few video games that I really grew up with (Mario and Kirby being the others). I don’t care how old I am — I still find these games a lot of fun! I can definitely see where people are coming from when they say that the series is just the same game over and over, but somehow they are still exciting enough for me to keep playing. Not only have I recently bought Pokemon Sun, but it seems that my obsession is spreading. My boyfriend even ordered some Pokemon cards just so I would have someone to play against — although it didn’t work out since we both forgot how many packs it takes to create anything remotely resembling a usable deck. I wish they would remake the Pokemon TCG video game, but that seems to be one of the only games in the series that never got a sequel or remake.

4) Youtube Cover Artists

I have no musical talent whatsoever myself, so I’ve always been impressed by how many amazing singers there are on Youtube. My interest in their work is a bit of a paradox though, since I often love their cover songs but have very little interest in any of their original work. Over the past year or two, I’ve discovered quite a few great talents just by exploring. Some of my favourites include, with one of my favourite of their videos  linked below:

Caleb Hyles – covers a wide variety, including Pop, Broadway, Anime, Disney, etc. One of his best is definitely his cover of Til I Hear You Sing from Love Never Dies (Phantom of the Opera sequel)
Jonathan Young – heavy metal/rock covers of Disney music (and other pop songs)! I’ve never been a big fan of metal, but I love his voice and the songs sound surprisingly great in this style. Here’s his cover of Kiss the Girl from The Little Mermaid.
Malinda Kathleen Reese – created the very popular Google Translate Sings series, where she puts popular songs through several layers of translation and then back to English. She has an incredible voice, and the songs are hilarious! The best one is definitely her collaboration with Caleb Hyles, on I’ll Make a Man Out of You
BoyceAvenue – This is a cover band that I’ve loved for several years, and was one of the original cover bands that got me interested in finding music on Youtube. It’s hard to choose a favourite, but I really love their cover of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.
PostModern Jukebox – An amazing channel that creates old-fashioned versions of current music. My favourites are the videos featuring Robyn Adele Anderson on vocals, but the channel has also featured some other incredible talents. They’ve even taken songs that I don’t like that much, and made them much more interesting — their version of Talk Dirty by Jason DeRulo, for example.
Peter Hollens  – An incredible talent who makes a cappella versions of songs where every sound heard, including the background music, is produced just by voice. His version of Without You is a great example of what he can do.
Nick Pitera – Known for creating “one man” movie medleys, where he takes on all the roles himself, as well as his other covers. Nick Pitera’s voice has such incredible range. I first discovered him through his One Man Les Miserables video, and I was amazed by how he could sing so many parts alone!
Kurt Hugo Schneider – This is a channel I’ve been aware of for a while but only recently started following. Kurt himself is a producer and musician who produces videos for multiple other Youtube artists. My favourites recently have been the videos he’s produced for Sam Tsui and Casey Breves, especially Treat You Better. His videos are more hit-or-miss for me since I don’t like all the artists he collaborates with, but I’ve enjoyed the majority of them.

5) Minecraft

This isn’t really a recent favourite, since I’ve been playing for several years. This game was entirely my boyfriend’s influence, at least in the beginning. He’s a gamer and my gaming experience is limited to Pokemon, Mario, Kirby and Tetris. For years he was obsessed with this game and he introduced me to it in an attempt to find something we can play together. It took a while for me to get into it, and it was only really when we started playing the modded versions that I actually enjoyed it. Over the years, we’ve had several Minecraft servers, most of which eventually glitch out and die on us. A few months ago, we finally decided to start up a new one again for us and a few close friends we used to play with often, and it’s been a lot of fun! It’s definitely a hobby that I need to balance with time to read since it can easily consume several hours of my day, but it’s a great (although sometimes frustrating) game.