Top 5 Wednesday: Top 5 Future Classics

Now that I’ve done about 3 months of consistent Top 5 Wednesday posts, I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of how to approach the questions. The topics that I’ve discussed so far always tend to be just a bit outside my comfort zone in a sense, since so many of them are topics that I’ve never really given much thought to. I was actually excited to see this week’s topic since I am a pretty big fan of reading, or at least trying, classics and I’ve always been interested in seeing which trends actually reach that status.

I think the first issue at hand is to decide what it means for a book to be a future classic. It reminded me of a quote I recently saw on a Facebook meme, which said “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” The quote was by Italo Calvino, who I had actually never heard of. Upon doing a bit of research, I discovered that he is a Cuban journalist and author, who has written an entire collection of essays about what makes a book a classic.

Although I haven’t read the book of essays itself, I found a list summarizing his definitions of a classic (found here). The above quote stood out to me most because I think it speaks to the enduring quality of a book that makes it so appealing, even over time. In the same vain, Calvino also talked about how classics are books that people re-read, and have a rich experience of reading it each time. I would also suggest that in order for a book to become a classic, it would have to be fairly widely read and enjoyed.  It was actually pretty difficult for me to come up with recent books that I think would fit the bill. As always, I am excluding Harry Potter because it seems the obvious choice, and because I think it’s place as a modern classic has already been pretty firmly cemented. Below are my top 5 choices for future classics.

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 Help by Kathryn Stockett

4667024I mentioned this book fairly recently in my Harry Potters Spells Tag, as a book I thought everyone should know about, which I would say is pretty similar to a potential classic. Books about racism and race relations are quite prevalent at the moment, but I think this is one that is likely to stand the test of time because of the strong writing and compelling characters. The book is set in Mississippi in 1962, and it focuses on several women who come together to put together a book detailing the realities of life for black women who serve white families, including the good and the bad. I originally put off reading this book because of all the hype surrounding it, but as soon as I gave it a chance, I was hooked. The book has already won several awards in the 8 or so years since it was first released, and has received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Although there are many other books that address similar or more current issues of race, I think this book has the most potential to become a classic because it is written in a way that is very accessible and in a way that brings the characters to life.

2) My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

10917Although I would love to include many of Jodi Picoult’s books on this list, I think this is the one that is most likely to become a classic due to its popularity and of course the brilliant way it handles such a complex topic. The book is about a teenage girl named Anne who was genetically altered and conceived specifically to be a bone marrow match for her older sister, Kate, who has leukemia. As Anna reaches her teens, she starts to question her role in the family and even initiates a lawsuit to sue for control over her own medical decisions. One of the main reasons I think this book, like so many of Jodi Picoult’s others, may become a classic is because it is so ripe for debate and discussion due to the controversial topic. Although re-reading the book more than once may lose the “shock value” of the twist ending, I think the book could still stand up well to re-reads since at different ages, the reader may empathize with different characters.

3) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

91aufmu8jtlThis may easily be the most controversial choice on my list, since the book has received such mixed reviews.  This book is about the life of a teenage boy named Kevin, the perpetrator of a school massacre, as told by his mother Eva in a series of letters to her husband. The book is a haunting, chilling story that perfectly captures the nature vs. nurture debate — was Kevin born a monster, or did he become that way because of his mother? Many people have criticized this book for the unlikeable characters, especially Eva, and the writing style. I actually really liked the writing style, although I can see where people might say it seems unrealistic for an epistolary format. For me, the main appeal of this book is in the atmosphere and how it left me constantly questioning my own opinions of Kevin and Eva. This book has been very widely read and discussed, even by those who did not enjoy it, and I think it has themes that will resonate for years.

4) The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

27670521I think there’s a lot to be said for a series that sparks an entire trend in a genre. Although this certainly was not the first YA dystopian, it definitely seemed to be the first of many in recent years. I think this series has the potential to become a classic because it seems to create a dystopian world that somehow seems well within the realm of possibility. In case anyone still does not know, this book is about a world divided into 12 districts which are forced to compete in televised Hunger Games annually as punishment for an attempted rebellion. One male and one female teenager from each district are chosen at random to compete as tributes and forced to fight to the death, leaving only one winner who earns rewards for their district. This was another book that I avoided for a long time because of all the hype, but it was definitely worth reading when I finally gave it a chance! It was very well-written, and I loved how the author created a world that was so scary and yet so real.

5) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

a_monster_callsI actually struggled for a while before adding this to my list. I had another book in mind, but for some reason, when I sat down to write this post, I had a complete mental block for what that book might be. Instead, this book quickly sprung to mind as one of the most powerful and memorable that I’ve read in recent years. In the 6 years it has been out, it has already won (and been nominated for) multiple awards, and it was a book that I devoured in one sitting, in just a couple of hours. This book is about a young boy named Conor who has been visited by a monster every night since his mother started her treatments for her illness. Although this book seems to be targeted for a younger audience, I think it would be very difficult for them to read, both on an emotional level and in terms of how scary it might be. I think this book has the potential to become a classic because of the impact of the story alone, but at the same time, I’m not completely sure where it would fit in among other classics.

Book Buying Tag

Recently, I’ve really started to notice just how many books I’ve accumulated over the years.  Just the other week, my mom decided to clean out her closet, which is literally packed full of books. My room is also pretty close to overflowing, between my library books and the many that I own. The majority of my books actually stay in stacks on my floor since my shelves are nowhere near enough to contain them. To be fair, my shelves are on the small side and could do with an upgrade!  Even though I’ve always known that I have a lot of books, I was still surprised to look up the other day and realize just how surrounded I really was…although that’s not a bad thing!

Along those lines, I found this tag called The Book Buying tag, which is all about your book buying habits. The original tag was created by Megan Olivier, and can be found here.

1) Where do you buy your books?

I only ever buy physical books, although I have to say I haven’t actually bought anything in a while. I get the majority of my books free from the library, either by borrowing them or as one of the “perks” of my mom working there. She sometimes gets first pick of books that set to be taken off the shelves, so we’ve both managed to get some great, perfect-condition books that way. When I do buy books, I usually order online from Amazon or Chapters.

2) Do you ever pre-order books? If so, do you do it online or in stores?

I can’t remember ever pre-ordering a book, which is often because I wait for the paperback editions that come out later. If I ever pre-ordered, it would have been online. The nearest bookstore is about an hour away (half hour walk to the right bus stop, and then 20 minutes or so on the bus), so it’s not the most convenient.

3) On average, how many books do you buy a month?

Not very many. Probably only 1 or 2 if you averaged things out over the year. If you include books that I get to keep from the library, it’s probably more like 5 per month, but they aren’t bought.

4) Do you use your local library? If so, how many do you borrow at a time?

All the time! At least, all the time since I started doing reading challenges. I went through a phase while I was in school where I barely used it, but it’s since rebounded to very, very heavy use. I even pester them sometimes to buy books I want that they don’t have yet. I tend to order 6-8 books at a time, so I have plenty of options available to mood read a bit during my challenges.

5) What is your opinion on library books?

I love being able to get books from the library, although I would really appreciate if people would take better care of them. I can’t stand when people write or highlight in them! It’s also pretty frustrating when the book goes missing because people never return them. I think the library is an excellent resource, and I love how well-stocked my local library is. I can find just about anything I want pretty easily. It’s a great way to read a book to make sure you really like it before spending the money on it.

6) How do you feel about charity shops and second-hand books?

I think they are a great idea, but I personally don’t use them very much. I have a hard time with the idea of people throwing out books that are still in perfectly good condition, so I think second-hand shops are great. Plus, it’s a good way to make books more affordable. However, I don’t use them because there aren’t any nearby, and because I’m picky about what condition my books are in. I should mention that this is a pretty recent thing — in the past, I bought so many books from library book sales, and they were very banged up and it never used to bother me.

7) Do you keep your read and unread books on the same shelf?

Yes. I don’t see much point in separating them by whether I’ve read them or not. I prefer to keep series or books by the same author together. Of course, all of this presupposes that I have enough shelf space for my books… more accurately, my favourite books are on the shelves, and everything else is in stacks on the floor.

8) Do you plan to read every book you own?

Eventually. When I was younger, I had a very short-lived commitment to reading every book that I had on my shelves, in the order they were on the shelves. It was a great idea in theory, but it neglected the fact that the majority of the books I had at the time were random books I grabbed at library book sales, where you literally could fill a bag with as many books as you want, and pay a small fee per bag. So most of what I had were books that I’d just grabbed because they seemed interesting at the time. My commitment to reading all the books didn’t last long — the first book on my shelf was The Good Earth, which I really couldn’t get into at all considering I was probably about 12 at the time.

9) What do you do with the books you feel you will never read or did not enjoy reading?

I have a very, very hard time getting rid of books and I hate throwing them away. Every so often, usually when I’m trying to figure out a way to magically make more room on my shelves, I go through my books and pull out ones that I don’t have any intention of reading and donate them to the library. I don’t often feel too guilty about that since most were books I got free (or cheap) from the library anyway. I can’t remember ever owning a book that I really hated, but I would assume I would donate it or give it away to someone who wanted it.

10) Have you ever donated books?

Yes, as mentioned in the question above. But I have to say, it’s hard for me! Even this year, when I went through my childhood books to see if there was anything I could donate to my work, a day program for young adults with special needs, I had a hard time giving anything up. I found a few to donate, but pretty much any book that I had a fairly distinct memory of reading or any kind of emotional attachment to I wanted to keep.

11) Have you ever been on a book buying ban?

No. I don’t buy books often enough to feel the need to ban myself from it.

12) Do you feel that you buy too many books?

Buy too many? No. But keep too many that I get from the library? Maybe.

Top 5 Wednesday: Top 5 Angsty Romances

When I first saw this topic on the list, I thought it would be very difficult for me. I don’t read a lot of books that would necessarily be considered romances, but I do read a lot of contemporary, YA and even fantasy stories, all of which tend to have quite a big romantic component. In general, I tend to really enjoy books that have strong character development, and I think exploring their relationships are a key part of that. Here are five of the books that first came to mind when I think of an angsty romance:

**Spoiler alert, although the majority of the books I’m choosing are a bit older/very popular, so I think most people already know the main plot points**

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) Buffy and Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer 

buffyangel1This may be a bit of a cheat, but it was by far the first couple that came to mind. I know Top 5 Wednesday topics are not necessarily limited to books only, but I tend to try to focus that way. In this case, there is the graphic novel series, as well as the novel series based off the TV show. I only recently read the Season 8 comics, and I used to read the novels quite often. However, the main reason I picked this couple is because of the angsty relationship they had in the TV show, which carried over into the other formats as well. To me, this couple defines angsty relationship. She is a 16-year-old vampire slayer, and he is an approximately 300-year-old vampire cursed with a soul. Their relationship is complicated by Angel’s strong desire to protect her, which is matched by an almost equally strong conviction that being with him is not fair or right for her. Never mind the fact that Buffy is a teenager experiencing her first love and serious relationship, with all the angst that goes with it.

2) Jamie and Landon from A Walk to Remember

jamie-landon-jamie-and-landon-25367599-500-417This was another example where the movie came to mind before the book. I saw the movie version long before reading the book, and after trying both, I strongly prefer the movie version. Most of Nicholas Sparks’ books can easily be considered angsty relationships, but this is a prime example. The book is about a teenage boy named Landon who develops a relationship with Jamie, the minister’s daughter who has also been diagnosed with cancer. I preferred the movie because I thought it gave a lot more depth to Jamie, and made her seem a lot more realistic and relatable, although just now as I looked at a list of the main differences between the two versions, there are really very few — although I preferred the bad boy angle they had on Landon’s character in the movie. This is still one of my favourite movies and I’m actually interested in trying the book again to see if it is better now that I haven’t seen the movie in a while. In any case, this is definitely a key example of an angsty couple because of the shock of Jamie’s diagnosis that came just after Landon realized his feelings for her.

3) Cecilia and Robbie from Atonement

55476f2078fd25d3aa062f8d9c8948abCecilia and Robbie were a bit more of a complicated choice, because their relationship was cut so short so most of the angst actually happens after it is over. In this novel, the couple is separated by Cecilia’s younger sister Briony, who misunderstands their relationship and accuses Robbie of sexually assaulting their cousin. Briony is convinced it was Robbie, although she was unable to see the assailant clearly, causing Robbie to be taken away. The majority of the book focuses on Briony’s guilt over her mistake, and the the impact she had on the relationship is a powerful one. Even in the portions of the story “written” by Briony, their relationship is definitely an angsty one. It is definitely a case of a couple who was torn apart by circumstances, and this was one case where even though I watched the movie first, I enjoyed the book just as much.

4) Henry and Clare from The Time Traveler’s Wife

thetimetravelerswife-800x450_052620150248I know a lot of people had issues with this couple and this book, but it is one of my favourites. As soon as I started reading, I was so captivated by their story, which takes long-distance relationship to an extreme in a sense. Henry has a very rare genetic disorder that causes him to spontaneously and involuntarily travel through time, whereas Clare lives her life normally, in a linear timeline. Henry has no control over where he goes or for how long, which naturally puts a lot of strain on the relationship when they finally get together. Aside from this, because of all the time jumping, young Clare has met Henry many times throughout her life, while Henry meets her for the  “first” time in his late 20s. I thought this was a beautifully written story and I loved how naturally their relationship developed, even with all the confusion of the time jumps. It still felt like a very real relationship, and I especially appreciated how well the author handled the idea of Clare always waiting for Henry.

5) Jane and Rochester from Jane Eyre

1299625113_jane-eyre-290I had to include at least one of the classics on this list. Although Wuthering Heights seems the more obvious choice, I decided to go for another of my favourite literary relationships. Although Jane and Rochester love each other, their relationship is hindered by secrets that he’s kept. Rochester uses another woman to make Jane jealous, forcing her to confess her feelings, and then proposes to her despite legally being unable to get married. Jane even ends up leaving in the middle of the night to get away from the drama of the relationship. It definitely seems very angsty to me, but it is easily one of my favourites!

The Best Kinds of Villains

Just making a quick post today because it’s kind of a hectic few weeks. I came across this post on Facebook, and I have to say, I definitely agree:


Personally, I have never thought of Umbridge as a “female villain,” nor do I buy into the idea that she is so heavily disliked because she is a woman. Umbridge is hated because in our daily lives, at some point, we have all come across an Umbridge. Or if not yet, it is probably inevitable that one day we will come across someone like her.

I actually had to do a bit of research into the alignment system mentioned in the quote, and here is what I found about lawful evil (according to this website). These are people or characters who:

  • Care about tradition, loyalty and order, but not freedom or dignity — as seen in how she imposes rules that further and further restrict the students’ freedom, and her attempts to limit Harry’s (among others’) freedom of speech
  • Values the allegiance they have to their cause or government — as seen through her blind allegiance to Fudge, even with all the building evidence to support Dumbledore
  • Plays by the rules, but without mercy or compassion — as seen in how she strictly enforces the rules she imposes, most of which are designed to give her an excuse to punish
  • Feel comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but are also comfortable serving — as seen in how she serves Fudge’s orders while at Hogwarts, but still does her best to gain more power over everyone else
  • Try to work within the law, and like to use the law against their enemies — as seen when she sets Harry up to be attacked by Dementors in a Muggle area, forcing him to use magic and risk expulsion from school
  • Seek to increase their power over others — as seen in how the educational decrees quickly grant her more and more power and leadership over her fellow teachers and the students, eventually becoming Headmistress herself
  • Will use torture to extract information — as seen in her choices of punishment for rule-breakers

Umbridge is an extreme example, and I would hope that none of us has ever encountered someone as nightmarish as she is. Even so, I can think of several “Umbridge-like” experiences I’ve had in my own life:

  • The English teacher who won’t allow the same word to be used twice on the same page, and who will deduct marks if she finds any cases in your paper
  • The boss who in one breath criticizes my ability to do the job I had, and in the next asks me why I didn’t apply for a promotion that had recently been posted. Never mind the fact that the posting only went up during a mandatory “break” between contract positions, so I was never even ware that it existed.
  • The workplace that sets you up fail, for no apparent reason other than you’ve worked there a few years and they would have to pay more
  • The co-worker who forces the board of directors to create a job for her, giving her a leadership role that is often held up as “proof” that she is more valued by the company

And for me, this is exactly why Umbridge has stood out as such a strong villain in the series, even more at times than Voldemort himself. It’s not because of their genders. It is because at the end of the day, Umbridge is so terrifying because she is so real. If we haven’t had the misfortune of encountering someone like her yet, there is the very real and present danger of meeting one almost any time and anywhere. Voldemort is scary on a different level, one that we can distance ourselves from just by claiming “wizards don’t exist.” Umbridge is a witch as well, but her magic is the least of her evil. That is what makes her so scary, and that is why she may be one of the most well-written villains I’ve ever read.

Top 5 Wednesday: Books I Felt Betrayed By

It is not very often that I actually feel betrayed by a book, but I think there are a few different ways where it can happen. For me, the most common is when I expect to love a book, and end up being let down. In those cases, I feel betrayed in the sense that it was nowhere near as promising as I hoped. In other cases, I feel betrayed by the characters or the plot itself, when something unexpected happens. Here are five books that I felt betrayed by.

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) Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen By Proxy Childhood by Julia Gregory

4507If I haven’t mentioned it before on this blog, I am really not a fan of non-fiction in general. I find most of it quite dry and boring to read, even when it is on an interesting topic. I chose this book as part of one of my reading challenges because I’ve always thought Munchausen By Proxy Syndrome, which is a rare form of child abuse where a person, usually the parent, essentially fabricates illnesses in their children, and may even physically cause the child to become ill. The motive is usually to get attention or sympathy (ie. for being the “good parent” who takes care of the child) from medical professionals. It is a fascinating but very creepy condition, and I was looking forward to reading this book that seemed to give a first-hand account of what it was like to grow up as the child of a parent with MBPS. Unfortunately, I really did not enjoy the book much at all. It did not actually focus on the MBPS as much as I expected, given the title, and I didn’t find the rest of Julia’s life story particularly interesting to read.

2) The Osiris Complex by Colin A. Ross

1678136This was a very similar case to Sickened. I chose this book because it was a set of case studies about multiple personality disorder, written by one of North America’s leading authorities on the subject. This was another area of psychology that has always fascinated me, but I knew very little about so I was looking forward to reading the book. I learned pretty quickly that it is very difficult for me to read a book of case studies all in a row, especially when the author’s writing style is so dry. In one case — the one that most put me off the book — Colin A. Ross very tediously describes all the medication changes the young woman goes through to drive home the point of how badly her case was mishandled. It got the point across for sure, but it also killed any remaining interest I had in the book. It’s really a shame, considering how fascinating the topic could be. I liked a few of the cases, but the dry and repetitive writing style made the book more of a chore to read.

3) Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

8554005As I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times by now, Jodi Picoult is my favourite author and I generally love everything she reads simply because of her writing style. There are still a couple of her earliest books that I haven’t read yet, but aside from Keeping Faith, I’ve really enjoyed all of them so far — which is why I felt a bit betrayed by Sing You Home. To be fair, it wasn’t a huge betrayal since I still rated this book 4 stars out of 5, and I generally liked it. The main reason I would consider it a betrayal is because it did not live up to the level I expect from one of Jodi Picoult’s books. This book had so much potential, but I thought it tackled too many issues at once, and ended up feeling like more of a hodgepodge of a couple of different stories — one about infertility and IVF, and another about gay rights and adoption. Although these halves were supposed to work together, it felt like they could have easily been two separate, fully fleshed out stories on their own.

4) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

7260188This book was a betrayal in terms of the plot itself, although really it was across the whole series. Although finding out who Katniss was going to end up with was not my main priority in reading the series, I was convinced for most of the three books that I knew who she was going to choose. I’ll avoid naming him here on the off-chance anyone hasn’t read the book or seen the movies yet, but I was so sure she would end up with the person I picked. It was one of the few times where I actually felt betrayed by the ending of the book when the character picked someone else. Upon further reflection, her choice made more sense to me and I came to like it a lot more, but I still remember being upset when I first finished the series.

5) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

444327What would one of these lists be without the obligatory Harry Potter reference? All jokes aside, this was one of the first times that a favourite character of mine was killed off so abruptly and, in a sense, so subtly. Again, I will do my best not to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read or watched it yet, but this book stands out because it is rare for me to literally cry from a book. I do get emotionally invested in stories and characters, but not always to the point where I would actually cry. This scene came as such a shock to me at the time, and it is still quite upsetting to read. I considered it a betrayal because I never saw it coming.

The Harry Potter Spells Tag

I’ve been searching for another book tag for a while now, but struggled to find one that I could actually answer. I found quite a few that asked for opinions or decisions about characters from specific books (ie. RIP It Or Ship It), which I haven’t necessarily read. Instead, I decided to look for tags related to some of my favourite things, like the Pokemon Go tag I did not too long ago.

I saw so many variants of Harry Potter tags, and even variants of The Harry Potter Spells tag. The version that I’m doing here was found on The Dreamland Book Blog, and can be found here. I’m not sure which version is the original, so if it’s your tag, please let me know and I’ll add a link back to you!

1) Flagrate (Writing Charm) – A book that you found interesting but would like to rewrite

7895937This was kind of a tough call, but I’m going with Saving Max. I found the concept of this book so interesting, but I hated the way it was written. The book is about a woman named Danielle whose autistic son is accused of murdering another patient in the psychiatric facility he was sent to. Danielle is convinced her son is innocent and takes it upon herself to prove that he is not as disturbed as the psychiatric facility claims. I was very disappointed with the way this book was written. It was written in third-person present tense, which I always tend to find awkward. Danielle was an extraordinarily frustrating main character, and the author did very little to develop the relationship between her and her son enough to justify why she was so convinced of his innocence. The most frustrating part for me was the use of an autism diagnosis as a plot device to explain why her son was sent away, without the son really showing any signs of autism other than excellent computer skills. The plot twist toward the end was very interesting, and the book ended well, but the writing just irritated me.

2) Alohomora (Unlocking Charm) – The first book in a series that got you hooked

the-madmans-daughterWell, Harry Potter would be the obvious answer here, but I am doing my best to avoid mentioning it in every tag. In terms of books I’ve read more recently, I would pick The Madman’s Daughter. I read this book last year as part of one of my reading challenges, and actually procrastinated on reading it for quite a while in favour of other books that I wanted to read more. As soon as I read the first chapter of this, I was immediately hooked and wanted to read the rest of the series. I devoured the book quickly, and was very impressed by the writing style and the story itself. I can’t wait to read the rest!

3) Accio (Summoning Spell) – A book you wish you could have right now

28587957Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult! It took a very long time for this book to be released in the first place, and now that it is out, I’ve been waiting for the paperback. I’ve been dying to read this book since Jodi Picoult is my favourite author and I always buy everything she releases. Normally, her books come out in October as a hardcover, and then the paperback version in March. Since I’ve always bought the paperbacks before, I’ve been waiting and waiting for the paperback of this to be out to…only to discover it won’t be released until June! I’m seriously debating just getting the hardcover instead.

4) Avada Kedavra (The Killing Curse) – A killer book

6400090Even after seeing how a few other people have answered this question, I’m still not entirely sure what it is asking for. I decided to interpret it as a book that “kills” the reader in terms of being very emotional. My first inclination is to pick A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, but for the sake of adding some books that I have not talked about here before, I will go with The Last Song, the ending of which just killed me. Nicholas Sparks’ books are always intended to be tearjerkers, although some do it more successfully than others. For me, this was one of the stronger stories and I thought it was a bit different compared to many of his others. I still find it hard to believe that this book was written specifically for Miley Cyrus to play in the movie, but it works surprisingly well.

5) Confundo (Confusion Charm) – A book you found confusing

5946Definitely In the Skin of a Lion. I was forced to read this book when I was in high school, and I think it was my first real exposure to a non-linear timeline in a story. I had no idea what was going on in the book, and as a result, I hated reading it. It didn’t help that the teacher I had at the time was obsessed with how brilliant this book was, and was quite strict and intimidating, so it was hard for me to ask her anything about it. My best friend re-read this book by choice later on and said it was much better on a second try, so I might consider trying it again on my own later.

6) Expecto Patronum (Guarding Spell) – Your spirit animal book

rebeccaI’ll admit that this is another question that I wasn’t sure what to do with. I’m not really into spirit animals, so I wasn’t sure which way to go with it. Off the top of my head, I would go with Rebecca because I related so strongly to the main character. Like her, I have a tendency to overthink everything and I’m pretty socially awkward. I can’t say I relate too much to the plot itself, but I loved the writing style and the atmosphere. Just looking at my Goodreads list now, I can’t believe’s it has already been over a year since I read it!

7) Sectumsempra (Dark Curse) – A dark, twisted book

little_girlsLittle Girls by Ronald Malfi. This is still one of the creepiest, most disturbing books that I’ve read. I almost never read horror or this kind of paranormal story because I’m too much of a coward. These types of book tend to haunt me and creep me out long after I finished reading it. This book was definitely dark and twisted, in several ways. For a book that was so far outside my comfort zone, I was very impressed and surprised to find how much I enjoyed it.

8) Expecto Patronum (Guarding Spell) – A childhood book connected to good memories

24178Somehow, when I first looked at the tag, I somehow missed the fact that Expecto Patronum was listed twice for two different questions. I’m not sure if it was a mistake, but I figured I’d do the tag as I found it anyway. I was a huge reader when I was younger, and there are many books that could pick for this. I would have to go with Charlotte’s Web. I was also debating The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe but since I already mentioned that very recently in a Top 5 Wednesday post, I decided to switch it up. This was a book that was read out loud to my third grade class, and it was one of the first “real” books that I can remember loving, instead of just picture books. After hearing it for the first time in school, I read it so many times on my own. It was one of the books that I read most often.

9) Expelliarmus (Disarming Spell) – A book that took you by surprise

11367726This one was an easy choice. I would have to go with Defending Jacob, a book that I probably never would have picked up if it wasn’t for my reading challenge two years ago. It was for the prompt “a book your mom loves,” which was a tough one since my mom is an avid reader with many favourite books, although our tastes can be pretty different. This book was much more compelling than I expected it to be. Even when it started to get a little dry toward the end, it quickly turned things around with a few shocking twists. I actually chose to read Saving Max because of how much I loved this book, and was very disappointed when it didn’t live up to this one.

10) Prior Incantato (Reverse Spell) – The last book you read

22692740Just last night, I finished reading Symptoms of Being Human, a YA book about a gender-fluid teenager named Riley who starts writing an anonymous blog to help deal with problems at school and at home. I thought it was a very interesting book, and a good introduction for gender fluidity, a topic which I knew very little about. I loved the characters and especially Riley’s blog posts, but I thought the plot could have been a little stronger.

11) Riddikulus (Boggart Banishing Spell) – A funny book you’ve read

402013It’s more of a funny series, but I really loved the Georgia Nicholson series by Louise Rennison. The first book is Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, and it is a 10 book series following the life of a young British teenager, and her experiences with boys, friends, and her family. I read most of this series when I was younger, and I thought they were hilarious! I would not necessarily recommend reading all 10 in a row, since the style can get a little repetitive at times, but they are definitely worth reading. Georgia can be really obnoxious as a main character sometimes, but that’s part of what makes the book so funny.

12) Sonorus (Amplifying Charm) – A book you think everyone should know about

4667024I don’t think I’ve read too many books that haven’t already been widely read, but I think everyone should know about The Help. I read this a few years ago, and was blown away by it. This was another book that I avoided for a while because of all the hype, but it definitely lives up to it! The book is about black maids in Mississippi in the 1960s who, working with a young white woman, start a project to write a book that tell their own experiences to illustrate the reality of what it is like to serve white families. The goal is reveal the truth about the way black workers are treated by the white families they work for, both positive and negative. I really loved this book, and I thought that it was very well-written. The author really brought all of the characters to life, telling their story in a way that was compelling, funny, and very meaningful. It quickly became one of my favourite books.

13) Obliviate (Memory Charm) – A book or spoiler you would like to forget having read

1This was actually a spoiler that I heard, not one that I read but I was very upset at the time! It was just after Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had come out, and I was out with some friends. For several weeks, we’d heard that a significant character would die and debated who we thought it would be. I made a prediction for who it would be, since it was the only character that I thought would make sense to be killed off at that time. On the night we were out as a group, one of my friends, who had recently bought and read the book, came over to me and said “I won’t tell you what happened, but I’ll just say that you’re an excellent prophet.” I was so upset! Even without knowing the details of what happened, it was still enough of a spoiler to know who it was. I still devoured the book to found out how, but I was annoyed with my friend for quite a long time afterwards.

14) Imperio (Controlling Curse) – A book you had to read for school

77203There were quite a few books that my school made us read. In the later years of elementary school, we did a few “novel study” projects through the year, where we were assigned a book that we had to read and answer questions about.  In high school, we read one book and one play each English course (which was about 5-6 months), plus an additional book or two of our choice. One of the books that stood out most to me that I was required to read for school was The Kite Runner. At the time, I was disappointed that my teacher chose this book because it meant we were “missing out” on other classics that most other classes were reading, including 1984, Brave New World, or The Handmaid’s Tale. I ended up really loving this book, and was glad that I read it. It is not necessarily the kind of book I would have been inclined to read on my own, but I thought it was a very interesting and very emotional story.

15) Crucio (Torture Curse) – A book that was torture to read

28194Inkheart!! I knew that this book was very popular when I was younger, but I’d never had much interest in reading it. I decided to give it a chance last year as part of my reading challenge. I don’t know if it was because I never had much interest in the first place, or if it was because I was so much older than the target audience, but I just could not get into this book at all. I literally had to force myself to continue reading it just so I could get through it and move on to the next one. I thought the idea behind it was pretty interesting, but the book just dragged on and on. It was much too slow-paced, and by the time the story really got going (which took a long time), I just didn’t care anymore. I’m honestly not sure I would have liked it any better if I had read it when I was younger either.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite Science Fiction and/or Fantasy Books

Sci-fi is a genre that I don’t often reach for, although I have enjoyed most of the books that I’ve read. I’m much more likely to pick up a fantasy book, and looking ahead at my TBR on Goodreads, I have quite a few fantasy books and series that I’m interested in trying. Here are five sci-fi and fantasy books that I really enjoyed.

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) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

5It would be very, very easy to put the entire Harry Potter series on this list. This was the first major fantasy series that I completed, and it has always stood out to me as one of the strongest that I’ve read. If I had to choose just one book as my favourite (as difficult as that is!), I would go for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. As I said, I thoroughly enjoyed every book in the series but somehow, this one always stood out to me a bit more than the others. It may have been because this was the first book that diverged a bit from the “pattern” established in the previous two, or maybe just because I loved Lupin, Sirius Black, and the amazing Shrieking Shack scene.

2) The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

140212If Harry Potter was the first series that got me into reading fantasy, this was the first fantasy book that I can remember loving. As of right now, I have not completed the whole series, but this is still one of my all-time favourites. I was first exposed to this book when I was in elementary school, when it was read out loud to my class. I immediately fell in love with the story, and couldn’t wait for the next lesson to find out what happened next. I loved the idea of being able to travel through a seemingly ordinary household item, and end up in a magical world. I especially loved Aslan!

3) The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

18619684It took me a ridiculously long time to come up with this when I was making my selection for this list. Although I loved the book as soon as I picked it up, for some strange reason, I didn’t classify it as fantasy. This book is a beautiful love story between Clare and Henry, a man who spontaneously travels through time. I absolutely loved how the author built the relationship between Clare and Henry over their many encounters at various points in Clare’s life. It’s always confused me that people complain that the love story in this book doesn’t seem realistic given that it’s a fantasy book.

4) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2767052In most cases, when I do read sci-fi, I tend to read dystopian books. This book is actually classified on Goodreads as both fantasy and sci-fi, so I’m not entirely sure where it fits in. This was a series I avoided reading for a long time because it was so overhyped, but when I finally started it, I was immediately hooked! I thought Katniss was a very strong, compelling protagonist, and the world-building was very interesting. I especially enjoyed the author’s writing style, and how she brought something as dark and violent as the games to life without being overly graphic or gory. I thought the political system built into the world was well crafted and seemed scarily realistic.

5) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

18490To be fair, I don’t necessarily classify this book as a favourite in quite the same way as the others on the list. It is not necessarily a book that I would be compelled to re-read over and over, but it is a very strong and haunting story. I decided to include it because it is one of the few sci-fi books that I really felt strongly about. I’ve known the basic story of Frankenstein for a long time, but only read the original story two years ago. I loved the biology and morality, and especially the whole “nature vs. nurture” concept.  I found it really interesting how the “monster” tried to interact with humans, and how his interactions eventually shaped his life. It is definitely a classic that is worth reading.

Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 

232187Author: Roald Dahl
Children’s classic
Date Read: Throughout 2016, as part of a “book study” program with participants I work with

Reading Challenge: 2016 Rejects Challenge
Challenge Prompt:
 A modern classic (post WWI)

Plot Summary:
A young, poor boy named Charlie Bucket is among a group of five children who win a chance to visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory by finding golden tickets scattered in chocolate bars around the world. There, they meet the very eccentric Willy Wonka who leads them on their tour, where the children are unknowingly tested again to see who is deserving of the ultimate prize.

Why I Chose It:
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favourite movies, and I’ve always been fascinated by the factory itself, although it’s always struck me as a little creepy. I watched the movie so many times when I was younger, and to this day it remains one of my favourites. Although I’ve read many of Roald Dahl’s books, I couldn’t remember reading this one. It was chosen for the “book study” class that we run at work, where we read a book out loud to a group of participants and lead a discussion. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally get a chance to read it.

I always have a hard time reading a book after seeing the movie version, since I inevitably end up comparing them. Since I had already seen the movie multiple times before reading the book, I had quite a solid idea in mind of how things were “supposed” to be, so some parts took some getting used to. For the most part, the movie version stayed pretty close to the book, but there were a few key differences (ie. Veruca is after a squirrel in the book, rather than a golden goose). The first half or so of the book is devoted to introducing each of the characters as they find their golden tickets and win entry into the factory.

As in the movie, each of the children aside from Charlie has a primary character flaw — overeating, compulsive gum-chewing, spoiled behaviour, and a major TV obsession. Through their exploration of the factory, they each encounter an opportunity to either overcome this challenge or succumb to it. Unbeknownst to the children, the tour itself is a second layer to Wonka’s competition where he tests each of the children’s moral character. Like with many of Dahl’s books, the characterization of each child is pretty “black or white” although the implication is that there is still time for them to improve themselves by learning from their mistakes. As with most Dahl stories, the majority of the adults are ineffective and the parents of the children other than Charlie seem blind to their flaws, or at least unwilling to do anything about it. I thought the characters in the book were a bit on the one-dimensional side, but they served a purpose for moving the story along. Had the characters been more sympathetic, it would have been much more difficult to take them out of the running for the competition so easily. On the other hand, Charlie himself ends up being a fairly bland character without much depth. Wonka was a strange but very entertaining character, and was one of the few who really brought life to the story — in his own bizarre way.

The majority of the plot centres on the children’s exploration of the factory. After the characters are established in the first half, the rest of the book is devoted to the various rooms they get to see. There were definitely some chapters that interested me more than others. The “square candies that look round” was especially boring and served very little purpose. The chapters in which the children are “punished” for their bad behaviour are by far the most interesting, although problematic from a moral standpoint. (What right does Wonka really have to punish other people’s children?)

The book also contained some illustrations to help show off some of the strange things the children were seeing in the factory. As I learned when trying to use these illustrations with the group I was reading to, many of them were difficult to really understand and interpret. In some cases, they added to the story well but many of them seemed unnecessary.

Overall, I thought this was an entertaining book that was a pretty creative way to try and teach children to avoid overindulgent behaviours. It is definitely a fun book for children, but not quite as magical for me as the movie version.

Ratings (10 point scale):
Plot: 8
Characters: 7
Illustrations: 7
Enjoyment: 8
Overall Rating: 7.5

Top 5 Wednesday: Fictional Jobs You’d Like To Have

I tend to approach questions like this in a strangely literal way.Unlike other bloggers and vloggers, my mind immediately went to fictional jobs that I thought I’d actually be able to manage in real life. There is actually nothing in the topic itself that calls for your actual ability to do the job, but for some reason how realistic the job would be for me has become inextricably linked to the jobs I would want.

It was actually very, very difficult for me to come up with a list of five. Many of the books I read are realistic fiction or YA books, so the characters either have a real job or are still in school. Most of the fantasy books I read don’t have jobs necessarily (ie. Narnia), or the jobs available are ones that don’t interest me much. I don’t have much interest in jobs that involve a lot of violence or that maintain a corrupt system (ie. The Gamemakers in the Hunger games).

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

In no particular order, here are the jobs I would love to have:

1) Hogwarts Professor (Harry Potter)

This is probably going to be a pretty common choice, but I would love to be a professor at Hogwarts. Specifically, I’d be interested in something like Charms or possibly Care of Magical Creatures. Transfiguration could be interesting also, but it always seems so difficult! I definitely don’t have the patience for Potions.

2) Pokemon Trainer (Pokemon)

This is one of the few choices that completely goes against what I would really want to do. I don’t really enjoy being outdoors all the time, and I like exploring like a trainer would a lore more in theory than I think I would in actual practice. However, I’ve always thought it would so much fun to explore the world and discover different kinds of Pokemon.

3) Watchers Council Member (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

On the other hand, this was one that was based heavily on what I thought would be most realistic. I disagree with a lot of the politics that the Watchers’ Council was involved in throughout the show, such as putting Buffy through ridiculously difficult tests, especially in Season 5. I would much rather be a Watcher than a Slayer because I think I would actually enjoy all the research involved. I don’t know if this is true for all Watchers, but I’d want to be a Watcher like Giles, who had access to a massive library with tons of research, and had the chance to try a bit of magic occasionally too. I think it would be really interesting to research all the demon lore!

4) Chocolate Factory Employee (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

I’m a bit on the fence about this one, since I’m pretty sure it would mean that I have to be an Oompa Loompa. I wouldn’t necessarily want to be an Oompa Loompa, but I think it would be a lot of fun to help make some of the strange candy that Wonka makes. I love chocolate, so I think it would be pretty cool to be involved in making it. Plus free samples would be nice! Although I guess after a while, I’d get pretty sick of chocolate and candy.

5) Teacher at Charles Xavier’s School (X-Men)

I wouldn’t necessarily want to be in the X-Men myself since it is much too violent and dangerous for my liking, but I think it would be really cool to be a teacher and help the younger mutants learn to control their abilities. This may be a bit of a cheat, since it is not too far off being a Hogwarts Professor. Dealing with regular teenagers would be hard enough, but teenagers who have special powers that they may or may not be able to control would definitely be a challenge!