Plenty of Reasons to Watch: 13 Reasons Why (Netflix Series) Review

**Warning: May contain spoilers — I apologize, but it is difficult to talk about this series without going into some detail**

**Also warning: This review became much longer than I expected!**

I first read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher within the first year or so that it was released. At the time, I thought the book was a very powerful story and it was one of the strongest books I’d read in a while. When I heard Netflix was putting together a miniseries, I was very excited to see how this book would translate to the screen. Since it had been so many years since I first read it, I purposely re-read the book just before starting the series so it was fresh in my mind as I watched.

Plot (and Plot Changes)

Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of Hannah Baker, a teenage girl who committed suicide and leaves a set of cassette tapes explaining her reasons for doing so. The tapes are sent to each of the people she considers a reason for her actions. In the book, the story is told from the perspective of Clay Jensen, a classmate and co-worker of Hannah’s, who is shocked to receive the tapes. In the span of one night, Clay bikes around town while listening to Hannah’s story, waiting to find out how he fits into it. Each person is asked to listen to the tapes all the way through, and pass them on to the person mentioned after them, or else all of the tapes will be publicly released. Over the course of the tapes, Hannah talks about the people and their actions that led her to consider and eventually commit suicide, each story building on the last to weave an interconnected web showing how each person’s actions built on each other into an overwhelming snowball effect.

In the Netflix series, the plot is altered in several places, most of which help to make it easier to translate the page to the screen. In the book, the majority of the story takes place in Clay and Hannah’s minds, as he listens to the tapes and she recounts what happened. While this could have been shown through flashbacks, it probably would not have had the same impact as it had in the book. The biggest change in terms of the pacing is that instead of listening to the tapes in one night, Clay has trouble coping with what he hears to the point where he nearly gives up listening several times and takes much longer to get through them all. Another major change is Clay’s focus on avenging Hannah, and fantasies about what he could have or should have done to help Hannah.

Actually, the biggest change overall was the inclusion of a brand-new storyline focusing on a lawsuit that Hannah’s parents have initiated against the school for failing to recognize that their daughter needed help. Unlike in the book, where the people Hannah named on her tapes did not seem to interact much, the characters on the show are very heavily involved with each other as they band together to keep the tapes from being discovered. This added an extra level of depth to characters who were not so fully fleshed out in the books. We get to see them as fully-formed people, and not just their behaviour as it relates to Hannah. This was quite a jarring plot change for me at first, making the series feel almost like a sequel focusing on the other characters, rather than Hannah’s story itself. One very interesting plot point that was mentioned but never really followed up was the suggestion that Hannah might not be so reliable as a narrator. A couple of hints were dropped here and there that what she said on the tapes was not quite true, and I wish they would have explored this a bit deeper.

In other cases, the plot changes were mostly in the specifics of certain events. The biggest of course is that Hannah’s method of suicide was dramatically changed. Whereas in the book she takes a handful of pills, in the show, she (quite graphically — I could not watch the scene) slits her wrists in the bathtub. In several interviews with the cast and crew, it was mentioned that this was changed to avoid glamourizing suicide and making it look “easy” or like “just going to sleep.” Other changes were in the details of her stories about specific characters — some of which (such as Justin taking a photo which gets leaked) had to do with updating the show to be more like today, whereas others (ie. Courtney) were a bit more questionable at least in terms of how necessary the changes were.  For the most part, I would have preferred if the reasons had stuck closer to the book since I thought the progression was a bit more clear — in the book, I could really easily see how one person’s actions led to the next, and why it felt like such a build-up for Hannah. In the show, I thought the impact of a few of the reasons got a bit lost. Once I got used to the new “aftermath” storyline affecting the people named on the tapes, I actually really enjoyed it.

Characters & Casting

To me, one of the strongest elements of the show was the casting choices. I really appreciated how the show seamlessly included a diverse cast of characters into a story where very little information was ever offered about anyone’s race or sexual orientation. In many shows or movies like this, it is easy for people to just assume that the characters all look a certain way, even when the book does not specify. As a whole, I found the cast impressive. I was especially impressed by Katherine Langford (playing Hannah) as this was her first acting role. In general, the cast so genuinely embodied their roles that I often forgot that I was watching a fictional series.

In terms of the characters, I have always thought this book presented an interesting, realistic group of high school students. I liked how all of the characters were more fully fleshed out in the series. I loved how we got to see more of Hannah’s personality and her life before the tapes, and especially her friendship with Clay. That is not necessarily to say that Hannah is a perfect person — she is not, nor should she be viewed as such. I actually read a very interesting article yesterday about how Hannah is “the worst” for a variety of reasons, but it ended by saying that Hannah easily could have been a reason one someone else’s tapes, if anyone else made them. For me, that just hit home the real impact of this series — that the way we treat others matters, and everyone has an impact on the people around them, whether we know it or not. We see several examples in the show of cases where Hannah probably wasn’t such a good friend, wasn’t nice to others, etc. But ultimately, the story we get is limited to Hannah’s perspective, so of course we are drawn to show only how others affected her. I have seen several complaints that Hannah was selfish and her reasons were trivial, but in the end, they mattered to her and I would argue that suicide is always a somewhat selfish act.

In the book, Clay was a relatively bland character that we learn very little about. All we know is that he is a nice guy who is shocked that Hannah would “blame” him for her death. In the show, we get a little more depth into Clay. He is still a nice guy, and one who seems to have some anxiety issues that are alluded to and quickly dropped again. However, throughout the series, we get a lot more insight into how deeply Hannah’s death has affected Clay, especially since their friendship was much closer in the show than in the book. Clay struggles with the idea that he missed all of the signs that something was wrong with Hannah, and seems to have a much stronger sense of justice, taking it upon himself to avenge Hannah’s death.

The variety of characters who were Hannah’s 13 reasons were also a diverse bunch of people who also got a lot more backstory in the series. In the book, most of these people are little more than just names and specific episodes involving Hannah, whereas the series makes them a bit more human. It is here where the series gains a lot of it’s impact, in that it shows that everyone’s lives are much more complex than we may know. We have a character living in an abusive household, a character who is in the closet and afraid to come out, an arrogant jock who expects to get everything he wants, and many more. We also have the full range of possible reactions to Hannah’s death. Some characters are pretty dismissive, claiming that it doesn’t matter what they did because she’s dead anyway. Others refuse to acknowledge that they have done anything wrong, and one young man who seems to feel genuine remorse for his actions even though his was a relatively minor incident compared to others. I enjoyed seeing how the characters came to life on the screen, and they all felt very real. I was genuinely creeped out by Bryce!

I have to give a special mention to Tony, a character who was given a much larger role on the Netflix series. Tony is a young man who was entrusted with the second copy of Hannah’s tapes, and who attempts to make sure they make it through all the people named as per Hannah’s instructions. Christian Navarro was a brilliant choice for this role. I have never seen him in anything before, but from his first scenes, I was drawn into his character and I loved how they expanded his role from such a minor one in the book. He really contributed to the creepy, mysterious atmosphere of the show.

Unfortunately, the other added/expanded character in the book was a bit of a disappointment for me. Before watching the series, I’d heard a lot about how they had added a new character named Jeff, a boy that Clay tutored who is later killed in a car accident. Although the book mentions a boy from the school dying in a car accident, no one is ever named. In the series, Jeff interacts several times with Clay in the early episodes, and they are decent friends throughout. However, I found his inclusion a bit jarring since I had read the book just before watching, so I was thrown off by who he was supposed to be, and did not think he added much to the story. Other character changes were just as hit-or-miss. For example, why was Jenny’s name changed to Sheri? There was no reason for this. Courtney’s plot was one that was most heavily changed to include an LGBT angle, but it seemed mostly unnecessary. I would have been fine if they had stuck to the original plot for her.

Visuals/Music

This is always the hardest aspect for me to comment on since I don’t often remember the music and cinematography after the show is over. I remember noting that the music fit the episodes quite well while I was watching. However, in this case, I think some of the visuals are quite memorable — especially the haunting hot tub scene between Bryce and Hannah. The series overall captured the stark, eerie tone of the story very well.

A Note About All the Controversy

Just to wrap up, I was a bit surprised to find out how much controversy there was surrounding this series. This series has been criticized for glamourizing suicide and presenting it is as not only an option, but even a positive one. People have complained that Hannah fails to take any responsibility for her life, and instead blamed everything on others. People have claimed that her suicide and the amount of attention she gets afterwards will give the message that suicide is a viable way to get revenge on or attention from people who have wronged you.  While I agree that the idea of blaming others for your own actions can be problematic, I think that misses the point of the book and the series. The story tries to show how what we do and say to others can have a much stronger impact on others. That is not to say that people shouldn’t take responsibility for themselves — they absolutely should, and they should not be afraid to seek help.

I think any reader or watcher of any book, movie, or TV series should be able to think critically about what they are consuming. Even if it were the case that this story glamourizes suicide, it is up to the person reading or watching to take it for what it is — a work of fiction about people who are not real. Suicide worked out a certain way in Hannah’s case, because that was specific to Hannah’s life and circumstances. It does not mean it would be the same for everyone else. I think people reading or watching should be capable of separating themselves from the story.

Plot – 8/10
Characters – 10/10
Visuals/Music – 9/10
Overall – 9/10

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Top 5 Wednesdays: Top Authors You Want to Read More From

One of the benefits of taking on my reading challenges over the past couple of years is that they gave me the opportunity to try out books by new authors that I might never have picked up or even heard of before. By doing these challenges, the number of books I read per year has increased significantly, and I make an effort to avoid re-reading unless a prompt specifically calls for it. I also try to avoid choosing more than one book by the same author in the year, which even further broadens my range. Over the past two years, I’ve discovered several great new authors that I might never have tried otherwise. Below I will list the author, and the book of theirs that I have already read, all of which I believe have been mentioned in more detail in past posts.

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) Kathryn Stockett (The Help)

This was actually a book that I picked up before I ever started doing reading challenges, and it has quickly become one of my favourites. I loved how Kathryn Stockett brought her characters to life and really captured what life was like for women in the 60s. I thought the book was very powerfully written. It has already been 8 years since The Help came out and she has not released anything else yet, but I’m really looking forward to reading anything else she has to offer!

2) Celeste Ng (Everything I Never Told You)

This was one of the earliest new books that I added to by TBR when I started my Goodreads account. It was released in 2014, and I saw it all over Goodreads for the past few years. This book was Celeste Ng’s debut novel, which detailed the lives of a Chinese-American family in the 1970s whose oldest daughter has gone missing. This was one of the first stand-out books that I read this year, and as soon as I finished it, I went back to Goodreads to see when Celeste Ng’s book would be out. It looks like she has something new coming out this fall, and I can’t wait to give it a try.

3) Patrick Ness (A Monster Calls)

I read this book last year, and it was easily one of the highlights. I devoured the entire thing in one sitting, and it was by far one of the strongest and most emotional books I’ve read in the past few years. I was struck by how well Patrick Ness captured the raw emotion of the main character’s experiences, especially for a middle grade book. When I looked him up on Goodreads, several of his books caught my interest — especially The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which immediately reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve managed to fit that book into this year’s challenge, but I would love to read more of them.

4) Kristin Hannah (The Nightingale)

I had seen Kristin Hannah’s name a few times on Goodreads, especially in connection to The Nightingale, a WWII story told from the perspective of two sisters living in France during the Nazi occupation. This was one of the most unique WWII stories I’ve read, and Kristin Hannah’s writing style immediately drew me in. As I’ve mentioned with the other authors above, I thought that she really brought her characters to life. When I looked up her books on Goodreads, I was surprised to find that there were so many. Right away, I added the majority of them to my TBR and I’d love to read more of her work.

5) Kristina Riggle (The Whole Golden World)

This was a book that really caught me off-guard. I chose it to fulfill a prompt that called for a book with a beautiful title. I’m always hesitant about categories based on attractive covers or titles since I honestly pay minimal attention to either of these (although title moreso than cover) when choosing a book to read. I was extremely impressed by the amount of character development in this book, which focuses on an affair between a high school student and her married teacher. I went into the book with very low expectations, but it ended up being one of the strongest books I read all year. I have since read a few other books with a similar plot, but this still remains the best of the bunch. I would definitely be interested in trying more of Kristina Riggle’s writing.

Does A Tale As Old as Time Need a Remake?: Beauty and the Beast Review

I don’t care how old I am — Disney movies are still some of my all-time favourite movies. I was lucky enough to grow up during the “Disney Renaissance,” the period that extended from The Little Mermaid in 1989 all the way to Tarzan in 1999. Many of those movies still rank as my favourites to this day, especially The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. Actually, one of my earliest memories of watching Beauty and the Beast is seeing it in my doctor’s office while waiting for some kind of vaccination. I have a distinct memory of eating mini marshmallows and watching the movie — and unfortunately a strong memory of the pain from that vaccination as well. In the past few years, Beauty and the Beast has really took a strong hold as one of my top Disney movies, second only to The Lion King. Although I was excited to see the new live-action remake, I was also hesitant because it never really struck me as a movie that needed a remake, let alone a live one.

Plot

At it’s core, the new version of Beauty and the Beast sticks very closely to the classic cartoon. The story is about a young prince who was cursed to live his life in a monstrous form because he refused to help an enchantress in disguise. The curse will only be lifted when he learns to love and wins someone’s love in return, and only if this happens by his 21st birthday. In a nearby small town lives a woman named Belle who is seen as very strange by the other townspeople because of her eccentric father, her interest in reading, and “peculiar” ideas about how her life should be — including her rejection of the handsome but arrogant Gaston. When Belle’s father is taken prisoner by the Beast, she decides to rescue him and take his place in the castle instead.

The new version of the movie sticks quite closely to the original plot. I especially enjoyed the nod to the original fairy tale, in which Belle’s father, Maurice, is imprisoned because he attempts to take a rose from the Beast’s garden. In the Disney cartoon, Maurice is imprisoned because he attempts to take shelter in the Beast’s castle after being chased by wolves. Other plot changes were minimal. There was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the decision to include an LGBT plotline for LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick. Given the amount of attention that was given to this, I was surprised to find this element was actually quite subtle. The other major change was Gaston’s attempt to abandon Maurice in the woods to prevent him interfering with his pursuit of Belle. I didn’t find this scene particularly necessary, although it did fit the story somewhat. Otherwise, the live-action remake sticks quite closely to the cartoon, although this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Cast and Characters

In general, I thought the human cast of characters were brilliantly chosen. I thought that Emma Watson was perfectly cast as Belle. She really captured the spirit of Belle as an intelligent young woman looking for something more in her life. Dan Stevens as the Beast also brought a great blend of anger and vulnerability to his role. Kevin Kline brought a unique angle to Maurice, who was changed from a bumbling, eccentric inventor to a strong, protective father. Luke Evans was an excellent Gaston, and Josh Gad easily stole the show as LeFou.

Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with the casting of the enchanted furniture in the Beast’s castle. There were some big-name starts involved — Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts. While these are all great talents who I’ve enjoyed in other roles, they all felt a little underwhelming to me. I actually did not even realize that it was Ian McKellen until the very end, when he was shown in human form. The cast also included Stanley Tucci as Masestro Cadenza, an enchanted piano who I don’t recall from the cartoon, and Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, Belle’s wardrobe. In general, I found the enchanted furniture all a bit lacklustre and I didn’t really enjoy the CGI effects that attempted to bring them to life. With such an impressive cast, I expected a bit more from these characters. That is not to say any of them were bad choices. The problem is the original voice-actors were so distinctive, it is hard to imagine anyone else in the role.

Music

I was surprised to find that several new songs had been added to the movie, apart from the cartoon classics. If anything, I would have expected songs from the Broadway show to be incorporated. I was especially impressed by the beautiful “Evermore,” performed by the Beast just after Belle leaves his castle. This was by far the most memorable of the new additions. The film also added “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” a brief song sung by Maurice, which was nice but added very little to his character or the plot. There was also “Days in the Sun” performed by the household furniture, another solid addition but nowhere near as memorable as the rest of the music.

In terms of the performances, I was very impressed by the performances of all of the human characters. I never expected Emma Watson to be a singer, but she actually has a really nice voice We already knew from Frozen that Josh Gad could sing, but Luke Evans did a great job as Gaston. Dan Stevens as The Beast also did a great job, especially with Evermore. All of our favourite songs from the cartoon version were there, although some were better than others. I enjoyed all of Emma Watson’s songs, especially “Something There” which has always been a favourite of mine. “Gaston” was hilarious, and “The Mob Song” cemented it’s place as one of the best Disney songs so far.

Unfortunately, I was once again disappointed by the performances of the enchanted furniture. “Be Our Guest” was surprisingly underwhelming, and although Emma Thompson did a good job on “Beauty and the Beast” during the classic ballroom dance, I couldn’t help but compare it to Angela Landsbury. I think the main problem with these two songs specifically is that the voices behind them are so iconic, that it is hard to hear anyone else without making comparisons.

Overall Impressions

While I enjoyed the movie and thought it was a generally well-made remake, I’m still left with the feeling that it was a film that really didn’t need to be made. Although I was hoping they would stay pretty close to the original cartoon, it made this version feel a little underwhelming. It is very difficult to capture Disney’s magic in a live-action format, and attempting to do so only seems to draw attention to itself. In many scenes (Be Our Guest, for example) it felt like they were attempting to recapture the original almost frame-by-frame, whereas it might have made more sense to take a bit more of a risk and do something new. It was an enjoyable movie, and I was glad to see it, but when I want to see Beauty and the Beast in the future, I’ll probably be sticking mostly to the Disney classic instead.

Plot: 9/10
Cast/Characters: 8/10
Music: 7/10
Overall: 8/10

Top 5 Wednesday: Top 5 LGBTQ+ Reads

Getting a little ahead of the game with my post this week, since I’m anticipating a long day ahead – but it’s just after midnight, so technically it’s already Wednesday! When I first saw this week’s topic, I thought it would be a very easy one. This week, the theme is our favourite LGBTQ+ reads, either by authors who are LGBTQ+ or featuring characters who are LGBTQ+. I personally pay very little attention to the sexual orientation of the author unless it is explicitly mentioned somewhere, but I have noticed that there have been a ton of books, mainly YA, featuring LGBTQ+ characters lately. I don’t quite want to say it’s becoming a trend, but it is definitely becoming more prevalent.

My first real exposure to LGBT characters in pop culture was when Willow started a relationship with Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I remember being shocked by it at first, although it wasn’t because they were both women. I really loved Willow and Oz as a couple, and at the time, I thought Willow dating another woman was completely out of nowhere.  It took some getting used to, but Willow and Tara quickly became one of my all-time favourite “ships” (as much as I cringe to use that word). Aside from that, I can’t can only remember two major examples of LGBTQ+ characters on TV – Jack McPhee on Dawson’s Creek, and Will & Grace as a series.  While I’m sure LGBTQ+ characters have always existed in fiction, they were often subject to censorship so their presence was not always as obvious as it is today. That’s not to say that current representation is perfect, but it seems to be a step in the right direction.

As I mentioned previously, I thought this topic would be an easy one since I could think of several LGBTQ+ books that I had on my TBR. It wasn’t until I started looking at my list in more detail to pick my favourites that I realized I haven’t yet read many of the books I had in mind! Here are five that I’ve really enjoyed so far, and I’m hoping to read more. I will say that I don’t pick up a book just because it has an LGBTQ+ character or storyline, but since I tend to love YA contemporary, it is something I naturally come across fairly often.

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) Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

19547856I read this book last year because of all the hype surrounding it, and it definitely lived up to it! The book is about Simon, a teenage boy who is gay and who has been exchanging anonymous e-mails with another gay student, with the username Blue, at his school. While Simon tries to decide whether he should try to meet his friend in real life, their e-mails are discovered by someone who threatens to out both boys unless Simon helps him get a date with his female best friend. One of the things I really appreciated about this story is that it read as a typical high school romance, whose main characters just happened to be male, if that makes sense. Simon’s sexuality was an essential plot point, but it was not necessarily the key to the story. At it’s heart, it was a book about deciding to take the next step, and whether to bring an online relationship into reality. In many of the LGBTQ+ books that I’ve read, plots often centre on characters coming to terms with who they are, or struggling to come out. It was nice to have a story that bypassed that step to a character who was already sure of who he was, so the focus could be on the characters and their relationship, not their orientation.

2) The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

9279177It took me way too long to try a book by David Levithan, although many of his books have been on my TBR for a long time. David Levithan is a gay man himself, and many of his books focus on LGBTQ+ characters. I chose this book because of its unique style. The book is told in the form of dictionary entries, with words listed alphabetically and defined by a scene from the couple’s relationship. What is interesting about this book is the way it very carefully avoids using gender pronouns. There were some indications that the narrator was male, but his partner was left ambiguous and completely open to interpretation. Part of the strength of the book is that it ultimately does not matter who or what gender the characters are, because the way their relationship plays out can apply to anyone. It is by far one of the most creative concepts I’ve seen, and the book was a very short, quick read but one that had real power behind it.

3) Blue is the Warmest Colour by Julie Maroh

17465574I first heard about this story through the movie trailer, which showed a relationship developing between two young women. I thought the movie looked interesting, but to this day I still haven’t seen it yet. I decided to try the graphic novel that it was based on instead. The book is about a high school junior named Clementine who falls in love at first sight with a blue-hared girl named Emma, but pushes aside her feelings because she’s always identified as straight. Over time, Clementine and Emma become friends and eventually develop a relationship. I thought the book did a great job of showing the development of the complex relationship between the characters, and in showing the negative, homophobic attitudes they have to contend with. For such a relatively short story, at only 160 pages, it was a very strong one. The relationship between the women felt very real, and I liked how the author and illustrator could convey so much emotion with relatively few words. Even more explicit content was handled in a way that advanced the plot without being too unnecessarily graphic.  Like with Simon above, I loved how the story focused primarily on the relationship rather than the girls’ orientation, while still giving attention to issues such as acceptance and homophobia.

4) Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

22692740This was a book that I read very recently, but had been on my list for a while. It is about Riley Cavanaugh, a gender fluid teenager who starts writing an anonymous blog to help cope with feelings and experiences at school. Gender fluidity is a topic that I know very little about, and although I’m still not sure I understand it well, I think this book helps. It brings human, realistic voice to the topic that shows the reader what it might feel like to be gender fluid. The author deftly avoided ever revealing Riley’s biological sex, which really brought home the point that gender is largely irrelevant to getting to know someone as a person. At the end of the day, Riley’s biological sex really didn’t matter to who Riley was. I thought Riley was a very well-developed character, and the blog posts used throughout the book helped to explain gender fluidity in a clear, meaningful way. The plot was a little on the generic side, but the character development and the strength of the writing were strong enough to compensate, and I would highly recommend this book because it is from a perspective that I don’t think has been explored very often yet.

5) Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley

26109391I chose this book for this list because of the way it incorporated an LGBTQ+ plotline into a story in such a natural way. I actually picked this book up in the first place because of the mental illness element, and did not realize it was an LGBTQ+ book until later on. The book is about a 16-year-old boy named Solomon who is agoraphobic and who has isolated himself at home due to a very public panic attack at school. Lisa, a former classmate of his decides to take him on as her “project” in attempt to write an essay to get herself into a psychology program in college. Solomon also happens to be gay, and develops feelings for Lisa’s boyfriend after she introduces him in attempt to broaden Sol’s social world. I thought the LGBTQ+ aspects of the book were handled very well and realistically. I liked how the book treated LGBTQ+ characters with acceptance and respect, and that their sexuality was not a main defining feature of the character. The book was very well-written, and the interactions between the characters felt very natural. I think this book is a great example of how to work in diverse characters to a story without putting undue attention on what makes them “diverse.”

The Chocolate Book Tag

In honour of both Easter and Passover this weekend, I decided to go for a tag that ties into one of the common, non-religious elements of both holidays: chocolate! I am a huge sucker for chocolate of pretty much any kind, so this was a tag that caught my attention right away when I saw it last year. I actually have done this tag once before on Goodreads, but I decided to try it again to take into account some of the books that I’ve read more recently. Here it is:

1) Dark Chocolate – A book with a dark theme/content

20821614When I originally did this tag, I picked We Need to Talk About Kevin but since I’ve already mentioned that in a few different posts, I will go with You by Caroline Kepnes. This book is told from the perspective of Joe Goldberg, a man who becomes obsessed with Beck, a woman he has a chance encounter with, and begins to stalk her. The book was a very creepy read, especially seeing how Joe gathered so much information about Beck through social media. The story is told in a very chaotic, almost rambling style that gives a pretty good look into Joe’s mindset. I liked that it was told from such a unique perspective.

2) White Chocolate – A light-hearted/humourous read

25883848I definitely have to go with The Hating Game by Sally Thorne for this one. I read this book very recently, and it was hilarious! This book is about the rivalry between Lucy and Joshua, who both working for the same publishing agency after their companies merged, and are up for the same promotion. The book is essentially a typical romantic comedy movie, but in the form of a book. It is on the predictable side, but a thoroughly entertaining read! I loved how the author built the tension between Lucy and Josh, and especially how their love/hate relationship was handled. It was such a fun book!

3) Milk Chocolate – A book with a lot of hype that you are dying to read

32075671I would have to say The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I often avoid reading books that have so much hype around them for a while, at least until some of the hype dies down. However, I’ve heard so many positive reviews about this, especially from Goodreads and Youtube reviewers that have similar tastes to mine. I was a little concerned at first that much of the hype around the book had to do with the topic itself, regardless of how good the book actually was. Now that I’ve seen so many in-depth reviews though, it seems that the book really does live up to all the hype and I can’t wait to read it!

4) Chocolate With a Caramel Centre –  A book that makes you feel gooey on the inside

9780552574235I feel like I’ve mentioned this book a lot lately, but I would have to pick Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. This book was such a cute story about a girl who grew up highly sheltered because of a rare condition that gives her unpredictable and very severe allergic reactions, and the boy who moves in next door. I really loved this book when I read it last year, and it is still one of the most memorable books I’ve read in the past few months. It makes me feel “gooey” because the interactions between the two main characters were just so sweet.

5) A Wafer-Free KitKat – A book that surprised you lately

23546634First, I just have to ask — are wafer-free KitKats really a thing? I’ve never heard of them and considering the wafer is a key part of a KitKat, I’m not really sure how that would work…Anyway, a book that surprised me lately was The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith. I wasn’t surprised that I liked the book, since it was a Goodreads Choice Awards nominee last year, however I was surprised by how strongly it affected me. The opening pages had an especially strong impact on me, to the point where I actually had to walk away from the book for a few minutes before continuing. I definitely wasn’t expecting that.

 6) Snickers – A book you are going nuts about

220px-thirteenthtaleThis was another book that I read last year, but it is one that really blew me away. My choice for this is The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Although it was a book I had on my list from the beginning of the year last year, I’d procrastinated on actually picking it up until the end of October. As soon as I picked it up, I fell in love with the writing style and the story itself. The book is about a young woman who is hired to help write the autobiography of a mysterious prolific author. The book was such a mesmerizing story and I was drawn into immediately. I have no idea why I waited so long to pick it up!

7) Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream and Marshmallows – A comfort read that you turn to again and again

1934I have quite a few of these, but I will have to stick with the book I picked the last time I did this tag — Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This has always been one of my favourite classics, and I’ve read versions of it for most of my life. When I was younger, I related so strongly to Jo because I also wanted to be an author (although I didn’t have her talent). This is one of a few classics that I keep coming back to, and that I enjoy just as much every time I read it. I would love to try the sequels again at some point. I read one of them when I was younger, but wasn’t very impressed with it. I’ll have to give them another try.

8) Box of Chocolates – A series that has something for everyone

Like all of my posts, I have to have the obligatory Harry Potter reference. However, in this case, I genuinely believe that this is the strongest example of a series that has something for everyone. There is a strong story and excellent character development. There is adventure and humour. There’s a good balance between action, dialogue, mystery, etc. I think even readers who are not a huge fan of fantasy might find something to enjoy with this one.

Top 5 Wednesday: Books That Would Make Great Video Games

I’ll admit that I’m not a huge gamer, but I’ve always been a fan of video games. I grew up playing Super Mario, Kirby, and of course, Pokemon. My first memory of playing video games is, at about age 5, trying my brother’s Tetris game — where I thought the goal was to build the tallest tower possible. I’ve only ever had handheld systems and computer games, since my parents thought other options like the Playstation or N64 were too expensive.

Over the years, and especially since meeting my gamer boyfriend, I’ve branched out to a lot more games. I still love anything to do with Mario, Kirby or Pokemon, but I also love Minecraft and Age of Mythology. In general, because my time to play is so limited, I tend to play games that are more on the easy/casual side. I do have quite a few games (Final Fantasy VII, for example) that need more of a time commitment, that I unfortunately haven’t had the time to really get into.

I have never really thought about what kinds of books could be good video games, but once I started thinking about all the different kinds of games possible, I could see where some books could fit well.

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 by JK Rowling

When I first heard about Pottermore, I thought it was going to be a Sims-style Harry Potter world, or at least a website similar to Habbo Hotel where people could create virtual characters, walk around, and interact with each other. I think it would be amazing to have a Sims-style Harry Potter video game, where we can customize our characters, be sorted, and even go to classes at Hogwarts. The game could include choices sometimes which can gain or lose points for your House, and points could be earned to unlock events (ie. Quidditch, trips to Hogsmeade, etc.).

2) The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein

I’ll be honest, and admit that I haven’t actually read this series yet, except for The Hobbit. I just think this world lends itself so well to an RPG, especially an online mulitplayer one. The way I envisioned it, players would be able to choose what group they want to belong to (elves, hobbits, etc. ), create their characters, and explore the world from the perspective of that character. I would imagine it would be the kind of game where you could team up with friends to go on quests together, with different kinds of characters offering different kinds of skills. Based on my own preferences for single-player options, I think it would also be great to have a storyline option which you can play out as the character of your choice as well.

3) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

This may be a bit of a strange choice, but it was actually one of the first series that came to mind when I saw this week’s topic. What I had in mind was a Mario-style, very cartoon-y platformer. Players could choose to play as Violet, Klaus or Sunny Baudelaire and rescue their siblings, then reach the end of the level where they must escape Count Olaf or one of his henchmen. As each of the children, there would be different objects that players would need to collect to complete the level. I’m thinking along the lines of Yoshi’s Island, where the baby versions of Mario and friends had different abilities to help solve mini-puzzles within the level. In this game, players could choose to start the level as any of the three children, and once each sibling is unlocked, you can switch between them to be able to do different things. For example, Sunny would be able to crawl into small spaces, while Violet could build something.

4) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I feel like I’ve been using this series in every post recently, but it definitely applies here. I was picturing this as an immersive, first-person survival game. You are given a choice of maps that offer different settings for the games, and you are thrown into the world to do your best to survive against AI opponents. You have to explore and look for resources, food, water, and weapons while avoiding your opponents and watching out for traps. The goal of the game is to be the last player in the arena. Characters could be customized to have a variety of abilities, like the characters in the series had. For example, in the books Katniss was a great archer while other characters had great inventing skills, creative traps, and physical strength. Also, I thought that the game could offer achievements or rewards based on the idea of sponsors from the books. In the book, sponsors pick favourite players and supply them with extra resources to help them win. In the game, these kinds of sponsor rewards could be earned by completing certain actions.

5) The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

This is the option on the list that I was most on the fence about, since it plays into my own specific interest in Tudor court politics. I’m not sure anyone else would be interested in playing this kind of game. I envisioned it as a game where you could play as either Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Mary Boleyn, or Catherine of Aragon, each of which has different goals. The game would be more text-based, where you interact with various people around the court and are presented with a choice of options for what you can say or do in response. The game would take different directions based on the choices you make. For example, playing as Anne, your goal would be to become Queen, so you would need to make choices that earn Henry’s love and avoid scandal to keep public favour.

My Book Bucket List

Since I started to do yearly reading challenges, I’ve had a chance to tackle many of the books that I’ve been meaning to read for a very long time. There are many books, primarily classics, that I would love to read at some point but I’ve avoided for a variety of reasons. The yearly challenges have been great for setting shorter-term reading goals, but I thought it would be interesting to also keep track of some longer-term goals as well. Because of this, I am not including any books that I have earmarked already to be read later on this year.

The books on my “bucket list” are books or series that I would love to finish at some point in my life, although I’m not necessarily in a rush to read them right now. In part, I was inspired by seeing this video by Regan (PeruseProject), and in part, I was inspired by looking at so many lists on the ListChallenges website, which includes things such as the Rory Gilmore challenge, and many lists of “books everyone should read before they die.” I noticed that many of the classics mentioned there really didn’t interest me at all, but it got me thinking about what books I would want to try. Here are some of the books or series that I would love to finish eventually:

1) The Lord of the Rings Series by JRR Tolkein 

Why is it on my list?  – This is such a hugely popular fantasy series, and it comes so highly recommended. I’ve always felt that I’ve been missing out a bit by never giving it a chance.

Why haven’t I read it yet? – The sheer size of the books is intimidating. I generally try to read all of a series in a row, but I don’t think that would be possible with this one. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Hobbit, and while I liked the movies, I didn’t love them either.

2) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 

Why is it on my list?  – I often enjoy reading classics that are more character-driven, and I’ve had this book on my shelf for a long time. I’m also very interested in Russian historical fiction. Ideally, I’d love to try War and Peace at some point too, but I thought Anna Karenina was a lot more realistic for me and a lot more likely to appeal to me.

Why haven’t I read it yet? –  Again, this is a very long book and I haven’t had the time to devote to it. It doesn’t help that a friend of mine recently read the book as part of her book club, and she really struggled to get through it. Our tastes tend to be quite similar, so it’s not very encouraging.

3) The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas

Why is it on my list? – Of these three, I am most interested in The Three Musketeers, but I’ve also heard great things about the other two as well. I’ve always been a big fan of The Three Musketeers story, which I’ve read in abridged formats. Although these books are all quite long, I’ve heard that they are all pretty compelling.

Why haven’t I read it yet? – Although I can blame it on the size of the books again, I’ve also been a bit hesitant because of how old these books are. All three books were written prior to 1850, and in my experience, I tend to have a lot of difficulty with the old-fashioned language. It depends on the author, but I’ve had enough bad experiences with the old-fashioned writing styles lately that it’s put me off.

4) Les Miserables and/or The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

Why is it on my list? – I actually tried to read The Hunchback of Notre Dame many years ago, when I was way too young for it, and was put off because it wasn’t like the Disney movie. It was far too difficult for me then, and I gave up pretty quickly since I wasn’t understanding anything that I’d read, so I would love to give it another chance. I want to try Les Mis because I really loved the movie and stage versions.

Why haven’t I read it yet?  – I haven’t tried Hunchback again because the only thing I remember of the first time I read it is how much I hated the experience. I haven’t read Les Mis because the size is intimidating, and I’ve also seen many reviews that the book is extremely slow-paced. I tend not to do so well with slow-paced books, especially of that length.

5) Don Quioxte by Miguel de Cervantes 

Why is it on my list? – If I’m completely honest, because of the Wishbone TV series and the companion books that went with it. Don Quixote was one of my favourite stories from the series, and I read the (extremely) abridged version many times. I was fascinated by the idea of a man who tried to battle windmills, and always wanted to know the rest of his story.

Why haven’t I read it yet? – I haven’t had the time to devote to such a long book, especially one that I know so little about. I’ve found that when I read classics in the past, especially older books, it really helps me to have a basic foundation of the story before going into the book. Aside from the windmills, I actually know very little else about this story.

6) The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Why is it on my list? – Sherlock Holmes is a very interesting character, and his fame, I know very little about the stories. I’ve only ever read The Hound of the Baskervilles, which I liked but also knew the ending to before reading it.

Why haven’t I read it yet? – This may seem like a silly reason, but it is partly because so much of the collection is short stories. In general, I prefer full-length novels over short stories because it gives more time for the story to develop. I also have a tendency to try to read entire collections at once, and I don’t think that would work well in this case.

7) The Complete Works of Shakespeare

Why is it on my list? – I had to read a few of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays in school and I really enjoyed them. I’ve always wanted to read give more of them a chance.

Why haven’t I read it yet?  – Although I like the storylines of the plays, like most people I find the language difficult to understand. I generally try to read it myself first, and have some kind of synopsis available to follow along just to make sure I really understand what’s happening. It can be time consuming.

8) Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Why is it on my list? – It is such a well-known classic that it is one of those books I feel like I “should” have read at some point. It is definitely not one that I am particularly strongly motivated to try any time soon, but possibly at some point in my life.

Why haven’t I read it yet? – Again, it may seem like a silly reason — and a pretty big deal-breaker when it comes to this book — but I don’t often enjoy stories that are primarily set on boats. I honestly have no idea what it is, but I often find that I am immediately put off by the mention of being on a ship or a lot of sea travel. I think I’ve always found those books boring in the past, so I now expect the same any time a boat is mentioned.