Top 5 Wednesdays: Fandoms You Are No Longer In

When I hear the word “fandom,” I tend to think more along the lines of “fanatic.” There are many books, movies and TV shows that I am a fan of, but I have never really considered myself part of a “fandom,” especially after reading books like Fangirl or Gena/Finn, where the characters’ participation in fandom is a key part of their lives.

In some cases, hardcore fans of something have been very off-putting. I used to frequent a music forum where I could talk about some of my favourite artists and their upcoming albums. I was very put off by fans of some of the more popular artists, Beyonce being a major one, who consider themselves “stans,” let alone fans. For those who haven’t heard the term, “stan” comes from the Eminem song of the same name (here) about a man writing letters to the rap star, getting progressively more angry and obsessive each time the busy rapper fails to answer — eventually leading toward a final suicide-homicide. Since then, the term “stan” has come to refer to hardcore members of a fandom who are obsessed with it, although luckily not generally to the point of violence. On these forums, the “stans” were very off-putting since they believed their artist of choice, Beyonce being the main one but there were others, could do no wrong and they would verbally attack anyone who disagreed. The hostility of the environment not only put me off the forum, but it actually put me off the artists themselves. The fact that Beyonce’s fanbase was so obsessive, so aggressive and so adamant about their views really put me off her as an artist.

That’s not to say that all or even most people involved in a fandom behave that way. I actually joined that forum in the first place after becoming friends online with a young man who was a Brandy “stan,” and while he believed Brandy was the best singer and loved everything she did, he at least was not aggressive about his opinions. I should be clear that I have no problem with fans or “stans” having their own opinions, even very strong opinions, but where I take issue is when they try to bulldoze over other people to make sure their opinions are the only ones that are heard. Luckily, I’ve found that the Goodreads community so far has not been like that at all. If anything, we sometimes go a little too far the other way to avoid offending anyone, such as prefacing unpopular opinions with “This is just my opinion, and if you don’t agree then that’s okay.”

But to return to my original point, although I’ve always had things that I’ve been a fan of, I’ve never really strongly thought of myself as a part of a fandom. To me, being involved in a fandom is about more than just reading the book, or watching the show/movie. It is about going above and beyond to engage with it or with other fans in some way. I have never been the type to go to conventions or events, and I’m always a bit hesitant to buy merchandise because it’s often so expensive. But there are a few fandoms that I would say I’ve been involved with and I am still involved with — Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Disney movies, and The Addams Family. These are all books/movies/TV shows that I return to repeatedly, read online content such as fanfiction or essays, engage in discussions online, etc. Looking back on things that I’ve been a fan of throughout my life, I was surprised to find five that I am not really involved in anymore, but some of which were definitely fandoms for me.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here. (My apologies for not mentioning Sam in my previous Top 5 Wednesday posts. I will do so from now on).

1) The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin

233722I think this book series could easily be considered my first fandom, and one that I was most obsessed with. I can’t remember what led me to read the first book, but I was hooked early on and quickly collected as many books in the series as I possibly could. I bought them in stores, gathered them from book sales at my library, and eagerly anticipated every Scholastic catalog at school so I could get the next book in the series. Not only did I read the main series, but I also read many of the spin-offs, watched the movie, and obsessively watched the TV series (which I actually wish I could find for free online to watch again). Every time we went to the video store, I ended up renting at least one of the Babysitters Club videos to watch again and again. I brought these books with me every time we went on vacation, re-read them many times, and even bought anything Babysitters Club related. The Scholastic catalogs often included bonus merchandise such as friendship bracelets or necklaces, diaries, stationary, etc. and I got it all! I related so strongly to some of the main characters (Mary Anne for her shyness, Mallory for her desire to be a writer). The main reason that I am no longer in this fandom is just that I grew out of it. When I was 8, I thought the characters seemed so mature and responsible, but as I got older I found it a bit weird that 11 and 13 year old kids were entrusted to babysit and run large-scale events like they so often did. The books also a got a bit repetitive, and I eventually moved on to others instead.

2) Puppy in my Pockets 

dscf1052I don’t know if anyone will even know what these are anymore, but I was obsessed with these toys. I started collecting them after one of them was a prize in a cereal box, and I saw that my best friend had a few. Essentially, they are small plastic figures of a wide variety of dogs and other animals. They used to come in packs of 5 or so, and each one had it’s own name and came with a small card that had some stats about the individual pet. Over the years, the set expanded to include Kitty in my Pocket, Pony in my Pocket, and a wide variety of extra sets that included bunnies, zoo animals, and others. There were also items that came with the sets, such as dog beds, wooden logs, awards platforms, etc. so you can create stories to play out with your animals. I was desperate to collect them all, although I never did. I remember my parents even taking me to some kind of warehouse store (which apparently was a toy wholesale shop, only open at certain times of year) where I could often find some of the sets that weren’t available near me. I remember being so upset that I couldn’t collect all of them. Each time you bought a set, you would get a small booklet that showed all the puppies available — many of which were not available to me! I even joined the fan club, where I got newsletters and I think the original intent was that it would offer some exclusive items, but I don’t think that ever happened. I still have all of the ones I collected and I refuse to get rid of them. Over the years, I have seen Puppy in my Pockets still in stores, but they are not the same anymore. The figurines are much less realistic (and nowhere near as cute!). I stopped collecting them because they were no longer available, but I honestly probably would have continued much longer if I could.

3) Nicholas Sparks books

91gr2bgkba8lI first heard of Nicholas Sparks because of the A Walk To Remember movie, which I adored. It actually took me quite a while to read that book, but I devoured everything else that he had written. I especially loved A Bend in the Road and The Guardian. I loved how Nicholas Sparks created such bittersweet, emotional stories, but over the years I found other authors that I liked even more. I wouldn’t say that I’ve completely left this fandom, since I still enjoy his writing and I look out for the next book, but I’m definitely not as obsessed with them as I used to be. I think his books were my main transition from reading middle grade/YA to reading more adult-level books. His earliest books especially were a great middle ground since they were easy to read and compelling enough to interest me, while still being a bit more advanced than other books I was reading at the time. To be fair, I am still a huge reader of YA books, but I remember Nicholas Sparks being one of my first introductions to books with adult characters instead of children or teens. The main reason I am less obsessed than I used to be is because I started to find the books a bit too similar, and the writing just didn’t capture me the same way as it used to. I still love the books, and I enjoy watching the movie versions as well, but I’m not sure I’d consider Nicholas Sparks my favourite author like I used to.

4) The Simpsons

mv5byjfkmtlkywutzwfhny00m2fmlthiotytytriyjvlzwyxnmjkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntayodkwoq-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_It is almost a cliche at this point to say that you used to be a fan of The Simpsons but it’s not so good anymore. I think we all know by now that the series just isn’t what is used to be, although I have to say this year’s season has actually been pretty good. I started watching The Simpsons because my older brother really liked it, and it quickly became one of my favourite shows. I remember actively avoiding the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials because they scared me, but I loved the hilarious weekly episodes. This was one of the few shows that I consistently continued to watch week after week over the years, even sticking with it as the quality started to decline. In elementary school, one of my closest friends and I would endlessly quote the show on our walks home from school, and we had a massive e-mail going back and forth which collected all of our favourite quotes. I never really collected any of the merchandise associated with it, but I have read some pretty interesting online analysis and books of essays discussing how the show relates to psychology, philosophy, etc. Over the years, and especially as I started to watch a lot less TV in general, this show kind of fell by the wayside. I’ve never completely stopped watching, but even in the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that it doesn’t really bother me to wait a few days before seeing the latest episode. I don’t like missing episodes completely, but I can easily have one recorded off the TV for close to a week before I remember to watch it. Don’t get me wrong — the show still has its moments, and I still generally enjoy it, but it’s not as funny or as strong as it used to be.

5) Pokemon

0439103975-01-lzzzzzzzI’m hesitant to include this on the list, because I can’t quite consider it a fandom that I am no longer a part of. Especially in the past year or so, I got back into Pokemon in a big way. My love of Pokemon started when I was in elementary school, when the video games and cards became a worldwide phenomenon. I poured so much money into collecting the cards and bought all of the main video games, often even both variants of the same game. I was never really into all the side games (Pokemon Rumble, Mystery Dungeon, etc)., but I loved Pokemon Snap and Pokemon Stadium, although I could only play them at my friend’s house since I didn’t have the gaming system for them. I was absolutely obsessed with the anime series and movies (as much as Ash as the main character frustrated me!) and I hated to miss an episode. This is the only show I can think of that I actually watched the entire marathon when TV channels hosted them, although these marathons were usually only 2 hours long. I collected books from the book series, including guidebooks for the card game, a “Pokedex” book that described each Pokemon, and a trivia book that tests your Pokemon knowledge. I have always enjoyed the video games and find them very entertaining, despite the fact that they have always essentially been the same game over and over. I drifted away from Pokemon for a while for two main reasons. One was just a lack of time. I have always bought the video games as they came out, but most often I’d get about halfway through, got caught up with schoolwork, and ended up putting it off until I forgot about it. The other was simply not having anyone to play with. Only one or two of my friends were interested in Pokemon cards, and once they lost interest, I had no one to play with so I slowly stopped collecting the cards. This year, my boyfriend showed me the online version of the card game, which I’ve become a little obsessed with, and that’s reignited my interest in Pokemon and the games. Every so often, I set myself a goal of rewatching the original series and continuing on to the later series, but a lack of time always impedes my progress. So although I was no longer really a part of this fandom for a while, I would definitely say I’m back into it now.

My (Apparent) History With “DNF” Books

I have always prided myself on the fact that I tend to finish the books that I start, even if not right away. When I was younger, I tried to read Black Beauty while I was home one day with the flu, and ended up putting it down because I had no idea what was going on. This may have even happened more than once. The fact that I’d never properly finished the book bothered me so much that I actively looked for another opportunity to read it — which was in university, when I decided to bring books along to read during breaks between classes. It actually was not until just now, sitting down to write this post, that I started to remember a few other instances over the years where I did not finish a book.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I once set myself a goal of reading all of the books on my shelf, starting from the first book and working my way across. That goal was pretty short-lived, considering the first book on my list was The Good Earth when I was much too young to really understand it. The same goes for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which I went into expecting the Disney movie while simultaneously knowing that it was nothing like the movie. Until earlier this week, there was only one book that I really counted as “DNF” (“did not finish”, for those who don’t know). In the case of Black Beauty, I went out of my way to finish it. With the other two books mentioned above, I’d read less than a chapter before giving up on them, so in a strange way, I considered them never started, rather than “DNF.” The intent was always there to go back and try them again, although I haven’t done so yet. The same could be said for Journey to the Centre of the Earth, a book I never finished because I started reading it as an activity when I did my field placement, and my placement ended before we finished the book. Again, I’ve always intended to go back to that book. It’s actually a bit strange that I’ve always considered myself a “completionist” when it comes to books, and if you had asked me up until this week, I would have said I always finish the books I start.

But now, I can safely say that my streak, or apparently my perception a streak, has officially come to an end. And here is the culprit:

500912

To be clear, I am not posting this to badmouth the book or the authors in any way. The book just was not for me at all. To be fair, I went into it knowing it was pretty unlikely that I would enjoy it. I picked it up because of a category in my “rejects” challenge, which called for “A children’s book with a choose your own adventure theme.” As it is, this book is probably a big of a stretch for this category since I would consider it closer to YA, although you could make a case for it being a middle grade book. If I’m honest, I’d forgotten the category while at the library and thought I needed a choose your own adventure story geared toward adults or at least teens.

This book focuses on a teenage girl named Haley who has moved to a new town to go to high school. The reader gets to move through the story as Haley and make choices along the way about who she should spend time with, which classes to attend, after-school activities, and sometimes even clothing choices. When I was younger, my brother was obsessed with the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, and while I was never a huge fan, I thought it could be interesting to read this kind of book for a more realistic setting. Unfortunately, I thought this particular story was poorly executed.

Generally, when you choose a path in these kinds of stories, it functions completely independently of other choices you could have made. In this book, I would follow one plot thread and find references to characters or events that hadn’t happened yet, and which were presented in such a way that it was clear that it was important to the story. For example, one of my choices led to my character being interviewed on a radio show which had never been mentioned before, nor had the host ever been mentioned although it was clear that they had previously had some interactions. The first time I noticed some inconsistency, I just assumed I’d not been paying enough attention and had missed something. I went back and tried to find it, couldn’t, and decided to give up and just move on with the story. After finishing about half of the pages in the book, I was confused but also very bored with the story. I was hesitant to DNF it, but soon realized that I was literally forcing myself to push through it just for the sake of it. I wouldn’t mind if I was enjoying anything about the book, but in this case, I wasn’t. I just couldn’t bring myself to continue it.

I have always found the debate about DNFing books pretty interesting. On the one hand, I can (now, at least) understand why people would stop reading a book that they really were not enjoying. On the other, I’ve always been hesitant to stop because I tend to hold out hope that the book might still get better. Sometimes I’m not really enjoying the story, but I’m invested enough in it to want to know what happens — which especially seems to be the case with longer books. If I’ve already spent several days pushing my way through a book, especially if that book is counting toward one of my reading challenge prompts, I’m unlikely to give up on it. Or, I don’t like characters/storyline but there is some aspect of the story that I care enough about to want to see what will happen next.

I’m sure it has been discussed to death by this point, but please feel free to let me know. What does it take for you to DNF a book? How long are you willing to hang in there to see if it will get better?

Top 5 Wednesday: Top 5 Minor Characters

I’ve always been a fan of character-driven books, and I think the quality of the side and minor character says a lot about how the author develops a world as a whole. My challenge with this Top 5 Wednesday topic was defining what exactly separates a side character from a minor character. For example, I thought Ron and Hermione were pretty clear side characters, but where to classify Neville, Luna and Ginny? The other part of the challenge is being able to actually pick out some favourites, since those that I defined as minor characters tend to go a bit under the radar and might not be developed fully enough to really be interesting. As a result, the characters I chose are those that I would have loved more information or just would have loved to see more of!

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) Lucas and/or Julian (Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard)

I’m already cheating by picking two characters, but these two stood out to me because it is a book that I just finished a couple of days ago. I have only read the first book in the series so I have no idea if either of these become more significant later on, but I was very interested by both Lucas and Julian. Of the two, I think Julian borders on side character. I was interested in Lucas as a character because there seemed to be a few hints early on that he knew a lot more than he’s letting on. I was interested by Julian because I loved his interactions with Mare and it definitely seems like he will be a great key to discovering more about the royal family’s backstory, and about the Reds/Silvers and the differences between them.

2) Annie Cresta (Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins)

I was also tempted to put Finnick, but again I would consider him closer to a side character than a minor character. I have always had an interest in characters like Annie, who have a bit of a tormented past which leads to the character becoming unstable. That may sound a bit strange, but I’ve generally found those kinds of characters to have such a fascinating backstory and usually play a key role later on as kind of an unexpected ally. In this case, Annie’s role was very minimal but I loved her relationship with Finnick, and I wish she could have had a different ending. I would love to find out more about Annie’s backstory.

3) Justice Strauss (The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket)

Justice Strauss is another character that is debatable. She plays quite an important role in the first book, and is never seen again until the second-last book where her role is again relatively small but important. When I first read the Series of Unfortunate Events, I was very interested by the eclectic characters and especially Justice Strauss as the well-meaning neighbour who could have offered the Baudelaires a better life if things had been different. Actually, I would love to have a story from Justice Strauss’s perspective about what it is like to live with Count Olaf as a neighbour.

4) Sir Cadogan/Peeves (The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)

I think Sir Cadogan and Peeves are both the epitome of the minor character. They both play a memorable, but small, role in the stories. Sir Cadogan is a character that I often forget about until I re-read Prisoner of Azkaban, but he is hilarious every time! Peeves is another great, underutilized character. I always had the impression that J.K. Rowling was building up to something bigger for him, since he was a character that showed up so frequently in the books and yet never had a huge role. It’s a real shame he never made it into the film versions. I would have loved to see some of his pranks on-screen. Peeves didn’t really have an essential role in the story, but I always thought he was a great way to flesh out the world and bring Hogwarts to life.

5) Iko (Cinder by Marissa Meyer)

As with Red Queen, I’ve only read part of the series so far, so I have no idea if Iko will become more important later on. In Cinder and Scarlet, Iko was shown as a very unusual android who is much more human and even forgets at times that she is an android. If I remember correctly, Iko is disassembled partway through the first book, so we don’t get much time to get to know her as a character. What I do remember is how funny she was, and I enjoyed any interaction between her and Cinder. I would love to see what (if anything) Iko develops into in the later books.

My Bookish History Tag

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved reading. My mom’s always told me that I learned to read very early. My parents didn’t even know I knew how until one day, when I was about 3, I was sitting on my dad’s lap at the kitchen table and I read part of the newspaper headline. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I remember being very confused when I was in early elementary school about why everyone else couldn’t read as well as I could. In first grade, my teacher made a reading group for myself and two others, all of us already reading simple chapter books, while the rest of the class was still learning the basics.

All through elementary school, one of my favourite things was going to book sales at the public libraries where they let you fill a bag of books and buy it for a small fee. I think it was something like $1 or $2 per bag, with as many books as you wanted. I literally brought home hundreds! It turned out that most of these were books that I never ended up reading. Many were parts of a series, or classics that I thought I should have. I also spent years collecting children’s non-fiction because, at the risk of sounding very dorky, I was annoyed with my school not covering topics I was interested in and wanted to design my own version of what should be taught instead.

I’ve always devoured books, although I ended up taking an unintentional break from reading through university and college because after reading for assignments, the last thing I wanted to do was pick up another book. I got back into it in a huge way because of reading challenges, the first of which was the PopSugar challenge two years ago. On a whim, I decided to try it to get back to reading more, and reading challenges have become a bit of an obsession.

I found this tag while browsing for new book blogs earlier today, and this was one of a few that I found most interesting. I found this tag on Kourtni Reads, link here.

1) Do you have any childhood favourites? (I’m thinking along the lines of those chapter books in elementary school)

297249I had many childhood favourites. I was a huge fan of anything by Dr. Seuss, Robert Munsch and Disney picture books. As I got older, I loved The Boxcar Children, the Magic Treehouse series, Nancy Drew and especially The Babysitter’s Club. And definitely the Junie B. Jones series! I also really liked the Adventures of the Bailey Schools Kids series, a chapter book series about a group of kids who kept thinking that people in their community were various paranormal creatures.

2) Is there a book/series that really got your reading hobby snowballing?

In the first place, I’d have to go with The Babysitter’s Club. That was the first series that I really remember trying to collect everything, including side series and even some of the merchandise. It was also the longest series that I ever read, and I re-read the books so many times. It definitely wasn’t the start of my interest in reading, but i it was a huge contributor since it was the first series I really committed to.

3) Are there any books you enjoyed, even though you had to read them for school?

77203Actually, I generally tend not to enjoy books when I am forced to read them but most of the time I like them when I re-read later. The only book I can really remember enjoying the first time I read it as a required reading was The Kite Runner, which was mandatory for my 11th grade English class. In university, I took a Children’s Literature course, and then in college, I took an elective devoted to fairy tales and fables, and these were two of my favourite classes. I enjoyed most of the reading for those classes, although to be fair, many of the children’s literature books were re-reads.

Come to think of it (which I only did when I started answering the next question), the first books that I loved because of hearing them at school were The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and Charlotte’s Web. I’ve never really considered those required reading since the teacher read them out loud to us, so I guess in my mind, I didn’t “read” them myself at school.

4) Was there a book that changed the genres you read? (ie. you were an avid reader of contemporary, but now it’s all about those dragons)

440121There are two specific examples I can pinpoint for this. The first is Isabel: Jewel of Castilla by Carolyn Meyer, the first book in the Royal Diaries series. This was another childhood series that I quickly became obsessed with. Ironically enough, this is one of two in the series that I never managed to buy since it went out of print by the time I started collecting them all. This was the first historical fiction that I really remember reading, and it got me very interested in the genre as a whole.

The other major one was of course Harry Potter. I’d read a few fantasy books before that, including some of the Narnia series, but I can’t remember fantasy being a genre I really reached for very often. Harry Potter was one of those series that I actively avoided because of all the hype, but once the first few pages were read to us at school as part of a “book chat” day at the library, I was obsessed. Since then, I’ve been a lot more open to reading other fantasy books and especially series.

5) Are there any other books/series that hold a special place in your heart?

357840One of my favourites as a child was No Such Thing as a Witch by Ruth Chew. It was a book I read over and over, about two siblings who discover their neighbour is a witch after eating some of her fudge which turns them into animals.

Actually, I loved almost any book that had to do with animals. I love stories about dogs. One of my favourites was A Boy in The Doghouse, about a young boy trying to train his new puppy so his parents will let him keep it. I remember being very upset by one particular story, which I only recently rediscovered the name of. The book was called A Dog for Jesse, about a boy who wants to adopt a three-legged dog but already has dog of his own. In the end, the boy decides to give up his dog to rescue the injured one instead, because he believed his dog would be able to find a home easily, but the injured dog wouldn’t. Now that I’m older it makes sense, but I remember feeling so betrayed by that book! I was devastated that Jesse would give up a dog he’d already had for a long time and bonded with. I’m not sure if I’d say it holds a special place in my heart, but it’s definitely memorable.

537296There were lots of other books that I loved. I enjoyed the Amelia Bedelia series. I loved Frog & Toad, and I especially loved the Berenstain Bears series — although spelling it that way still seems wrong! I was also a huge fan of the Little Critter series. I also read the Little Golden Book series, which were mainly Disney books. My dad used to travel quite a bit, and on several of his trips, he brought back books that would “talk” when you pushed buttons. I was obsessed with those!

6) What kind of bookworm are you now? You can mention anything. Can you easily read 100 books in 6 months? A slower reader? Are you a mood reader or do you set book goals? Do you hoard books? Do you have 79084 books on your TBR list?

I am definitely a bookworm now. My current obsession is doing reading challenges, but my main genres are YA, contemporary, historical fiction and fantasy. I can generally read about 2-3 books per week, depending on the book length and how much time I have. I generally average about 10-12 books per month, so I don’t think 100 in 6 months is realistic for me.

I would say I’m a bit of a mood reader but I also set long-term goals. When I do my reading challenges, I tentatively plan my whole year in advance but with flexibility to change things as needed, either when I lose interest or if I can’t get the book I want. I order the books from the library and suspend the holds until I’m ready to read them. I resume a set of 6 – 8 at a time to be available, usually including a variety of different lengths and genres. So I guess in that sense, my goal is to finish that set before moving on to the next, but it’s also partly mood reading since I pick which ones based on what I feel like at the time.

I definitely hoard books. My shelves are literally overflowing. I have a family member who works at the public library and can sometimes get books free or at least for cheap before they are discarded, so we manage to get a lot that way. My TBR currently has 1364 books on it.

7) Do you have a shelfie for us?

I don’t, actually! To be fair, the majority of my books aren’t even on shelves, so “shelfie” might be a bit of a broad term. I’ll have to take one at some point, but maybe when things get a little more organized.

8) Who do you tag?

This tag has been around for quite a while, so I’m sure most people have done it already. Anyone who’s interested, consider yourself tagged!

In case you haven’t done this one already, I will tag:

FNM @nzfnmblog
Frona @Frona’s reads or else
Sooz @discoveringsooz
IceBreaker @icebreaker694

Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite Summer Reads

I’m actually not much of a seasonal reader. I don’t choose certain books based on the reason, although sometimes with my reading challenges it’s fun to group certain themes around holidays (ie. horror/thrillers around  Halloween). During one of my challenges, I had a prompt that called for a “summer read” and while exploring the Internet for suggestions, I found that people identified two main kinds of summer reads: 1) light, fluffy books that are quick to read, and 2) massive books that you can read over the summer since you have more free time (if you’re a student, at least). I’m more inclined to lean toward the first kind. I’m not a huge summer person in general, since I don’t do well with heat and I hate beaches, but I can’t remember ever being in the mood for a huge, challenging book over the summer.

For this list, I decided to go for five books that are set in the summer and that in some way reminded me of the summer. If I’m honest, not all of them are 5-star books, but they were all books that I enjoyed. While making this list, I realized how many summer-themed books I still have on my TBR that I haven’t picked up yet!

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 Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

6400090This was the first book that came to mind for me when I think of summer books. I was initially put off reading it because I’d seen that the book was written specifically to be turned into a movie featuring Miley Cyrus, who I didn’t really like. The book is about a 17-year-old girl named Ronnie who is sent to spend time with her father over the summer, although she resents him because of her parents’ divorce. The book is set in a beach town, and includes a great summer romance. I’ve read just about everything Nicholas Sparks has written, and this book still stands out as one of my favourites. I thought the characters were very well-developed and I loved the focus on the relationship between Ronnie and her father. This was a surprisingly powerful story, and definitely one of Sparks’ best.

2) The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares

452306To be fair, I don’t remember the book very strongly but I really loved the movie. This book is about four best friends who are going their separate ways for the summer, and are nervous about being so far away from each other. They discover a pair of pants that somehow fits all of them perfectly, despite their different shapes and sizes, and they decide to send the pants from one girl to the next as a way to stay connected. The story covers a variety of topics, including first love, divorce, family feuds, and other more serious topics as well. If I remember correctly, I preferred the movie over the book, but that might just be because I’d seen the movie version first. In any case, the book is a nice, light summer read and a great story about friendship. I thought it was nice to have a book that included romance, but where the main focus was on other relationships instead.

3) My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

12294652This was a book I picked up just because of my reading challenges last year, which called for a book set during the summer. I had seen it recommended on Goodreads a few times, and although it interested me a bit, it wasn’t necessarily something I was in a rush to read. This book is about a summer romance between Samantha and Jase, the boy next door. Samantha has always been interested in the large family living next door, especially in contrast to her own difficult relationship with her mother who is running for state senator. The book was much better than I’d expected, and I liked the way the relationship between Sam and Jase was handled. It really felt natural, although both characters were a bit on the “overly perfect” side.

4) We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

16143347I actively avoided reading this book for quite a long time because of all the hype surrounding it. I almost wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I’d read it alongside everyone else. Although I was never spoiled for the ending, I just didn’t love it as much as everyone else seemed to. This book is a very fast read about a teenager on a private island owned by her family over the summer. It is difficult to say anything else about it without giving away what happens, but given all the hype surrounding the plot twist, I was completely underwhelmed. I liked the premise of the book, but I wasn’t a big fan of the execution. I was hoping for the relationships between the characters to be fleshed out a bit more. However, I do think this book is a perfect summer read because aside from the setting, it is a very quick and easy book to read.

5) Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

5526I don’t think I’ve ever had two books by the same author on a list, but this is another book that I very strongly associate with summer. This book is about a young couple named John and Savannah who fall in love over the summer, developing a relationship that is serious enough for Savannah to decide to wait for John as he finishes his tour of duty. However, just as they are preparing to settle down, 9/11 happens and John feels that he must re-enlist. Compared to other Nicholas Sparks books, I thought this one had a more unique spin on it and it was a very touching story.

Reader Confessions Book Tag

This morning, I was watching a book chat video by Sam at Thoughts on Tomes about how book tags don’t seem to be as common anymore. Although I disagreed at first, I quickly realized that I’ve been having trouble lately finding new tags to do. I still do them quite often since they are fun and some are very creative, but recently I’ve been having a hard time finding tags that I could actually answer without rehashing the same few books. I found this tag on DuskAngelReads, here. It was one of the few tags that I’d actually never seen before, so I thought it would be fun to try!

1) Have you ever damaged a book?

I’ve never damaged a book intentionally, but I have accidentally bent or even ripped pages (usually by turning them too fast). The most annoying was when I smudged chocolate on my copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — which led to a decision to never eat while reading again.

2) Have you ever damaged a borrowed book?

I rarely borrow books from anyone but the library. I’m sure I have at some point ripped a page in a library book, but they are generally not in great condition to begin with.

3) How long does it take you to read a book?

Of course it depends on the book and how much time I have in my day to read, but I can generally read at least 100 pages per day on a weekday, and more on weekends. The average book (300 pages or so) takes me 2-3 days to read. Classics tend to take a bit longer, and YA books are usually 1-2 days.

4) Any books that you haven’t finished?

I’m actually the type who will stick with a book until the end, even if I’m not enjoying it much. I always hold out hope that it will get better, and when the book is read for a challenge, I don’t want to waste the time spent on it by not being able to count the book. The only book I can think of that I never finished is Journey to the Center of the Earth, which I started reading as part of a Book Study program when I was a placement student where I now work, which is a day program for young adults with special needs. It is a class led by another staff (although now that I work there, it often feels more like my class), where a book is read out loud to a group and then discussed. I never finished the book because my placement ended before we got to the end of the book, and I had exams to deal with. By the time exams were over, I’d forgotten most of what I read and didn’t want to start over either so I just left it alone.

5) Hyped popular books that you don’t like?

I wasn’t a big fan of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I didn’t hate it either, but for me it definitely did not live up to the hype. I didn’t really enjoy the Twilight series, and I haven’t really loved either of the Stephen King books I’ve read so far either (Misery and Carrie).

6) How many books do you own?

Too many to count! They are literally overflowing my shelves, and are in stacks on the floor until I can get more bookshelves. I get most of my books from the library for now because of lack of space and because books are so expensive now!

7) Are you a fast reader or a slow reader?

I could consider myself somewhere in the middle, but most of my friends/coworkers seem to consider me a fast reader just because of the sheer number of books I read in a year.

8) Do you like to buddy read?

I’ve never participated in one. At most, I’ve participated in “book of the month” discussions with my Goodreads groups. I don’t think I would like buddy reading very much because I feel like I would feel pressured to either speed up or slow down my pace to match my buddy.

9) Do you read better in your head or out loud?

I have always hated reading out loud! I’ve never been diagnosed but I’m pretty sure I have some form of social anxiety, so I think that’s a factor as well. I do read out loud every week for the Book Study class I mentioned earlier, but I don’t really like doing it. I’m the one doing the reading because I’m usually the one most familiar with the book so I know how to explain it to the participants, but given the choice, I would love not to have to read every time!

10) If you were only allowed to own one book, what one and why?

What a cruel question! I honestly have no idea which book.

Top 5 Wednesday: Books As Event Themes

I have always been a pretty terrible party planner. When I used to host my friends for my birthday parties, my plans never quite evolved to the point of planning actual activities for the time that people were here. It was basically put out food and drinks, gather people together, put on some music, and let people do what they want — which usually resulted in a very intense game of Monopoly. I guess in a sense I was lucky that my friends weren’t really the wild party types, but I do remember a close friend (at the time) half-complaining once about there being nothing to do.

When I saw this topic for a Top 5 Wednesday, I had absolutely no idea what kinds of events to plan. Once I let go of the logistics a little and realized that I didn’t actually need to throw these parties, it was much easier. Some of these events I’m sure have been done before, but I think they would be great parties.

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 J.K. Rowling (Themed Party)

As always, Harry Potter seems to be my go-to answer for most Top 5 Wednesday questions, but in this case for good reason. There are so many possibilities for activities. I was envisioning it as a party for younger kids, but most of it could probably work for adults as well. When guests arrive, they are randomly sorted into the Houses, which will be their teams for the games. Games include a “Quidditch” match (there are some handball games that are fairly similar), and a trivia competition to earn House Points. There would also be a buffet-style feast, featuring all kinds of different foods — Butter Beer, Every Flavour beans, and other variants on Harry Potter dishes. Or, for people who want a more formal event, the Yule Ball is always a good option.

2) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (Escape-Room Style Party)

Escape rooms have been on my mind lately since my co-workers and I had to do one as a team-building day last year, and it was actually a lot of fun! For a Series of Unfortunate Events theme, the host would take the role of Count Olaf who has set “traps” for guests that they must work together to get through to defeat Olaf. Originally, I’d envisioned that each guest would role-play as one of the Baudelaire and/or Quagmire siblings, but it would also work if there was a station set up within the challenge representing each siblings’ skill. For example, at Violet’s station, guests would have to put together or build something, and at Klaus’ station, they would have to read something to find the relevant clues. For Sunny, who develops a talent for cooking in the later books, guests would have to either eat something or decorate food to Count Olaf’s standards (with the host acting as a judge). The Quagmire siblings were added in to add an extra level of challenge, and more available stations.

3) Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol (A Very Merry Unbirthday Party)

I have no idea why it took me so long to come up with this one, since it seems like one of the most obvious literary-themed parties. The party would include a tea party with tea, cakes and cookies. There would also be a game of musical chairs (“Clean cup, clean cup, move down!”) and a croquet match. To capture some of the nonsense of the books, there could also be a riddle competition with a prize for the person who stumps everyone with the best riddle. You could also decorate tea sets for guests to take home, or play games like “Pin the Tail” on the Cheshire Cat. I was trying to come up with something to capture Alice’s constant size changes throughout the story, but I’m completely at a loss.

4) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Prom/Other Formal Event)

I’m sure Gatsby parties are something that have been done before. Guests would be asked to dress in 1920s style clothing, and the party would need to be a pretty over-the-top, elaborate one. It should have music from that era, and cocktails and champagne (non-alcoholic if needed) for guests. The menu should also have a 20s theme, and once again, very over the top in terms of fancy food. Hold a costume contest with a prize for the most authentic-looking 20s costume. Have a photo booth, or take Polaroids of guests.

5) Agatha Christie (Murder Mystery Themed Party)

Again, this is an idea that has been done many times in the past — at least if TV shows are any indication. I actually first heard of this idea through episodes of shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Lizzie McGuire, where a scenario was set up, and each guest was assigned a role to play out for the evening to discover who the “murderer” was. I never realized that the idea was based on Agatha Christie’s mysteries, at least the few that I know of. I’m not even sure what kind of party this would be for, but it could work pretty well for any kind of holiday or birthday where you have a group to entertain. It does require people who are interested and capable of role-playing well though.