Top 5 Wednesdays: Top Hate to Love Relationships

Although romances are an extremely common element in books, they are not always an aspect that people enjoy. Recently, I have seen quite a few online comments who are quick to identify relationship-related tropes as some of their most hated parts of a book. Love triangles and insta-love seem to be the most widely hated tropes, but personally I don’t mind them much as long as they are written well. The one trope that most people actually seem to enjoy is a “hate to love” relationship, where the two people involved start out as rivals or enemies, but ultimately end up falling in love.

When looking back at some of the books I’ve read to find examples for this post, I found surprisingly few even though this is a trope I tend to enjoy. One of my all-time favourite couples, who are definitely a hate-to-love relationship, are Buffy and Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think these kinds of relationships tend to be more interesting because there is an extra layer of complexity to them. It is not quite as simple as “A and B meet, fall madly in love, and live happily ever after.” Instead, there is usually a lot more character development, and often some amazing witty banter.

**Disclaimer: Given the nature of the topic, it is pretty much inevitable that there will be spoilers about who ends up with who. I actually think many of my choices are fairly obvious, but there is one who might be spoilers for those who haven’t read the Shatter Me series yet. I will leave that one for last, so if you haven’t read it yet and don’t want to be spoiled, please skip that last part.

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.

1) Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)

1885This book seems to be the quintessential example of a hate-to-love relationship. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy can’t stand each other when they first meet. He snubs her at a dance and makes rude comments about her appearance, which she then holds against him as evidence of his arrogance. At the same time, he is hesitant to admit his feelings for her because of her lower social standing, and especially higher society’s negative opinion of Elizabeth’s family. Throughout the book, Elizabeth tends to find Darcy arrogant and condescending, only changing her mind later after his superiority complex is confronted and as she learns the reasons for some of his more objectionable actions. I have always found this couple very interesting, and it is definitely a key example of a hate-to-love relationship.

2) Lucy and Joshua (The Hating Game)

25883848I feel like I’ve been talking about this book a lot lately, but it was one of my favourites of the year so far! I almost never read these kinds of fluffy romance books, but this one was so much better than I expected. It is obvious immediately even from the title what will happen, but I loved reading about the interactions between Lucy and Joshua, who are rivals up for the same promotion at a publishing company. After their two companies merge, they are forced to share office space and end up in constant competition with each other through little “games” they play to try and one-up each other. It is predictable, but it was a very fun and entertaining read. They definitely had a lot of witty banter, and I thought their relationship worked surprisingly well.

3) Anne and Gilbert (Anne of Green Gables)

8127This one is more of a one-sided hate than the others mentioned above, but I think it still fits. Even though the characters are young in the first book, it progresses into a much more mature relationship later on in the series. In the first book, Anne despises Gilbert because he pulls her hair and calls her “carrots,” playing on one of her biggest insecurities. She spends the rest of the book holding a major grudge against him, refusing to speak to him or even mention his name, while at the same time actively competing to best him in every way possible. It seemed that Gilbert fell for Anne almost from the start, so I’m not sure if it is a true hate-to-love relationship, but considering how Anne treats him for so much of the first book, I would say it qualifies. Anne and Gilbert are an interesting match.

4) Lou and Will (Me Before You)

me-before-you-jojo-moyes-cover-195x300Can it count as a ship when the couple doesn’t really get together? I know I’m in the relative minority who loves this book, but I thought Lou and Will had a very interesting dynamic. When they first meet, Will hates Lou for her over-the-top, kind of eccentric, and overly sunny attitude, and I think there is definitely some resentment there about her “wasting” her life not doing much while he was so limited himself. Lou hates Will at first for his rudeness and anger, which although understandable given his situation, still makes him very unpleasant to be around. Over time, they learn to understand each other and be a bit more open-minded. I absolutely loved their interactions and the friendship that developed between them. It is still one of my favourite books of the past few years.

5) Juliette and Warner (Unravel Me)

13104080To be fair, I haven’t finished this series yet so I’m not 100% sure whether this relationship actually happens, but given some of what I’ve heard online about it, it seems that this is the favourite ship from the series. I didn’t get a very strong sense of it from the first book, but it definitely took off in Unravel Me. Juliette is a teenager whose touch causes immense pain or even death to anyone she touches, and Warner is the son of the Supreme Commander of the Reestablishment, an organization that is trying to recreate and “improve” the world. Warner initially wants to use Juliette as a weapon for his cause but has also fallen in love with her and thinks they could make a kind of power couple ruling over the new world. In Unravel Me, the relationship develops a bit further with Juliette constantly conflicted about her feelings for Warner, who she always thought she hated. I would love to see how it plays out in the next book.

Advertisements

Top 10 Tuesdays: Best Books You’ve Read in 2017 So Far!

Top 10 Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Part of the fun of reaching the halfway point of the year is reflecting back on everything I’ve read so far. As a whole, this year has been a bit up and down in terms of what I’ve read so far. Many of the books that ended up being my favourite are not the kinds of books I normally would have picked. Looking back on my list of books read this year, I was surprised to find that many of my favourites were graphic novels. By the same point of the year last year, I’d already had quite a few stand-out reads. This year, there haven’t been quite so many that jumped out at me immediately, but there have also been a couple of pleasant surprises. Here are the top 10 books I have read so far:

1) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

17571564This is one of the few books I’ve been tempted to re-read almost immediately after I finished it. I actually did go back and re-read several of the stories because they were just so funny! Allie Brosh has an amazing talent for blending humour with some more serious subjects, covering everything from the idiocy of her dogs to a goose invading her house, to depression and self-image. I was first exposed to Allie Brosh years ago with her cartoons about The Alot, and her amazing post about her dinosaur costume. The book is a great way of presenting more serious topics in a way that is still accessible and easy to understand but without undermining how difficult they can be to talk about. I can’t wait for her next book!

2) Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

18693763Celeste Ng has quickly become an author to watch based on the strength of this book alone. This book is about a Chinese American family in the 1970s whose oldest daughter Lydia has died. Celeste Ng did an amazing job of creating fully-developed characters, especially Lydia’s parents. I enjoyed the way the author incorporated the parents’ experiences with racism and sexism and the direct impact this had on their daily lives, and especially the way they treated their children. I wish a tiny bit more attention had been paid to Lydia’s younger siblings, but the book was a very compelling read and easily one of my favourites.

3) Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 

27071490After reading and being very disappointed by The Underground Railroad, I was nervous to try this book. Somehow, the two of them became inextricably linked in my mind so I naturally assumed that I wouldn’t like this one much either. Fortunately for me, I found this book a lot easier to get into and I loved Yaa Gyasi’s writing style. This book consists of a series of stories tracing the descendants of two half sisters, one who remains in Africa and the other who moves to the United States. Each chapter told the story of a different family member and their experiences. I ended up enjoying this book a lot more than I expected to, although some of the stories were more interesting for me than others.  I thought the book was beautifully written and told a very powerful story. ‘

4) Hate List by Jennifer Brown

6316171I’d had this book on my TBR for a couple of years already, so I thought it was about time to give it a chance. This book is about a girl named Valerie whose boyfriend committed a school shooting. Because of a “hate list” the two of them wrote together, Valerie is also blamed for the incident, and since she is the one left alive, she has to cope with all of the aftermath. I thought this book was a very compelling story that was told from a unique angle. It was by far one of the strongest and most complex stories about a school shooting that I’ve read, and I liked how it handled Valerie’s confusion about her feelings for her boyfriend and how other people viewed her afterwards, including her own family. The characters were fully developed, complex individuals who gain your sympathy, even when you disagree with their actions. My one small complaint was that I really hated the character’s names (ie. the therapist was named Dr. Heiler, pronounced like “healer,” and the shooter’s last name was “Levil” which is pretty closed to “evil”).

5) Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

19351043I’ve mentioned this book a few times recently, so I won’t go into too much detail here. I am not a huge fan of graphic novels in general, but this was was amazing! I loved how the characters were quite different from your typical heroes. Nimona herself is an impulsive, often violent, shapeshifter who acts as a sidekick for Ballister Blackheart, a villain who reminds me quite a bit of Megamind. The illustrations were simplistic but well-done, and the story was hilarious! I loved the interactions between Nimona and Ballister, and I especially loved the sarcastic humour. I would love to read more about these characters if another book was ever published!

6) Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan

23131550This was another graphic novel that I was pretty confident I was going to enjoy, and it ended up being my favourite read overall of this half of the year. This book is about a girl named Allison who used to be a powerful superhero, but has given up that life to go to college instead. The story was a lot more complex than I expected it would be, and I loved how it explored so many gray areas about what it means to be a superhero. I found the beginning of the story a tiny bit confusing until I got used to the world it was set in, but Allison was such an intriguing protagonist that I was drawn in pretty quickly. I thought it was very interesting to get the perspective of a disillusioned superhero, and I loved all the exploration of the line between hero and villain and what makes a hero different from other people. I would highly recommend this book!

7) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905This was another book that I’ve actually been meaning to read for a couple of years, but for some reason kept putting off. The book is about a girl named Cath who is struggling with the start of college when her twin sister Wren decides she wants some space. Cath is a huge Simon Snow (basically Harry Potter) fan and a talented fanfiction writer. I related very strongly to Cath as a character, especially her social anxiety. I really appreciated how this book included a protagonist who was introverted and socially awkward, and did not force her to change by the end of the book. I especially enjoyed the snippets of Simon Snow and Cath’s fanfiction about it that were included with the story since they helped to bring the whole fandom element to life. This is definitely my favourite Rainbow Rowell book so far.

8) Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola

24727085Surprisingly enough, yet another graphic novel made it to my top 10. This book is about a girl named Masha who applies for a job as the Baba Yaga’s assistant to try and get away from her home and her new stepmother and stepsister. In order to get the job, Masha has to pass a series of tests based on the Baba Yaga myth, a story which I actually knew very little about before reading this book. I thought the book was very well-written and beautifully illustrated. There was a lot more depth to the story than I expected, but it was still a very quick and entertaining read. I loved how it incorporated the myth, Masha’s memories of her grandmother telling her these stories, and her own experiences with the Baba Yaga. Even though it took me only about an hour to read, it was one of the most memorable stories so far.

9) Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

22328546I’m sure many people will disagree with this one, but I really enjoyed this book! I think it helped that I didn’t read it in the height of the YA dystopian trend, because it definitely includes a lot of those tropes, but I thought it used them very well. The book is about a girl named Mare who is a “Red,” part of the lower class in society, who accidentally discovers that she has special abilities that only a “Silver” should have. Since her abilities are displayed very publicly, she is passed off as a missing Silver princess and is betrothed to a Silver prince, all while working with a resistance group to try to overthrow the Silvers. I really liked Victoria Aveyard’s writing style, and because of that I thought the story was very well-done. I was surprised to find that the twist toward the ending actually caught me off-guard and left me wanting to find out what happens next!

10) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

7604This book may seem like a bit of an odd choice, especially compared to everything else on this list. It is even more strange for me because I listened to it as an audiobook, and I rarely (if ever) listen to audiobooks. Actually, I think the fact that my version was narrated by Jeremy Irons was a huge factor in why I enjoyed it so much. This book has always been one of those classics that I felt like I “should” read but was always put off by the subject matter. I was surprised to discover how compelling of a narrator Humbert Humbert was, and I thought it was fascinating to listen to him try to justify himself and all the layers of deception that involved. I was very impressed by the writing style, although I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I was reading it instead of listening. I actually especially enjoyed some of the snarky commentary on a variety of day-to-day situations, such as all the noises in a supposedly quiet hotel. The book was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be, and definitely one of the most memorable so far.

In Honour of Harry Potter’s 20th Anniversary

I was not intending on making a post today, but when I got online and saw that today marked the 20th anniversary of the release of the first Harry Potter book, I knew I couldn’t just let it pass by without commenting. For anyone who has been following my blog for a while, it is no secret that I am a huge Harry Potter fan. It is the one series that seems to sneak its way into just about every post I make, in one way or another, and one of the only series that I can constantly re-read and never get tired of. In honour of the 20th anniversary, I wanted to share 20 memories of the series, including stories from my Harry Potter history, some of the most memorable moments, and reasons why I think the series has remained so powerful. I apologize in advance if the order is a little scattered and all over the place.

1) My first exposure to Harry Potter – I believe I have told this story before, but I actively avoided reading Harry Potter for a very long time after it came out because of all the hype. I was convinced that anything with that much hype couldn’t possibly be that good. I was in fifth grade (if I remember correctly) at the time, and my school hosted a Book Chat where our former school librarian visited to read us a page or two from some of the most popular books at the time. As soon as he started reading Harry Potter, I was hooked and I knew I had to get the book for myself! I’m so glad I didn’t miss out.

2) Reading the books to my dad (and struggling with character names!) – My dad used to come home from work very tired, so I would read to him instead of him reading to me. I had already read the books myself and decided I wanted to share them, so I started reading chapters of it out loud to him whenever I could. Actually, the most distinct memory I have was my struggle to pronounce Hermione’s name, so I asked my dad if I could just call her something else instead. He wouldn’t let me because he said “But that isn’t her name” and asked me if I would have liked to be called some other random name instead of my own. I think I figured it out before J.K. Rowling helpfully explained it during Goblet of Fire, but it took me a while! (I also never knew how to pronounce Seamus’s name until the movies).

3) Watching all of the movies with my best friend and coming out of them complaining about everything that they had done “wrong.” Although we loved the movies, we constantly complained about how they didn’t do much justice to the books. We came out of each movie listing everything that had been changed or skipped, anything that had been added, and just generally comparing the books to the movies. We both liked the books a lot better!

4) “You’re an excellent prophet” — The time Half-Blood Prince got spoiled for me – I think I have told this story before as well, but just before HBP was released, we all knew that a major character was going to die by the end. My friends and I spent hours talking about who we thought it would be, and I had a pretty good idea of who it was. Before I’d even had the chance to read the book myself, a friend of mine who was reading it came over to me and said “I just want to say, you’re an excellent prophet!” I was so upset with her! I didn’t care about whether I was right or wrong, I just wanted to find out for myself. I was still interested in seeing how it happened, but why would she think I’d want to know in advance?!

5) Smudging chocolate on my copy of Prisoner of Azkaban – Prisoner of Azkaban has always been my favourite of the series, and for some reason, I decided it was a good idea to eat a chocolate granola bar while re-reading it. I was very upset to discover that I had smudged chocolate on the edge of many pages (kind of like a thumbprint) when I picked up the book without checking if my hands were clean first. I hate damaging my books, and I was especially upset since this was such a favourite. Ever since then, I’ve avoided eating or drinking anything while eating.

6) Sirius Black going through the veil – Sirius was one of my favourite characters, and I was absolutely devastated by the scene in Order of the Phoenix where he falls through the mysterious veil. It seemed so sudden and so hard to understand exactly what happened. I was shocked, and it was one of the first times I really strongly remember literally crying from a scene in a book.

7) The experience of reading each of the books for the first time – I can still remember eagerly awaiting each new release, and getting so absorbed into the story every time. I was genuinely surprised by many of the plot twists (ie. the diary in Chamber of Secrets, the Shrieking Shack scene in Prisoner of Azkaban, etc). It is not very often that a book can catch me so off-guard since I have a tendency to predict what might happen next pretty accurately. This was one of the rare cases where, aside from the HBP example above, I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen and I was so excited to find out!

8) Buying a copy of Deathly Hallows with missing pages/some pages repeated – If I remember correctly, I got my copy of Deathly Hallows from the bookstore. When I picked it up, I noticed that there was a section of 30 or so pages that weren’t lined up properly with the rest, but I assumed it was just bound a bit strangely so I didn’t think anything of it. While reading the book, I got to that section and realized that it was actually a complete misprint — my book was missing a chunk of pages, and instead another chunk from earlier in the story had been repeated instead. I have no idea how that happened, but I was so frustrated! Not to mention I always have a bit of anxiety about returning things at a store because for some reason, I always think they will give me a hard time about giving things back. Luckily I was able to get to the store pretty quickly and make the switch.

9) Dolores Umbridge! – Need I say more? What other book or series has a character that feels so real and so genuinely scary? I have written about her in the past, so please see this post if interested.

10) Hermione Grangerone of the first characters I ever truly related to – It is not very often that I can completely relate to a character, but Hermione was definitely the first. From the moment she was first described with her “bushy brown hair” (which I had), her tendency toward being a know-it-all, and the fact that she practically lived in the library, I related very strongly to her. I am nowhere near as confident/out-going/bossy as Hermione, but I can relate to her in a lot of other ways. When I was younger, I genuinely enjoyed learning and even homework, and I was always a bit of a teacher’s pet. Even her Yule Ball transformation was relatable to me – I had a drama assignment in seventh grade where, as part of my costume, I straightened my hair for the first time ever and showed up to my (male) friend’s house to work with my (all male) group dressed in very feminine clothes for the first time. Even though these guys were all my close friends, they were in shock when they saw me! It definitely reminded me of everyone’s reaction to Hermione at the ball.

11) Playing European handball in gym class, and everyone comparing it to Quidditch – I’m pretty sure it was the one and only time we played that game, and I barely remember how to play anymore, but I remember everyone commenting about how similar the game was to Quidditch but without the brooms.

12) The incredible world-building – I have never read another series where the world that was created was so magical and yet so plausible at the same time. It is so easy to believe that the wizarding world of Harry Potter really could exist in parallel to our own, exactly the way it is described in the books. I loved the idea of the wizarding world co-existing alongside the Muggle world, and how the magical elements were nothing too elaborate. It made it so easy to imagine ourselves in the world, and I think nearly all readers at some point wanted to go to Hogwarts.

13) The fully-developed and wide-ranging cast of characters – This is a series that has a huge number of characters, but unlike other books that have so many people in them, I never had any problem keeping track of everyone. Each character, even minor characters, had a unique personality and seemed to be a fully developed person with a backstory, relationships, and their own strengths/flaws. Even characters in roles that are usually pretty one-dimensional (teachers, parents of main characters, random classmates) seemed real, human and often very interesting.

14) The way everything got tied together eventually –  One of the most memorable aspects of this series for me is how interconnected everything is. Things or people mentioned in passing in earlier books often show up again and take on a much more significant role later on. Even storylines that seem like fairly throwaway or one-off plots come back later one (Horcruxes being a main one). Items that are casually mentioned while the group is cleaning out Sirius’s house, for example, are actually essential later one. It is a real talent to open up all of these threads and have them come together logically and naturally, even several books later. Even character names (Mrs. Figg, Mundungus Fletcher) who are mentioned in passing early on later become much more important. It really taught me to pay attention to everything, and it also made the books fun to re-read to see how everything connects.

15) The humour! – I absolutely loved J.K. Rowling’s snarky sense of humour which came out often in the books. There were so many lines that were hilarious, even some that seemed unintentionally funny. For example, I’ve always loved Ron’s line “Of all the trees we could have hit, we had to get the one that hits back!” To this day, I have no idea why I found that line so funny but I’ve always loved it. I often find jokes/clownish characters tend to fall flat or be annoying after a while, but Fred, George and Peeves were all hilarious! I also loved the sarcastic humour spread throughout, especially Harry’s interactions with Dudley. Aside from the brilliant plot, the books were fun to read because they were just so funny!

16) The amazing bits of wisdom naturally interspersed throughout the story – There is a good reason why so many of the quotes from this book  have become so well-known. This is a series that contained some very powerful lines and messages, and these were blended into the story so naturally. It never really felt like characters were preaching or moralizing to you, but it was still easy to pick up on what J.K. Rowling was trying to get across. Even from the first book, we have so many great quotes about friendship, courage, standing up for what’s right, etc.

17) The way the series grows up with you – I was probably 10 or 11 when I started reading the series the first time, so approximately the same age as Harry each time a book came out. I literally grew up with these characters, and I appreciated how the series as a whole grew up with them as well. I loved how the writing style evolved a bit each time as the characters aged, and how the story got progressively more intense. My favourite authors have always been those (like Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket) who don’t talk down to children, and I think Harry Potter definitely fits in with those. The books can get quite dark at times, but I never felt it was more than I could handle, even when there were some very creepy moments.

18) The community that surrounds the series – As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been overly involved in any “fandoms” but Harry Potter comes pretty close. This is one of the only series where I’ve actually been very interested to go online and read what other people are saying. I love reading Harry Potter fanfiction, reviews of the books, and especially loved reading essays people posted online analyzing various characters and aspects of the book. It was a lot of fun to read different people’s views, and get new perspectives on the books and the characters that I loved.

19) The way so many of the characters defy our expectations – A huge part of the strength of this series for me was the way that it very quickly showed us not to judge a book by its cover. There are so many examples that it is hard to name just a few — Hagrid is one of the first examples that comes to mind. He is a half-giant who looks wild and enjoys keeping dangerous pets, so it would be easy to assume that he is scary and possibly even violent, but he is actually very gentle, friendly and loyal. The Dursleys do their best to seem normal, but they are actually abusive and mean. Neville starts out as a seemingly weak, talentless coward, but ends the series as a very powerful character. Just about every character in this book has shades of gray, and that is a huge part of what makes them so powerful and so memorable.

20) The fact that the books stand up so well to being re-read, no matter how many times I read them – I think this one pretty much speaks for itself. I have read and re-read the series so many times over the years, and I think there is a lot to be said for the fact that I can do that without getting bored. Even the first book, which I have probably read close to 20 times, still generally feels fresh and I still enjoy it each time. It is rare for me to find a series or even a single book that I can re-read so often, and still enjoy just as much as the first time I picked it up.

The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

I can’t believe the year is almost half over already! At the beginning of this year, I decided to take on four separate reading challenges, for a total of 158 books. Somehow, this didn’t seem too unrealistic to me since last year I also did four challenges for a total of 142 books, but ended up reading 146. I figured out that to accomplish my goal, I would need to read an average of 13 books per month, which didn’t seem too bad considering I can generally finish a book in 2-3 days and I also include quite a few graphic novels. A lot of the books I read are YA so many of them tend to go pretty quickly as well.

As of right now, I am currently somewhere between 4 and 5 books behind schedule according to my Goodreads homepage, and I say “between” because it seems to go back and forth each time I add a book. I have finished 70 books, and I am expecting to finish at least 2, maybe 3, more by the end of the month. I’ve found that on average, the books I’m reading this year are a little longer than last year’s choices, and I’ve had a relatively busy year. Now that we are coming up to summer, I’m hoping to be able to read more. I have two weeks off work in July, and my workload in general tends to be lighter in the summer since there is one major project I am in charge of which does not run over the summer. I’m hoping to dedicate some of that time to tackling some of my longer books or more difficult books.

In any case, I decided to do this tag because I’ve been seeing it literally everywhere in the past week or so! This tag was originally co-created by Chami (video here) and Ely, whose video/post I could not find. This tag seemed like a great way to look back on the books I’ve read so far this year, and also look ahead to the rest of the year!

1) Best book you’ve read so far this year

23131550I have to say that as a whole, I’ve found this year a little underwhelming so far but I think that has more to do with the strategy I picked than the actual books. I purposely started my year with some of the challenge prompts I was least excited for to get them out of the way and kept some of the books I’m most excited for purposely for later so I don’t finish them all at once. I think the best book overall that I’ve read so far would have to be Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan. It feels a bit strange to be picking a graphic novel as my favourite book so far since it is not a format I read a ton of, but I have been getting more into them recently. I absolutely loved the storyline and it reminded me of a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Incredibles. This is one of the books that really jumped out at me when looking through my list as something I really loved.

2) Best sequel you’ve read so far this year

16182304As part of my challenges over the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to incorporate more series, especially the many that are very widely talked about online. Both years, I decided to pick a few series to try, and I found that many of them actually did live up to the hype. I actually haven’t read too many of the sequels yet, but my favourite so far would have to be Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd. The first book, The Madman’s Daughter, was by far one of my standouts last year and I was very excited to continue the series. This book is inspired by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and it definitely kept up the dark and creepy atmosphere.

3) New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

31931941There are many since I am not very good at keeping up-to-date with new releases. It’s hard for me to keep up since I plan out books for my challenges (with flexibility though) just before the start of the new year, and depend on the library to get the books I want. I’m always willing to switch things up, but I also find it hard to knock other books off my list in favour of something new! One of the new releases that I’m most excited for is Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. The more I read about this book, the more I want to try it myself! This book was only released at the end of last month, so I still have time before my library decides to get it to see if I can squeeze it in somewhere!

4) Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Like I mentioned above, it’s kind of hard for me to anticipate releases since I know I’m most likely not going to have time to read them within the year, unless I want them badly enough to bump something else out of the challenge. I think one of the books I’m most highly anticipating is actually Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. Her first book, Hyperbole and a Half, is right up there with Strong Female Protagonist as one of my best books of the year. I decided to choose this as my most anticipated because I’d seen rumours online that it had been pushed back indefinitely, and even when trying to research it now, I’m getting conflicting information. There are several books that I am interested in reading, but this is the one that I most strongly feel that I really badly want to read right away.

5) Biggest Disappointment

30555488I would definitely have to say The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, and I’m sure I will get a lot of complaint about that one. I’ll admit that I never really intended to read this book in the first place, but decided to give it a chance because it was chosen as Book of the Month in one of my Goodreads groups. After seeing so much praise and hype around it (always a warning sign for me), I was a bit skeptical. I liked what Colson Whitehead tried to do with this book by having each stop on the railroad a window into different forms of racism and some of them were very interesting. Unfortunately, I found the book incredibly slow-paced and lacking emotional impact because it was written in such a distant way. Given how highly rated this book was, I expected to enjoy it a lot more. To be fair, maybe I would have enjoyed it more if it had been a book that I had been more interested to read in the first place.

6) Biggest Surprise

2349273625883848I have two for this one: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne and The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke. Although I did expect to like both of these books, I definitely wasn’t expecting to love them! The Hating Game is about a hate-to-love relationship between two coworkers up for the same promotion, and The Status of All Things is about a woman who gains the ability to change her life through her Facebook statuses. Both seem like kind of silly premises, but they both worked incredibly well. I think in both cases, it was down to the way the authors handled the stories that made them so appealing. Both were very fun to read, and by far exceeded my expectations.

7) Favourite New Author (Debut or New To You)

1935104322328546Once again, I have to go with two books this one. There were many authors that I really enjoyed this year, but many of them were authors that I had read from before. There were two authors who were new to me who stood out most: Noelle Stevenson (Nimona) and Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen). Noelle Stevenson stood out to me because she created such complex characters in a graphic novel format and it was a book that I didn’t want to end. The characters leap off the page. I was a little worried about Red Queen because I’d seen so many criticisms of how similar it was to other YA dystopian series, but I was blown away by this book and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected I would. I think Victoria Aveyard’s writing style was a big factor in that.

8) Newest Fictional Crush

30653853I’ve never really been one to get crushes on fictional characters, but there were a few this year that I thought were just adorable. If I had to pick just one, I think I would go with Reid from The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (with Levi from Fangirl in a close second). He was just such a sweet character, and I loved his geeky charm. I also loved his interactions with Molly. He was one of the few boys in a YA book that actually felt realistic to me, and I liked how they made him nerdy without going over the top with it.

9) Newest Favourite Character

16068905Definitely Cath from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, although I have to say I cringed every time they used her full name “Cather.” She was a character that I very strongly related to, anxiety and all. I thought she was a very interesting protagonist because she was a little different than most other main characters. I liked that the book wasn’t all about “fixing” her anxiety and that it didn’t magically disappear by the end of the book. She felt very real and I loved how her relationships with other characters were so well-developed.

10) A Book That Made You Cry

25618818Honestly, I don’t think any of the books really made me cry (at least not like A Monster Calls last year, which literally had me in tears). I guess the closest would be Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart, which I actually used for a challenge prompt that called for a book that makes you cry. This book is a graphic novel written by a father whose young daughter suddenly and unexpectedly dies overnight, and follows the lives of him and his wife in the aftermath. It didn’t quite make me cry, but there were many parts that made me tear up and I think I might have actually cried if I hadn’t been reading it in public.

11) A Book That Made You Happy

Definitely the Upside of Unrequited, which is linked and pictured above. Like Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda last year, I thought this book was such a cute story. I understand a lot of people have complained about Molly’s preoccupation with finding a boyfriend, but I didn’t have a problem with it. For one thing, other characters were pushing her to date more than she was pushing herself, and for another, her crushes were the main focus on the book. It goes back to a point I was trying to make in a post earlier this year about the need for diverse stories — not all female characters have to be strong, independent women, and sometimes the story will focus on finding love. In any case, this book made me really happy because it was so fun to read and Becky Albertalli’s characters always make me smile.

12) Favourite Book to Film Adaptation You Saw This Year

I don’t think I have seen any, unless you count Wonder Woman since it is technically based on a comic series. I haven’t been to very many movies this year in general, and the most memorable were Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Wonder Woman.

Actually, if we include TV series as well, then I would have to mention both Thirteen Reasons Why, and especially A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix. I thought both series were very well-done, and I especially loved how A Series of Unfortunate Events (ASUE? What an awkward acronym…) stuck so closely to the text.

13) Favourite Review You’ve Written This Year

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog for a while, you’ll notice that I’m terrible when it comes to writing reviews. My original intent with the blog was to write reviews for the books I reading for my “Rejects Challenge” from my Goodreads group, but after a couple of reviews that fell apart pretty quickly mostly because I have not read much for my Rejects Challenge yet.

Instead, I will mention a couple of my favourite posts I’ve made this year:

14) Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought or Received So Far This Year

25663781I haven’t bought much this year, and oddly enough none of the books we’ve brought home from library discards have been particularly attractive either. Instead, I’ll choose a book I borrowed from the library: What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera. It was a great book, although definitely not a light one, and the cover is so beautiful. Actually, it was the cover that attracted me to this book in the first place when I first saw some of the people I followed on Goodreads talking about it last year.

15) What Books Do You Need to Read by the End of the Year?

I guess it depends how we’re defining “need.” I still have many books left for my challenges that I “need” to read in order to reach my goal, but there are also many books that I’m very interested in that are coming out last this year. Since several of those have been mentioned in the Top Ten Tuesday post listed above, I will mention a few books from my challenges that I need to read (as in, the books that I am most excited for, and most committed to reading this year).

 

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Unlikeable Protagonists

In general, characters and character development is the most appealing part of a book for me. Even when the plot is mediocre, I tend to like the book if the characters are interesting. I have never really subscribed to the whole idea that a protagonist needs to be a likeable person. Sometimes the most interesting characters to read about are those who are more complex, even when they are not a very likeable person. We all naturally seem to have an aversion toward certain kinds of characters, which usually mirror the kind of people we don’t like much in real life. It is often easier to relate to characters who we like, especially when they remind us of ourselves of others we know well. However, I think in many cases, the unlikeable characters make the most interesting stories and often end up being characters that you root for. I don’t think you need to necessarily like the character on a personal level to get engaged in their story.

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.

1) Reshma Kapoor from Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

enter-title-here-book-coverTo me, Reshma Kapoor is the epitome of the unlikeable protagonist. She is an extremely ambitious and competitive high school senior who is trying to write and publish a book in an attempt to get into the prestigious college of her choice. In an attempt to make her book more interesting, Reshma decides to try to get more “normal” high school experiences. Although it seems like it will be a very fluffy and light story, it ends up being an amazing exploration of pressure, mental health, and some of the flaws in the academic system. Reshma is conniving, selfish and not afraid to step on others to get what she wants — and yet I still found myself rooting for her and fully engaged with her story. It was by far one of the most unique YA books I’ve ever read, and I would highly recommend it.

2) Light Yagami from the Death Note series, by Tsugumi Ohba

81idnjn-r3lI have not read a lot of manga, and I have to admit that I am basing this mostly off the anime series, which I adored! I have read the first couple of books of the manga series and they seem almost the same so I would imagine Light’s character is similar. Light is a bored high school student who discovers a Death Note, which is a notebook that was dropped by a shinigami (death god), giving him the power to kill. Light is an incredibly intelligent person who starts out relatively likeable, however he quickly gets caught up in the power of the Death Note and begins to take advantage of it. In the series, he is pitted against a brilliant but eccentric detective named L who tries to uncover Light’s identity and stop him. Light is another compelling protagonist who you can’t help but root for, even when you don’t agree with his actions.

3) Rachel from The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

girlonthetrainI seem to be one of the minority, at least in my Goodreads groups, who really loved this book. I devoured it when I read it two years ago, and I loved the characters even if they weren’t the most likeable. The story is a mystery/thriller about a woman named Rachel who takes a commuter train every day, where she passes by a couple who she imagines have an ideal life. On the train one day, Rachel sees something shocking involving this couple and takes it open herself to uncover what happened. If I’m honest, I don’t really remember the characters being too unlikeable because they seemed pretty real to me. Rachel is an alcoholic, who is can be selfish, obsessive and annoying, and the other major characters also had some irritating qualities. I didn’t mind it because I thought it brought them to life, but one of the most common complaints I’ve seen about this book is how horrible the characters are.

4) Alex from The Female of the Speices by Mindy McGinnis

25812109I read this book fairly recently, and while I definitely didn’t love it as much as everyone else seemed to, I think Alex can easily count as an unlikeable protagonist. The book is about Alex, a girl who sought vigilante justice for her sister’s murder three years earlier and who isolates herself from others due to her violent instincts, until her senior year where she befriends a couple of other students. Essentially, Alex was used as a means of challenging rape culture and the way women treat each other but she was quite an unlikeable character. She was loyal and protective, but also aggressive and I sometimes found it irritating how unrealistic she was. I found it hard to believe that a girl her age could take revenge so effectively and without anyone knowing. She definitely didn’t seem to be  the kind of person I would like much.

5) Samantha from Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

6482837This is another book that I read not too long ago, and I had such a hard time getting into it because of the main character. Samantha was part of the popular crowd, and she and her friends were catty and shallow bullies. The story focuses on Sam’s chance to relive the last day of her life after she dies in a car accident, giving her the chance to try and change the outcome each time. Sam and her friends were definitely very realistic characters, but it was hard for me to enjoy reading about her. A lot of her behaviour seemed absolutely ridiculous to me, and unlike other books with popular main characters, Sam did not seem to have any qualms about the way she treated others. It improved by the end, of course, but for most of the book I found her very annoying.

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning To Start But Haven’t

Top 10 Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Reading series has always been a bit of a problem for me. In general, my preference has been to read all of the books in a series in a row. This means I’m either stuck waiting for all the books to come out, or I end up re-reading from the beginning each time there is a new book. If I wait too long to read the next book in a series, I’ve usually forgotten what happened in the previous ones and it irritates me when I’m reading and can’t figure out what’s going on. The main problem is, the opposite is also true — if I read all of the books in a row, I tend to get bored after a while. Even if I absolutely love the series, reading too many in a row sometimes makes the books feel a bit too repetitive.

Over the past couple of years, as I started to become more involved in reading challenges and watching Youtube channels discussing books, I heard about many new and very popular series. Given my tendency to avoid anything that I see as over-hyped, I naturally avoided them at all costs for a while, until last year. I finally decided that maybe the hype was for a reason, so I chose a few major series to start and incorporated the first book of each into my challenges. This is my second year of doing so, forcing me to find a balance between trying new series and finishing off or at least continuing those I already tried. I was surprised to find that I still had so many new series on my TBR. I am excluding any that I am planning to start this year. Here are a few of the series I still want to start, but may have to wait a while!

1) Red Rising by Pierce Brown

15839976I added this book to my TBR late last year, after looking into quite a few dystopian series. I’ve put off reading it for now because I recently read Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, which I’ve heard is quite similar. I’m aware that this book came first, but I’d heard a lot more about the Red Queen series and decided to try that one first. I loved the first book of that one, but I’m a little worried that reading this one will now seem too similar.

2) Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

10194157No matter what channel I watch or blog I read, I find positive comments about this series. I added it to my list alongside many other YA series that were frequently mentioned online, but put it off without any real excuse for why. When it came to picking new series to start this year, I strongly considered this one but decided to pass on it for now because I already had too many series on the go. Based on all of the positive reviews I’ve seen, I can’t wait to give this one a try!

3) The Shades of Magic Trilogy by V.E. Schwab

22055262This series has been compared to an adult-level Harry Potter, which sounds very appealing. I haven’t started it yet because I try to limit myself in my challenges to just one book per author as much as possible, and I have already decided to read Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song this year. Nearly all of the reviewers I follow on Goodreads have absolutely raved about this series, so I’m excited to eventually try it.

4) The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch 

9496240I added this series to my list while searching for books that had a similar atmosphere to the Miss Peregrine series. Ironically enough, the main reason I haven’t picked this series up yet is because I keep mixing it up with other series. Now that I’ve actually looked at the synopsis properly for the first time in a while, it’s easy to remember what caught my attention about it in the first place. This will probably be one to prioritize next year.

5) Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

7896527This is another series that falls into the “only one per author” rule I try to impose for myself. I already decided to prioritize Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series first, and I was worried about reading two fantasy series by the same author. I understand that they are quite different, but I preferred to give a chance to different authors instead of two by the same one. Also, this was a longer series so it seemed like much more of a commitment.

6) Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

6068551To be honest, I added this to my list more because of the author than anything else. Werewovles are not usually very appealing to me, but I have heard nothing but good things about Maggie Stiefvater for well over a year now. I decided to go for her Raven Boys series first since that seemed more up my alley, but it seemed only fair to give a chance to a werewolf series since I have not read any before. I haven’t read any of Maggie Stiefvater yet, but I’ve heard she’s a great author.

7) Legend by Marie Lu

9275658I added this one at the height of my YA dystopian phase, which has since diminished (hence why I haven’t tried it yet). The books in this series have an unusually high average rating on Goodreads (over 4 stars each), yet it did not seem to be a series that was talked about as much. I’m curious about why this series hasn’t received the same amount of attention as others in the genre, but even moreso to see why it managed to get such great ratings. I may need to wait a bit to be in the mood to read a YA dystopian again, but this seems like it will be a good choice.

8) The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness

2118745Patrick Ness is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. I was absolutely blown away by A Monster Calls, and I recently read and loved The Rest of Us Just Live Here. All of his books are quite different from each other. I added this series to my list after getting a used copy of the first book and skimming the first few pages, which seemed hilarious! This opening pages of this book feature a conversation between a boy and his dog. I wasn’t expecting to like it much, but I was immediately drawn in by Patrick Ness’s writing style. It looks like it could be a great series.

9) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

27774758Of all the series listed here, this is probably the one that I know least about. I’ve been waiting to try it because it was another YA dystopian, which I haven’t really been in the mood for lately. The world in this book is supposed to be based on Ancient Rome, which was one of the topics I was most interested in at school. This is another book that was very highly rated on Goodreads and is rumoured to be coming out as a movie later on this year.

10) Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

28374007This is one of the few cases where I actually have read another book by this author. Last year, I read the first book in the Anna Dressed in Blood duology, and I really enjoyed it. I actually didn’t realize at first that this series was written by the same author. I thought this series seemed interesting because it reminded me a bit of some of the court politics involved in Tudor England and other monarchies of the past, although with each of the potential queens having special powers. It definitely seems like something that I would enjoy.

If anyone has already read any of these series, or has any recommendations for others, please let me know. There are quite a few series that I already have in progress or in mind for later on this year, but I would never say no to more recommendations!

 

Why Are Books So Expensive?! (Or Why I Rely On My Local Library)

I’m lucky enough to live a 20-minute walk from my local library, which is also one of the larger branches which stays relatively up-to-date. On top of that, I have a parent who works at the library and doesn’t mind picking up books for me, making it very easy for me to access most of the books I want to read. We’re also lucky enough to get many books through book sales, and occasionally for free when the library is discarding them anyway. As a result, it’s become pretty rare for me to actually buy books.

After thinking about it, I’ve realized there is one main reason underlying all others for why I don’t buy many books anymore: they are just so expensive! There are only a few authors that are auto-buys for me, the main one being Jodi Picoult. Her most recent book came out last October, and due to my irrational need for all books by the same author to be in the same format (paperback, in this case), I decided to wait. Now this was frustrating enough on its own since Small Great Things had already been delayed, so I had already waited quite a while for it to be released at all. It eventually reached the point where I broke down and decided to just get the hardcover version instead…only to discover that the book cost about $30. Jodi Picoult is by far my favourite author, and one of the only ones that I will automatically buy without reading first, but I just can’t justify spending that much on one book.

It was the same for the most recent Nicholas Sparks book (Two by Two) also. Although he’s not quite such a favourite of mine anymore, I still tend to collect all of his books. In this case, I do generally go for the hardcover anyway. Again, I went online to Amazon and went into the bookstore to see if they had it — and again, it cost $30! At least YA books were a little more reasonable. Most of the YA books I was interested in cost $10 – $15 each, a price that I am more willing to pay. I realized that there are a few reasons why I am hesitant to pay for books, especially the more expensive ones:

  • I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy it – When I spend money on a book, I want to be fairly confident that I’m going to like it. It’s pretty frustrating to spend hard-earned money on something you didn’t enjoy at all. Instead, I now use the library to read many of the books I’m interested in and decide whether they are worth buying.
  • I’ve already read it recently – The other side of this is that once I’ve read the book, I’m in no rush to buy it immediately. Even if I really loved it and would like to own a copy, I end up putting it off thinking “Well, I just read it so I probably won’t read it again for a while.”
  • I don’t have much room for more books – My bookshelves are a constant source of frustration. I probably have about twice as many books as I have room on my shelves for, and this is after weeding through and removing any that I had no intention of reading. Even when I want more books, I want them to be on a shelf, not in stacks on the floor where they might get damaged
  • With such easy access to the library, I’d rather save the money while I can – That’s not to say that I won’t buy any books or support my favourite authors, but it’s definitely less of a rush. It gives me the chance to decide whether I really want the book badly enough to own a copy, and in a sense how much I’d be willing to spend. I’m willing to pay more for books that I really enjoyed (but up to a certain limit).
  • It gives me more time to make choices about what to buy, and get better value for my money – My TBR on Goodreads currently sits at around 1400 – 1500 books. If I bought every book just because I wanted to read it, or even just half the books, I would end up spending most of my money! Being a little more hesitant to spend, I have time to really think about which ones I want most and to take advantage of sales or deals the rare time they come up.

It’s most frustrating the few times there is a book that I really want to get right away, and I have to weigh the price against how badly I want to read it. I don’t think there has ever been a case yet where I could justify spending $25+ dollars on one book. The only exception was The Addams Family – An Evilution, a book tracing the Addams Family’s history since it’s start as cartoons in the New Yorker. Even then, that book was a birthday gift from family who are well aware of my Addams Family obsession. Generally, I try to wait for my bookstore to offer sales or 2 for 1 deals to make things a little more affordable.

In the mean time, I’m perfectly happy to rely on my local library system to try out a variety of books. My library allows up to 150 books on your hold list at a time — perfect for me when I’m trying to do multiple reading challenges. They’re also pretty great about buying books that library users request. This year alone, I’ve asked for probably in the range of 20 books to be added to the catalogue, and they have bought all but two which were somehow out of print (despite being from 2012). We can even ask them to buy books and pause the request until we’re ready to read the book. With such a great system, it can be hard sometimes to justify buying books.

I’m sure there will be some people out there who will suggest switching over to e-books or other formats. Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer having a physical copy of my books. I know there are many advantages to ebooks and other formats, although I’m not sure if cost is one of them, but for me there is nothing like holding a real book in my hands!