The Goodreads Book Tag

It’s no secret that I’m a little obsessed with Goodreads! I’ve had my Goodreads account for about two years now, and I use it mostly for my reading challenges and to keep track of my massive (1500+) TBR list. I was tagged by Beth at Reading Every Night, an amazing blog that I only recently discovered. Thanks for tagging me!

1) What was the last book you marked as read?

7613I just finished reading Animal Farm last night, which I read for the first time. My school was a bit of a weird one since we never covered many of the classics that most people read in high school. I never read 1984, Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, or Animal Farm in school like most other people did. I’m pretty sure my brother, who went to the same school but four years ahead of me read at least some of those books in high school.

2) What are you currently reading?

25756328I’m about to start Love & Gelato. Honestly, it is not really the kind of book I would usually read. Although I do love YA contemporary, I’m not usually very interested in books that focus heavily on travelling. This one has quite a high average rating on Goodreads though, so we’ll see how it goes. I chose it because one of my reading challenges required a book set in Italy and I was having trouble finding one that I really wanted to read.

3) What was the last book you marked as TBR?

33785151I added a few books yesterday. If you want to be technical, the very last book that I added was Friend Request by Laura Marshall, which is due out later this year. I marked it as TBR because we managed to get an ARC copy that was donated to the library book sale. I probably won’t be getting to it any time soon, but it looks very interesting! The other books I added yesterday are: The Cost of All Things (Maggie Lehrman), If You Knew My Sister (Michelle Adams), and So Much Love (Rebecca Rosenblum).

4) What book do you plan to read next?

16115612I literally have a stack of books on my floor beside me right now from the library, which are the next few books that I’m going to read for my reading challenges. Technically Love & Gelato is next because I haven’t started that one yet, but after that will be And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I actually have quite a few books in that pile that I’m looking forward to, but also a couple that I’m a little more on the fence about, and chose just to fulfill challenge prompts. Other books in the pile right now are: This Savage Song, The Beach House, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Illuminae.

5) Do you use the star rating system?

Yes, and I hate that it does not allow half-stars! There are so many books that I’ve read that don’t quite fit neatly into one of the star ratings, so I’m always left to decide whether to round my ratings up or down. Usually I end up rounding up, but it’s annoying because it means that among my 5 star reviews, there are some “true” 5 stars, and many others that are 4.5 stars rounded up. It’s not quite the same thing!

6) Are you doing a 2017 Reading Challenge?

Yes, I’m doing a few:

  • GoodReads Around the Year – 52 books + one additional “wild card” topic
  • PopSugar 2017 – 52 books in total, 40 for the main challenge and 12 for the “advanced” challenge.
  • PopSugar Summer 2016 – A challenge I discovered last year too late to give it a fair chance, consisting of 29 prompts, most of which are summer-themed in some way
  • BookRiot Read Harder 2017 – A list of 24 prompts, usually quite difficult to fulfill!

7) Do you have a wishlist?

I don’t know what a Goodreads wishlist is. I would assume it’s just a list of the books I want to read and/or buy. I have a TBR list consisting of over 1500 books. While I don’t necessarily want to buy all of those, I do consider it my reading wishlist.

8) What book do you plan to buy next?

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, if it ever drops down to a reasonable price!

9) Do you have any favourite quotes? Share a few.

I have a bunch of quotes marked on Goodreads, but I’ve never really been one to memorize favourite lines. Here are some of my favourites, according to what I’ve marked:

A person’s a person, no matter how small — Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who

If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so — Lemony Snicket

Sometimes, when you don’t ask questions, it’s not because you are afraid that someone will lie to your face. It’s because you’re afraid they’ll tell you the truth. — Jodi Picoult

Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better — Kevin Henkes, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Who are your favourite authors?

Jodi Picoult, J.K. Rowling, Audrey Niffenegger, Philippa Gregory, Gregory Maguire, and Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket).

Have you joined any groups?

Yes, mostly related to my reading challenges. The only groups I participate in regularly are for my challenges, and I’ve also joined the Top 5 Wednesday group to get my weekly topics.

Who do I tag?

I’m sure this tag has been around for a while, so I’m not sure who has done it already, but I will tag:

Anushka @ Going Through Books
booksophisticate @Book Sophisticate
Harini @Books and Readers
Kourtni @Kourtni Reads
Krysti @YA and Wine

Top 5 Wednesdays: Series that Got Better

Confession time: I have actually completed very few full series. As I sat down to prepare this post, I was surprised to find just how few series I have read from start to finish. I knew that in the past year or two, I’ve committed to trying several of the more popular series that I’d been hearing about all over the Internet, but I was shocked to discover that the vast majority of the books I read are standalones. To be fair, I’ve always known that I generally prefer standalones because series have always struck me as much more of a time commitment.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I don’t read series that often because I have trouble figuring out how to manage them. When I read all of the books in a row, they start to blend together and get boring, but when I space them out more, I forget what happened in the previous books. I also find that a lot of series drag things out unnecessarily to fill three or more books, when the story could easily have been shortened. The middle book especially tends to be where a lot of the bulking up happens, often with endless action sequences (which don’t necessarily interest me much), or a huge emphasis on romance (which I don’t mind if it’s done well).

It was a real struggle for me to find five series that I thought got better with each book, or at the very least stayed consistently strong all the way through. I am apologizing in advance if this list is a little on the generic/predictable side. I have several series that I am still partway through that are possible candidates, but I’m hesitant to add them until I know for certain how the last book is.

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) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

8Of course this is the obvious choice, but I could not make this post without mentioning my favourite series of all time. This is a series that truly got better as it went on, and the first book was already easily a 5-star read, so that’s saying a lot. One of the things I love most about this series is how it grows with the reader. I was about the same age as Harry when I started reading it, so it was nice to have a character who grew up with me. I especially enjoyed how the books became darker and more mature as Harry got older as well. I find many series fall into a trap where the books become repetitive if the characters never really age. I love everything about this series — from the world-building to the character development to the snarky humour. While I’m not sure if the 7th book is my favourite, I would definitely say this series got better and better.

2) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

65113I’m sure many people will disagree with me on this one, but I have to give this series credit. For something that carried on for so long (13 books!), it was quite strong. To be fair, this is one of the main series that I’ve always had trouble managing. It definitely starts to feel repetitive if you read them all in a row, but it’s also one that I don’t generally put down in the middle. Possibly because I tend to read all the books in a row, I sometimes find a few toward the middle are not quite as strong, but there are more than enough great ones to make up for it. Judging by my Goodreads ratings, even the weaker books were still very highly rated (between 4 and 5 stars on my list). The Penultimate Peril is very underrated, and while I found the last book a bit underwhelming when I first read it, it is a pretty fitting end.

3) The Pendragon Series by D.J. MacHale

833710This is another quite long series consisting of 10 books, and one that I have trouble managing. This series is a prime example of one I find difficult to read all in a row, but too complex at times to space out. It is an extremely underrated series about a boy named Bobby Pendragon who learns that he is a Traveller, a person with the ability to travel to various worlds to help them through a “turning point” that can either maintain them or let them fall into chaos. This is another series where the books grow up with the character. One of the things I loved most about this series, aside from the variety of interesting moral dilemmas and topics covered by the worlds, was how the author was not afraid to have his characters fail. In many other series, the main characters always come out on top. In this series, there were legitimate stakes raised as Bobby fought Saint Dane, a villain who wants to push each world into chaos as part of a larger scheme to take control of them. It kept the books fresh, since you could never be sure who would win.

4) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

7938275This was another series that almost fell victim to my tendency to avoid overhyped books. I actually read it because my mom, who rarely reads YA, loved it and highly recommended it. I devoured the entire series in a matter of days while on vacation one summer, and I loved all three of the books. This is another series that I know people may disagree with me on, since many were very frustrated with the ending. I loved this series because I thought it was a perfect blend of action with strong character development. It was incredibly well-written, and I especially enjoyed how the world was built in a way that was not too far-fetched, yet still different enough from our own. I loved how the entire concept of the Hunger Games plays off of a twisted version of reality TV, and Katniss is one of my all-time favourite characters.

5) The Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs

missperegrinecoverI think this is another potentially unpopular opinion. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the books get better and better, but they remain fairly consistent. I absolutely loved Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children when I first read it because it seemed so unique compared to other books I had read at the time. I thought the use of old photographs was very creative (not to mention creepy!), and I loved the introduction of the Peculiars in the first book. I’ll admit I rushed the series a little when I read it since it was part of my first reading challenge in 2015. I’d already read the first two books, and had a challenge prompt requiring a trilogy, so I decided to re-read the first two and then the final book to fulfill it. I think it may have been a mistake to try and read them all so quickly because I don’t feel that I fully appreciated the story as much as I could have, but I thought all three books were quite strong.

Top 10 Tuesdays: 10 Books That Have Been On Your Shelf (or TBR) From Before You Started Blogging

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

Picking past Top 10 Tuesday topics is more of a challenge than I thought! I knew that while The Broke and The Bookish was on a break I’d be on my own, but I didn’t realize it would be so difficult to decide on a topic each week. Recently, my TBR list on Goodreads has basically exploded in size since I keep finding more and more books to add. Whenever I finish a book that I really enjoy, I tend to look at what else the author has published and add those as well. The same goes for a series. If I enjoy the first book, I’ll add the rest of the series to my list. Not too long ago, I went on a bit of a “pre-release” spree and looked at upcoming books for 2018 and added a bunch of those to my list as well…never mind the fact that I’m still quite behind on this year’s reading challenges.

For this week’s topic, I decided to look back the other way at some of the books that have been on my list from the start of my Goodreads account in 2015. Since I’m still a relatively new blogger (approaching one year now), I thought it made more sense to list some of the books that have been on my TBR longest, instead of anything from before I started blogging. When I first joined Goodreads, I honestly didn’t expect to use it very much and most of my early list comprised of classics I’d been meaning to read for a long time. As I started exploring the website further (and getting more obsessed with finding new books), my list greatly expanded. My list currently sits at about 1550 books to read, and still growing! Here are some of the books that have been on my list the longest:

1) Looking for Alaska by John Green

99561When I started my Goodreads account, I think the only book of John Green’s that I had read was The Fault in Our Stars, which I really liked. I knew I wanted to try more of his books, so I added the rest to my list and I have been slowly making my way through them each year as part of my reading challenges. I have read An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns, but this book consistently seems to be one of his most popular. John Green seems to be one of those authors where although I like everything I’m reading, I haven’t really loved any of his books yet. The Fault in Our Stars was definitely the best so far, but given the popularity of this one, I’m hoping it will be just as good.

2) Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

2865It’s actually a little embarrassing that I haven’t read this one yet, since I received it as a gift from my brother’s girlfriend several years ago. If I recall correctly, this was back around the time we’d first met, and she got the book for me after discovering that I love reading. There is no real excuse for why I haven’t read it yet, other than just prioritizing other books over it. To be fair, I’m not sure if it was a book that I would have chosen for myself but I do enjoy historical fiction and I have heard a lot of positive reviews for this one. I will have to make sure to give it a chance.

3) The Maze Runner by James Dashner

6186357I added this book to my list at the height of the YA dystopian craze, intended to read it for my first reading challenge in 2015, and ultimately switched it out for something different. I was thinking of using it for the prompt requiring reading an entire trilogy, but ended up choosing Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine series instead. I’ve always been a little on the fence about how much I want to read this book. I put it off originally because I was a little burnt out on dystopians, and I’ve been on the fence ever since. The book has been very highly rated by most of the reviewers I follow on Goodreads, and the story sounds interesting but I’m just never in the mood to pick it up.

4) Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain

2589061This was another book that I intended to read during my 2015 reading challenge, but had to scrap because my library lost their only copy. It took them a very long time to finally decide that the book was lost, and by the time I got the notification, I had already found something else to fulfill the prompt. If I remember correctly, I found this book because it came highly recommended for fans of Jodi Picoult and other similar authors. I had never heard of Diane Chamberlain before, but found the synopses of many of her books very appealing. I can’t remember what prompt I meant to use this for, but I was annoyed that the library couldn’t find it in the end!

5) The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

17285330I think this was a book that I added to my list because the cover really strongly caught my attention. When I first started adding to my TBR, I spent a long time looking at the recommendations pages on Goodreads and finding many books that seemed interesting. This is one of many YA books that I added, kept on my list for so long because it interested me every time I re-read the synopsis, and then never bothered to pick up. It’s received very mixed reviews from the reviewers I follow, which is not the most encouraging and may be why I’ve always been a little reluctant to try it. Although looking at the page now, it has an average rating over 4 stars on Goodreads, so it should be pretty good.

6) The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle

15655This was another book that I added to my list because I found the cover art so appealing. I think it actually took me some time to decide to add it, but I kept being drawn to the giant leaf on the cover. Each time I visited the recommendations page, this book would be there and drew my attention so I finally decided to add it to my list. Looking through my list now, I can definitely see different phases I went through while adding to my TBR — there’s a classics phase, a family drama phase, and a YA phase. I’m guessing that had to do with which of the recommendations pages I was looking at. This book was right in the middle of several family drama stories, which are often my favourites.

7) Who R U Really? by Margo Kelly

21444891As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been very interested in books that deal with the Internet and social media, and the role they play in our social lives. Apparently this was not such a recent interest, although I think the direction these books have taken has shifted over the years. I added this book to my list two years ago and never picked it up because it was unavailable through the library system. I’m always hesitant now to buy books that I’ve never tried because they are so expensive. I was very surprised to discover this book on the library shelves recently, so I will have to make sure to prioritize it sometime soon.

8) Creepy and Maud by Dianne Touchell

15703528This is another book that has been bugging me for years, in the sense that it was so difficult to find! This year, I made sure to add it to my reading challenges to push myself to finally read it, only to learn that the library could not get a copy because it is out of print! A little weird, since the book was published in 2012, but still very irritating! This was another book that appealed to me largely because of the interesting cover art, but I also thought the storyline had a lot of potential. I have yet to find a way to read this, since it is out of stock and even e-book versions don’t exist in my country, but I will definitely be on the lookout for this one!

9) #scandal by Sarah Ockler

17415348If I’m honest, any titles that include a hashtag instantly make me cringe, but this book just seemed like it could be a decent story. I originally thought this book had something to do with being a celebrity, but I later realized it was actually about cyberbullying. As much as I tend to love social media stories, I need to be in the mood to read this kind of high school romance so this is a book that has consistently been put off. I’ve actually never read any of Sarah Ockler’s books, although they all seem somewhat interesting. Most of hers, like Sarah Dessen’s books, seem to be geared toward an audience a little younger than I am. While I don’t have a problem reading YA or middle grade, I sometimes don’t enjoy it when it is skewed younger.

10) Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble

1152201This was another book discovered through the recommendations pages. I have never read any of Elizabeth Noble’s books, although several of them look interesting. I’ve actually just added a few more to my list, which is definitely not helping my total TBR number. I added this book because it looked like such a moving story about four sisters trying to move on after their mother’s death, with letters and a journal from their mother to help guide them. These kinds of stories are always a little hit or miss for me, because they are so dependent on how well I connect with the author’s writing style. I think the main reason I haven’t picked it up yet is because I’ve been worried about not enjoying it much, especially after seeing the very mixed reviews.

The Problem with “Problematic”: The Importance of Critical Reading

Last week, a friend of mine at work was telling a story about watching TV with their Kindergarten-age daughter. They were watching a popular show which her daughter has been obsessed with for about a year now, when her daughter suddenly turned to her and asked “Why aren’t there more girls on this show?” In the cast of about 10 anthropomorphic characters, only one or two of them were female. Her story got me thinking — we should all be more like her daughter.

I think it’s worth noting that the child was not necessarily complaining about the lack of female characters, although it seemed like she thought it was unfair. She was simply questioning why the writers had chosen to skew the characters that way. This is something I think we need to do with books as well. I’ve been struggling to write a post on this topic for months now, because I know it can be a sensitive subject. I think we are sometimes too quick to label books as “problematic.”

To be clear, I am definitely not trying to imply that books are never problematic and that everyone is being too sensitive. There is definitely problematic representation, and it can and should be called out. What I’m suggesting is instead of jumping straight to assuming that the content is a problem, we should take a moment to ask ourselves why the author chose to write the character that way.

Essentially, what it comes down to is that both the author and the reader have some degree of responsibility when it comes to books. The author is responsible for thoughtful and accurate representation of their characters, as well as the responsibility for creating compelling, well-written stories that interest people. The reader is responsible for putting some thought into what they read and to be unafraid to question what the author was trying to say.  Was the author intentionally offensive with their representation, or were they trying to convey a message? If they were trying to convey a message, what was the message and how well did it come across?

There is also the important distinction to be made between content that is actually problematic, and content that the reader on a personal level just doesn’t like or agree with. For example, there are many people who disagree with stories about characters who have mental illness having a negative ending, but that does not necessarily mean that the book itself is problematic. Just like we have to be critical of what we see on the news, we also have to be critical when we are reading. I’m not trying to turn every book we read into a school project or a game of “analyze this to death,” but I think it is important for readers to put some thought into what they are consuming the same way we are taught to do with movies or TV. An unhappy ending is not necessarily problematic.  At this point, it actually seems to be difficult to find any books that have not been deemed problematic in some way.

My issue with labeling a book as problematic is that it seems to be a blanket statement for the idea that the book might be upsetting. Again, there are definitely books out there that are racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. but instead of rushing to label, I think we need to take a deeper look and think about why the characters were written that way. Sometimes, it really is a problem of poor representation or an author who really does have a bias. Sometimes it might be that the author was trying to be diverse but didn’t know how to do it well. And sometimes, it might be that the characters were written that way purposely to convey something that the author wanted to say. We are often quick to assume that characters who are racist, homophobic, etc. condone those attitudes, and we miss the bigger message. I don’t think the mere presence of problematic material is a problem in itself. It is how the author handles it and what purpose that representation serves that is more important.

I’d like to have a little faith in people that they are able to notice when there are problems with how people or groups are represented. When I say that the presence alone is not enough, it’s because I’d like to believe that the average reader can and does notice when the content could be offensive. We should all be doing exactly what my friend’s daughter did with her favourite show, and question why it was written that way. Not to take away from the fun of reading just for our own enjoyment, but it is up to us to think about what we read and acknowledge the problems if and when they really do exist.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Books That Are Not Set in Or Inspired By the Western World

One of my main regrets about my time in university was choosing not to take more classes about the histories of other countries, especially those in Asia. I majored in Psychology, but I had briefly considered doing a double-major in history. Ultimately, I decided against it because I was worried it would be too complicated to fit in all my required courses for both programs and still have room for a few electives. Plus, history and psychology would have been quite the workload! Although I still had the option of taking history classes, my focus was mostly on ancient civilizations and Europe. There were several classes in Asian history that really interested me, but most of them either conflicted with my schedule or were set for 8:30 in the morning which would mean waking up at 6 am to catch my bus to school. I was interested in the class, but definitely not interested enough to wake up so early! I am really not a morning person.

I have always been interested in reading and learning about other cultures, especially countries like Japan and China. Although I’ve never really studied them properly, I find historical fiction (when it’s done well) can be fascinating and through some of those books, I have learned so much about other cultures. I was pretty excited to see this week’s topic to get a chance to discuss some of my favourite books set outside the Western world. Like many readers, I have not read nearly as many non-Western books as I have read books set in Europe or especially the US, but I have many waiting on my TBR!

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) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

374147I’d heard about this book a long time before I ever decided to read it, and it has ended up becoming one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. This book is about a young girl named Chiyo who is taken from home and sold to work as a geisha around the time of WWII. I was very interested by the look into Japanese culture and especially the lives of the geisha. If I’m honest, I’m still a little confused about how much of this book is fact vs. fiction. Years after reading it, I learned there was a lawsuit initiated by one of the geisha that Arthur Golden interviewed for information as well as claims that the book was inaccurate. Either way, I thought this was a fascinating book and a compelling story.  Like all historical fiction, I think it needs to be seen as a starting point to learn more, and not solid fact.

2) Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

5960325Although I’ve always been interested in China, I know very little about the country’s history. I picked up this book because my mom read it and highly recommended it. It is about two sisters living in Shanghai who are sold as wives to American men after their father loses everything by gambling. The book follows Pearl and May as the travel from China to America, and is a powerful story both on a historical and a family dynamics level.  I went into this book not expecting very much, and it ended up being one of my favourites of the year when I read it. The main characters both seemed so real that I often forgot that the book was fictional.

3) With the Light series by Keiko Tobe

withthelight_1I’ve mentioned this series a few times before, but since it seems to be quite obscure, I thought it was worth mentioning again! This is a manga series about a Japanese family who are raising a young son diagnosed with autism. The series consists of 8 volumes that cover from the time the child is born, through his diagnosis, and into his teenage years. The series covers all kinds of issues including how children with disabilities and their families are treated by the school system, society in general, and even their own family members! Unfortunately, the author passed away and the final volume was published posthumously. I am ashamed to admit I have not completed this series yet, despite two attempts! My first try, the library was missing several of the volumes so I was forced to stop mid-way. On the second try, I read the first two and then got caught up in my reading challenge and didn’t have time to read anything additional. I’m hoping to be able to get back to it soon!

4) Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

126381This is a book I read very recently, about a teenage girl named Kambili who has grown up in Nigeria. Kambili and her brother are sent to live with their aunt, who is much more liberal than their strict and religious father, where they begin to discover a different way of life. I went into this book knowing practically nothing about life in Africa in any country, and I thought it was a very interesting look at how religious and political influences affected people’s lives. I was especially interested in the contrast between those who had converted to Christianity, and how negatively they viewed the African traditions still practiced by many. I thought it was a very interesting look at the impact of the West on another country.

5) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

77203This was one of the only books that I was required to read in high school that I actually enjoyed. It follows the life of Amir, the son of a wealthy family in Afghanistan whose best friend is the Hassan, the son of his family’s servant. This book was a very compelling story of the two boys and how their class differences affected the course of their lives. Like the other books on this list, I enjoyed it because it introduced the culture in a very human context that really brought it to life. This has always stood out as one of the most powerful books that I read in school, and I’m glad the teacher chose it other commonly used classics. It’s probably been about 10 years since I read it, although I recently read the graphic novel version to refresh myself on the story (and I would recommend that version as well. It did an excellent job of capturing the story in a limited-text format).

Top 10 Tuesdays: Book-Related Problems

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

Since Top 10 Tuesday topics are still on hiatus, I was once again on my own to choose a topic. To be honest, I had a pretty rough day today so maybe it was only nature that I would gravitate to a more negative-seeming topic. Not long after I started my blog, I posted about my Bookish Pet Peeves (here and here), and it’s actually pretty fun sometimes to complain about all the little annoyances that come along with being a reader. I did my best not to repeat what was already mentioned in the Pet Peeves posts (try saying that 5 times fast!), but here are 10 of my most recent book-related problems:

1) When the library can’t find or doesn’t have the book I want – As I’ve previously mentioned, I have a great public library system and I heavily rely on it to get books for my reading challenges. It’s annoying when the library doesn’t have the book I want at all, so I have to ask them to purchase it — it’s an easy process, but they take a really long time to get the book in, and never really update you on the progress. It also annoys me when the library claims to have the book that I want only for me to discover that the book I want has been lost or never returned. This year, I was waiting and waiting for a copy of The Lie We Tell Ourselves, which was due back in late December. After waiting two months with no change to the status, I finally decided to contact the library and ask what was going on — they ended up purchasing a new copy for me, back in February I believe, and I am still waiting to get it!

2) My ever-growing TBR list – Over the past three years, my TBR list has expanded exponentially as I started to participate in reading challenges and explore Goodreads in general. My list is now over 1500 books! This on it’s own is overwhelming, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped adding to it. I recently went on a spree of looking at upcoming books for the rest of the year and even into 2018, and added any that looked interesting onto my list. I tend not to remove books from my list, and if I’m honest, I haven’t found any yet that didn’t interest me anymore. There are definitely some that are more “need to read this soon” and others that are “meh, I’ll get to it eventually” but if I don’t have them on my list, I forget about them completely.

3) I hate to lend out my books! – Call it a kind of trust issue, but I really hate lending out my books to other people because I am very picky about the condition that my books are kept in. I hate when my books get damaged, dog-eared, spilled on, etc. even when it’s my own fault, but I would be very upset if I lent them to someone who didn’t take care of them. I know not everyone is as picky about how they keep their books as I am and in general, I think people would be pretty careful but I just don’t trust that they would treat the books well enough. Plus, I’m always afraid that they will forget to return the book at all.

4) Book to movie adaptations that completely change things – I have never understood why filmmakers decide to make movie versions of books when they don’t like the way the book ends. It seems really weird to me to say “I really think this book would look great on-screen…but I can end it better than the author did!” I generally consider the author the authority on their own book, so I assume that they end the story the way they wanted it to end. For me, changing the ending of a book when it becomes a movie often changes the whole message of the story. Not only that, but I find it off-putting and end up leaving the movie more annoyed that it was changed than really processing what the new story was. I don’t mind as much when they change small details or even sometimes skip over events for the sake of time, but changing the storyline completely is just strange to me.

5) I can only read one book at a time – This seems like a bit of a strange one to mention as a problem, especially considering the sheer number of books I read in a year, but I have trouble reading more than one book at once. Usually what ends up happening is I get so invested in one book that I end up essentially abandoning the other one until the first is finished anyway, so there isn’t much point to trying to read more than one (for me, anyway). Also, since I keep track of what I read on Goodreads, it bothers me to have ridiculously long reading times on books that really didn’t need to take so long. For example, it would bother me to spend a week reading a 200 page book when it normally would only take me a day or two.

6) I always overestimate how much I will be able to read – I have a horrible tendency to misjudge how much I will be able to read in a given day, even on days where I have literally nothing else planned. When I go on trips, I always take more books than I can reasonably finish but at least that can be partially justified by the excuse that it gives me options if I want to mood read. At home, I don’t really have a schedule or anything like that for reading but I usually have an idea in mind of how much I will be able to read, and no matter how much I think I’ll be able to finish, it’s almost always a lot less than that. Sometimes it’s because the book is much more dense than I expect, sometimes I just get distracted by other things, but it’s very, very rare that I end up reading as much as I expect and even more rare for me to exceed my idea of how much.

7) When my opinion on a book is completely opposite from everyone else’s – I think it goes without saying that it is perfectly fine for everyone to have different tastes and opinions about books, and I don’t expect everyone to think the same way as I do. It’s more that sometimes I’ll read a book and love it, go online eager to jump into a discussion about it…and discover that everyone else couldn’t stand the book (Me Before You is the prime example). Or, on the other hand, I slog my way through a book only to find the Goodreads page and other blogs full of raving 5 star reviews, leaving me to wonder what I missed. Part of the fun of discussing books is hearing other people’s opinions, but when mine seems to be so radically different from everyone’s, I sometimes wonder if we even read the same book.

8) My struggle to rate books on Goodreads without the option of half stars –  Sometimes a book really is exactly between a 3-star and 4-star rating, or even more annoying, a 4-star and 5-star rating. It’s rare that I read anything that I would rate below a 3, luckily. In general, I tend to be fairly generous and round things up when my rating would be between two numbers but I base that decision mostly on my overall impression of the book. For example, a 4.5 star read that I really enjoyed and had a lot of fun with might be rounded up to a 5 even if the story wasn’t perfect. A book that’s really a 3.5 might be rated a 3 if I found it slow or boring to get through, even if I liked many other elements. It’s annoying because I don’t always feel that my Goodreads ratings are really accurate, but it’s the best I can do unless I wrote a review for each book. It would be so much easier if I could just give half stars!

9) My reluctance to write reviews on this blog  – Speaking of reviews, I’m sure those of you who have been following this blog for a while have noticed the lack of reviews compared to other book bloggers. My original intent with the blog was to review and talk about the books I read for my “rejects challenge” from the Around the Year group on Goodreads, since those are books that I would not be discussing on the group’s page. That fell apart pretty quickly since my time is devoted to books for my other reading challenges, so I haven’t read much for the “rejects challenge” nor have I reviewed the books I have already finished. I find writing reviews more difficult than other posts because I find it hard to find a balance when it comes to spoilers, and sometimes very difficult to talk about several books without being repetitive. As I said above, most of the books I read are between 3 and 5 star reviews so I worry that many of the reviews would seem pretty much the same.

10) My inability to recommend books when people ask me for a recommendation – This one may seem a bit strange because so many of the posts here are recommendations in some form. I think the difference is that Top 10 Tuesdays and other posts are pretty broad when it comes to recommending books so there is room to offer a variety of choices, and hope that people will inevitably find something that interests them. I find it much more of a struggle to recommend a specific book to a specific person, and I hate being put on the spot to think of a recommendation. When it comes down to it, I know the kind of books I enjoy and I might be able to recommend something if I know the other person has similar taste, but to be asked randomly puts a lot of pressure on me to sift through the books that I know and try to figure out what someone might like, usually without much knowledge of what they actually enjoy reading.

The Reading Slump Paradox

I know this title sounds suspiciously like an episode of The Big Bang Theory, but I also think it really fits my current situation. I’ve always associated a “reading slump” with boredom, difficulty finding a good book, or otherwise just not enjoying what you’re reading. One of my earliest posts on this blog actually talked about different kinds of reading slumps (here, for anyone interested) and some suggestions on how to overcome them.

Over the past couple of weeks, I found myself in a strange kind of paradoxical reading slump. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve been reading, but I also feel like I’ve been reading very slowly and struggling to motivate myself to continue reading. In fact, of the past 5 books that I’ve read, 4 of them were either 4-star or 5-star reads so it’s safe to say that I’ve been enjoying them. I first noticed the feeling of a slump when reading Uprooted, which was a book I adored but found myself struggling to push through. The odd thing is, while it felt like it was taking me absolutely forever to finish it, it only took me 4 days, which is completely reasonable for a book of that size given the amount of time I had to read.

I was looking forward to my two weeks off from work because I thought I would get a lot of reading done, and I was excited to read and make progress on my challenges. I squeezed in In Real Life on my last day of work, but was quite disappointed with it. I also read Allegedly during my first couple of days off before I left, although I came down with an extremely annoying summer cold which might have also contributed to the slump.

I think in a way I felt the slump a bit more because I seriously overestimated how much time I would have to read while on vacation. I was away for a week, and decided to bring 4 books with me thinking I would have lots of time to read at the airport, on the train, and at the hotel. The four books I brought with me were: Purple Hibiscus, The Forgetting Time, Uprooted, and The Translation of Love. My plan was to do most of my reading on the train rides, and in the evenings but I ended up having much busier days than I expected, leaving me without too much time to read. I finished the first two books above while away, although they each took me a day or two longer than expected, and finished Uprooted the day after I got back home. I’ve decided to put off The Translation of Love for now to switch things up and read a couple of shorter/lighter books in between. To be fair, I don’t think I ever really thought I’d finish all four within the week but I always end up bringing more books than I could possibly finish.

What confused me about this slump is how much I was enjoying what I was reading. Normally when I feel like I’m forcing myself through a book, it’s because I’m really not enjoying the book very much. When I started reading Uprooted, I fell in love with the world that was created and the writing style, so I was surprised to find that by the middle, I felt like I was slogging through it and kept getting easily distracted to do anything but read. It was weird, since I still came out of the book loving it and I rated it 5 stars because I’m not sure it was the book’s fault that I was in the slump.

Actually, I think one reason is because of the pesky “you are x books behind schedule” on Goodreads, which has me a little worried about my challenge progress. As much as I’ve said I would prioritize certain challenges to finish within the year, I still would ideally love to finish them all, but I am currently just under halfway.

The other main reason for the slump is this other kind of odd paradox, where a book I haven’t even read yet is causing the slump. As part of my BookRiot challenge this year, I have the task of reading a book set in South or Central America that is written by an author from South or Central America. I intended to read One Hundred Years of Solitude which has become my Goldfinch/Dracula of the year. To put that in context, each year there always seems to be one book I have in mind to read for the challenge that I end up putting off over and over, until eventually deciding not to read it at all. Two years ago, it was The Goldfinch which I actually never had that much interest in, but chose because it fit a challenge which I believe called for a long book. Last year, it was Dracula, a book that I’d been meaning to read for a long time but never seemed to be in the mood for. I kept putting it off hoping that eventually I would really feel like reading it, but as I got closer to the end of the year, it started to seem more and more unrealistic to be able to squeeze it in and finish the challenge in time. I ended up putting it off and reading it this year instead, and I loved it!

Unfortunately, I now seem to be in the same boat with One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is one of those classics that I feel like I should read at some point but didn’t have a super strong interest in trying. I chose it mostly because I found a real lack of options for the prompt it covers, and a co-worker has told me in the past that they really think I’ll love it. Although I still waver a bit about wanting to read it, every time I pick it up just to flip through and try to motivate myself, I find myself completely not interested. I’ve learned over the past few years that the worst thing I can do is try to force myself to read something when I don’t really want to, because that practically guarantees that I won’t enjoy it at all. It might end up being a book that I scrap and replace, and try to fit in again next year. I actually intended to read it during my time off since it seemed like a longer/more dense book than most of the others I’ve been reading, but when it came down to the time to pick books to bring with me, I just wasn’t in the mood for it.

I don’t think I’ve really come out of the slump yet, but I’ve just released a whole bunch of my holds from the library including a few books that I’m very excited for. I’m hoping that will be enough to get my motivation back on track. I still find it very strange to lack motivation to read, while at the same time enjoy everything I’m reading. Has anyone else ever had this?

 

 

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Children’s Books

I don’t care how old I am, I still love reading children’s books and watching my favourite childhood movies. There’s something comforting about revisiting old, familiar favourites and re-experiencing the story from a different perspective. I know a lot of adults tend to scoff at the idea of reading books intended for younger audiences, but there are many great children’s books out there that have just as much appeal for adults.

I have always been a huge fan of popular children’s series like Berenstain Bears, Frog & Toad, and the Little Critter books. I also adored anything by Robert Munsch, and of course all of the classics by Dr. Seuss. I still have the majority of my children’s books in a box in my basement because I refuse to part with any of them!

As tempting as it was to go the easy route and list the usual suspects like Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events, I decided to go for books aimed a little younger. I think picture books are very underrated, and there are quite a few that I think would be fun and worthwhile for everyone.

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) Purple, Green and Yellow (Robert Munsch)

201434This was one of my all-time favourite books when I was in elementary school. Robert Munsch is a brilliant children’s author, and this book is one of the best. It is about a young girl named Brigid who begs her parents to buy her progressively fancier sets of markers, on the condition that she only draws on paper. Of course, Brigid gets into trouble and colours all over everything, including herself. I’ve always loved this book for the colourful illustrations and the simple but hilarious storyline. Of all the books on this list, this is probably the one that has the least “message” to deliver, but it is a thoroughly entertaining book.

2) Chester’s Way (Kevin Henkes)

20692I would also highly recommend the brilliant Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes, but since I have already written about that (here), I decided to pick another one of his books. This book is about two friends named Chester and Wilson who have always done things a certain way. When they meet their new neighbour Lilly for the first time, they are surprised by how different she is and try to avoid her. Kevin Henkes books are illustrated with adorable mice as characters, and carry wonderful messages. This book is about learning to accept other people’s differences, and that it is still possible to be friends with someone different.

3) Odd Duck (Cecil Castellucci)

16002008This is a children’s book that only ever read as an adult, and it was actually one that my mom discovered and recommended while working at the library. This book is about a duck named Theodora who is very happy with her normal life, which is mostly just like all the other ducks but she has a few unusual quirks. Like with Chester’s Way, Theodora meets an unusual new neighbour named Chad who is very different from her. Theodora and Chad become friends, with each seeing the other as the odd one. This book carries one of my favourite messages — that normal is relative, and it is important for everyone to be themselves. Even reading this as an adult, it was a great and very meaningful book.

4) When Elephant Met Giraffe (Paul Gude)

513vzs0ko4l-_sx258_bo1204203200_When Elephant Met Giraffe is another book that I’m sure I’ve discussed before, and another that I read only as an adult. I discovered this book at the library while looking for something to read to some of my participants at work, including one who is obsessed with elephants. This book consists of three stories that all focused on what it means to be a good friend. It seems to be a running theme with the books I’m recommending that they focus on friends learning to manage being very different. In this book, talkative Elephant is offended because Giraffe is silent until he learns that giraffes actually can’t speak. Instead of letting that get in the way, Elephant figures out how to make friends with Giraffe anyway. My favourite of the three stories is the third one, where they decided to play with costumes but can’t agree on what to play. It is a simple, straightforward, and adorable book!

5) Me Too! by Mercer Mayer

1342091I debated for a long time whether to include any Little Critter or Berenstain Bears books on this list, because there were so many to choose from. I decided to choose one that stood out to me most, but I would highly recommend any of the books from these two series! I’ve always loved the Little Critter series because of how cute the illustrations and the stories are. This one specifically is about how annoying it is to constantly need to share everything with a younger sibling. Being the younger sister myself, I can’t say I necessarily relate to the story but I thought it was a great and realistic view of sibling dynamics at an appropriate level even for young children. It tells them that it’s okay to be annoyed with your sibling sometimes, and that it will pass. It is so important for children to understand that more negative feelings are normal and okay, instead of books trying to cover them up.

Top 10 Tuesdays: 10 Books That Caught My Attention at the Bookstore While on Vacation

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

Top 10 Tuesday topics are currently not available, as explained on The Broke and The Bookish, so I was on my own to pick a topic. One of the prompts in my reading challenges this year is “a book you bought on a trip,” which I knew would be one of the most difficult prompts for me to fulfill. I actually decided not to buy anything due to a combination of the cost, a lack of luggage space, and the knowledge that I have no more room on my shelves! I decided to alter the prompt a bit to choose a book that I discovered while on a trip.

Every July, my workplace closes down for two weeks while our participants go to summer camp and to give the staff a well-deserved break. I usually take this time to go on a trip for a few days, sometimes to a new place and sometimes to places I’ve visited many times before just to relax a bit. This year, it was the latter kind of vacation, visiting two cities that I’ve been to many times over the years to see family and friends.

One of my favourite things to do while on a trip is to check out the bookstore. I do have Indigo about half an hour by bus away from me, but sometimes I find better deals or otherwise unavailable books more easily on other cities. Since I was on my own for a Top 10 Tuesday topic, I decided to list the 10 books that caught my attention most while at the bookstore during my trip.

1 and 2) Small Great Things (Jodi Picoult) and Two by Two (Nicholas Sparks)

2858795730002998I decided to lump these two together because I decided not to buy them for the same reason. As I mentioned in my recent post about the cost of books (found here), I have been hoping to buy both of these books for quite a long time, but haven’t been able to get my copies yet because they cost a lot more than I am willing to spend right now. I went to two different bookstores during my trip hoping to find these on sale, or some kind of deal available (ie. “Buy 2, get 1 free”) but I had no luck. They were both still over $30 each! I guess I’ll have to just get them from the library for now, and wait to get my copies later.

3) Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory

1331904749It’s been a very long time since I bought any classics at all, and this was never one that I really strongly was interested in. I read The Once and Future King last year and loved it, but my understanding is that this is quite a similar book. When I was at Chapters a couple of nights ago, I saw an absolutely gorgeous version of this book and was extremely tempted to buy it. I can’t even find an image of the right version to show, but it was a leather-bound hardcover and it had gold edges on all of the pages (like the old Royal Diaries YA series, if anyone knows those books). The picture I included here is the closest I could find. I wanted to buy this book partly because I love King Arthur legends, but also because of how amazing it looked! I’m never one to go for books just because of how they look, but I almost made an exception for this one. It looked kind of old-fashioned, and it was awesome!

4) Crosstalk by Connie Willis

25430566This is another book that I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while, ever since I discovered it on Goodreads late last year. The more I hear about it, the more I want to read it! I’ve seen this book several times in bookstores over the past year or so, and each time I see it I’ve considered buying it. I’m not usually a huge sci-fi fan, but this book fits in perfectly with my recent interest in reading about anything to do with social media and how it affects our lives. This book is about a couple who undergo a procedure designed to increase empathy and communication, but sometime goes wrong and the woman is connected to someone other than her soon-to-be fiance. It seems like such a great concept, so I will have to find a place in my reading challenges for this book! I decided not to buy it because it was way too overpriced ($37 for the hardcover!).

5) Tales from Gombe by Anup Shah and Fiona Rogers

21563972I have never been a big fan of coffee table books, but my mom and I both strongly considered buying this one! We have both always been interested in the great apes, especially Jane Goodall and other researchers who lived with and studied apes. This book includes stunning pictures taken of the chimpanzees at Gombe and lots of information about their lives and even personalities. I’m always hesitant to buy this kind of book because it seems like the kind of thing I would only read once and then never touch again, but it is very hard to resist those photos! Compared to the other books above, this was also very reasonably priced, and I’m still considering getting myself a copy.

6) Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire

20708810Gregory Maguire is one of my favourite authors and one that I check to see when new books are coming, so I was shocked to notice this book on the shelves! I had no idea at all that he had released something new… and even more shocked to discover that this book has already been out for three years! I only found that out as I started putting together this post. I have no idea how I could have missed this one. Actually, I think the main reason I’d missed it in the first place is because it was in the YA section and most of his other books were with the general fiction (I feel a bit weird calling it “adult books”). I guess I’ll have to be a bit more careful checking for updates from my favourite authors!

7) The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

494610On the other hand, this was a book and an author that I had never heard of before. The cover art of this one caught my attention as I was walking past, and I thought the synopsis sounded very intriguing. This book is already 10 years old and the title sounded vaguely familiar so it is possible I came across it on Goodreads at some point. After adding it to my list, I found that several of the reviewers I follow have read and loved this book so it was even more incentive to want to pick it up at some point. I’m a bit reluctant to buy books now without trying them first because of a combo of cost and lack of space, but I would definitely be interested in reading this one.

8) The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard

32681108This book was a truly random find. I love just walking up and down the shelves and looking at all the books. This one was displayed pretty prominently on one of the shelves, which I later discovered was because it was a brand new release. The bright blue cover caught my attention as did the unusual formatting of the title. As soon as I checked the synopsis, I knew this was a book I had to add to my list. This book is about a young woman named Elvira who has been sheltered by her mother due to difficulties interacting with others. After her mother dies, Elvira is on her own to try to figure out how to live her life, and starts by creating herself a list of seven social rules to follow. It seemed to me that Elvira might be on the autism spectrum, which is something I’m very interested in reading about.

9) The Takedown by Corrie Wang

31423554This book is one of the new releases of the year that I’ve been most excited for. It is another story focusing on the dangers of social media. In it, a popular high school student named Kyla discovers that a video of someone who looks like her sleeping with a teacher has gone viral. Kyla faces the near-impossible task of trying to get the video off of the Internet. I’ve been very excited to read this because it seems like such a unique plot, even among stories that focus on the Internet and social media. I don’t think I have ever read a book about viral videos or the permanence of posts online. I was hesitant to buy it because I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the self-imposed hype, but it is one of the books that I strongly considered getting.

10) Waste of Space by Gina Damico

28473381To be fair, this was not a book that I saw at a bookstore but it was one that I discovered while on vacation through one of the blogs I follow. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I saw it! This book is a new release about a group of teenagers who take part in a reality show where they live in a replica spaceship and believe they have been genuinely sent into space. I’m not a huge fan of reality TV, although I do enjoy Hell’s Kitchen and I used to love Survivor and American Idol. I thought this book was another unique concept for a YA story and it seemed like it could be a very interesting story that combines teen drama and the risks of reality TV.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Books Without Romances

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a lot of annoyance over the frequent use of a variety of romance tropes: insta-love, love triangles, etc. What has always been a lot harder to find are books, especially YA books, that don’t include much or any romance at all. There is a real lack of platonic friendships, especially that involve opposite-sex characters. I’ve always found it a bit strange, since growing up, most of my friends were boys and it was always platonic.

Personally, I have no problem with romance plotlines in books as long as they make sense and fit the characters. I don’t like when characters are paired off haphazardly just so everyone has a partner. I’m not really a fan of insta-love because I find it difficult to buy into that strong of a relationship developing so quickly. Sure, they might be attracted to each other, but to love each other so deeply they are willing to die when they just met yesterday? I don’t think so. I don’t even mind love triangles much when they are necessary and developed well, although it is really annoying when a character (ie. Bella Swan) suddenly has everyone in love with them. I would love to see more books that focus on friendships instead. It was a real challenge to find books that worked for this topic!

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) Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley

26109391Technically there is a bit of romance in this since two of the characters are already an established couple, but I tend not to really consider that a romance because we don’t see it developing. This book is about a teenage boy named Solomon who has agoraphobia and isolates himself at home after a very public meltdown. His classmate Lisa decides to take him on as a project and brings in her boyfriend Clark to help Solomon make friends and become more comfortable. There is a character who develops a crush on another character, but it never really develops past that so I also would not consider it a romance story. It is a great book and one I would highly recommend.

2) The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

23447923This is one of the only books I can remember reading that included a friendship between teenagers that never went past the platonic stage. The book is about a boy named Salvador who was adopted by a single Mexican-American father who is also gay. To be honest, this wasn’t my favourite book since I found it a little slow and directionless, but I really appreciated how well the friendship between Salvador and his best friends was handled. It was really nice to see an author create a friendship that was so real and natural, and did not feel compelled to make it romantic.

3) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

2998Is it cheating to include a book where the characters are a bit too young to be interested in romance? This book is about a young orphan named Mary Lennox who is forced to move in with her distant uncle, and soon discovers that there are many secrets hidden in his huge house, including a mysterious locked garden. This has always been one of my favourite books, and I love the interactions between Mary, Colin and Dickon. I’ve actually always just assumed that Mary and Dickon fell in love when they grew up. This is easily one of my favourite classics.

4) Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola

24727085It might be a bit of a strange choice for this topic, but there is definitely no romance here. This book is about a girl named Masha who wants applies for a job as the Baba Yaga’s Assistant to get away from her new stepmother and annoying stepsister. If I remember correctly, Masha is also a little on the younger side so it makes sense that there was no romance. It focuses primarily on Masha’s trials to become the assistant, but also on the stepsister-relationship. It was definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far, and it is rare that I love graphic novels!

5) Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

18816603I actually read this quite a while ago, so although I don’t remember any romance, it’s possible there was some. In any case, it was not the main focus of the book. This book is about a young girl named Jenna who is searching for her mother, Alice, who disappeared 10 years ago while researching elephants. Jenna partners with a psychic named Serenity and a private detective named Virgil to help her figure out the mystery of what happens to her mother. This was an incredible book that combined an excellent family story with some very interesting research about elephants. I would highly recommend it!