Top 5 Wednesday: Top Fictional Bromances

When I first saw this topic, there were two pairs of characters that immediately came to mind.boy-meets-world-reunion-2 It was a lot more difficult for me to find characters from books that fit the theme as well as these two. Cory and Shawn (Boy Meets World) were my first ever example of a bromance, and probably the strongest I’ve ever seen. They were childhood best friends who remained best friends all through their lives, despite going in separate directions as they got older and all of their differences. Cory was a pretty average kid from a middle-class, very supportive family, and Shawn grew up in a trailer park with a strange and broken family and struggled his whole life with figuring out where he fit in. The boys were such strong friends who supported each other above all else, and it was incredible to see how close they remained through everything.

a-house-bromanceHouse and Wilson were another solid example. For those who don’t know, House is an eccentric genius doctor, and Wilson is the best friend who tries to keep him somewhat under control. Before watching this show, I’d never been a huge fan of medical procedural shows, but it was the interactions between the characters, including between House and Wilson that really made it work. There’s no denying that House is incredibly difficult to put up with, but Wilson sticks by him and does his best to keep House out of trouble, and House in his own bizarre way is just as protective of Wilson. It was actually very hard for me to find examples from books that were bromances anywhere near on the level of these.

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) Sirius and Lupin (Harry Potter series)

hqdefaultThis is probably the most obvious choice, although a case could also be made for Harry and Ron. I’ve always been very interested in the Marauder’s and wanted to know more about their time at Hogwarts. It may be because they were the last remaining (and not Dark) Marauders remaining, but these two seem particularly close, to the point where there is a huge non-canon following that ships these two. While I don’t necessarily agree that it goes that far, the friendship between them as well as James Potter was very strong and definitely seems to fall into the bromance category.

2) George and Lennie (Of Mice and Men)

890This one may be a little more questionable because of how it ended, but I would say George and Lennie qualify because of how they stick together and look out for each other. George and Lennie are two field workers who travel together, work together, and help each other. Their friendship is complicated a bit by George’s need to take care of Lennie who has a cognitive disability but is also very physically strong. Although he frequently seems frustrated with Lennie, George stays with him and does everything he can to protect Lennie, make sure he finds work, and keeps him from getting into trouble. The ending of this story was so upsetting precisely because of the powerful friendship between the two men, and given how short the book is, it is very well-developed.

3) Amir and Hassan (The Kite Runner)

77203This is another bromance that might be debatable. Amir is the son of a wealthy merchant and a member of the ruling class, and Hassan is his servant but also his best friend. The main reason I think this one is questionable is because of this power discrepancy between the two of them. The boys grew up together as best friends, and in the beginning it seems that neither of them care that they are from different social statuses. It is not until later that this becomes an issue for Amir, leading to an act that separates the boys and for decades. Even though they are no longer speaking, the bond between the two boys is still a running theme as Amir spends most of his life trying to make up for his mistakes and repair the damage done to his relationship with Hassan. It is definitely one that is a bit more controversial, but I think you can make a case for it.

4) Augustus and Isaac (The Fault in Our Stars)

11870085This was one of the friendships on the list that was a little less memorable to me, but at the time I read the book, I remember that I really enjoyed the friendship between Augustus and his best friend Isaac, both of whom have cancer. The boys have a close friendship, and seem to have a lot of inside jokes. It’s been a long time since I read this book, but if I remember correctly, a lot of their friendship history seems to be left off the page. I was a little hesitant to include this one because I could not remember it as clearly, but I thought the two boys were very supportive of each other and helped each other through some very difficult situations, including both normal teenage experiences and much more complex emotions due to their medical problems. This is another book that may be due for a re-read at some point.

5) Sherlock Holmes and Watson

8921Although this was one of the most immediate examples that came to mind, I was reluctant to include it because I have only read one Sherlock Holmes book so far (The Hound of the Baskervilles). I’ve never quite been certain of how much of the bromance angle was really in the books, and how much is just from the huge cultural phenomenon surrounding these two. Holmes and Watson are typically cited as one of the strongest friendships in literature, although it seems to be along the lines of House and Wilson due to the eccentricity of the main character. I will have to read more of these books to find out how much of it is from the books, but it is definitely one of the most well-known!

Top 10 Tuesdays: Ten Hidden Gem YA Books

I love finding hidden gem books, although I’ve developed a pretty good streak for finding books that I’m reasonably sure I’ll enjoy. Every so often, even a book that I’m pretty sure I will enjoy ends up exceeding my expectations. The challenge for this week’s prompt was finding hidden gems that were from the same genre. I decided to look for books that I’d given a 4 or 5 star rating to on Goodreads and that had fewer than 50,000 ratings in total. Although 50,000 still seems like a lot of ratings, it is nothing compared to some of the most popular books on my list, which have up to nearly 5 million ratings (The Hunger Games). It is a completely arbitrary cut-off point, but the books I’ve chosen are those that I rarely see mentioned on Youtube, other blogs, or even on Goodreads. I decided to go for YA, most contemporary but there are a few exceptions, since that is one of the genres that I’ve read most from recently.

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

1) Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

enter-title-here-book-coverAlthough I tried to vary my list to avoid talking too much about books that I’ve mentioned before, this was the first book that jumped out as soon as I saw this week’s topic. This book is not particularly well-known, with only 972 ratings and 301 reviews on Goodreads. I was a bit worried because the average rating was on the low side (3.48 stars) and the synopsis seemed a bit generic, but this ended up being one of the best and most memorable books I read last year. The book is about Reshma Kapoor, a high-achieving and extremely competitive high school senior who is trying to write her own YA novel in attempt to impress her top-choice college. Reshma decides she needs more “normal” teen experiences to make her protagonist more relatable and makes herself a list of things she needs to do, like make friends and start dating. Although the plot sounds like it will end up as the typical YA fluff, it was a brilliant commentary on academic pressures and the flaws in the education system, with a complex (and often unlikeable) protagonist. Readers may be put off by Reshma, but this book is definitely worth a fair chance.

2) Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

devotedI read this book last year for a challenge prompt that called for a book that focused on religion, which is definitely not the kind of book I would normally pick up. This book is about a teenage girl named Rachel Walker who comes from a quite strict Christian families (think along the lines of 19 Kids and Counting). As Rachel gets older, she begins to question her upbringing and her faith. I was very impressed with how the author handled this topic with so much respect for both sides of the issue. Rachel was a very realistic and relatable character, even for someone as non-religious as I am. I went into this book expecting that I would have to slog through it and that it would be too heavy on religious content for my liking, but I ended up loving it and devouring it in just over a day! It’s too bad that this book hasn’t received more attention.

3) The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler

10997I wasn’t sure at first if this book was truly considered YA, although it seems to be classified that way on Goodreads so it seems fair to count it. Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket, created a very compelling story about a group of teenage friends, one of whom has been accused of murder. This book is told from the perspective of Flannery, using diary entries which Flannery openly edits and alters throughout to describe what happened. This book is both a departure from A Series of Unfortunate Events and a more adult version of that style, with the same kind of sarcasm and dark humour. It’s actually a pretty tough book to describe without giving too much away, but it is definitely a good one!

4) Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

20579291I’m on the fence about how much of a hidden gem this is. I’ve heard Robin Talley’s name quite frequently in online book communities, but rarely this book specifically. This book is set in Virginia in 1959, when the first black students are integrated into a previously all-white high school. The book focuses on the perspectives of Sarah, who is one of the black students, and Linda, the daughter of one of the leading advocates against integration. This strength of this book lies in how it humanizes issues of segregation, racism and the way people treat each other. If I’m honest, I’ve always had a hard time understanding how people could have ever treated each other so horribly and this book was eye-opening because of how it worked in some of the ways people attempted to justify their behaviour. It is a very powerful book for showing the human side of these issues, and especially because of the strength of its characters.

5) Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

18635084I will say upfront that this may not be the kind of book that would appeal to everyone, despite comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars or Eleanor and Park. This book is about a high school student named Amy who was born with cerebral palsy, uses a walker and talks using a voice box. Matthew, a classmate who has OCD, is hired to be an aide to assist Amy during her senior year and the two of them quickly bond. I connected with this book immediately because I work with young adults who have special needs, and many of the issues the book brings up with how individuals with disabilities are treated are topics that come up often at work. The main reason I say this book might not be for everyone is because some may find it unrealistic or difficult to relate to, but it is a beautiful and very honest story and well worth reading.

6) Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

13132816This was another book that I read as part of my reading challenge last year that really exceeded my expectations. This book is about two childhood friends, Emmy and Oliver, who reconnect ten years after Oliver was kidnapped by his own father. I thought this book was a unique version of the fairly typical YA storyline, and the characters were very well-written. I loved the interactions between Emmy and Oliver, and especially how the book did not shy away from discussing Oliver’s complex feelings about the way he was raised. I also loved the interesting take on how the two characters would fit back together as friends after such a long absence. This book was also very funny and there was great banter between the two main characters. I think this book is one that I would truly consider a hidden gem, because it is easy to go into it with very low expectations that it will quickly exceed by far.

7) Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

23341894Can a book be considered a hidden gem when it was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award? This book is about a high school student named Samantha who has Purely-Obsessional OCD, which takes the form of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t stop. Sam is part of the popular crowd at school and has kept her condition secret from her friends for years, but she starts to feel better about herself after making a new friend who introduces her to a secret poetry group at school. I thought the book was interesting and it was a bit different to have the character with a mental illness as part of the popular group. I thought the book was generally quite well-written, although I could not rate it a full 5 stars since it glossed over a few aspects that could have done with more fleshing out. It seemed at times that the author was trying to take on a little too much at once, but it was still a great book and deserves more attention.

8) Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

714902Given the complete overflow of YA dystopians there have been in the past few years, it’s no surprise that a few of them will fly under the radar. I have only read the first book in this series so far due to difficulty accessing the others, but it is a strong start to the series. This book is set in an alternate society consisting of Crosses, the dark-skinned ruling class, and Noughts, the “colourless” underclass who have historically been enslaved and oppressed. A romance builds between childhood friends Sephy, a Cross, and Callum, a Nought, which puts them both in great danger.  This book was a very moving story and quite strong compared to other YA dystopians. I was a little put off at first since some of the early chapters that established the way Noughts were treated were ripped straight from the history books, but with the races reversed. However, the characters were likable and relatable and you can’t help but root for them. It is a series that does not get as much attention as other dystopians, but I think it should! I hope I can find a way to read the rest of them.

9) Hate List by Jennifer Brown

6316171This was among the first new books I added to my TBR when I joined Goodreads two years ago, and it wasn’t until this year that I actually decided to give it a chance. This book is a unique take on a school shooting story, focusing on the aftermath for Valerie, the shooter’s girlfriend who is suspected of being his accomplice. I have also never read a school shooting story that included a “hate list” (potential victims list) before, so I thought that was a very interesting angle. I thought the way Valerie was treated by others, even her own family members, was realistic, and the characters were well-written. My one very minor gripe with this book is that I hated the way the author chose to name her characters (ie. the therapist was called Dr. Heiler (healer), and Valerie’s last name was Leftman because “she was left behind”). It seemed a little childish, but the characters were strong enough that their names didn’t matter too much. It is a tough book to read, but a very compelling one.

10) Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

11096647This is the only book here that had just over 50,000 Goodreads ratings, but I think it still qualifies as a hidden gem since I have never heard it talked about in online communities. This book is about a college freshman named Julie who moves in with her mother’s friend and her family after her off-campus housing falls through. While there, Julie becomes very attached to the family, especially 13-year-old Celeste who carries around a life-sized cardboard version of her eldest brother, who Julie has only met online. Julie becomes involved in trying to discover what is really going on with the family, although it sometimes seems that she is really overstepping her bounds. This book was a surprisingly strong story, and I especially enjoyed the interactions between Julie and the other characters. It is quite an odd book, but an interesting one.

READER STRUGGLES: MEME MINI-SERIES (#2)

Last week, the meme I chose discussed the problems with prioritizing reading among all the other things that need to be done. It seems fitting that the next meme on the list talks about the flipside of that issue — what happens when you decide to prioritize that really great book you’ve been reading:

dont-want-to-finish

This is a problem I can definitely relate to, especially when it comes to some of my favourite authors. When a book is that good, I want to devour it all in one sitting, but I also want to take my time with it and avoid rushing through. This has been a problem for me with just about every Jodi Picoult book, and especially with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Actually, I find this kind of problem is especially bad when it comes to the end of great series (although I haven’t read too many full series). When the last Harry Potter book came out, I couldn’t wait to read it and looked forward to finding out how the story would end…but I also didn’t want to read it because I knew that meant the series would be over. At least at the time, before all these extra books, Pottermore, etc. came out. It was a very strange feeling to know that a series I’d been reading for years would suddenly stop, so as much as I wanted to read the whole thing at once, I also wanted to pace myself a bit.

The same was true for Jodi Picoult’s books. After the first couple of books that I read by her, I quickly decided I wanted to read them all and bought several of them at once. Although I read and enjoyed them all, there were a few that I remember feeling like I had rushed. This was especially true for Salem Falls, a book about a high school teacher, Jack, who is accused of an inappropriate relationship with one of his students and moves to Salem Falls to start over. While there, a group of girls who are experimenting with Wicca accuse Jack again, forcing him to have to defend himself all over again. I remember reading and enjoying this book, but I also remember feeling like I read through it much too quickly! I will have to start re-reading some of her books soon.

The main problem with finding a book that you really enjoy is that no matter how long it takes to read it, it still seems to be over too quickly. Even when it is a very long book, if it is good enough I will devour it. It seems a bit weird to feel rushed when reading through a book quickly though — there’s no time limit on how long a book will or should take (unless it’s due back to the library soon!). Sometimes it may be better to slow down a bit and enjoy it. Even the best books have to come to an end eventually.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Books You Read Before I Started Doing Reading Challenges

This may be the easiest Top 5 Wednesday topic I’ve seen in a long time. Initially, I thought I would talk about books that I loved before I started blogging, but then I realized that would be a little too easy. My blog has not even reached it’s one year anniversary yet (October 23!), so it would not take much to look back to the past year or two and pick a few favourites. Not only that, but I’ve already covered those favourites in several posts (which can be found: 2015, Goodreads Around the Year 2016, PopSugar 2016, and Book Riot Read Harder). Instead, I decided to go back a little further and talk about some of my favourite books from before I started participating in reading challenges.

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) Atonement by Ian McEwan

6867I actually can’t remember when I read this book, but I decided to read it quite a while after seeing the movie, which I really loved. The movie was released in theatres in 2007, but I did not see it until much later when it came out on DVD the following year. This book is about a young girl named Bryony who mistakenly accuses her sister’s lover of a crime, and the consequences of this accusation for all three of them throughout their lives. I thought this book was beautifully written and it was a very powerful and memorable story. It was by far one of my favourites, and just as strong as the movie.

2) The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

18619684When I first started university, I decided to use my time between classes to read some of the books that I’d been meaning to read for a long time. This was one of the standout books that I remember reading during that time, and one that I absolutely devoured. This book is about the relationship between Henry, a man with a genetic problem that allows him to unexpectedly time travel to important moments in his own life, and Clare, the young woman he falls in love with. I was pretty surprised to find that so many people have issues with the way the relationship is portrayed in this book since Clare first meets Henry when she is a child. Personally, I had no problems with how their relationship played out and I thought the book was compelling and an amazing story. I think I’m due for a reread of this one!

3) My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

10917This was another book that I devoured between classes. For some reason, I can never remember if this or Mercy was the first Jodi Picoult book I ever read, but either way, she immediately became my favourite author. My Sister’s Keeper is about a young girl named Anna who was conceived specifically to be a bone marrow match for her older sister who is dying of cancer. Anna decides to sue her parents for control of her own body and the ability to choose for herself if or when she wants to donate more to her sister. This book is a complex, controversial family story told from multiple perspectives. It raises so many ethical issues and questions about our rights, familial obligations, and how far people will go to save their child. It is a very powerful book, and I would highly recommend this (and just about anything else by Jodi Picoult).

4) The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

37470I have always been a little obsessed with Tudor family England. When I was younger, I loved the Royal Diaries series which were fictional diaries written by famous royal women, including Anastasia Romanov, Marie Antoinette, Elizabeth I and many others. This series started my love of historical fiction and the Tudors have always been a favourite. If I recall correctly, I also read this book after seeing the 2008 film version and I loved Philippa Gregory’s writing style! Like most historical fiction, I’m sure there are some inaccuracies but the book seemed to be quite well-researched. My approach to historical fiction has always been that it is meant to be an introduction to the topic, but not the only source of information, so I usually like to go back and fact-check afterwards to see how much was actually true. This book was an account of the life of Mary Boleyn, the lesser-known sister of Queen Anne Boleyn. I knew nothing about her beforehand, but I found this book a great introduction and a very interesting story on its own. It definitely left me interested in finding out more.

5) The Help by Kathryn Stockett

4667024I remember taking this book with me one year on summer vacation and devouring it at the hotel, but I can’t remember exactly when it was. I believe I read it somewhere around 2013 or 2014, making it the most recently read of all the books listed here. I was on the fence for a long time about reading this one because I was not sure how much the story would appeal to me, but the book quickly proved me wrong! This book is about a young woman named Skeeter who decides to write a book with the black servants in her town in Mississippi about the realities of their lives and the people they serve — the good and the bad. This book drew me in immediately with its compelling characters, and I fell in love with the writing style. It was by far one of the best historical fiction I have ever read, and I am so glad I gave it a chance!

Top 10 Tuesdays: 10 Classics I Missed Out Reading in School

I’ve always been impressed by the sheer number of books high school students on TV and in movies seem to read in a year. I know it is not realistic in the slightest, especially when they books they are reading conveniently relate directly to the main characters lives, but I’ve always been a little disappointed by how few classics we read in school. In elementary school, “novel studies” were a big part of the English curriculum. I still remember listening to the teacher read Charlotte’s Web and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe out to the class in the earliest years of school. Both of which quickly became favourites. In the later years, one of my favourite activities was when we were assigned books to read and questions to answer (although I enjoyed the reading a lot more than the questions). I remember reading Underground to Canada, The Giver, and The Outsiders.

I’ll admit I don’t really have the best track record when it comes to enjoying the books I was required to read, especially in high school. My high school was on a semester system, where our English classes lasted about 5 months so there wasn’t a ton of time to devote to more than one or two classics. We read one Shakespeare play each year, and one novel: To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, The Kite Runner, and In the Skin of a Lion. Of those, I liked the first two, loved The Kite Runner, and absolutely despised In the Skin of a Lion. By the end of high school, I was surprised to find how many of the common required high school classics I had missed out on, including some that other classes in my year had read. Even by university, when I took a children’s literature course, I still missed so many! By now, I have actually gone out of my way to read many of these classics as part of my reading challenges, but it’s a bit weird to me that I got through school without them. Here is my list of ten books that I missed out on reading in high school.

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

1) Brave New World by Aldolus Huxley

5129For some reason, my school completely skipped over all of the classic dystopians that most high school students seem to read. I was surprised because my brother, who is four years older and went to the same school, read at least one of them. I can’t remember if it was this one or 1984, but I was looking forward to reading it and was very disappointed that my teacher chose something else! Once I realized my school wasn’t covering these books, I actually borrowed several from the library and ended up talking myself out of reading them because I assumed I wouldn’t like them. I ended up reading this book back in 2015 as part of my first ever reading challenge, and I enjoyed it. It was a bit confusing at times, but it’s pretty scary how much in resembles our world today.

2) 1984 by George Orwell

5470I think I actually took this one and Brave New World out of the library at the same time, intent on reading them both, and returned both without touching them the first time I tried. This was another book that I ended up reading as part of my 2015 reading challenge. Although I gave both of them a 4 star rating on Goodreads, I remember enjoying this book more than Brave New World. I was especially interested by the idea of the Thought Police, rewriting history to coincide with current beliefs, and the way writing and speech were streamlined to become more efficient. If I recall correctly, other classes in my school were studying this book the same year I did The Kite Runner. Although I loved that book, I was sorry to miss out on this one.

3) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

38447Despite having a teacher who was absolutely obsessed with Margaret Atwood, I never read any of her books while in school. Actually, that teacher inadvertently put me off reading this book for a few years since she used Atwood’s Rapunzel Syndrome theories as a basis for the class, and had us read some pretty dry material on it. I worried that I wouldn’t like The Handmaid’s Tale because I assumed it would be a similar style (and also because this teacher was by far the most intimidating and intense English teacher I ever had, so I associated that with Atwood). This was another book I finally decided to read in 2015, and I loved it.

4) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

17470674I think this one was a little less common in high school, but it was definitely another of the big dystopain novels that my school skipped over. This was one that I was probably most excited to read because I was very interested in the themes of censorship and book-burning, although I knew little about the story itself. I read this book in 2016 as part of a second wave of major classics that I felt I had missed out on. I was very interested by the descriptions of how books were becoming condensed further and further, and eventually replaced by TV — definitely something I see happening in the real world. I was not a big fan of the writing style of this book though, and I found it confusing at times. It is probably the least memorable of all the dystopians listed here, but I’m still glad I tried it.

5) The Color Purple by Alice Walker

11486This is another book that I know for a fact some people in my school read, since one of my close friends was reading it at the same time that I read either Lord of the Flies or The Kite Runner. I can’t remember which one. This was another classic that I decided to pick up during my first reading challenge in 2015 because I had seen so many rave reviews for it all over Goodreads and I remembered my friend talking about it. If I’m honest, I didn’t love this book quite as much as everyone else seems to and it was very different from what I expected. I almost feel like this is a book that I need to give another try at some point considering how much everyone else seems to love it.

6) Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

12898I knew absolutely nothing about this play before reading it, except that it was about American consumerism and my brother had read it at some point in high school. I vaguely remember helping him study for a test on this one. I read this book earlier this year, but unfortunately I did not enjoy it very much. I was surprised, since I’d absolutely loved The Crucible by the same author. Unlike The Crucible, this play seems much more clearly suited to being seen on-stage and was hard to read in a text format. There were a lot of flashbacks and time jumps that did not come across clearly on the page, but I liked the overall storyline. I think I need to see it to really enjoy it.

7) Animal Farm by George Orwell

7613I can’t remember if my brother or any of my classmates ended up reading this book, but I know that it is a very common one in high schools. I finally read this book last month after deciding it had been way too long since I first decided I would try it. It is a very short book, so I’m a little surprised my school never managed to squeeze it in. This book is an excellent political commentary using farm animals as a stand-in for humans, and showing how easy it is for those in power to become power-hungry over time. There were a few dry moments, but it was a very strong story overall and I’m glad I decided to give this one a chance.

8) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

5107I don’t think my school ever covered this one, but it is an extremely common required reading, despite how many people can’t stand Holden Caulfield (and I can see why). I read this book in 2015 and I thought that Holden was a very interesting, but also very irritating, character. I remember enjoying this book a lot more than I thought I would. I can see why it has become such a classic since there is quite a bit to discuss and analyze here. However, I can also see why some schools might shy away from it given how sensitive they have to be to certain kinds of content. It’s pretty tough to find classics that are interesting to read, relevant to teens with enough to analyze on a literary level, and still appropriate enough for school.

9) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

4671This is another book that was part of my “second wave” of classics, which I read in 2016. I wasn’t very impressed with the story at first and it took quite a while for the book to draw me in, but the last third or so had a very strong impact. What struck me the most was how everyone flocked to Gatsby when it benefits them, but as soon as he truly needed others, they all disappeared. This is definitely not one of my favourite classics, and it is one that I think I might actually have enjoyed more if I had read it in school with a bit more of the context behind it explained. It is another very short book, so it almost surprises me that my school didn’t decided to put a few of these shorter books together into a one year.

10) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

890Speaking of short classics, this  was another classic that I completely skipped over in school although I seem to remember one of my best friends studying it. Of all the classics listed here, this is definitely my favourite. It is another very short book, but it had a lot of impact. It is actually not the kind of book I probably would have picked up at all unless I had to, or in this case to find out what I was missing. I read this book in 2016 and was surprised to find that it was one of the standouts of the year. Actually, I think if I had been forced to read this in school, I probably would not have liked it very much. There seems to be something about being required to read a book that makes it harder to get into it, even when it is a very good book!

Reader Struggles: Meme Mini-Series

One of the advantages of having Goodreads, reading fanpages, and several of the blogs I follow on Facebook is I get to see a whole bunch of reading and book-related memes. Not too long ago, I stumbled upon a list of “Internal Struggles Only Bookworms Will Understand” (link here for anyone interested), which inspired me to create this new Meme Mini-Series.  I love “Reader Struggles” memes because I find so many of them so relatable, and some of them are really funny! I thought it would be fun to share some of the reader struggles I’ve found, with my response to them. I will be starting with the memes on the website above, but if anyone has any other memes they would like me to comment on, please feel free to send me a link!

be-quiet

It’s a little ironic that this first meme is one that has been especially relevant for me over the past few weeks. One of the biggest issues I’ve always had as a reader is trying to prioritize everything that I need or want to do, and still finding enough time to read. It can especially be tricky because so many of my books come from the library, so I need to make sure to get them returned on time! Just the other day, I told a friend that I wouldn’t play Minecraft with her until I’d finished my book since it was due back to the library soon.

Especially since I’ve started doing reading challenges, I’ve really made reading a priority. When I come home from work or have free time on the weekends, most of it is spent reading. The struggle, like in the meme, comes when there are other things i need or want to do instead. There have been so many days where I tell myself I’m going to put down the book for a bit and play one of my computer games, watch Netflix, etc. and then I end up continuing to read anyway. Usually, it depends on the book. If I’m very engrossed in it, I will happily prioritize reading over just about anything else, but if it’s a book that I’m not so into, I’m more likely to switch to something else.

I think what this meme essentially comes down to is the struggle sometimes with dividing our time. For me, reading is a way to relax after a stressful day and a way to entertain myself. People often ask me how I find the time to read so many books in a year, but the answer is always the same: I make the time. I choose to read instead of doing other things. That is not to say that I avoid other obligations, avoid seeing friends, or skip work to read — but when it comes to my free time, reading is often my first choice. There have been times where I’ve told myself to put down the book and do something else, and there have definitely been times where I respond to myself with “be quiet” and keep reading. If I’m really not in the mood to read, I’ll know pretty quickly and I will put the book down, but otherwise I see nothing wrong with the amount of my time I devote to it!

 

Top 5 Wednesday: Character’s Fitness Routines You Want

I have to be honest — I cringed when I saw this topic on the list for Top 5 Wednesdays. Fitness routines are not something that interest me much, and definitely not something that I pay much attention to while reading. I am not an athletic or coordinated person at all, and I tend not to enjoy fitness routines. I hate going to the gym or doing exercise for the sake of exercise. I prefer activities like soccer, yoga or swimming that are fun but active at the same time…not that I do any of these consistently. It was hard for me to think of characters whose routines I might want without putting myself in their shoes, and thinking about what they need those routines for.

I loved how Sam, in her video explaining this topic, specified that we are not limited to characters who are athletes. It can also incorporate characters who are good at a variety of skills, or even foodies! Personally, I think it is important for everyone to find a routine that works for them. Ideally, I would love to be able to eat whatever I want and not worry about burning off the calories, so it would be great to find some characters who can do that! The characters I’m choosing here, for the most part, are all ideal goals and definitely not realistic for me. I apologize for the lack of pictures this time!

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) Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This was the first character who immediately came to mind when I saw this topic, but also one that I almost didn’t choose because of what Buffy’s fitness routine really means. It may actually be a bit of a cheat since Buffy, as a Slayer, is gifted with supernatural strength, speed and healing abilities, but she still goes through a lot of training to keep developing her skills with weapons, agility, and a variety of other abilities. I definitely would not want to be a Slayer with all the responsibilities that go along with that, but I would love to be able to handle Buffy’s fitness routine. I actually did a kickboxing class for a short time in high school, which seemed fairly similar to what Buffy was doing, and I loved it!

2) Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games

One of the things I enjoyed most about the Hunger Games was learning about how Tris and the other tributes got to train and hone their skills before being thrown into the arena. Katniss is a talented archer, but also got to learn a whole bunch of other survival skills that I think would be great to know. Actually, even if I could just have her archery abilities, I’d be pretty happy. Like Buffy, Katniss seems to be a character who is pretty well-rounded in terms of her abilities but in a way she is more impressive because she does not have the supernatural powers to help boost her. This is another case where I would love to have the skills, but not to be in Katniss’s situation!

3) Tris Pryor from The Divergent Series

I almost didn’t include this one because I was so strongly opposed to the idea of being in the Dauntless faction, but I think it would be really interesting to be trained to control fears the way Dauntless members are. Most of the rest of their lifestyle is much too intense for me and I actually would really hate to go through the training that they require in order to master your fears, but the ideal of being able to control them to that extent is pretty tempting. In theory, I think it would be very valuable to learn how to control your emotions in the most frightening situations, but I’m too much of a coward to actually go through with it.

4) Hermione Granger from The Harry Potter Series

This one probably seems like an unusual choice, but I think mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness. Hermione is definitely a character who keeps her mind active by reading and absorbing as much information as she possibly can. She also challenges herself to play chess, even though it is a game that she consistently loses at. Not only is chess a great mental exercise, but it is also good to push ourselves to do activities that are difficult for us and not win every time. Plus I’m sure Hermione gets some kind of a workout by lugging all those books around all the time!

5) Sunny Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events

Again, probably a bit of a weird choice but I picked Sunny because of her talent for cooking that develops at a ridiculously young age. For me, diet is an important part of a fitness routine and I especially think it is important to really enjoy what you’re eating. I don’t care how healthy a food is — if I don’t like the taste, I’m not eating it. Sunny develops amazing abilities to cook simple foods for herself and her siblings, eventually branching out to try new and more complex dishes. I would love to be able to cook simple, healthy and delicious food for myself (although I don’t think there is anything wrong with having treats sometimes!).

Top 10 Tuesdays: Ten Books With a Social Media Focus

I’ve seen a lot of discussion on several blogs lately about how readers feel about the use of social media and other very specific technological references in our books. On the one hand, some readers find including social media runs the risk of dating the books unnecessarily when it makes out-of-date references. On the other hand, social media has become such a huge part of many people’s lives that it makes the books seem more contemporary.

As technology becomes more firmly entrenched in our lives, I’m noticing more books that use social media as a main plot device. It’s funny sometimes going back to look at older books from the start of the Internet age, which focus almost exclusively on online predators and other pitfalls. That’s not to say that the risks of social media and the Internet should not be mentioned — it is very important to remain aware of the potential dangers and to keep ourselves safe. However, I think it just as important to break away from some of these stereotypes and recognize that the majority of people using social media are just regular people trying to interact with their friends and relatives, and participating in groups and discussions about their interests.

As someone who has made some great online friendships over the years, I have really appreciated how books have evolved a bit to include more positive relationships and friendships that develop online. I also really appreciate how more books are including different angles on social media — the risks are not just random strangers you meet online. It’s quite scary how many people in real life fall victim to cyberbullying, harassment and other online issues involving people that they know in real life. I think it’s great that books are starting to reflect this reality as well. There have been so many recent releases that focus on how social media affects our lives, but unfortunately I have not had a chance to get to most of them yet. Instead, for this week’s topic I will talk about ten of the books I’ve read so far that have plots that focus on social media in a variety of forms.

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

1) Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

8909152I will admit that this book is not the most realistic, but it was quite an entertaining read. This book is about a man named Lincoln who works as a security officer for a company, where his role is to monitor employee’s emails and ensure that they are being used appropriately for work purposes. In the course of his work, Lincoln becomes fascinated by conversations between two women, Beth and Jennifer, eventually falling in love with Beth through her messages. However, Lincoln struggles with what to do about his feelings since he and Beth have technically never met. Employees at this office know that their email accounts are monitored, but I don’t think anyone would assume their messages were being read fully. What I loved about this book is all the near-misses between Lincoln and Beth, where they could have met but didn’t. It was a fun book, although hardly the most realistic account of online relationships.

2) Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberley McCreight

15776309Social media is such a great tool for mysteries and thrillers, since so much of what we do online can be different from our “real” lives. In this book, Kate Baron receives a phone call from her daughter’s school claiming that her daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating. By the time Kate arrives at the school, Amelia has died from an apparent suicide. Kate soon begins to receive anonymous texts telling her that Amelia did not jump, and she begins to look through Amelia’s texts and online messages to try to piece together what happened to her daughter. This was one of the first social media-heavy books that I read, and it was an excellent story.

3) Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros

51kdakbpg2lThis is a book I’ve mentioned a few times before because it was one that really surprised me. It is about an author named Abigail Donovan who is pressured by her publicist to develop more of a Twitter presence to keep her name out there while she struggles to write her next book. Abigail quickly begins to interact with one of her Twitter follows, a man named Mark, developing feelings for him. This is one of the fairly typical “online friend might not be what they say” stories, but it is handled very well. I loved how the author was able to develop her characters so well using mostly Tweets and direct messages, and the interactions between Abigail and Mark were great! This is a very quick read, but it was one of my favourite books of the year when I read it.

4) The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

23492736This is a book that I read more recently, and it was another one that really surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. Compared to other social media books, it has a bit more of a magical realism slant. This book is about a woman named Kate who was recently dumped by her fiance. Kate is obsessed with Facebook and she quickly discovers that the statuses she posts are affecting her real life, giving her the idea to use Facebook to go back and fix her relationship. I went into this book not expecting very much, and ended up absolutely loving it! It was a much stronger book than I expected, although the social media angle actually was not used quite as much as I thought it would be. I would still say it fits though, since it was a central plot point to set things in motion.

5) The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

10959277In a sense, this book is the YA version of The Status of All Things (and predates it by about five years). This book is about two teenage neighbours in 1996 who receive a free AOL CD in the mail. When they put it into the computer, they are automatically logged into Facebook, 8 years before the website even existed! The profiles they see are of themselves 15 years in the future, and the decisions they make today have consequences that can be seen when they refresh their pages. It’s been several years since I read this one, so it is hard for me to remember specifics. I just remember that I really enjoyed it, although not quite as much as Thirteen Reasons Why.

6) Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

19254725Honestly, this was such a weird book for me. It was one of the books that I was most strongly looking forward to reading this year, and it wasn’t quite what I expected. This book is about two young women who meet online because both are heavily involved in the fandom of one of their favourite TV shows. Gena, who is getting ready to go to college, keeps up a popular blog and writes fanfiction, and Finn is in a long-term relationship with a man who knows nothing about her online life. The two young women begin to interact online and develop a fast friendship, and even feelings for each other. I thought this book did an excellent job of developing the online friendship between the two characters and I loved the first half where this was the focus. The second half of the book took a bit of a strange turn toward a darker storyline, and the relationship between Gena and Finn became a bit weird. It honestly almost felt like an entirely different story that the authors were trying to fit in, but it didn’t quite match with the rest. It is still a great book and I enjoyed it though, and I think it is worth giving a chance.

7) Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

11096647This is another book that was a great depiction of developing an online relationship, including the risks. This book is about a teenage girl named Julie who moves in with her mother’s old college roommate and her family after her off-campus housing opportunity falls through. The family has three children: Finn, who is away travelling the world; Matt, the geeky middle child who is Julie’s age; and Celeste, an odd 13-year-old who carries around a life-size cutout of her oldest brother everywhere. Julie develops an online friendship with Finn, without ever meeting him, and soon develops feelings for him. However, she also tries to uncover what is really going on with the family, especially Celeste’s unusual behaviour. While the “twist” in this book was a little on the predictable side, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the online relationship development, and the very realistic way that it played out. Although Julie was an irritating main character at times, I thought it was a great book.

8) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905Aside from online relationships, another huge aspect of social media is fandom and online communities. In this book, Cath is a huge fan of Simon Snow (a Harry Potter type series) and has been heavily involved in the fandom, even writing her own very popular fanfiction. Cath is devastated to find her twin sister wants to branch out a bit more now that they are starting college, and that her professor does not consider fanfiction “real” writing. I really loved all the snippets of Cath’s fanfiction that were interspersed throughout the story, and the emphasis placed on how important the fandom was to her. Although I have never written any fanfiction, I do enjoy reading it and participating in online discussions about my favourite TV shows, music, etc. (and books of course!). I think it’s great that authors are starting to include online hobbies as a normal part of their character’s lives. This was an excellent book, and one of my favourites of the year so far.

9) Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

22692740This is another book where social media is not necessarily the main focus, but it plays a pretty significant role in the story. This book is about a gender-fluid teenager named Riley, who under the advice of a therapist, begins blogging anonymously about their feelings and experiences. When Riley’s blog goes viral, someone threatens to reveal who is behind it, forcing Riley to choose between giving up everything the blog has done to help, or risking everything by coming out. Aside from this book being a great introduction to gender-fluidity for people (like me) who are not familiar with it, I loved how it incorporated the blog and the idea of an online support group or community. I think it is important to show the variety of ways the Internet is used in our daily lives, and finding a supportive community is definitely an important one.

10) Feed by Mira Grant

7094569This is probably the most unusual of all the books here, blending social media and zombies. This book takes place in a world where humans have cured cancer and the common cold, but in the process created an infection that takes turns people into zombies that are only driven to feed. Since the usual news channels are all controlled by the government, the public depends on bloggers to post the truth. This book focuses on three bloggers: Georgia, her brother Shaun, and their friend Buffy who are following a presidential candidate on his campaign to post honest updates about the elections. I am generally not a fan of zombie stories, but I loved the social media angle on this one. I thought it was a really interesting way of showing the importance of critical thinking about the media and how bloggers can help give an alternative view. I found the book a little long and repetitive, but it was still a pretty interesting read and definitely a unique take on social media.

I’m A Guilty Reader Book Tag

It’s been quite a while since I did a book tag related to my reading habits. I stumbled across this one recently in one of my Goodreads groups, and I thought it was a great follow-up to the Reader Confessions tag that I participated in a couple of months ago. The I’m a Guilty Reader tag was created by Chami at ReadLikeWildfire, and her video can be found here.

1) Have You Ever Regifted A Book That You’ve Been Given?

No. I struggle as it is to give up my books, even when I haven’t read them in years. Earlier this year, I went through my closet and finally got rid of some of the books that I’d gathered at library book sales, where you paid a certain fee per bag of books. I had tons that I’d been holding onto for years because they seemed vaguely interesting, but never actually bothered to read. Even giving those up were a struggle!

Surprisingly, I don’t receive too many books as gifts. Usually I just get gift cards to the bookstore and I choose my own, or I just buy the books I want myself. If I choose to buy the book, it’s practically guaranteed that I will not give it away because it is a book that I actually wanted to own.

2) Have you ever said you’ve read a book when you haven’t?

I’ve never outright lied about reading a book, but there was one textbook in university that I just couldn’t get through. I had two deaths in the family back-to-back at the time and needed to read quite a huge chunk of the book for an assignment. Using the index and skimming subheadings, I managed to complete my assignment (and got an A!) without properly reading the chapter. That was the first and only time I’ve ever skipped a required reading, but I just couldn’t manage it and everything else going on at the same time.

3) Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?

I only ever borrow books from the library, and I always return them. I’m pretty careful not to take out more than I can manage, and I’m pretty on top of renewing things when needed.  I’m not even sure if I’ve ever returned a book late.

4) Have you ever read a series out of order?

Not unless you count the Narnia books, and I don’t really since there seem to be two “acceptable” orders for reading them (chronologically, or in publishing order). I’ve honestly never understood how people can read series out of order since in most of the series I read, the events follow from one book to the next. There’s no way I would understand what’s going on without reading the previous books.

5) Have you ever spoiled a book for someone?

Not intentionally. Ever since I had Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince spoiled for me, I’ve been pretty careful. One of the reasons I’m so hesitant to write reviews is because I have a hard time talking about the books without risking spoiling anything.

6) Have you ever dog-eared a book?

This is one that I actually am guilty of! I used to dog-ear all of my books up until about sixth grade, when someone pointed out that it was damaging them. I have no idea why that thought never crossed my mind before that. I think I continued to do it a little while longer, but now I would never dog-ear my books! I hate when they get damaged.

7) Have you ever told someone you don’t own a book when you do?

No, but I have told them that I don’t know where my copy is when they are really intent on borrowing it. I don’t like lending out my books to anyone, but sometimes I feel bad saying no. Most people who know me would know how many books I have everywhere in my room, so claiming I don’t know where it is would be a very feasible excuse (unless it was something like Harry Potter, which is pretty obviously on my shelves).

8) Have you ever told someone you haven’t read a book when you have?

Not that I know of. There are some books that I read so long ago that I might not remember whether I’ve read them, but I don’t think that’s what is being asked here. I’m not embarrassed by the books I’ve read, so I’d have no problem talking about them.

9) Have you every skipped a chapter or a section of a book?

Only the occasion that I mentioned above. Like I said for series, I don’t really understand how people can skip ahead in a book without missing anything, unless it is something like an anthology where nothing is connected to each other anyway. If I did skip chapters, I know I’d just get annoyed later on when reference was made to something I’d missed.

10) Have you ever bad mouthed a book you actually liked?

No, not that I know of. Like I said, I’m not embarrassed by the books I read and I have no problem having the unpopular opinion about them. I don’t see any reason why I would need to badmouth a book that I liked. Just to be clear, I think there’s a big difference between badmouthing and reading critically/being aware of the problems in it.

Looking back at my answers, apparently I am not a very “guilty” reader but I’m curious to know about other people’s reading habits. I will tag:

Harini @ BooksandReaders
Kourtni @ KourtniReads
FNM @ FNMBookReviews
Anushka @ GoingThroughBooks
Beth @ ReadingEveryNight

Top 5 Wednesdays: Best Second Books in Series

Once again, my very limited number of completed series puts a serious damper on my ability to answer the question. As I discovered the other week when we were asked for series that got better as they went on, I have not completed very many series. To be fair, there are quite a few where I have read the first two books but I find it difficult to say that the second book is best when I don’t know yet what is coming next. I may need to revisit this topic at some point in the future when I have read more series! Instead of choosing series where the second was the best, I’m going to talk about 5 series which I thought had very strong second books.

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

140212This may be a controversial choice since this book is viewed as both the first and second book in the series, depending who you ask. It was the first to be published, and the first that most people read, but in terms of when the events take place chronologically, it should be second. It may be cheating a bit to select this one, but given the limited amount of series I have read, I’m making an exception for this one. I have not completed the whole Narnia series, but this is by far the strongest and most memorable of all the ones I have read. This book is one of my all-time favourites!

2) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

224912It is practically impossible for me to choose a favourite Harry Potter book, but I still remember being blown away by this one when I first read it. As much as I loved The Philosopher’s Stone, I enjoyed this book a lot more. I think the real brilliance of this book is how it is actually part of a much larger plotline throughout the later series, but works just as well as a standalone. This book also introduced Dobby, and led to many of the funniest moments in the series! I have no idea why, but I’ve always found Ron’s line “Of all the trees we could have hit, we had to get the one that hits back!” hilarious. This book was the perfect blend of creepy mystery, fantasy, and even a great story of the relationships between Harry and the people around him. I’m not sure if it is the strongest in the series, but it is definitely a very strong second book!

3) The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

78418I can’t emphasize enough how much I love this series! The Bad Beginning was an amazing introduction, and I thought The Reptile Room was just as strong. This book is a great follow-up, with the Baudelaire children moving in with their eccentric Uncle Monty, a herpetologist with a room full of reptiles to study. I thought this book did a great job of establishing the children as self-sufficient and compelling characters, especially given their horrible circumstances. This was also our first introduction to Count Olaf’s many disguises and plots to capture the children away from their well-meaning relatives. It was a very strong addition to the series.

4) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

6148028Again, I’m not 100% sure this is my favourite book in the series, but I thought it was a very strong follow-up to The Hunger Games. I loved how Katniss and Peeta had to try and keep up the charade they started in the first book, and this is a book that introduced some of my favourite characters (Finnick, for example). I was a bit worried when I first learned this book threw Katniss back into the arena, but I loved how it managed to create a different Hunger Games competition that was unique and just as compelling as the first. I was equally invested in this story as I was in Katniss’ fate in the first book. I often find the middle book in a trilogy is too much of a transitional book without much really going on, but that was definitely not the case in this series. All three books were equally strong for me.

5) The Lost City of Faar by DJ MacHale (Pendragon series)

215543Full disclosure: This was a 4-star book for me, and not my favourite in the series, but I still think it is a very strong book from an extremely underrated series. In this book, Bobby Pendragon visits a world called Cloral which is predominantly made of water, which has different islands responsible for different things to benefit the community. Like the other books in the series, this one does a great job of presenting real moral and ethical issues in the context of a fantasy world. In this case, the main issue had to do with food supply and crop contamination. Later books in the series deal with animal rights, overuse of technology, drought, etc. Although I have never found this book the most interesting or memorable of the series, it is still quite a strong addition and I think the series in general deserves more attention.