The Currently Reading Book Tag

When I first saw this tag done by Destiny @Howling Libraries,  I was a little confused. How many questions could possibly be asked about the book you are currently reading? It turned out that this was a tag that had more to do with reading habits, which I find it strangely fun to talk about. For anyone who is curious about what I am actually currently reading, it is Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories by Audrey Niffenegger, just in time for Halloween!

1) How many books do you usually read at once?

I’ve only ever been able to read one book at a time, which probably explains why I couldn’t do much reading all the years I was in school. When I try to read more than one, I end up prioritizing one over the other anyway so it ends up being like reading just one. If anything, having more than one in progress at once irritates me since I track my reading on Goodreads, and it bugs me when it shows that a book takes too long (or whatever I think is too long) to finish. My TBR list is massive, but I don’t find reading multiple books at once actually helps me in any productive way.

2) If you’re reading more than one book at once, how do you decide when to switch books?

I guess I’ll answer this one hypothetically, since I don’t read more than for exactly this problem. In reality, I wouldn’t switch very effectively. I’d either get so absorbed in one book that I’d abandon the other, or so bored of one that I’d avoid it and keep picking up something else. If for whatever reason I had to read more than one at a time, I’d probably switch depending on my mood or depending what is due back to the library soonest.

3) Do you ever switch bookmarks while you’re partway through a book.

No? Why would anyone do that? The only time I change bookmarks is if I can’t find mine. I don’t collect bookmarks and don’t really care what my bookmark looks like. There are some very nice ones out there, but I don’t see the purpose in randomly switching in the middle of a book.

4) Where do you keep the book(s) you are currently reading?

On my desk, with a stack from the library of my upcoming reads on the floor next to my desk.

5) What time of day do you spend the most time reading?

In the evenings, mostly, since that’s the only time I have during the week. I work 8:30 to 4:30 every day, and in the kind of job where reading during the day is impossible. Even on my lunch break, it’s often too noisy in the staff room to focus on a book plus my coworkers like to socialize during breaks.  On weekends, unless I’m out for the day, I read most of the day.

6) How long do you typically read in one sitting?

Generally a couple of hours at a time.

7) Do you read hardbacks with the dust jacket on or off?

I used to only read with the dust jacket on, but I found it was likely to get ripped or dirty that way. Now I leave it off, and safely out of the way.

8) What position do you mainly use to read?

Usually sitting at my desk, but sometimes sitting with the pillows propped up behind me on the bed. I can’t read comfortably lying down.

9) Do you take the book you’re currently reading with you everywhere you go?

When I was in university and college, I always had a book with me to the point where even my TA’s were asking if I was an English major. Now there’s no point since I wouldn’t be able to read in the places I’m going (generally work), and I can’t read on public transit or in cars at all.

10) How often do you update your Goodreads progress on the book you are currently reading?

Usually I only update once at the end of the day, unless I have a status I want to add about a specific quote, event, character, etc.

For once, I remembered to tag! I will tag:

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

 

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Non-Horror Books That Scared You

I’m a coward when it comes to true horror stories, but I really love a good thriller. It can be fun to read books that are a little bit scary or creepy, although I find they tend to haunt me for way too long afterwards. One of the things I found interesting about this week’s prompt is that there are so many ways to interpret it. My first instinct was to choose books that I found scary or chilling, but I’ve also seen several responses where the blogger chose to include books that they were afraid to try, or with a dystopian world that seems a little too realistic. It was a bit tricky to think of books that really scared me!

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Defending Jacob by William Landay

11367726I feel like I talk about this book all the time, but it is a book that I read two years ago that still sticks with me. This book is a thriller about a lawyer named Andy Barber whose teenage son, Jacob, is accused of murdering a classmate. Andy is convinced that this son must be innocent and wants to do everything in his power to protect him, but his wife is less certain. This book scared me because it really did a great job of leaving you guessing where you stand on Jacob’s involvement in the other boy’s death. Some of the scenes were particularly chilling, especially the shocking ending. It is a book that I never would have heard of without my reading challenge, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance.

2) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

91aufmu8jtlThis is another very chilling thriller that focuses on a teenage boy. In this book, a young man named Kevin went on a rampage at his school, killing several other students and staff. The book is written in the form of letters from Kevin’s mother, Eva, to her estranged husband as she tries to come to terms with her son’s actions. I thought the book was a very powerful nature vs. nurture story, and like Defending Jacob, it really kept you questioning where you stand. Eva was such an unlikeable character, but for me that only contributed to the power of the story about whether Kevin really was a monster, or just an unfortunate case of a neglected child. This is another book that has really stuck with me.

3) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

12232938To be fair, I did not love this book anywhere near as much as everyone else seems to. This book is told from the perspective of a teenager named Susie Salmon who was raped and murdered on her way home from school, following her in the after-life as she watches over her friends and family as they try to cope with her loss. The book itself wasn’t that creepy for me, although it easily could have been since I tend to find stories about ghosts very scary. The main reason this one scared me was because while reading a specific scene about Susie rushing past someone as a ghost, where she seemed to be only a fast-moving white light, I thought I saw a flash of light in my hallway and it startled me. It really creeped me out!

4) The Ghost at Dawn’s House by Ann M. Martin

371125This may seem like a silly one to add, but while I was thinking about books that scared me over the years, this was one of the earliest I could remember. This book is part of the Babysitter’s Club series, where the girls discover that there is a secret passage in Dawn’s house which she believes is haunted by a ghost. Dawn soon discovers an old book of her grandmother’s that talks about a man who used to live in the house who mysteriously disappeared, and assumes that this must be the ghost. It seems silly now to be so creeped out by this book, but I was so scared of it that I couldn’t even stand to have it in my room! After reading it the first time, I was so scared that I hid it away in the basement so I wouldn’t have to see it.

5) A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

60748This book is scary on a completely different level, although I have to say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing itself. This book is an autobiographical account of Dave Pelzer’s childhood with a severely abusive mother. Dave was brutally beaten, starved, and tortured by a parent who, for some reason, considered him an “it” instead of a person. This was one of the first books about abuse that I’d ever read, and I was truly horrified to learn that people could behave so cruelly toward others, especially toward a child. While I knew that abuse existed, it was shocking to read a first-hand account of what it was actually like to live in that situation. I know that since then the veracity of the book has been called into question, but even if it were fictional, it is still horrifying to read!

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Unique Book Titles

Once again I managed to get a bit mixed up with the order of my topics, and was fully prepared to write my Halloween-themed top 10 post today. I thought it was a bit weird that the theme would show up the week before the holiday, especially with Halloween actually being on a Tuesday, so I decided to check the list, where I soon discovered that I had got them confused for the second time this month. I really need to get more organized!

This week’s topic is a bit of a tricky one for me since I don’t necessarily find titles particularly interesting since most of them seem to fit the book quite well. I can’t really say what it is that makes me classify a title as “unique.” I decided to focus on books from my TBR, especially many of the titles that I added fairly recently.

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

1) Confusion Is Nothing New by Paul Acampora

36127491Can a title qualify as unique if it is a quote from a song? I’ll admit that I added this book to my list primarily because of the title, which I can’t look at without automatically hearing Time After Time in my head. I liked this title because not only is it a classic song lyric, but it is also a pretty appropriate quote that characterizes being a teenager. This book is about a teenage girl named Ellie, who was raised by her single father and is trying to figure out who she is without having her mother around to be a role model. The synopsis is fairly vague since the book is not due out until May 2018, so I’m hoping a little more detail will become available as we get closer to the release date.

2) Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonslaves

31681354This is another book that is not due out until May of next year, but I thought it was an interesting title. I’ve actually always found the idea of carnivorous plants pretty interesting, and a topic that is not very common. I can’t quite figure out how the plants factor into the plot, since the synopsis says the book is about a girl struggling to find herself during her difficult freshman year at college. Aside from the title, this book appealed to me because there seem to be so few YA books that even address college beyond the stress of the application process. It has been described as “darkly funny,” and sounds like it could be a very interesting one to try.

3) The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

25650078I’m not 100% sure I can count this one as unique, since it reminds me quite a bit of another book on my TBR called The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I decided to go with this one because it was a more recent addition to my list, but both of these would apply. I found this book while browsing options for a challenge prompt this year that requires a book about food, since I thought the book I wanted would not be available in time. This book is about a chef named Lou who meets and connects with a food critic named Al, not knowing that this was the man whose review nearly got her restaurant shut down. The book has been compared to “You’ve Got Mail,” so it sounds like it might be a lot of fun to read!

4) The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan

35604686This book appealed to me because of a combination of the unusual title and the beautiful cover art. It is a magical realism story about a teenage girl named Leigh who travels to Taiwan to meet her grandparents for the first time. Leigh is certain that when her mother committed suicide, she turned into a bird, which she is now determined to find. I like magical realism, but I sometimes find it difficult to get into depending on how well it is done. This book is supposed to be a great story about grief and finding hope, but I can also see myself having difficulty buying into the idea of Leigh being so convinced that her mother is now a bird. This book is due out in March 2018, so I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of it.

5) 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You by Vicki Grant

34220094I almost passed right over this book while I was looking at lists of new and upcoming releases because I assumed it was a self-help book of some kind. This book is actually a YA story about Hildy and Paul, who both join a university psychology study that consists of 36 questions to determine whether falling in love can be engineered. As a former psychology major myself, I love the concept of a book set around a study of this kind. As part of my intro to psychology course, we were required to participate in studies by some of the older students, most of which were just online surveys. I think it’s a really interesting choice to have this as a key plot point in a book, and I’m looking forward to trying this one.

6) Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life by Sandra Beasley

9833965I’m really not a fan of non-fiction in general, but I thought the title to this one was pretty interesting. I have family members with severe allergies, and I work in a field where we always need to be conscious of allergies, so it is quite relevant to me. I thought the title “Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl” was appealing because of how it captures the potential dangers of severe allergies, and the book itself sounds really interesting. There is so much controversy sometimes about how to manage people’s allergies in schools, at work, etc. so it is also a topic that I think really needs to be opened up and discussed. This is one of the few non-fiction books I may actually be motivated to give a chance.

7) A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

28220983The title of this book appealed to me because it immediately reminded me of Minecraft, a computer game I often play with my boyfriend and some friends. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book actually did focus on Minecraft as a way for the main character Alex to connect with his young son who has autism. Games are such an amazing way to connect with some children who have autism, so I thought it was pretty cool that an author out there decided to include that in his book. This book actually came out a little over a year ago, although I did not hear about it until very recently. Autism and Minecraft are two topics that really interest me, so I would love to see how the author manages to bring them together.

8) Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

28919058Honestly, when I first saw this title, I hated it. I tend to find made up words in titles pretty cringe-worthy, but the more I thought about this one, the more I thought it was kind of cute. It helped that one of my favourite Youtubers (CeCe at ProblemsOfABookNerd) was raving about this book! I also thought the cover art was very well-done, and the plot is right up my alley. This book is about a bisexual teenage boy named Tanner who is dared to take part in a prestigious writing seminar, where he must draft a book by the end of the semester. I almost took a creative writing class in my last year of high school as well, but I chickened out because I hated the idea of other people reading my writing (as ironic as that seems now), and especially of having to read what I wrote out loud. It’s also very hard for me to write on demand sometimes. I thought this book had a unique title because it was a twist on “autobiography” that seems to really capture the story. I am very excited to read this one!

9) The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

29283884I don’t know why I was convinced for the longest time that this book had something to do with pirates. The title doesn’t even remotely sound like a pirate story, so I have no clue where I got that from. I thought this book had a unique title because it made it sound like such an official guidebook, but also seems to perfectly capture the story, at least from what I’ve heard about it. This book is about a boy named Henry “Monty” Montague who is expected to become a gentleman, who is sent on a year-long trip to give him one last chance for all of his vices before he must return home and take over his family’s estate. This book has received so much hype this year that it has been practically impossible to avoid. Considering the rave reviews it has received from all of the reviewers I follow on Goodreads, I may have to give it a chance pretty soon.

10) We Were on a Break by Lindsey Kelk

30813401Like the first book on my list, I can’t really decide if this qualifies as unique since it is a direct quote. I literally cannot read this title without hearing Ross Gellar (from Friends) shouting it in my head. For that reason alone, I think I have to count it as a title that is very unique because I’m not sure other authors would be brave enough to use the line due to that association. This book is about a couple named Liv and Adam who go on holiday together, where Adam plans to propose. Somehow, the couple instead ends up taking a break from each other. It sounds like a great comedy of errors story, which can be a lot of fun to read. This is another book that has been out already for about a year, but I hadn’t heard of it until very recently. Sounds like a lot of fun!

Reader Struggles: Meme Mini-Series (#5)

I am really not a morning person, at all. I used to love waking up early and starting to read almost right away, but the older I get, the more difficult it is for me to focus on a book in the morning. I also now have a full-time job which is luckily a 5-10 minute walk from my house, so I don’t need to wake up too early . However, it does leave me with no time to read in the morning, and even if I wanted to, I’m usually not awake enough to pay attention. The evenings are another story. You would think it would be much more tiring to read after a long day of work, but I find it’s the perfect way for me to unwind. I have a bad habit of staying up too late anyway, especially on weekends, so I thought this meme was a perfect fit:

There have been so many times where I’ve decided to stay up way too late to continue my book, especially when I’m very close to the end. Sometimes, it’s not even a case of the book being that good but when I’m almost done, it seems pointless to save 10 or so pages for the next day. Even if it means going to bed a bit late (or more than a bit), it sometimes feels more worthwhile to just stay up and finish it off. Most of the time, if I’m staying up late to read, it’s because the book really is that exciting and I can’t wait to find out what happens next! It causes problems though, since there comes a time, usually by around 11:30, where I start to realize that I’m not really focusing properly on the book anymore but I don’t quite want to go to bed yet either. I’ve learned by now that once it hits that point, no matter how great the book is, there is no point continuing since I’m not likely to really process anything.

The worst culprit though is weekends or any time I have a day off. Unless I’m too tired, I’d much rather stay up reading and sleep in the next day. I often keep my weekends fairly open because I need the time to unwind before another week of work. I work in a day program for young adults with special needs, so at work I’m constantly around people all the time and having time to myself on the weekends is my way to recharge. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but it can be really exhausting! It’s nearly impossible for me to stay up ridiculously late on work nights and still be able to function properly for my job, but the weekends are fair game. I almost always stay up way too late either reading or sometimes watching videos, and sleep for most of the next morning. I know technically I’d be able to read the same amount if I just slept on time and woke up at a normal time, but I’m much more of a night person.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Books Featuring Your Paranormal Creature of Choice

If I had to pick just one paranormal creature to read about, it would probably be witches. Unfortunately for me, a recent Top 5 Wednesday topic already covered books with witches so it was a bit of a struggle to find another favourite that I had read more than one or two books about. I enjoy paranormal stories but I haven’t read too many of them because so many seem very similar to Twilight. I decided to go with books about monsters since they seem to be a kind of creature that don’t get as much attention as vampires, ghosts or werewolves. It may be a bit of a cheat in a sense, since I’ve always thought of monster as a fairly broad term covering most paranormal creatures. Here are five books about monsters that I’ve read and enjoyed.

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) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

a_monster_callsThis was the first book that came to mind when I decided to write about books about monsters. This book still resonates as one of the strongest books that I read last year, which I devoured in one sitting. It is about a young boy named Conor who has frightening nightmares about a monster while dealing with  his mother’s cancer treatments. Conor wakes up to find the monster outside his window, who visits him each night. This is an incredible, raw and emotional book, especially for something aimed toward a middle grade audience. It is one of the few books that has genuinely made me cry. The illustrations are stunning, and the story is so well-written.

2) This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

23299512I read this book earlier this year, and it quickly became a favourite. It takes place in a city where people’s cruel and violent acts create real monsters. The book focuses on Kate, the daughter of powerful man who lets monsters roam free and forces people to pay for protection from them, and August, a monster who does not want to be one. This was the first book by Victoria Schwab that I have ever read, and I was very impressed with her writing style. I thought it was really interesting how this book incorporated several different kinds of monsters, and especially the whole element of how people (and monsters) can choose whether to behave like monsters. I always tend to love characters who have these kinds of shades of grey, and I can’t wait to read the next one.

3) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

18490I couldn’t possibly make a list of monster books without including this classic. As I’m sure most people know from all the versions of this over the years, this book is about a creature cobbled together from other people’s remains by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. As soon as the creature is brought to life, Dr. Frankenstein is horrified by what he has done and abandons it, causing the creature to wander the world to find a place where he might belong, becoming more angry and vengeful the more he is rejected. I was a little hesitant to read this book after already being so familiar with the basic story. I ended up really enjoying it. The book is quite different from the many versions we see in the movies, but it is still a powerful story.

4) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

19543This is probably one of the earliest monster books most children read. I actually barely remember reading it as a child and I don’t think I was a huge fan of it, but I reread it again as an adult for my children’s literature class and I loved it. This book is about a little boy named Max who gets into trouble at home and is sent to his room. While there, a forest grows and a boat comes to take Max to a place where the “wild things” are, where he immediately decides he will be their king and starts a huge party. Unlike other monster stories, this is definitely not a scary book. It is actually a very sweet story that shows how even when children behave like wild animals, their parents still care about them. I’m glad I gave this book another chance.

5) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

missperegrinecoverMost people think of the peculiar children when they think of this series, but there are also some pretty creepy monsters involved. The book features two main kinds of monsters: wights and hollowgasts, both of which are strange creatures that attack Peculiars to consume their souls. The hollowgasts were the more obvious monsters, especially frightening because they are invisible to Peculiars, but the Wights were even more creepy in a way because they look so human and can shapeshift easily, making them very difficult to detect in what may be an even scarier way. As disturbing as invisible monsters are, the idea of monsters hiding out in plain sight as humans is just as creepy! This is not a book I would necessarily consider a monster story, but they definitely play a key role.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Yummy Foods in Books

This was topic that really threw me off last week. I was convinced it was last week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic and was collecting ideas. I use that term a bit loosely though, since I found it quite a stressful topic. I’m a bit of a picky eater, but I love food…I just can’t say it’s something that I really pay attention to very much in books. Unless the characters are eating something really unique, I’m not very likely to remember what they ate after finishing the book. It was difficult to try to find even 5 books with memorable food, so realizing that this was a top 10 topic instead made it that much harder! I’m having some Internet problems at the moment, so I apologize for the lack of pictures to go with my choices. I just wanted to get the post up while I could!

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

1) Wizarding World Food –  The Harry Potter Series (JK Rowling)

This book is definitely the exception what I mentioned above about food being unmemorable. There are a few items that really don’t sound appetizing (Acid Pops or Cockroach Cluster, for example) but most of it sounds delicious! I’m a huge sweet eater, so I would love a trip to Honeyduke’s or Fortescue’s ice cream shop. I also love the incredible feasts the students have at Hogwarts, and I’d also love to eat some of Molly Weasley’s home cooking.

2) Coconut Cream Cake – The Reptile Room (Lemony Snicket)

Originally, I was thinking of including pasta puttanesca, which was such a big part of the first Series of Unfortunate Events book, but once I saw a list of ingredients, I knew it was something I wouldn’t really eat. I’m not a huge fan of coconut, but the cake that Baudelaires eat when they first meet their Uncle Monty just sounds delicious! It was obviously memorable enough to them because it shows up again toward the end of the series where Sunny decides to make it again for Violet’s birthday.

3) Lots of Chocolate and Candy! – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)

To be fair, I’m probably thinking of the movie more than the book with this one since I’ve seen the movie so many times. I’ve always loved the idea of a chocolate waterfall, although I still have no idea how it would be kept sanitary to actually eat. I also love all the different Wonka bars that came out, especially the Whipple-Scrumption Fudgemallow Delight, where Charlie finds his Golden Ticket. I love anything chocolaty!

4) Enchanted Fudge – No Such Thing as a Witch (Ruth Chew)

It’s a good thing my recent post about books involving witches reminded me of this childhood favourite. In this book, the children’s neighbour has enchanted fudge. Eating one piece makes them love animals, two makes them understand what animals are saying, three makes them act like animals, and four actually turns them into an animal! When I was younger, I thought it would be so much fun to be able to turn into an animal like the children in this book, but now I think I’d probably stop at just one or two pieces.

5) Capitol Food/Mellark Bakery – The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

I know most people will probably pick the delicious meals that Katniss eats in the Capitol. The food she eats during her training and with all of the people helping her prepare for the games (ie. Cinna) sounds amazing, but I also was very tempted by Peeta’s bakery. I’m a huge sucker for freshly baked bread, and other baked treats. The books mentioned raisin bread, iced cakes, and cinnamon bread, all of which are favourites of mine.

6) Edible Cookie Dough – The Upside of Unrequited (Becky Albertalli)

I love cookie dough in my ice cream, and I would quite happily eat it on it’s own if it was safe to do so. When I was reading the book, I think I naturally assumed it was regular chocolate chip cookie dough, but I’m sure there are plenty of varieties that we could make. I can’t remember if the recipe was actually included with the book, although I’m pretty sure it was not. I’m really not into the whole mason jar food trend, but edible cookie dough just sounds awesome.

7) Gelato – Love and Gelato (Jenna Evans Welch)

I actually wasn’t a huge fan of this book, which was a shame since I waited quite a while for the library to find me a copy. It was a fairly generic YA contemporary story, but I didn’t really like the characters. However, I have never tried gelato and this book made me really interested in tasting some! I love ice cream and frozen yogurt, and I honestly don’t understand how gelato is any different, but the flavours described throughout this book sounded delicious.

8) Chocolate, Chabela Wedding Cake and Three Kings’ Day Bread –  Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquival)

I’m only about halfway through this book right now, so I haven’t even reached the chapters about some of these foods yet. Honestly, everything sounds delicious but these are the three recipes that I think I’d be most likely to actually eat. I’m not really a big fan of the way the recipe steps are mixed in with the story, but the food all sounds so good. Even the recipes that I probably would never try in real life sound pretty tempting.

9) Many Foods – Relish: My Life in the Kitchen (Lucy Knisley)

I read this book late last year and I don’t own a copy, so I can’t remember specifically which foods were mentioned, but there were so many that sounded great. This book is a graphic novel in which Lucy Knisley describes the key role food and cooking have played in her life. I went into this book not really expecting much and I ended up really enjoying it, especially because I loved the attitude Lucy Knisley had toward food and eating, including a section about how we should not dismiss foods that people enjoy just because they are cheap or less healthy. I fully understand the importance of healthy eating, but I also very strongly believe that people need to enjoy what they are eating in order to make good food choices.

10) Our Daily Bread Bakery –  The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult)

This may seem like a bit of an odd choice for a list of books with great food, considering that it is primarily a Holocaust story. However, one of the main characters is a baker, and one of the things I really enjoyed about this book were the descriptions of how Sage made her baked goods. As I said above, I’m a huge sucker when it comes to freshly baked food and I would love to be able to visit a bakery every day if I could. Nearly every item at a bakery sounds good to me!

This Or That Book Tag

I could have sworn I already did this tag, but apparently I hadn’t! I realized it had been almost a month since I had done a tag, so I thought it was a good time to try a new one. There are so many fall and Halloween-themed tags around, and I’m sure I will be getting to some of those a little closer to the end of the month, but I thought this one would be a good break from all the creepy settings and fall-themed topics lately. I love these kinds of “pick one” tags since they really make me stop and think about my reading habits in a way I usually haven’t before.

This tag was created by Ayunda @ Tea and Paperbacks, and I saw it recently by Icebreaker’s blog (post here) and it looked like a fun one. I wasn’t directly tag, but Icebreaker left it open to everyone who wants to so I’m considering myself tagged. Since I’m so horrible at remembering to tag anyone at the end, I will say the same upfront: I’m sure this tag has been a popular one for a while, so anyone who has not done so and would like to, consider yourself tagged!

1) Reading on the couch or reading on the bed?

I actually generally read on my chair at my desk since I’m often reading while listening to music or otherwise using my computer. If I had to pick between these two, I’m a lot more likely to read on my bed than on the couch because I usually read in my room. I actually find it pretty hard to get comfortable on the couch while reading.

2) Male main character or female main character?

I honestly don’t care, as long as the character is well-written. I don’t necessarily find one POV harder to relate to than the other just because of their gender, and I don’t actively seek out books with a certain kind of main character.

3) Sweet or salty snacks while reading?

I don’t eat anything while reading since I’m worried about staining my books. In general, I prefer sweet snacks but if I had to pick something to read while I had a book in my hand, I would probably pick popcorn since it’s not too messy if it’s not too buttery. Sweet snacks tend to be very messy and ever since I stained Prisoner of Azkaban with chocolate, I won’t eat anywhere near my books!

4) Trilogies or quartets?

I don’t think I’ve ever read any quartets, so I guess trilogies by default? I’ve read a few longer series and quite a few trilogies, but the only quartet I’ve read so far is The Lunar Chronicles. I enjoyed that one more than some trilogies, but given the choice, I would choose trilogies. I find longer series sometimes tend to drag things out and it’s hard to keep momentum going for many books.

5) First person POV or third person POV?

Again, I don’t necessarily have a preference or seek out one over the other. The only tense I tend to hate is when it’s a really awkward third person, present tense (if I have that right). For example “Lisa walks over to the phone and calls her friend, thinking about the fight they had earlier.” Almost every time I read a book in this tense, I find the style awkward. Otherwise, I like first person for giving insight into the character’s mindset, and I also really like third person because it lets you follow multiple characters.

6) Reading at night or in the morning?

I am really not a morning person, so definitely at night! There have been a couple of times recently where I wake up unnecessarily early on a weekend and instead of going back to sleep, I’ll grab a book and read for a bit before getting out of bed, but in general I like to read in the evening.

7) Libraries or bookstores?

Right now, definitely libraries! Books have become very expensive, and I’ve also become quite picky about which copy of the book I want (ie. hardcover vs. softcover) when I decide to spend the money on it. I happen to live close to quite a good public library, so I’m very lucky.

8) Books that make you laugh or books that make you cry?

I like both, but I find I’m a lot more likely to cry from a book than to laugh. Sometimes the intended humour just falls flat for me, but I do love funny/snarky characters. Books that make me cry are the ones that tend to stay with me though.

9) Black book covers or white book covers?

I’ve literally never thought about it, but I guess black covers. White covers seem like they’d be very easy to stain or smudge.

10) Character-driven or plot-driven books? 

Definitely character-driven. I don’t necessarily need to think the character is a likable person, but I need to be invested in who they are and what they are doing.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Books with Creepy Settings

So this is a first — I got completely mixed up about what this week’s topic was. I had today’s topic confused with next week’s Top 10 Tuesday theme (Top 10 Foods Mentioned in Books), which I’ve been stressing about since it is not something I pay attention to at all. I was surprised to go online today to see Sam’s video about books with creepy settings. I have no idea how that happened! Luckily for me, this topic is much easier and there were several books that immediately stood out. I’m scared of true horror books, but I love books that have a creepy or chilling atmosphere. There are so many examples of books where the atmosphere completely makes the story, and it is the creepy ones that tend to really stay with me.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Aunt Cath’s House from And the Trees Crept In (Dawn Kurtagich)

28449150Due to the poor planning on my part, this is my second time this week talking about this book, but it is a book that is definitely worth mentioning. This book is set in a blood-red manor house, surrounded by a creepy woods that seems to be coming closer and closer each day. The main character, Silla, and her sister Nori are trapped in the house due to their fear of the “Creeper Man,” a demonic creature who lives in the woods, and who Aunt Cath tells the girls might hurt them if they go in the woods. Aunt Cath’s manor is full of strange noises and the haunting atmosphere takes a toll on the sanity of the people living there. It was a very creepy book, and well-worth reading!

2) Laurie’s House from Little Girls (Ronald Malfi)

little_girlsI know we were not limited to horror stories for this week’s topic, but this was one of the first that came to mind. This is one of the only true horror stories I ever read and I loved it, although I’m still a bit scared of it. In this book, a woman named Laurie returns to her childhood home to settle her father’s estate after his apparent suicide, and soon realizes that the girl next door remarkably resembles the cruel neighbour and “friend” who lived next-door and who died when they were children. The house in this book almost feels like a character of its own given the elaborate descriptions and the huge presence it has throughout the story. This is by far one of the scariest books I have ever read, and the setting was a huge part of it.

3) The Peculiars’ Home from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)

missperegrinecoverI know a lot of people felt that the eerie pictures in this series were a gimmick, but for me, they worked. The Peculiars are a group of children who live on a remote island off the coast of Wales. In this book, the main character Jacob has always loved his grandfather’s stories of the unusual home where he lived with other strange children, guarded by a bird. After his grandfather’s brutal death by what appears to be a monster, Jacob convinces his parents to let him follow his grandfather’s stories to a remote island near Wales, where he explores the abandoned remains of the home his grandfather claimed to live in, and eventually comes to meet the peculiar children he has always heard so much about. This book was not scary at all, like many people were expecting, but I thought the Peculiars’ home was quite creepy, even when we got to see it fully-functioning and inhabited.

4) Elspeth’s Apartment from Her Fearful Symmetry (Audrey Niffenegger)

7106736It’s been quite a while since I read this book, but I remember the atmosphere being very creepy. This book focuses on Julia and Valentina, twins who move to an apartment in London beside the cemetery, after their aunt Elspeth dies of cancer. Elspeth is their mother’s estranged twin sister, who promises her apartment to the girls on the condition that their parents never enter it. The twins eventually come to realize that their aunt may never have left the apartment, and get to know the eccentric neighbours. This was another brilliant story by Audrey Niffenegger, and I think any home that is right beside a cemetery is bound to be pretty creepy! I also thought the book was a little creepy because of the twins and their relationship. I know that in real life, twins are not really creepy but they often are in books and in this case, it is a little creepy how entwined the girls are toward the beginning.

5) John Comestor’s Apartment in Lost (Gregory Maguire)

24929This is another case of a book with a creepy, haunted apartment. In this book, Winifred travels to London to work on her latest novel about a woman who is haunted by the ghost of Jack the Ripper. She gets to the apartment to find that her step-cousin and friend John Comestor has disappeared and his place seems to be haunted. There is a strange knocking noise on the wall, and other creepy events that lead Winnie to try to figure out if there really is a ghost. This is another book that it’s been quite a while since I picked up, so I can’t remember all of the details, but I remember finding a lot of it quite creepy. Any book where the walls make strange noises will pretty much creep me out, but I have a pretty low tolerance threshold for creepy things.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Ten Books with Fall Themed Covers

Fall has always been my favourite season, and I’m sure a big part of that is the fact that my birthday is just before Halloween. It meant that when I was younger, I would go from having birthday cake directly to having Halloween candy immediately after. I also love Fall because of the beautiful colours of all the leaves, the fact that most bugs (especially bees!) finally start to go away, and because it is generally the perfect temperature. I don’t do very well with very hot weather since I overheat very easily, to the point where I feel nauseated. I like spring weather, but hate that my seasonal allergies always act up because of everything growing, which almost inevitably turns into a cold. I actually don’t really mind winter, even when it’s cold, except for having to walk in the deep snow/ice because the city apparently assumes that no one walks through public parks in the winter, even though it is connected to an elementary school and a community center. Fall is the perfect balance for me, so I was happy to see this week’s theme. I associate fall with both Halloween, and colourful trees, so that’s what I looked for when choosing covers. I haven’t read many of these books yet, but their covers just screamed fall to me.

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

1) And The Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

28449150I just finished this book the other day, so it was the first to come to mind for me when it came to fall covers. This is definitely a cover that I think is perfect for Halloween, with the creepy skeletal trees. I’m actually not a big fan of the girl in the white dress falling through the middle. I didn’t even notice it when I first saw the book, and I actually think it detracts a bit from the cover. It just doesn’t seem necessary, nor does it it fit the story that well. This book is about two sisters who move into their aunt’s creepy manor, which they quickly realize must be haunted or cursed. Silla, the older sister, tries to unlock the mysteries of the house while protecting Nori, her younger sister, from all the horrors, including the woods that seem to be getting closer every day. I really enjoyed this book, and it is perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit.

2) The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

1282954I haven’t read this book yet, but Liane Moriarty has become one of my favourite authors over the past few years. I have read four of her books so far and enjoyed them all, although Big Little Lies is still my favourite. I chose this cover because of the bright orange and red leaves on the tree, which definitely looked like a tree at the start of the fall. This book is about a woman named Sophie who has unexpectedly inherited her ex-boyfriend’s aunt’s house, bringing her ex who she considers the one who got away back into her life. The home that Sophie inherits was also the home of a famously unsolved mystery, so it’s possible there could be some creepy/Halloween-ish elements here as well.

3) Things I Want My Daughters To Know by Elizabeth Noble

1152201I haven’t read this book yet either, although it has been on my TBR for a ridiculously long time. I chose this book because the colour scheme of the cover was very heavy on oranges and yellows, which seemed very appropriate for fall, and also because of the leaves the person is holding. This book is about a mother named Barbara who passes away, leaving behind letters and a journal to her daughters about things she wants them to know. The book follows Barbara’s daughters during their first year without their mother as they learn to come to terms with her loss and move forward. It sounds like it could be a very interesting family story, but also could be quite depressing.

4) A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

3473This is one of the few on the list that I actually have read, and I chose it because the  non-movie cover features beautifully coloured fall trees. To be fair, I actually enjoyed the movie version quite a bit more than the book, but that may just be because I saw the movie first. This book is set in the late 1950s, and focuses on a bad boy named Landon Carter who falls in love with Jamie Sullivan, the minister’s daughter. I generally enjoy Nicholas Sparks’ books, but I remember being a little disappointed with this one although the movie is one of my favourites. I just couldn’t help comparing the two versions, which is a problem I have any time there are adaptations. Whatever version I read or watch first is the version I tend to like best. I think I’m long overdue for a re-read though.

5) The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller

12224817This is another book that I think I’ve had on my TBR for quite a while, but it seemed like a perfect fit for a fall-themed list. I chose it because of the yellow and orange leaves on the cover, but also because this book focuses on school. In this book, a secret society threatens to expose students and teachers’ discretions at the highly competitive Mariana Academy. The book focuses on Iris Dupont, a student who wants to become an investigative journalist and who sets out to uncover who is behind this secret society. I thought a school setting was perfect for fall since it is back-to-school season, and the cover artwork is definitely fall-themed.

6) The Next Time You See Me by Joyce Maynard

15802753Compiling this list has made me realize how many books have been on it for way too long. I chose this book because the of the bed of leaves on the cover, including the single bright red leaf on the swing. I also thought the empty swing gave it a kind of creepy atmosphere, that might be in the Halloween spirit. This book is about a 13-year-old girl who finds a dead body while playing in the woods and decides not to tell anyone about it. The synopsis also describes a woman named Susanna, whose older sister has gone missing and no one else in the city seems to care to find out what happened to her. It sounds like a very interesting mystery/thriller, and the perfect fall read.

7) The Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

17934519This is another book that I chose for a blend of the cover artwork and the school setting. The cover features a leafy ground, and a lot of orange leaves. The book is set in a New England boarding school, where the Headmaster Arthur Winthrop is found wandering naked by the police, leading to his story of his marriage and family. The plot synopsis on Goodreads is relatively vague and none of the reviewers I follow seem to have read this one yet so I don’t know too much about it. If I recall correctly, I added it to my list because it sounded like an interesting and unusual storyline, and because the cover art was very appealing when I first saw it.

8) The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle

15655This was actually one of the first books I had in mind when I saw this week’s topic, since I had a distinct memory of having a book on my TBR for a very long time with a prominent yellow leaf on the cover. This book is about a young widow named Sarah who is raising two boys, and soon takes on another troubled child after a “shocking revelation rips apart the family of her closest friend” (according to the Goodreads summary). It is another book that does not seem to be very well-known, although it has an average rating just over 4 stars so it sounds like it could be a good one. Just browsing through the reviews, it seems that the majority of readers really enjoyed it so it may be one that I will have to get to soon.

9) The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace

33830397This is a cover that was more on the Halloween side of fall-themed, and it may be the only book here that is a very recent release, just coming out today! This book is a magical realism story about a girl named Sorrow who belongs to an eccentric family, and leaves them for eight years after her sister dies and her mother has a mental breakdown. When she is 16, Sorrow returns to her family’s orchard one summer to learn more about the past she barely remembers and her family.  I chose this book because of the dark and almost creepy trees on the cover that seem to have lost most of their leaves. It seemed like it could have a darker side to the story, and it might be one that is good to read around Halloween.

10) After Her by Joyce Maynard

17349250This one is another book that was more on the Halloween-inspired side, with skeletal trees and a bed of leaves on the ground on the cover. This book is about two sisters who live near a mountain in northern California where young women keep turning up dead. The girls’ father, a detective, is working on finding the man responsible for these crimes and after seeing his struggles to do so, one of the daughters decides to use herself as bait to catch the killer. Reviews for this one have been pretty mixed, and none of the reviewers that I follow have read it yet, so I’m not sure how this one will be. However, I would definitely say it has a very creepy fall-themed cover!

The Importance of Being Honest: Why We Need Both Positive and Negative Comments in Online Discussion

About a month ago, I made a post about the problems with being part of an online community. In that post, I discussed some frustrating examples of online communities that I take part in and what happens when things start to cross a line. Recently, this topic has been on my mind again because of a topic that has cropped up in my Goodreads group. As I mentioned last time, this group was struggling with what moderators believed to be an overall negative atmosphere, and even approached individual members to ask them to be a little more careful with their posts to ensure that they were positive or at least  balanced.

Over the past couple of weeks, the issue has again come up when we took part in what should have been our last poll for the year to finish off the list of challenge prompts. In the last batch of suggestions, a group member proposed a prompt that would cover two weeks. We had previously had a poll devoted to multi-week prompts, and I was under the impression that we had established as a group that the multi-week poll would be the only chance to suggest multi-week prompts. Other group members seemed to have the same impression, however when some of us asked about it, moderators jumped in to clarify that we had technically not set any rules about that, so the suggestion was welcome to be included in the poll. That left a few of us a little frustrated, since we clearly remembered previous discussions that seemed to conclude that this was not the case, but none of us really had the time or patience to go back and find evidence. By the end, a few people had begun to comment that they were feeling a little burnt out on voting and couldn’t wait for the process to be done.

One long-term member commented once again about the negative attitude in the group overall, and how she dreaded messages from some people that “seem to tear others or their suggestions apart” or are “drenched in a bleak outlook.” While this individual has commented about the negative atmosphere overall in the past, her comment still left me pretty confused because I honestly have not noticed any of the kind of behaviour that she is describing. I have definitely seen people expressing disappointment in the results, which is normal since it is a voting process and the prompts each of us vote for might not make the final list. I have also seen people expressing frustration with some of the differences in the process this year, such as how we’d been getting Top 2 or Top 3 results from each poll, whereas in the past we always had a clear Top 4. Some of us have questioned throughout the year why that had changed since the moderators have said their way of tabulating the votes is the same as in previous years.

Where I take issue with comments like the above is that it seems to be taking away people’s freedom to express themselves. Granted, I believe that it is important for groups to have rules about respectful communication and such, but I honestly do not understand why everyone is so against any kind of negative comment. In this case, a few other members jumped in to note that they had also felt the group has been negative overall, and some have even said that they have participated less as a result. Ever since the moderators started warning individual members to be more careful with the tone of their comments, I’d been wanting to start an open discussion about what is going on in the group to try and unearth what the root problem is. It bothers me a bit that the moderator who warned me to be more positive even admitted that I was not one of the “worst culprits” so it left me confused as to why I was spoken to at all. Aside from that, I have yet to find any other group member who had been warned, even several others whose comments were quite similar (if not more negative) than my own.

The further into the year we got, the more the gripes about negativity and the overall atmosphere seemed to come up. I was hesitant to start anything since I didn’t want to be seen as being too negative again, but after the comment mentioned above, I left a response that seemed to help start at least a bit of a conversation. Several of us commented that we had not noticed an excessively negative mood overall, and took issue with the idea that members were attacking each other or other people’s suggestions. I can’t speak for anyone else, but other than one specific incident which was handled pretty quickly and effectively, I have never seen anyone directly attacking others or trying to insult their suggestions. If anything, we’ve all been pretty careful to acknowledge that ideas we weren’t such fans of were good, just not our personal taste.

It seems that this year, people are having a very hard time separating themselves from their suggestions, and are taking any kind of criticism as a personal attack. Some people pointed out that compared to past years, group members have started to make more specific and detailed comments about prompts that they liked and didn’t like. Is that really such a bad thing? Moderators have suggested that comments like “I really didn’t like x” are too negative, and instead we should be mentioning the prompt suggestions that we did like. While I agree that it is important to have balance in comments overall, I honestly don’t see anything wrong with discussing ideas that we didn’t like. As long as we don’t cross the line into personal insults or direct attacks, I don’t see the issue. Part of the discussion that came up also mentioned individuals being overly sensitive, and how easily our own moods can affect how we read, especially online when there are no other contextual cues.

What really bothered me is that in the course of the discussion, moderators kept coming back to an example which I’m sure was directed at least partially at me. In the private message I received from the moderator, she cited an example of a time where I had only posted the suggestions that I hadn’t liked, and a moderator prompted me to also add what I liked. This was one on one specific poll that was particularly difficult to find anything I liked. I’m sure I have listed prompts that I haven’t liked in other threads as well, but probably in a more balanced way. The moderator used this one post as an example, and ever since then, I’ve seen that example used multiple times by different mods to illustrate the point that there is a negative attitude. I’m not trying to be self-centered and suggest that I am the only person they are referring to with that comment, but even though they haven’t publicly named me or quoted me, I still felt singled out and frustrated that they were still going on about a specific post from so long ago. Why do they even remember one specific post of mine like that?

Luckily, the conversation that emerged was about the value of having negative comments in these kinds of discussions, and most people seemed to agree that it was important for group members to feel that they could be honest with their comments. Several of us had mentioned that we didn’t like feeling that we couldn’t post anything even remotely negative for fear of hurting people’s feelings or upsetting the mods. As we pointed out in that chat, seemingly negative comments sometimes spark the best discussions and after all, the point of having a discussion board is to discuss. Conversations are no fun if people aren’t allowed to be specific about what they like and didn’t like, and it is especially a problem if people aren’t allowed to honestly express how they are feeling about the process. Instead of warning members to speak more positively, I think the moderators should have taken the supposedly constant negativity as a sign that something was bothering people, and investigated further.

I am still extremely confused about where people got the impression that the group had become so negative, and especially about why people felt they were being so personally attacked. Even two of the moderators admitted that they might have been oversensitive, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t that be recognized and acknowledged before trying to single out individual members who might be causing problems? I would like to think most people know themselves well enough to understand their own triggers. It still really bothers me that even after a great discussion about why negative comments are sometimes necessary, two of the moderators again mentioned that they felt people had been “whining,” “aggressive,” or “harsh” in their comments, even in the course of agreeing that constructive discussion is fine. One moderator even said she’d been hesitant to speak up before now because she didn’t want to be verbally attacked. As a moderator, she should be in the best position out of everyone to speak out against an issue. It’s pretty frustrating that they keep going on about a negative mood when it is becoming more and more clear that not all members shared that impression, and those of us who did not are genuinely confused about what led people to that conclusion.

I will end by saying that I do understand the moderator’s point that it is important to have constructive and balanced discussions. No one wants to participate in a group that is constantly complaining or always unhappy. But, I think there is also a very important distinction to be made between whining and disagreeing. Online discussions where everyone agrees are very boring. Discussions where people are afraid to say what they really think aren’t really discussions at all. Groups where members don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves and sharing their real, honest opinions are groups that don’t last very long. This group has always been my favourite of all my reading challenge groups because of the lively discussions and the generally fun atmosphere. I’m hoping that the end of the voting process and the built-in break before next year’s challenge starts will be enough of a reset that we can move on from this.