Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Authors You’d Want to Write Like

I spent at least half of my childhood convinced I was going to grow up to be a professional author. In fourth grade, my best friend and I decided that we were going to start our own series of children’s books. He would draw the illustrations, and I would write (although neither of us were particularly talented). This led to many recesses and lunch breaks working on our first “book,” a bizarre story involving talking animals that have special powers and go on small adventures. Growing up, I always tried to write stories of my own and although I had many ideas, I never had the ability to follow through on them and often abandoned them midway.

When I saw this week’s topic, it brought me back to my childhood wish of being a professional writer. Although writing is one of my strengths, I’m not really sure that extends to creative writing. I definitely wish I had the abilities of some of my favourite authors!

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) Jodi Picoult

It’s no secret by now that Jodi Picoult is my favourite author. I would love to have her ability to tackle complex topics from a variety of viewpoints. Jodi Picoult takes controversial issues, and crafts a story that includes such a range of characters that it is nearly impossible for me to tell her own personal biases. I also have a lot of respect for the amount of research she puts into each book to make sure they are as accurate as possible. Her characters feel so real that I sometimes forget that they are not real people. Like all authors, some books are better than others, but even my least favourites tend to be very strong. I would love to have J.K. Rowling’s ability to to manage difficult topics so sensitively and realistically, while avoiding her own biases.

2) J.K. Rowling

I really admire J.K. Rowling’s ability to create such an intricate and detailed world, and especially how she manages to tie together seemingly insignificant details and characters from previous books. A character who is mentioned in passing in the first Harry Potter book, who seems like no more than just a random name, often later becomes an important figure. It takes a lot of forethought and planning to pull that off, and I love how J.K. Rowling was able to bring it all together so smoothly. In my own attempts to write stories, I tend to get stuck on specifics and stop writing until I can sort things out, which sometimes means abandoning things if I can’t find a good solution. I would love to have J.K. Rowling’s ability to plan ahead and make such strong connections, as well as to build such a fascinating world.

3) Daniel Handler

For those who don’t know, Daniel Handler is the real author behind the Lemony Snicket character who wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events. I think it takes a lot of talent to create this whole persona of a mysterious author who is a character himself in the books, and I love the series for the blend of intelligent writing, interesting (and strange) characters, and humour. Aside from the series, Daniel Handler has also written several books under his own name which are great as well. I love how he wrote a children’s series which treated the children who read it as well as the younger characters as competent and intelligent people who were able to understand the story and the jokes. I would love to have Daniel Handler’s ability to play with language and create a story that is so funny and so serious at the same time.

4) Audrey Niffenegger

Audrey Niffenegger hasn’t written very many books yet, but I love her writing style! I fell in love with The Time Traveler’s Wife as soon as I read it, partly because of the intriguing concept but mostly because of the beautiful writing. I love how Audrey Niffenegger takes on storylines that are kind of complex and weird, but presents them in a way where the story does not seem so impossible. Even when the events that are happening are strange, they are written so well that they seem completely real and plausible. I’m not even sure I can put into words exactly what it is about her writing style that I love (and maybe that’s why I would love to write like her), but it is so easy for me to get absorbed into her stories. I would love to have Audrey Niffenegger’s general ability to write so beautifully.

5) Suzanne Collins

I’ve only just realized that Suzanne Collins had another series before The Hunger Games. It was a middle grade series called the Underland Chronicles, which I’d never heard of and never read (and to be fair, probably won’t read at this point). I avoided The Hunger Games for a long time because it was so overhyped, even though my mom, who rarely reads YA but loves fantasy, kept highly recommending it. It wasn’t until after I saw the first movie that I decided to give it a chance, and all three books quickly became favourites. I loved how Suzanne Collins struck a perfect balance between action and character development, in a completely believable world. Her characters were all so well-written, especially Katniss. I thought this was by far one of the strongest YA dystopian series I’ve ever read, possibly because it was the first, but the writing style really made it stand out. I would love to have Suzanne Collins’ ability to balance action and emotion/character development.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Books on Your Winter TBR

When I first saw this week’s topic, I thought it was a bit strange since there is only one month left of the year. For some reason, I naturally interpreted “winter” as “December” since I’m so used to thinking of my TBR in terms of my reading challenges. To be fair, it’s a bit harder to think about which books I’m planning on reading for the rest of the winter because I haven’t decided which books from next year’s challenges I will be starting with. The best I could think of is a few books which I would like to read early on next year, but I can’t know for sure yet.

Throughout the year, I tried my best to spread out some of the books I was most excited for so I didn’t read them all at once at the beginning and leave myself stuck with prompts that I was dreading. I’m a little worried about the sheer number of books I have to read if I want to complete my challenges by the end of the year. Actually, it’s not so much the number but the average length of the books, since I seem to have left myself with a few longer books instead of my usual pattern of mostly YA by this time of year. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s really not such a big deal if I can’t. There’s no “challenge police” who are keeping track of what I read, but I would still love to reach my goal.

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

1) When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

28220826I’m actually a little surprised I put this book off for so long since it was one of the first books I decided I wanted to try this year. This book is a magical realism story, which is a genre I like but don’t reach for very often. It is about a girl named Miel who grows roses out of her wrist, who befriends Sam, whose life before moving to the town in which they live is mysterious. The Bonner sisters, rumoured to be witches, decide they want Miel’s roses and will do anything to make sure they get them. It’s a tricky plot to explain, especially when I have not read the book yet, but the cover art is stunning and I’ve seen such rave reviews for this one. I’m currently waiting for this one to come from the library, so hopefully it will be here soon!

2) Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino

23492533I read one of Renee Carlino’s books last year and I really enjoyed it, so I immediately went online and looked at what else she had written. I was most intrigued by this book, which is about a writing instructor at a San Diego college who realizes that the plot of a bestselling novel from a mysterious new writer seems suspiciously similar to her own life, meaning that the writer must be the childhood friend she has not seen in more than 10 years. It sounded like such an interesting concept, and I tend to love books that have to do with writing and mysterious authors. This book sounds like it has a lot of potential. It is very unusual for me to pick up any “new adult” books, but this one sounded so interesting that I couldn’t resist giving it a chance.

3) It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Suigura

29073707This book was not part of my original plan for the year, but I started to hear more about it as the year went on. Oddly enough, I remember hearing a lot of criticism for this book being extremely problematic, although when I search for those reviews now, I can’t find anything on the subject. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? This book is about a 16-year-old Japanese-American girl who starts to have feelings for her new female best friend after moving to California. If I’m honest, a big part of why this book caught my attention enough to prioritize it for this year was all the controversy surrounding it. I just couldn’t understand what could be that problematic about it, to the point where people were demanding a rewrite. I’m curious to try it for myself and see what all the hype was about.

4) The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper

3148095This book has been a bit of a strange one for me all year. Every time I look at the synopsis, I think it sounds so interesting and I want to read it, but it has never been the book I reach for either. This book is about a man named Patrick who joins a creative writing group in Toronto, where a serial killer has been murdering people and taunting the police with notes. Patrick discovers that one woman in his group seems to be writing stories that bear a strong resemblance to the real attacks. It sounds like a very interesting story, and as I mentioned above, I tend to like stories that deal with writing in some capacity. I’m hoping it will be as much of a fast-paced read as many of the reviews seem to say it is. I generally really enjoy thrillers, and this one sounds good!

5) The Widow by Fiona Barton

25734248This is another thriller that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. This one is about a woman named Jean, whose husband has recently died. Jean’s husband was suspected of committing a crime, and now that he is gone, people want to hear her story and know the truth about her husband. Like many good thrillers, the synopsis offered by Goodreads is quite vague but it has been compared to The Girl on the Train, which I loved. I’m a little skeptical about this one because the reviews seem to be quite mixed, but that often seems to the be the case for many thrillers. I tend to like books that are very character-driven, and it seems like this one is a good candidate for that. I’ve also had a copy of this book at home for quite a long time and never picked it up, so it seems like it’s about time!

6) Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

1472878When I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah last year, it quickly became one of my favourites of the year. I loved Kristin Hannah’s writing style and I immediately went on to Goodreads to see what else she had written. I managed to get copies of several of Kristin Hannah’s books for free over the past year, so there are a few that have been sitting on my shelf for quite a while. I kept putting this one off because I was prioritizing books from the library over the ones I had at home, and because I wanted to make sure I had the time to devote to it since it was a longer book. This book is about two girls who meet and become best friends in eighth grade, following their friendship over the next three decades. Given how much I enjoyed Kristin Hannah’s writing style, I’m hoping to really love this one as well.

7) Our Dark Duet by V.E. Schwab

32075662I read This Savage Song earlier this year, and immediately fell in love with the story and the writing style. I’d been hearing rave reviews about V.E. Schwab for well over a year but never managed to pick up any of her work. I have not yet decided if I’m going to try and squeeze this book in this year or pick it up early next year. Immediately after finishing This Savage Song, I knew that this was a series that I had to buy (and it’s very rare for me to actually buy books anymore).  This book is about a world where monsters created by people’s sins have taken control, picking up several months after the previous book left off. I am very excited to find out what happens to Kate and August next. I can’t wait to read this one!

8) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

19288043I don’t know what it is about this book, but I just keep putting it off. I’ve had this book in mind for at least two years now, to the point where it’s just getting ridiculous that I haven’t read it yet. Each year, I include it as an option for my reading challenges, and each year I decide to pick up something else instead. I finally decided that enough is enough, and I will read this one by the end of the winter (if not the end of this year). The weirdest part is I actually do want to read this one, so it’s not like I’m putting it off because it lost my interest. It just always comes down to a lack of time or too many other books that I want to read first. It’s received such great reviews from the majority of the reviewers I follow, and it’s just getting silly now that I keep delaying it when I actually do want to give it a try.

9) The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

9572203Aside from the fact that the title seems very appropriate for winter, the “Nordic noir” prompt was chosen as the theme of the month in my PopSugar 2018 challenge group. This book was one of the contenders for the book of the month for us to read as a group, but it ultimately lost out to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I want to read that one also, but I have so many other lengthy books on my list for next year that I decided to go for something a bit shorter to balance things out. This book is part of Nesbo’s Harry Hole series (which I haven’t read, hopefully that won’t matter too much) about a police investigator who is working on a case of a young boy whose mother has gone missing, and instead sees a snowman wearing his mother’s scarf in his front yard.It sounds very creepy!

10) Beartown by Fredrik Backman

33413128If I’m honest, I’m not sure how much I’m looking forward to this one. I’ve always been a bit on the fence about it because although it’s received exceptional reviews, I’m not very interested in books that focus on sports. Unluckily for me, PopSugar decided to include that as a prompt for next year’s challenge, and this book was chosen as the book of the month for February in the Goodreads group. I’ve never been interested in sports and tend to find books that focus heavily on them hard to relate to, but this one seems like it might interest me. I’m glad the group chose a book I was considering anyway as the book of the month since it could be a good motivator to read it along with everyone else. I guess if nothing else, it means knocking out a prompt I’m not excited for early on in the year, which I’ve also found to be a pretty helpful challenge strategy.

Reader Struggles: Meme Mini-Series (#6)

It’s been quite a while since I even looked at the list of reader struggles memes (found here), and I forgot how much I relate to most of them. I have to say, the next meme on the list is probably the one I relate to least, (and not just because of the obnoxious neon green background!).

not-here

To a certain degree, I do relate to this because I can get very absorbed into a book, but it is very contingent on what book I am reading. It seems to be most true for fantasy series. I think it goes without saying that when I read Harry Potter, I’m fully immersed in that world and can easily lose track of time. Recently, I also got very absorbed into The Raven Boys, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. All of these were great starts to their series and captivated me right from the start. I find that my ability to get absorbed into a story has a lot to do with the writing style, and the author’s ability to draw me in to really care about the characters.

It seems easiest to do that with fantasy series which rely quite heavily on world-building, even when it is set partially in real places like The Raven Boys and Daughter of Smoke and Bone were. Both of these set in real-world places, but modified to work with the fantasy elements. However, even contemporary or other more realistic books can draw me in. This is especially true for any book by my favourite author, Jodi Picoult. When books are that well written, it’s easy for me to get absorbed into them.

Aside from characteristics of the book itself, I find my mood is a huge factor for whether I get absorbed into whatever I’m reading. Even if it is a great book, if I’m stressed or tired I probably won’t be able to fully get into whatever I’m reading. Sometimes after work, I find that even when I really want to read, I have trouble focusing and get easily distracted. It’s a shame sometimes because there have been a few cases where I’m reading something that I know I should be enjoying, but I have trouble getting into it. I don’t want to take it out on the book when I  rate or review it though, so I do my best to keep any other factors in mind and rate the book fairly. It can be really frustrating to know that you should be enjoying a book but can’t get into it because of other factors. I’m hoping to get absorbed into a few more books before the end of the year!

Top 5 Wednesdays: Book-related Things I’m Thankful For

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Top 10 Tuesday post, I had to change this week’s topic slightly to avoid posting twice in a row on the exact same subject. I decided to switch today’s post to the top 5 book-related things that I’m thankful for instead, to still go with the Thanksgiving theme. Reading has always been very important to me, and I’m lucky enough to have people in my life who support my interest. Here are five of the people or other book-related things that I am most thankful for.

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) My Parents

Reading and books have always been a major part of my household. My mom has always been a huge reader, and my dad to a lesser extent. Reading was always something that we did together when my brother and I were kids. My parents would often read to us, or we would read to them. We were given books as treats and gifts. Almost every time my dad came home from a business trip, he brought me one of those books that talk or make sound effects at certain points in the story. Reading was always a favourite activity and always presented as something fun to do, and not as a chore like I’ve seen some people believe. I’m thankful to my parents for instilling a love of reading and making books such a huge part of my life.

2) My School Librarians

I had two very influential school librarians in elementary school, both of whom I was terrified of when I was in school. My first school librarian was a big, loud man who was great with kids, but I was scared of him because I always thought he was yelling. I was an incredibly shy child and hated loud voices. This librarian let my mom volunteer to help out in the library, and allowed me to spend my recesses there too. He was also the man who read us the first paragraphs of Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events, which introduced me to two of my favourite series. The second school librarian I have in mind was also my eighth grade teacher, and I was also nervous around her because she seemed very strict. However, she was extremely knowledgeable about books and was great at giving recommendations. She introduced me to the Pendragon series, which also became a favourite. I’m thankful to both of them for teaching me about how libraries work and introducing me to many of my favourite books.

3) My Best Friend

I’m lucky enough to have a best friend who was just as strongly interested in books as I am, although our tastes are pretty different. We were both always really into the classics (at least abridged versions), and I think in some ways that motivated both of us to branch out and try some of them. One of our favourite things to do together is to visit the local bookstore, where were can both spend hours just browsing the shelves and talking about books. I’ve had other friends over the years who shared my interest in many books, especially Harry Potter, but none have been willing to spend so long just wandering through bookstores. I am thankful for my best friend and how we have introduced each other to so many great books over the years.

4) Reading Challenges

Participating in reading challenges over the past three years has brought me back into reading in a huge way. Even though I’ve always loved it, I strayed away from reading for fun while in post-secondary education since I had so little time to devote to the books I wanted to read for myself. I took on my first reading challenge in 2015 in a very casual way, just to see if I could do it and I found it a great motivator. Not only did I discover many new books, but there was something strangely satisfying about being able to cross items off the list. Since then, I have participated in multiple category-based challenges each year, and it has been a lot of fun! It can be a bit stressful at times if I feel like I’m falling behind on my total for the year, but I love looking for new books and the scavenger hunt aspect of trying to fit everything in.  Plus, posting about the books I’m reading online gives me a built-in conversation topic, since everyone seems to ask what I’m reading or what books are coming up next. I’m already looking forward to next year’s challenges! I’m thankful for reading challenges for giving me motivation to read more and to try new books.

5) Goodreads and the Online Book Community

I’ve always enjoyed participating in online communities about my favourite topics, and would gladly choose Goodreads and other online discussions over an in-person book club just due to time constraints. I’ve had a lot of fun browsing Goodreads for recommendations and reading reviews of the books I’m interested in. I can easily spend hours on Goodreads just browsing, even if it’s just my own massive TBR list. I’ve also discovered some great blogs and vlog channels that I love keeping up with. When I’m not reading books of my own, I often like reading blogs or watching videos about a variety of book-related topics. I also think online communities are a great way for people to connect over shared interests, and even to discuss some of our unpopular opinions. I’m thankful for Goodreads and other online communities because it gives me the chance to discuss books with many others around the world!

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Books I’m Thankful For

I’m not in the US, so I actually didn’t even realize it was Thanksgiving this weekend. I was surprised when I saw that the topics for both Top 10 Tuesday and Top 5 Wednesday this week were “books you are thankful for.” Since I participate in both of these, and I don’t want to make two back-to-back posts on the same topic, I decided to go ahead with the books I’m thankful for on Tuesday, and another thankfulness-related topic for Wednesday.

Honestly, I have a lot of reasons to be thankful for books and reading. My original idea was to swap today’s topic for 10 reasons that I’m thankful for reading in general since I didn’t think I’d be able to come up with ten books to discuss, but the further I dug into it, the more I realized there are tons of books that I’m thankful for. Books and reading have always been a huge part of my life, so I decided to pick 10 of the books that have been influential in some way throughout my life as the books I’m most thankful for.

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

1) A Boy in the Doghouse by Betsey Duffey

4953993This is not the first book I ever read, and I’m pretty sure it’s not even the first chapter book I read, but this book by far stands out as a childhood favourite. This is the one book I distinctly remember reading over and over again for years. The book is about a young boy named George who is determined to train his new puppy, Lucky, to prove to his parents that the dog should be allowed to stay. The book is told in alternating perspectives between George and Lucky, and the chapters from Lucky’s point of view are just so cute! It was a lot of fun to read what dog training techniques look like to a dog. I’m thankful for this book because it provided me with hours of entertainment throughout my childhood, and because it was one of my earliest favourites.

2) Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin

233722This book itself is not necessarily one of my favourites, but it sparked my years-long obsession with The Babysitters Club series. For most of my elementary school years, I devoured anything Babysitters Club related. I bought all the new releases and even some merchandise from the Scholastic catalogs, and collected over 100 books from the series, which I read over and over for years. The series is about a group of 13-year-old girls who all like to baby-sit, and who form a club to help people in their neighbourhood find babysitters more easily by calling just one place to reach several of them. When I first read the series, I thought the girls were so mature and it seemed like they had so much fun babysitting. I’m thankful for this book because it was the first in a series that pretty much defined my childhood.

3) Isabel: Jewel of Castilla, Spain by Carolyn Meyer

440121This was another book series that became a major part of my childhood. This book is the first in the Royal Diaries series, which is now unfortunately out of print. Each book in the series focuses on a princess or member of the royal family as a pre-teen or teenager, told in the form of a fictional diary written by that character. I discovered this book while at the library one day during a school break. I used to go there for hours while my mom worked when I was too young to stay home alone, and spent hours reading books. This series sparked my interest in historical fiction and I even once assigned myself the task (although I never finished) of using the family trees provided in each of the book to try and create a master tree to see how the royal families all connected. I thought this series was so cool because it included a mix of famous figures like Marie Antoinette and Cleopatra and other royal figures that I’d never heard of, including Isabel. I’m thankful for this book and the series because it sparked my initial interest in historical fiction and history in general.

4) Wishbone Classics: The Odyssey by Joanne Mattern

679717My interest in this book series had a lot to do with my obsession with the Wishbone TV series, but both of these played a huge role in my interest in the classics. I’m not sure how widely known this series is, so for those who don’t know, Wishbone was a TV series that featured a dog named Wishbone who imagines himself as the lead character in famous classics, which are told alongside a parallel story about Wishbone’s owner, Joe.  It sounds very strange, but it was a great show that really did a good job of giving a brief summary of many works of classic literature. This book series was a companion to the show which gave a children’s level version of the classic. Most of my original knowledge of classics came from this show and the books that went with them, and it was another series that I collected and read repeatedly. I’m thankful for this book and the rest of the series because it sparked my interest in reading the classics and gave me a good knowledge base about many of them for when I tackled the real version later on.

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

140212I feel like this book has been coming up on a lot of my lists recently, but with good reason. This book was one of the first (Charlotte’s Web being the other big one, which only narrowly missed this list) book that I had the chance to study in detail at school. Our teacher read it to us in one of the earlier elementary school years, and I remember being completely fascinated by Narnia and the children’s adventures. Although I’ve had trouble getting into the rest of the series, this is a book I keep revisiting and it still feels as fresh every time. This book was the first true fantasy story I’d ever read, and it amazed me how C.S. Lewis could create such a vivid world filled with amazing creatures, and yet one that felt so real and possible. I’m thankful for this book because it was my first real introduction to fantasy as genre, which has since become one of my favourites.

6) The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

78411I think I’ve mentioned before that I almost missed out on this series and on Harry Potter because there was so much hype around them. I ended up obsessed with both because of a “book chat” with my former school librarian, where he read a couple of paragraphs with each. I was very quickly hooked on this book because of the snarky humour and the way that Lemony Snicket created such an intriguing plot. I thought the way that the author himself was a character within the series was such a unique concept, and I really loved the play on the whole trope of self-sufficient kids and completely ineffective adults. I also loved the way this series played with language, and how the author didn’t shy away from using difficult vocabulary. The overall style of the book was so compelling, especially for such a long series, and it was so easy to be drawn into the world. I’m thankful for this book for being the first in one of my all-time favourite series.

7) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

3Honestly, I’m thankful for the entire Harry Potter series, but it seemed appropriate to pick the book that started it all. My views on this one are actually very similar to my comments above for Narnia. The world that is created is fascinating, detailed and complex, and I love the way J.K. Rowling crafted this parallel wizarding world that really doesn’t seem all that impossible. This book was the perfect introduction to the series, especially for readers who were about the same age as Harry, like I was when I first read it. I love the way the series and the content grows with the characters, and I especially love how even seemingly insignificant details often come to play a huge role later on. It shows so much effort and devotion to crafting a fully-formed world, and it is always such a joy to read this series, no matter how many times I pick it up. And as much as I complain about the series being overhyped, I actually also love how it sparked such a global community of fans and got so many people reading. I’m thankful for this book and series for hands-down being my all-time favourite, and for giving a way for so many readers to connect and share their love for these books.

8) Let Me Call You Sweetheart by Mary Higgins Clark

170632I can’t even remember what made me decide to pick this book, but I read it in eighth grade for a book report, where I had to pick any book I wanted and present it to the class. All through school, my reading was well above grade level and my parents had the problem of trying to find age-appropriate material that was also at a challenging enough level. This book was one of the first “adult”-level books that I remember reading, chosen from my mom’s collection. I don’t remember why I chose it, but I absolutely loved it. This book is about a prosecutor named Kerry visits a plastic surgeon after her daughter is injured in a car accident. While there, she notices that several of the doctor’s patients resemble a woman who was killed eleven years ago, which is understandably very creepy! Although I have not really enjoyed most the Mary Higgins Clark books I’ve read after this one, I was blown away by the mystery in this one and completely shocked by the ending. I’m thankful for this book because it was one of my first steps into the world of books written for adults, which led to me reading a lot more variety of books and genres.

9) A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks

3463I’m not 100% sure if this is the first Nicholas Sparks book that I read, but it was definitely among the first. Nicholas Sparks was one of the first authors I really latched onto when I made that transition to adult books (I still feel weird calling them that, though). He quickly became my favourite author at the time and I devoured everything he wrote. A Bend in the Road is about a man named Miles who lost his wife in a hit-and-run accident two years ago, and wants to bring the driver to justice. Miles starts to fall in love with his son’s second grade teacher, but as the two of them grow closer, they soon realize they are connected by a secret that may change everything. I remember reading this book and several of Nicholas Sparks’ other early books so many times, and I loved the melodramatic storylines. At the time, I thought his writing style was amazing, although I’ve since moved on to other authors. I still buy his books and read them all, but most of them don’t have the same impact as this one did. I’m thankful for this book for being a long-time favourite and introducing me to an author who became a favourite for several years.

10) Mercy/My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

mercy10917I can’t for the life of me remember which of these books I read first. I remember reading My Sister’s Keeper during my first year of university because I wanted to see what all the hype was about, but I also seem to remember reading Mercy before that even though I have no idea when. Both books quickly became favourites, and Jodi Picoult is now my all-time favourite author. I love the way she explores complex issues in such a balanced way and with such wonderfully written, complex characters. Like all authors, she has some books that are better than others, but I have yet to find any Jodi Picoult book that I didn’t like at all. It takes a lot of skill to be able to navigate the topics she does in a way that is meaningful, thought-provoking and still entertaining, but that is exactly what she does. Jodi Picoult’s books are always my most anticipated of the year and I can’t wait to read each one as it comes out. I’m thankful for whichever of these two books I read first for introducing me to my now-favourite author and raising the bar for what I expect of a well-written book.

The Television Tag

I actually don’t watch very much TV anymore. I used to have one show to watch just about every day of the week, including big reality shows like Survivor or American Idol. Now, I find it hard to keep up-to-date with so many shows, especially with Netflix putting out so many series, but I have a few that I record each week and catch up on each weekend. In the past year or two, I’ve also discovered the fun of binge-watching shows on Netflix. I saw this tag on CeCe’s channel ProblemsofaBookNerd, and thought it would be a nice change from talking about books.

1. Favourite shows?

My all-time favourites are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Addams Family and Boy Meets World, but I also like The Big Bang Theory, Dawson’s Creek, The Simpsons (although admittedly, the new seasons aren’t as good) and a few anime like Death Note, Black Butler and especially Clannad. I also loved House and Bones, which didn’t come to mind immediately since they are both over now.

2. Favourite genre?

I tend to watch fantasy, comedy, or drama.

3. Least favourite show?

South Park. I could never get into it, and I just don’t find it funny at all.

4. Most rewatched show/favourite show to binge watch?

Boy Meets World, Buffy, and Friends. I wouldn’t necessarily consider Friends one of my top favourite shows, but it’s a lot of fun to binge-watch. I’ve also been rewatching Degrassi The Next Generation.

5. Do you prefer watching things week-by-week or binge-watching?

At this point, binge-watching. My time during the week is limited, and I often find I’m so tired by the evening that I end up falling asleep when I sit down on the couch to watch TV. Instead, I either binge-watch online or PVR the shows and watch them over the weekend. I try to keep up with them week-by-week if they are recorded to save space, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

6. Favourite television characters?

  • The Addams Family (most of the characters, but especially Morticia and Wednesday, although Wednesday in the New Addams Family and movies more than the original TV series)
  • Willow, Tara, Oz and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love most of the characters, but those 4 are my favourites
  • Shawn Hunter, Topanga Lawrence, and Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World
  • Pacey Whitter, Joey Potter and Jen Lindley from Dawson’s Creek
  • Homer Simpson
  • Phoebe Buffay from Friends
  • Dr. House
  • Dr. Brennan and Agent Booth from Bones
  • Sheldon Cooper

7. Favourite television ships?

  • Willow and Tara, but I also really liked Willow and Oz on Buffy
  • Buffy and Spike. I know there are a lot of problems with their relationship, but I really liked them together
  • Cory and Topanga on Boy Meets World
  • Pacey and Joey on Dawson’s Creek
  • Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah Fowler
  • Gomez and Morticia Addams

8. Show you could never get into?

Family Guy and South Park

9. Show you fell out of love with?

Reality shows, mainly. I used to love Survivor but I got bored with it. I especially got frustrated with American Idol because the shows dragged out so long and I just didn’t have the time to commit to watching it. I also started to not really like many of the people they picked, especially when the top 2 contestants in season 11 were both country singers and I didn’t like either of them. That was the last season I watched.

10. Cancelled too soon?

Tru Calling! I still can’t believe they stopped making this show just a few episodes into season 2, and just when they started leading up to what seemed to be a bigger story arc. The show had such a great concept, and I wish they had at least finished the season before giving it up.

11. Guilty pleasure show?

Re-watching old favourites, including Disney channel shows like Lizze McGuire, Even Stevens, and That’s So Raven. I’m not sure if I’d consider Degrassi a guilty pleasure, but it definitely could be.

12. What are you currently watching?

  • Hell’s Kitchen (the one reality show I haven’t gotten bored of yet)
  • The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon
  • The Simpsons
  • Buffy and Angel (I’ve never seen most of Angel, so I’m watching the episodes of both together in the “correct” viewing order)
  • Will and Grace (I never saw the complete original series, but the revival is a lot of fun)
  • Degrassi

Top 5 Wednesdays: Nostalgic Book Crushes

I made a post on a similar topic for my Top 10 Tuesdays recently, about my top 10 book boyfriends (post here, for anyone interested). Just like I mentioned for that post, this topic is a real struggle for me because I don’t really get crushes on fictional characters. I remember in seventh grade, a close friend of mine (at the time) going on and on about the two main characters from Death Note and how “hot” they were, and I found it really strange since not only were they not real, but they were animated characters so how would she know what they actually look like?

It’s still very difficult for me to come up with characters who might have been crushes, or whatever the closest equivalent to that might be. I’m also not feeling so well, so my usual patience for searching for good options is pretty limited this time. I’ve also challenged myself to limit it to just books, since including TV or movie characters would be a little too easy.

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) Peter from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)

As I mentioned in my Book Boyfriends post, Peter was one of the first characters that I might be able to legitimately consider a crush. I read the book when I was about 8 the first time, and Peter seemed so mature, even though he was probably no more than 13. I loved his maturity and how protective he was of his siblings, and a great leader. For some reason, one of the most memorable parts of the book to me is when Peter learns to use his sword for the first time because at the time, I thought it made him seem so brave and grown-up.

2) Laurie from Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

This is another repeat from my previous post, but it’s another of the only characters that I would truly consider a potential crush. I read versions of Little Women from the time I was in third or fourth grade, until eventually reading the full version closer to high school. I loved Laurie’s interactions with Jo, but also the way he was so kind and friendly toward the whole family. I loved his passion, although his impulsivity could be frustrating at times. He was a very charming character and I loved his devotion to the people he cared about.

3) Dickon Sowerby from The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

I was actually familiar with this character from a cartoon version of the movie long before I read the book, so it was again around the time I was 8 or 9 years old. I read the full version of the book toward the end of elementary school/early high school, but the story was the same. I liked Dickon because of his kindness to animals, since I was first exposed to the character around the same time that I was interested in becoming a vet. I loved his patience and the way animals just naturally flocked to him. I also loved the way he just seemed like such a genuinely nice and sweet person.

4) Mike Harris from The Guardian (Nicholas Sparks)

I used to be so obsessed with this book! Actually, with many of Nicholas Sparks books, and while I still enjoy them, he is not really my favourite author anymore. This book is about a woman named Julie who has begun dating again after her husband passed away. She ends up dating the sophisticated Richard, but also develops feelings for her husband’s best friend Mike. I loved Mike because he seemed like such a normal, down-to-earth kind of guy, and the type I think a lot of people could imagine settling down with. I loved how the book contrasted him to Richard, who went out of his way to impress Julie, but her relationship with Mike just flowed so naturally. He was another very sweet and realistic character, and a big part of why I liked the book so much.

5) Logan Bruno from The Babysitter’s Club (Ann M. Martin)

This is probably the most embarrassing one on this list, and one that was very short-lived. I was absolutely obsessed with this series all through elementary school, and when I first read the books when I was about 7 or 8, I thought the girls were so mature! I initially loved the storyline about shy Mary Anne, who I strongly related to, getting her first boyfriend and I thought their relationship was really cute in the beginning. My interest in Logan died out pretty quickly when his character ended up being pretty controlling, but he is another one I remember having some interest in at the time.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Ten Books You Want Your Future Children to Read

Books and reading have always been a huge part of my life, and I would hope it would be the same in the future for any children that I might have. I have no intention of having children any time soon, but it was definitely fun to look back on some of my favourite books and think about which ones that I would like to share. There are so many great children’s books with wonderful messages, and surprisingly many of them seem to have aged quite well so far. When I think of books I would want my children to read, I tend to think of those that really stuck with me long after I read them, or those that were just the most fun!

My biggest struggle with this list was coming up with only 10 books. Instead, I cheated a bit and I included a mix of 10 books and 10 authors or series that I would want to share.

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

1) Horton Hears a Who! (and many others) by Dr. Seuss

816484There is a good reason that Dr. Seuss has become such a classic children’s author. His books are bizarre, but they are so much fun for children to read and there are many that I would love to share. In particular, the first that came to mind was Horton Hears a Who! which is the story of an elephant who discovers a tiny group of people called Whos living on a clover, and tries to protect them from the other animals who don’t believe they are real. I adored the classic line “A person’s a person, no matter how small” because I think it is such a strong message. I would also love to share Green Eggs and Ham, The Grinch, and the Cat in the Hat books.

2) Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse/Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes

82508120692I’m not sure how well-known this author is, but his books are amazing. I even re-read both of these as an adult, and loved them just as much. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is about a young Kindergarten student who gets angry at her teacher for confiscating her new purse because she was so distracted by it during class, and Chester’s Way is about two friends who have a specific way they like to do things, whose lives are changed when they meet a new friend (the same Lilly, actually) with her own new ways. I think both of these books contain great messages that are so relevant for children, and the illustration style is just adorable! I love how the books take on bigger topics such as anger management and anxiety about change in a kid-friendly way.

3) The Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain

1129297I have to admit it still bothers me to spell the name “Berenstain” after spending a lifetime convinced it was Berenstein. This series was one of my favourites when I was growing up, and I loved to collect the original picture books. This series covered such a range of topics the children may encounter in their daily lives and give strong positive messages about how to handle these situations without coming across as overly preachy or judgmental. Some of my favourite books in the series covered topics such as telling the truth, avoiding “the gimmes” (greed), healthy eating, manners, and responsbility, while also tackling realistic situations such as starting school, having a new baby in the family, and relationships with other family members. I also liked how these books were written at a bit more advanced level, so it did not feel like it was talking down to children. I would love to be able to share this series with my future children!

4) Odd Duck by Cecil Castelucci

16002008I’ve mentioned this book a few times before over several blog posts, but it is one that I think deserves to be shared. This book is about the friendship between two ducks, Chad and Theodora, who each believe they are normal and the other is a little weird. I think this book brings up a great message about how “normal” is relative and the importance of accepting our friends as they are. I loved how both ducks were comfortable enough with themselves to do things their own way, even when that way was a little different from others. It also shows the importance of standing up for our friends and not letting others bully people who are a little unusual. I didn’t discover this book until I was an adult, but it’s amazing!

5) The Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer

1342091This was another series that was such a huge part of my childhood, and I could not pick just one! Some of my favourites are Just For You, Me Too!, and I Was So Mad. This book is pretty similar to the Berenstain Bears, but geared toward a younger audience. The illustrations are just adorable, and the stories are short and easy for kids to read, but with great messages. The characters in this book are very young, and the stories are very age-appropriate. I think these would be great books to read to children when they are very young because they would relate to many of Critter’s experiences.

6) The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper

1918938Even though this was one of my favourite books as a child, I never knew who it was by until just now.  This book is about a small train who has to make its way up a huge hill. When all the bigger engines refuse to help pull the train up, it is left to make its way alone, chanting to itself “I think I can!” It is a very short book, but I love the message about the importance of believing in yourself and the power of positive thinking. I think it would be such a great message to share with children which they can draw on when faced with challenges. I also loved the cute illustrations in this book, and although it was not one that came to mind immediately, it is definitely a book I’d love to share.

7) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

24178This was one of the first books I remember falling in love with at school, and there is a good reason that this has become such a classic. It is about a pig named Wilbur who lives on a farm where he is at risk of being killed and eaten by the farmer. Wilbur makes friends with a spider named Charlotte who devotes herself to saving Wilbur’s life by writing positive words about him on her web to show what an important friend he is. It is such an odd-sounding story if you really think about it, but it is a very strong and meaningful book to actually read. This was one of my first favourite “real” books, and it is one that I can still re-read over and over.

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

140212This was another of my earliest favourites, and although I haven’t completed the whole series, I think this book on its own is strong enough that I would want to share it. This book is about four children who visit a magical world called Narnia which is cursed to be eternally winter by the White Witch. This was the first real fantasy book I ever read, and I fell in love with it immediately. I would love to share this one with my own children someday because of how well it captures the characters’ sense of wonder as they discover Narnia and the unusual beings who live there. I think this book can even work well as a standalone, since I have re-read this one many times but never tried most of the rest of the series.

9) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

65113I was considering putting a Roald Dahl book on this list for the same reasons as Lemony Snicket, but I feel like this series has aged a bit better. I first started reading this series when I was about 12, and it drew me in so quickly. Like Roald Dahl’s books, I loved how Lemony Snicket treated children as capable and mature people, and avoided talking down to them. In fact, these books use quite a bit of complex vocabulary (with helpful and often hilarious explanations), and the story can get quite dark. The series is about three siblings who are orphaned when their parents die in a large fire. Left an enormous fortune that they will inherit when the eldest comes of age, the children are shuffled from relative to relative to find a place to live, and avoid the horrible Count Olaf who is after their money. These books are the perfect balance of humour, action and interesting characters. I had a lot of fun reading them, and I would hope my future children would feel the same!

10) The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

8Of course, I have to end with the obvious choice here. I basically grew up with Harry and all of his adventures, and it still remains one of the best written series I have ever read. A huge part of the appeal of this series for me is how it naturally grows with the character, and with the reader if they are around the same age. The series seems to start out as a fairly typical fantasy book about a young boy who discovers he is a wizard, but starts to build and grow into a much darker and more complex world. The characters are incredible, the world-building is amazing, and it is a story that has something that could appeal to just about everyone. It is definitely a series I would want to share!

The End Of Year Book Tag

It’s hard to believe we’re already so close to the end of the year! It definitely means I have my work cut out for me trying to finish off my challenges in time, but things are going pretty well so far. I’ve spent quite a while today starting to really focus on putting together my list of options for next year’s challenges as well. Nothing I’m picking right now is set in stone, but since I use the library to get the vast majority of my books, it’s good to have them at least partially planned in advance. I saw this tag earlier today on Regan’s channel ThePeruseProject (video here), which inspired me to try the tag for myself. I’ve only just learned that the tag was originated by Ariel Bissett (here), and it seems like a good way to start wrapping up the year.

1) Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

7600924Not really, since I only read one book at a time. I guess technically, I’m still in the middle of Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, but it’s not like it was a book I picked up and then abandoned. I’m actually expecting to be finished with it by the end of the day today. And I have to say, given the subject matter, I wasn’t really expecting to like it very much but it is quite well-done. The book is about a pair of siblings who have never really seen each other as just brother and sister, since they have taken over parenting their younger siblings to step in for their alcoholic mother. As teenagers, they fall in love with each other, a storyline I expected to hate. I decided to pick this book up in the first place because I’d seen so many reviews going on about how good it is despite the incest angle, so I was curious how that was possible.

2) Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

28449150I don’t have one specific book that I read ever autumn or anything like that, but over the past few years, I tend to read more creepy, Halloweenish books around the start of October. This year, the main book that I really felt like was my transition to the Halloween season was And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich, which I read toward the end of the first week of October. Last year, it was The Night Circus at the beginning of October, and The Thirteenth Tale just before Halloween. I wouldn’t necessarily consider any of these autumnal, but they definitely get me in the Halloween spirit…which is ironic, since I don’t actually do anything for Halloween anymore.

3) Is there a new release you are still waiting for?

33413929Is it bad that I’ve already started adding a bunch of upcoming 2018 releases to my TBR list? Of the books that are due out this year, the one I am most looking forward to is The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle. This book is due out right at the end of the year, on December 26. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the most anticipated book I had for the year, but I’m definitely interested in reading it. It is about a girl named Lily who has ADHD, and a boy named Abelard who has Asperger’s Syndrome. They start chatting online after Abelard posts a quote from an ancient love letter, and soon fall for each other. It sounds like such a cute love story! Actually, now that I’ve looked at the synopsis again, it’s made me anticipate it even more all over again.

4) What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

281108628490112The book I want to read most by the end of the year is Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I’ve had a very good run this year of trying series that I thought were overhyped, and ended up loving all of them! Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the last remaining new series that I intended to try, and I’m hoping to get to it pretty soon. Another book that I’m really looking forward to is Wrecked by Maria Padian, which ironically enough, was one of the first books I’d decided I wanted to read this year, and somehow ended up being one of the last I will actually read. I don’t really have a third one that I want to read on the same level as those two, but if I had to pick one (no picture, unfortunately, since I couldn’t figure out how to make the layout work), I would say Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, because I absolutely adored the Agatha Christie book I read last year!

5) Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?

28220826Possibly When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. I like magical realism, but it is not a genre I read very often because I sometimes find the books confusing. Unless the magical elements are handled very well, I have trouble getting immersed in the story. It’s another book that I decided very early on that I wanted to try, but somehow ended up putting off until the very end. Also, the cover art on this one is just stunning! I’m expecting to like it, but I will be pleasantly surprised if it ends up becoming one of my favourites.

6) Have you already started making reading plans for 2018?

Yes! I’ve committed to doing both the Around the Year challenge and the PopSugar challenge, and over this weekend I’ve started the very early stages of compiling my lists of which books I want to read. Up until now, I’ve had a bunch of books in mind that I wanted to read in, but I’ve just started the process of actually writing everything down. It really helps to see which categories I still need to fulfill, and part of the fun is always playing around with the list to see how to fit in even more books! I’d love to try the BookRiot challenge as well when it comes out, if the prompts aren’t too obnoxiously specific. It looks like that won’t be out for another month or so.

Anyone else started planning for next year yet? I’m very open to recommendations. As for the tag, I tag anyone who has not done this one  yet and would like to!

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Problematic Favourites

I’ve written before about my issue with the term “problematic” (in a post here), and how we are sometimes very quick to label books or characters as problematic. When I first saw this week’s topic, I was a bit stuck on which books to write about. There seems to be an assumption that as soon as a book or character is labelled problematic, we should immediately write them off and feel guilty for liking them. I completely disagree with this. I don’t think there is anything wrong with reading books and being entertained by them or about liking certain characters who may be problematic, as long as we recognize and acknowledge that there might be problems with them. As readers, it is our job to be critical and think about what we are reading, not just take it all at face value.

Some of my favourite characters are the most complex and possibly problematic. For example, Loki was one of the best parts of the Thor/Avengers movies. I’ve also always been a huge fan of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who has definitely had many problematic moments, but also shows a lot of loyalty to those he cares about. These kinds of characters are often the most interesting, and get some truly fascinating story arcs.

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) Will Traynor (Me Before You by JoJo Moyes)

me-before-you-jojo-moyes-cover-195x300Controversial opinion time: I don’t have a problem with the representation in this book. I understand that people take issue with Will’s attitude toward his new life following the accident that causes him to become quadriplegic. A central issue in this book is that Will wishes to go to an assisted suicide facility to end his life, which he no longer believes is worth living. Many people have complained that this book perpetuates a ableist view that disabled lives have no value, however my impression of it was very different. To me, this book was centered on the idea of choice and Will’s power to make his own decisions in his life, even when other kinds of independence were stripped away. Will was an arrogant jerk with a lot of anger, but he quickly became one of my favourite characters anyway because he was so powerfully written. I really struggle with the idea that this book puts forward the view that disability is and should be a death sentence, especially because I think the book did acknowledge and explore both sides of the topic.

2) Sirius Black (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling)

5I don’t know what it was about Sirius Black, but he became one of my favourite characters almost from the moment he was mentioned. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite Harry Potter book, followed closely by Order of the Phoenix, both of which were very Sirius Black-heavy. When we are first introduced to Sirius, he has recently escaped Azkaban and seems to be on a mission to attack Harry. We soon learn that there is a lot more to him than we realized, and he becomes an essential part of the series.  Sirius is reckless and impulsive, but also a loyal and devoted friend. He takes his role as Harry’s godfather very seriously, but struggles not to confuse his relationship with Harry for his past friendship with James Potter. He is devoted to Dumbledore, but frustrated with being kept hidden away at home. Sirius is a very complex and interesting character, and definitely not without his problems.

3) Rhysand (A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas)

16096824I feel like I’ve been bringing this one up a lot lately, but that might just be because I read it fairly recently. While I liked the book well enough in the beginning, it really took off for me as soon as Rhysand was introduced. I have only read the first book, so I don’t know his full story arc or how his character develops later on. In the first book, Rhysand is arrogant and manipulative, but also protective of Feyre and thinks quickly to make sure she is kept safe. There is definitely a lot of problematic behaviour on his part throughout the book, including violence, lies and manipulation to get what he wants. Rhysand is by far the most interesting character in the series so far, and his horrible behaviour is only further complicated by all his work to help Feyre. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

4) Erik (The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux)

480204This is a story that I’ve known quite well for most of my life, in a variety of versions. Even back in second grade, my best friend was absolutely obsessed with the musical and told me all about the general storyline. I had the opportunity to see the show (first the movie, and then the stage version not long after) for myself in high school and I was absolutely blown away! I soon decided to try the book, and immediately discovered that it was quite different from the musical so it threw me off. I tried it again last year, and I loved it! Erik, also known as the Phantom, is such a fascinating character but definitely a favourite. His obsession with Christine leads to a lot of violent and terrifying behaviour on his part, even going so far as to capture Christine to keep her as his bride. Despite this, especially in the movie and the play, you almost can’t help but feel sympathy for him and the difficult life he had…not that it excuses violence and kidnapping, but it is hard to hate him.

5) Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)

10210I’ve mentioned a few times that Jane Eyre is one of my favourite classics, and one that I adored almost as soon as I started reading it. Mr. Rochester was a great character and I loved his relationship with Jane, but he is definitely problematic! He comes across as very harsh and rude, and it really shouldn’t be so easy to overlook the whole ex-wife in the attic issue, yet somehow it works well enough in this book that you still root for him and Jane to get together. Mr. Rochester seems like he’s always on the border of violence and he treats Jane quite harshly at first, but the power dynamic and banter between them is so interesting to read. I think this is a book that I will need to re-read at some point soon!