Top 5 Wednesdays: Hidden Gems in Your Favourite Genre

I always have a hard time when topics call for books from a favourite genre, since I don’t necessarily have one consistent favourite. Back in August, I made a post about my top 10 YA hidden gems for a Top 10 Tuesday prompt, so that pretty much ruined my first choice to list some YA books. I decided to broaden it and go with contemporary as a genre since it is broad enough to encompass many of the books I’ve enjoyed, and seems less limiting than narrowing things down to specific age ranges. I know a lot of people purposely avoid contemporary books that are realistic because they read to escape, but I tend to really enjoy character-driven books that are set in the the real world.

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) Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

22716194I think this book got completely overshadowed by the incredible Still Alice, detailing the life of a woman who develops early-onset Alzheimers. This book is in a similar vein, about the family of Joe O’Brien, a police officer who is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease after experiencing some bizarre symptoms. To be fair, although I rated both books 5 stars, this one did not quite have the same impact on me as Still Alice and occasionally seemed like it was telling virtually the same story. Lisa Genova has a real strength for telling emotionally-driven stories that also give a realistic look at what these unusual disorders may be like. I love how her books also focus on the impact of the disease on other family members, since that is a perspective that often seems to be overlooked. This book is nearly as strong as Still Alice but definitely less well-known, so it deserves a lot more attention.

2) The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

10909Of all of the Jodi Picoult books I’ve read, this seems to be one of a few that is very underrated. This book is about a 14-year-old girl named Trixie who may have been raped by her ex-boyfriend. It also focuses quite heavily on Trixie’s relationship with Daniel, her protective father, struggling with the idea of his little girl growing up, who is considering taking justice into his own hands. Part of the appeal of this book is the use of Daniel’s comics about Dante’s Inferno, which are a unique touch that really add to the story. For some reason, this seems to be one of Jodi Picoult’s most hated books, but I really enjoyed it. Jodi Picoult’s strength has always been her ability to write interesting characters and handle complex issues in a meaningful way, and to me this book was no exception.

3) The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle

17349173I read this book in the middle of 2016 for one of my reading challenges, and it quickly became one of my favourites of the year. It is about a 17-year-old high school student named Morgan whose parents discover that she is having an affair with her married teacher. Morgan refuses to accept her parents’ view that she is being manipulated, and instead is willing to take the stand at her teacher’s trial to testify that their relationship is real. This book was by far one of the best student-teacher relationship stories that I’ve ever read because of the strength of the writing and especially of the character development. This book was my pick for a prompt requiring a book with a beautiful title, and I also loved the cover artwork. Since then, I’ve also read Keepsake by Kristina Riggle which was another great and underrated book that I would recommend.

4) Wrecked by Maria Padian

28110862This was one of my most anticipated books for last year.  It originally came out in October 2016, but it flew under the radar for quite a while before I decided to commit to it for my 2017 reading challenges. Ironically, it ended up being one of the books I kept procrastinating on until close to the end of the year even though it was one of the ones I wanted to read most. This book is about a sexual assault that takes place on a college campus, as told from the perspectives of the victim’s roommate and the accused’s friend. I thought this book did an excellent job of depicting the complexity of the issue and I liked how it came at it from angles outside of the two people who were involved. It was an interesting and unique version of this storyline, and very well-written. I’m surprised this book has received less than 1000 ratings on Goodreads, and under 300 reviews given how popular books on this topic seem to have become recently.

5) Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

30037870I originally felt that this book got completely overshadowed by The Hate U Give, only to realize that it was only officially released last week and the copy I read must have been an ARC. I got it for free from the library and didn’t realize I had it so far in advance. It is about an African-American girl named Mary B. Addison who is now living in a group home after spending several years in jail. Mary and her mother were accused of killing a white baby who was under their care, and Mary is now pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, needing to set the record straight once and for all about what happened so she can keep her own child when it is born. It is a difficult book to read because of the subject matter, which includes abuse, systemic racism, and many other issues. I though this book was very compelling with a shocking ending. I guess it’s too early to know whether this is really a hidden gem since it just came out, but I hope it gets the attention it deserves.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Books I Can’t Believe I Read

When I first saw this week’s topic, my mind first went to books that I couldn’t believe I’d read because I didn’t like them. Browsing through my Goodreads list, I actually couldn’t find too many books that I really couldn’t believe I’d tried. I’m generally pretty good at picking books that I will like for my reading challenges, but inevitably there are a few every year that are disappointing. I wouldn’t really say I regret those books though, since most of them were books that I really wanted to try and I can at least say I gave them a fair shot.

Instead, I decided to interpret this week’s topic as ten books I can’t believe I read, and more specifically 10 classics. I have always been a fan of classics since I watched the Wishbone series in elementary school, and I’ve enjoyed finally getting the chance to read the real versions of many of these stories. This year, I’ve decided to mostly take a break from classics because I’ve read the majority of the ones that I was most excited for, and the remaining few that I really want to read are pretty long. I thought taking a year away from them might give me the motivation to possibly try them next year instead.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

1) Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

6185I’ve actually had a copy of this book since about seventh or eighth grade, where I picked it up at a school book fair along with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (which I still haven’t read). In high school, one of my close friends read it and constantly complained about the language style, especially of one character who spoke in a lot of slang. It really put me off giving this book a chance for myself, until I finally decided to include it as part of my first reading challenge in 2015 which called for a classic romance. It was better than I expected it to be, although the story did not quite go in the direction I thought it would. The language was a little difficult to manage in the beginning, and I wouldn’t necessarily consider this a favourite, but I can’t believe I finally read it because I had it for so many years before giving it a chance!

2) A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

162898I’ve mentioned before that this was one of my least favourite books from any of my reading challenges. It is a classic that I’ve always wanted to read because I love Arthurian stories, but it was never at the top of my list. I read it for a prompt requiring a book that was published 100 years before I was born, and almost immediately regretted my choice. I could not get into the story at all. The book is about a man named Hank Morgan who gets transported back to King Arthur’s time, and immediately takes it upon himself to modernize it using ideas from his own time. I usually love social commentary in books and that was the one aspect here that I did enjoy, but I really struggled to get through the book and ended up (for the first time ever) having to switch to an audio version because I was not taking in anything from the pages I was reading. The language was dry and the descriptions were too long and overly descriptive to the point where I lost track of what was actually happening. The book actually is much better in audio format, to be fair. I can’t believe I finished this one because of how much of a struggle it was!

3) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

12296This was another book that I really struggled with, chosen for a prompt in 2017 requiring a book with a strong female protagonist. All I knew about this book going into it was that Hester Prynne was accused of adultery and forced to wear a scarlet letter A on her chest to publicly shame her. It was a story I was introduced to through the Wishbone series and had always meant to read the original. I actually enjoyed the storyline, but I did not like the writing style, especially the lengthy opening of the book where the narrator describes “finding” the story in an extremely dry chapter that almost made me give up on the book right then and there. Luckily, as it moved into the main story, things picked up although I still had a very hard time connecting with it. I was also surprised that so much of the story focused on Hester’s daughter, since I didn’t remember that character at all. I can’t believe I read this book because it took me much longer than expected to get through it, and I came pretty close to dropping it because of the boring beginning.

4) The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux

480204I first tried to read this book around 2004 when the movie version came out, and I could not get into it at all. It was around the same time that I first saw the stage version, and was disappointed to find that the book was very different from both the play and the movie. I finished it but felt like I didn’t understand it at all. I decided to give it a second chance for one of my reading challenges, and it ended up becoming a favourite. Honestly, I still think I prefer the stage version but I liked the book so much better the second time around. The Phantom is such a fascinating anti-hero that you can’t help but root for, even when his behaviour is very disturbing. I think it was nice to give it a chance when I hadn’t seen any other versions in a while since it gave me the distance needed to treat this one on its own, without comparing it to other versions. I can’t believe I read it because it took two chances to get into it, but it was worth it!

5) Great Expectations and 6) Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

262318254For some reason, I had the bright idea to choose to read this book with a time limit. Given the choice of literally any book we wanted for an assignment in high school, I decided to choose this one and make my first attempt at reading Dickens. It was a very silly decision to try to read this without enough time to devote to it properly, and while simultaneously trying to analyze it for an assignment. Given all of that, I actually enjoyed this book more than I thought, and I would love to give it another chance on my own time, especially since I remember so little of it. I decided to try Oliver Twist for one of my reading challenges, and once again found Dickens’ writing style difficult to read so the book felt a little slow. He is brilliant when it comes to writing more psychological scenes (ie. Miss Havisham, or the rooftop scene from Oliver Twist), but the books both were tough for me. I can’t believe I read these two because I was intimidated by the writing style.

7) Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

50398Pride & Prejudice has always been one of my favourite classics, and I was eager to give other Jane Austen books a chance. When I was in university and had many long breaks between classes, I decided it was the perfect chance to read some of the classics I’d been meaning to try for a long time. I remember reading this book, but unfortunately I have no memory whatsoever of the characters or the story. The only thing I remember is that I didn’t like it as much as Pride & Prejudice. Otherwise, all I know about it came from the Wishbone episode that I watched many years ago, which is strange since I usually remember at least a little about each book I read. I will have to give this one another chance  This is one that I can’t believe I read in the literal sense, since I have no memory of it at all.

8) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

17470674This book is in the same boat as Northanger Abbey. I read it because I knew I’d missed out on all three of the big classic dystopians when I was in school, and decided to incorporate all three into my reading challenges over the past couple of years. I really liked 1984, and I thought Brave New World was interesting but weird. I know I really enjoyed the concept of this book, especially with how books kept getting condensed to shorter and shorter versions over time, but I found the writing style choppy and hard to follow, and I was not a huge fan of the storyline as a result of it. Since I had so much trouble with it, I also found it a lot less memorable than the other classic dystopians that I had read, and I actually remember next to nothing about it at all. It is another book that I can’t believe I read in the literal sense of not being able to say anything about what happened in it.

9) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and 10) Dracula by Bram Stoker

1849017245I’m treating these two books together because both were books that I’d wanted to read for many years before I finally gave them a chance. Frankenstein quickly became a favourite, and I ended up putting Dracula off for almost a full year before finally giving it a chance and enjoying it. I’ve never been a huge fan of horror stories, but I knew enough about both of these to be comfortable reading them. Both were very interesting books that were great classics to read. I especially loved the commentary about humanity in Frankenstein, and I thought the characters in Dracula were great. These were both books that I wanted to read for many years, and I can’t believe I finally got around to them!

Monthly Recommendations: Best First Books in a Series

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered the Monthly Recommendations group on Goodreads, which asks bloggers and vloggers to give book recommendations based on a monthly theme. What immediately appealed to me about this group is the flexibility. You can pick as few or as many books as you want, and you are free to make the post whenever you want during the month (although it is recommended to post within the first week of the month).

The first topic for this year caught my attention right away because of how many new series I started over the past two years. Based on how often many of these series were mentioned on multiple vlogs and blogs, I decided to give them a chance and see if they live up to the hype. For me, the first book in a series is critical to whether I’m interested in continuing since reading series can be such a time commitment. Books like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Bad Beginning, and The Hunger Games were instrumental to getting me into some of my favourite series of all time. Over the past couple of years, I’ve discovered so many other great series. I interpreted “best first book in a series” as series with a very strong first book, but not necessarily where the first book is the best in the series. To be fair, many of these are books that I’ve mentioned before, but they definitely fit the theme.

Monthly Recommendations is a Goodreads group created by Kayla Rayne and Trina from Between Chapters. Monthly topics cane be found on the Goodreads page here

1) Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

25526296I just finished this book a couple of days ago, and I just had to mention it first. This novella is about a boarding school for students who have returned from alternate worlds such as Narnia or Wonderland. Students at Eleanor West’s school are seeking to return to the fantasy lands they left, although their parents think they are learning to function normally in the real world again. This book follows a new student named Nancy whose arrival at the school seems to bring forth a tragedy, and it is up to her and her classmates to find out what really happened. I thought this book was very well-written and the characters were fascinating. I loved the way the book tried to classify fantasy worlds on a few different dimensions, and especially how the compelling the characters were. The book reminded me a bit of a mix of Harry Potter and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and I can’t wait to read more!

2) Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

13455782This was another one that came to mind quickly because I just finished Ignite Me last night, after devouring 300 pages of it in one day. This book is about a teenage girl named Juliette whose skin causes immense pain or even death to anyone who touches it. At the start of the series, she has been locked up for murder, and the world is in shambles, with a movement called The Reestablishment who take control and destroy everything and start over. Looking back on many of the Goodreads reviews, I see that most people were not such a fan of this book but I fell in love with it immediately. A lot of complaints were about the use of very metaphoric language, and the frequent use of strikethroughs to cross out Juliette’s thoughts. I guess I’m in the minority, but I loved the writing style and I found the strikethroughs very effective in understanding Juliette’s thought process.  I enjoyed the whole series, and I thought this book was a great start.

3) Cinder by Marissa Meyer

cinderI actively avoided this series for a long time because it seemed so overhyped and I wasn’t sure it was something that I would enjoy, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance! This book is a futuristic retelling of Cinderella set in New Beijing, where the main character is a cyborg and a talented mechanic. This series is set in a world where people are stricken with a plague, and are at risk of war with the Lunars, a powerful race of people living on the Moon. I found the first book in this series a bit predictable but thoroughly entertaining, and it left me very excited to read the rest of the series. Even though I could easily predict the ending, I still enjoyed reading the story and finding out exactly how it would play out, and the characters in this series are amazing! I would highly recommend the entire series.

4) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

16096824This was another series that I avoided for a long time because for some reason, I thought it would be similar to Twilight. I’ve only read the first book so far, but it was enough to get me hooked. I’ve seen this book advertised as a loose Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I’m not sure if that really does it justice. It is about a girl named Feyre who is taken away to live in a magical kingdom as punishment for accidentally killing a faerie, and is forced to live under the protection of a cursed Lord named Tamlin. I found this book a little slow in the beginning and I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to continue the series, but it really picked up in the second half and became so fascinating! I absolutely loved the introduction of Rhysand and the way the plot took off, leading up to a very compelling ending. I’m very excited to continue the series.

5) The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

17675462This book drew me in from the very first page. It follows a teenage girl named Blue Sargant, who takes part in an annual tradition where she and her clairvoyant family take down the names of people who will soon die as their spirits appear in the churchyard. One year, Blue sees a boy her age and soon learns that he is a student at the nearby Aglionby private school, and on a quest with his friends to find the sleeping King Glendower. I find it so difficult to explain the plot of this book, especially because I found it so confusing myself, but it caught my attention right away. When I read it, I was drawn into the story in a way I haven’t been since Harry Potter, and that is definitely high praise. It was easily one of the best books I read last year.

6) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

8490112I’ve mentioned this before, but I feel like I don’t give this book the attention in deserves. It was another of my favourites of the year, and so beautifully written. This book is about a girl named Karou who was raised by chimaera in Prague, who have the ability to grant wishes in exchange for teeth. While on an “errand” to help collect teeth, Karou encounters an angel named Akiva, who seems to recognize her even though this  is the first time they’ve met. It’s another series that is pretty difficult to explain concisely and without giving anything away, but it such an amazing start to a series. Laini Taylor’s writing is stunning and really brings the unusual characters to life. It was so easy to get absorbed into the world and it is such a complex and detailed story. It’s another series that I can’t wait to continue.

7) Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

23395680This was another book that was on the fence about reading for a long time before I finally decided to give it a chance. I’m generally not a huge fan of science fiction, but I’d heard so many rave reviews for this one that I decided I had to give it a fair chance. This book is set several centuries in the future, where two megacorporations are fighting over a planet, forcing its people to evacuate onto a ship that is being pursued by the enemy. The main characters are a teenage couple who have very recently split up, and the story is told through a combination of emails, text messages, hacked documents, and more of that nature. I had some trouble getting into the story at first since we are thrown right into the middle of the action with little explanation, but it soon starts to come together. I thought the characters were very interesting, and especially loved the AI that becomes a major player later on in the book. I also loved the unusual format and thought it was a great and unique way to tell the story.

8) This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

23299512This was another easy favourite from last year, set in a world where monsters are created from humans’ sins. The book is told from the alternating perspectives of Kate Harker, the daughter of a ruthless man who forces people to pay for protection from the monsters, and August Flynn, a monster who just wants to be human. The characters were both so well-developed and compelling, and I loved the world that Victoria Schwab created. I loved how the book seemed to explore what makes someone a monster, whether its their actions or in their nature. I thought the book was such a strong and compelling read, and it was the first book in a long time that made me want to immediately go out and buy it and its sequel as soon as I finished it. It’s very rare for me to buy books anymore, but this one was well worth it.

9) Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

22328546I honestly don’t understand why this book has received so much hate. I was so worried going into this one because I saw many complaints about it being generic and a mashup of other dystopians, but that is not the impression I had at all. The book definitely did share some common elements with other dystopian stories, but I don’t think it was any more than what is needed to classify it as part of the genre if that makes sense.  This book is about a girl named Mare who lives in a world divided into the elite Silvers, who are the rulers and have  unusual abilities, and the common Reds who are forced to serve them. Mare soon discovers that although she is a read, she has a strange power of her own and to hide this, the Silvers decide to betroth her to one of their princes. I loved the writing style, and I was surprised to find that the ending genuinely caught me off-guard. I wish more people would give this book a fair chance.

10) The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

the-madmans-daughterI was debating including this one since I’ve recommended it several times before, but it bothered me to have a list end with 9 items! This book is part of a YA series where each book is a loose retelling of a famous horror story, beginning with The Island of Doctor Moreau. I read this book as part of my reading challenge in 2016, and I almost bypassed it because it was one of those books I kept putting off until close to the end of the year. I’m so glad I didn’t skip over it though, because it caught my interest from the very first pages. This first book in the series follows Juliet Moreau, daughter of the infamous Doctor, who is trying to build a life for herself in London and escape the scandal of her father’s experiments. I loved the Gothic atmosphere of this book, and how Juliet seemed like a much stronger lead character than many other YA protagonists. Fair warning — like most YA series, there is still a love triangle, but I thought it was actually handled pretty well. This series does not seem to be as well-known as many of the others listed here, which is a shame because it’s really good!

Top 5 Wednesdays: Books You Disliked but Love to Discuss

This topic was a really tough one for me. I have plenty of books that I love to discuss, but most of those are books that I loved. I’m generally pretty good at picking books that I’m confident I’m going to enjoy, so looking back on my Goodreads lists from the past couple of years, I found very few books that I truly disliked. Most of those that I did dislike are books that I’m not really interested in discussing either. I find it a lot more fun to discuss books that I love, even (especially?) if my opinions on them are unpopular. For example, I love discussing Me Before You, even though I  know most people can’t stand the book. My other challenge with coming up with these books is that several of them seem to be a bit more on the obscure side, so even though I might like to discuss them, I don’t really have anyone to discuss them with!

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) Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten 

7895937This book was one of my most frustrating reads during my first ever reading challenge! The book is about a lawyer named Danielle Parkman whose son Max is diagnosed with autism and is committed to a psychiatric facility for disturbed behaviour where he is accused of killing another patient. Danielle is convinced that her son could not possibly have attacked the other boy, and takes it upon herself to prove it. The main reason this book frustrated me is because Danielle’s behaviour was so irritating! She was constantly thinking to herself that she should not be doing certain things, and then went ahead and did them anyway, even knowing that it might not be in Max’s best interest. Her suspicions that the psychiatric facility was wrong about Max seemed too sudden for me since we got so little of their relationship before he was committed. I also found the book awkwardly written, and a very poor representation of autism. Max did not seem to have any autistic traits at all except for being skilled with computers. I like to discuss the book because it had so much potential to be a great story, especially with some of the major plot points revealed toward the end. It’s not a very well-known book, and it was a complete disappointment to me, but I still have fun discussing (or ranting about) it.

2) Strange Son by Portia Iversen

227142This book is already a controversial one that has generated quite a bit of discussion on its own. The book is written by Portia Iversen, a mother of a son who has autism, who meets Tito Mukhopadhyay, a boy with severe autism who lives in India and seems to have shown incredible intelligence thanks to his mother’s devotion to teaching him. Portia brings Tito and his mother to the US to help researchers learn her teaching methods to use with other autistic children. I am not unbiased in this subject matter, since I work in a day program for young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, and I’m fascinated by stories of individuals like Carly Fleischmann who have learned to communicate and show the amazing skills they have. I did not enjoy this book because I found Portia’s attitude toward her son very difficult to read. The methods Tito’s mother used to get him to communicate were also controversial. There was a lot of similarity to the now-discredited facilitated communication, and her methods often seemed quite harsh. I have seen video footage of Tito writing and typing on his own, so it seems at least some of his communication is genuine, but I found the book interesting to discuss because of the unusual methods Soma used and especially the issue of facilitated communication.

3) The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

30555488I had a very hard time reading this book, and I think a big part of that is that I went into it expecting it not to interest me very much. This book is about a slave named Cora who travels along the Underground Railroad, conceptualized in this book as a real railroad, to escape from the plantation she lives on. In a sense, I feel like this is a book I need to give a second chance to because I like the concept, but I just could not get into the writing style at all. I found it very distant which made it hard for me to connect with the characters of the story at all. I found it boring and it took me way too long to make my way through it. It’s the kind of book where afterwards, looking at all the other positive reviews, I was left wondering if I’d read the same book as everyone else. There were some sections I really enjoyed, but considering the book is relatively short, it took me almost a full week to read and I was not interested at all. It didn’t help that I’d studied that period of American history in some detail in school, so not much of the story was particularly shocking to me. I think the biggest issue was the distant writing which made it so hard for me to connect, but I like to discuss this one because it is such a great idea.

4) The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer

41865First of all, I find “saga” a bit of a strong word for this series. I read all four of these books and I am a bit interested in trying them all again, but I definitely do not think they lived up to all the hype. I’m not even sure I would say I disliked this series since I didn’t outright hate it either. More than anything, I found it disappointing but there are definitely some great discussion points, especially about the relationships between Bella, Edward and Jacob. I know there has been quite a bit of talk about Edward’s behaviour bordering on abuse, but I think Jacob had his moments as well. Let’s not even get into the bizarre “imprinting” issue which was both creepy and way too convenient. I found the series as a whole mediocre, and I was especially disappointed by the final “battle” although there were some parts that I really enjoyed. What frustrates me most about this series is that it had so much potential to be a great story, and given all the hype, I was expecting a lot more.

5) The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

5161This is another book that doesn’t seem to be that well-known, although it was part of Oprah’s book club. I read this book a couple of years ago as part of one of my reading challenges, but it  had one of the most irritating main characters I’ve ever read. It is about a woman named Beth whose 3-year-old son is kidnapped from a hotel lobby while she is there for a class reunion, returning 9 years later to a family he now doesn’t remember at all. This book raised some very interesting ethical questions about what was best for the child, and to see the family’s attempts to cope with the loss after the boy first goes missing. It had such potential to be a fascinating family drama, but unfortunately I couldn’t stand the main character and it made it hard to get into the book at all. I ended up bored and frustrated with it, which is too bad because there are so many great discussion points and it really is an interesting subject.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Books You Enjoyed But Don’t Remember Well

One of the disadvantages of my reading challenges sometimes is that I read so many books in a year, it’s hard to remember all of them in detail. I don’t often write reviews, but every time I finish a book, I take some notes on it so I can remember them well enough for monthly and yearly wrap-ups, book tags, etc. I’ve actually switched my process this year to use point-form notes instead of writing full paragraphs, which has been such a time-saver! There are some books that are an immediate 5 stars for me because they are so engaging while I read them, and so memorable after the fact. There are lots of other books that I enjoy at the time but they don’t stand out much, or that I read so long ago now that I can’t remember much about them. I’m definitely due for a re-read on some of these!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

1) Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

14866Most of Jodi Picoult’s books are easily 5 star reads and I can remember at least something about the plot of each one, even those that I didn’t like as much. I read Nineteen Minutes several years ago, and I loved it. I remember it was one of my favourites of hers, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the plot beyond what the synopsis tells you. This book focuses on a school shooting, told from multiple perspectives including the daughter of the judge in charge of the case. I think I read this one during a phase where I was racing through so many of her books because I loved them all, and probably read it a little too quickly to remember in detail. I’m definitely going to re-read this book sometime within the year to refresh my memory!

2) The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks

3462I used to be absolutely obsessed with Nicholas Sparks’ books and I read them all over and over. Of all his books, this is the one I remember least although I read it several times. I got this book along with A Bend in the Road and The Guardian, and I must have read each of those at least once a year. Even though I’ve probably read those three the same number of times each, it’s the one I remember least. All I remember from it is that the main male character is a firefighter, and he bonds with the woman’s son…information that is all contained within the synopsis. It’s been several years since I’ve read this one (or the others mentioned, for that matter) and it’s probably worth giving another chance.

3) Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman and 4) The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

24137183656Catherine, Called Birdy was one of my all-time favourite books when I was younger. It was one of the first books that I read that reversed the “damsel in distress” trope with a strong, witty female character who stood up for herself, and I loved it! I can’t really remember any details about it by now since it’s been so many years since I last tried it. The Two Princesses of Bamarre is a bit of a weird case since I’m not 100% sure that I even read it, but I’m fairly confident that I did and that it was one of my favourites for a time. It is about a young princess who sets out to save her older sister from a plague by going on an adventure to find the cure. I know that I read a book when I was younger about two princesses which I loved, and I’m fairly confident that this is the one but even looking at the synopsis was not enough to trigger my memory.

5) Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine and 6) The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

659654724396876Another pair that I can discuss together, since these are both middle grade books that I read as part of my reading challenges in 2016. Mockingbird is about an 11-year-old girl named Caitlin who has Asperger’s Syndrome and who has lost her older brother, and The Thing About Jellyfish is about a girl named Suzy who is coping with the death of her best friend. I remember loving both of these books and I thought that they were both very well-written. I especially loved how they both dealt with such complex topics at a level appropriate for a younger reader. These were both books that I loved at the time, but remember very little of by now.

7) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

128029To be fair, none of Hosseini’s books have lived up to The Kite Runner for me. I read this book in 2015 as part of my first reading challenge, so the time might be a big factor in why I remember so little of it. I thought this book was beautifully written, but I can only remember the very basics of the plot. This book is about Mariam and Laila, two women from Afghanistan who form a close bond with each other that spans several decades. Looking over a plot summary now reminded me of how much I enjoyed the book, but for some reason it is hard for me to actually recall the details of it on my own. I think this one is mostly due to how many years have passed, but I do remember thinking that it was not quite as powerful as The Kite Runner for me.

8) The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

13497818Unpopular opinion time — I actually really enjoyed this book. I was so nervous to read anything outside of the Harry Potter universe by J.K. Rowling, but I ended up liking this book a lot more than I expected to. This book is about the people living in a town called Pagford who are trying to elect a replacement for a council member who has suddenly passed away. This book is definitely slow-paced compared to the Harry Potter series, but J.K. Rowling has a real talent for crafting complex characters, and that is where this book shines. I read it more than 4 years ago already, probably closer to the time that it first debuted in 2011, so I remember very little of it. I just remember being pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it. I know a lot of people have complained about all of the characters being unlikable people, but I think that was part of what kept it interesting for me.

9) Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway and 10) The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

1313281626721568I don’t think I’ve ever had a Top 10 list where I’ve had 3 separate pairs of books, but this is another set that I think is worth discussing together. Both of these are YA books that had a bit of a unique angle. In Emmy & Oliver, the main characters are best friends whose friendship was altered when Oliver was kidnapped by his own father and returns home after several years. The Problem with Forever focuses on two main characters who grew up together in an abusive foster home, and are separated for about 5 years before finally meeting again in high school. I really enjoyed both of these books, and of the two, I remember a bit more of Emmy & Oliver because the premise was so unique and I liked how it treated the kidnapping and Oliver’s emotions about it so realistically, even though I can’t remember much of the actual plot. I only read The Problem with Forever toward the end of last August, and already I remember very little of it. For a book that’s close to 500 pages and that I finished less than 6 months ago, I would expect to remember a bit more!

The Rapid Fire Book Tag

I don’t why, but I was absolutely convinced that I had already done this tag and posted it here. This tag was created by GirlReading last year, and it consists of a bunch of questions about a variety of reading preferences. I was reminded of it not too long ago, when I saw it on IceBreaker’s blog (here), which is actually what prompted me to finally go back through my own archives and check whether I’d answered these questions before. And since I always forget to tag people — if you haven’t done this tag yet but would like to, consider yourself tagged!

E-Book or Physical Book?

Definitely physical books. I have a lot of trouble reading books off a screen, for some reason. Whenever I read anything on a screen, I have a tendency to skim through it way too fast and not actually read properly.

Paperback or Hardback?

I’m on the fence with this one. Hardbacks are so expensive, but they are usually much more durable. Paperbacks are lighter and easier to take with me when travelling (not that I travel so much), and usually pretty inexpensive but they bother me when the spines crack. In a way, it depends on the book. For most books, I don’t mind paperbacks, but for longer books I prefer hardbacks so they don’t break.

Online or In-Store Book Shopping?

If the question is what I do more often, then definitely online. The nearest bookstore is about half an hour away by bus and the books can be kind of pricey so I don’t shop there very often, although I love to browse! I actually don’t buy books too often in general since I use my library a lot, but when I do I often order them online.

Trilogies or Series?

It is complete dependent on how they are done. I don’t mind longer series if the books are good and there is enough going on to actually justify multiple books in the series. The only drawback I find sometimes with longer series is that I sometimes get bored reading all of the books in a row since it feels like too much of the same world. That’s more down to my reading habits than the books themselves though, since I could just alternate books from the series with something else.

Heroes or Villains?

I love a good complex villain, but there aren’t too many books that I know of that seem to have them. I also like reading about heroes as long as they aren’t the “almost perfect in every way” kind. A lot of hero protagonists can get pretty generic.

A book you want everyone to read?

I always have a hard time with these kinds of questions because it’s impossible to pick something that would be to everyone’s taste. The one that keeps coming to mind is The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, which is by far the best book set during the Holocaust that I’ve ever read.

Recommend an underrated book?

I’ve mentioned this one before, but Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia. The main character is obnoxious and some people might have trouble with the book because of that, but it is one of the most unique YA stories I’ve read and the synopsis really does not do it  justice.

The last book you finished?

This may be slightly embarrassing, but Rules by Cynthia Lord. I also finished off The Wind in the Willows for the first time yesterday.

The Last Book You Bought?

I bought 18 books through BookOutlet, so I think that’s a bit too much to list although my Instagram photo can be found here. The last book I received was Blood Sisters, which arrived yesterday, that I got for free from a Goodreads giveaway!

Weirdest Thing You’ve Used as a Bookmark?

I usually just use regular bookmarks, but I’ve probably used scraps of paper or a pen before too if I didn’t have a bookmark available.

Used Books: Yes or No?

I prefer to get my books new if at all possible, but in reality I end up getting most of them used. I tend to prioritize buying my favourites brand new if I can, and everything else can be used as long as it is in good condition.

Top Three Favourite Genres?

Contemporary, fantasy and psychological thrillers

Borrow or Buy?

I usually borrow since I have a great public library nearby, but if I read something I really love, I’ll buy a copy.

Characters or Plot?

Both are important, but I’m more likely to get frustrated by poorly developed characters than I am by a mediocre plot. So I’d have to go with character.

Long or Short Books?

Medium, really. I find short books tend not to develop the characters/plot as much as I would like, but long books tend to lose my attention (with some exceptions). If I had to pick, I would pick longer books so it would have more time to develop.

Long or Short Chapters?

Depends how they are done. In general, shorter chapters because it’s easier to find a suitable place to stop if needed.

Name The First Three Books You Think Of…

  • Harry Potter (of course, lol)
  • The Raven Boys
  • Me Before You

Books That Makes You Laugh or Cry?

This might seem a bit weird, but it is much easier for a book to make me cry than it is to make me laugh. I love funny books, but I prefer books that have a strong emotional impact. Those that make me cry tend to be more memorable.

Our World or Fictional Worlds?

Depends on my mood. I’m not always in the mood to read very descriptive chapters about what a world looks like, although I do enjoy reading about their social structure. On the other hand, fictional worlds can be fascinating when they are well done. When the book is set in the real world, the focus can be on the characters and story immediately, which can be good if I just want to jump straight in.

Audiobooks: Yes or No?

I very rarely listen to audiobooks, and when I do it is usually because I’m having trouble getting through the physical book. The one audiobook that I really loved was Jeremy Irons narrating Lolita, but aside from that, I generally prefer physical books.

Do You Ever Judge a Book by its Cover?

I wouldn’t say judge, but I do notice covers. I have been intrigued by books on Goodreads because of the cover art, but I’ll always check if the synopsis is something that interests me before I add it to my TBR. Cover art doesn’t put me off reading something unless it is really scary or disgusting.

Book to Movie or Book to TV Adaptations?

Book to movie, just because I don’t watch a lot of TV and don’t always have the time to devote to series. I think TV adaptations have potential to be more faithful to the book, but because they have to go on for longer, there is also a lot of room for the story to diverge from the books and that can be good or bad depending on how it is done. Book to movie adaptations tend to frustrate me when they skip over or change a lot of the story, but it’s usually a good way to capture the spirit of the story.

A Movie or TV-Show You Preferred to its Book?

Definitely The DUFF! I hated the book, but the movie was great. Also, I wasn’t a fan of The Devil Wears Prada book, but I love the movie.

Series or Standalones?

Up until recently, I would have said standalones hands-down, but I’ve read so many great series over the past year that I may need to change my mind. Series are more of a time commitment though, so I still read predominantly standalones.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Forgettable Books

When I first thought about books that were forgettable, my mind jumped to my reads that I rated 3 stars or lower. As I looked at my Goodreads list of books I read, I realized that in some ways, these books were more memorable although not always in a good way. It was often very easy to remember what exactly I didn’t like about it. I was surprised to realize that some of the most forgettable books were actually books that I really enjoyed. I found that some of the books in the 4 star range were the most forgettable. I remembered enough to know that I enjoyed them, but couldn’t remember to much detail about the story or what I really liked. I’m sure a part of this is because I read so many books in total throughout the year that it’s impossible to have a distinct memory of them all. In fact, what tends to separate a 5 star reading from 4-star books is how likely I am to remember them long-term.

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) Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks

46799I don’t know what it is about this book, but despite reading it multiple times, I have no memory of it whatsoever. When I was a teenager, I went through a phase where I read so many of Beatrice Sparks’ series of “anonymous” diaries of teenagers going through problems such as pregnancy, drug addiction, eating disorders, etc. This book focuses on a teenager named Alice who spirals into drug addiction after having LSD in a drink at a party. I read the book, and a couple of years later, realized I had no memory of it whatsoever and tried it again. It’s now been years since I’ve read it, but even pretty soon afterwards, I couldn’t tell you what happened in it or any details at all about the plot. It’s weird because I do have some memory of a couple of Beatrice Sparks’ other books, so it wasn’t just the format or the writing style that I found unmemorable. It was something specifically with this book that I’ve never been able to figure out.

2) Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

25756328This book was only a 3-star read for me precisely because it was so generic and forgettable. It is about a teenage girl named Lina who is spending the summer in Italy due to her mother’s dying wish for her to know her father. While there, Lina receives the journal that her mother kept while living in Italy herself, and starts to uncover some of her family’s secrets. I’m honestly not 100% sure why I thought I’d enjoy this book because I’m not a big fan of the whole “teenagers grudgingly travel to Europe” nor of travel books in general. I was hoping that the story would be strong enough on the character side to keep my attention, but I found Lina irritating and she seemed so clueless about things that should have been really obvious. It was a quick and fluffy read, but completely forgettable.

3) Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

26240663I was pretty excited to read this book last year because of the whole “seven deadly sins” concept. The book is told from the perspective of seven high school students who each represent one of the sins, and whose school is faced with the scandal of a student-teacher affair. It was a great concept and I liked how the sin that the characters represented was not always immediately obvious. I also really liked how the author tried to incorporate a range of sexual orientations and especially how the author challenged attitudes toward women and toward sexuality. While I enjoyed the book well enough at the time, and ultimately rated it 4 stars, I can’t remember anything at all about the specifics of the plot. Considering I only read this book in November 2017, I would expect to have at least some memory of what it was about.

4) When We Collided by Emery Lord

25663637This was another case of a book that I enjoyed for the most part while I read it, but pretty quickly forgot about afterwards. The problem with YA contemporary is that they all start to feel pretty similar after a while, especially when you read many close together. This book is about Vivi, who suffers from bipolar disorder, and Jonah, who is attempting to hold his family together after his father’s death and mother’s subsequent depression. I think part of the reason that the book was so forgettable for me is because I had a hard time buying into the relationship between the two main characters. It felt very, very rushed and they did not seem to be very well-suited for each other. It seemed like a very similar story could have been told if the characters were platonic friends, and it might have been that much more believable. Instead, we were expected to just accept that the characters were together and in love, with very little development to back it up. It was a decent book and I’m glad I gave it a chance, but definitely not the most memorable YA contemporary I’ve read (and I’ve read many)!

5) My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

12294652Maybe I just need to be more selective about the YA contemporaries that I read. I was on the fence about whether to include this book or What I Thought Was True which I read this year. I decided to pick this one because I actually really enjoyed it at the time, but can’t remember much of the story. This book is about a teenage girl named Samantha who falls in love with Jase Garrett, the boy next door whose large family is (for some reason) looked down on by others in their community. Samantha’s mom is running for state senator, and I remember her being an absolutely infuriating character but I can’t remember why. I liked the relationship that developed between Samantha and Jase, but I also thought both characters seemed a little on the one-dimensional side. It was another book that I enjoyed at the time, but forgot about pretty much as soon as I finished.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Bookish Resolutions/Goals

My reading year has been off to a bit of a slow start so far, but I’m already keeping pretty much on track. It probably was not the best idea to start out with 4 books in a row that were about 500 pages each in terms of balancing things out, but I’ve been enjoying them so that’s what really counts. A couple of weeks ago, the Top 5 Wednesday group led by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes asked about our Top 5 goals for the year, which I posted about here. When I first saw today’s topic, I struggled to come up with anything since I’d already mentioned my most important goals. I decided to break things down a little further to some of my less quantitative goals.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

1) Read more recent releases

By recent, I mean books that were released in the past 3 or 4 years. I’ve never really kept track of the publication date of the books I read, but there have been so many newer releases that I’m very excited for and I’d love to prioritize. In part, this will be covered by my goal to finish off some of the series I have in progress, many of which had books that were released within the past couple of years. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a habit of avoiding books that seem to be overhyped although I often end up enjoying them. I’m trying to learn to stop letting the hype get in the way. I don’t have a specific number of books that I want to read, but looking ahead at what I have planned for the year, I’m definitely noticing a lot more recent books.

2) Read more books that have been on my TBR for more than 2 years

This probably seems contradictory to my first goal, but I have a lot of books that have been on my TBR since 2015 when I started my Goodreads account and that I still haven’t read. I think it’s somewhere in the range of 400 books added that year, although many of those are more long-term TBR books (ie. lengthy classics). I go through my TBR frequently, and I have yet to find any books that I’m that motivated to remove completely. I decided that since I’m still interested in reading them, it would probably be a good idea to prioritize some of them so I don’t go another year with the same books as always sitting there. To be fair, some of the books that I haven’t read yet are because my library does not have copies available. Like my first goal, I don’t have a set number that I want to read, but it is nice to see some of the books I’ve been meaning to read for ages lined up.

3) Read more thrillers

I think “more” might be an operative word here, since up until now, I have not kept track of how many books I read per genre. I enjoy thrillers, especially psychological thrillers, but for some reason I never seem to pick up very many of them. My go-to genres still tend to be YA contemporary and fantasy, but I definitely want to make an effort to read a few more thrillers in 2018. I didn’t want to attach a specific number to it because I wanted the freedom to mood-read and change my plans if needed to fit what I’d like to read, but I’d like to squeeze some in. Looking back quickly over my Goodreads pages for my last three years of challenges, it looks my number of thrillers have been quite low. In 2015, I read only about 3 thrillers. In 2016, I read about 4, and in 2017 I read about 8. I think part of the increase each year is that in general I read more books each year, but given that I’ve enjoyed all the thrillers I’ve read, I’d like to try some more.

4) Read some graphic novels

If you had asked me a few years ago, I probably would have said that I never read graphic novels and probably wouldn’t enjoy them. Through my reading challenges, I’ve discovered quite a few amazing graphic novels that I probably never would have tried otherwise. It’s really opened my mind to a new kind of reading and I now try to build a few graphic novels into every year of my challenges. Aside from pushing me outside my comfort zone a little, these books are a great way to pick up the pace when I feel like I’m falling behind since I can usually read them in a couple of hours. Last year in particular, many of the graphic novels I read ended up being my favourite books of the year. I have quite a few lined up for this year also, including finishing off a manga series that I’ve been meaning to finish for a long time. Again, I was hesitant to quantify this with an actual number to allow flexibility, but I definitely want to read at least a few this year.

5) Be less intimidated by longer books

I have a hard time getting started on longer books sometimes, and by “long” I generally mean anything over 500 pages. I think part of the problem is the whole reading challenge mentality, where I know I want to finish my books in time and it sometimes feels like these books take forever. I can generally read between 100 and 150 pages per day during the week, which is pretty good considering I have a full-time job! Sometimes just the thought of a book taking me a week to finish puts me off because I feel like it’s going to put me really far behind on my challenge, but I don’t want to let that scare me away from reading a book that I want. I think my goal to finish off the series I have in progress will help because several of the books are long and are books that I very badly want to read. I just need to time them out properly so I have the time to devote. I already kind of regret not reading Our Dark Duet over a weekend where I could have had the time to read most of it straight through.

6) Participate more actively on my Goodreads challenge groups

I used to very actively participate in my Goodreads challenge groups, especially one which seemed to really welcome participation and was set up in such a way where discussion seemed to be encouraged. Many of my other groups tend to use a thread format that just asks what we are reading for each prompt, which doesn’t seem to leave much room to discuss. This one specific group has always been a lot of fun, but I found myself not participating much last year. In part, it was because partway through the group people started complaining of an overall negative atmosphere, which led to myself (and presumably others) being essentially reprimanded by moderators and cautioned to ensure our comments were a bit more positive. I was very offended to be singled out, especially after the moderator specifically mentioned that I was not one of the worst culprits in terms of negativity. At least it was done through private messaging. It led to an atmosphere where it seemed that people were being censored, and I got tired of second-guessing every message to make sure it was positive enough for their standards. I’d like to get back into it because it was fun to discuss the books I was reading!

7) Keep blogging consistently

I’ll admit that I’m sometimes not very motivated to keep up with my blog. Up until now, I’ve loosely committed to doing Top 10 Tuesday and Top 5 Wednesday every week, plus another post of my choice sometime over the weekend. Sometimes the last thing I want to do by the time I get home from work is sit down and write a blog post. Whenever I can, I try to pre-write my posts over the weekend when I might have a little more time and I think I’ve been good about keeping up. I find that with habits like this, as soon as I start to let it slide, it is not too long before it falls apart completely (ie. using my exercise equipment). I would love to be able to keep my routine through the year. For me, blogging has never been about getting a ton of followers or becoming any kind of famous, and I want to keep doing it as long as it is fun for me and doesn’t start to feel like a chore.

8) Get more variety in my blog content

I know most bloggers tend to feature a lot of reviews, but I tend to find them very difficult and annoying to write. I’ve tried out a few features over the past year, including Stacking the Shelves, Book Tags, and my Reader Struggles series. Some of these posts have been the most fun for me, and I’d love to branch out and come up with some new ideas to keep the blog fun for myself, as well as for everyone else. Strangely enough, I find it more fun sometimes to write about the books that I haven’t read yet than about books that I’ve already read. I’m always looking for ways to talk about different books and avoid repeating the same ones I’ve already discussed to death. Suggestions are always welcome!

9) Buy some books!

I know most people tend to put themselves on a book-buying ban, but I’m the opposite. Up until recently, it had been quite a long time since I had bought myself more than a book or two. I’ve complained before about the cost of new books, and that’s definitely a factor! Another big issue for me is my complete lack of shelf space, but I still want to own copies of the books that I love. I’ve recently made my first order from BookOutlet during their Boxing Week sale, and I was quite impressed by the quality of the books I received. I would love to try them again next time they have a deal going on. I’m quite picky about the quality my books when I spend hard-earned money on them, so it was a bit of a leap for me to even being open to BookOutlet. I’d still like to buy some of the books I’m most excited for brand new, but I think BookOutlet could be a good compromise to buy some of the books I want at a more reasonable price.

10) Enjoy what I’m reading!

This one seems straightforward but it may not always be so easy. I’m generally pretty good at picking books that I’m going to enjoy, and I’ve had a pretty good streak over the past three years of challenges, with most of my books earning at least 4 stars. There are very few prompts this year that I’m dreading, and even fewer books that I’m not at least a little excited for. Of course, there’s always the chance that a book I’m expecting to love will completely fall flat, but I’m not too worried! My main goal is to make sure reading stays fun and relaxing for me. I spent so many years while in school where I had no time to read what I wanted, so it’s great to have the chance to get back into it now!

Stacking the Shelves (#3)

I can’t believe it’s already been over a month since my last Stacking the Shelves post! My TBR has now reached just over 1850 books, and as much as I try to tell myself to slow down and not add so many, it’s hard to resist when there are so many lists out now about upcoming releases. I think in the past month alone, I’ve added close to 80 books to my TBR, and I’m sure there will be more! Obviously it would be way too much to include all 80 here, so I will limit myself to books that I’ve added in late December and early January and that currently have cover artwork available. If anyone is interested in seeing Stacking the Shelves posts more often, please let me know!

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme all about the books we are adding to our shelves each week. It is hosted by TyngaReviewsand ReadingReality

1) American Panda by Gloria Chao

35297380I literally added this one to my TBR about an hour ago, although I’d been considering it for a couple of weeks already. I’ve been hearing about this book for a while, but from the cover artwork, it seemed like a typical high school romance story. I like those, but I have a ton of them on my TBR already and I need to be in the right mood to read them. I finally looked at the synopsis properly today and realized that this book is a little different since it takes place in a college setting, and seems to focus more on the main character Mei’s relationship with her parents and her brother. Mei is a Taiwanese-American teenager whose parents want her to become a doctor and marry someone Taiwanese, but it is not what she wants for herself. There seem to be a lot more culture-clash books coming out lately, and it is a storyline that definitely interests me.

1) I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan

35658909This is another book that I added to my list earlier today after looking at a Buzzfeed list of upcoming new releases. This book is about a 15-year-old British Muslim girl named Muzna whose parents are controlling and force her to move to a new school to separate Muzna from her best friend, who had been shamed in a scandal. The Goodreads synopsis also suggests that the book focuses quite a bit on racism and Islamophobia, as well as the identity conflict between growing up British but with parents who were immigrants. I had not heard of this book at all until today, but it sounded very interesting. This book is due out on January 25, and although I’m not sure I’ll get to it this year, I knew I wanted to add it to my TBR to remind myself to pick it up later.

3) Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun

32497573I added this book to my TBR earlier this week after talking about it with a friend on Goodreads. I’d heard about this one before, but the intentional spelling errors in the title annoyed me a bit at first so I didn’t really bother to look for more detail about it. The adorable cover artwork won me over. This book is the graphic novel about an alien who is sent to observer Earth, and apparently is based on a popular Twitter account (hence the spelling issues, I guess). This book was a Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for graphic novels, and has received great reviews. I’m hoping the typos don’t irritate me too much, since the book just seems so cute! What seems most interesting is that so many of the reviews have commented about how this book seems to be a mix of philosophy and self-help, which seems like a very interesting combination.

4) The Gift by Louise Jensen

34445662I actually have not read a single one of Louise Jensen’s books yet, but all of them are on my TBR. I think I added this one to my list before even realizing that it was one of hers. This book is about a girl named Jenna who has received a heart donation from Callie. Thankful for her second chance, Jenna becomes closer to Callie’s family, only to realize that something does not seem quite right about Callie’s death. This is one of many psychological thrillers that I have on my list since it is a genre that I really enjoy, but don’t often read. Part of what appealed to me about this book in the first place was the cover artwork, although I have to say that the writing on the card attached to the gift puts me off the cover a bit since it just doesn’t seem necessary. I definitely need to try at least one of Louise Jensen’s books!

5) Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

35959737I read You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott last year for a reading challenge prompt requiring a book about sports, which is definitely outside of my comfort zone. I figure any author who can get me to enjoy a book about sports is worth re-reading, although that book was a 4-star read, not a 5-star one. This one is due out in mid-July 2018, and focuses on two friends who compete for a position on a research team, decades after a fight that ended their friendship forever. Given that it is still more than 6 months until this book is released, there is not a ton of information about it yet but the cover caught my attention and the storyline seemed very appealing. I was glad to see a Megan Abbott book that was not so sports-focused, as the others on my TBR have been.

6) The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta

25987144Books like this always make me a little hesitant, since Goodreads has it marked as book #5 featuring the character Anna Curtis. I have not read any of the other books in the series, and I’m always a little unsure about jumping into these kinds of series in the middle. Usually, it is not such a big deal and the books are mostly standalones, but sometimes there are references to events in previous books and it bothers me to not know what happened. Looking at the other books in the series, they are mildly interesting but this one was by far the most appealing. This book is about a case involving a college freshman who has disappeared after filing rape charges against a young man in a fraternity, who also happens to be the son of a very powerful politician. It definitely seems like a book that is very timely given all the current discussion of sexual assault and #MeToo.

7) Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

35495848Sara Barnard is another author that I have never read, but I have all of her books on my TBR. Goodbye, Perfect is due out early next month, and focuses on a girl named Eden whose close friend, Bonnie, runs away with her secret boyfriend just days before the start of their exams. Eden is shocked to learn that Bonnie’s boyfriend is actually their music teacher, but she is sworn to secrecy about her friend’s whereabouts and does not want to betray her, even though the case is being investigated by police. I’m honestly not really expecting this book to necessarily be a 5-star read, but it does seem like the kind of story I would probably enjoy. I’ve read a few interesting books about student-teacher relationships from different perspectives, and it seems like this could be a good one to add to that list.

8) Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy

32972117If I remember correctly, I discovered this book through the Goodreads recommendations pages. This book is about a town where the popular girls in school keep turning up dead, and a girl named Penelope believes she might be next. All of the girls who died were members of an exclusive club called The Larks, and the only people who seem to have a connection to all of them are Penelope and an unusual boy named Cass. This book has been compared to Mean Girls (which I love) and Pretty Little Liars (which I’ve never seen, but would like to try). I don’t think I’ve seen very many thrillers that are set in high school, and definitely not high school thrillers that involve multiple deaths. It sounds like it has a lot of potential.

9) Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

31207017This was another book that I’d been hesitant to add to my TBR until I really looked at the synopsis properly. This is an own voices book about an Indian-American Muslim teenager named Maya who is conflicted between the life her parents want for her, and the life she wants for herself. Everything is turned upside down when a horrific crime is perpetrated hundreds of miles away from where Maya lives, causing the people in her community that she has known all her life to be consumed by fear and bigotry. This book is still very new, coming out in a couple of days, but had already received high ratings on Goodreads. Unfortunately, the comments about it have been a little more mixed, especially when it comes to the romance aspects of the story. I guess I will have to see for myself when I get a chance to read it!

10) Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

36605525I honestly can’t remember how I found this book, but I’m pretty sure it was through a list of anticipated upcoming releases. This book is about a Japanese woman who takes a job at a convenience store while in school, and decides to stick with it into her adult life because she likes the predictability of it. By the time she reaches her mid-30s, she realizes that although she is comfortable with her life, her family is worried that she is not living up to society’s expectations. This book appealed to me because it seemed to be along the lines of The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr, which I really enjoyed last year, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which is one of the books I’m most anticipating this year. I don’t necessarily read a lot of books in translation, despite them being a popular prompt in my reading challenges every year, but this is one that has really caught my attention and seems right up my alley. The English version is expected to be out in June of this year, so I may need to see if I can squeeze it in.

11) Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

35839475It seems to be a recurring pattern here, but this is another author that I’ve never read but I have all of her books on my TBR. My mom recently read one of Clare Mackintosh’s books and highly recommended it, and I’ve heard great reviews of both of them so far. I’ve already decided to prioritize at least one of them this year, for a prompt requiring a book with a twist ending. This book is due out in March, and it is about Anna, the adult daughter of a couple who both committed suicide two years ago. Anna is now a mother herself, and wants to uncover what really happened to her parents, and quickly learned that their deaths were not exactly as they seemed. This is another of the many thrillers that I have on my list, and although I probably won’t get to it this year, it still seems like a very intriguing story.

12) Dating Disasters of Emma Nash by Chloe Seager

9781335017055.inddIn the past year or so, I’ve really started trying to branch into a bit more adult contemporary, and this book sounds like a lot of fun! This book is about a woman named Emma Nash who decides to document her dating life on a private blog. I love books that have a social media focus, so as soon as I saw that blogging was a central component of the story, it caught my interest. This one is definitely very different from all the psychological thrillers I’ve been adding lately, but I’m actually starting to really look forward to it. Unfortunately, it is not out until May 1, and it will probably take my library system a lot longer to actually get a copy, so it may be a while before I even get the chance to read it. Actually, looking at the Goodreads page now, I noticed that it has been classified as YA, although I’m not entirely sure why. This book looks like it could be hiliarious!

13) The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

31451047I was hesitant to add this to my TBR because although I absolutely loved The Rosie Project duology, I’ve heard that this one is nowhere near as good. Even a coworker of mine, who has pretty similar reading tastes, said she could barely get through it, so that was not very promising. This book is about a man named Adam who suddenly reconnects with a woman he was involved with more than 20 years before. I think the story has some potential since I really liked Graeme Simsion’s writing and characters in The Rosie Project books, but I’m not so sold on the storyline. I still think this book is worth a chance, and I added it to my TBR to remind myself to pick it up at some point, but it’s not very high priority right now.

14) The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan

23848035I completely forgot about this book until I started looking back at my recent additions to my list. It is about a woman named Izzy, a newly single mother, who moves back to her childhood home in Philadelphia with her five-year-old. When her ex-husband shows up with his new girlfriend, Izzy decides to invent a boyfriend of her own and blog about him. Her elderly neighbour Mrs. Feldman decides to step in and show Izzy the kind of trouble that lies can create, despite the popularity of her blog. I’m not entirely sure how exactly Mrs. Feldman fits into the story here, but it sounds like a fun story. I’ve read YA books about lies and online worlds causing problems, but I don’ think I’ve read many books about that kind of storyline about adults.

15) Jokes About Dead Girls by Richard Denney

34232531Goodreads listed this book way too early! This book is not due out until June 11 2019, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to read it. This book is about a 16-year-old high school student named Kylie who has committed suicide, and her death has become a hashtag on Twitter. Some students decide to screenshot portions of Kylie’s Twitter page and stick them to locker doors, and a book of jokes making fun of Kylie is being passed around the school. A couple of students decide to take it upon themselves to put an end to the jokes. I’ll admit the title put me off at first, but the cover artwork caught my attention, especially the cartoon-y ghost in the corner. I don’t know why Goodreads has already put this book on their website when it is more than a year and a half away, but I can’t wait to read it!

Top 5 Wednesdays: Books You Didn’t Get To in 2017 (But I Likely Will in 2018!)

I’ll admit when I first saw this topic on the list, I was a little disappointed because it seemed to be basically the same as the Top 10 Tuesday topic this week. Not that I can really blame them, since it’s a great topic choice. Just to differentiate the posts a little, I decided to interpret this one a little differently, and mention 5 books that were released in 2017 that I did not get a chance to read during that year. I do feel like I made a bit more of an effort to read more recent releases, if not from 2017 than at least for the past couple of years. In part, it was because I felt like I was starting to get stuck putting off newer books in favour of others that I’d been meaning to read for a while. On the other hand, the new releases can be a little tough to get a copy of sometimes. Honestly, I could easily list way more than 5 books from 2017 that I’m looking forward to reading this year, but I’ll try to limit myself (and also limit myself to books I haven’t discussed to death already).

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) Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

33163378Honestly, I was not really looking forward to this book until very recently. I chose it for a prompt in my 2018 reading challenges requiring a book about feminism, and I picked this one because many people on the Goodreads board were raving about it. I’ve read Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu, and it really impressed me. I have all of her books on my TBR. This one specifically is about a girl named Vivian Carter whos is fed up with the sexist attitudes in her school, and creates a n anonymous feminist zine to distribute to her classmates. It sounds like such an interesting concept and if the writing is anything like Devoted, I’m sure I will love it. I’m slowly learning to buy into the hype sometimes when it comes to books, and with all the rave reviews I’ve seen, I’ve started to get really excited for this one.

2) Dear Martin by Nic Stone

24974996This was another book that I wasn’t so sure about since it seemed quite similar to The Hate U Give, although after I read and enjoyed that book, I started to be more interested in this one too. This book is about a young African-American man named Justyce who is involved in a confrontation where shots are fired by a white off-duty cop. One of the things that really interested me about this book was the idea that Justyce starts writing a journal addressed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to try to help himself work through the racism he faces. Martin Luther King is a historical figure who I’ve always been very interested in, and it seems to be a relatively unique angle on this story. It was another book that I was hesitant to try at first, but it’s starting to become really exciting!

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

29283884I think this book has reached my limit on avoidance due to overhype. It always gets to a point where I finally start to look past the hype and think that maybe the book really might be as good as everyone suggests. I heard about this book literally everywhere all through 2017, and I wasn’t that interested at first because for some reason I assumed it was about pirates. I have no idea where I got that impression from at all. Once I started to see all the rave reviews come in about how funny this book is and how interesting the characters are, I started to change my mind. I think all but one or two of the reviewers I follow on Goodreads have given this at least 4 stars, so it seems like it might actually live up to all the hype. Plus it seems to fit very nicely into a challenge prompt requiring a book that involves at least one of the seven deadly sins.

4) Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

31123249It almost feels like there were so many interesting books that I wanted to read in 2017, that I couldn’t possibly be excited for all of them at once. This was a book that I added to my TBR about halfway through the year, and then essentially forgot about until recently. This book is about a Muslim Indian-American teenage girl named Janna who is trying to figure out what kind of person she wants to be. The synopsis also hints at someone in her community who has done something wrong (I’m not sure what. No spoilers, please!) and Janna needs to decide if she wants to speak up about it. This was one of the last few books that I added to my reading challenge plans for this year. As I was browsing my TBR, it seemed to all of a sudden jump out at me as something I really wanted to read so I made sure to find a place for it.

5) Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

15837671In a way, John Green has kind of become the new Nicholas Sparks for me. I always tend to read his books, although I’ve never really loved one enough to give it a full 5 stars either. I really liked The Fault in Our Stars, and I’ve read a couple of his other books which I liked but didn’t love. Yet every time John Green puts out a new book, something about it still interests me enough to want to read it. It seems to be the theme today, but this was a book that I was not necessarily super-excited for at first because the plot seemed a bit weird. The synopsis talks about 16-year-old Aza investigating a mysterious billionaire for the possibility of receiving a reward, and that plot didn’t really appeal to me much. However, I’ve since heard that the book has very good OCD and anxiety representation and I’d be interested in that aspect of it. Since I tend to usually like John Green’s books, I think I’d probably enjoy this one too.