Top 5 Wednesdays: Favourite Teachers or Mentors

It really bugs me that we’ve been asked not to include any Harry Potter characters for this week’s topic! I agree that between Dumbledore, Lupin, Sirius, McGonagall, and even potentially Hagrid, it would be way too easy. These kinds of topics are always difficult for me because I don’t necessarily keep track of which characters fit into different categories, so it’s hard to think of after the fact. It was also a very tricky one since many of the options that I came up with are from TV series. The prime example would have to be Mr. Feeny, the iconic teacher from Boy Meets World who somehow manages to follow Cory Matthews and his friends throughout their school lives and acts as an incredible teacher and mentor to all of them. He teaches them countless valuable lessons. He is tough but fair, and pushes his students constantly to improve themselves. It was actually pretty difficult to find any teachers or mentors from books that measured up.

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) Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Once again, this is probably cheating because it’s primarily because of the TV series, but because there are several books about characters from the series and the continuing seasons in graphic novel format, I think Giles still counts. Giles is Buffy’s Watcher who is responsible for training her to hone her Slayer abilities and teach her demon lore, but his relationship with her quickly became much deeper than that. Throughout the series, it is clear that Giles has become more of a father figure and mentor not just to Buffy herself, but also to the rest of her group, especially Willow as she learns to control her magic powers. Giles goes above and beyond his duties as a Watcher and develops genuine affection for Buffy and her friends, and does everything in his power to protect them but also to prepare them to deal with life on their own. In the last few seasons of the TV series, Giles actually separates himself from the group and moves back to England in attempt to force Buffy to stand on her own and function as an independent adult. He is such an interesting character, and a great mentor.

2) Uncle Press Tilton from The Pendragon Series by D.J. MacHale

In the first book in this series, Bobby Pendragon is visited by his favourite Uncle Press who takes him on a strange adventure, explaining that Bobby is a Traveler who has a duty to help save all of Halla (basically every time and place that has ever existed) from calling into chaos. Press introduces Bobby to the idea of Travelers and trains him to become one himself. It has been several years since I read this series, but if I recall correctly, Bobby mentions that his Uncle has taken him on many outings over the years to a wide variety of unusual activities, and comes to realize that Press was training him to have the skills he might need to use as a Traveler. Part of what is interesting about this character is that a lot of his role as teacher and mentor actually happened before the series even began, and his part in the actual books is very limited. This is an incredibly underrated series in general, and a huge reason that it works as well as it does is because of the strength of the characters. Although Press’s role is relatively small, his impact is often felt throughout the series and he definitely helped to shape Bobby into the Traveler and person he became.

3) Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus Series by Joanna Cole

Again, this probably has more to do with the TV series than the books, but the episodes were adapted into a series of educational children’s books about a variety of topics, including dinosaurs, the human body, and space. Miss Frizzle is an eccentric teacher who takes her class on bizarre field trips using her magic school bus, that allows the children to change in size and transform into other things to be able to see how things work up close. Her philosophy that she quickly passes on to the children in her class is “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” and it is this line that I think makes her such a great teacher. One thing that has always stuck with me from elementary school is when my first grade teacher told us “Mistakes are how you learn,” and Miss Frizzle’s entire teaching style seems to encompass that idea. She teaches her students to experiment and test out theories to discover things for themselves, and allows them to follow the topics that interest them to satisfy their curiosity. She teaches them not to be afraid of getting the answer wrong, and to work together to figure it out. Of course, the teaching methods she uses are extremely dangerous and would never be allowed in real life (ie. bringing her class face-to-face with live dinosaurs), but it’s safe to say that her class will never forget what they learn!

4) Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In a way, this can be seen as a bit of an unconventional choice given Haymitch’s struggles with alcohol, but he is definitely a mentor to both Katniss and Peeta both during their time in the Hunger Games and long afterwards. Haymitch is a Hunger Games victor from District 12 who mentors tributes for each Hunger Games competition. It is immediately clear that Haymitch’s own experiences in the Games have deeply traumatized him and he initially seems like a poor source of support for Katniss and Peeta due to his drunken behaviour. However, once he begins to recognize that the two of them are real contenders in the competition, he offers a lot of useful and practical advice about how to survive, and helps to guide Katniss especially by finding a way to subtly communicate with her while she is in the arena. He also plays an active role in trying to protect Katniss during the rebellions against the Capitol. Katniss seeks him out for help and confides in him throughout the series, and it is clear that she trusts his advice and that they have developed a very strong bond.

5) Miss Honey in Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda has always been one of my favourite movies, and I saw the movie many, many times before ever reading the book. I’m sure a lot of my reason for picking this character is because of the film version, but from what I remember, the book is pretty similar. Miss Honey is Matilda’s first teacher at school who quickly recognizes that Matilda has a brilliant mind, and immediately seeks to help move her up to a more advanced class to appropriately challenge her. She tries to speak to Matilda’s parents, and even braves a conversation with her abusive aunt and Headmistress of the school, Miss Trunchbull because she knows that it is in Matilda’s best interest. Miss Honey and Matilda quickly form a strong connection, bonding over their difficult family lives, and both try to help each other. Matilda begins to hone her telekinetic abilities to help scare away Miss Trunchbull and restore Miss Honey to her home and the money that is rightfully hers, and Miss Honey recognizes Matilda’s difficult home life, eventually coming to offer a home with her instead. It was great to see a teacher who was aware of her student’s abilities and needs, and did everything in her power to make sure that student was given appropriate work to actually move her forward, and not let her just stagnate in a class that was too low-level for her.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Books Set in Other Countries (On My TBR)

The setting of a book can play such a huge role in how the story plays out. Although I’m not always a huge fan of overly descriptive sections about what a place looks like, I love reading about other cultures and the people who practice them. Since I am not from the US, it technically would have been way too easy to just pick 10 books set in any of the states and consider them another country. I also considered making a list of some of the excellent books that I’ve read set in other countries, such as Memoirs of a Geisha or Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. In the end, I decided that it would be more fun to look ahead at my massive TBR list and find books I hadn’t tried yet that were set around the world. Since I haven’t read these yet, I can’t necessarily comment on their representation or even how much I enjoyed them, but they are all books I’d love to read in the future.

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) The Queens’ Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile by C.W. Gortner (Spain)

12796941My interest in historical fiction was first sparked when I was about 8, when I read the Royal Diaries series beginning with a book about Queen Isabella of Castile. I had never heard of her before that book, but was quickly intrigued by her story and especially her connection with the Tudor family. Isabella’s daughter Catherine of Aragon went on to become the first wife of King Henry VIII. I recently discovered this book through Goodreads, which is set in Spain as a teenage Isabella and her brother are taken away from their parents to live with their half-brother, King Enrique, and Isabella becomes a pawn in a plot to get Enrique off the throne. This book seems to cover a lot of the same period as what I recall of the Royal Diaries version, but at a more adult level. I’m very interested to read this since it is a historical figure that I know very little about.

2) How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway (Japan)

8651016I love reading books set in Asian countries, especially both Japan and China. This book is about a Japanese woman named Shoko who marries an American soldier. Years later, Shoko’s adult daughter Sue travels to Japan in her place on a trip that reveals secrets that had been kept for years. The plot synopsis on Goodreads is pretty vague, but it seems to be a book that will focus on a Japanese woman trying to adapt to life in America, as well as her daughter’s experience as a second-generation immigrant visiting Japan. The book seems to be a cross between The Joy Luck Club for the mother-daughter relationship, and Girl in Translation for the immigrant experience, which were both books that I loved. The reviews for this one have been pretty mixed, which is a little worrying, but I think it is still worth a chance.

3) Us Against You by Fredrik Backman (Sweden)

36373463Beartown became a surprise favourite of the year so far, since I had very low expectations for a book that focused so heavily on sports. I was glad to see that a sequel was planned for later on this year, following several of the same characters. Many of the former players have now moved to a rival team in Hed, and a new team has begun to form, causing a feud between the two towns. This book brings us back to the hockey towns in Sweden, still dealing with the aftermath of the first novel. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure a sequel is necessary since Beartown was already powerful enough on its own, but I’m very interested in reading this one anyway. Fredrik Backman is a very talented writer and I’d love to read more of his books. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to squeeze this book in this year, but it is definitely one I’m interested in reading once it comes out. The English version is due out in early June of this year, so it’s still a while away.

4) Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Singapore)

18373213To be honest, I avoided reading this book for a long time because I thought it was likely to be stereotypical and possibly insulting. However, once I found out that my sister-in-law, who is Asian loved it and did not find it offensive at all, I figured it was probably safe to try. This book is the first in a series about a woman named Rachel Chu who agrees to spend a summer in Singapore with her boyfriend Nicholas, not realizing that his family is extremely wealthy and Nick is highly sought after by other women. I have never read a book set in Singapore, so that alone sounds pretty interesting, but I think the story itself also sounds pretty intriguing. I’m not often a fan of stories that are entirely about “rich people problems,” but I’ve heard this one is very funny. I get the impression that this book is along the lines of the Gossip Girl series, which were pretty fun to read.

5) The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (France)

36216983This is a relatively new book that I discovered while browsing lists of recently released thrillers. It is set in France, and follows a woman named Myriam who hires a nanny named Louise to take care of her children when she returns to work. Louise seems like the perfect nanny at first, but slowly starts to embed herself further and further into the family’s lives, and strange things start happening. This is another case where the Goodreads synopsis is quite vague, but given that it is a thriller, it is not so surprising. The English version of this book came out in the beginning of January, and I have seen it come up on a few Most Anticipated lists this year already. I have set myself a goal of reading more thrillers in general, and I’m especially intrigued by this one because for some reason, it seems rare to find thrillers that aren’t set in either the USA or the UK. I’m really looking forward to giving this one a try.

6) Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty (Australia)

34316345I generally have a hard time counting books set in Australia as “set in another country,” although that’s silly since it is halfway around the world from me. I think it’s because many of those books seem like they could easily be set in the US as well. In fact, I’m not 100% sure this book is set in Australia since nothing in the synopsis indicates the setting, but the author is Australian. Nicola Moriarty is the sister of Liane Moriarty, who has started to become one of my favourite authors. This one is definitely on my TBR for this year, and it is one of the books I am most looking forward to. It is about a woman named Poppy who creates a Facebook group with her friend Annalise to celebrate their freedom from having children and vent about some of the “privileges” parents tend to get at work. The group gets out of hand when frustrated non-parents start confronting mothers in real life. I think this is such an interesting story concept, and I would love to see how the author handles it.

7) The Unexpected Son by Shobhan Bantwal (India)

7815568For some reason, so many of the books I have on my TBR that focus on India involve some kind of plot about children who were adopted and return home to find their real parents. This is another book that I’m intending to read this year, which is about a woman who returns to India after receiving a letter that tells her she has an adult son living in India, a child that she had been told was stillborn. This book has been on my TBR for over a year and a half already, which surprises me since it sounds like such an intriguing storyline. Although I’m interested in India as a country and the cultures that live there, I know very little about them and would love to learn more. I’m not sure why so many of the books I find about it seem to follow this similar plotline, but this seems like as good a place as any to start.

8) The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi (Afghanistan)

18505784This is another book that has been on my TBR for way too long. It is set in Kabul in 2007, following a girl named Rahima who lives in a family with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, leaving them with few options. They follow the custom of bacha posh, which allows Rahima to dress and act as a boy until she is of marriageable age, which allows her the freedom to go to school, go to the market, and chaperone her sisters. A century earlier, Rahima’s great-aunt did the same. This book follows the lives of both women and their destinies. I first heard of bacha posh in another book I read last year, which I’m pretty sure was When the Moon Was Ours. I thought it was a very interesting custom, but could not quite understand how it would work. I would definitely be interested in seeing what happens with this custom when the child reaches adulthood. It’s hard for me to understand how they can live their entire life with more freedom, and have it taken away later on.

9) The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)

7784648I was surprised to see that this book has already been on my TBR for almost a year and a half since I feel like I discovered it pretty recently. It is set during a civil war in Sierra Leone, focusing on a surgeon at the hospital, and a dying man who has stories from the country’s postcolonial years. According to the Goodreads synopsis, these two men are drawn together by a British psychologist, and into the path of a woman who is at the center of their stories. I have this book tentatively on my TBR for this year for a challenge prompt requiring a book set in Africa, but I’m a little on the fence about how motivated I am to try it. I have read very few books set in Africa and while I’ve enjoyed the ones I have read, it is not something that I would reach for very often. I’m interested in giving this one a chance partly just in the interest of pushing myself out of my comfort zone a little more.

10) Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (England)

33151805This is one of my most anticipated books of the year since I am one of the (seemingly, anyway) few who actually loved The Girl on the Train. Like books set in Australia, I sometimes have a hard time thinking of British books as being set in another country since the stories are often pretty similar to American books. I often can’t even tell where it is set unless the author specifically mentions it or slips in some British mannerisms to the character’s speech. I also seem to have two categories of British books on my TBR: classics, or mystery/thrillers. I’m sure I have plenty of British YA contemporaries as well, but the setting was not always immediately obvious as I was browsing through my list. I’m really looking forward to reading this one!



Stacking the Shelves (#5)

Is it possible to be addicted to adding books to a TBR? I find sometimes that when I’m bored, I end up browsing Goodreads and finding lots of new books to add. Since my last Stacking the Shelves post about a month ago, I’ve added about 60 new books to my TBR. To be fair, many of the books I added are sequels to series that I’ve started or am very interested in starting. Some are also books that aren’t due out until next year, which I found by looking ahead at lists of upcoming releases. In most cases, those are books that are by authors I already know I enjoy so I just (very prematurely) added their newest releases to my list.

My TBR is currently up to 1967 books, although I am seriously debating weeding out a few of the books that are lower priority. For example, I had the Babysitter’s Club Friends Forever series on my list because I found my copies last year and realized I probably hadn’t ever read most of them. Since then, I’ve put them away again so they’re not so immediately accessible and therefore a lot less tempting to pick up. I’m definitely well outside the target age range for that series, but I was absolutely obsessed with the Babysitters Club when I was younger, so I’m not sure why I bought all of these but never read them. With so many other books on my list, I’m not sure these ones really interest me much anymore.

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) Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad

16131215I found this book just last night on a list of books that are similar to Jodi Picoult’s, although I’m a little skeptical because the average rating on Goodreads is quite low (3.15 stars). This book is about a couple named Ana and James who suddenly become legal guardians to a 2 and 1/2 year old boy after their friends are in a car accident, leaving the boy’s father dead and his mother in a coma. Ana and James had been unsuccessfully trying to have children of their own, and were just starting to come to terms with the fact that they might not be able to, when this boy is thrust into their lives. To be honest, part of the reason this book appealed to me is because based on the cover, I thought it was about a child with autism. The boy on the cover is lining up his toy cars, and lining things up is sometimes an early sign of autism. Upon reading the synopsis, I realized I was wrong but the book still seemed interesting enough to add to my list.

2) Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks

38212843Although I wouldn’t quite classify Nicholas Sparks as a favourite author anymore, he is still one whose books I tend to buy and usually enjoy. His latest book, due out this October, was very recently announced. Every Breath is about a 36-year-old woman named Hope whose father has been recently diagnosed with ALS, and decides to use her family’s cottage to prepare the house for sale and make some decisions about her future, including her boyfriend of 6 years. While there, she meets a man named Tru who is summoned to the same town by a man who claims to be his father, and Tru hopes to figure out some of the mysteries about his mother’s life. Nicholas Sparks is one of those authors whose books always tend to be solid 4 star reads for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this one plays out. The synopsis so far seems pretty similar to other books that he’s written, but it does tend to be a plotline he does well.

3) She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop

35297420I found this book because it was mentioned in my local newspaper’s book section yesterday, and the title intrigued me. It is about an orphaned young woman named Laila whose three wealthy cousins from New York unexpectedly show up at her mother’s funeral. Two years later, Laila has moved to New York and becomes a part of their world, and starts to uncover the truth about why her parents were estranged from the rest of the family. This is another book where reviews have been very mixed so far. It was only released at the beginning of February, but I hadn’t heard of it at all until it was in the newspaper yesterday. Many of the reviews have commented that Laila is a very unlikable protagonist and that the book is all about “rich people problems,” so I’m not entirely sure it is something I would enjoy but it seems interesting enough to be worth a chance.

4) Here So Far Away by Hadley Dyer

27177019This was another book mentioned in my local newspaper yesterday, and it was released just last week. It is about a high school senior named George Warren, whose life seems to be falling apart. She’s fighting with her closest friends, and her father, a police sergeant, is injured and might not be able to work, meaning that George many not be able to go to college as planned. George falls in love with an older man and decides to keep him a secret because of the age difference. It sounds like there are a whole bunch of topics packed into this book, and it’s a bit risky to try to fit in so much and do them all justice. I’m actually not entirely sure what it was about this book that caught my attention in the first place, but I’m interested to see how the author manages the relationship (or potential relationship, anyway) between characters with such an age gap.

5) Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

34728667This book did not interest me at all when I first saw it, but after seeing so many rave reviews for it, I’ve started to change my mind. It is a West-African inspired fantasy book set in a fictional country where magic has now disappeared, and those who practiced it were targeted and killed by the king. The main character, Zelie, has a chance to fight back and defeat the crown prince, who wants to eliminate magic forever. I have read very few books that are set in Africa, and it seems like such a fresh setting for a fantasy story. This book has been out for only three weeks so far, and it seems to be at the top of everyone’s TBR list already. I’m not sure I’ll be getting to it any time soon, but it was enough to spark my interest. I’ve previewed the first couple of pages through Goodreads, and it looks really good!

6) A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

30097276I actually have not read any of Brigid Kemmerer’s books yet, but Letters to the Lost is on my list for this year, and I’m also very interested in More Than We Can Tell. I found this book on Goodreads in a list of upcoming releases, and it is not due out until January of next year! I was intrigued by the title and I also really loved the cover art. This book is about a girl named Harper who is sucked into a world called Emberfall, which is cursed to repeat the autumn of Prince Rhen’s 18th year unless he can get a girl to fall in love with him. This book seems to be a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and part of what appeals to me is that the synposis mentions that Harper is underestimated by her family because she has cerebral palsy. I’m very interested to see what role that plays in the story, but I also love the whole concept of the book. I’m definitely looking forward to this one.

7) The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

36967019I’ve always been a bit on the fence about reading Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive. I’ve heard very mixed reviews of it, but not quite enough to completely put me off. I added this book to my list without even realizing that it was by the same author. The Favorite Sister is about five successful women who agree to appear on a reality TV series which somehow turns murderous. I’m not a huge fan of reality TV in general, although I used to follow Survivor and American Idol, and still watch Hell’s Kitchen. However, there have been a few books lately that seem to be using reality shows as a setting and it sounds very interesting. I love character-driven books, and reality TV is a great way to explore all kinds of unusual characters and dynamics between them. This book is due out in May of this year, so I’m interested to see if the reviews will be less mixed than for Luckiest Girl Alive.

8) The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

31113934If I remember correctly, this was another book that came up in my newspaper’s books section a few weeks ago. It is about a woman named Juliette who decides to become a flight attendant to keep a closer watch over Nate, the man she loves. The problem is, Nate broke up with her 6 months ago and Juliette has decided that no one will get in the way of her winning him back. I love a good thriller, and I’ve started adding more of them to my TBR as part of an overall goal of reading this genre more often. Part of the appeal of this book was the airline setting, which is something I’ve never read before. This book has been recommended for fans of Friend Request, which is on my list for this year, and The Girl Before which is on my TBR for sometime in the future. It seems exactly like the kind of thriller that I tend to enjoy, and I’m very interested in reading this one.

9) When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer

37508834I was drawn to this book because of both the title and the cover art, which shows a staircase curled like an elephant’s trunk. The book is about a high school senior named Lily who worries that she might develop schizophrenia since her mother has it. Lily plans to live a very careful life until she’s 30 with the hopes of avoiding triggering the condition during the ages when it is most commonly manifested. While working as a newspaper intern, Lily sees a mother elephant try to kill her own calf and embarks on a road trip to save it. I’m honestly not too keen on road trip stories usually, but I think the storyline about Lily worrying about her mental health due to the family history is an important one. I’m also interested to see how the baby elephant plays into the story. This book won’t be released until early September of this year, so I still have quite a while to wait.

10) Your Own Worst Enemy by Gordon Jack

38563620This was another book that I discovered on a list of upcoming releases for this year, due out in November. It is set during a high school election, with three very different candidates running for president. I’ve never really understood why high school elections are always made into such a big deal in TV shows and movies. At my school, the elections happened but they were not really all that important nor were people that competitive over them. I think it was generally pretty well understood that the student council really can’t do very much. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book before where an election is so central to the plot. It just seems like this book could be a lot of fun to try. The synopsis also suggests that this campaign is not just the usual popularity contest, but the candidates all sink to new lows to try to defeat each other. I’m curious to see how this plays out.

11) If You Only Knew by Zanna Mackenzie and 12) You’re The One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher

2064706820877628Romance is not a genre I reach for very often at all, but I recently added quite a few to my TBR. It’s a little embarrassing maybe, but these are just two of a few books I added after browsing a Goodreads list of books with silhouettes on the cover. If You about a woman named Faith who owns a coffee shop in the outdoor adventure sports area of her town. Faith soon starts dating Zane, a man who co-owns the new Adventure Sports Centre with Matt, Faith’s ex who broke her heart several years ago. You’re The One That I Want is about a woman named Maddy who is all set to marry Rob, but also knows that if it wasn’t Rob at the altar, it would be their best friend (and best man) Ben, who has always kept his feelings to himself. These are both the kinds of books that I would really need to be in the mood for in order to give a fair chance, but I also might really enjoy them.

13) I Don’t Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother by Allison Pearson

39045I think this was another book that came up on the “covers with silhouettes” list that I was browsing, but it is definitely different from the other romances. This book is about Kate Reddy, a hedge fund manager and mother of two, who is trying to figure out how to balance all of her priorities. I am not a parent myself, but this book reminds me of conversations I’ve had with coworkers who have kids and especially one who is now off on maternity leave with her second child. It also reminds me a bit of the movie Bad Moms, which also showed some of the pressures mothers are under to do it all. This book sounds like it will be really funny but also shed some good insight into how difficult it really might be for some women. This book has actually been out since 2002, with a sequel due later this year. I’m looking forward to trying both of them.

14) Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

17657649I actually can’t remember how I found this book exactly, but I know that it was through Goodreads. This book is about a grad student named Samantha who survived a childhood in the foster system by reading. Samantha receives an opportunity through a mysterious man known only as “Mr. Knightley” who offers her a full scholarship for her graduate degree, on the condition that she writes to him regularly to update him on her progress. Honestly, the premise of this one is a bit weird. It seems a bit too convenient that someone would offer Samantha a full scholarship with nothing but some letters in exchange, but it intrigued me enough to want to know how exactly that works. Although the average Goodreads rating on this one is relatively high (3.94 stars), I’ve also seen some very negative reviews about how naive Samantha is. I’m also a little on the fence because I’ve just noticed the book has also been tagged as “Christian fiction” although I’m not sure why. I’ve read a few books in this genre in the past but I haven’t really enjoyed them that much because the religious elements were too much for me. Still, I’m interested in giving this one a chance.

15) Check Me Out by Becca Wilhite

34525568Obviously I was going through some kind of romance novel stage when I added books to my TBR this month. This book is about a woman named Greta who is an assistant librarian, and loves her job. She meets a man named Mac in the poetry section of the library and takes an interest in him, but soon realizes that he seems like a different person in his text messages than he does in person. While organizing a Battle of the Bands competition to save the local library, Greta soon realizes that it is her best friend Will that she is turning to instead of Mac, and has to figure out which one she wants to be with. This book is a retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, and it seems like such a cute (but predictable) romance! It’s another book that I’m not necessarily expecting to be a 5 star read, but I could also see myself really enjoying.




Top 5 Wednesdays: Sci-Fi and Fantasy in Other Media

Fantasy may be one of my favourite genres, but sci-fi tends to be more of a mixed bag for me. It is not a genre I reach for very often, usually because I don’t tend to find the storylines so appealing, but when I finally do give them a chance, I usually really enjoy them. I love stories that involve rich world-building, although not necessarily those that are very heavy on physical descriptions. I love when the author or creator crafts a fully developed world with its own systems (ie. the Harry Potter universe), and I also tend to love stories that are a bit of a blend of fantasy and reality. When it comes to sci-fi, I tend to associate it with either outer space or robots, although I know that these are far from the only kinds of sci-fi. I thought it was pretty interesting that this week’s topic strays away from books a bit, and my intent was to stay away from adaptations of books, but many of these series are actually based off of comics or manga.

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

1) Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This was the immediate TV series that came to mind when I saw this week’s prompt. When Buffy first came out, I avoided it because I assumed it would be very scary and I hated scary shows. For some reason, I am convinced that both Season 3 and Season 5 were the first season I watched, but I’m pretty sure it was actually Season 3. This series was an excellent blend of complex and interesting characters, intricate world-building and snarky humour. This series is set in the fictional town of Sunnydale, California which is located on a “Hellmouth,” which is an area where the barriers between dimensions is especially weak, which attracts demons and other creatures. In each generation, a young woman is “chosen” as the Slayer, who is responsible for protecting people from vampires and other monsters. I fell in love with this series as soon as I started watching it because I loved the characters. I was also fascinated by the complex demon lore that made up the world, which added so much history and context to the creatures that Buffy and her friends were facing. I also loved how the series tackled a lot of moral gray areas. I’m currently re-watching it on Netflix and finally watching the entire Angel series for the first time, and I’m loving it all over again!

2) The X-Men

I remember watching the X-Men cartoon series from the early 90s, and although it wasn’t necessarily a favourite at the time, I loved the idea of all those people with special powers. What really sparked my interest in the series was the X-Men movie series starring Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, and many more big-name actors. I loved the original trilogy, although like most people, I thought The Last Stand was pretty weak in comparison. I also really enjoyed the First Class series, and even watched the Wolverine spin-off movie series, although I prefer the X-Men movies. I thought these films were brilliantly cast, and it’s hard for me to imagine the characters any other way now. I’ve always loved stories that are sent in some kind of special school for people with abilities who are learning to manage themselves, and I think part of the appeal of series for me is the dynamics between all these people. I liked how the First Class series offered a bit of backstory to some of the characters. I’m definitely looking forward to the new movie coming out later this year.

3) The Avengers series 

When I think of the Avengers, I tend to think of all the movies were made focusing on those characters, including the Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America series. I remember when The Avengers movie first came out, and I realized I needed to go back and watch four separate film franchises to get up-to-date on all the characters. To be fair, I have never managed to see a full Hulk movie because the versions I got from the library were always damaged, and I don’t think I ever saw the first Captain America movie. In any case, this is another superhero series that blends a bit of both fantasy and sci-fi, and that quickly captured my interest. Of all the individual movies, I would have to say the Iron Man series were my favourite, followed by Thor although I’m not completely sure yet about the most recent Thor movie. It had such a different feel than the previous ones. I guess it’s become a bit of a recurring theme now, but what I love about the Avengers movies especially is the dynamics between the heroes. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of action movies, but these ones are so much fun to watch!

4) Sword Art Online

Over the years, my boyfriend has slowly been trying to introduce me to anime and he’s found several series that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. Sword Art Online has become one of my favourites, featuring a boy named Kirito who, among others, has become trapped in an MMORPG that they can only escape by beating the game. However, if a character dies in the game, they will also die in real life. I thought the story was fascinating and I loved the art style. I especially loved the bond that developed between Kirito and Asuna, a female player, and it was so much fun to see how they managed to work their way through the game. It’s actually been so long since I watched this series (in 2013!) and its sequel (in 2014), so it’s definitely one that is due for a re-watch. I actually think this was among the first anime I’d ever watched all the way through, and it is still one of the best I’ve ever seen.

5) Chobits

This was another anime series that became a favourite, and one that I very nearly stopped watching after the first episode. I’m so glad I decided to stick with it! This series is about a boy named Hideki Motosuwa who has failed to get into university, and discovers a robot girl he calls Chii, who seems to have been discarded in the trash. It is set in a world were many people are turning to these robots, known as “persocoms” for company, and some even fall in love with them. If I’m honest, the first episode really put me off since it seemed like the show would be really stupid and full of annoying sexual humour. I don’t mind these kinds of jokes if they are done well, but in this particular case, I found them irritating. However, the further I got into the series, the more I started to really like it. What started out as what seemed to be a very light comedy about a boy who might fall for his robot quickly became a much more serious show the differences between humans and robots, and about discovering Chii’s past. It ended up becoming another favourite, and it is another series I would love to watch again.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Books on My Spring TBR

I have so many books that I’m excited to read that it’s become tough to try and prioritize which ones to read next! Oddly enough, I would have a much easier time picking books for my summer TBR than for spring. My local library is shutting down for renovations this summer, so I’ve been purposely saving some of the books that I’m very excited for and that I already own for those months. I’m not really the type to have “seasonal” reads, although I often end up reading more thrillers or creepy books in October. I can’t really say I have any specific kind of book that really says “spring” to me. Instead, I’m most likely going to prioritize some of the books I’m most excited for to get them off my library list before the renovations, just to be safe in case anything goes wrong with the computer system. I’m defining spring from late March to late May, since my Winter TBR only covered until February, but this month is already half over.

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) To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

15749186I’m a little on the fence about this book if I’m honest, although I’m definitely going to read it anyway. I avoided it for many years because it just didn’t seem like the kind of storyline that I’d really like, but I’ve heard so many great reviews for it that it seems impossible to avoid. This book is about a girl named Lara Jean who has written love letters to all five of the boys that she’s had crushes on, which somehow get sent out. I’m a little curious to find out how exactly these letters get mailed out, or more importantly, why someone would do that. I don’t expect I will be able to relate to Lara Jean very well, but it’s getting harder to ignore all the hype around the series. I kind of have the feeling that this is one of those books that I might have enjoyed a lot more if I had read it when I was younger, but I still think it is worth a chance.

2) Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

18304322This is another book that I wasn’t sure I wanted to read at first because of the focus on beauty pageants, which is something that I have absolutely no interest in. It won me over because it’s so rare to see plus-size protagonists in YA books, and I think it will be interesting to see how Willowdean manages that world. I’ve heard that part of the appeal of this book is that Willowdean is comfortable in her own body, and I think it would be great to see a plus-size character whose weight isn’t necessarily treated as a problem. I definitely think we need more variety in books to represent people of all shapes and sizes, and in ways that don’t judge them for their shape or size. I know there are some people who might complain that it’s not healthy to promote the idea that it is good to be overweight, but I think judging people for their weight can be very damaging as well and it really shouldn’t be anyone else’s business.

3) Meg and Linus by Hanna Nowinski

26176756I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first heard about it last year on a list of upcoming releases. This book is about two friends, Meg and Linus, who are both geeky and both gay. When Meg’s long-term girlfriend breaks up with her, she decides to try and set Linus up with a new boy to try and distract herself from her breakup, even though she doesn’t know whether this new guy is gay.  This sounds like it could be a very cute story, and I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book where more than one of the main characters was LGBT. This book is published by a young adult imprint called Swoon Reads, which is a crowdsourced publisher where people can submit their stories, and they get published if there is enough interest from readers. It’s such a different approach to publishing, and I have so many books from this publisher on my TBR. I would definitely love to see how this story plays out.

4) Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

31952703I picked this book for a challenge prompt requiring a book involving a bookstore or library for the PopSugar challenge, and this prompt is the theme of the month for April. This book is about a teenager named Rachel who has always been in love with Henry. Several years ago, she left him a love letter in one of his favourite books at his family’s bookshop before moving away. Now, years later, she has moved back and is working at the bookshop with Henry, as a distraction to help her after her brother’s death. This book sounds like it could be very cute and fun to read, although I am getting a little sick of the “dead sibling” trope. It seems like many YA protagonists are struggling to deal with the death of a family member, and while I think it’s important to have those experiences represented, it shouldn’t be in every book! However, in this case, I think the bookshop setting and the whole plotline about the love letter and whether Henry ever saw it sounds like a lot of fun.

5) The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

13497675This book has been on my TBR for way too long! It was one of the first books that I added to my TBR when I started my Goodreads account that I hadn’t heard of at all before using the website.  I chose this book for a prompt requiring a book about mental health, which is the prompt of the month for May for PopSugar. This book is about a 10-year-old boy named Alex whose best friend is a 9000-year-old demon. After his mother attempts suicide, Alex is sent to a psychiatrist who believes that the demon is a sign that Alex has schizophrenia, and tries to convince him that it can’t be real. The main reason I kept putting this book off is because it was not available through my library, so I’ve had to request for them to buy a copy. It currently says it is “on order” so hopefully it will come through in time to read it by May. It also seems really interesting because the synopsis seems to imply the possibility that Alex’s demon friend might actually be real. It will be very interesting to see how that is handled.

6) Landline by Rainbow Rowell

This is another book that has been on my TBR for close to three years by now! Since then, I’ve read three of her other books and enjoyed all of them. This one seems a bit different. It is about a woman named Georgie whose marriage is struggling, especially after Georgie decides she can’t go with him and the kids to visit Neal’s parents for Christmas because something has come up at work. That night, Georgie discovers she can communicate with Neal in the past, and thinks she has the opportunity to fix her marriage. This kind of pseudo-time travel trope (try saying that 5 times fast!) is something I used to avoid, but I’ve read a few books with it over the past couple of years and it’s usually a lot of fun. I love character-driven books, and these kinds of stories tend to focus on characters reflecting on their lives and what they could do differently. Plus, I’ve liked every Rainbow Rowell book I’ve tried so far.

7) Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

36082326This book is just coming out this week, so I’m hoping the library will get a copy of it soon. Still Alice is one of the most memorable books that I’ve read in the past few years, and I love Lisa Genova’s writing style. This book is about a concert pianist named Richard who is diagnosed with ALS, paralyzing his entire arm and eventually most of his body. His ex-wife Karina becomes his reluctant caregiver, which seems like a very interesting angle that I don’t think I’ve ever seen explored before. Lisa Genova is an excellent character author, and I’m very interested in seeing the dynamics between the divorced couple. Although there is some risk of the books feeling too similar, I think it’s great that Lisa Genova, a neuroscientist herself, is shedding some light on neurological conditions through character-driven stories that make the condition really come to life. I’m especially interested by her books because they show the effects on the others around the individual, as well as the individuals themselves. I’m definitely expecting to enjoy this one.

8) The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve

5191Another one that has been on my TBR for almost three years! I definitely need to get better about actually reading the books that I’m interested in, and not just leaving them on my list forever. This book is about a woman named Kathryn, whose husband Jack dies when the plane he was piloting explodes near the coast of Ireland. When public rumours start to suggest that Jack had a secret life, Kathryn decides to try to uncover who her husband really was. The “I didn’t really know the person close to me” trope is also a very common one, but one that I tend to enjoy (although it may be getting a little overdone). I chose this book for a challenge prompt requiring a book from Oprah’s Book Club, which I was dreading since my last Oprah’s Book Club pick was a huge disappointment. I’ve only read one other of Anita Shreve’s books but I really liked it, and I have many of hers still on my TBR. I’m a little worried about this one because reviews have been pretty mixed, but I’m willing to give it a fair chance.

9) Gemina and 10) Obsidio by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

2923629924909347It may be a bit of a cheat to include these two together instead of two standalones, but these are two books that I am definitely looking forward to reading this spring! Illuminae quickly became one of my favourite books last year, and I immediately wanted to read the rest of the series. Obsidio only came out a week ago, so I’m sure the waitlist for it will be huge. Honestly, I think the first book in this series will be pretty hard to top, but I love the unique formatting and the characters were amazing. I’ve never been a huge sci-fi fan or a fan of books set in space in general, so it’s actually really saying something that I got so engrossed in Illuminae in the first place.  I can’t wait to read the rest of this series!

The Reader Problems Book Tag

This is another one of those tags that I could have sworn I’d already done, but if I did, it wasn’t here. I know one of my Goodreads groups often does book tags as part of their read-a-thons a few times each year, so it must have been over there. This tag was originated on About To Read back in 2014, but it has become quite a popular one since then. I’ve felt like I’ve been in such a slump lately that I decided this would be a fun way to start thinking about my reading habits.

1. You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?

Well, my TBR hasn’t hit 20,000 books yet but I’m getting dangerously close to 2000! Since I do reading challenges, I start each year with a list of 150 or so books that I want to read to fit my challenge prompts, so that cuts things down considerably. Of those, I choose based on a few factors. I get the majority of my books from the library, so I usually try to request as many as possible and put them on hold but suspended until I need them. To help me decide what to read next, I sometimes look at what my challenge groups have picked for Book of the Month or monthly themes and choose accordingly. Otherwise, it’s a combination of what I’m in the mood for and what’s available. I tend to release 10 or so at a time from the library, so I make sure that I have a mix of different genres and lengths in that mix to keep things varied.

2. You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or are you committed?

I have only ever quit reading one book, and that’s because it was something I picked up completely randomly while sitting at the library and hated. It was a “choose your own adventure” style story about a girl in high school, but very poorly written. The paths overlapped in illogical ways, so that following one thread of the story referenced characters or events from other storylines that you wouldn’t have read yet (or at all). Otherwise, I hate to DNF books, especially when I’m more than halfway through. It’s especially a problem when reading books for a challenge since I don’t want to “waste” the time I spent on the book by abandoning it, since I wouldn’t count a book I didn’t finish for my challenge. At least if I can get through it, I can cross a prompt off my list.

3. The end of the year is coming and you’re so close, but so far away on your Goodreads reading challenge. Do you try to catch up and how?

I would absolutely try to catch up, and I have done that a couple of times in the past. Usually what I do is pick some graphic novels or shorter books that still interest me so I can read more quickly. Sometimes I do feel like it’s cheating to purposely put books off until the next year, even though there’s no one policing my challenge.

4. The covers of a series you love do. not. match. How do you cope?

It annoys me a bit, but not as much as it seems to drive other people crazy. I do my best to buy copies that all match whenever possible, but at the end of the day, the contents of the book are much more important to me than the cover.

5. Every one and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?

This is a tough one. None of my friends read as much as I do or have very similar taste to me. Come to think of it, there is one person I work with who also loves to read and we do tend to have similar opinions, but we don’t have much time to discuss books.

6. You’re reading a book and you are about to start crying in public. How do you deal?

I would close the book and escape to a washroom or something to compose myself. This hasn’t happened to me, but then again I don’t do much of my reading in public.

7. A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a synopsis on Goodreads? Cry in frustration?!?!?!?

It depends on the book. Ideally, I’d love to re-read the first one if it is a book that I enjoyed, but in reality what I usually end up doing is look for a synopsis or Wiki page that gives a detailed plot summary. I also have a (bad?) habit of waiting until a series has all been published before I pick it up, so I often end up reading them all pretty close together.

8. You do not want anyone. ANYONE. borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people nope when they ask?

I hate lending out my books! Lucky for me, no one ever asks. Most of my books are scattered in piles on my floor or put away in my closest since I don’t have anywhere near enough shelves, so it’s very easy and believable for me to say that I have the book but don’t know where it is.

9. Reading ADD. You’ve picked up and put down 5 books in the last month. How do you get over your reading slump?

Good question, since I kind of feel like I’m in a slump now. I’m not the type to abandon books so I probably wouldn’t have started and stopped multiple in a row like this. For me, a slump usually looks more like taking absolutely forever to get through even a short book. To get over it, I usually read some shorter books or graphic novels, or pick up a book that I’m very excited for and pretty confident I would love, although this is a bit risky since the slump might affect my enjoyment. If all else fails, I’ll revisit favourites like Harry Potter or Jodi Picoult’s books.

10. There are so many new books coming out that you’re dying to read! How many do you actually buy?

Given how expensive books have become, I’m hesitant to buy anything new unless I’ve read it and know that I enjoy it. I’ve recently started using Book Outlet to get cheaper books, and I’m a lot more flexible with those ones. I’ve received 2 orders so far, both of which were mostly books I hadn’t read but really wanted to. Otherwise, I mostly use the library.

11. After you’ve bought the new books you can’t wait to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf before you get to them?

Longer than I would like! Another reason I don’t often buy books is because I have so many in my library stack that I know I won’t get to them any time soon. It’s actually pretty rare for me to start reading a book immediately after I bought it, which is a bit weird since if I haven’t already read it and I’ve decided to buy it, it’s something I really want to read.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Children’s Books to Read as an Adult

I was always a huge reader, and I can still remember many of my favourite children’s books. Whenever my family went shopping, my reward for behaving myself in the store was to get a new book. I had a massive collection of the Little Golden Books series. My favourite things at school were the Scholastic book fairs and order forms, and it’s because of those that I had a constant supply of new books to read. Even now as an adult,  I love revisiting some of my favourite children’s books. It can be so much fun to try these books again from a different perspective, and seeing how my views on these books might have changed. I have so many children’s books that I still love reading to this day, both for the nostalgia factor but also because some of them are genuinely fun. I am purposely leaving out some of the big names like Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events,  Charlotte’s Web, etc. because I’m sure they will be popular choices already, and pretty much go without saying.

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) Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

825081I’ve mentioned this book several times before, but it is one that I really think is valuable to read as an adult. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is about a young girl named Lilly who is very excited to bring her new purple purse to class. She is so obsessed with it that she can’t focus, and her teacher confiscates it, causing Lilly to become angry and act out. The book carries a very powerful statement from Lilly’s teacher, who not only recognizes and acknowledges her feelings, but helps her understand that it is still not acceptable to misbehave. He tells her “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.” It is such a powerful message because it shows children that it is okay to be angry and to have bad days, but that it is possible and even probable to move on from them and have a better day next time. It also shows one of the most realistic student-teacher interactions I’ve ever read. Plus, the illustrations in this book are just adorable!

2) Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss
816484There are several Dr. Seuss books that I think would be great to re-read as adults: Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat in particular come to mind. I picked Horton Hears a Who because it is a book that has always stuck with me. The book is about an elephant named Horton who suddenly hears a voice calling for help from the top of a flower. He soon learns that there is a tiny race of people living in a place called Whoville, and agrees to protect them from harm. Horton is bullied and ridiculed by the others around him for believing in something that no one else can see or hear, and they threaten to destroy the flower. To protect his new friends, Horton encourages them all to make noise and convince the others that they are there. The theme of this book can probably best be summarized with the now-famous quote “A person’s a person, no matter how small” to show that every voice matters. Even though the Whos were tiny, they saved themselves by speaking up and every last individual needed to speak out to make change happen.

3) The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka

407429I never actually owned a copy of this book, but it has always been a favourite. I first read it at my best friend’s house, and it was my probably my earliest exposure to satire. This book consists of hilarious parodies of famous fairy tales. For example, The Stinky Cheese Man is a parody of the Gingerbread Man, who thinks everyone is after him when really they are trying to avoid his stench. The stories are accompanied by very strange illustrations that fit the weird and jumbled nature of the book as a whole. In a sense, the entire thing is a parody of what a book even is since it has a table of contents that lists stories that aren’t found in the book, and characters sometimes interrupt each other’s stories, and text is written in odd sizes on the pages so some parts of the story are hard to read. This book is so much fun every time I pick it up, and I’m actually kind of surprised I never bought myself a copy to keep at home.

4) Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch

201434Honestly, this one might be mostly nostalgia for me, since this was my favourite book in elementary school. I love just about everything Robert Munsch has written (although some of them are really, really weird — Murmel, Murmel, Murmel for example). This book is about a young girl named Brigid who wants her parents to buy her new markers, and her parents give her strict rules about what she can and cannot colour on. As Brigid gets bored with each set of markers, she starts to ask for progressively more advanced kinds — including more colours, scents, and even permanent markers. Of course, like many children her age, Brigid decides to push the boundaries a little on her parents’ rules and decides to colour all over herself. This book was so much fun to read, and it was so easy as a child to imagine being tempted like Brigid. I re-read this book not too long ago as an adult, and it was still just as much fun!

5) The Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park

958277This was another huge childhood favourite for me. This series is about a kindergarten student named Junie B. Jones and the mishaps she gets into in a variety of situations. The best book in the series is still Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, which focuses on her first day of school and her fear of riding the school bus. Barbara Park did an excellent job of capturing a child’s voice and thought process, although to be fair, I found the books less interesting as Junie B. Jones moved on to first grade. I read most of the books when I was in elementary school myself, and re-read them last year because I couldn’t remember most of them. Even as an adult, I found them fun to read. I love the hilarious examples of “kindergarten logic” to explain how Junie B. processed what was happening in her life. This is a great series that I think children would love, and they can be a lot of fun to revisit too!

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top Ten Books that Surprised You (In a Good Way or a Bad Way)

One of the advantages of my reading challenges over the past three years is that they really pushed me out of my comfort zone and got me reading a lot of books that I might not have tried otherwise. I’ve actually become pretty good at getting a sense of whether I will really enjoy the book before I pick it up, although every year I still end up stuck with a few that I’m not necessarily that interested in because of prompts that don’t really appeal to me. There are even a few books that I really expected to love and they end up surprising me by going in a different direction, or just not being nearly as strong as I’d hoped. However, ever year I’m also lucky enough to find some pretty great books that have come as a real surprise.

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) Who R U Really? by Margo Kelly

21444891I think this book gets the unique distinction of a book that I simultaneously liked and didn’t like. It also really surprised me to learn that this book was published in 2014! This book is about an overprotected 14-year-old named Thea who starts a relationship with a person she meets online through a game, who she believes is a 19-year-old living in another state. Thea decides to keep her boyfriend a secret, despite his increasingly concerning behaviour, and soon learns that he may not be who he says he is. I was a bit surprised to find that this book was published only 4 years ago since we seem to have moved past the “online predator” storyline with more recent social media-focused books. However, as irritating as Thea was as a main character, I do think her behaviour was very believable and her situation reminded me quite a bit of someone I knew who was in an online relationship with a person who seemed suspicious. There were parts of this book that genuinely creeped me out, but parts of it also felt very juvenile. I’m glad I finally read it though, since it had been on my TBR for quite a while!

2) Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

31434883I’ve wanted to read this book since I first saw the synopsis on Goodreads, because I assumed it would be along the lines of The Rosie Project or The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr. The book is about a young woman named Eleanor Oliphant who has difficulty in social situations and runs her life by a set schedule. Eleanor befriends Raymond, the IT guy from her office, and together they help to save Sammy, an older gentleman who has fallen. Through her friendships with these two, Eleanor begins to come to terms with her difficult past. I was expecting this book to be about a woman on the autism spectrum who is learning to develop relationships with the people around her, but instead this book is a much deeper story about loneliness and even depression. Although I still do think Eleanor could be classified on the autism spectrum, it is never stated on the page. This book went completely above and beyond my expectations. It was very different from what I thought it was going to be, but ended up being a powerful read with some excellent quotes.

3) Beartown by Fredrik Backman

33413128I’d been hearing about this book everywhere since it came out last year, but I never had much interest in reading it since I have no interest at all in sports. The only reason I picked it up at all was because I had a challenge prompt that required a  book about sports, and this one came highly recommended by someone I met through Goodreads. This book is about a hockey-obsessed small town called Beartown, where a star member of the team is accused of an act of violence against a female classmate. I found it a bit odd that so many of the reviews tried to keep the incident so secretive, since I assumed what would happen long before I ever even decided to read the book. It didn’t come as a shock to me, but the story was so brilliantly handled. I’d heard so many people rave about Fredrik Backman’s books but had never tried any. As soon as I finished this one, I immediately added the rest of them to my TBR. I was so impressed with way the book was written. Although I found it a little slow-paced in the beginning, once I got into it I was absolutely hooked.

4) Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

enter-title-here-book-coverI’ve mentioned this book so many times before, but it is definitely one that really surprised me! The synopsis to this book does not do it justice at all. This book is about an extremely competitive and driven high school student named Reshma Kapoor who wants to write a book to push her application to Stanford over the edge. She decides that to make her book more interesting, she needs to start having more “normal” teen experiences, like making friends and going on a date. It would have been so easy for this book to devolve into a generic story about an unusual girl trying to change herself to fit in. Instead, what we get is one of the most unlikeable protagonists I have ever read, but one that you can’t help rooting for. Reshma is an extreme perfectionist who manipulates others and will do absolutely anything to get ahead. It was so interesting to see a YA book tackle issues of academic pressure and competition, and it was one of the most unique YA stories I’ve ever read.

5) Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

3486989I honestly think the main reason I enjoyed this book so much was because I listened to the audio version narrated by the brilliant Jeremy Irons (voice of Scar from The Lion King). This book has long been on my list of classics I felt like I should read, but the subject matter put me off. This book is told from the perspective of Humbert Humbert, a man who has become obsessed and entered into what he perceives as a consensual relationship with an 12-year-old girl he calls Lolita. I went into this book really not expecting to enjoy it at all because of the subject matter, but it ended up becoming one of the books I enjoyed most. Jeremy Irons’ narration was a huge factor in bringing the character to life, and it was really creepy to hear how Humbert Humbert attempted to justify his obsession to himself and to the readers. For a topic like this, it would take a really strongly written book to make me really get invested in the characters and interested in finding out what happened, and this one definitely succeeded. I was not expecting to love this one at all, and I’ve actually had quite a few disappointing classics over the past few years, so it was definitely a surprise!

6) Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

20649195This book was a surprise in the literal sense because it was not at all the genre I expected. It is about a boy named Ollie who meets his best friend Moritz online. The two boys can never meet because Ollie is allergic to electricity, and Moritz requires a pacemaker to keep him alive. I expected this to be a typical YA contemporary about two boys who develop an online friendship, which is a trope I love. I was initially put off by some really weird plot points, which I won’t specify here since they might be spoiler-y, but I will just say that there were some unexpected sci-fi elements to this story. It was really off-putting at first because I had no idea from the Goodreads page that this book was sci-fi at all, although the genres list on the page has since changed to include 50 or so users who tagged the book as sci-fi. When I first read it, it kind of gave me the impression that “This is good, but this isn’t the book I wanted.” It was interesting enough to keep my interest and I’m actually glad that these elements were included because they helped make sense of what was otherwise some plot points that were difficult to reconcile with a contemporary. I’m interested enough to try the sequel, especially now that I have a better idea of what to expect.

7) Goodbye Days by Jeff Zatner

30649795I will start by saying that I really enjoyed this book, but I was surprised to find that a huge chunk of the plot focused on a point that I just couldn’t quite come to terms with. The book follows a teenage boy named Carver whose three closest friends were killed in a car accident, for which Carver blames himself because he texted the driver shortly before the accident occurred. I was surprised to find that some of the story focused on the possibility of Carver being charged as a criminal because he texted his friend, knowing that his friend was driving at the time. I have no idea if this is a law elsewhere, but it seemed very backwards to me and it was difficult for me to get into the story because of that. However, this book also really surprised me because of how strong the portrayal of grief was. Carver approaches the family members of his friends to go on “Goodbye Days,” where he joins them for a day in place of their family member who died. This book ended up being a powerful story, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it despite getting stuck on the legal issues.

8) Whisper to Me by Nick Lake

26030238This was another book that was not at all what I expected. According to the synopsis on Goodreads, it is told in the format of an apology letter from Cass to the boy she likes, offering him the whole story of what happened over the summer they met and why she hurt him. In reality, the book is much more complex, with a very strong focus on mental illness that is introduced very suddenly within the first 30 pages. It was very jarring at first to start reading what I assumed was a pretty light and casual contemporary romance, and end up with a heavier story about mental illness. I thought the mental illness representation was very well-done (although I do not have the same condition as the character myself), but I found the book overall dragged on a bit too long. I was also a little annoyed with the author deciding to censor all swear words out with asterisks, since it seemed unrealistic. If you don’t want any swearing in your book, just don’t write any. It was an interesting book, but it surprised me because it was not at all what I expected.

9) The DUFF by Kody Keplinger and 10) The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

69313565139I’m including these books together because they both surprised me in a bad way, and for very similar reasons. I first saw the movie versions of both of these and absolutely loved them, so I was looking forward to reading the books. Unfortunately, I found both of them disappointing. The DUFF was almost complete a different story with characters who were so irritating, instead of the charming protagonist of the movie version. It focuses on Bianca, a girl who is insulted when a classmate, Wesley, calls her the Designated Ugly Fat Friend of her friend group. Although the basis of the story is the same, the book version just didn’t appeal to me at all.  The Devil Wears Prada was just a very boring book for me. I had no interest in read descriptions of fashion, even though I expected them to be a major part of the story. In both cases, the book was nowhere near as good as I had hoped. Both of these were unfortunately a surprise in a bad way.


Reader Struggles: Meme Mini-Series (#9)

I have been in such a slump lately! Since the beginning of the month, I’ve only read 4 books, one of which was a graphic novel of sorts that took only an hour. It’s pretty frustrating to actually want to read (and have a whole stack of books from the library that I want to read), but completely lack motivation to pick anything up. That’s just one of my many reader struggles, but I found the next meme on the list (found here) fits me perfectly!

This is exactly the reason that I avoided reading many series for a long time. If I start a series and enjoy the first book, I definitely feel compelled to continue the series. The problem is, I have so many books on my TBR in general that I sometimes don’t want to feel “stuck” reading so many in a series in a row. I actually have a problem reading series in general, since I tend to get bored reading multiple books set in the same world in a row, but also tend to forget details if I wait to long to try the next one. I have to somehow find a good balance of spacing them out but not too far that I can’t remember what was going on.

This year, one of my biggest goals was to tackle some of the major series that I’d been avoiding. I started many popular series over the past couple of years that I really loved, and decided to commit to finishing them. I used to self-impose a rule for my reading challenges that I would only read one book per author to try to encourage variety, so obviously a series would be impossible. That’s now gone completely out the window since I don’t want to wait 3+ years to finish off many of the series I started! One of my problems with series is that some of the ones I’d like to read are just so long (ie. Throne of Glass) that it’s a bit intimidating to get started.

Another kind of annoyance that I think fits the above image well is when you read a book thinking that it will be a standalone, and then the author decides to make it into a series. There seems to be an absolutely overwhelming number of series out right now, and it almost feels like every single book is getting  a sequel (whether is needs it or not). There is nothing more frustrating than absolutely loving the first book, and have it followed up by a disappointing sequel or multiple sequels. There are some books that really don’t merit being split into more than one, and I find it is a common problem with trilogies especially that there is that middle “transition” book where not too much necessarily happens, but it’s still needed to move the characters from start to finish.

I’ve really come around to enjoying series more again in the past few years. I went through a long phase of only wanting to read standalones, with a few key exceptions. I’m really glad I decided to give some of the series a chance because they’re quickly becoming favourites and have even been some of the few books that I actually enjoyed enough to buy my own copies. Maybe some of these series will be what it takes to get me out of my slump!

Top 5 Wednesdays: Freebie — 5 Books I Bought Recently from Book Outlet

**Please note that this post is in no way sponsored by or associated with Book Outlet. I am merely commenting on my own experiences with them.

I’m a pretty recent convert over to using Book Outlet. I’d been hearing about it for a while through various vloggers, but was always hesitant to give it a chance because I can be picky about the condition of the books I buy. If I’m getting a new book (as in, not secondhand), I’d like it to be in as close to perfect condition as possible. It bothers me when the covers or pages are bent or torn, when the dustjacket is ripped, or when the book is very dirty. I decided to give Book Outlet a chance around Christmas because they had a great deal going on which essentially evened out to getting several books for free. I was so impressed with the quality of books that I received that I also took advantage of their recent Family Day offer of triple reward points. I was a bit disappointed to find that either their rewards system had changed or I had misunderstood it, so I got fewer points than I expected, but I still got some great books! Here is a list of 5 of the books I got recently through Book Outlet that I am most excited about!

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) We Were on a Break by Lindsey Kelk

30813401It is literally impossible for me to see this title without thinking of the infamous line from Friends, and honestly, it was the title that drew me to the book in the first place. This book is about a couple named Liv and Adam who are getting engaged, until Adam “accidentally” suggests they take a break. I’m not entirely sure how it is possible to accidentally take a break, so that alone might be interesting to see. The book follows the couple (or ex-couple?) as they try to figure out where they stand, and what exactly it means to be on a break. It is supposed to be a romantic comedy and it sounds like it could be a great read. I’ve never been a huge fan of the (irritatingly named) “chick lit” genre, but I’ve been getting into it a lot more often recently, and often really enjoying it. This book sounds like it could be very funny, but also has the potential to be very meaningful.

2) What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

This was one of a few books that I bought as a motivation to finally get them off my TBR! I have quite a few books that have been on my list since 2015, many of which I haven’t picked up yet just because it’s been tough to find a copy. This book is a about a woman, Lucy,  who kidnaps a baby from a shopping cart and raises the child as her own. As Mia becomes an adult and discovers the truth about the only mother she’s ever known, she sets out to find her birth mother while Lucy is forced to flee. Part of the reason I added this book to my TBR in the first place is because I thought the cover art was very interesting, and it seemed very creepy. It sounds like such an interesting storyline, and I’m actually a bit surprised that I haven’t picked it up yet. I’m not entirely sure I’ll manage to fit it in this year, but I may need to shuffle things around.

3) The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield

I actually read another book by the same title not too long ago, but this one has been on my TBR since 2015 also. It is about a woman named Maris whose daughter was murdered by her boyfriend. The young man’s father, wracked with guilty, calls Maris from the Golden Gate Bridge, where he is standing ready to jump with one question — should he jump? I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have someone’s life in my hands, so this book sounds like such an intriguing concept. It opens up all kinds of moral questions. The Goodreads reviews have been a little mixed, and one of the most common complaints seems to be that the book is often mislabeled as a thriller. Even if it is not a true thriller, it still seems like it could be a very interesting look at the relationships between the characters.

4) Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

18443302This is the kind of book I would have been so unlikely to even try a few years ago, but after The Status of All Things by these two authors became a favourite last year, I decided I wanted to give more of their work a chance. This book is about Casey and Rachel, two childhood friends who have grown up to live very different lives. One day, the two of them wake up to discover they have switched bodies and have to live each other’s lives. This is a fairly common movie trope but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done in a book, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out on the page. I do tend to enjoy TV shows or movies where characters have to switch places, although that’s often because of getting to see the actors try to become each other’s roles. I can’t really imagine how the authors will develop the characters well enough to pull off the switch convincingly, but it sounds like it could be fun to read!

5) Daughter by Jane Shelmit

20505127I bought this book because it was part of my whole push to try more thrillers, so I added a whole bunch of them to by TBR. I was first drawn to this one because of the kind of creepy cover. It is about a successful doctor named Jenny whose 15-year-old daughter, Naomi, does not come home after a school play. A year later, the trail has gone cold, but Jenny is still searching for answers. She soon discovers that everyone has been keeping secrets from her, especially Naomi. The synopsis for this one reminds me quite a bit of Reconstructing Amelia, which I loved. Both of the books are about a mother trying to piece together whatever information they can about their daughters, and discovering that they may not have known the girls as well as they thought. It’s another book that’s received some pretty mixed reviews, but the plot seems like something that would interest me.