Top 5 Wednesdays: Books for a Class List on Social Media

I had a really, really hard time coming up with anything for this week’s prompt! I kept struggling to find something that would make a potentially interesting class, and that didn’t only include books that I’ve already talked about often. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to love books that have a social media focus, and I find it very interesting to see how authors address (or ignore) social media in recent books. I’ve seen complaints on both sides — on the one hand, some people think social media references keep a book up-to-date and realistic, and on the other, some people worry that it makes the book seem dated. The way I envision this class, it would explore how social media is used in books in a variety of genres, and will show the evolution of how social media is portrayed over the years, as our own use of it has changed and expanded.

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) Who R U Really? by Margo Kelly

21444891I think this book would be a great starting point for the class because it takes on a perspective that I personally see as more dated, even though the book was released in 2014. It is about a young teenager named Thea who gets involved in a relationship with an older guy that she meets through an online RPG. I read this book earlier this year and I somehow found it simultaneously better than I expected and worse than I expected. Thea can be a very irritating character to follow because she is incredibly naive and makes some horrible decisions, but I also found her very realistic. I played around on websites like Neopets and Habbo Hotel when I was Thea’s age, and I can definitely see people getting involved in situations like she did. I think this would be a great book to start a discussion about online safety and online friendships, as well as a caution to people about warning signs that might suggest the person is not who they say they are.

2) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905I feel like I bring this book up a lot, but I think it is genuinely a great fit for a class about social media. The main character, Cath, writes a very popular fanfiction series, and her online life is an important part of her life in general. Cath has social anxiety, and takes a lot of comfort in writing her fanfiction. I think this book would be a great one to discuss the important role being a content creator can have in a person’s life, as well as exploring mental health as it relates to social media. The internet can  have both benefits and problems for mental health and social interactions in general, and I think this book could be an interesting way to start a discussion about the role of internet in our social lives as well as on our mental health. For someone with social anxiety like Cath, the internet can be a great way to connect with other people and share common interests in a setting that is less intimidating than face-to-face, at least initially.

3) You by Caroline Kepnes

20821614This is a much darker book than the previous two, but it is a great one for showing the risks of social media. You is about a man named Joe Goldberg who becomes obsessed with Beck, a woman he meets at the bookstore where he works. Joe decides to look her up on Google, and she has an unusual enough name that allows her to find her social media accounts — and uses them (and their lack of privacy settings) to stalk her with the hopes of winning her over to dating him. The book is told in a very eerie second-person perspective narrated by Joe as he pursues Beck, and he is an incredibly creepy character. I think this book would be a great way to explore the importance of privacy settings and having an awareness about how much personal information you have shared online. Obviously Joe’s pursuit of Beck is not the typical case but it does give a good warning to show an extreme of what could happen if too much information is out there.

4) The Takedown by Corrie Wang

31423554Full disclosure: I have not read this book yet, but it is on my TBR for this year and it is actually one of the books I’ve been most excited to read since I first noticed it at my local bookstore late last year. This book is about a high school student named Kyla Chen who is popular and very involved in her school. Just a week before college applications are due, a viral video is leaked of someone that appears to be Kyla having sex with her English teacher — but it isn’t her (this is not a spoiler, it is in the Goodreads synopsis), leaving Kyla to try and get the video removed from the internet. I think this book is an essential one to show the permanence of things posted online and how it is nearly impossible to get anything removed once it is uploaded. It could also be used to touch on topics about sexting or taking intimate photos/videos and the risks associated with that. It is unfortunately a topic that is becoming more relevant and I think this book could be a great way to highlight the risks.

5) Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia or Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

3193194129414576I was a little hesitant about putting these books on the list, especially Eliza and Her Monsters, because I thought they might be a bit similar to Fangirl. Both of these books feature main characters who are creators of very popular online series. For Eliza, it’s her webcomic Monstrous Sea, and for Tash it’s her modern adaptation of Anna Karenina. I think both books are great examples of how the internet can be a great medium for creativity and art, and the positive role it can play in people’s lives as members of a fandom or as content creators. I think both books are also great for addressing the importance of trying to balance online lives with your “real” life, and how there may not always be such a distinction between the two. For many people, their online friendships and online activity is as real and important as offline, and I think it’s great that these books (especially Eliza) address that.

 

 

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Top 10 Tuesdays: Back to School Freebie – School Settings on my TBR

It still feels a bit weird to be writing a back-to-school themed post when I’ve been out of school for several years now. I spent 4 years in university before deciding that I wasn’t quite ready to start working full-time immediately, so I went back and did a 3-year college program as well. I was lucky enough to be hired immediately upon graduation by an agency that I’d been hoping to work for since it first opened when I was in high school, and this summer marked the start of my 5th year there. Even after so many years of working, I still can’t help but think of September as “back to school” season. It may be because our program year also begins in September and sort of ends in June. Or it may just be a lifetime of habit. I still love to go to stores and look at all the back-to-school items. For some reason, that has always been the one kind of shopping that I actually liked to do. When I saw that this week’s topic was a school-themed freebie, I decided to look back through my TBR and find books that are set in school, preferably college or university since those seem to be in short supply. It would be too easy to pick books that are set in high school since that covers the vast majority of YA contemporary stories, so I thought college/university would be an extra level of challenge, or at least books that offer a bit of a different angle on school stories.

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 Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub

26241526Of course, I immediately break my own challenge by choosing a book that is set in high school, but this one seemed a bit different from the other YA contemporaries I’ve read. This book is about a group of five very different teenagers who are working together on the yearbook for their senior year. The Goodreads synopsis immediately reminds me of The Breakfast Club, which I liked but didn’t love. The issue I tend to have with this kind of storyline is that the characters are often very stereotypical and it makes the story pretty predictable. This one seems to have the usual group: a popular guy, a new kid, and a loner, but also mixes in two that are a little more unusual — the popular girl’s best friend, and a politician’s daughter. I’m hoping that will put a bit of a unique spin on the story, and I also like the whole yearbook idea in general. I’ve had this one on my TBR for just over a year now, but I haven’t heard too much (positive or negative) about it, even though it’s already been out for two years.

2) Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

9844I don’t know why I feel like this book has been sitting on my TBR forever, when it’s actually only been there about a year, rather than the nearly 4 years that my list has been in existence. This book is about a 14-year-old girl named Lee who is attending a prestigious boarding school in Massachusetts, which is a big change from her hometown in Indiana. Lee feels like an outsider among her wealthy peers, but works to make a place for herself in the school by the time she becomes a senior. I’ve always been a little fascinated by boarding school settings, ever since I first encountered one in the Baby-sitter’s Club series. It was never something I was seriously interested in trying for myself, but I always tend to enjoy stories in this kind of setting. The reviews for this one have been extremely mixed, so it should be interesting to eventually try it and see for myself.

3) Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

6080420I must have been looking for books with a school setting last summer, since all three of these books so far were added to my TBR on the same day. This book is about a group of girls who are assigned to the same dorm during their first year of college, and follows them through their school years. Reuniting for one of their weddings 4 years after they graduate, the women have remained close despite their friendships changing over the years. It almost reminds of a more adult version of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in a way, and although the storyline does intrigue me, I haven’t been particularly motivated to pick it up either. Looking back at the Goodreads synopsis now though, I don’t really see why I wouldn’t have given it a try yet. I think it mostly just took the backburner to other books that I wanted to read more immediately. It’s another one that seems to have received quite mixed reviews, but that seems to be common for books with this kind of theme in general.

4) Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel

29430752This one seems to be the last of that set of school-related books that I added all on the same day, and of the group, it is the one I am most interested in reading. This book is about a grad student named Kate Pearson who gets a job working in the admissions department of a competitive Day School, where she is responsible for interviewing children and helping to decide who gets in. The synopsis also mentions that Kate was recently dumped by a man who was almost her fiance, so it seems that taking this job was her way of distracting herself from the breakup. I’m not so interested in the romantic plot, but I think reading Kate’s interviews with the children and their families can be a lot of fun. Every time I see this book on my TBR, I remind myself that I have to pick it up, and I keep forgetting about it again and choosing something else. I think I will have to prioritize this one for next year.

5) Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

33898874Funny story with this one. I first heard of Laurie Gelman from her work co-hosting The Mom Show, which was pretty much the only thing on during those horrible days where I had to wake up at 6 am to make it to university or college on time for an 8 am class. I am not a morning person at all. The Mom Show is a talk show about a whole bunch of issues relating to parenting, and it is definitely not the kind of thing I would normally watch (especially when I was 18) although at 6 am, I wasn’t in any state to be picky. When I saw this book, I immediately recognized her name and wondered if it was the same person, and it turns out it was. This book is about a mother named Jen Dixon who becomes the class mom thanks to the suggestion of her best friend, who is also the head of the PTA. Jen doesn’t take her responsibilities too seriously, earning her the scorn of other parents, and she soon realizes that there is a lot more to the job than she thought when she took it — including another parent who happens to be her ex-boyfriend. This book sounds like it will be a lot of fun to read!

6) Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson

5941380Being a psych major myself, this book immediately appealed to me. I remember a university professor for my Abnormal Psychology class warning us all that psych majors tend to self-diagnose with just about every disorder they study, and cautioned us against doing that. This book follows a college student named Leigh Noalan, who has recently started her psych program at the college which her high school boyfriend is attending. Leigh has a tendency to overanalyze everything, and is good at helping her friends with their problems, but not so good at solving her own. She finds herself struggling to adjust to being in college because of the highly competitive other students, difficulties with her boyfriend, and attempting to mentor a young middle school student. It seems like the kind of book that could be very predictable, but still could be very fun to try. I think it was one of the first YA book that I saw that was set in college instead of high school, so that in itself was pretty appealing.

7) My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

35068830I was first drawn to this book by the cover art, and once I noticed it was compared to JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks, I knew I had to give it a chance. It is about an American girl named Ella who has wanted to study at Oxford since she was 13. At 24, she finally makes it there on a Rhodes Scholarship but is offered the opportunity to work on a political campaign for a rising political star back at home. She promises to work on the campaign from England for a year and then go home, until she meets a local man who ruins her first day, and also happens to be teaching her English Literature class. Ella connects with him, and is faced with the decision between giving up her political future to stay with him, or giving up the man she’s falling for. It definitely sounds like it could be comparable to Me Before You, or many of Nicholas Sparks’ books, so I’m looking forward to giving this one a try.

8) 500 Words or Less by Juleah del Rosario

34104980This is one of the books I’m most looking forward to, and it is already on my list to prioritize for next year’s reading challenges. It is about a high school senior named Nic who decides to write college admissions essays for her classmates as an attempt to salvage her own reputation. Part of the reason this book appealed to me is because my family has always had a running joke that I could very successful run an essay-writing business to write people’s assignments for them. Just to be clear, I have never written anyone else’s essay for them, but writing has always been one of my strengths and classmates would often approach me for help, especially when it came to bigger research papers. The whole concept of this book immediately appealed to me, although I was a little put off when I noticed just now that it is told in verse. I tend to have trouble with books that are written entirely in verse, because I often find that the poems just seem like regular paragraphs. Maybe that’s just my own lack of poetry knowledge though. I’m still looking forward to reading this one, and hopefully it will overcome my aversion to books in verse.

9) You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman

33299465This book isn’t due out until March 2019, so it will be a while before I can actually pick it up. It is about a high school senior named Ariel Stone who is an excellent college applicant, trying to preserve his class rank after failing a Calculus quiz. As his grade continues to drop, he reluctantly decides to hire a tutor and ends up working with Amir, a boy he has never gotten along with. When he starts to realize he might have feelings for Amir, he has to decide if he can manage adding a new relationship to his already overwhelming commitments. This book caught my interest because of the focus on academic pressure for an already high-achieving student, which is a topic that I don’t think is addressed nearly enough. I have seen many books about students who are struggling to get through school in general, and books where a student is a top student with no problems, but I’ve rarely seen one that has a character who has both. I’ve previously read one other book (Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia) that focused on academic pressure for high-achieving students, and it was one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I hope this one has the same impact.

10) Final Draft by Riley Redgate

35960813This is another of my most anticipated books, and one I’m probably going to prioritize for next year. This book just came out in June of this year, and I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about it given how many people were excited for it. It is about an 18-year-old student named Laila who is a talented writer. Three months before she is due to graduate, her creative writing teacher is replaced by a Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist who is extremely critical and does not like Laila’s stories. Laila becomes obsessed with winning her teacher’s approval and has to decide how far she is willing to go to do that. Like Riley Redgate’s other books, it features quite a diverse cast. Laila herself is pansexual, plus-size and biracial, who also has anxiety. I do find that sometimes authors run the risk of piling on too many diverse identities to one character without exploring them well enough to justify it, but if Noteworthy was an indication, this should be handled well. I’m very excited to give this one a try.

 

 

 

Monthly Recommendations: Underrated Books

I have no idea how it happened, but I somehow managed to completely miss the fact that a topic had been posted for this month. It’s probably because the Monthly Recommendations group on Goodreads in general tends to be less active than some of the reading challenge groups that I’m part of, so it gets knocked further down the list and I don’t always see when there are new posts made. Luckily, I realized it before the end of the month so I still have time to squeeze in a post! Unfortunately, I did not have as much time as I usually liked to find books that I wanted to mention, so I’m sure I’m missing something. I may need to come back to this topic again at some point. When I first saw the prompt, I wasn’t sure if I was going for books with lower ratings that I really enjoyed, or books that have very few ratings in general. I decided to go with a mix of both since I think both are underrated in a way. These also all happen to be books that I read and enjoyed this year.

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) Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

35068534This is a book that people seem to be enjoying, but not nearly enough people have read it. It has an average rating on Goodreads of 4.11 stars, but only just over 1600 ratings and even fewer reviews. It is about an African-American girl named Claudia whose best friend Monday has disappeared. The longer Monday is away, the more Claudia begins to worry and when she tries to ask Monday’s family where she is, they are evasive and behaving strangely. Claudia decides to take it upon herself to figure out what happened to Monday. I went into this book not expecting very much, since I rarely read YA mystery/thrillers, and I was completely blown away by it. I completely devoured it and I got so invested in the characters, even though I didn’t find the twist particularly surprising. I think it says a lot about a book though that I can predict what happened, and still really enjoy the storyline and the characters. I would also recommend Tiffany D. Jackson’s debut Allegedly although I have to say I liked this one a little bit more.

2) Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill

33198765I picked up this book in the first place because it reminded me of the kind of story Jodi Picoult would write, and I was not disappointed. The book has an average rating of 3.94 stars on Goodreads, based on just over 1200 ratings so it is not very well-known despite being out since last August. It is about two mothers who have not given their children the MMR vaccine, one by choice and the other because her daughter has an allergy that prevents her being able to safely get the vaccine. When their children get sick with measles, the two families find themselves at the center of a controversy about vaccines and the parents’ right to choose. The mother of the child who medically could not be vaccinated decides to file a lawsuit against the other family to argue that their decision not to vaccinate caused her daughter’s illness. I remember seeing a Law & Order episode in the past on a similar topic, and found it very interesting. I loved how the author presented the issue from a variety of angles, and in a very balanced way. It is definitely one of my favourites of the year so far.

3) Bang by Barry Lyga

31420736This is another book that became an immediate favourite because it was so powerfully written. It has an average rating of 3.99 stars on Goodreads based on about 1500 ratings. I follow quite a few Goodreads groups that discuss YA books, and this one is rarely (if ever) mentioned! The book follows a boy named Sebastian who accidentally shot and killed his infant sister when he was only four. Sebastian has been living with the guilt ever since, in a town where everyone knows about his past. This was one of the most powerful YA books that I’ve ever read, and I loved that it took a very unique topic and handled it really well. I also loved how it was not your typical YA contemporary romance where a new relationship fixes everything for the main character. Sebastian was a complex and well-written character, and the author really brought him to life. It was an absolutely outstanding book and I wish more people knew about it.

4) Crosstalk by Connie Willis

25430566This is probably the most well-known of all the books on my list, with just over 7600 ratings (with an average of 3.52 stars), but I still find it very underrated. This was one of the books I was most looking forward to reading, and I was so glad to find a copy from the library. It is a sci-fi book set in a world where people can choose to undergo a procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners, allowing them to be more attuned to each other’s feelings. When Briddey’s boyfriend Trent suggests they undergo the procedure before they get engaged, she is surprised to find that not only did the procedure not connect them, but she has connected with someone else — and is able to read his mind. This book essentially takes social media to an extreme, with a world where constant connection and communication is expected. I thought the characters were very interesting, and the storyline was fascinating. I’m so glad I finally got to read this one!

5) Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski

26176756In contrast, I think this is the least-known of all the books I’ve listed here. This book has a 3.42 star average rating, with just under 350 ratings, despite being out for more than a year. This book is about two nerdy teenagers, Meg and Linus, who are best friends and who are both gay. When Meg’s long-time girlfriend suddenly breaks up with her, she distracts herself by trying to match Linus up with his crush, despite not knowing whether this guy is even interested in boys. I thought the book was absolutely adorable and fun to read, and I loved the dynamics between the characters. Since reading it, I have seen quite a few people complain that the book practically ignores the possibility that Linus’s crush might be bi, with statements like “we don’t even know if he’s gay” without including bisexual as a possibility. Personally, that did not bother me when I read it, because I have often heard the word “gay” used as a catch-all term for gay or bi, even if that is not technically the most appropriate use of the term. However, I can see where that might be upsetting to readers. Aside from that, I thought the story was so cute and I had a great time reading it.

 

Top 5 Wednesdays: Redemption Arcs

For some reason, I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot more about redemption arcs lately, even though it is not necessarily something I’ve really paid attention to before. I am a huge fan of characters who are morally gray and I often find them a lot more compelling than characters who are all good or all even. It was really hard for me to come up with just books that fit for this topic since many of the ideas I had in mind were books I read quite a long time ago, and couldn’t remember fully enough to know much about the arc. For example, I see The Help on quite a few redemption lists and while that is one of my all-time favourite books, I can’t remember what about it is a redemption arc at all. I decided to broaden my choices to include movies or TV as well as books.

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

1) Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

gallery_ustv-buffy-the-vampire-slayer-spikeThis was the first and strongest example I could think of when it comes to a redemption arc,  with only one other tied with it (see #2 below). Spike is my favourite character on Buffy, and he actually went through a couple of redemption arcs. Technically, Angel would have been another strong example as well, but I’ve always found Spike a much more interesting and compelling character. I also still haven’t finished watching the last season of Angel, nor have I read most of the comics that came after the show. On Buffy, Spike starts out as a straight-forward “monster of the week” villain who ended up taking on a much bigger role. Over the years, he moves from openly attacking Buffy and her friends, to grudgingly helping them, and eventually becoming a real friend and protector. I think the best example of this is how he protects Dawn in Season 5, and is willing to risk his own life to keep her safe because he promised Buffy that he would. His feelings for Buffy were a huge factor in both of his redemption arcs. I’m one of the rare fans who actually really liked Season 6 and didn’t find it out of character at all given what the characters had been through. I know people greatly take issue with the infamous bathroom scene in involving Spike and Buffy, but I think it was a pivotal one for Spike’s arc. Once his soul is restored, he goes through an arc that was comparable to Angel’s, where he is forced to relive all his terrible actions and is wracked with guilt. It doesn’t help that he is tormented by The First at the same time, but ultimately Spike becomes a mature character who has learned from his past and grown a lot.

2) Severus Snape from The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

1This was the other strong example that came to mind immediately, and it is one that is very heavily debated. I still remember when (and even before) Half-Blood Prince came out and my friends and I had endless conversations about Snape and whether he was on Voldemort’s side or Dumbledore’s. I loved the way Snape’s arc was handled and I especially love how even after the truth is finally revealed, he is still a morally gray and complex character. There are no easy answers about what kind of person Snape was and whether his reasons were strong enough to justify the way he acted. Snape is doing all he can to make up for a mistake he made in the past that affected someone he felt very strongly about, and it is definitely questionable whether he should be considered a hero or a villain. He was one of the earliest examples I’d read of such a complex character, and I loved it. I would also say that Malfoy and even Sirius could also count as redemption arcs, and possibly even Dumbledore as well, and I enjoyed them all.

3) Amir from The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

77203I first read this book in high school, where it was required reading for my eleventh grade English class, and it was the first book I’d ever been forced to read in school that I really enjoyed. The book follows the life of Amir, the son of a wealthy merchant in Afghanistan, whose best friend is Hassan, the son of his father’s servant. Their class differences make Amir a target for other local boys, and despite their strong friendship, Amir fails Hassan when his friend needs him most, and ultimately gets him sent away due solely to his own guilt over what happened. Years later as an adult, Amir is still struggling with his past, and is called upon to help rescue Hassan’s son from an orphanage where he must confront his past directly. At the time, this was one of the most powerful books that I had read, and it was amazing to see how Amir’s past affected his life all the way through to adulthood. He may have been too late to redeem himself with his best friend, but he at least got a second chance through Hassan’s son.

4) Atonement by Ian McEwan

6867For me, this book is a different kind of redemption arc where it remains questionable even at the end whether the character has really been redeemed. I actually saw the movie version of this one first, and loved it so much that I decided to read the book shortly afterwards. It is about a 13-year-old girl named Briony Tallis who accuses her sister’s (Cecilia’s) childhood friend and lover, Robbie, of raping their cousin, after misunderstanding several events that lead her to develop a false impression of Robbie’s nature. Like Amir in the above example, Briony spends the rest of her life trying to deal with the consequences of her decision not only for herself, but for the impact they’ve had on the people around her. Her accusations against Robbie send him to prison, who will only be released on condition of joining the army, effectively separating him from Cecilia for years. As an adult, Briony has realized her mistake and seeks forgiveness, writing her own novel about the incident as her lifelong attempt to atone for what happened. This is another of the most powerful books I’ve read, and it is one I would love to revisit sometime.

5) A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

5326This is probably one of the most famous examples of a redemption arc, and I knew the story for many years before ever reading the book. It is a story about a bitter old man named Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by three ghosts just before Christmas who show him events from his past, present and future to try to open his heart and make him realize where his current actions are leading him. I was surprised to find I enjoyed the book a lot more than expected, considering how well I already knew the story. I really like this story in general because it puts a focus on treating other people well and looking beyond yourself and your own needs. There is a good reason that this one has become a classic, and I think that even though it is a relatively short book, it has a very interesting redemption arc for Scrooge. Using the three ghosts, it shows him the possible future he is heading toward with the possibility of change if he changes his ways. It’s funny because until just now, I never really clearly identified this as a redemption arc even though it clearly is.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Books/Ideas to Get You Out of a Reading Slump

When I first started blogging in November 2016, I made a post about the different kinds of “reading ruts” I had experienced. I hadn’t really heard the term “reading slump” at that point, but it was along the same lines. When I saw this week’s prompt, I thought it was a very interesting one. I find that many bloggers/vloggers/Goodreads members that I follow have been complaining of being in a really big rut this year for a variety of reasons. I tried to come up with a list of some specific books that might get you out of a slump, but it was a challenge since everyone’s tastes are so different. I decided to angle this week’s prompt a tiny bit differently, and focus on the different kinds of reading slumps, and what I find usually works for me. I also wanted to revisit the “reading rut” types I came up with two years ago and see if they are still a problem for me. The first five reading slump types here are the ones I identified 2 years ago (and honestly, not much has changed with those), and the remaining five are new.

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 Vortex – Constantly re-reading the same books over and over

There is absolutely nothing wrong with revisiting your favourite books and series, and I would actually often recommend that as a way to get yourself out of a slump. I know Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events have pulled me out of many slumps over the years. This can become a slump if you do nothing but constantly re-reading the same books, without trying anything new.

To get out of this slump, I would suggest starting slowly and look for books that are recommended for fans of your favourites. For example, last year I picked up The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin because it was strongly compared to my favourite author, Jodi Picoult, and it was amazing! I would also suggest going onto Goodreads or other websites and looking for recommendations based on your favourite genres or books, and try out some of those as well.

2) The Spider Web – Getting “stuck” or unable to choose a book at all

I find this slump tends to be a little different from The Vortex. You might have a ton of new or exciting books on your TBR, but there are just so many to choose from that it’s hard to know where to start. As a result, you end up choosing nothing at all. I was stuck in this kind of slump for years, where I had so many books I wanted to try but no particular motivation to any specific ones. I would end up endlessly adding new books to my list, but then get “stuck” when it came to actually choosing something since I got too overwhelmed by all the options. There were so many that seemed good, that I just couldn’t decide and ended up not picking anything at all.

To get out of this kind of slump, get yourself organized! I use Goodreads to keep track of all the books I’m interested in reading, and my TBR is currently well over 2000 books, so it’s no surprise that it can be overwhelming at times. Even just having a Goodreads TBR helps me remember the books I want, and I love to skim through it and see which ones catch my attention most. That alone can be a great first step to narrowing down your choices. You can also organize your TBR and split it into multiple lists (ie. by genre), so when you have an idea of what kind of book you feel like reading, you have a smaller pool of options to choose from, and might be able to actually make a choice. I would also highly recommend trying a prompts-based reading challenge (as opposed to one that is just “Read X number of books by the end of the year”), since that gives some direction by giving specific kinds of books to find. It becomes like a scavenger hunt, and makes it fun to choose books. It could also help to use a TBR jar or something similar to pick books at random, and take the choice out of your own hands.

3) The Doorstop – A book that is very slow-paced, or just takes forever to finish

I’ve learned over the years that literally any book can become a doorstop. The biggest doorstops for me tend to be books that are very long, slow-paced or that have a lot of old-fashioned language. I got stuck for a long time on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court because of the language, but I was also surprised to find that Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai was a doorstop too! It’s a middle grade book that is under 300 pages, but I just could not get into it at all, and it felt like it took forever to get through, even when it didn’t.

My biggest advice for getting through this kind of slump is to stop putting pressure on yourself. When your Goodreads challenge starts to tell you how many books behind your goal you are, it can get a bit intimidating. Seeing a really long or complex book ahead can make you feel like you’re falling further and further behind, and lead to the perception of it as a doorstop. Or, starting a book to find you’re just not that into it and are taking it slow can also feel like a doorstop. I would suggest switching it up by using a different format, or alternating small parts of the doorstop book with something that you find more motivating. Another option is to pick up books that are light or short and easy to get through. Graphic novels usually work well for me, and I would highly recommend Nimona, Anya’s Ghost, or Seconds.

4) The Full Plate – You want to read, but you’re just don’t have much time

This was literally me for all of the years I was in university and college. I had too much schoolwork, and since most of that was reading, the last thing I wanted to do at the end of the day was read anything else. Even now when I’m working full time, I purposely devote some time each day to reading and I do my best to make sure I have at least an hour or two a day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a busy and active life or taking a break from reading for a while, but some people might consider it a slump if they feel like they are falling behind on their goals.

To get through this one, there are two main options. The first is to accept the fact that you don’t have much time right now and don’t guilt yourself about doing other things. I’m definitely the type who sometimes needs to remind myself that it is okay not to be getting through books as quickly as I would like. The second option is to set realistic daily goals for short periods of reading whenever you can. Even if that means reading just 5 pages after dinner, or listen to a few minutes of an audiobook when you’re on your way to work, every little bit helps. This is another case where short or quick books might also work, since you can make a lot of progress very quickly.

5) The Losing Streak – You keep picking up book after book that you’re just not enjoying

This is another one that’s been a problem for me, but actually more for watching anime than for reading. I went through a couple of years where I watched a lot of anime (because my boyfriend is a huge fan and gave me many recommendations), but after watching mediocre show after mediocre show, I found I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore and mostly stopped watching. The same can definitely happen with books, and reading too many in a row that you’re just not enjoying can kill motivation to read.

To get out of this kind of rut, you can revisit an old favourite to try and spark your motivation back up, or branch out and really try something new and different. Try a brand new genre, or a different format than you normally read. I also usually skim through my TBR on Goodreads and see what jumps out at me. There’s still no guarantee that you’ll like what you pick, but it could at least break the cycle. It also could be a good opportunity to pick up a hyped book you’ve been meaning to try, but it’s a bit risky since if you’re already beginning to slump, you may not enjoy it as much as you would have otherwise.

6) “It’s Not You, It’s Me” – You’re just not in the mood for the book you picked, so you end up not enjoying the book you chose 

I think this one kind of goes hand in hand with the Full Plate in a way, but it’s not limited to just being too busy. I’m a huge mood reader, so I tend to take out a bunch of books from the library at the same time so I have options to choose from based on what I feel like picking up at the time. Sometimes, you’re just not in the mood to read anything at all. I have days where I end up reading when I’m too distracted to properly focus, and it’s honestly such a waste since you end up not taking anything in. Or, I’ve picked up books because they were due back to the library soon even though I’d really rather be reading something else.

To get past this kind of slump, I usually do what I mentioned above and find ways to give myself options to choose from. If I’m really not in the mood for a book at all for extended periods, I just don’t read it. It’s tough sometimes because I’m picking books for reading challenges, so if I scrap one, I need to find something else that fits the same prompt. Sometimes that is very difficult, but there are usually ways to find books that fit or stretch the prompt slightly to read something you really want. If you’re stuck on a book that you’re not in the mood for now but think you might enjoy later, there’s no shame in putting it down and coming back to it another time.

7) The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy – You go into the book expecting not to like it very much, and then you end up not liking it

This one is one of the biggest problems for me! I’ve learned over the past couple of years that if I go into a book expecting not to like it, I often won’t. There are always cases where I’m pleasantly surprised (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), or where I’m disappointed by something I expect to love (The Hangman’s Daughter), but I’ve often found my attitude toward the book has a really strong effect on what I’ll think of it. In general, I try to pick books that I’m reasonably certain I will like, but I find with every challenge I do, there are always a few that I’m not so interested in but pick up anyway to fulfill a prompt. I find this kind of slump also tends to happen most with genres or types of books that you’re just not that interested in. For me, that’s usually non-fiction, so I tend to go into them expecting to be bored, and end up being bored.

To get past this kind of slump, try your best to keep expectations realistic and to into each book without any preconceived ideas. This is especially difficult when a book becomes extremely overhyped (The Hate U Give, The Raven Boys, etc.) or when you’ve seen a ton of negative reviews. I would suggest looking carefully at the synopsis before picking up the book and thinking about whether it is something that really appeals to you, or if you’re reading it because of hype or recommendations. You could also try a chapter/set number of pages and decide based on that instead of immediately committing to reading the whole thing. Once you get a taste of how the book is and whether it is what you’re looking for, you can make a more accurate judgment of whether to continue.

8) The Copycats – You’ve read many books in a row that are very similar to each other, and you’re getting bored of reading the same thing again and again

I’ve seen this pattern happen quite a bit with YA contemporary, thrillers, and dystopians, but I’m sure it could happen for any genre. For me, this tends to happen most often with YA contemporaries since I never seem to balance my library holds very well. This kind of slump happens when the books you’re reading all feel like rehashes of each other with the same tropes and very similar characters. It makes them feel predictable and just boring to read one after the other.

In my opinion, this is the easiest kind of slump to get out of. I tend to naturally build some variety into my book choices specifically to avoid this problem. You can make yourself a tentative TBR for the next few books you want to read, and ensure that it includes a variety. Mix things up with books of different lengths, genres, formats, etc. If you’re only really interested in one or two genres, take breaks between books and either read something else or wait a couple of days before picking up the next one to get some distance.

9) The Leapfrog – You are reading one book, but constantly looking ahead to what you want to read next, or jumping from book to book without finishing any

I think there are two different kinds of Leapfrog slump, depending whether you read more than one book at a time or not. I personally have never been able to focus on more than one book at a time. I would always default to reading just the one that interests me most before switching, so it seemed pointless for me to try to balance multiples. For those who can read many at once, leapfrogging would be jumping from book to book because you can’t settle on just one, which results in hardly moving forward on any of them individually. For people who read only one at a time, it would look more like reading one book while constantly trying to look ahead at your upcoming books and thinking about what to read next. Either way, the book you’re reading now is having a hard time holding your attention.

Switching from one book to another, even rapidly like this, is not necessarily a bad thing since it encourages variety and lets you make progress on many interesting books at the same time. It only really becomes a slump when you find it getting in the way of making any real progress. To counter this, I would suggest making a (flexible) reading schedule to help keep your reading balanced or focus on the books that interest you most. For the one-at-a-time readers, make a TBR list to get your upcoming books off your mind, and set it aside until you’ve finished what you’re reading. Or, if you’re really not enjoying the book you have now, put it down for a while and pick up something more motivating. You can always come back to the other one later.

10) The Burnout – You’ve read so many books in a row lately, and now you’re just tired of reading in general

This one tends to be the biggest problem for me toward the end of the year, when my challenges are complete (if there is extra time). I can finish an average-length book in general every 2-3 days, assuming I have a decent amount of time to read, which means I can easily finish well over 100 books in a year. It’s great for making a small dent in my massive TBR list, but it can also lead to the feeling of reading too much too quickly. Reading book after book after book can make you feel burnt out on reading in general, even if there are plenty more books you want to read.

To get past this one, take a break! No one should feel that they have to read all the time, especially since it is supposed to be fun and relaxing. Keep in mind that the pressure of completing a reading challenge by a specific date is completely self-imposed. There are no challenge police who are going to come and check your book choices or when you finished them, so it’s up to you to decide when you want to read, what kind of books, and how many. Do your best to set realistic goals for yourself and take into account other life commitments that might limit your time, without necessarily viewing them as taking away from your reading time. Give yourself time between books. If you’re concerned about finishing a challenge in time, either extend your deadline or give yourself planned time off in between books to refresh yourself.

 

Discussion: The Problem With Online Communities (Part 2)

Last year, I made a pair of posts (here and here) about some of the issues I’d noticed in some of the online communities that I was a part of, and in particular a Goodreads reading challenge group. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to revisit this topic, but unfortunately it seems that the same group is still struggling with some of the same challenges. The group that I am part of is a user-driven reading challenge, which creates a list of prompts for next year’s challenge using a series of suggestions by group members, which are then voted on. When a certain number of suggestions are reached, a poll is set up where members can vote on their favourites and vote against their least favourites, and the winners of each poll make the final list for a total of 52 prompts (one per week). As I mentioned last year, this group has always been one of my favourite Goodreads groups because it is by far the most interactive and avoids many of the problems I see in other groups, but once again it has devolved into an environment where members are feeling singled out and attacked. While my focus for this post is on that one group, I also want to touch on a couple of other problems I’ve seen in other challenge groups I belong to.

I am apologizing in advance that this has become a very long post, but it is something that has been bothering me all week and I felt the need to get it all out.

Group Dynamics: Changing Rules Based on Discussions

Last year, many members of the group pointed out an overall negative atmosphere which left them feeling that the group was not as fun as it had been in the past. A lot of negativity seemed to stem from certain members, myself included, asking questions about the voting process since we had noticed some unusual patterns or things that have changed compared to previous years. For example, several members questioned why in the past we had consistently had a full Top 4 after each poll, whereas that year we frequently saw less than 4 results. While the moderators in charge of the voting did offer an explanation, it left some of us confused. It felt as though any attempts to question it further were treated as just complaining, even when the members who were posing the questions were just seeking information.

This year, this kind of challenge seems to have not only persisted, but become an even bigger issue. It is natural for the voting process to be dynamic and evolve over time as the group offers their feedback, and that on its own is not necessarily a problem. Where is does become a challenge is when the rules are changed frequently and rapidly. In the course of about 8 weeks with one poll per week, there have already been about 5 changes to rules. Some of these rules were necessary to ensure there were more opportunities for everyone to participate regardless of time zone, and some were based on member feedback about the list itself.

One of the issues we saw early on this year was that the moderators frequently had to get involved in the suggestion threads to remind people of the most basic rules which are in place every time. Members are asked to either make a suggestion for a prompt, OR second one that has already been suggested.  The same person cannot do both in the same poll. In order to make the poll, a prompt must be suggested by someone and only one other person needs to show interest by seconding it. The suggestion thread remains open until a specified number of seconded suggestions is reached, and then that thread is closed and a poll is opened for people to vote on. This is outlined quite clearly in the list of rules provided at the top of each thread. It seems that we have quite a few new members participating this year who were still learning the rules, since in the first couple of polls, we saw many people who were both suggesting and seconding. It sometimes led to confusion in the threads about which prompts had made the list to be voted on, and which were still available to be seconded.

In the span the 8 weeks we’ve had so far there have already been several changes. For example, the group had originally voted that there would only be one “multi-week prompt” (a set of 2-4  prompts linked by a theme or more direct connections between books) allowed on the list. A 4-week prompt was chosen from a poll devoted only to multi-week prompts, and many of us were under the impression that no other multi-week prompts would be allowed. After a small amount of discussion where some users indicated an interest in more multi-week prompts, the rules were changed to allow them in any poll. This led to some frustration from members who had been under the impression that the decision to limit ourselves to one, as voted on earlier in the year, would stand. I understand that not everyone in the group agreed with the decision at the time since many people had voted to allow more, and it seemed that the moderators changed the rule in response to that feedback. It left the rest of us feeling a little annoyed that the results of the vote were ignored because of a few people speaking up in the chat, but in the long-run, it wasn’t a big deal.

Over the course of the next few prompts, the rules changed a few times again. A rule was implemented to drop the total number of seconded suggestions per poll from 20 to 15, because people seemed to think that having 20 options to choose from was splitting the votes too much, and leading to difficulties getting a clear winner. Shortly after that, another new rule was implemented asking people who had participated in the previous suggestion thread to wait for the latest thread to be open 24 hours before participating, to allow other members to have a chance. The suggestion threads in general tend to fill up very quickly, and those of us who are on the forums more frequently would often end up participating more. Again, neither of these rules were necessarily a bad thing on their own, but it was more to do with the frequency of changes when we’d already had considerable confusion at the start of the year about the basic rules.

The moderators rightfully pointed out that anyone who read the list of rules at the start of each thread shouldn’t have a problem, but it was clear that this was not always happening.  follow the discussions about the voting process quite closely, and even I was very surprised by some of the rule changes. There were a couple of changes implemented that seemed to happen rather suddenly, after a tiny bit of discussion where it seemed like no conclusions were drawn. For example, I was surprised to open the thread for one poll and learn that we were moving from 20 suggestions down to 15. I had seen the discussion about it, but it didn’t look like any conclusions had been made.  When we implemented the 24 rule, I was under the impression that it was for one poll only, so I was surprised to find that it was now the rule in every subsequent poll. Maybe part of that is on me for making assumptions, but it still left me feeling a bit blindsided by the changes. I went along with them anyway since they were really not a big deal, but I remember feeling confused.

I was also a bit irritated by the “But what about me?!” attitude that I saw through some of the discussions. Many members complained that the suggestions happened so quickly that the thread was opened and closed before they even had the chance to participate. Keep in mind that there are generally 13 or more polls through the year, and they open at different times and often on different days, so there are plenty of opportunities to participate. The main reason I was irritated by this is because the overall attitude seemed to be that it was unfair to have threads open where any portion of the group wouldn’t have a chance to participate. I have nothing at all against the group trying to be as inclusive as possible, and I’m all for opening one or two suggestion threads that would benefit people whose schedules don’t allow them much time to participate otherwise, but it seemed that these complaints came from only a handful of people who had very different scheduling needs from each other. In a group with over 100 people actively voting, it is next to impossible to schedule things so they can catch everyone. In reality, I would think the voting process is more important than the suggestions unless someone has a prompt they would really badly like the suggest. As expected, when a thread opened at an alternate time to allow more or different people to participate, it wasn’t very active until some of the more regular members came back in. It left the impression that the moderators were trying to bend over backwards to appease everyone. As much as it is disappointing to miss out on the suggestion thread, I think each of us needs to understand that sometimes real life gets in the way and there are still plenty more opportunities to participate available.

The Challenges of Moderating

I unfortunately feel the need to put a disclaimer on this section, even knowing that people from this group are unlikely to be reading this. A group of this size and with so many different opinions is very difficult to moderate, and in general, I think the moderators are doing a great job at trying to keep everything on track. The moderators really are doing their best to keep the process running smoothly, and I definitely don’t envy the amount of work it requires of them.

With that said, I find myself very frustrated with some of the moderators this year and especially with the way they have been responding to group members. Several times this year, myself and another member who I speak to via private message have noticed that the moderators seem to be less present during the suggestion process. There appears to be only one moderator actively involved in those threads, which in itself is problematic since it is a lot of work to keep up with the rapid pace at which suggestions often come in. A few times this year, we have noticed that the moderator did not seem to be around much during the process. This in itself is not a problem. Like all of us, she has her own life and outside commitments, and no one is expecting her to babysit the thread at all times. The problem is, several of us have noticed frequent problems that occur when the moderators are not around which lead to confusion in the process. In the past, it  has been very helpful to have the top post in the thread kept as up-to-date as possible so we can all see which prompts have been suggested, which have made the list, and which are still available to be seconded. When the suggestions come in very quickly, I’m sure it is hard for her to update as frequently as needed, and again this is fine.

When the moderator is not around, we tend to see a lot of the same problems. People are both suggesting and seconding things, people are seconding things that have already been seconded, and it becomes nearly impossible to keep track of how many suggestions we have reached on the thread. Myself and another member decided to give some feedback on the process to point out that the threads have seemed very confusing lately, and it has been difficult to keep track of suggestions. The moderators quickly became defensive and pointed out that it is  their job to keep track of the numbers and no one else should worry about it, that they can’t  be expected to watch the thread for hours and update every single time someone posts, etc. Essentially, our feedback was taken completely out of context and treated as a criticism when that was not the intent at all. Earlier in the year, I had also offered some feedback stating that we should be cautious with the number of rule changes since it might be hard for people to keep up. This also seemed to be viewed as a criticism of the mods and the general response I got was “Well, everyone should just read the rules at the start of the thread, and then there won’t be any problems.” Meanwhile, we had seen quite clearly that either people weren’t reading the rules, or weren’t sticking to them anyway, since there were frequent problems.

Recently, the moderators made a mistake that led to a member’s suggestion almost getting excluded from a poll for the second time in a row. The first time, her suggestion was made and was seconded after we had already reached the total of 15 needed. That person decided to suggest her prompt again in the following poll, and was told that she must wait 24 hours because she had participated in the previous one. Another member stepped in to point out that this wasn’t true because that person’s suggestion had come in after the thread should have been closed. It spun off into a heated debate and a lot of frustration on both sides. The moderator took issue with the person pointing out her mistake and became upset when she was told that the decision was “unfair.” I should be clear that the member who pointed out the mistake did so in a respectful way, and offered details to support her claim. The moderators focused on the fact that they didn’t like the way the issue was brought to their attention, and got stuck on the fact that if it had been mentioned to them earlier, they would have rectified the problem. This was irritating to see because it puts the onus on the group members to find the mistakes and point them out in a timely enough fashion — which I believe should be the moderator’s job. It was especially frustrating since this same moderator had already made a number of other mistakes during previous polls. To be fair, when these were pointed out she did quickly acknowledge and fix them, which just goes to the point that her attitude about it was unwarranted. It seemed that she took the complaint very personally, when that was not the intent at all.

What complicated the matter even further was when other members jumped into the discussion to defend the moderators and remind everyone of how hard they work and what a great job they are doing. That’s great and all, but that’s not at all what the discussion was about. Because of all the defensiveness, what should have been a very simple discussion turned into an argument and once again left members feeling negatively about the group. Those of us who had tried in the past to offer feedback that went against what the moderators thought felt silenced, and the moderators felt attacked. When another member jumped in to support the person who had pointed out the mistake, she was told by someone defending the moderators that her posts often come across negative and dismissive. For me, that was a comment that really crossed a line since her posting style in general had nothing to do with the topic at hand, and if anything just went to show why some of us were beginning to feel unwelcome.

Like last year, it became an issue of negativity and the discussion quickly turned to constructive criticism vs. complaining. Even the moderator herself eventually made a comment that openly stated that the she did not believe the person who had pointed out the mistake had meant to be constructive. After reading through the entire thread thoroughly and more than once, I honestly don’t understand where she got that impression. It is very difficult to provide open and honest feedback in a setting where people are likely to take it personally, and that is not something that I would expect from moderators. They are only human and it’s natural that they can feel their work is not being appreciated, but at the end of the day, I think group members should be able to express themselves (respectfully) and have their concerns heard in order to keep the group running. The result of this incident is that several group members have once again become uncomfortable posting anything at all because they are sure it will get misinterpreted. It’s unfortunate since the lively discussions in the group are part of what make it so fun to participate in. This can’t happen when members are worried about their comments being misinterpreted, and it definitely can’t happen when people feel that they are unable to post the way they want for fear of being deemed too negative.

As a last point, I should note that this group has always said that it is open to feedback and often actively encourages people to share their opinions. We have a thread devoted to the process itself and people’s ideas and suggestions for how to improve upon it available year-round, and the moderators often actively solicit feedback at the end of the year from members about how the process was for them. However, for a group that claims to be so open to feedback, it often ends up feeling quite dismissive and hard to get opinions heard. After a discussion with a couple of other members, we noticed a tendency for longer comments to be interpreted as negative or rants, and for any form of constructive feedback to be interpreted as criticism or an attack on moderators. When other members jump in to remind us that the mods are doing a great job, it ignores the actual content of the feedback and switches the focus to a personal level, when that was never the intent. When members are criticized for the way they pointed out a mistake, even when they made every effort to do so respectfully, it leaves us feeling unwelcome to comment anything that is even remotely negative. It’s unfortunate that the process has begun to feel so chaotic, and I personally do believe it is a direct result of the moderators seeming less present. I honestly don’t know how much they were in the threads last year, but I don’t remember feeling that the threads weren’t updated or that the suggestions were confusing in the past. The mods are quick to point out that they don’t think they’ve been less involved either, and while that might be true, when several of us are giving feedback that the process has felt chaotic and confusing, going on the defensive doesn’t really help to solve that problem. All that does is cause bad feelings on both sides, and members really shouldn’t feel that moderators don’t like them or don’t welcome their comments. As I said last year, it is important for groups to be able to have open and honest communication and feedback, even including the negative, and I really hope this group can get back on track.

 

Top 5 Wednesdays: Freebie – 5 More Books that Have Been on My TBR the Longest, and I Still Haven’t Read

I’m pretty sure that I’m going to set myself some kind of unofficial goal next year to read books that have been on my TBR for 3 years or more. I started my Goodreads account in 2015, and at first I mostly added classics and other books that I’d consider long-term goals to my TBR. A lot of those were things like the entire Wizard of Oz series, or all of the Anne of Green Gables books. I tend not to post about these books, but I can if anyone is interested in the classics I have on my TBR as well. These are books that I’d like to read eventually, but they are very low on my priority list. The more I began to explore Goodreads, the more I discovered new books and started to use my TBR to keep track of books that I thought might interest me and that I wanted to remind myself to read. I’ve posted about the books that have been on my TBR for a very long time several times in the past year. By the end of July last year (the closest I could find to exactly a year ago), my TBR was at 1550 books, and it now sits at 2278! I actually find it strangely fun to browse through my massive TBR list, and remind myself of all the books I’ve been wanting to read. It’s very rare that I’ll actually lose interest in something completely and remove it, but it at least gives me an extra push to prioritize it.

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) Modern Monsters by Kelley York

23014835I think I actually recently considered buying this one from Book Outlet, but ended up deciding against it. I added this one to my list toward the end of August 2015 alongside many other YA contemporary books, and I hadn’t heard of it at all until I saw it on Goodreads. It is about a guy named Vic whose popular best friend convinces him to go to a party, where he ends up held responsible for something horrible that happens to a girl, Callie. Vic teams up with Callie’s best friend to try and uncover the truth and clear his name. This is one of many “issues” books that I have on my TBR, and as much as the synopsis tries to leave it vague, I think it’s pretty obvious what Vic is accused of doing. It does not seem to be a particularly popular book and none of the reviewers I follow have read it or even indicated any interest, but it seems like it could be an interested YA book to try.

2) The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty

566850I think I initially assumed that Laura Moriarty was related to Liane Moriarty after reading and loving Big Little Lies, but there is actually no relation. This book is told from the perspective of Leigh, a mother of a high-achieving high school student named Kara who makes a tragic mistake, which affects not only the family but their entire community. It interested me because it was compared to Jodi Picoult for its focus on a moral dilemma and the character-driven nature of the story, so that seems like something that would definitely interest me. I’m not a huge fan of such vague synopses though, which I think is part of why I’ve put this one off for so long. It’s hard to say whether I’ll be interested in reading it when the only information given is that it is about a difficult mother-daughter relationship, and a horrible mistake. I have several of Laura Moriarty’s books on my TBR though since they all sound very intriguing, so I’m sure it’s about time I pick one up.

3) What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

20933641I added this one to my list alongside two more of Jessica Verdi’s books, so I’m assuming I found them while looking for YA contemporaries. This one in particular is about a boy named Ryden, whose girlfriend Meg stopped her chemo treatments when she became pregnant and passed away. Struggling to care for his daughter on his own and to graduate from high school, he meets Joni who starts to make him feel like himself again, but she doesn’t know that he has a child. When Ryden finds one of Meg’s old journals, it stirs up the past and he thinks she left other notebooks for him with a message to help make sense of his future. In all honesty, it all seems a bit melodramatic, but I’m also intrigued by the story. It’s not very common to see books that focus on single fathers, and especially not single teenage fathers, so that alone is enough to keep my interest. The reviews for this one have been pretty mixed, and I feel like it’s the kind of book I’d really need to be in the mood for, which is probably why I haven’t read it since adding it to my TBR.

4) The Next Together by Lauren James

23266378I think I added this one to my TBR in the first place because it reminded me a tiny bit of The Time Traveler’s Wife, even though it is actually very different. This book is about a couple named Katherine and Matthew, who are destined to be reborn repeatedly throughout history, and every time they fall in love only to be tragically separated. I’m not the biggest fan of time travel stories in general, but something about this one keeps drawing me back to it and I think it may be one that I’ll have to try soon (at least, maybe for next year’s reading challenges). Part of what put me off is that this is not really a genre I tend to go for very often, and I think part of the deterrent was the fact that it was labelled as part of a series, and for a while I was avoiding series in general. I’ve discovered that it is just a duology, with a few optional short stories available, so it’s not even really a series. I keep coming back to this one, and that maybe a sign that it’s time to give it a chance.

5) The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

11387392I’m completely at a loss for how this one made it onto my TBR in the first place, since I very rarely read anything paranormal. This book is about a girl named Brie who dies of a broken heart when her boyfriend tells her he doesn’t love her. Brie discovers that she is dead and living as a “Lost Soul” in a version of the afterlife. Guided by Patrick, who seems to be some kind of angel, Brie needs to move through the five stages of grief in order to be ready to move on, by observing the aftermath of her death and realizing that her life may not have been what she thought. It seems to be a little bit like A Christmas Carol, which I did enjoy, but it is definitely very different from the kind of book I would normally pick up. I can actually see this one going either way — it could either be amazing and very powerful, or I could find it completely stupid. It’s received an overall rating of just over 4 stars on Goodreads based on just under 15,000 ratings though so that seems to be a decent indicator that people like it. Something about it seems interesting enough to give it a try, but I can definitely see why it was low on my priority list.