Top 5 Wednesday: Fictional Places You’d Take a Date To

I was so stressed out to see two settings-related topics in the same week! I found this prompt a little easier than yesterday’s Top 10 Tuesday, but that may just have to do with needing half as many books to fulfill the prompt! Mostly, I was worried about being too repetitive with my choices, since some of the places I’d want to visit are probably also places I would bring a date to. I liked this one better because it seemed a tiny bit more focused, and let me really hone in one specific places, such as restaurants or shops, instead of broader settings. It also was fun to think about what kinds of places would be fun to go to on a date.

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) Hogsmeade from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)

I originally was going to specifically choose Honeydukes alone, but I decided that the entire town of Hogsmeade sounds like a fun place for a date. I think it would be fun to walk around and check out all the different shops, and to stop for a drink in either Madam Puddifoot’s or The Three Broomsticks. I think Honeydukes is still at the top of my list to visit since I love chocolate, and I’m sure there would be a great variety of treats to try. I’d also love to visit Zonko’s since that sounds like a lot of fun (although I’d also prefer to visit Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes in Diagon Alley!).

2) Le Cirque des Reves from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

It would probably be tough to find this circus, since it shows up without warning and without notice, but it sounds like such an incredible place to visit. This circus features amazing sights, including an ice garden, a cloud maze, and a variety of performers. I would especially love to go on a date there at the time that the book was set, where Celia and Marco were competing and adding new things to it every day. I think it would be fun to have this kind of unique experience on a date and be able to witness all the interesting acts and everything else that the circus has to offer.

3) The Letter Library from Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

To be fair, I’m not sure if this is a place that a date would necessarily want to go to, but I think it would be a fun and different way to spend time together. I actually intended to include this place on my list yesterday, but intentionally decided to save it since it seemed like such a great date location if I was with someone who was interested. The Letter Library is a section of the bookstore owned by one of the main characters, where the books are not for sale and people are encouraged to annotate them, leave notes in them for others, etc. I think it would be so much fun to spend a few hours at The Letter Library looking through the books and seeing what kinds of messages people chose to leave, or to leave some of our own.

4) Our Daily Bread from The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

It’s kind of funny how often this book seems to come up on my blog considering I’ve only read it once, several years ago. Our Daily Bread is the bakery where the main character Sage works, and I would absolutely love to visit it on a date. I absolutely love freshly baked bread, and all kinds of baked goods in general. I think it would be a great place to meet a date and enjoy a meal or a snack. Although the bakery is far from the main focus of this book, the delicious food that Sage bakes is mentioned several times and I remember they sounded so good! I’m totally up for a date like this where we can enjoy some treats and have the chance to talk.

5) A Starfall Celebration from the A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

If I’m completely honest, I didn’t remember this one in much detail until I started browsing other people’s posts on this topic to jog my memory a bit. ACOMAF may have been my favourite book in this series (although it is a tough call!) and I think I’d  love to take a date to the Starfall Celebration since it seems like such a beautiful and romantic event, celebrated by gathering on balconies to watch the skies, and there is also music and dancing.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Places Mentioned in Books I’d Like to Visit

I don’t know why, but I felt like I did this kind of topic very recently. It wasn’t until I looked back at my previous posts that I realized I haven’t done this topic since December 2017! The funny thing is, the last time I posted about this topic, I also thought I’d recently done it before, but I hadn’t. I guess it was such a struggle for me at the time that it stuck with me. Even more frustratingly, many of the locations that I had in mind were the same as the ones that I had already listed last time.  Prompts about settings are always a real challenge for me since it is not something that I generally find particularly memorable. I’m much more likely to remember a book for the characters or the overall story instead. Even if I know that I enjoyed the setting of a book, it is not something I remember very well. For example, I know that I found the courts in the ACOTAR series fascinating, but I couldn’t necessarily recall details of each one without something to jog my memory.

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 Burrow (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)

Last time, I mentioned both Hogwarts and Hogsmeade with an honourable mention to Diagon Alley. I didn’t want to be repetitive, but I also couldn’t miss out on more of the amazing settings mentioned in this series. I would love to visit the Burrow to meet the Weasley family and enjoy some of Mrs. Weasley’s delicious cooking.

2) The Capitol (The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins)

I’m opposed to The Capitol in general for the way they treat people and the entire concept of The Hunger Games that they developed, but if you take it as just a place removed from all the politics, it would be a very interesting place to visit. It has an excess of delicious food, advanced technology, and plenty of time for entertainment. Of course, I would love if the entertainment options didn’t involve human sacrifices, but I’m sure there could be a much wider variety developed.

3) Misselthwaite Manor (The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett)

I’ve always been a little obsessed with this story, ever since I watched the cartoon movie version when I was about 8. The manor is a little creepy, but it also sounds like it could be fun to explore such a mysterious building. It would also be great to see the amazing secret garden that Mary and her friends revitalized.

4) The Paris Opera House (The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux)

I’m not really a fan of opera in general. I’d much rather see a play or a musical instead, but this building sounds so grand and beautiful. I think it would be amazing to visit this opera house to see a show, and to see the stunning architecture — although I would definitely want to stay out of the Phantom’s lair.

5) Tuscany, Italy  (Love & Gelato by Jenna Welch Evans)

I wasn’t a huge fan of this book, but I would definitely love to visit Italy. I tried gelato for the first time last year and I loved it, so it would be great to go to Italy and try some authentic Italian gelato too. Aside from the food, Italy has always been a country that I’ve been interested in visiting because of the historic sites, and I’ve heard that the country is really beautiful.

6) Santorini, Greece (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares)

Again, this wasn’t one of my favourite books but it definitely included a setting that I’d love to see. Greece is another country that has been at the top of my list. To be fair, I think it was the movie more than the book that really convinced me that I wanted to see this country, but it looks amazing! Actually, I have to say that the movie in general did a fantastic job of bringing this book to life, and it especially made me want to travel to Greece.

7) Henrietta, Virginia/Cabsewater (The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater)

This was the first series that I’d read in a long time that seemed to capture the same kind of vibe that I got the first time I read Harry Potter, and I think the setting was a big part of that. I’m actually not even 100% sure whether Henrietta is real or fictional, but it sounds like such an interesting place to visit. Cabeswater especially seems fascinating to visit although I’m not really sure what I’d expect to see there either.

8) Salem, Massachusetts (The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry)

I have always been fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials, and I think this would be such an interesting town to visit. I would love to go to Salem and see all the historic sites that I’m sure they would have to describe these events. I think it is so scary that people could treat each other this way, although it is not necessarily hard to imagine how it could get to that point, unfortunately. Of all the places on this list, I would imagine this is the most realistic for me to potentially visit.

9) Luella’s (The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert)

Again, this was not my favourite book but I would love to visit Luella’s restaurant, which is the restaurant that is owned by the main character, Lou. Actually, the way this book described Milwaukee in general made it sound like it might be fun to visit, at the very least to enjoy the variety of great food. Milwaukee has never been a place on my radar to visit, but this book at least got me to consider it. I specifically would love to visit Luella’s because Lou is supposed to be a very strong and creative chef. I actually can’t remember whether she stuck with Luella’s in the end or if she changed it to a new restaurant, but whichever she had at the end is the one I’d really love to see.

10) Lea’s Antiquarian Booksellers (The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield)

I love browsing bookstores of any kind, although I do have a slight preference for shops that sell new books. I have a dust allergy so it can be hard for me to be around very old books, like the kind they might have at Lea’s Antiquarian Booksellers. I loved this bookshop because it was a family business that seemed so important to Margaret, and I absolutely adored the way the author described the store and Margaret’s love of books in general. It sounds like such an amazing place to visit.

Stacking the Shelves (#16)

It’s not such a surprise that I’ve added relatively fewer books to my TBR this month, since it is a bit of a shorter month anyway. Usually I save Stacking the Shelves for the very end of the month, but I somehow doubt I’ll be adding too many more books in the next four days alone, although you never know! The routine has already been a little thrown off anyway  because there was a Top 10 Tuesday topic in January asking for recent additions to my TBR too, but I’ve added quite a few books that I think are worth mentioning. This month, I added about 45 books to my TBR, which is actually probably one of the smaller numbers I’ve added in a single month in a long time. It’s a little intimidating to think about that actually, since I often add close to 100 books per month, but read somewhere between 12 and 15 per month.

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) Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

41716679I actually added this one to my TBR in January and meant to add it to my last Stacking the Shelves post, but somehow forgot to include it. I added it to my list because I read Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation, and I loved it! This book is due out in June, and it is about two sisters and their mother, who are Chinese immigrants, after the disappearance of the eldest daughter, Sylvie, who vanishes after flying to the Netherlands to visit their sick grandmother one last time. Her sister Amy decides to retrace Sylvie’s steps to try and figure out what happened to her, and discovers that Sylvie had secrets that reveal a lot more about her family than Amy ever imagined. The synopsis reminds me a tiny bit of Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, which I also loved, and in general I tend to enjoy books that involve family dynamics and family secrets. This one sounds like it will be very interesting, and I love how it also incorporates the immigrant angle, since that was something I found very strong in Girl in Translation. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to squeeze this one in this year, but I’m really looking forward to reading it.

2) The Chai Factor by Farah Heron

40402362This is another book that I added to my list at the end of January, and it is also due out this June. I found it while browsing upcoming contemporary releases, and it sounded like an interesting story. This book is about a 30-year-old woman named Amira who has promised herself that she will not date until she has finished her grad school thesis. She plans to work in the quiet basement of her family’s home, only to discover that the space has been rented out to a barbershop quartet who needs to rehearse for a competition. Amira quickly clashes with Duncan, one of the members of the quartet, but when she realizes she is attracted to him, she questions how it can work when he doesn’t understand her or her culture. It’s surprisingly hard to find books that deal with interracial relationships, so that alone is a reason for me to pick this one up. I also often enjoy stories about people who are very different learning to get along, and hate-to-love relationships in general, so this sounds like something I would enjoy.

3) The Risk of Us by Rachel Howard

38357168I found this one while looking for books to fulfill a challenge prompt requiring a book about a non-traditional family. It is a relatively short book, at just over 200 pages, about a 40-year-old woman who wants to become a mother, and she and her husband take in a foster child named Maresa. Although they love Maresa, she is a troubled child and approaching the age where it becomes very difficult for children to be placed in homes. The couple needs to decide whether they can be the kinds of parents Maresa seems to need, as the time comes for them to finalize the adoption. To be honest, the fact that this book is so short puts me off a bit since 200 pages does not really seem like enough time to develop such a complex story. I’m still willing to give it a try since I have not read many books that have to do with the foster system, although it is a very important topic that does not seem to receive nearly enough attention. I have also a review that commented that the unnamed narrator is very similar to the author’s own real life, although I’m not entirely sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m definitely interested in seeing more reviews of this one when it comes out in April before I decide how much I want to read it.

3) Bloom by Kevin Panetta

29225589I feel like I’ve been seeing this book absolutely everywhere lately. At first I wasn’t so sure about whether I wanted to try it, but the more I started to see other vloggers talking about it, the more it won me over. It is about a teenage boy named Ari who works at his family’s struggling bakery, but wants to quit his job and move to the city with his band. While interviewing people to replace him, he meets Hector, and a relationship begins to bloom between them. To be honest, I can’t even remember why I wasn’t sure I’d want to read this one at first, because it sounds absolutely adorable! This book is a graphic novel, which is something I’ve really started to enjoy more and more over the years. I used to assume that graphic novels would be confusing or disjointed, and although they sometimes are, I’ve found so many that I really love. One of my goals for the year is to read more graphic novels, and this one could be an option. It is not currently in my challenge plans, but I wouldn’t mind squeezing it in.

4) This Could Change Everything by Jill Mansell

35129210I found this book while looking for more contemporaries to add to my TBR, and this one sounded like it could be a lot of fun. It is about a woman named Essie whose private e-mail ranting against her boss (who also happens to be her boyfriend’s mother) was accidentally sent out to everyone. The e-mail costs her not only her job, but also her boyfriend who she was living with. Essie decides to move to another town, where she meets some interesting new people and gets the chance for a fresh start. Jill Mansell has written a ton of books, but I had never heard of her until I stumbled across this book. There are quite a few of them that sound interesting, but I think I’ll try this one before adding any more to my TBR, especially because contemporary romance is not always a genre that I enjoy. I need to be in the right mood to really appreciate these kinds of stories, but they can also be so much fun to pick up. I was drawn to this one specifically because of the whole e-mail angle, although looking into it a bit, it seems that it is a very small part of the overall story.

5) The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais

42771975This book caught my attention immediately because I recognized the ASL sign for “friend” on the cover. I’ve always been interested in ASL and learned a few signs myself through my work with adults with special needs, but not nearly enough to have a full conversation. This book is a YA contemporary about a girl named Maya who is Deaf, and who has moved across the country in her senior year, where she now needs to attend a hearing school. Although Maya has never considered being Deaf a disability, she is surprised to realize that it is not viewed that way in her new school, and also is suspicious when the student president decides to learn ASL to talk to her. As their feelings for each other grow, and an opportunity to receive a cochlear implant comes up, Maya needs to decide how to stay true to herself and the kind of life she really wants for herself. This book sounds so interesting! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that had a protagonist who was Deaf, and I think it will be a very interesting perspective. This book is slowly creeping into my most anticipated books for the year, but it is not out until August so it will be quite a while before I can get to it!

6) The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

40723753I discovered this book while searching for Victorian and neo-Victorian book options for one of my reading challenge prompts. It is set in 1826, where Frannie Langton is a maid accused of murdering her employers. On trial for their deaths, Frannie must tell her story for the first time, beginning with her life in Jamaica and the cruelty of the sugar plantations before she was sent to London. This book intrigued me because it seemed so different from anything else that I’ve read recently. I’ve seen several reviews comment that this book also addresses slavery in a unique way compared to other books. I’m always interested in books that take on familiar topics in new and different ways, especially for topics such as slavery which often seem to focus on the same kinds of narratives. This book is due out in early April, so I’m definitely interested in finding out more about it. I’ve recently started to add more historical fiction in general to my TBR, and this one seems like it could be a great place to start. I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction, but found myself reading  too many that focused on similar stories or periods of history that I already knew quite well. I think this book could push me out of my comfort zone a bit, while still being close enough to the kinds of books I already know that I enjoy.

7) Wild and Crooked by Leah Thomas

36120308I read Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas and I really enjoyed it, although it was a bit jarring since I expected a social media-focused contemporary, and did not expect the sci-fi elements at all. I currently have all of her other books on my TBR as well, although I’ve been a tiny bit hesitant to pick them up even though I at least have a better idea of what to expect from them now. Wild and Crooked is her latest release, due out in June, and it is the only one of her books that does not seem to have any sci-fi. To be clear, I’m not against sci-fi at all, it was just a bit of a shock since at the time I read Because You’ll Never Meet Me, it was not tagged as such. This book is about a girl named Kalyn who is forced to return to Samsboro, Kentucky, where her name is only associated with the brutal murder her father committed as a teenager. She meets a boy named Gus, who is  known as “the kid whose father was murdered” or “the disabled kid” due to his cerebral palsy, and the two form a deep friendship until their families’ pasts come to light. This sounds like a very interesting story and, as far as I can tell, is one of the rare books to focus on a platonic friendship instead of a romance. I’m definitely intrigued, and very interested in giving this one a chance.

8) Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron

40096728I found this book while browsing upcoming releases for this year, and I was intrigued by the title and the cover art. It is about a boy named Brody who feels misunderstood by everyone around him, until he meets Nico, who brings him to a Narnia-like world called Everland that opens up once a week for Nico and his friends. Brody feels at home there and enjoys his weekly break from his struggles to fit in, but when the door to Everland starts to vanish, he is forced to decide which life he really wants. I tend to find anything Narnia-esque pretty intriguing, and this one is no exception. This book is expected out in mid-May, and there hasn’t seemed to be too much buzz around it yet. I’m very interested to find out more as we get closer to the release date, but it sounds like a really intriguing concept. I love how there have been so many books lately that have been a bit of a play on Narnia without directly retelling those stories, especially things like Every Heart a Doorway. I’m very interested to see which direction this story takes.

9) Her Daughter’s Mother by Daniela Petrova

43303105There definitely seems to be a trend toward family member terms in titles lately, but this one caught my attention right away. This book is about a woman named Lana, who is pregnant using an egg donor. Although she was never supposed to meet the donor, Lana sees Katya on the subway and decides to follow her, fascinated by the person who made it possible for her to have her child. When a chance encounter leads to them becoming friends, Lana is happy to have the distraction from her recent breakup with the father of her child, until Katya goes missing and Lana seems to be the last person to see her alive. Lana is determined to find out what happened to her new friend, and aside from making herself a suspect in the process, she also finds that digging into Katya’s past changes everything she thought she knew. This book sounds like such an interesting domestic thriller. I’ve seen it compared to The Perfect Mother and The Wife Between Us, which are both at the absolute top of my TBR for this year. It also reminds me a bit of The Girl on the Train, which I really enjoyed. This book is not out until mid-June, so I’m not sure when I’ll have the chance to read it, but it sounds very interesting!

10) The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

41393171I found this one recently while looking at upcoming contemporary releases, and it sounded so cute! It is about a woman named Tiffy who was recently dumped and needs somewhere to stay, but is struggling to find something she can afford. When she meets Leon, a palliative care nurse who works nights and only uses his flat during the day, it seems like the perfect setup. They decide to share the flat, and soon start to connect through the Post-It notes they leave for each other. This sounds like such an adorable story, and I found it interesting that Tiffy and Leon would choose Post-It notes instead of texts or e-mails. I love stories where characters connect through letters or messages in general, so this one definitely sounds like something that I would like. I also tend to love any kind of unconventional romance story, and although the relationship itself doesn’t seem particularly unusual, the circumstances definitely are. I can’t wait to give this one a try!

11) The Rumour by Lesley Kara

40126422For some reason, it was the cover art that first drew me to this book, although I’m not exactly sure why. It is about a single mother named Joanna who hears a rumour that a woman who has been released from prison after serving time for a brutal crime is now living in their town under a new identity. Trying to fit into the community that she recently moved to herself, she shares the rumour, which quickly spreads and spins out of control. This sounds like such a fascinating concept, and exactly the kind of thriller I tend to enjoy. It reminds me a bit of Big Little Lies in terms of how it combines “playground politics” with a bigger story, touching on the very interesting topic of the rights of a person who served their time, and the attitudes people have toward those who were (or may have been) convicted of a crime. This book came out right at the end of 2018, although I had not heard of it at all until recently. It is another book that I’m very interested in picking up, but it may be a while since it is not currently available through my library.

12) The Classroom by A.L. Bird

40570884I found this one while looking for more thrillers to add to the many that I already have on my TBR. It is about a woman named Kirsten, whose 5-year-old daughter Harriet was conceived through IVF, and who is worried about sending her daughter off to school for the first time. Her teacher, Miriam, should be trusted to keep the children safe, but has a plan of her own for Harriet. What really caught my attention about this book was the line in the synopsis that said “Harriet knows not to speak to strangers, but her lovely new teacher isn’t a stranger at all.” I thought that was an especially chilling line because it really brings home the idea that many (if not most) cases of harm to a child involve people that they know, not strangers. I also don’t think I’ve ever read a book where a teacher was in such a role, and that alone was enough to interest me. I found it interesting since this seems a bit different from other thrillers that I’ve read, and it seemed like a really intriguing premise.

 

Top 5 Wednesdays: Love Interests You Would Break Up With

This was another topic that I found really hard! Many of the books (or series, at least) that I read involve love triangles, where it seems that a conscious effort is made to steer the protagonist and the reader toward a specific partner. In many cases, the love interests are either underdeveloped or intentionally written in such a way that puts us off, to make sure that we end up leaning toward the “real” love interest instead. It’s actually one of the reasons that I started to get really tired of books that involve love triangles. I don’t mind the trope when it is done well, but I found that many YA books tend to follow the same general pattern, and with very similar versions of the same characters. For some reason, I also seem to have a lot of trouble remembering much about many love interests, aside from a few key favourites. I realized as I was looking through my Goodreads list that I don’t seem to remember very much about most love interests from YA contemporary books, although that’s probably because most of them are just typical high school teenagers.

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) Edward and Jacob from the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer – To be fair, I have never been particularly interested in this series. I read all of them and thought they were mediocre at best, but I definitely never understood all the hype. I slightly prefer Edward over Jacob, but there were times when I did think Jacob was a better fit for Bella too. I would have broken up with Edward for his controlling behaviour, such as unilaterally making decisions about their relationship, follows her under the guise of protecting her, and tries to prevent her from seeing Jacob. I would have broken up with Jacob because I found him pushy and didn’t like the way he manipulated Bella into kissing him.

2) Tamlin from A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas  – Like many readers of this series, I actually didn’t mind Tamlin too much in the first book and I also partially understood his behaviour in the rest of the series. I actually liked the relationship initially between Tamlin and Feyre at first, and it was only when he started to become more possessive and controlling that it started to become a problem. Like Feyre, I think I would have been bothered by his smothering behaviour, although I can understand where it came from given what the two of them went through at the end of ACOTAR. That’s not to say it was justified or right to treat her that way, but I think it at least made sense for the character. I also think his temper and tendency to lash out would have been a major problem.

3) Adam Kent from the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi – This was another character that I actually really liked in the beginning, but he became more annoying as the series went on. I love Adam’s protective nature, but didn’t like the way he kept secrets from Juliette about what he was doing at Omega Point, and also because of his jealousy and clingy-ness toward Juliette, even after they broke up. I thought it was very telling that even other characters in the book were calling him out for being annoying about it. Adam was unable to cope with the fact that Juliette had grown and didn’t need his protection anymore. Again, I can understand where this attitude comes from, but it led to him coming across as unsupportive and bitter, and I think that is what would have made me break up with him. He is definitely not the worst as far as love interests go, but he reminded me a bit of Riley Finn from Buffy in the way that he couldn’t cope with a partner who was more powerful than him.

4) Aspen from The Selection series by Keira Cass – To be fair, I didn’t really love Maxon either, but I also found Aspen really irritating at times. Just once, I would love if the “childhood best friend” character would actually stand a real chance in one of these love triangles. While I thought Aspen and America’s relationship was really cute in the beginning, I didn’t like the way he pushed her into joining the Selection at all when it was clear she wasn’t really interested, and I especially didn’t like how he made such an issue of the class differences between them. It always seemed to bother him that she was more of the provider, and that is something that I personally would find really irritating.  I also didn’t really like how he pushed her to take part in the Selection in the first place, and then gets upset when she is actually chosen.

5) Lincoln from Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – This was a tough one to include because I actually really liked Lincoln as a person, and really enjoyed this book in general. However, I think if I had been in Beth’s shoes, I would have been much more freaked out by Lincoln’s actions, and it probably would have been a deal-breaker. Lincoln is an Internet security officer tasked with monitoring the e-mails of other employees. When he comes across the messages between Beth and her best friend Jennifer, he finds himself intrigued and soon starts to fall for Beth based on her messages, but struggles with how to now introduce himself after spending so much time reading her personal messages. If I knew someone had been reading my e-mails for a long time before actually speaking to me, I think I would be rightfully quite freaked out and even though Lincoln may be a nice guy in this case, it would be enough to put me off.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Books I Loved with Fewer Than 2000 Ratings on Goodreads

It’s funny because I was very excited for this week’s prompt, until I realized just how limiting 2000 ratings really was. I was surprised to find just how few of my books in general had 2000 ratings or less, and how even fewer of them were books that I can honestly say that I really loved. My TBR list is well over 2000 books, but the list of books I have marked as read is barely over 1000, and many of those are children’s books. I was surprised to see that so many of the books that I had rated 5 stars were children’s books. To be fair, I also have quite a few books on my list that I never rated because I had read them so long ago that I didn’t remember them clearly enough to justify giving a rating. When I started looking for books that I would truly say that I’d loved, I found that they were few and far between once all the children’s books were filtered out. Since many of them are also books that I’ve discussed in detail repeatedly in the past, I’m not going to go into too much depth here, but they are all definitely worth reading.  I decided to extend my list to 12 books since I had so few that had received 5 stars, with honourable mentions for non-novels that also would have fit.

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.

In order from lowest number of ratings to highest:

1) Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski (376 ratings) – A YA contemporary about two best friends, Meg and Linus, who both identify as queer. When Meg’s long-term girlfriend breaks up with her, she decides to distract herself by trying to set Linus up with a boy he is tutoring, even though neither of them know if this guy is interested in boys. I have seen several complaints about this one being problematic, which I imagine is why it has not received more attention, but while I acknowledge the problems that have been pointed out, I personally did not find that they impacted by enjoyment of the story.

2) The Takedown by Corrie Wang (839 ratings) – Quite the jump in the number of ratings here, but that’s because the pages in between were filled with either children’s books or 4-star reads. This one is about a teenage girl who is faced with the near-impossible task of trying to remove something from the internet, after a viral video spreads of someone who looks like her sleeping with her teacher. This was easily one of my favourite books last year, and I’m so glad I finally picked it up after nearly a year of procrastinating on it.

3) The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember (1021 ratings) – I’m surprised this has so few ratings since it seemed to be really hyped for a while before it came out. This is an LGBT retelling of The Little Mermaid/origin story for Ursula. The main character, Ersel, is a bisexual mermaid who falls in love with a viking woman and has to make a deal with Loki, who is gender-queer and uses “they” pronouns, to help her. This is another book that has received some criticism as problematic, so it is one where readers may need to proceed with caution.

4) Keepsake by Kristina Riggle (1134 ratings) – To be honest, I didn’t love this one as much as I loved The Whole Golden World by the same author, but I still ultimately rated this one 5 stars as well. This book is about a woman named Trish who is at risk of losing her son to Child Protective Services due to her compulsive hoarding, and is forced to turn to her sister Mary for help, despite their difficult relationship. I thought it was an interesting topic, and one that I have not seen very often in books.

5) Wrecked by Maria Padian (1235 ratings) – A YA book set on a college campus where a sexual assault has taken place, told from the perspectives of the victim’s roommate and the male best friend of the boy who is accused of the assault. I was surprised that this one has not garnered more attention especially in light of #MeToo and I thought this one was especially interesting because of the unique perspectives it took in telling the story, instead of focusing directly on the victim and the accused.

6) Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia (1239 ratings) – Honestly, the synopsis for this one really does not do it justice. At the surface, it is about a very driven high school student named Reshma Kapoor who wants to write her own YA novel to make her application to Stanford stand out, and decides she needs to have some more “normal teen experiences” to make her character relatable. Although that is part of what happens, the book at it’s heart is more about academic pressure and perfectionism. I should also warn readers that Reshma is not a particularly likable character, although she is very interesting to read.

7) Devoted by Jennifer Matthieu (1348 ratings) – A YA contemporary book about a girl named Rachel Walker who grew up in an extremely religious household as part of the Cavalry Christian Church. When she finds a blog written by a girl who left the church, she starts to question her life and her faith and whether the religion she has been brought up to believe in is really for her. I rarely read books with religious themes. It doesn’t even matter what religion it is, I just tend to find that kind of content puts me off. I was very impressed by how much this book captured my attention and addressed the topic in a balanced and non-judgmental way.

8) What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera (1522 ratings) – An adult contemporary book which begins with a woman accused of an unnamed crime, who details her childhood growing up in Sri Lanka and her eventual move to America with her mother after a traumatic incident, the aftermath of which affects the rest of her life. I thought this book was beautifully written, although I did not have much difficulty predicting what a couple of the key events might be. I found the book very compelling and I’m glad I gave it a chance.

9) Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill (1566 ratings) – An adult contemporary about two families who have not vaccinated their daughters, one due to medical reasons and the other because of the parents’ choice. When both children become infected with measles, one experiences severe complications leading her mother to initiate a lawsuit against the other family, arguing that their choice not to vaccinate caused her child’s illness. I thought it was such an interesting and timely topic, and I especially loved the way both characters were written.

10) Little Girls by Ronald Malfi (1676 ratings) – This is a book that is far outside of my usual comfort zone, but I ended up loving it. I read it as part of my first ever reading challenge in 2015 and it still sticks with me. It is about a woman named Laurie who returns with her family to her childhood home after her father dies, and is surprised to realize that the child next door who has befriended her own daughter bears a strong resemblance to a child she used to know, who died when they were younger. It is a very creepy, haunting story and easily one of the scariest books I’ve ever read (although that may not be saying much, since I generally avoid horror!).

11) Bang by Barry Lyga (1844 ratings) –  This is the book that motivated me to extend my list past 10, since I really wanted to mention it without messing up my plan to list them in order. This is by far one of the most powerful YA books that I’ve read recently, and I’m very surprised it isn’t more well-known. It is about a teenage boy named Sebastian who accidentally shot and killed his infant sister when he was only 4, and has since lived with the guilt and the aftermath of his whole community knowing about the incident. I thought this was an extremely powerful and unique character-driven story, and I would highly recommend it.

12) Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty (2003 ratings) – I’m cheating a bit by including this one since it has just over 2000 ratings, but I’m counting it anyway because it was still well under 2000 when I read it last year. It is about a woman named Poppy who starts a Facebook group with a friend for women who are not parents and don’t want children. The group quickly spirals out of control as the women start to complain about mothers seeming to have all kinds of “advantages.” I thought the book was a lot of fun to read and tackled  a very interesting topic, showing so many sides of the issue through the characters.

Honourable Mentions:

These were the few remaining books that I had given 5 stars that had fewer than 2000 ratings, but I decided to give a slight preference to novels instead:

 

 

The Playlist Shuffle Tag

I saw this tag recently on Beth’s blog ReadingEveryNight, and it looked like a lot of fun. I originally wasn’t so keen on doing this tag because I generally try to keep this blog focused on books and adaptations, but I thought this was a good chance to switch it up a bit. I’ve also been sick with a bad cold all weekend, so this one seemed nice and easy to do. All you need to do is put your playlist on shuffle, and post the first 10-15 songs that come up. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the original version of this to credit the creator, so if anyone knows please tell me and I will link to them! I’m actually kind of curious to see what kind of songs will come up, since I have quite the variety on my list including many singers that I don’t think are very well-known. I have several Spotify playlists — my favourites, Youtube covers, Disney songs, R&B, and songs from musicals. I decided to go with my “favourites” list for this one since it has the most songs and the most variety. I’m sure with my luck it will be all the embarrassing songs that come up first! I’ve also seen versions of this game/tag where there are specific questions, and whichever song comes up first is the “answer,” but I thought this version would be the simplest one to start. Let’s see what comes up:

The Shoop Shoop Song by Cher 

Does he love me? I want to know
How can I tell if he loves me so?


A Million Miles Away by Rihanna

It feels like you’re a million miles away 
As your lying here with me tonight
I can’t even find the words to say
Say I can find a way to make it right


Mine by Beyonce and Drake

Stop making a big deal out of the little things
Cause I got big deals and I got little things
Got everything I’m asking for but you


Sick & Tired by Anastacia

I’m sick and tired of always being sick and tired
Your love isn’t fair 
You live in a world where you didn’t listen 
And you didn’t care 


Hall of Fame by The Script and Will.I.Am

Standing in the hall of fame
And the world’s gonna know your name
‘Cause you burn with the brightest flame
And the world’s gonna know your name


Who Do U Love by Deborah Cox

If you really don’t want me 
If you really don’t need me 
If you really don’t love me 
Tell me who do you love? 


Don’t Tell Me by Avril Lavigne

Don’t try to tell me what to do
Don’t try to tell me what to say
You’re better off that way


Turn Da Lights Off by Tweet and Missy Elliott

You gotta put the needle back on the record (Turn da lights off)
Then lets get closer then closer then most (Turn da lights off)
I think we can get to know each other better if we (Turn da lights off)
And lets grab a glass and lets make a toast (Turn da lights off)


When We’re Apart by Vivian Green

And I never thought it would be so hard
(When we’re apart)
No, I never thought it could be so hard
But you ain’t even far


Someday One Day by Christina Milian

But I’ll tell you someday I’m gonna find
A guy that’s gonna change my life
And I tell you one day just wait and see
True love is waiting out there for me


I Can’t Read You by Daniel Bedingfield

I’m never shy but this is different
I can’t explain the way I’m feeling tonight
I’m losing control of my heart


Feel It by Jakalope

I can feel it
When I taste
Like the wind
I breathe
Crawling inside of me baby


Where Did the Beat Go? by Pink

Uh oh, does he know, that I’m lyin’ in the afterglow
That I’m lyin’ but I can’t go, can’t say no
Make him think he’s crazy
While his paranoia grows
What he should be asking
Is where did our love go
Then I wouldn’t be baskin’
In another man’s afterglow


Love Is Just a Game by Joe

Quit playing around like it’s a game
You tell me to go, you tell me to stay
Living with you is emotional
Roller coaster ride, like you’re Jekyll and Hyde


Stay by Rihanna and Mikky Ekko

Not really sure how to feel about it
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can’t live without you
It takes me all the way
I want you to stay


 

I’m really surprised that two Rihanna songs came up! I like her music, but I wouldn’t consider her someone that I listen to very often. I’m really glad to see the Pink song on the list since she is my all-time favourite, and I was hoping at least one of her songs would make the list, just given how many of them are on my playlist. As expected, I have quite a few songs listed here that I’m not sure people would be familiar with (Vivian Green, Joe, Deborah Cox, just to name a few), and I actually don’t think this list is very representative of my overall playlist. It might be interesting to revisit this tag at some point in the future and see if I can get a different mix.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Independent Women

I had a strangely hard time coming up with names for this list, even though I feel like I see so many interesting and independent female characters. I think part of the reason I struggled is because I took “independent” very literally and was trying to think of female characters who didn’t have any kind of romance storyline, even though Sam specified that this was not the interpretation. According to her video and the Goodreads group listed below, it is meant to be about characters who might have a romantic plotline but don’t need a partner. So many of the books that I read are YA contemporary or YA fantasy, and those are both genres that focus quite heavily on romances. In the end, I managed to come up with a few characters who really struck me as very independent.

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) Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – Again, I have to start with the obligatory Harry Potter character. I was also leaning toward Hermione, but I feel like I don’t mention McGongall enough considering she is such a fantastic character. I have not read any of the Pottermore stories about her background, but Professor McGonagall has always struck me as an incredibly strong and independent character. She is confident in her abilities and unafraid of confrontation. Her stand-off with Professor Umbridge about Harry becoming an Auror was iconic for good reason.

2) Inej from the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo – I’m starting to think I’m a little obsessed with these characters, but it’s not surprising considering I very recently finished Crooked Kingdom. I also saw Nina mentioned on many people’s lists, and while I think she is a good contender too, I see Inej as a better fit. Inej is such a strong character on her own, and although she is interested in a relationship with Kaz, she does not let it define her. She is unwilling to settle for less than she deserves in her relationships, and she has overcome so much to get to where she is by the time of this series. She has quickly become a new favourite character for me.

3) Amren from the ACOTAR series by Sarah J. Maas – Of all the characters in this series, I think Amren was the one that it took me longest to really get into, but she is such an incredibly interesting one. Amren is a very powerful and ancient creature that is inhabiting the body of a High Fae, and aside from having strong powers of her own, Amren also is also quite a strong personality. She is highly intelligent and cunning, and devoted to her friends in her own unusual way. She was a very compelling character to read, and one that really stood out in this series for her independence.

4) Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – It took me a while to think of Jo, which is surprising because I think she was one of the first female characters that I really viewed as strong and independent. Although Jo does ultimately end up married, as expected at the time, she always struck me as the most independent out of all her sisters. Jo was unafraid to work hard to pursue her dream of being a writer, and would go to any length to support and take care of her family. She was even strong and independent in her choice of who to marry, staying true to herself and being honest about her feelings even when she knew it might hurt her first suitor’s feelings. I’m surprised it took me so long to think of her, and I think I’m due for a reread of this one!

5) Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – As soon as I opened my mind to thinking about characters from classics, Jane Eyre came to mind. Like Jo, she is a character who does ultimately end up married, but only after finding herself and coming into the relationship as an equal. I absolutely adored her banter with Mr. Rochester and the fact that she was willing to walk away from a difficult situation that she did not feel comfortable with, instead of allowing him to just be in control. Like many of the characters listed above, she is unwilling to compromise on her principles even for the person she loves, and also showed a lot of strength through many other times of her life, such as her childhood where she was not treated well. This is one of my all-time favourite classics, and it is another one I would love to revisit at some point.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Favourite Couples

I could have sworn I had a post on this topic already, but digging back through my blog, it looks like I don’t. I wouldn’t say I usually pick up a book specifically because of the romances, but they often end up being one of my favourite parts anyway. It’s very rare that I’ll pick up a book that is exclusively a romance, although I’m starting to find that I’m adding more and more of those to my TBR. I also have a ton of YA books on my TBR in general, but I find the ones that are mostly just a straightforward romance tend to sit on the list unread for quite a while, since I tend to look for something a little more to the story. I thought it would be hard to me to think of my favourite couples from books because of this, but it was surprisingly easy. I think part of the reason I end up really enjoying all the romance in the books that I picked are because I love the character dynamics. In general, I love character-driven books and I find reading about the relationships between characters are often a great source of character development.

Disclaimer: I personally do not consider any of the pairings on this list spoilers because they are all from books that have been out for quite a while, and have a strong enough online presence that I think the ships are already well-known. If knowing who ends up together is something you would consider a spoiler, this may not be the post for you. Series mentioned include: The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Six of Crows, The Raven Boys, ACOTAR, The Lunar Chronicles, and Daughter of Smoke & Bone.

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) Katniss and Peeta from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins  – I spent most of my time reading this series shipping Katniss with Gale. I thought they would be such a great match, and I really wanted the childhood friend to end up with the girl for once! I was shocked when Katniss chose Peeta instead, but it actually made a lot of sense, especially given events toward the end of the series. Katniss and Peeta went through so much together and understand each other in a way that another partner wouldn’t, and I came to find them really adorable together. I am long overdue to a reread of this series, although I think it may need to wait until next year.

2) Ron and Hermione from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – I honestly don’t understand all of the backlash about this couple, or why J.K. Rowling changed her mind about them in the end. Ron and Hermione’s dynamic reminded me quite a bit of Ron’s parents, and I thought they balanced each other out quite well. Hermione got Ron to think things through and be a little more responsible when needed, and Ron got her to relax and have fun. I thought they were very cute together. I remember reading so many online fan essays about the different ships in this series, and why Ron and Hermione made sense (and Harry and Hermione didn’t), and I wish I still had copies of some of those!

3) Cress and Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – I actually really liked all of the main couples in this series, but of all of them I would have to say that Cress and Thorne were my favourite. I found them so much fun to read about and the dynamic that they developed was so sweet. I wasn’t sure about Thorne at first because he seemed like such a player, but I quickly grew to love him. I also loved how he was honest with Cress about not being the perfect guy that she seems to imagine. I also strongly considered adding Jacin and Winter as well because they were my close-second favourite pair from this series, but I think Cress and Thorne have the very slight edge.

4) Feyre and Rhysand from the ACOTAR series by Sarah J. Maas – I was so hesitant to read this series at all since fae is not something that usually interests me, but I’m so glad I finally gave it a chance. Rhysand alone is now one of my favourite characters from any book, and I absolutely adore his relationship with Feyre, and especially how he treats her as an equal partner in all aspects. Their earliest interactions in ACOTAR were some of my faovurite parts of that book, and the relationship that grew in the subsequent books was amazing to read.

5) All couples from the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo – I very recently finished reading this series for the first time, and I was absolutely in love with it. My initial inclination was to list only Nina and Matthias since they were my immediate favourites, but the more I think about the series, the more I realize how much the other couples have also stuck with me. Kaz and Inej especially are a standout because their dynamic is so different from the typical YA book couple, but it is honestly one of the strongest and most intimate relationships I’ve ever read, and Jesper and Wylan were just a lot of fun. I couldn’t limit myself to just one pair.

6) Mik and Zuzana from the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series by Laini Taylor – I think Akiva and Karou would have been the obvious choice for this book series, and as much as I loved them, I wanted to give a special mention to Mik and Zuzana. It is rare that side characters are so memorable for me, but these two stood out so much from this series. Mik and Zuzana are such a great match for each other, and bring a lot of lightness and humour to an otherwise very dark and dense series. Their scenes were all so much fun to read, and their relationship was just adorable.

7) Blue and Gansey & Ronan and Adam from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater – This was another case where I was on the fence about  whether to include just one pair or both of them, and ultimately realized that I could not possibly choose between them. I think I was a tiny bit more invested in Blue and Gansey at first, but both relationships were so compelling and I was completely fascinated by the dynamics between all of the characters, both as friends and as partners. This is another series that I avoided for so long because I thought it was overhyped, but it was totally worth it. The relationships were a huge part of that.

8) Henry and Clare from The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – I know a lot of people hate the relationship in this one, but I absolutely adored it. I thought the entire concept of how to manage a relationship with someone who could disappear at any time was so interesting and unique, and I saw it almost as a twist on a long-distance relationship. At the time, I had not read much romance aside from Nicholas Sparks, and very rarely read anything sci-fi, so it was a bit outside my comfort zone on both counts. The relationship between Henry and Clare very quickly won me over, and this became one of my all-time favourite books.

9) Don Tillman and Rosie from The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – I am a complete sucker for an unconventional romance, and really for characters like Don in general. I thought this book was so much fun to read, and the relationship that develops between Don and Rosie was so interesting. The two of them are so different from each other but balance each other out so well, and their dynamic was amazing. Don reminds me so much of Sheldon Cooper, and it is interesting to see how his relationship with Rosie changes him, while he is still true to himself and accepted for who he is.

10) Cath and Levi from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and Molly and Reid from The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli– These books seem to be inextricably linked in my mind, and it’s somehow really hard for me to mention one without the other. I wanted to include both of these, along with The Rosie Project, so include something other than fantasy or sci-fi on this list. I mentioned above that I rarely read YA books strictly for the romance, but these two were exceptions and are both among my favourite books. I relate very strongly to Cath and Molly, and the relationships that develop between them and Levi and Reid respectively are so cute! They were both adorable relationships and I love how they both accepted the girls as they are, anxieties and all.

 

The Dark Side of Social Media: Review of You (Season 1)

I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive going into the first season of You. I read the book back in 2016, and I found it so interesting. It was the first book I had ever read, or at least that I can remember, that was written in second person and I thought it suited the story perfectly. I was drawn to the book because I love thrillers in general, and I was fascinated by the whole concept of this one. I chose the book for a very generic reading challenge prompt requiring a book from the library. I get most of my books from the library anyway, so it was really a freebie for me to fit in any book that I wanted. I had heard great things about it on Goodreads and was very intrigued by the synopsis. At the time, I rated it 4 stars although I can’t remember what it was that made it a 4 instead of a 5 for me. After watching the first season of the Netflix adaptation, I’m very tempted to reread it.

Plot

For those who aren’t familiar with the story, You is told from the perspective of a man named Joe Goldberg, a bookstore employee who takes an interest in a beautiful woman, Beck, who comes into the shop and decides to look her up online to try to find her. Deciding that he is in love with Beck, he begins to stalk her and subtly take control of her life to make her fall in love with him too. One of the things that fascinated me most about the book, and that I thought was translated very well to the screen, was the focus on social media and how easy it can be for someone to use information posted online to learn all kinds of things about someone. On the other hand, I think the show also did a good job of highlighting that what is posted is not always accurate either, since people tailor their accounts to present a certain image of themselves. Joe falls for Beck based on a very brief interaction at the bookshop, and develops an idea in his mind of who she is based on the snippets of information that he gathers about her. I think both the book and the show did a good job of showing how much of his impression was of his own creation.

I was impressed to see that the series incorporated the second-person narration of the book by having voice-overs in each episode. For most of the series, episodes were narrated by Joe, as he rationalized his behaviour and gave his impressions of the people around him. It reminded me in a sense of Humbert Humbert in Lolita, which I had listened to as an audiobook, where a character is doing something that is clearly wrong from an outside perspective, but goes to great lengths to justify his behaviour. It was fascinating to hear Joe’s thought processes and what led him to make the choices that he did, and it was especially interesting how the show managed to humanize him a bit, even when his behaviour is at its most dangerous. It never reaches a point where I could comfortably say that I could agree with his decisions, but I could at least understand why the character behaved in the way that he did. There was also one episode which had a voice-over by Beck instead, which I thought made a nice change of pace and it was interesting to see her perspective on her life and her interactions with Joe.

I was a bit surprised to see how much had been changed from the book, and although I think it added quite a bit to the show, it did throw me off a bit. It has been almost three years since I read the book so I don’t remember too many of the specific details, so I found myself often pausing episodes to check whether certain characters or events had happened in the book. Even Beck herself was changed quite a bit. I remember that when I read the book, I had a strong impression that she was not a particularly likable character herself. Of course, that doesn’t justify her being pursued by Joe, but it definitely made it harder to connect with her. I got the impression that the author had specifically written Beck to be so unlikable to call into question whether Joe’s behaviour could, in a twisted kind of way, be justified. The version of Beck on the show was a little different, presented as a struggling student who aspires to become a writer. In general, I found Beck a lot more sympathetic of a character in the show which made her easier to watch, but it was quite a change from the book.

In fact, there were several other character changes in the show that resulted in fairly major plot changes compared to the book. The biggest addition was the inclusion of Paco, Joe’s young neighbour who is struggling with a mother who has an addiction problem and an abusive boyfriend. None of these characters existed in the books, and Paco played an integral role in several scenes, as well as humanizing Joe a bit by showing him in a protective and more caring role, making us question just how horrible of a person he can be. Several of Paco’s scenes necessitated huge deviations from the plot of the book, which was an interesting choice. Other characters who did exist in the book were given expanded roles, especially Beck’s close friend Peach; Karen Minty, a woman that Joe dates; and most importantly, Joe’s ex-girlfriend, Candace. It would not be possible to comment on the roles of these characters without giving too many spoilers, so I will just say that I thought the changes were a great addition to the storyline, although it threw me off quite a bit since I was expecting it to stick closer to the original story. I was especially thrown off by the fact that the show had such a different ending, which set it up perfectly for a sequel, but it seems to have veered quite far off of the source material.  The only small complaint I have is that there were a few times during the series where I felt things were moving a bit too slowly, although this was really a very minor problem.

Casting

The main reason I was apprehensive about watching this at all was because I just could not imagine Penn Badgley playing Joe convincingly — but was I ever wrong! I very recently watched Gossip Girl for the first time, where Penn Badgley plays the major role of Dan Humphrey, so it was hard for me to imagine him as anyone else.  I even intentionally waited a bit before starting this series to get some distance between it and Gossip Girl. To be fair, Dan Humphrey in a sense is a much lower-key version of Joe — both highly intelligent and obsessed with a girl, but Joe takes it to an extreme. It only took me one episode to become thoroughly convinced that Penn Badgley was right for this role. He really brought the character to life in such a convincing way that it was hard to remember that this was just an actor playing a role.

Elizabeth Lail as Beck was another great casting choice, especially given the changes that were made to Beck’s character. She captured all of the complexities of the relationship that developed between Beck and Joe, and especially Beck’s struggles with her own path in life. I also thought Shay Mitchell, known for Pretty Little Liars although I have never seen that series, did a fantastic job as Beck’s friend Peach. Peach’s role was greatly expanded in the series compared to the book, most notably in her suspicions about Joe’s obsession with Beck. She is also quite an unlikable character, portrayed as controlling and attention-seeking in her own way, and I thought Shay Mitchell was very convincing. Lou Taylor Pucci as Beck’s boyfriend Benji also did a great job at capturing the pretentious hipster, a character that I didn’t remember at all from the book at first. John Stamos (of Full House) also appears as Beck’s therapist, Dr. Nicky, who didn’t seem to have too much screentime in the series but made for another very interesting characters.

I also have to give special mention to the young actor, Luca Padovan, playing Paco, a character who was invented specifically for the series. I would imagine it is not easy for such a young actor to have a role on a dark and creepy show like this, but Luca was so compelling to watch. His character added an extra layer of depth to Joe, and although it threw me off to have this massive change from the book, I think it was a great addition and the acting was a big part of that. His entire character leaves so many loose ends going into the next season, so it will be interesting to see how the writers manage that. There is also the entire question of Joe’s ex Candace, and what really happened to her. Played by Ambyr Childers, Candace has a much bigger role in the series than she had in the books, where her fate was fairly clear and her page-time very limited. On the show, she is given a much bigger and more ambiguous storyline, and although the actress’s screentime is still relatively limited, she does leave me wanting more of this character.

Setting/Visuals

As always, this is the aspect of a show that I pay the least attention to, unless there is something glaringly wrong. I thought the series did a great job of capturing the duality of Joe’s personality through the visuals. We see him by day as the charming bookstore employee, while at the same time listening to his thoughts about how ridiculous and stupid the people around him are. It’s jarring to watch but in the best possible way. The bookshop itself was a great set piece.  I was also especially intrigued by the creepy “cage” downstairs at the bookshop, and the way that was used repeatedly through the series, including in flashbacks. Other scenes of the show really delve into the darkness of it, including Joe’s stalking Beck at night, or the dingy hallways around his apartment as Paco listens to his mom and her boyfriend fight. I thought the series did a great job with the variety of sets involved, everything from Beck’s house to Peach’s lavish homes to the limited scale of the interior of the cage. It all helped to capture the atmosphere of the series and made the whole thing come to life.

I especially enjoyed the way social media was used throughout the series, with the messages appearing right on screen as Joe read them. For a series that had us so trapped in one character’s head, I thought it was an interesting way to see what he was seeing, and much more effective than just having Penn Badgley read the words out loud. I also thought the series made a great use in general of photos throughout — including online posts by Beck and other characters, pictures that characters stored on their computers, etc. It was a very interesting way to contrast the image the character chooses to portray with who they really are, a huge topic when it comes to social media in general. The fact that Joe was able to so easily access most of Beck’s life just through her posts alone should be warning enough to viewers to check their privacy settings immediately, but I think the use of social media on-screen really helped to bring that message home.

Overall Impression (10 point scale)

Plot – 8
Casting – 10
Setting/Visuals – 8.5

Overall – 8.5/10

Top 5 Wednesdays: Nostalgic Ships

It didn’t take me long to decide that I had to stray away from books for this week’s prompt. The majority of books that I read when I was younger did not focus heavily on shipping, aside from all the Nicholas Sparks books that I devoured. Most of the strongest ships I ever followed came from TV and movies, and especially those that I would consider nostalgic. When I think of nostalgic ships, I tend to think of those that I watched (or read, if possible) a lot when I was much younger. Even something like Harry Potter does not quite feel nostalgic enough, considering I read the last book when I was about 18. I love Ron and Hermione as a couple, and I have no problems with Harry and Ginny ending up together, but for some reason, I don’t tend to think of that as so nostalgic yet (although that may be because I just re-read the entire series last month!).

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) Cory and Topanga from Boy Meets World

Image result for cory and topangaI think this was the first TV ship that I really latched on to, and it is still one of my favourite fictional couples of all time. The earliest seasons of the show when the characters were only around 11 or 12 were not the best, but it very quickly progressed and became one of my favourite shows of all-time. Cory and Topanga were a very strong childhood sweetheart couple who grew up together, and what I loved most about them is that their relationship felt very realistic even though it is not most people’s experience. I thought they were absolutely adorable together, and I loved the way that the show gave them both the room to develop as unique characters outside of their relationship. I also loved how their relationship developed over time, and the fact that the show did not shy away from showing them going through tough times, both together and apart. This couple is truly iconic, and I especially love that they were a young couple who actually managed to stay together and make it work, even when others told them they were too young to commit. I don’t care how old this show is, it is still a favourite!

2) Morticia and Gomez Addams from The Addams Family

Image result for gomez and morticiaI’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve been absolutely obsessed with The Addams Family for the vast majority of my life. I remember watching the cartoon, even though I don’t remember it well, and the New Addams Family remake repeatedly for years. When I was 16, the series was on every evening and I made sure to tape every episode (on a VCR!) in order so I could keep them all. I was also very much obsessed with the movies. A huge part of the appeal to me was the amazing relationship that Gomez and Morticia have, in all versions. I actually struggled to find a picture to include with this one because I couldn’t decide which version I liked best. This a couple who share a deep passion and affection for each other, and they are just amazing together. I love the devotion they show toward each other, and their playful interactions. They just seem to fit so naturally together.

3) Willow and Oz/Willow and Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Image result for willow ozImage result for willow taraI couldn’t decide which of these two relationships to include! Technically, I think of Willow and Oz as a tiny bit more nostalgic, but I also really loved Willow with Tara. There are many other Buffy ships that I could have included as well, but these two are my favourite. I related very strongly to Willow, especially during her high school years and I adored her relationship with Oz. I loved that he just seemed to naturally get her, and calmed down her anxieties while being fully supportive and protective of her when needed. I was devastated by their breakup and especially with the way it ended, and I was very thrown off by Willow’s interest in Tara at first, but they very quickly won me over. Willow and Tara were equally adorable together and such a great fit. I was even more devastated by their end than Willow and Oz’s. I think a huge part of my love for both of these couples is how much I related to all three of these characters.

4) Joey Potter and Pacey Whitter from Dawson’s Creek

Related imageIt feels a little weird to consider this one nostalgic since I didn’t finish watching the series until a couple of years ago when I finally bought the DVD set. I didn’t watch it at all when it first came out or at the height of its popularity, but finally started to get into it after seeing a few episodes. I stopped watching partway through because I had trouble finding the episodes in order and felt like I kept seeing the same ones over and over. I was sure going into this show that I wanted Dawson and Joey to be together, because I wanted another Cory and Topanga-like relationship, or at least a story where the childhood best friends actually end up together for once. It didn’t take long for Pacey to win me over instead, and this ship quickly became the highlight of the show for me. It was a bit of a weird feeling to realize that Dawson himself had become my least favourite part of his own show, and also did not seem to get much focus in the episodes anymore either. I thought Joey and Pacey were so cute together and I loved the way their relationship developed over the years.

5) Landon and Jamie from A Walk to Remember

Image result for landon and jamieIt was a toss-up between this couple of Jo and Laurie from Little Women, but I ended up going with this one because it was actually canon. I’m thinking mostly of the movie version of A Walk to Remember. I did read the book as well, but by the time I tried it, I’d seen the movie so many times that it was the version that was most entrenched in my head. I have that problem a lot with adaptations  in general — whatever version I see or read first is the version I end up liking most, and everything else just seems wrong. I loved the beautiful relationship that developed between Landon and Jamie, and the way they both changed each other. I think Mandy Moore and Shane West did an amazing job of bringing these characters to life, and they felt much more real to me on the screen than on the page. This is still one of my favourite movies, and I think I’m long overdue to watch it again.