Top 5 Wednesdays: Thrillers (On My TBR)

My original intent with this month’s topics was to mention genres that I really enjoy but don’t necessarily read too often, but it just didn’t seem right to talk about favourite genres without mentioning thrillers. This genre has definitely become one of the most common on my TBR in the past few years, and I’ve discovered many amazing new authors by trying a bunch of different books. I often find myself browsing Goodreads for new and upcoming thrillers, and I’ve added so many to my list just by author name alone. As in, I’ve added multiple books by the same author even though I haven’t yet read any of theirs! The books mentioned here are just a few of the many thrillers that I’ve added to my TBR recently.

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) The Girl Behind the Lens by Tanya Farrelly

31296932. sy475 I added this one because it’s been compared, like most thrillers honestly, to The Girl on the Train and Behind Closed Doors. The Girl on the Train was one of the first thrillers that really got me hooked on the genre, and I haven’t read Behind Closed Doors yet but I plan to get to it very soon. It is about a photography student named Joanna, who discovers that a man recently found dead in a canal is the father she never knew, who was also a married man. At his funeral, she meets a lawyer named Oliver Molloy, who was the one to find the body, and decides to turn to him for help to find out the rest of the secrets she’s now convinced her mother has been hiding. I’d never heard of this book or this author, although it’s been out for about three years now. I was first drawn to it because I thought the cover looked interesting and a bit creepy, and it sounded like the kind of thriller I tend to enjoy. It’s not the highest priority thriller on my list right now, but it’s one I’d love to try eventually.

2) Forget Me Not by A.M. Taylor

41552686. sy475 This was another one that I added to my list because of comparisons to other authors. It is a debut thriller, that is supposed to be good for fans of Clare Mackintosh, Liane Moriarty, and Lisa Jewell. I love the first two of those authors, and plan to read at least one Lisa Jewell book next year, so this seemed like something that should be up my alley. It is about a woman named Maddie, whose  best friend Nora has disappeared. After ten years with no sign of her nor any progress on her case, most people are ready to move on. When Nora’s younger sister is found murdered at the same spot where Nora disappeared, Maddie becomes convinced that it can’t be a coincidence, and sets out to find the killer, and in the process, find out what really happened to her best friend. I love thrillers that are very character-driven, and this seems like something I’d really enjoy. The biggest complaint I seem to find about this book is that it is slow-paced, but if it is like the authors it’s been compared to, I don’t think I’ll mind. Oddly enough, I also saw one review saying that the book is “about 100 pages too long,” which I found a bit strange since it’s only a little over 300 pages!

 3) Your Closest Friend by Karen Perry

37806863. sy475 I actually had another of Karen Perry’s books on my TBR without even realizing that it was by the same author! That one has been there for two years already, so I’d definitely forgotten about it. This book is her 2018 release, about a woman named Cara who is rescued during a terrorist attack by a woman working nearby who seems to be a Good Samaritan. Caught up in the fear of the incident, Cara ends up revealing too many of her secrets to her rescuer, Amy, and doesn’t think much of it when they are both able to go home safely. Cara soon starts receiving anonymous threats from someone who seems to know way too much about her, and as her life begins to spin out of control, Amy once again offers to “rescue” her, but her new “friend” may not be the Good Samaritan that Cara expects. I’m hoping that this book doesn’t go the same route as her previous one on my TBR, and sit there forgotten for two years! This sounds like a very intriguing premise and I tend to really enjoy thrillers about a suspicious person trying to weasel their way into someone’s life, so this sounds like it could be a great one.

4) Home by Karen Dionne

37857991. sy475 I actually just saw this book on Book Outlet while browsing this week, but under another title so I didn’t realize that it was the same book. It is also known as The Marsh King’s Daughter, although I have no idea why the title was changed. This book is about a woman named Helena who was raised as a captive in an isolated cabin by her own father, who had abducted her mother when she was a teenager. Helena grew up loving her home, and even her father, despite his sometimes cruel behaviour. Over twenty years after leaving that home, Helena has buried her past deeply enough that her own husband knows nothing about it. When her father escapes from prison, Helena is convinced that he must be coming to find her, and knows that she is the only one who stands a chance at finding him, especially with the years of wilderness and survival skills that he taught her. Helena knows she must find him before he finds her, even if that means returning to her childhood home and facing her past. As usual, this one drew me in because of the creepy house on the cover, but now that I’ve looked at the plot in detail, it sounds fascinating! I’m not usually interested in survivalist stories, but this one sounds amazing.

5) The Understudy by Sophie Hannah, Clare Mckintosh, B.A. Paris and Holly Brown

48125185. sy475 I’m a little confused about this one because it was supposed to have been released earlier this year, but I’ve heard literally nothing about it. It’s surprising since it’s co-written by four well-known thriller/suspense writers! Of these authors, I’ve only read one book by Clare Mackintosh so far, but all three of the other authors are high on my list to read next year. This book is about a group of four women whose daughters are all best friends at a highly competitive performing arts academy. In the previous year, the daughters’ friendship suffered because of bullying, but while they’ve been able to move on, their mothers haven’t. When new threats begin again, and “accidents” start to happen at the same time as a new girl arrives at the school, the mothers decide to take matters into their own hands. I’m very surprised that so little seems to be known about this book because I would have assumed the authors names alone would be enough to garner more buzz. I’m always a bit apprehensive about so many authors being involved in a single story, but this sounds like it has a lot of potential! I always seem to enjoy these kinds of “playground politics” thrillers, so I’d love to give this one a try.

 

Top 10 Tuesdays: Thankfulness Freebie – Books I Was Thankful to Get Recently

It’s kind of funny timing on this topic for me. I’m Canadian, so Thanksgiving for us has already come and gone, and it also isn’t really a holiday that I do much for anyway. However, this time of year in general is always something that I associate with thankfulness anyway. My birthday is in late October, and I usually get books and/or gift cards for books as part of my present, so I’m always very thankful for that! With Black Friday and the holiday season coming up, there are also tons of sales and deals around this time which I’m also thankful for because it lets me grab some of the books I really want without breaking the bank! For this week’s topic, I decided to focus on the books that I’d bought or received recently, since many of them were my most anticipated books of the year or otherwise books and series that I really want to try. I’m thankful to have these all especially because of my new “own books only winter” goal for the start of 2020!

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) Vicious and Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

40874032. sy475 26856502. sy475 I am very thankful to my mom for buying me these two books as a birthday gift! I’ve been talking about this series non-stop since I read it, and I’d been waiting for them to go down to a reasonable price so I could buy my own copies to keep. For many books, I don’t mind getting them from Book Outlet, but there are certain books and series that I really want to buy a “good” copy of (meaning brand new). Last I checked, these books cost around $30 each, which was a lot more than I was willing to spend on one book! I put them on my birthday wishlist honestly not really expecting to get them, or at least not both of them, so I was very excited to open my gifts and see them both! For those who don’t know, this series is about Victor and Eli, rival geniuses and former college roommates, now archenemies, who worked together on an experiment to grant people extraordinary abilities. It’s a tricky one to really summarize, but easily one of my favourite series and I’m so glad I have my own copies!

2) Dev1at3 by Jay Kristoff

40177770. sy475 I got the first book in this series for my birthday last year and intended to read it this year, but I won’t be getting to it before the end of December. It would be great if the third book in this series would be out in 2020 so I could read all three together, but I haven’t seen any news about it yet. This is a YA sci-fi series that reminds me a tiny bit of the Lunar Chronicles and Illuminae, and I’ve heard such great things about it. I asked for these books for my birthday for the past two years mostly because I absolutely loved the Illuminae series, which was also co-written by Jay Kristoff, so I was looking forward to trying some more of his writing. It seems like such an interesting concept for a world, and I can’t wait to give this series a try. I was very thankful to get this one as a gift as well because it makes it much easier for me to read the two books back-to-back, and hopefully not have to wait too long before the next one is released too.

3) Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

30075662. sy475 2020 will definitely be a very Jay Kristoff-heavy year for me, if I actually end up reading all the series that I plan to read. I’ve been wanting this book ever since I first saw the synopsis, since it sounds like exactly the kind of band-of-misfits/found family story that I love. I strongly considered buying it as a pre-release, especially once I saw that the pre-ordered version would also include Memento, an Illuminae novella, but just couldn’t justify the extremely high cost it would have required to get a copy. It’s very frustrating when publishers offer bonus content in exclusive formats like this, since it’s something I’d assume many fans would want to read but can’t necessarily afford. As a side note, I’m also very thankful to my friend Amy for sharing her copy of Memento with me! I’m glad I waited for this one, and was very thankful to get a copy of it for my birthday. I was also very excited to see that the cover for the next book in the series has just been released too, and I’m sure I’ll be buying or getting a copy of that one at some point!

4) Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

43263680This was easily one of my most anticipated books of the year, and another one that I didn’t really expect to get because it was so expensive! I generally prefer to get books like this as a hardcover, but it is really hard to find a decent price for them. Leigh Bardugo has quickly become one of my favourite authors. I really liked the Grisha trilogy when I read it for the first time last year, but it was the Six of Crows duology that really sold me on her writing and especially her characters. I was very excited to see a new book that she had written that branched out from this world into something completely new, and it is also her first adult fantasy book, as opposed to YA. I was very thankful to get this one as a gift because it gives me another reason to start reading it that much sooner! This was another birthday gift from my family, and it was definitely very high up on my wishlist, so I’m thankful that it was what they chose!

5) The entire Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

28374007. sy475 When my boyfriend asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I decided to go the wishlist route instead of asking for one specific book. Part of that was because I’d already given my family a list of books, and another part was because I still wanted some element of surprise. I made a list for him of about 12-15 options, and told him to pick randomly. I’d written down this series expecting that he’d get me only the first book if that’s what the random number generator picked, so I was very surprised when he told me that my gift had 4 parts to it! Apparently his reasoning is that if I like a series, it would be annoying to have one book and have to wait for the rest, so the most “logical” thing to do would just get the whole series at once! I now have all four of the books in the main series (excluding the novellas, but I’m not sure how important those are), which is especially great because it’s a series that I keep putting off. My excuse for this year is that I thought it was a trilogy, but once I found out that a fourth book was coming, it made more sense to wait and read them all. Now that I have them, I have no excuse! I’m very thankful that he decided an entire series made the most sense when most people probably would have just picked one book.

6) Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

31373184This was another of my most anticipated books of the year, and one that I didn’t put on my initial birthday wishlist because it was coming out shortly after my birthday (although I did include some preorder options on the separate list for my boyfriend). I ended up buying this book for myself because I remembered that I had a leftover gift card from last year. We’d done a Secret Santa at work and I bought a coworker a boxset of two books, only to learn from a sheet filled in after I’d already gone shopping that he didn’t want books because he has so little time at home to read. I ended up returning them and the store refunded the money onto a gift card, which I had mostly forgotten about. Even though it was my own money on the card anyway, using it for this book still felt like getting a gift because in my mind, the money had already been spent anyway so it didn’t feel like I was using my own, if that makes sense at all. I was so happy to remember that I had this card since it meant I could buy one of my most anticipated books!

7) Supernova by Marissa Meyer

42771754Technically, I wanted this book before I’d even tried either of the others in this series, but I felt pretty confident that I’d love it since I’ve really enjoyed every Marissa Meyer book I’ve read so far. I even loved Heartless, which I know has very mixed reviews. I pre-ordered this one a couple of days before it was released because I discovered a random gift card on my desk! I thought I’d used up all my gift cards to the bookstore a long time ago, and was sure that the one on my desk was empty. I decided on a whim to check if it had anything left on it, expecting maybe some random change at most, and was shocked to learn that it hadn’t been used at all! I have absolutely no idea how I managed to leave it unused for a whole year, since it must have been from my birthday last year, but it was very lucky timing since it meant I could get another of the books that I really wanted! I was definitely very thankful to find this random card, and especially thankful that I was smart enough to double-check the balance!

7) The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

43575115. sy475 I absolutely loved The Night Circus when I decided to give into the hype around it and pick it up back in 2016, a full five years after it’s release! I adored Erin Morgenstern’s atmospheric writing style and couldn’t wait for her to release something new. I was very excited to see that she had a new book due out late this year, and immediately knew that it was something I’d want to buy. In retrospect, I might have been better off having a bit of patience and waiting for the current Black Friday deals going on since this book has gone down in price a bit, but I didn’t want to wait. I received a gift card to my local bookstore as gift from my coworkers, and decided to use it to grab a copy of this one! My staff team actually went in a bit of an unusual route with my gift this year, and decided to give me a smaller amount for the bookstore and a couple of coffee shop gift cards too, which is a bit odd since I don’t drink coffee (although I do love iced capps/frappucinos). Apparently their thinking was that I’d likely be getting many books as gifts, and they wanted me to have a bit of variety, which was a very nice idea! I’m very thankful to them for thinking ahead and choosing such nice gifts!

8) Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

2343715622299763. sy475 Like Vicious and Vengeful, this is a series that has quickly become a favourite! It was another case where I really, really wanted to own my own copies but didn’t want to spend too much on them either. I was especially holding out for hardcover editions of these books since I find hardcovers tend to be more durable, which is great for favourites that I want to keep in good condition. I’d been waiting for the hardcover boxset to come back in stock, but it my bookstore’s website was extremely confusing about whether the boxsets were hardcovers or paperbacks. The page for it had it listed as paperback, but the product description mentioned the word “hardcover,” and I didn’t want the hassle of having to return it if it was wrong. Luckily, the website also listed the hardcover editions for the two books individually, and they dropped down to a reasonable price! I was very thankful to see that these were on sale for whatever reason, before Black Friday deals, and immediately decided to grab them!

9) Renegades & Archenemies by Marissa Meyer

2842116835425827. sx318 I guess it’s a bit silly to list these two separately from Supernova, but I bought these for myself, and not using gift money, so it feels a bit different. I think essentially what happened is that I’d guessed, based on absolutely no evidence, that my mom was likely to buy me these two for my birthday, which was part of what convinced me to buy Supernova too. I’d made up my mind that if I got these two for my birthday, I’d go ahead and buy Supernova, so when I didn’t get them, I’d basically already decided that I was going to get the third book anyway. This was another case of waiting a bit for these books to go down to a more reasonable price, and if I remember correctly, I got some kind of deal because of reward points that I’d earned by preordering some of the books above. This was a series that I really wanted to start this year, and ended up delaying because I wanted to read all three together and didn’t think I’d have enough time before the end of December. They are definitely high priority for next year, and I’m thankful that I managed to get all three!

10) Such a Fun Age by Kiley Ried

43923951I think this one seems a tiny bit out of place compared to the other books listed here, but this is a book that I just won through a Goodreads giveaway! For anyone who doesn’t know or doesn’t use Goodreads, the site offers giveaways for books that you have marked on your TBR list, which offers you the chance to get a copy (often, or possibly always, an ARC) completely for free and with no obligations about posting reviews, etc. Winners are chosen at random, and you are notified by e-mail if you win. I think in total, I’ve won maybe three of around 400 that I’ve entered. I never really expect to win, but it’s worth a try anyway. This book is about a woman named Alix, who is shocked to learn that her babysitter, Emira, is confronted by a security guard one night while watching her child, and is accused of kidnapping her. Alix resolves to help make it right, but Emira is suspicious of her motives, and the video of the incident soon unearths someone else from Alix’s past with consequences for both of them. To be honest, this book wasn’t necessarily at the top of my priority list yet, but I was still very thankful to win a copy!

2019 5-Star Predictions Wrap-Up!

This was my first year attempting to make 5-star predictions, and I think it was an experiment that mostly succeeded. Through doing so many reading challenges over the past few years, I’ve become pretty good at knowing what books I’m really going to enjoy. This year, I decided to take it a step further by specifically noting a few books per challenge that I expected to give 5 stars. I gave myself the structure of choosing 3 books per challenge, and I also excluded books that were from longer series since I tend to treat those as one big story, instead of separate books. Now that we are reaching the end of the year, I thought it would be a good time to look back on the books that I predicted I would love, and see whether I was right. For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that I didn’t actually read all of the books that I had listed, but since I already know that I am moving those books to next year’s challenges instead, it still seemed like a good time for a wrap-up. For anyone interested in seeing more details on my original reasons for whyI thought I’d love each book, and a summary of what the book is about, my original post can be found here. Even though I didn’t quite get to all the books I expected, it was a lot of fun and I’m definitely interested in making another set of predictions again for 2020!

Goodreads Around the Year Challenge

1) Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

35716237Prediction: I’d previously read and loved Starfish by the same author, and thought her writing style was incredible. I love how she touches on more difficult topics and presents them so well, and I expected this book to do the same.

What I Actually Rated It: 5 Stars!

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: This book is probably one of the strongest and most realistic portrayals of grief that I’ve read. I thought the main character was very interesting and compelling, and although she was a tiny bit repetitive at times, I absolutely loved her character arc. I really enjoyed the friendships she developed with the local boy, Kai, as well as an elderly neighbour. I also liked how Akemi Dawn Bowman also incorporated Rumi’s attempts to come to grips with her asexuality and how Kai was so respectful of her when she brought it up to him. I thought the family dynamics were so well-written and this book in general was very powerful.

2) Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

26856502Prediction: Vicious was one of the best books that I read in 2018 and quickly became a favourite. I absolutely loved the characters and the whole premise of the plot, and was excited to see more of them.

What I Actually Rated It: 5 Stars!

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: If I’m honest, I think I liked Vicious a tiny bit better overall, but this one was such a strong addition to the world. I love V.E. Schwab’s writing and I thought the new characters that were introduced were very interesting, even if it meant shifting the focus of the story away from Victor and Eli. I also loved how this book focused quite a bit on Sydney and the impact the events of the first book had on her. I really enjoyed returning to this world and seeing more of these characters! I especially thought Marcella was a very interesting addition to the story.

3) The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

36199084Prediction: There was so much hype around this one that I felt like I just had to read it, even though the storyline originally was something I was on the fence about. I expected to enjoy it because it featured a main character with autism, which is something I usually tend to like.

What I Actually Rated It: 5 Stars!

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: I’m not really used to books that have such explicit content, but I really loved the way topics such as consent and boundaries were naturally integrated. I really liked both of the main characters, aside from a little possessiveness toward the end, and loved the dynamics between the two of them. I especially enjoyed the autism representation for Stella, and how the story also focused on social skills in relationships aside from the focus on learning to be better at sex. The book was also just a lot of fun to read!

PopSugar 2019 Challenge

1) A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

39072210Prediction: Jodi Picoult is my favourite author and it’s rare that her books are less than 5 stars for me. I love how she tackles very complex issues and offers a variety of perspectives through her characters.

What I Actually Rated It: 4.5 stars, rounded down to a 4 on Goodreads (after much consideration)

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: I very strongly considered rounding this one up to 5 stars because there were some parts that I really enjoyed, but it just didn’t stick with me the same way that most of her other books have. I thought it did a great job of presenting a variety of perspectives about abortion and the pro-life/pro-choice debate, although there were some other very interesting ideas brought up in the author’s note that didn’t make it into the final story. I felt a bit disconnected from the characters, which is unusual for me with Jodi’s writing, and also thought the choice to tell the story in reverse order was creative, but also dissipated some of the suspense. I still really enjoyed the book and would recommend it, but it wasn’t quite 5 stars for me.

2) On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

35887567Prediction: The Hate U Give was amazing, and I love how Angie Thomas writes such character-driven stories. I have very little interest in rap or stories about people trying to get famous, but thought it might be a 5-star read for me because of the author alone.

What I Actually Rated It: 5 Stars!

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: I devoured the majority of this book in one sitting, so I think that’s already a pretty good sign that I loved it. I thought Bri was a fantastic main character, definitely on par with Starr from The Hate U Give, and she was one of the few YA protagonists I’ve read who really feels like a realistic teenager. I ended up loving how rap was incorporated into the story, and found it very interesting that even though I have no idea what her song “On the Come Up” really sounds like, what I imagined it would sound like was stuck in my head for days after reading the book. The characters were all so strongly written, and it ended up becoming a fast favourite.

3) The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

35533431Prediction: At the time that I chose it, I wasn’t really sure why it stood out to me as a 5-star prediction, but I think it was because it reminded me a bit of other books that I’d loved, such as The Thirteenth Tale. I expected it to be atmospheric and a little bit creepy.

What I Actually Rated It: 5 Stars!

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: I connected with the writing style of this one immediately, and found both of the dual timelines very interesting. I loved the paranormal elements, which were creepy but not too scary for me to handle, and thought that it added a lot of atmosphere to the story. I loved all of the main characters and was very interested in finding out everyone’s backstory, and also really enjoyed Fiona’s investigations into what happened at the school. I really liked the direction the story took, especially the past storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.

ATY Top Picks Challenge

1) The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

34189556Prediction: There was a ton of hype around this one, and it’s exactly the kind of thriller that I tend to really enjoy. I didn’t know much about the plot going into it, and hoped that it would live up to all the hype.

What I Actually Rated It: 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 after some time, after initially knocking it down to 4 when originally rating it on Goodreads

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: Rating this one was difficult! I originally knocked the rating down a bit because I was a little disappointed with the way one specific character’s behaviour was handled toward the end. It also didn’t help that I had accidentally spoiled myself for one of the major twists before reading. However, I found that this book stuck with me more than I expected after I finished it, and I was impressed by all the intricacies of the plot and how everything fit together. I think I would have been really surprised by the first twist if I hadn’t known it in advance too. I especially loved how the authors depicted all the gaslighting and manipulative behaviours, which was another strong reason why I ended up raising my rating back up to a 5.

2) The Perfect Mother by Aimee Malloy

35887193Prediction: I tend to love these kinds of character-driven thrillers, and had been meaning to read this one for quite a while. My mom also read and loved it, and our tastes tend to be similar.

What I Actually Rated It: 5 Stars!

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: This book was not quite what I expected, but I ended up loving it anyway. I was a bit surprised to find that the thriller elements were not quite as prominent as I thought they would be, but it all made sense by the end. I especially loved how the author addressed so many different attitudes toward motherhood through the perspectives of the different characters. The writing style drew me in immediately and it was another book that I devoured very quickly. The ending caught me completely off-guard, but not to the point where it seemed implausible either. I’d love to read more by this author.

3) Sadie by Courtney Summers

34810320Prediction: I expected to give this one 5 stars mostly because of all the hype, since the last book I’d read on a similar topic was a bit of a disappointment for me. I’d heard almost universally excellent reviews for this one, and hoped I would love it too.

What I Actually Rated It: 5 Stars!

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: This book completely blew me away! I loved the format that was used and thought the podcast was a very interesting way to follow Sadie’s journey. Sadie was such a compelling character and I was fully invested in her story, which was a surprise to me after being disappointed by another book that was along the same lines. I loved how the author brought up some very difficult topics, and genuinely created a high-stakes atmosphere. The ending was very impactful, and I literally could not put this book down as I was reading it.

Bookish 2018 Challenge

1) The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

35604686Prediction: This was another one I expected to love because of the hype, since magical realism doesn’t always work for me. I’d heard it was a heartbreaking story with beautiful writing, and it came very highly recommended by several of the channels I follow.

What I Actually Rated It: 5 Stars!

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: This book easily lived up to all the hype! It was so beautifully written and it was easy for me to get fully absorbed in the story, including the magical realism elements. I loved the main character, Leigh, and her family dynamics, and also really enjoyed the descriptions of Taiwan, which was a surprise to me since I don’t often enjoy books centered around travel. I also loved the focus on art and Leigh’s relationship with her best friend. Like Summer Bird Blue, I thought this was a very strong portrayal of grief and mental illness, and it was easily one of  the best books I read this year.

2) A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

38720939Prediction: I really enjoyed Tahereh Mafi’s writing in the Shatter Me series and was interested to see her try a different genre. I also tend to love YA contemporary that addresses deeper topics, and it seemed like this one had a lot of potential.

What I Actually Rated It: 4 Stars

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: 4 stars is not at all a bad rating, but I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed with this one. I thought the main character, Shirin, was great and loved how she came to realize that her own attitudes toward others played a role in how she was treated. I liked the writing style, although I didn’t get much of the post-9/11 setting that was mentioned in the synopsis, and thought the racism storyline in general could have had a bit more to it/ I didn’t care for the romance or the love interest in general, and thought their relationship seemed a bit forced, and the focus on that was ultimately what pushed this book to a 4 star rating.

3) The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

34043643Prediction: I thought it sounded a tiny bit like Rebecca, which is one of my favourite classics, and I had originally seen quite a few great reviews for this one. It seems that the reviews have become a bit more mixed the longer it has been out, but it’s the kind of thriller I usually like.

What I Actually Rated It: 4.5 stars, rounded up to a 5 on Goodreads mostly because of Daphne’s section alone.

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars: This is another case where I accidentally spoiled myself for a major plot twist before reading it, and I think that detracted a tiny bit from how much I otherwise would have enjoyed it. I thought Amber’s part of the story was fine, but absolutely loved Daphne’s perspective and thought she was the much more compelling character. I also loved that she broke the mold a bit on the typical female character in this kind of story, and because her part was so strong, I wanted a bit more from Amber too. There were some parts of this book that were so chilling to read, and I would love to read more from this author duo. I ultimately rounded my rating up because the strengths far outweighed my minor complaints about the story.

Modified Mannegren Challenge

1) Renegades by Marissa Meyer

28421168Prediction: I’ve loved absolutely everything that I’ve read by Marissa Meyer so far, so I naturally assumed that I would love this one too.

What I Actually Rated It: Nothing yet! I have not read this one yet because I realized that Supernova was coming out late this year, and I decided to push off the entire series until 2020 so I could read them all together.

Would I Still Predict 5 Stars?: I’ve see some more mixed reviews for this series now that it’s drawing to a close, but I think that this would still be a 5 star book for me. It’s definitely a bit outside my comfort zone, but then again, so was the Lunar Chronicles, and I ended up loving those. I also loved Heartless despite seeing so many other reviewers I trust saying that they hated it, so I think Marissa Meyer’s writing just generally works for me. I recently got copies of all three books in this series, so I’m really looking forward to actually reading it next year!

2) Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

28449207Prediction: I loved Laini Taylor’s writing style in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series, so I was excited to try something else that she had written.

What I Actually Rated It: Nothing yet! I have not read this one because I got a little intimidated about how dense Laini Taylor’s writing can be, and I didn’t want to rush it before the end of the year. I decided to push off this one and Muse of Nightmares until next year so I can take my time with it properly.

Would I Still Predict 5 Stars?: I think so. I do tend to struggle a bit with books that are long and very dense, so I’m a bit apprehensive about this one. To be fair, I said the same thing before making it a 5-star prediction for this year too. I think based on Laini Taylor’s beautiful writing style, it could easily be 5 stars, and I’m hoping the plot is strong enough to match the writing. It’s taken me a while to really wrap my head around what the series is about, but I’m definitely planning to get to it early in 2020 so I can take my time.

3) Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

36285129Prediction: I’ve loved both of Tiffany D. Jackson’s books so far, and naturally assumed that I would really enjoy this one too. She always takes on stories that are a little different from the typical YA contemporaries that I read, and I love that about her writing.

What I Actually Rated It: 5 Stars!

Why It Was/Was Not 5 Stars?: I loved the unique concept of the story, and thought all three of the main characters were very interesting and well-written. I thought the three of them had a great friendship dynamic and they all seemed very realistic. I also really liked the 90s setting and the hip-hop references throughout that really made it come to life. I also love how the author wove in the impact of Steph’s death (not a spoiler, it’s a central part of the premise of the story) throughout. I also loved the overall message of the story about how many people’s lives are cut short, when they could have gone on to great things. It was a very original story and another great book by this author.

Overall:

Overall, I think this batch of predictions definitely reinforces the point that I’ve become pretty good at knowing what I’ll like. Not a single one of the 15 books listed here received anything less than a 4 star rating, which is still very good. In fact, the vast majority that I expected to be 5 stars ended up being not only 5 stars, but new favourite books and in some cases, new favourite authors as well. I am a little upset about the fact that I didn’t end up reading all of the books that I had planned, but I think I ultimately made the right call to put those books off for next year, when I can focus on them properly. I’m already starting to look ahead to some more 5-star predictions for 2020, so keep watch for that post toward the end of the year/beginning of next year!

Top 5 Wednesdays: Fantasy Books (On My TBR)

In the past few years, I’ve started to really get back into fantasy books. I used to read a lot of fantasy books, but for a while, it felt like I’d read very few of them. I think a huge part of that was because it was so hard to find fantasy books that weren’t part of a series, and I didn’t necessarily want to commit to reading multiple books about the same characters. Part of the resurgence of fantasy in my reading choices has to do with deciding to try some of the more hyped series, and since I loved the majority of them, it’s made me branch out and try more. It’s still quite difficult to find fantasy standalones! Sometimes I’ll think a book is meant to be a standalone, only to realize much later that it has become the beginning of a series. In the past year alone, I’ve added so many new fantasy books to my TBR. I’m not sure if any of these specifically will make it to my list for next year, but I’m definitely planning to read some fantasy series at least.

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) Winterwood by Shea Earnshaw

40148425. sy475 To be honest, I thought this one was part of a series! I naturally assumed it was a sequel to The Wicked Deep, which I have not read yet, even though it appears to be a completely separate story. This book is a recent release about a girl named Nora Walker who is rumoured to be a witch, due to her family’s special connection with the woods near their town. Her connection also leads Nora to a boy named Oliver, who has disappeared from a camp for wayward boys during a snowstorm and has no memory of the time that he’s been missing. Soon after she finds him, Nora realizes that she has little choice but to figure out how Oliver has managed to survive so long in the forest and what led him to run away in the first place. I was seriously considering preordering this book using a gift card I got for my birthday, but ended up going with a couple of other books instead. I’m hoping I can grab a copy of this one soon because it sounds like exactly the kind of story that I would love!

2) Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

46676540I found this book while looking at upcoming releases for 2020, and I think the cover alone was reason enough for me to add it to my TBR. It is about a boy named Yadriel who has summoned a ghost that he can’t get rid of. Yadriel’s traditional family has trouble accepting his gender identity, causing him to want to prove himself as a real brujo (sorcerer). Along with his cousin Maritza, he performs a ritual to summon the ghost of another cousin who was murdered, hoping to set it free. Instead, he accidentally summons the ghost of the school’s bad boy, Julian, who has unfinished business of his own that he wants to take care of before he leaves, forcing Yadriel to help him. The more time the two of them spend together, the less Yadriel wants Julian to leave. This book sounds like such an interesting concept, and although I’m a coward when it comes to scary ghost stories, I seem to really enjoy books that involve a human trying to get along with a ghost. This book is not due out until June, so it will be quite a while before I can read it, but it sounds so good!

3) Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

43900612. sy475 This is another one that came up while looking at upcoming releases for 2020, and it seemed like such a unique spin on a fairy tale retelling. This book is set 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, in a world where teenage girls are required to attend an Annual Ball where men can choose wives  based on their display of finery. Girls who are not chosen are never heard from again. The main character is a 16-year-old girl named Sophia who would rather marry her childhood best friend, Erin, than attend a ball to find a husband, and she decides to run away to Cinderella’s mausoleum to escape. While there, she meets a girl named Constance, who is the last known descendant of the original Cinderella, and together they set out to take down the king and the Annual Ball tradition. I love fairy tales and retellings in general, and this one sounds amazing! I can’t say that Cinderella has ever been a favourite of mine, but I love the refreshing angle that this author has chosen for the story, and I hope it lives up to my expectations!

4) Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender

44286509This book is a very recent release, that I actually haven’t heard too much about yet. Set in a Caribbean-inspired world, it is about a young woman named Sigourney who is the only surviving daughter of a noble family, whose family was massacred by the island’s colonizers when she was a child. When the king declares that he will choose a successor from among the noble families, Sigourney decides to use her mind-reading and mind control abilities to manipulate her way into the ruling group to seek her revenge, only to find herself the target of a dangerous magic. Sigourney soon realizes that someone is killing off the ruling families to secure their own path to the throne, and she must find out who the murderer is before she becomes the next victim. I was interested in this one because it’s been compared to Kiersten White and V.E. Schwab, and I’ve loved everything I’ve read from both of these authors. This book has only been out for about a week so far, so I’m very interested to see other people’s reviews as more people start to read it.

5) Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland

42642042. sy475 This was another book that really drew me in because of the cover, and another very recent release. It is about a girl named Kamai who has a been warned never to open the black door. Kamai is also a soulwalker, who has the ability to walk into other people’s souls while they are sleeping, and she begins to see black doors everywhere. Despite her mother’s warnings never to open one, Kamai has always been intrigued by them, and when tragedy strikes, she decides to take a chance and open it. The synopsis is quite vague, but there has been quite a bit of hype around this one because it has a main character who is asexual, as well as several other characters who are have a variety of sexual identities. I think this may be the first fantasy book that I’ve heard of with an asexual protagonist. I’ve also heard that this book is great for fans of Phantom of the Opera, which is one of my all-time favourite musicals, or Beauty & the Beast retellings, which I also tend to love. Normally, it would take a bit more than what the Goodreads synopsis is offering to get me interested enough to try this one, but I definitely love darker fairy tales, so this sounds like it could be something I’d really like.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Changes In My Reading Life

This is one of those topics that I feel like I had a million ideas for, until I actually sat down to write the post! I’ve always been a huge reader, but I stopped reading very much for a while when I was in school. After doing my readings for my courses, the last thing I wanted to do was pick up another book. I would bring books with me to read between classes, but that was about it. Back in 2015, I discovered PopSugar’s first annual reading challenge. It was just after I graduated and about six months after I started my full-time job, and thought it would be a fun way to get back into reading. Since then, reading challenges have become a bit of an obsession for me, and I definitely think that finding these kinds of prompts-based challenges have had a huge impact on my reading life!

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) I buy more books, but don’t always read them immediately – I credit this one almost entirely to BookOutlet, where I can get books for a low price and generally in excellent condition. I still buy brand new copies of specific books from the bookstore, but BookOutlet has been a great way to collect more books I wanted to read without costing too much. My challenge is actually picking up the books I owned, because once I have them, I sometimes tend to push them off in favour of library books instead. I guess I assume that because I own it, I can read it any time, whereas the library books are more time-limited.

2) I have discovered many new favourite authors and books that I might not have picked up otherwise – I think this is one of the biggest changes that has happened because of Goodreads and reading challenges . In the past, I tended to stick to a couple of favourite authors and didn’t branch out very much. Reading challenges have motivated me to branch out more and try new authors, and I’ve discovered so many new favourites that I’m not sure I would have picked up at all otherwise!

3) I watch more book-related content – I don’t know if this is necessarily related to my reading life, but it’s definitely a source of recommendations. In the past, I’d mostly use Youtube to watch gaming videos (Minecraft, mostly) or music, but now the majority of what I watch are bookish channels, like BooksAndLala, ChelseaDolling, EmmmaBooks, or ProblemsOfABookNerd. I generally end up watching at least one or two book-related videos pretty much daily, and these channels specifically have also motivated me to read certain books.

4) I pay more attention to new releases and get more excited about upcoming books – While I was in school, I didn’t pay very much attention to new books unless it was part of a series I already liked or by a favourite author. Now, because of the channels I watch and Goodreads in general, I’m a lot more aware of upcoming releases and definitely get more excited for them! In the past month alone, I bought a whole bunch of new releases that I was very hyped for and it’s the first time in a long time that I can remember buying so many new releases at once.

5) I’m more open to reading series, and especially longer series – If you had asked me a couple of years ago, and I probably mentioned it somewhere in early posts, I used to very strongly prefer standalones over series. There are definitely exceptions, since I grew up reading some very lengthy series, but went through a phase where I got a bit burnt out on them and only wanted to read standalones. Now, I’ve discovered so many series that I’ve loved and I’m so glad I gave them the chance! I do need to spread the books out a bit so I don’t read too many in a row and burn out on the characters/world, but I have a lot more patience for longer series.

6) I’m a bit less intimidated by longer books in general – For me, this one tends to go hand-in-hand with series, since many of the books I’ve read that are from series tend to be huge books too (Sarah J. Maas, for example). I do tend to find myself a bit hesitant to start series, especially when they are on the longer side or if the individual books are long, because once I start, I often end up loving them. This year, I think about a fifth of the books I read overall were around 500 pages or more, which may not sound like a ton, but definitely felt like a lot!

7) I’ve learned that sometimes it’s worth it to believe the hype – I think this one is probably one of the biggest changes. I’ve mentioned many times by now that I actively avoid things that feel overhyped because I tend to get annoyed constantly hearing about it! A few years ago, I finally broke down and decided to try just the first book in several very popular series, and ended up loving all of them. It still annoys me a bit to see the same few books everywhere, but I’ve learned that sometimes things really are that hyped for a good reason.

8) I’m more open to graphic novels now – I’ve always been a bit of a snob when it comes to different formats. I have no problem with other people reading and enjoying whatever they want, but I used to unfairly hate graphic novels before I’d even tried any! I read my first one as part of a children’s lit class and liked it, and through my reading challenges, I’ve picked up many more over the years. This year alone, I’ve read somewhere around 30 graphic novels, and I have a few more in mind to try before the end of the year. I still sometimes have issues following the story in some of them just because I find things aren’t always explained properly, but I’ve found many that I’ve really enjoyed.

9) I’m more willing to branch out a bit and try something new – I still have certain genres or formats that I don’t really like, but reading challenges have helped me become a bit more flexible about trying new books. I currently have a TBR well over 3000 books, and that includes genres like horror, adult contemporary romances, and sci-fi, which I don’t read very often. I’ve been surprised in the past by books that I really didn’t expect much from, so I’m a little more open to trying something different a bit more often. I still tend to default to YA contemporary, fantasy, or thrillers, but I’ve started to push outside of my comfort zones a bit.

10) I read more in general! – I think the biggest change is that since leaving school, the overall rate that I’ve been reading has grown exponentially! My first year of doing a reading challenge, I read about 55 books and finished the challenge very early, but also wasn’t pushing myself too hard. Since then, I’ve taken on multiple challenges each year, and have read well over 100 books each year. Last year, I finished at 176 books, and as of right now, I’ve currently read 162 books this year, and will probably finish somewhere around the 180 mark. It’s not really the quantity that matters to me, but I’ve also become pretty good at judging which books I might like so the vast majority of the 150+ books I read per year are in the 4 or 5-star range. I definitely choose reading much more often in my free time, and genuinely enjoy spending so much time finding and reading new books.

The F.R.I.E.N.D.S Book Tag

I first found this tag about a month ago, and decided to push it off until closer to Thanksgiving because for some reason, that just seemed fitting! I never watched Friends when it first came out. I was in elementary school at the time, and I remember all of my classmates going on and on about the show. It’s a bit odd since I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a show for seventh graders, but I remember it being extremely popular. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to be very late to read hyped books, and I’ve realized it’s the same with TV shows too. I’ve only just recently watched The Office for the first time, and I’m currently watching Glee for the first time too. I started to see random episodes of Friends on TV, but it took quite a while for me to finally see the entire series in order. I realized afterwards that I actually had seen the majority of the show, and it’s become a fun show for me to watch. I was glad to see this tag, originated by Roxanne @AnAverageLife and it looked like a lot of fun! It consists of two questions relating to each character, at least for the main characters, and I loved the variety! Thank you to Roxanne for making this tag, and the header above!

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Monica

A book based on a game or competition

41014903. sy475 Monica was such an interesting character on this show, but her overly competitive nature could get really annoying! The first book that came to mind when I thought of a book involving games or competition was Warcross. This book is about a teenage hacker named Emika Chen who works as a bounty hunter, tracking down people who are illegally betting on the extremely popular game, Warcross. In attempt to make some money quickly, Emika hacks into the opening championship came and manages to accidentally glitch herself into the game, becoming an immediate sensation. Instead of getting in trouble for hacking, the game’s creator Hideo Tanaka instead offers Emika the chance to become his spy in the tournament to uncover a security problem threatening his game. I really enjoyed this book, although I unfortunately did not care for the sequel as much.

Organization queen: How do you organize your books?

Aside from the competitiveness, the first thing that stood out to me about Monica when I first watched the show was her obsessive tendencies about cleaning and organizing her apartment! I’m definitely nowhere near her level, although I do like things to be organized. Currently, my books are not organized very well because I’m waiting to get some new bookshelves. They are in stacks on the floor that are mostly organized into piles by the order I got them, although they’ve been rearranged a bit recently to put the ones that I’m planning to read soon closer to the top/front so they are easier to get.

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Rachel

A book you read for the hype

32620332. sy475 To be honest, I’ve always found Rachel a bit overhyped. I loved how she was introduced as a spoiled princess learning to be on her own for the first time, but in the later seasons, I found her kind of annoying. By now, there are many books that I read for the hype because I’m starting to learn that sometimes, these books are hyped for good reason! After years of actively avoiding anything that felt overhyped, I decided to try some of these books and see for myself. I think the best example of this one is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which is a book that I didn’t have a ton of interest in to begin with, and it ended up becoming one of my favourites. I usually don’t really care for books that focus on celebrities or celebrity culture, but this one drew me in immediately and was definitely worth all the hype!

Shopping Addict: What makes you buy a book?

I buy books when it is something that I very strongly want to read, especially if it is by an author that I’ve read and enjoyed before. Brand new books can be very expensive, so I want to be fairly confident that I’m going to enjoy it. I also will buy a book that I’ve already read and enjoyed, and feel confident that I’d love to read again. When it comes to cheaper options like Book Outlet, I buy books when they are a good price and are things that I’m actively interested in reading among the books on my TBR.

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Ross:

A science fiction book

23566912. sy475 When I first started watching the show, especially when I was seeing the episodes in a random order, Ross was one of my favourite characters. I think I saw him as the “normal” one of the group, but that changed quite a bit when I watched the entire series in the proper order. I definitely don’t hate Ross as much as a lot of other Friends fans seem to, but I don’t know if I’d consider him a favourite anymore. I don’t actually read a lot of sci-fi, but I do have one that I’m hoping to read very soon: Spare and Found Parts. It is about a girl named Nell who is the daughter of a famous scientist who creates biomechanical limbs for people who need them after an epidemic devastates their city. Nell herself has a mechanical heart, and while salvaging for parts, she finds a mannequin hand which inspires her to build herself a companion. This sounds like such an interesting story!

On a break: Which books have you put down only to pick up later?

Actually, I think the whole “We were on a break!” situation on Friends was one of the things that put me off Ross as a character. I actually don’t DNF books or put them down and move on to other books before coming back to them. I’d find it too hard to remember what was happening to manage too many books at once. However, I have definitely put down series that I had in progress. I read the first book in Suzanne Young’s The Program series, which I really enjoyed, but somehow never ended up getting back to. I also put down Beautiful Creatures after the first book since I kept hearing that the rest weren’t really worth reading, although I’d be interested in seeing for myself. It’s been years though, so I’d probably have to start them both from scratch by now.

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Chandler:

A book that made you laugh out loud

28111692. sx318 Chandler, on the other hand, was a character that really grew on me the more I watched the show. I didn’t particularly care for him when I first saw the episodes, but the more I watched, the more I came to really like him, and especially his humour. For some reason, I’m having a really hard time thinking of a book that would literally make me laugh out loud, but what first came to mind was the Fowl Language comics. I don’t even have kids, but I find these cartoons about parenting so funny! The artwork is adorable, and I love the way the books show both the good and the bad of raising kids in a very funny way. I used to love seeing these cartoons on Facebook or Instagram, so I was glad to see them collected into books! I’ve actually just seen that a new one was released in October, collecting them into chapters about topics such as sleep, toilet training, holidays, etc. From what I can tell, the newest book contains both new comics and some from previous collections, but I’m sure it will be just as much fun to read!

That time at Space Mountain: Are there any books you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve read?

I don’t think so. I don’t know what would cause me to feel embarrassed to admit I’d read something.

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Joey:

A scary book you’d keep in the freezer

22891406This was not the kind of question I expected for Joey! I thought it would have more to do with his flirting or possibly his loyalty to his friends. I didn’t particularly care for Joey at first either, but he’s another one who grew on me over time. I didn’t quite go to the lengths of putting my books in the freezer, but I have actually hidden books that scared me so I wouldn’t have to see them! At the time, they were children’s books like The Ghost at Dawn’s House from The Babysitters Club series or The Berenstain Bears and the Galloping Ghost, which both freaked me out as a kid. If I had to pick a book that I’d hide now (even though I don’t own it), it would have to be Little Girls by Ronald Malfi. I feel like I bring this book up a lot considering it’s been nearly 5 years since I read it, but it is by far one of the scariest things I’ve ever read! Let alone the contents, the cover alone would be enough reason for me to want to hide this one since it is so creepy-looking. This is one of the few horror books I’ve ever read and I was surprised to find that I loved it, even if it did really freak me out!

V is for Encyclopedia: As an adult, have you read any books with words you had to look up to understand?

Absolutely! I actually looked up a word (“tatterdemalion”) just yesterday while reading one of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children books. In many cases, I have an idea of what the word might mean just by the context, but I still tend to look it up to make sure I have it right.

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Phoebe:

A book with a spiritual or supernatural theme:

32905343. sy475 Phoebe has always been my favourite character! She’s just so much fun to watch and I love how she is not afraid to be herself or to stand out from the crowd. I have to go with Meddling Kids for this one! The book is kind of a play on the old Scooby Doo cartoons, featuring a group of teenage detectives who have now grown up and gone their separate ways. They have not seen each other since their final case in 1977, a case which has always bothered Andy. She sets out to reunite the team and reopen this case to finally put it to rest. It was a bit difficult at the beginning not to try and compare these characters and match them up with a Scooby-Doo counterpart, since they were not intended to be a straightforward match. I thought this book was so brilliantly done and it was a lot of fun to read. It definitely had a lot of supernatural elements to it!

The Boycott: Are there any authors, booksellers, or publishers you refuse to support?

None that I can think of. I tend to try and separate the creator from their work as much as possible, but I also don’t usually know a ton about an author before I pick up their books, so I wouldn’t necessarily know of any problems.

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Janice:

A book with an “Oh my god!” twist

23125266I feel kind of bad for Janice! Sure, she was kind of annoying but I also don’t think she deserved for Chandler to treat her so badly either. I was originally going to pick The Silent Patient for this one, but I decided to go with I Let You Go instead because I think this book is so underrated! It is about a woman named Jenna who moves out to cottage on the Welsh coast to escape from her past, especially the one night that changed her life forever. That night. a young boy was walking home from school on a rainy day, and pulls away from his mother’s hand for a brief moment to cross the street, where he is suddenly hit and killed by a car. This book definitely had a twist that I did not see coming! It is a bit of a slower start to the story, but picks up a lot once the twist happens, and it was so well done! I can’t wait to try another one of Clare Mackintosh’s thrillers.

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Emily:

A British classic:

10210. sy475 Emily is another character that I thought got a bad reputation, a bit undeservedly! I didn’t like the way she tried to control Ross and prevent him from speaking to Rachel, but I also understood where it was coming from. She and Ross seemed so cute together in the beginning! To be fair though, I also didn’t particularly care for Ross and Rachel as a couple, so I’m sure that’s a contributing factor. There are tons of British classics to choose from, but I decided to go with one of my favourites and pick Jane Eyre. This one became a favourite almost as soon as I picked it up, and I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it as much as Pride & Prejudice! I loved this book because Jane was such a fascinating main character and I admired her strength. I also loved the Gothic atmosphere of Thornfield Hall and the mystery around Mr. Rochester. I especially loved the banter between the two of them!

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Gunther:

A book nobody seems to be talking about:

40611543. sy475 It’s too bad that Gunther is one of those characters who tends to be easily forgotten, because he can be really funny! When I rewatched the entire series on Netflix, I realized that I’d completely forgotten about him! I’d say a book, and actually an author in general, that nobody seems to be talking about is Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman! Aside from the stunning cover art, this book was so well-written and it is a very strong representation of social anxiety. It is not an easy book to read given it’s focus on abuse, but it is so well done. It’s a shame that this author hasn’t received more attention so far. Her second book, Summer Bird Blue, is just as strong and a very powerful portrayal of grief. Anyone who enjoyed The Astonishing Color of After would probably enjoy that one as well. Akemi Dawn Bowman has several more books already in the works, including a new YA contemporary due in March, and a YA and a middle grade series both due to start in 2021, so I’m hoping she will start to get a bit more notice.

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Carol and Susan:

An LGBTQ+ book or author:

41150474I actually think these two characters could have been utilized a lot more in the show, especially to give Ross a few more storylines involving his son. There are a lot of LGBTQ books that are currently on my radar to try next year. One that I keep hearing about lately is Tell Me How You Really Feel, which is about a wannabe director named Rachel and an overachiever named Sana. Rachel knows that Sana would be the perfect person to cast as the lead in her film project, but she has hated Sana ever the other girl asked her out, and Rachel assumed that it was just a cruel prank. I’ve heard such great things about this book, and I believe (someone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) that it is also own voices. I feel like I’ve been seeing this book absolutely everywhere lately, so I’m looking forward to giving it a try. Hopefully I can fit it somewhere into my reading challenges for 2020!

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Eddie:

A book or character with intense/stalker vibes

20821614I think Eddie would have to be one of my favourite minor characters from the show! I’d hate to have a roommate like him in real life, but his episodes were so funny! There’s really only one book that I think of when it comes to stalker vibes, and that would have to be You by Caroline Kepnes. This book is about a man named Joe Goldberg who becomes obsessed with Guinevere Beck, a customer as the bookshop where he works, and decides to use her social media accounts to find out more about her, including where she will be so he can orchestrate a chance to meet her again. Joe starts to take control of Beck’s life to persuade her that he is the perfect boyfriend, all while eliminating any obstacles in his path by whatever means necessary. I’d love to re-read this book because I don’t think I enjoyed it as much at the time as I would if I tried it now. Unfortunately, the sequel was a huge letdown!

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Mike:

A slow-burning book or a romance novel

23437156Mike is another one of my favourite characters, and I thought that he and Phoebe were absolutely adorable together! At least, they were from what I remember of the show. I think I would have to say my favourite slow-burn romance is Kaz and Inej from the Six of Crows series. It is definitely not a romance novel, but their relationship is one of my favourites and the first thing that comes to mind when I think of a slow-burn. Even when it’s obvious that they both have strong feelings for each other, it takes a long time for them both to let down their walls enough to allow someone else in, but even some very minor interactions between them are so much more powerful than other fully-developed relationships I’ve read. They are a huge part of why these books have become favourites, along with all the other romances in the series.

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Richard:

A book that left you feeling accomplished or better educated:

33590260As long as I don’t think too hard about their age gap, I really liked Richard and Monica together! It’s not so much the age actually, but more the fact that Richard was a friend of Monica’s father’s, and likely had known her as a young child. It just seems weird to me that he would even think of her as a potential partner like that. However, putting that aside, I really liked their relationship and Richard as a character in general. I think a book that left me feeling accomplished would have to be Kingdom of Ash! It was a huge goal of mine this year to finish the Throne of Glass series, and this book alone was nearly 1000 pages. I definitely could have done a better job at how I approached this series this year. I read several of the books in a row, to the point where I felt a bit burnt out on it, and then had a long gap between those books and the last two, which I read back-to-back. It was definitely a huge sense of accomplishment to finish this one! Aside from the fact that I loved it, it felt great to have finished the entire series, and especially to succeed at reading all of them (except for Throne of Glass, which I tried late last year just to make sure I really wanted to read the whole series) in one year!

Bonus Question: Which Friends character do you most identify with?

This is a really hard question! I don’t identify very strongly with Joey or Rachel, so that eliminates two options right away. I love Phoebe as a character, but I don’t think I’m very much like her. Like Ross, I’m also interested in learning and was sometimes seen as a bit of a know-it-all growing up. I think if I had to choose one, I’d probably pick Chandler since I have his kind of social awkwardness, but also a bit of Monica’s obsessive tendencies (although definitely not her competitive streak!).

Top 5 Wednesdays: Historical Fiction (On My TBR)

Historical fiction is kind of an odd genre for me. It’s one that I consistently identify as a favourite since it’s a genre that I’ve always loved to read, but at the same time, I rarely reach for it anymore. I think I burnt out on the genre for a while because I found myself constantly reading books based on the same time periods. I’d either read about Tudor England and especially Henry VIII’s family, or about the Holocaust. Even when compiling this list, it was a big challenge to find books that weren’t all focused on the Holocaust. I love historical fiction because I find it very interesting to get a look into the way things were in various eras, but presented in a way that tends to be much more compelling to me than non-fiction. I’ve added quite a few historical fiction to my TBR in the past year, especially after finding several lists on sites like BookBub. I don’t think I’ll be setting myself specific goals around reading more historical fiction, but it’s great to have them on my TBR anyway as a reminder to check them out eventually.

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) The German Midwife by Mandy Robotham

43208713I feel like I’ve been seeing this book everywhere lately, for some reason, probably because it was just released a few months ago. This book is set in Germany in 1944, and focuses on a midwife named Anke Hoff, who is assigned to care for Eva Braun during her pregnancy with Hitler’s child. She finds herself faced with the impossible choice between her hatred of Hitler’s regime and her duties to help a woman in need during her pregnancy and birth. This is an interesting one because as far as I am aware, Eva Braun was never pregnant, so the book is based on a historical “what if” rather than an actual event. Most of the historical fiction I’ve read tends to stick more closely to real life, although of course most authors will add their own characters or plot details to expand the story. I’ve read quite a few books set around the Holocaust, so I’m always looking for stories that come at the topic from a new or unique angle, and this one definitely seems to be a storyline that I’ve never seen before.

2) The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns

41860708. sy475 I think one of my biggest challenges when it comes to reading historical fiction is that I end up in a bit of a paradox, where I get tired of reading about the same events/periods over and over, but I also tend to shy away from others that are newer to me because I think I won’t understand it without the background knowledge. I added this one to my TBR because I’ve always had an interest in Asian history, and thought some historical fiction might be a good place to start. This book is set in 1957, and it is about a 17-year-old girl named Naoko who has a fallen in love with an American sailor, even though she has been promised to someone else. When she learns that she is carrying the American man’s child, she is cast out and forced to make choices with long-lasting consequences. In the present day, a woman named Tori Kovac discovers a shocking letter that calls into question everything she knew about her father, who is now dying, which leads her on a journey to Japan to find out the truth. The synopsis for this one reminded me a bit of the musical Miss Saigon although it is in a very different setting, and I also generally tend to enjoy these kinds of dual-timeline stories.

3) The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

43925876. sx318 Apparently this book has come under fire recently because of accusations of plagiarism of another recently released book that covers the same historical setting, with the author of the other book pointing out similarities that seem a bit too close to be coincidental. Having not yet read either book, I can’t really comment about the similarities, but both are on my TBR. This book is set in the USA during the Depression, and follows a group of five women who set out to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s traveling library. The book follows the five women as they undertake the task of bringing books to people who may never have had any, and in the process, face all kinds of dangers. To be honest, I rarely read books that are set in these kinds of rural settings, or from the Depression era for that matter, but this one sounds like it could be good. I absolutely adored Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You trilogy and I’ve been meaning to try more of her books in general, although I somehow keep putting them off.

4) The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

40530049I think this was another one that came up on the BookBub list, or possibly by browsing Goodreads for new historical fiction releases, since it is another 2019 book. It is also a WWII story, but this one is about a 14-year-old girl named Elise whose family is sent to an internment camp after her father is accused of being a Nazi sympathizer. The only thing that helps Elise cope with being imprisoned in the camp is meeting Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen who is also interned at the camp and soon becomes her friend. Although I’ve always heard about Japanese internment camps when learning about WWII, it was never a topic that was discussed in much detail, and I did not know that people who weren’t Japanese were also kept there. I recently read George Takei’s graphic memoir about his experiences in an internment camp, which has sparked an interest in learning more. I like historical fiction that are character-driven, which many of them seem to be, and this one seems to be exactly the kind of story that I tend to enjoy. It also kind of bridges the gap for me since it is a historical event that I have some background knowledge of already, but not so much that I’d feel like I’m reading the same story again.

5) All The Ways We Say Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig & Karen White

44890073I’m definitely noticing a trend when it comes to the covers of historical fiction novels, especially those set around WWII. This book is due out in mid-January, and focuses on three women in three different years, who are connected by Paris’ legendary Ritz hotel. In 1914, Aurelie is driven back to the hotel, the home of her estranged mother, after a betrayal that shatters her friendship with a young man whom she had grown to love. In 1942, Daisy remains in Paris with her husband and daughter after France falls to the Nazis, and reluctantly agrees to join the Resistance and act as courier of identity papers for those who need them. In 1964, Barbara Langford meets an American lawyer after her husband’s death, whose investigation into a mysterious woman known as La Fleur has led him straight to Barbara’s late husband. She decides to join him in his search, which leads them back to Paris and the Ritz. I’m very curious to see how this book will work, since it is written by three separate authors and covers three different characters in three different time periods. It definitely seems like an ambitious book, and I’m curious to see how it would all fit together.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Best Bookmarks

I struggled so much with this topic! When I was in elementary school, I used to love collecting bookmarks and other merchandise from Scholastic book fairs. My favourite things to collect were bookmarks or folders with adorable animals, usually puppies, on them. The challenge with this was that I loved them so much that I didn’t want to “ruin” them by using them, so I often ended up avoiding actually using these items for their intended purposes to make sure they were “safe.”  I’m kind of like that with my books now instead. I don’t like it when my books get damaged, although I definitely don’t avoid reading them! I really didn’t know how to approach this week since I tend to have only one or two bookmarks that I now use, and they are definitely not in great condition. I also don’t know what I would even consider the “best” kind of bookmark, since as long as it serves it’s purpose, I think it’s fine. I decided to just browse online and find some of the most interesting bookmarks I could find based on some of my favourite books or series.

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.

Recent Reads (#2)

When I decided to start a Recent Reads series back in August, my original intent was to discuss some of the books that I was reading a little more often. Of course, I then proceeded to skip over this series for the next two months! I was actually surprised to look back and realize it had been so long. My initial intent was to discuss some of the books that I’d read specifically around Halloween for this week’s Recent Reads, only to realize that I already have several of those books already earmarked for another upcoming post. Instead, I decided to focus on a few of the books that were most surprising, in a good way or a bad way, to me over the past month or so, as a kind of unofficial theme. It might be a bit of a stretch by now to call some of these books “recent” but they are books that have stood out to me lately in one way or another, and I thought they’d be worth mentioning anyway.

41957126. sy475 I’ve been hesitantly meaning to try a Colleen Hoover book for years now. I first added a couple of her books to my TBR back in 2015 when I started my Goodreads account, but never ended up picking any of them up. I eventually decided that if any of her books was going to appeal to me, it was going to be Verity. Granted, this book is a departure from her usual style to a degree, so it might not be the best one to start with, but I ended up loving it! This book is about a struggling writer named Lowen who is hired to finish off a bestselling series by popular author Verity Crawford after an accident leaves her unable to finish it herself. Hired by Verity’s husband, Jeremy, Lowen visits the Crawford home to sort through Verity’s notes and start writing, and soon discovers a disturbing manuscript that appears to be Verity’s journal, the contents of which would devastate her husband if they were to be revealed. As Lowen and Jeremy begin to develop feelings for each other, she must decide what to do with this manuscript and whether Verity’s journals are even true. To be honest, I went into this book not expecting very much at all, and ended up loving it! Although I didn’t particularly care for the romance and found some of the sex scenes (which are fairly explicit) a bit repetitive, I thought the book was a very compelling and creepy thriller. I hope that Colleen Hoover writes more books along these lines.

20170404Another book that was a huge surprise for me was Station Eleven. I’ve been hearing about this book non-stop for several years now, and to be honest, I didn’t have a strong interest in it even when I picked it up. I chose it for a prompt relating to books that represent the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and this was my choice for pestilence. It set in a world where the vast majority of the population is wiped out due to a mysterious and fast-acting virus, and follows the remaining survivors in the days and years afterwards as they have to figure out how to survive. I do tend to like dystopians, but it is not a genre that I tend to pick up very often, and I was especially hesitant about this one because I found the summary a bit vague. I think what stood out most to me about this book is how eerily realistic the dystopian setting was. It definitely seemed like a plausible scenario that was very unnerving to read. I thought the book was beautifully written and I liked it a lot more than I expected, although there were some parts that felt a bit slow. I ended up rating this book 4.5 stars and struggled a lot with whether to round it up or down for Goodreads purposes. I ultimately settled on a 4 because I’m not sure how much of it will really be memorable to me, but I was definitely surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.

29430824. sy475 Unfortunately, the third book was surprising to me because I ended up being disappointed with it. I picked up Hidden Bodies, despite seeing multiple reviews complaining that it wasn’t worth reading, in part because I’m anticipating the second season of the Netflix series, but also because I loved You and hoped that this book was not as bad as others had said. For me, it was a bit of a mixed bag. In the first chapters, I found myself thinking that I didn’t get why everyone complained because it really wasn’t *that* bad, but as the story went on, I started to agree with the consensus. When I originally read You, I gave it 4 stars but I think if I had first read it now, I would have given it 5. It was such an amazing and unique concept and so well-executed, and this book just didn’t hold up in comparison. I still found Joe Goldberg a very interesting character, but this book suffered because it took away the “gimmick” of the second-person narration. The entire premise of having Joe move to Hollywood and try to deal with the hypocrisy and celebrity culture there could have been so good, but I found it dragged out and repetitive after a while. The side characters weren’t as strong as those from You, and toward the end, I definitely found myself ready for the book to be over. It’s unfortunate because I was really hoping that this book would surprise me despite the reviews I’d seen, but I have to agree that it felt like an unnecessary sequel.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Contemporary Romances (On My TBR)

My original intent for a theme for this month was to focus on different cover art trends, hence all the illustrated covers here, but I had a hard time picking enough trends to make it worthwhile. Instead, I decided to switch to a genre theme, and spend each Wednesday in November mentioning a few books from my favourite genres that I’ve added to my TBR. I’d noticed myself adding several books in a row from the same genre, often because I’d found a list on sites like Goodreads or BookBub that mentioned books by genre. I decided to start with contemporary romance because it is a genre that I’ve only really gotten into recently. I’d say that contemporary is a favourite genre, but romance is a bit more hit-or-miss. In the past year or two, I’ve started to really find a lot more contemporary romances that I’ve been enjoying. I tend to need some kind of different spin on the story to help it feel fresh enough to keep my attention, but I also love books that have characters with great chemistry and especially banter. The books listed here are all adult contemporary romances that I’ve added in the past couple of months, and I’d love to give them all a try at some point.

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) Well Met by Jen DeLuca

43189874. sy475 I’ve been hearing about this book absolutely everywhere lately! It is a debut novel about a woman named Emily, who has recently moved to a small town, and gets roped into volunteering for a local Renaissance Faire with her teenage niece. Simon, the teacher in charge of the fair, takes the event very seriously and does not have much patience for Emily’s more casual approach or her ideas to change things up. However, while on fair grounds, he seems to become a different person and flirts with her, leaving Emily confused about whether his interest is real or all part of the act. Although she’d only planned to stay in this town for the summer, Emily soon finds herself thinking about staying there and establishing something more permanent with Simon. I’ve heard some great reviews for this one lately, and I think the Renaissance Faire is a very interesting angle that could add something a bit different to the story. There’s apparently another book tagged as part of this “series” on Goodreads due out next year, but I’m not sure whether it is meant to follow the same characters, or act as a spin-off like so many romances have been doing lately. Either way, this one sounds like it could be a lot of fun to read.

2) The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

41945163. sy475 I have both books by this author on my TBR, but I chose to mention this one since it is already out. This book is about a woman named Kristen who is secretly facing a medical procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children. While planning her best friend’s wedding, she meets the best man, Josh, who seems to be everything she wants, except for the fact that he wants a big family someday. Knowing that won’t be possible for her, Kristen decides to keep her distance, which becomes more and more difficult as their attraction grows. I’m a bit hesitant about this one because I’ve seen a few reviews recently that have commented about how problematic the book is, and I have also unfortunately seen spoilers that have given away the ending. I’m not too surprised given that this is a book that addresses infertility, and I’ve rarely seen a fictional book including this topic that was not considered problematic in some way. I’m very interested to see how the author handles this complex topic, although the reviews have me a bit reluctant to give it a chance.

3) Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

44300636. sy475 I read The Wedding Date last year, and I have The Proposal in my current library stack to read in the next couple of weeks. Royal Holiday is the fourth book in the “series,” which just came out at the beginning of October. This is one of those contemporary romance series where the books are set in the same world have have characters that are loosely connected, but you don’t necessarily need to read one to understand the others. To be honest, I tend to be a bit of a Grinch when it comes to holiday-themed books. For some reason, I tend to find that anything Christmas-related is an almost automatic turn off for me, and I’m not even sure why. This book is about Vivian, the mother of the female main character of The Wedding Party, who has the opportunity to go to England to be a stylist for a member of the royal family, and is excited to have the chance to spend the holidays overseas. While there, Vivian is quickly drawn to a man named Malcolm who works as private secretary to the Queen, and the two of them must decide what will happen once Vivian’s holiday visit is over at New Year’s. I really liked The Wedding Date, but didn’t love it quite as much as I’d hoped, but I’m still very interested in trying the rest of the series. Neither the holiday angle nor the focus on royalty is really a huge appeal to me though, so I’m hoping to like this a lot more than I expect.

4) The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

48342046I was first drawn to this book because of the social media angle. It is supposed to be the start of a series, although no details have been provided about any other books yet considering this isn’t even due out until June! The series is about a group of three women who become friends after live-tweeting a disastrous date, only to realize that all three of them have been fooled by the same man. Samiah, Taylor and London have gone viral online after realizing they’ve all been catfished, and they make a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves instead of men or relationships. This pact is quickly put to the test when Samiah meets a new coworker, Daniel, and starts to wonder if he’s really as great as he seems, or if he’s too good to be true. Given that this book is over half a year away, there isn’t too much about it yet on Goodreads, but the synopsis sounds like a lot of fun to read. I think the live-tweeting angle sounds like a great way to start out the story, and I’m curious to see how it evolves. I’m especially interested to see the friendship between the three women, since it seems to rightfully place the blame on the man who was involved with all three at once without telling them, instead of hating each other for it, as is common in many books.

5) Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt

47802519. sy475 This is another book that I only discovered recently, and it is due out this December. It is about a woman named Heidi who loses her job as a kindergarten teacher due to budget cutbacks, leading her to start working as a receptionist at an audio studio instead. One night, after a few drinks and feeling down, Heidi decides to use some of the hand-me-down equipment she got to start her own podcast where she reads some of the steamiest parts of the romance novels that they record at her workplace. The further Heidi delves into these podcasts, the more confident she starts to become both on and off the air, especially with the neighbour that she is crushing on. This book sounds like it would be so much fun to read! I love the whole concept of Heidi’s podcast, and it sounds like it will be very funny. It also helps that the cover art seems to depict her awkwardness around it so perfectly. This is exactly what I mean by a book having a bit of a unique angle on it to grab my attention, and this sounds like it would be such an entertaining story.