Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Signs You’re A Book Lover

I’ve always been a book lover, but somehow it’s tough to narrow down some of the signs! I think my love for books has really taken off again since I finished school. Someone close to me recently commented that it has become a bit an obsession, but I’m not sure that I agree. I definitely put a lot more time into reading, browsing Goodreads, watching book-related content, etc. but I don’t see that as a bad thing. If anything, given the current circumstances, I’m glad that I’m a book lover because it gives me a great way to fill my time and get some good progress on my many reading challenges. I set myself an “own books only” goal for the winter, which I guess will now be extended for as long as these restrictions are in place. Good thing I literally have stacks of books to choose from! It does mean I may need to start thinking of a back-up plans in case the library just isn’t an option this year, but hopefully that won’t be the case. Either way, these are just a few of the signs that I think would make people notice that I’m a book lover.

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) Your first thought upon learning that your work is shut down due to COVID concerns is, “Great, now I’ll have time for those longer books/series I’ve been wanting to read!”

2) You’ve gone to bed thinking about how you will arrange the bookshelves you’re planning to buy, and have even had dreams of arranging books on a shelf

3) You were mistaken for an English major in university because you always had a book in your hand, even though you hadn’t taken a single English class

4) You spend way too long looking at lists of upcoming releases on Goodreads, and have filled your TBR with books coming out in upcoming years that haven’t even started yet! I’ve lost count of how many 2021 and even 2022 releases I have on my list

5) You can easily spend hours in a library or bookstore, and frequently find yourself picking up and flipping through books you already own just because they are there

6) You tell yourself that you’re not going to wait for a better Book Outlet sale, and up buying a cart full of books anyway

7) You were absolutely obsessed with Scholastic book fairs and the catalogs that came out! I guess the closest equivalent for adults are Book Boxes, but they come with so much extra merchandise that I don’t need or don’t have room for, so it’s not quite the same

8) You’ve taken on progressively more reading challenges each year, regardless of whether the total number of books seems remotely realistic

9) You feel a bit frustrated/irritated if you don’t get to read much, or at least as much as you were planning. Is there such a thing as reading withdrawal?

10) You have hundreds (or in my case, thousands) of books on your TBR, and just keep adding to it!

Stacking the Shelves (#29)

When I first realized I had a Stacking the Shelves post coming up last week, I was a bit surprised because I’d hardly added anything to my TBR! It was pretty surprising since I’ve been home for two weeks straight now, and spent quite a bit of time on Goodreads. By about the halfway point of the month, I’d added maybe 40 books to my TBR, some of which were repeats because they came up in Goodreads Giveaways, and about half of which are upcoming releases that didn’t have a cover or much detail yet, so it wasn’t much to go in to make a post. A few days later, my list exploded a bit after watching a few videos by ChelseaDolling and others, which showed me several new releases that I’d never heard of but seemed very interesting. By the end of the month, I’d added a total of 67 books to my TBR, which now stands at a grand total of 3488 books!

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

1) Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

52761268. sx318 sy475 This was one of several books that I first found out about through ChelseaDolling’s videos. It is about a teenage girl named Emmie who decides to release a balloon into the sky with her name, her e-mail address, and a secret attached. One week later, a boy named Lucas discovers the balloon and e-mails her, sparking an immediate friendship between the two of them. Nearly 15 years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she is in love with Lucas and is waiting for him to realize he has feelings for her too, to the point where she has neglected so many other areas of her life. When Lucas tells her that he has a big question to ask, Emmie is sure that this is the moment where he’ll finally confess his feelings too, only to find that life usually doesn’t go as planned. This sounds like exactly the kind of book that I tend to love! I was drawn to it because of the e-mail friendship angle, but I also saw it compared to books like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which I’ve also loved. This book is not due out until July, so it will be quite a while before I get to it, but it sounds so interesting!

2) Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez

41104077. sy475 I’m not really a huge fan of non-fiction in general, but I’ve been hearing a lot about this book lately, and especially became interested after seeing Emily Fox talking about it on her channel. This book uses case studies and research from around the world to show the data gaps when it comes to women in a variety of fields, including health, technology, workplaces, and the media, among many others. The intent is to show how the data often used in studies in these areas are biased and tend to exclude women, which has an impact on women’s lives. I’m not sure when I’ll really have the motivation to pick it up since I tend to find non-fiction incredibly dry and boring to read, but this one sounds like it could be intriguing. There has been so much conversation lately about feminism, gender bias, etc. that this book seems very relevant, especially with men taking issue with the fact that so many things in the world today are being “turned into” gendered issues. I’ll admit that I sometimes think it gets taken a bit too far myself, but I’m interested to see the angle that this book presents on the topic.

3) The One Who Got Away by L.A. Detwiler

48120443. sy475 This is one of two thrillers that I added to my TBR this month by this author, after looking for more new and upcoming thriller releases. It is about a woman named Adeline who has recently moved into a senior’s residence, where she soon begins to receive threatening notes. The other residents are warned against listening to her her because she is losing her memory, and instead assume that Adeline is just tormented by her own mind and her past. I’ve only seen a few thrillers that deal with elderly main characters, but it is such an interesting premise for this kind of book! It’s a strong alternative to the typical unreliable narrator, where so many of them either have amnesia or are alcoholics. This one reminds me a bit of The Exit by Helen Fitzgerald, which I own and plan to read soon, or of something like Elizabeth is Missing. In both of those cases there are major characters who have dementia and their claims of scary things happening are automatically dismissed because of their diagnosis. Given that I already have a similar book in mind for this year, I probably won’t be reading this one any time soon, but it’s such an intriguing concept.

4) Just Breathe by Cammie McGovern

44889984I’ve read one book by this author so far, and I’ve been meaning to pick up more! This book is her newest release from this January about a boy named David, who is the senior class president and also has cystic fibrosis, and a sophomore named Jamie who is battling depression. When David and Jamie meet, they quickly realize they feel most comfortable with each other, and their friendship quickly blooms into something more, but each is also hiding a secret that they must decide whether to share before their time runs out. I absolutely loved the first Cammie McGovern book that I read back in 2017, which was called Say What You Will, and I have several more already on my TBR. I was first drawn to this book because I recognized the author’s name as someone I’ve read and enjoyed in the past, and was pleasantly surprised to find out this had already been released this year! I’m looking forward to giving it a chance.

5) Smash It! by Francina Simone

44648676. sy475 I think this was another one that I discovered through ChelseaDolling’s videos, but I can’t remember for sure. I was surprised to learn that Francina Simone is a Youtuber herself, and that I’ve seen a couple of her videos, without really making the connection between this book and her name. This book is about a teenage girl named Liv who decides to make a “F*ck It” list (instead of a bucket list) for her junior year in high school, to challenge herself to get outside of her comfort zone. She soon finds herself with a part in the school’s musical, new friends, and has gained the attention of three different boys. I’ve always been hesitant about books premised around characters trying to follow a list to change their lives, but this one’s a bit different because the list was completely self-made. In so many of the other books I’ve seen with this trope, the lists are prepared by well-meaning friends or partners who want to “help” their friend/girlfriend try new things. I think it’s such a cool change to have the main character take control of her own life this way and although the synopsis doesn’t necessarily give much to go on, it sounds like something I’d really enjoy.

6) Because You’re Mine by Rea Frey

41150302I recently read Rea Frey’s debut Not Her Daughter, which I really enjoyed but unfortunately didn’t love quite as much as I’d expected. I was surprised to see that she already has another book out, with another new one due this August, both of which are now on my TBR. Because You’re Mine is her 2019 release about a single mother named Lee who has a young son, Mason who is on the autism spectrum. When Lee’s best friend, Grace, convinces her to take a break for the weekend, she is hesitant to leave her son with anyone until his tutor Noah offers. Within 48 hours, someone is dead, and Lee soon realizes that both Noah and Grace have secrets of their own, and she has some herself that she is desperate to keep hidden. This sounds like exactly the kind of thriller that I tend to enjoy, and I’m always drawn to books that involve characters with autism. The only issue I really had with Not Her Daughter is that I really had to suspend disbelief in places to make some of the characters’ choices make sense, and I hope this is not the case for this one. I did really enjoy her writing style in general though, so I’m excited to give her next book a chance.

7) A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

50548197I have to admit I was a tiny bit hesitant to add this one to my TBR. I absolutely adored Uprooted, but was surprised to find that Spinning Silver just didn’t hold my attention. I’d expected it to be one of my easy favourites of the year, and I really struggled with it although to be fair, I was reading it at a particularly busy week where I couldn’t give it the attention that I should have. The more I saw about this one however, the more it convinced me that it is something I’d probably like. This book is about a girl named El, who is a student at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted  where failure means death and the school won’t let anyone leave until they either graduate or die. The school also contains monsters lurking everywhere, and El is uniquely prepared to stop them because she possesses a dark power strong enough to wipe them out, but at the cost of potentially killing the other students too. I’ve seen this book described as a “dark, feminist version of Harry Potter,” which does sound intriguing. I generally love anything set in a magical school so that alone was enough to catch my interest.

8) The Spare Bedroom by Elizabeth Neep

52177909. sy475 This was another one that I discovered through ChelseaDolling’s videos, and it immeidately reminded me of The Flatshare, which is one of my favourite books of the year so far. This book is about a young woman named Jess who finds herself homeless and without a job after moving to Australia for a fresh start. She soon runs into her ex-boyfriend, Sam, who she has never gotten over, who offers to let her move in with him — and his new girlfriend. This sounds like such an interesting setup and definitely different from other romances/rom-coms that I’ve read before. I love books that focus on character dynamics, and I’d imagine that this is the perfect setup for exactly that kind of story. This book is due out in May and there is surprisingly little detail about it on Goodreads so far aside from the synopsis, but it sounds like it could be a lot of fun to read. I’ve definitely been getting a lot more into rom-com books lately, and this sounds like a great one to try. I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy it anywhere near as much as I loved The Flatshare.

9) It Came From the Sky by Chelsea Sedoti

45184313For some reason, I feel like I’ve been adding a lot more books that have to do with space and aliens to my list lately. This book caught my attention because of the title and interesting cover art, although it is not due out until August. This is a YA book about a boy named Gideon, who lives in a town in Pennsylvania where people believe there was a real alien invasion. Gideon, however, knows what really happened since he and his brother were to blame for the hoax, after a science experiment gone wrong. The boys decide to blame the explosion on alien activity instead, and to their surprise, the lie is quickly believed and spreads, forcing them to go to great lengths to keep the story going and avoid getting caught. Gideon soon finds that the story has threatened his whole world, and needs to find a way to “banish” the aliens from his own before his life is changed forever. This sounds like such a fun and unique story, and I’m especially intrigued to see that it is told in a mixed media format! I don’t think I currently have room for this book in my plans for this year, nor do I know if or when my library would even reopen to get it, but it may need to be a top priority for next year!

10) The Catch by Lauren H. Mae

49073903. sy475 I think this book proves that my interests have shifted a bit to include more rom-coms, but this one just sounded like so much fun! It is about a woman named Catia who falls for a man named Josh while on vacation, and skeptical of love in general, she decides it will just be a fling, even after learning that Josh lives in a neighbouring town. When she finds themselves constantly thrown together and even her friends attempt to convince her to give Josh a real chance, Catia decides to prove her point about love by making a bet that her vacation romance won’t last long in the “real” world. She decides to put Josh through a series of tests and games to prove that he is too good to be true, only to realize that she may be betting against the one man who might actually convince her to believe in love again. This book reminds me of a combination of The Hating Game and something like How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and it just seems like something that I would find so fun. This book was just released in January, and there is already a sequel slated for this summer, which appears to be following side characters, as is the current trend. I hadn’t heard of this book at all until recently, but now I’m very interested in picking it up!

11) The Truth Project by Dante Medema

50496883. sy475 I feel like I’ve been seeing this book around for a while before I finally decided to add it to my list, although it’s not out until October and has very little attention so far on Goodreads, so I have no idea where I would have seen it. It is about a 17-year-old high school senior named Cordelia who decides to rehash her sister’s genealogy idea for her own senior project, while also getting reacquainted with her former best friend and longtime crush who has been assigned to be her partner. Cordelia expects the project will be easy — all she needs to do is mail in a DNA sample and write about her results, so she is shocked when her results reveal that her father is not the man she thought, leaving her to question everything she thought she knew about her life. To be honest, stories about characters finding out their father is not their real parent is not something that particularly interests me, but something about this one caught my attention. I’ve seen a couple of references in the few reviews out so far on Goodreads that it is told in verse, so it may have been that unique angle that drew me to it. I wouldn’t say this book is at the top of my list currently, but I’m interested in eventually trying it.

12) Running by Natalia Sylvester

49484935. sx318 sy475 There has definitely been at trend lately toward more YA books with political themes, and this one is no exception. It is about a 15-year-old Cuban American girl named Mariana whose father decides to run for president. The Senator has always been able to count on his daughter’s support, but when the campaign starts to bring a new level of scrutiny to the family, Mariana starts to change her mind. The more she learns about her father’s political views, the less she agrees with him. This book raises some very interesting and important questions about speaking up and finding your voice, and especially when the person you are speaking against is your own family. I’m surprised how many books with political themes have interested me lately since politics in general is not something that I tend to gravitate toward in books. I think this one sounds particularly interesting because it comes from a different angle than I’ve seen before. Other YA political books that I’ve seen so far have mostly focused on characters involved in campaigning or canvassing for votes for candidates, but not where the character has been in the candidate’s own family. This one is not due out until May and I doubt I’ll be able to read it this year, but it’s definitely now on my radar.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Fairy Tale & Fable Retellings (In Honour of World Folktale and Fables Week)

I’ve been trying to look ahead to upcoming themed weeks or unusual holidays for the coming months, but for some reason, so many of them in May and June are food-related!  It’s too bad since these holidays make such great themes for Top 5 Wednesdays. While looking at holidays in March, I learned that this week is World Folktale and Fables Week! Although these aren’t quite the same thing as a fairy tale, I decided to go with retellings of both fairy tales and fables for this week’s theme, since limiting to just fables seemed really tricky! There are a ton of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast retellings lately, and I was curious to see what else I could find just by looking at my TBR. I’ve done my best to find a variety of stories, but even that was tough since there are so many retellings of the same fairy tales!

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) Geekerella by Ashley Poston

30724132I meant to read this book last summer, but got overwhelmed with a ton of library books that couldn’t be renewed so I never ended up getting to it. As the name suggests, it is a retelling of Cinderella, that focuses on a girl named Elle who is obsessed with a sci-fi series called Starfield, and joins a cosplay contest in hopes of winning an invitation to ExcelsiCon. This convention includes a meet-and-greet with the new actor chosen for the role of the Federation Prince in the reboot of the movie. Elle is determined to win the contest, as long as her stepsisters don’t get in her way. Darien is excited to be living his dream of playing the prince, but is frustrated that the fanbase has already written him off as another shallow celebrity, causing him to resent the conventions that he used to love. I have to say that I’m not particularly interested in Cinderella stories. It has never been my favourite fairy tale, and I find most of the retellings too predictable, but this one sounds adorable! I love books about fandoms and kind of geeky characters like Elle, so this one sounds like it might be worth a try.

2) The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

18798983I feel like this book has been on my TBR absolutely forever, and I still haven’t been motivated enough to pick it up. I recently read Renee Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist duology, which I really enjoyed, so hopefully that will give a bit of an extra push to try this duology too. This one is a retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights, set in a land ruled by a dangerous young king, Khalid, who takes a new bride each day only to kill her in the morning. When her best friend becomes one of his victims, 16-year-old Shahrzad seeks revenge by volunteering to be his next bride, and is determined to end the cycle of marriage and death. Each night, she intrigues Khalid by telling stories, but soon finds herself thinking that Khalid may not be the monster she expected, and finds herself falling for him. I don’t know very much about the original Arabian Nights story, or at least not enough to really know what is different about this version. I’ll admit that I didn’t quite love the Flame in the Mist books quite as much as I’d hoped, but I’m intrigued enough by this series to still want to give it a fair chance.

3) Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

38734256I’m not 100% sure if Robin Hood counts as a folk tale, but I think it is at least close enough to count. Meagan Spooner has also written a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and has an upcoming book based on Peter Pan due early next year. Sherwood focuses on Maid Marian, who is seeking to continue protecting her town after Robin of Locksley, better known as Robin Hood, dies. When the Sheriff’s right-hand man  Guy of Gisborne decides he wants to step into Robin’s shoes as the Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiance, she takes it upon herself to become the hero instead. Disguising herself as a man, Marian finds herself with the freedom to do what it takes to help Robin’s people, and bring hope to the village who  had believed their hero to be dead. To be honest, I’m always a bit apprehensive about retellings that are premised on essentially gender-swapping the main character, but this one seems like more of a continuation than a true retelling. Most of my familiarity with Robin Hood comes from pop culture versions, but I’m very interested in reading a new variation on the familiar story.

4) To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

34499221. sy475 I was hearing about this book absolutely everywhere for a while, but knew very little about it aside from the fact that it involved mermaids in some way. This book is about Princess Lira, a siren who collects the hearts of princes, until she is forced to kill another siren. As punishment, her mother transforms her into a human, and Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver the heart of the human Prince Elian, otherwise she must stay a human forever. Prince Elian is the heir to a powerful kingdom and a siren hunter, who rescues a drowning woman who vows to help him destroy all sirens forever. I can definitely see some resemblances to The Little Mermaid, but much darker than the original fairy tale. To be fair, the Hans Christian Andersen version is already much darker than the Disney story that most people are familiar with. Even though it is one of my favourite fairy tales, I’ve rarely read any Little Mermaid retellings and this looks like it could be a great place to start.

5) Sometime After Midnight by L. Phillips

32855079. sy475 Of course, it only makes sense to end with another Cinderella story since these retellings seem to be some of the most common! This is a modern male-male Cinderella retelling, about Nate, the son of a guitar player, and Cameron, the heir to the record label that destroyed Nate’s father’s life. The two meet at a club and bond over their love of music, but when Nate discovers Cameron’s connection to the label, he runs away, and the only thing left behind as a blurry photo Cameron took of Nate’s Sharpie-decorated shoes as he runs off. Cameron sets out to use the photo to find Nate, and when his sister decides to take matters into her own hands and post a picture of the shoes online, the post goes viral as people start to think of it is a real-life fairy tale. I’ve seen very mixed reviews for this book, but it sounds like an interesting twist on the typical Cinderella story. I like how the author still managed to incorporate the classic element of finding someone using only their shoes. This book seems to have mostly flown under the radar in the past couple of years, but it sounds like it could be a good modern take on the familiar story.

Top 10 Tuesdays – Genre Freebie: Historical Fiction on My TBR

Somehow, I got completely mixed up again about the order of the Top 10 Tuesday topics, and was all set to write about next week’s prompt instead! I blame it on being stuck at home for the second week in a row now, which apparently means I’ve lost all concept of time. This week’s TTT is a genre freebie, and somehow, I tend to find that much freedom to choose a topic for myself more difficult than having a preset prompt! I decided to focus on historical fiction because it is a favourite genre that I don’t think I mention nearly enough. To be fair, it is a genre that I don’t reach for as often anymore because I tend to find that I really need to be in the right mood for it. I think part of the reason for that is I tend to read historical fiction about one of two periods: either WWII or Tudor England. I’m not even sure why those are the two that I tend to read most since there are plenty of other historical events that interest me, but I find these two are some of the most common topics in historical fiction, and in a way, I think I get a bit burnt out on them. Even while searching for historical fiction that’s currently on my TBR, I found so many that seemed to tell the same kinds of stories! It was a bit of a challenge to find some variety, but there are quite a few historical fiction books still on my TBR!

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

1) The German House by Annette Hess

45449856Of all the historical fiction books on my TBR, this is the one that I am most excited to read and I am very likely to get to it before the end of this year, once I have access to my library again. This book is about a young woman named Eva, who lives in Germany in 1963, two decades after WWII has ended. Eva is hired to be a translator as part of the Frankfurt Trials. As she becomes more deeply involved in the trial, Eva begins to question her family’s refusal to talk about the war, and suspects that they might be hiding something. She also begins to question her own ideas about her future, and whether she still loves the man she had planned to marry enough to be his housewife. Eva decides to join a team of prosecutors to help bring the Nazis to justice, even if that means going against her family and her fiance’s wishes. Even though I’m a bit burnt out on WWII fiction at this point, this one caught my interest because it’s from a perspective that I have never read before. I don’t know anything about the Frankfurt Trials, so I’m very interested in trying this one.

2) Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

25893693Funny story with this one, but I actually got a copy of this book completely at random and for free! When my mom and I were on the train last year to visit my grandmother, there was a woman on the train who noticed us both reading. She had just finished this book and didn’t want to keep it, so she offered it to us! I haven’t picked it up yet, but it was a book that was already on my radar. This book is about a New York socialite named Caroline Ferriday, who works at the French consulate where she tries to help orphans in France after Hitler. It also focuses on a Polish teenager named Kasia, who gets involved in the Resistance, and Dr. Herta Oberhauser, a suregon in Germany who answers an ad for a government medical position that turns out to be at the Ravensbruck concentration camp. To be honest, I didn’t know very much about what the book was about, aside from it being a WWII story, but it sounds pretty interesting now that I’ve looked into it.

3) The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

43220998. sy475 Ruta Sepetys is one of my top priority authors to try this year. I’ve heard so many great things about her books in general, but I keep hesitating to pick them up! As much as I say I want to read historical fiction about different eras and topics, I tend to find myself gravitating away from those that are about topics that I have no familiarity with at all. That was mostly the case for Ruta Sepetys’s books, even though they are all on my TBR. The Fountains of Silence is her most recent release, which is set in Madrid in 1957, at at time where the country was ruled under a fascist dictatorship by General Francisco Franco. The book is about an 18-year-old boy named Daniel who has traveled to Madrid to connect with his mother’s country of origin, and his interest in photography leads him to Ana, whose family is still dealing with the lingering effects of the Spanish Civil War. I don’t think I fully understand what this book is about, but I’ve heard such great things about it that I’m interested in giving it a try. I have a couple of Ruta Sepetys’s other books on my list for this year already so I’m not sure if I’ll be reading this one specifically any time soon, but I’m hoping to get to it.

4) We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

30267929There definitely seems to be a trend in historical fiction cover art. I’ve seen so many books showing people standing or sitting with their backs to the “camera”! This is another book set around WWII, focusing on the Kurc family in the spring of 1939. The family comes together to celebrate Passover, doing their best to live their normal lives, but they soon find that the horrors taking place in Europe are impossible to avoid. With one sibling forced into exile, another fleeing the continent, and others struggling to survive, they soon find themselves separated and trying to find their own paths to safety. Compared to other WWII novels from the past few years, I feel like this is one that I’ve heard the least about, even though it was a Goodreads Choice Awards nominee back in 2017. It’s possible that it’s just been too long since this one was released for me to really remember any buzz around it. I wouldn’t necessarily say this book is particularly high on my list at the moment, but I would like to give it a chance at some point.

5) My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

22840421. sy475 For some reason, I struggle to think of these books as historical fiction, even though many of the books in this series would definitely fit. The Lady Janies series, as well as these authors’ upcoming Mary series, features a comedic retelling of different historical figures. I think part of the reason I struggle a bit to classify these as historical fiction is because I assume that they are not the most accurate. I know historical fiction has quite a bit of room for the authors to be creative and add or change things to fit the story, but I like my historical fiction to have at least some truth to it. This book is the first in the Lady Janies series and it focuses on Jane Grey, one of the somewhat lesser-known figures from Tudor England. Jane is the cousin of King Edward, who has arranged for her to be married off secure the throne, however the husband he has chosen, Gifford, is cursed to turn into a horse during the day. On the one hand, this book sounds like it would be a lot of fun to read, but on the other, I’m used to  more accurate books about Tudor England and I’m sure how much I’ll be thrown off by the style of this one. It’s a series that I would like to give a fair chance to though, especially since I’ve heard that it’s hilarious!

6) Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

40727470. sy475 Like the Lady Janies series, this is another one that I sometimes have trouble thinking of as historical fiction, even though it technically could be. This is a series that is on my priority list for this year, but I don’t think I’ll be getting to it until later on. It is about a 17-year-old girl named Audrey, who is more interested in apprenticing in her uncle’s forensic laboratory, but must keep her work secret from her father, who expects her to be “proper” young lady. When a series of corpses are brought in, Audrey finds herself becoming more and more involved in the case, leading her to try and uncover the identity of the killer known as Jack the Ripper. This is another series that I’ve put off reading for a long time because I wasn’t sure how interested I really was, but after seeing so much hype around the last book which came out in 2019, it got me motivated to finally pick it up. This series reminds me quite a bit of The Madman’s Daughter, which I loved, and it would be great to find another series that I’ll enjoy just as much.

7) The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

43386062This is yet another WWII book, but it is one that comes at the story from an angle that I haven’t often seen before. This one is set in 1936, and focuses on a woman named Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch Resistance who risks her life to smuggle children out of Germany to nations that will accept them, including Stephan Neuman, the son of a wealthy Jewish family and his best friend, Zofie-Helene, a Christian girl whose mother edits an anti-Nazi newspaper. Truus Wijsmuller, known as Tante Truus, is a real woman who saved the lives of more than 10,000 children. I have heard a bit about her before, but never heard her story in much detail. I was especially impressed to find out that she had also faced down Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi in charge of Vienna at the time, to get some of the children out. There seem to be more books coming out lately about real-life heroes, especially women, who played a major role in historical events, and this is one of several that has caught my interest.

8) Orphan Number Eight by Kim van Alkemade

23287179I keep forgetting that I have this book on my TBR, but every time I read the synopsis, it reminds me of how much I want to read it! This book is also based on true events, about a woman named Rachel Rabinowitz who was sent to a Jewish orphanage in 1919, where she was subjected to experiments as part of Dr. Mildred Solomon’s research, including X-ray treatments strong enough to leave her disfigured. As an adult in the 1950s, Rachel now works as a nurse in a hospice unit, and is surprised to find out that her patient is Dr. Solomon, who is now elderly and has cancer. Rachel becomes obsessed with making the doctor recognize and pay for her experiments, but the more time they spend together, the more Rachel begins to question what she really wants. I think part of the reason that I keep putting this one off is because I’ve seen some very mixed reviews for it over the years, although the plot itself sounds very intriguing. I think I’d also naturally assumed that this was another WWII book because the only thing I remembered about it was that the main character was Jewish and subjected to medical experiments. I’m still very interested in trying this one, although I have no immediate plans to pick it up yet.

9) The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner

34019138. sy475 When I was younger, I was absolutely obsessed with the Royal Diaries series, which focused on young princesses from a variety of countries and eras telling their own stories in diary format. In a way, I feel like C.W. Gortner’s books are almost the adult versions of those, since he has written about so many different famous historical women. Anastasia Romanov was always a story that fascinated me, and I’ve always wanted to read more about the Romanovs in general. This book is told from the perspective of Maria Feodorovna, the mother of Tsar Nicholas, as she witnesses her family’s empire crumbling. As she attempts to guide her son to modernize and reform Russia, she faces strong opposition from Nicholas’s wife Alexandra, who is strongly influenced by the mysterious Rasputin. I’ve read quite a few books that focus on Anastasia’s life and disappearance, but never any from the perspective of other figures from the Romanov dynasty. I think it will be very interesting to see this story from a new perspective and especially one that begins quite a bit earlier in their history than I have read before.

10) They Went Left by Monica Hesse

47539277This is another book set just after WWII, due out this April. It is about an 18-year-old girl named Zofia, who has recently been liberated from the concentration camps. She and her younger brother Abek are the only remaining members of their family, after every else was sent to the gas chambers. Zofia’s last words to her brother were  a promise to find him, and her journey takes her through both Poland and Germany as she tries to find her brother among the many displaced and lost people who have made it out of the camps. Along the way, she meets several other displaced people who are each struggling to move forward and forge their own futures. It’s rare that I read much YA historical fiction at this point unless it’s about something that is really new to me, but this one somehow caught my attention. I have all three of Monica Hesse’s WWII books on my TBR, so I’m hoping to read at least one of them relatively soon, although I don’t think any are on my list specifically for this year.

The Playlist Shuffle Tag (2020)

I did this tag just over a year ago after seeing it on Beth’s blog ReadingEveryNight, and decided that it was about time I revisit it! As a matter of fact, I actually did this one twice in 2019, once in February, and again in March as a Top 10 Tuesday topic. Being stuck working from home has given me lots more time to listen to music and update my Spotify playlists. This tag is very easy. All you need to do is put your playlist on shuffle, and post the first 10-15 songs that come up. I still have not been able to find the original creator of this tag, so if anyone knows, please tell me so I can credit them properly! I decided this weekend would be a great time to revisit this tag because it’s something fun and a little different from the usual book content, and I’m curious to see which songs will come up!

Somewhere I Belong by Linkin Park

I want to heal, I want to feel
Like I’m close to something real
I want to find something I’ve wanted all along
Somewhere I belong


Ever Wonder by Faith Evans and Mario Winans

You ever wonder what makes a woman cry?
You ever wonder why, sometimes you make me cry
You ever wonder makes a woman smile?
It’s just the little things, you do to make me smile


I Found Myself by Ciara

I say so long, farewell
My life’s moving forward
My ship has sailed
And I’m so glad it’s over
My heart is well
After all that I’ve been through
I found myself


Wicked Game (Chris Isaak cover) by David Cook

The world was on fire and no one could save me but you
It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do
I’d never dreamed that I’d meet somebody like you
And I’d never dreamed that I’d lose somebody like you

No, I don’t want to fall in love (this girl is only gonna break your heart)
No, I don’t want to fall in love (this girl is only gonna break your heart)
With you


With Arms Wide Open by Creed

With arms wide open
Under the sunlight

Welcome to this place
I’ll show you everything
With arms wide open
Now everything has changed
I’ll show you love
I’ll show you everything


Take Em Off by Craig David

I’m not usually the type to speak my mind
Might be rude of me, but you’re so damn fine

What ya do to me
Got me feeling kind crazy


I’d Rather (Luther Vandross cover) by Jasmine Trias of American Idol

I’d rather have bad times with you, than good times with someone else
I’d rather be beside you in a storm, than safe and warm by myself
I’d rather have hard times together, than to have it easy apart
I’d rather have the one who holds my heart


Unsaid by Jakalope

You’ve got my voice in your hands
I’ve got your voice in my head

One word is all that’s left
Unsaid


Sad Songs by Melanie Fiona

My love, where did we go wrong?
I wonder who’s in your arms?
Especially because you did me wrong
You know sad songs are the best songs
You don’t have to wonder how it’s gonna end


Firestone by Kygo and Conrad Sewell

Our hearts are like firestones
And when they strike, we feel the love
Sparks will fly, they ignite our bones
But when they strike, we light up the world


Right Now by Rihanna and David Guetta

Tomorrow way too far away
And we can’t get back yesterday
But we young right now
We got right now
So get up right now
Cause all we got is right now


Ghetto Rose by KeKe Wyatt

Tell her that she’s wonderful, beautiful, fabulous
Tell her that she’s got someone to stand by for the roads

Tell her that she’s everything you prayed for, and even more, you adore her
In and out of clothes, she’s your ghetto rose


Complain by Tweet

I can sing about love lost but what if there’s no love to lose?
If every day, I saw sunshine and it never rained the blues

If my fear’s with tears, I wonder could they fall
If a smile could stretch a mile, even if I had no money at all

But I’m willing to take whatever life brings
Cause you’re the only one that seems to know me
And even if the bad times call
If I had you back, I wouldn’t complain at all


High Above the Ground by Daughtry

It’s feeling like we’re high above the ground
It’s feeling like we’re never coming down

Til we want to
But why would we want to?


Fool In Love by Rihanna

And don’t get me wrong
I know he’s not perfect in your eyes
But somehow he’s flawless in mine

And you may tell me to run, run now
But I can’t do that
We’re too far down the hole
He’s got a hold on my soul


 

Top 5 Wednesdays: Green Covers

It doesn’t really feel like it was St. Patrick’s Day yesterday, but it was so it only seemed right to relate this topic to the holiday in some way. I thought I was going to easy route by choosing books with green covers, but it was surprisingly difficult to find any! It probably doesn’t help that I got a bit picky about what qualified as a green cover. It wasn’t enough for me for it to just have some green on it. I specifically looked for books that were predominantly green, and somehow, that seems quite rare! I wonder if it was one of those cases where there are a ton of them on my TBR, but I just couldn’t find them because I’m looking for them. The only book that immediately sprung to mind was Riley Sager’s upcoming Home Before Dark, but since  I’ve already mentioned that one several times before, I decided to skip it and find five more books with green covers.

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) Master Class by Christina Dalcher

49878332. sx318 sy475 This was one of the only books that immediately sprung to mind when I thought of green covers, likely because it was a book that I only discovered very recently.  This is an upcoming sci-fi dystopian novel set in a world where everyone’s future is determined by a standardized quotient (Q score). Those who score high enough can attend top level schools, but those with low scores have limited future prospects and are relegated to federally run boarding schools. The intent is to keep education costs down and allow teachers to focus only on the best and brightest. The main character, Elena, is a teacher at one of the state’s elite schools, whose own daughter fails her test and is expected to be sent to a boarding school hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, she knows exactly what it means for her daughter to fail the test, and will go to any length to ensure that her daughter is safe. This book gives me very strong The Girl With all the Gifts vibes for some reason, even though the stories are quite different. I only found out about this one recently, but it sounds so good!

2) Right Next Door by Leah Montgomery

48643735. sy475 I only discovered this book fairly recently, even though it’s apparently been out since October. This one is about a couple, John and Marcy, who have moved to The Coves seeking a quiet life, and soon befriend the couple living next door, Jill and Mark. Soon, Marcy receives a strange letter that causes her to suspect that Mark may be hiding something. The Goodreads synopsis is a bit confusing, because it also mentions a kidnapped woman named Shannon, who is now free and obsessed with finding the man who took her, but I’m not entirely sure how (or if) it connects to Marcy’s story. Creepy neighbours definitely seems to have become a theme in thrillers lately. I’ve been seeing a lot of books that talk about people realizing that their apparently friendly neighbour may not be what they seem. I wouldn’t necessarily say this book is especially high on my list right now since I have plenty of other thrillers that I’m more interested in trying first, but it does sound like something I might like. Like many other thrillers, it has very mixed reviews so far (including one particularly frustrating 1-star review that seems to have spoiled the whole plot!), but I’m interested in giving it a try at some point.

2) A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

42952728This was another book that quickly sprung to mind when I thought of green covers. I haven’t read either of the books in this series yet, but they are both on my list for this year. This is the sequel to A Curse So Dark and Lonely, which is a Beauty and the Beast retelling featuring a girl named Harper who has cerebral palsy, and a cursed Prince named Rhen who is cursed to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year. I purposely have not looked at the synopsis of this one in too much detail because I didn’t want to risk it spoiling the first book for me, but I’m really looking forward to reading them both. I also just saw the title announced for the third book in the series, A Vow so Bold and Deadly yesterday while looking at Goodreads, which is scheduled for winter 2021. That seems such a long way off, but at least I still have the first two books to read in the meantime, to see whether I even like the series enough to continue.

3) The Plus One by Sarah Archer

42379017. sy475 I think I passed by this book on my TBR a couple of times before finally recognizing it as a green cover because it was so different from the others I’d already picked. This book came out last summer, but I haven’t heard too much about it since then. It is about a woman named Kelly who decides to build a robotic date for her sister’s upcoming wedding to get her mom to stop nagging her about being single. Kelly planned to keep her date, Ethan, around just for the wedding, but soon realizes that he really is a perfect match for her. She decides to keep him, but her struggles to keep the fact that he is a robot a secret threaten the career she has worked so hard to secure, forcing her to decide whether to keep him or keep her “real” life. This is definitely an interesting concept for a contemporary romance and it’s quite different from other books that I’ve seen lately, so that alone was enough to catch my attention. Unfortunately, this is another one that has received relatively negative reviews overall, which puts me off a bit. As it is, contemporary romances tend to be hit-or-miss for me, so the negative reviews are a bit discouraging, but the unique concept may be enough to keep me interested in trying it at some point.

5) Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

36511805This was one of those books that for some reason didn’t strike me as a green cover at first, I guess because my attention went mostly to the people instead of the very obviously green window frame around them. Jenn Bennett is one of my top priority authors to try this year, although I can’t remember off-hand if this book specifically was one that I’d had in mind to try this year. This one is about an imaginative girl named Birdie who loves mystery books, and thinks of herself as a great detective after being raised in isolation and homeschooled by her grandparents. The summer before college, Birdie takes a job working the graveyard shift at a historic hotel, where she meets Daniel, a hotel van driver who has also discovered a real-life mystery of a famous but reclusive author who might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel. I’ve heard a lot about Jenn Bennett’s books in general but have never read any of them, even though they’ve all been on my TBR for years. I’m not sure which one I’ll be starting with, but this one sounds like it could be really cute!

Top 10 Tuesdays: Books on My Spring TBR

This whole COVID-19 pandemic has definitely changed my reading pattern for the month. With my workplace closed for a minimum of three weeks, it’s potentially opened up some more time in my day to read. That does seem to be shifting a bit because my day program is working on delivering some online activities and classes for our participants. It’s only been two days so far of just getting things organized, but in some ways it feels like I’ve never left work! I am taking the opportunity to read some of the longer books and series on my TBR though, since I have a bit more flexibility in my day. I’m currently reading the Renegades series by Marissa Meyer and loving it! I’m also hoping to read The Starless Sea, Ninth House, and get started on the Shades of Magic trilogy in the next few weeks, but I’ll definitely be needing some shorter/lighter books in between to break it up. Since these series were all books I’ve mentioned frequently already, I’ve decided to list 10 more books that I’m hoping to read this spring.

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) Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

34078013I bought this book from Book Outlet last year with the intent of reading it by the end of December, but somehow that didn’t happen. Actually, that is the case for the majority of the books on this list and why they have ended up as top priorities for this spring. I actually bought this one back in November 2018, and now that I’m stuck at home with no access to the library, there’s really no excuse not to read it! This book is about a 14-year-old girl named Ginny who has autism, and who is living with her fourth foster family. Ginny’s new parents have adopted her, but now that they are expecting a baby of their own, it triggers her anxiety and an obsession with finding her own birth mother and getting back a baby doll that she used to have. Autism is a definite buzzword for me when it comes to choosing books, and it was what caught my attention about the story in the first place. I remember hearing quite a bit about this book when it first came out in 2017, but not too much since then, so I’m curious to finally give it a chance.

2) The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

30363076I bought this one in the same Book Outlet haul as Ginny Moon, and haven’t picked it up yet either! I bought it because I’d just finished reading Those Other Women by the same author and I really enjoyed that one, so I was curious to read more. Nicola Moriarty is also the younger sister of Liane Moriarty, who is one of my favourite authors, not that it necessarily means anything about whether I’ll enjoy Nicola’s books. This book is about a group of four best friends who dare each other to write anonymous letters that reveal their deepest secrets. After all of the women have gone to bed, one of them discovers a partially burnt fifth letter, which seems very angry and reveals a long-held grudge. The discovery of this letter leaves Joni, the woman who found it, wondering what to do and how any of her friends could have been so angry for so long without anyone knowing. It sounds like a very interesting character-driven story, and it reminds me very loosely of Joshilyn Jackson’s Never Have I Ever. I loved the writing style of Those Other Women, so I’m really looking forward to trying more by this author.

3) Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel

29430752. sy475 This is the last book I’ll mention from that same Book Outlet haul, but it’s another one that I’ve been meaning to read for way too long. This book is about a woman named Kate who takes a job in the admissions department at a competitive private day school to distract herself from a recent breakup.  She soon finds herself interviewing children for admission into the school and dealing with their difficult parents while also struggling with her family and friends’ secrets and plans to “fix” Kate’s life. For some reason, I tend to really enjoy books that deal with “playground politics” and/or office politics, and this one seems like it might have a little of both. It sounds like another very character-driven book and something that I’d really enjoy. I also tend to really like school settings and books where the main characters are teachers or otherwise work in a school. This has so many of the elements that I tend to enjoy, and I’m hoping that I’ll love it as much as I’m expecting when I finally do pick it up soon!

4) Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

13538552I’ve had this book on my TBR since January 2016, and I was so excited to eventually find it for just a few dollars on Book Outlet! This book is unique because it is narrated by Budo, an imaginary friend who has spent the past five years as a companion to 8-year-old Max. Budo worries about the day when Max will stop believing in him, since that means he would disappear, and also worries about how Max will manage without him. Max has Asperger’s Syndrome, and Budo has taken it upon himself to protect him from a class bully, awkward social situations, and even from a teacher who makes him uncomfortable. I’d actually completely forgotten that Max was supposed to be on the autism spectrum, but that was likely another reason that I was drawn to this book in the first place. I also love the whole premise of the story being narrated by an imaginary friend, and especially one that seems to be viewed positively. I’m very excited to pick this one up in the next few weeks and finally get to read it for myself.

5) Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

25528801I had this book on my radar for a very long time before I finally decided to add it to my TBR. It was one that I tended to see all over Goodreads, but kept putting off adding it because it seemed unusually short at under 250 pages. I often find that shorter books, especially in YA, don’t really have enough room for the story to develop. This book is about a teenage girl named Hermione Winters, who is trying to make the most of her last year as cheerleading captain at her summer training camp. During a camp party, Hermione is drugged and raped, and is unable to remember any of what happened. I’ve seen many reviews that have noted that this book tackles the difficult topic from a different angle than other YA books that address rape or sexual assault, and the focus is on Hermione’s strength and recovery, and the importance of her friends and family to this process. I think part of the reason I’ve put this one off for so long is because I’ve seen very mixed reviews for it, which didn’t help when I was already a little on the fence. I picked this one up from the clearance section of Book Outlet for just $2, and I think it’s about time I gave it a fair chance.

6) Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

36952596This is one of two books by Anna-Marie McLemore that I’m planning to read this year, and of the two it is the one I know less about. This book is about the del Cisne sisters, Blanca and Roja, whose family is cursed to always have two daughters, one who survives and the other is taken away and trapped in the body of a swan. Blanca and Roja try to fight the curse, while also helping two local boys who have also been affected by magic and struggling to survive through difficult experiences of their own. To be honest, I find the synopses that I’ve seen a bit confusing, but the parts of it that I do understand seem so intriguing! I’ve only read one other Anna-Marie McLemore book so far, and although I didn’t love it quite as much as I’d expected, it did interest me enough to want to read more. I really enjoy her writing style and the way she weaves magic into her stories. I was also especially drawn to this one because it seemed like a fairy tale, and I think it may even be a loose Snow White retelling. I’m hoping this one will make a bit more sense to me when I actually read it, because it sounds so good!

7) American Panda by Gloria Chao

35297380. sy475 This is yet another book that I’ve been meaning to read for a while! I added it to my TBR in January 2018, and finally picked up a copy from Book Outlet at some point last year. This is a YA debut novel about a girl named Mei, who is a freshman in college and on track to fulfill her parents’ dreams of her becoming a doctor and marrying a Taiwanese man. Unfortunately, Mei hates studying biology and has feelings for a classmate who is not Taiwanese, but worries about her parents’ reaction since they had disowned her brother because they disapproved of the woman he was dating. I’m intrigued by this one partly because it is set in college, so it makes a nice change from the typical high school setting of most YA books. I’ve also been seeing a lot more books in the past couple of years that deal with these kinds of cultural gaps between young adults and their parents, and this is one of a few that I’m interested in trying this year. The cover definitely seems to give off more wintry vibes than spring, but it is likely a book that I will be picking up soon.

8) Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

23746004. sy475 I feel like I need to make a point of reading this one soon because it was one of the books I was most excited to pick up last year, but somehow ran out of time before I could get to it. I’ve had this one on my TBR since 2015, so it’s about time I pick it up! This book is about a woman named Tessa, who was the only surviving victim, who were all known as Black-Eyed Susans, of a serial killer. At age 16, she was found barely alive and with only fragments of memory in a field, and her testimony about the attack landed a man on death row. Almost 20 years later, Tessa is shocked to find a single patch of black-eyed Susans outside her bedroom window, leading her to believe that the wrong man was sent to jail for the crime. As the execution date draws nearer, Tessa works with the lawyers and forensics team to figure out what really happened, and make sure that the wrong person isn’t punished for the crime. I have no idea why it has taken me so long to finally get around to this book, but it sounds so interesting. I am definitely planning to get to this one in the next couple of weeks so I can finally cross it off my list.

9) Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

22535503This is another book that I’ve had on my TBR since 2015, and now is the perfect excuse to finally get to it. It is about a stay-at-home father named Simon, whose nightmare seems to come true when he hears that there is a shooting at the high school, where his two children both go. When his son Jake is the only person not to come out of the building, Simon becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to his son, and how well he really knew Jake. With no one searching for his son, Simon is left to question whether his son could have been the shooter, and if so, what signs he and his wife might have missed. This book is along the same lines as Defending Jacob and We Need to Talk About Kevin, which are two of the most memorable books I’ve read since I first started doing reading challenges. I tend to really enjoy these kinds of complex stories of parent-child dynamics and the ethical dilemmas raised by the question of how much the parent could have or should have known. When these books are done well, they are so fascinating, and I’m hoping this will become another favourite.

10) Don’t Try To Find Me by Holly Brown

18698861This is yet another book that’s been on my TBR since 2015! I guess this mandatory time to stay home is going to be a great way to get through some of my backlist books. This one is about a 14-year-old girl named Marley who seems to have run away from home, with a note telling her parents not to try to find her. With little help from the police due to “limited resources,” her parents, Rachel and Paul, are left on their own to figure out why Marley left. Paul turns to social media to launch a Find Marley campaign, but when Rachel messes up an interview, scrutiny turns back on the family and the public becomes convinced that they also have something to hide. This book has several of the elements that I tend to enjoy. I’m also intrigued because it was compared to both Reconstructing Amelia and Gone Girl. I really liked both of those books but they don’t have very much in common, so I’m interested to see what the connection is. I’d mostly forgotten about this book until I saw it on Book Outlet, but even after buying a copy, I seem to have let it just sit there for quite a while. I think now would be a great time to finally try it.

Discussion: What Makes a Good Adaptation

I’ve always struggled a bit with book-to-movie or book-to-TV adaptations. I could never decide if I wanted to read the book first, or watch the adaptation first. Either way, I always tend to connect most strongly with whichever version I see first, which means I sometimes have trouble getting into the story in another format. Inevitably, I end up comparing one to the other, or getting thrown off by things that were changed or removed. Lately, I’ve been watching quite a few adaptations, and will likely watch several more given that my work has closed for the next three weeks due to COVID-19 concerns. None of us were affected by the virus (as far as we know), but we work with a vulnerable population and our building is connected to the community center, which the city has closed, so therefore we were forced to close too. There have been so many adaptations out lately, and so many more coming that it got me thinking about what I really look for to decide if an adaptation is a good one.

Casting Choices

I think casting plays a huge role in how people view an adaptation. A lot of people have an image in mind of what the characters “should” look like or which actors “should” be playing the part, whether the author described the characters in detail themselves or readers just imagined the character a certain way. Since we tend to see photos of the cast long before we get to see any of the actual adaptation, I think this is one of the earliest and quickest ways people tend to judge. I remember being thrown a bit when I saw that Penn Badgley had been cast as Joe Goldberg in You because I had just seen him in Gossip Girl, or when Patrick Warburton was cast as Lemony Snicket in the Netflix version of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’m not that up-to-date with celebrities are rarely (if ever) have an idea in mind of who I would cast, but I still get thrown a bit when the person chosen doesn’t seem to match the character.

I think that was part of the issue when a black woman was cast as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. For so many people, there was a specific image in mind of what Hermione looked like, only further ingrained because of Emma Watson playing the role for so many years. To switch to someone new after that would have been a shock to people either way, but changing the look of the character altogether really threw people off. Recently, I saw the cast photo for the upcoming Netflix version of The Babysitters Club, and was a bit shocked to see that the girl cast as Dawn Schaffer, described in the books as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed California girl, was Xochitl Gomez, who is a brunette with darker skin. In fact, when the image shown here was first released, I saw several comments asking who the fifth girl even was. Dawn is the one in the army-print jacket on the right. There is no problem with switching things up and I’m sure they picked the best actress for the job, but the immediate gut reaction for a lot of people was “Who is that?” or “That’s not Dawn!” I think this is even more the case when there have been multiple adaptations of a book or series where the characters have all visually looked similar, since that just further cements the idea in mind of how they should look.

For me, casting choices ultimately come down to how well the actor or actress captures the character as a whole, and not so much about their looks. Like everyone else, it does throw me off at first to see a poster or preview and find that the characters don’t look the way I expected, but it’s something that I get over fairly easily once I start to watch and see how well the person has captured the character. Of course, there are always cases where the casting just doesn’t seem to fit, but in most cases, I think they get it right.

Format

The format of the adaptation seems to have become much more relevant in the past few years given how many streaming platforms we now have. It still seems like the majority of the adaptations are still movies, but there have been a lot more TV series (and I use the term “TV” lightly, to encompass all kinds of Netflix, Crave, etc.), which has opened up so many doors. Again, using A Series of Unfortunate Events as an example, I think the decision to make it a Netflix series was one of the best choices they could have made. I really enjoyed the original movie version with Jim Carrey, but it was really difficult to try and cram so many books worth of material into movies. Let alone the fact that they abandoned the series after just one movie. With the Netflix version, the creators were able to take their time and devote two episodes to each book, meaning that they could really stay true to the story and had lots of room to develop the series without having to worry too much about cutting things out for timing.

Image result for thirteen reasons why season 4On the other hand, TV series can also pose a new set of problems when the popularity of the series outlives the available content currently in the books. The two prime examples I can think of are Thirteen Reasons Why and You. The first season of each show stayed fairly true to the original story. However, the decision to extend Thirteen Reasons Why for two (and possibly more) additional series meant that the writers had to come up with more storylines for the characters beyond the original source material, and opinions on how well that has been done have been quite mixed. The problem deepens even further with a show like You, where the second season differed quite a bit from the second book in the series. That alone would have been fine, however the show has gained such popularity that it has been extended for at least one more series. Caroline Kepnes has recently said that she will be writing two more books in the series, which raises the important question of how exactly that will work without creating continuity problems. Granted, I think season 2 of You was much better than Hidden Bodies, the sequel that provided its basis, but it had changed so much that I’m not sure how Caroline Kepnes can reconcile the differences.

With movies, the challenge is how to condense the entire contents of a book into 2 hours or less, while keeping the story intact and moving at a reasonable pace. There have been some great YA adaptations over the past couple of years, including Dumplin’ and To All the Boys I Loved Before, both on Netflix, which have done a good job at bringing their stories to life. It becomes much more challenging when it is a series of books, and especially when that series is still ongoing at the time that the movies are made. Directors and writers need to choose which parts of the book to keep and which to cut, but if a series is still in progress, they risk skipping over things that could be important later. My friends and I used to joke about what would happen if Winky or Peeves were going to be absolutely essential by the end of the Harry Potter series, since neither of them were featured in the movies. In general, I find that movies tend to work better for stories that are very action-heavy, whereas TV series are great for more character-driven books, since they give more time for the characters to develop. In either case, deciding which format is the best fit is essential to whether the adaptation will be a good one.

Content

The last and probably most important point is the content of the adaptation itself. There’s always a debate about how closely an adaptation needs to stick to the original, and I think there are very valid points on both sides. It can be really frustrating to look forward to seeing specific favourite scenes only to find that they’ve been left out completely, or, and this is sometimes much worse, changed. However, in the interest of time, it also makes sense that adaptations can’t include every single detail and still hold audiences’ attention for a reasonable amount of time. For me, I find that the best adaptations are the ones that ultimately capture what I call the “spirit” of the book or series. This means that it captures the essence of the story or characters, with most of the original material intact, but is not necessarily a literal word-for-word transcription of the book.

Image result for harry and hermione danceChanges to the content are almost always necessary, but they can be very frustrating. I think the most prominent example of this one are the radical changes made to the ending of My Sister’s Keeper, which took away so much of the impact of the story. Changing the ending always makes me wonder why filmmakers decide to adapt a book if they don’t want to keep the story as it is. It’s fine to add content to flesh out characters or scenes, or remove minor things to keep the pacing going. That scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows where Harry and Hermione dance was adorable, and a great addition since ultimately, it added to the characters without fundamentally changing anything. Completely changing an ending is different, at least to me. When even the author expresses that they did not approve of the changes to the ending, I think it shows that it’s gone a bit too far. I don’t really understand the purpose of agreeing to adapt a story if they are not interested in the whole story.

Any changes in an adaptation tend to throw fans off at least a bit. If nothing else, I always end up questioning my memory of the original and double-checking to see whether something had been changed, or if I’d forgotten details. Both options are equally likely. In some cases, it’s just frustrating when filmmakers decide to change things for little apparent reason, like shuffling around the ages and abilities of the characters in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. This was one of my favourite books and I was really looking forward to seeing it on screen, especially because it was a Tim Burton movie, but they changed so much of the characters! It was hard to tell who people were supposed to be, and the changes served little purpose and actually detracted from some of the excellent characters in the book.

I do think filmmakers should and do have tons of room to experiment and try different things, but capturing the essence of the story is most important. I think the recent adaptation of Little Women did a great job of that. Unlike previous adaptations, this one told the story in a non-linear order, focusing on the young women as adults with flashbacks to earlier events, and for the most part, that worked. On the other hand, the trailer for the new adaptation of The Secret Garden has me a bit skeptical so far. The other challenge is when the contents of the book are potentially triggering or sensitive, such as in All the Bright Places. I watched the Netflix adaptation shortly after it was released, and while I liked it, I couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed with how Finch’s storyline was handled. There’s such a fine line when it comes to this kind of difficult subject matter, and it can be hard to balance addressing these topics with the potential risk of triggering viewers.

So What Makes a Good Adaptation?

I think ultimately, what makes a good adaptation comes down to the individual viewer’s impressions of it. There do seem to be some movies and TV series that are widely considered strong adaptations, and many more that seem universally hated. For me, an adaptation is a good one when it seems to capture the overall essence of the original story and its characters. I personally don’t mind superficial changes to the story (ie. adding minor scenes of exposition or something to establish character), but I get annoyed when radical changes are made that fundamentally alter the direction of the story. Of course, in some cases that can turn out for the better (ie. You Season 2), but in most cases, it just comes across like the creators wanted to adapt part of the story but weren’t sold on the whole thing. Choosing the right cast and the right format to tell the story is a huge part of what makes an adaptation succeed. There have been so many great ones out lately, and I’m looking forward to seeing more, especially now that platforms like Netflix are starting to make more adaptations of their own.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Neurodiverse Characters (In Honour of International Brain Awareness Week)

Continuing my theme of monthly special days and holidays, I decided to focus on a week-long observance rather than a specific day. It’s been really surprising to look ahead at the coming months and see just how many special days there are. I was especially surprised to see the number of week-long observances. I still find the majority of these holidays and celebrations pretty random and a bit weird in general to celebrate, but some of them are really interesting. I learned that the second week of March is considered International Brain Awareness Week, which is a global campaign to increase awareness of brain research. As someone who studied psychology and currently works with people with autism as well as other developmental disabilities and/or mental health conditions, it seemed very relevant to me. It is definitely not a campaign that I had ever really heard about before, but I fully support the idea of promoting researching the brain. To fit this week’s theme, I decided to focus on five books on my TBR that have neurodiverse characters, specifically characters on the autism spectrum.

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 Bride Test by Helen Hoang

39338454. sy475 This is easily the book that I’m most excited for on this list, and the only one that I am actively planning to read this year. This book is a companion novel/sequel to The Kiss Quotient, focusing on a character named Khai, who is the cousin of one of the characters in the first book. Khai is on the autism spectrum, and his mother decides to take it into her own hands to find him a wife despite his lack of interest in relationships. Khai’s mother travels to Vietnam to find him a bride, and returns with a woman named Esme, who sees this marriage as an opportunity to have a better life. This book is own voices since the author is both autistic and Vietnamese herself, and I thought the autism representation in The Kiss Quotient was very well-done (although I do not have autism myself). I’ve seen so many excellent reviews for this one by many of the reviewers I follow, so I’m very excited to give it a try. I also love that Helen Hoang is writing romance books that feature relationships that are a bit different from what is typically portrayed in the genre, and I’m really looking forward to reading more.

2) On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

22020598This book has been on my TBR for way too long already! I think the only reason I keep putting it off is because it is sci-fi and that is not a genre that I reach for too often, although I do tend to enjoy the sci-fi books that I have read. This book is about a girl named Denise who has autism, and she and her family have been assigned a temporary shelter to avoid an incoming comet. While searching for her sister to make sure they arrive at the shelter in time, a chance encounter opens up a new possibility for Denise to have a place on a ship that will leave to colonize new worlds. However, passengers must have a practical skill that they can contribute in order to be considered for this ship, and Denise worries that she will not be allowed to stay, and even if she does, it does not guarantee a place for her mother and sister. Given that Corinne Duyvis is credited as the creator of #ownvoices, it is no surprise that this book is an own voices novel for the autism representation. Although I have seen a few reviews mentioning that this book is a bit too slow-paced, it sounds like a very intriguing story and I’m especially interested in the focus on Denise’s concerns about bringing a “valuable” skill to the team. As someone who works in a program that emphasizes opportunities for adults with autism/developmental disabilities to contribute and be valued in the community for their abilities, this one seems especially relevant to me.

3) A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

28220983I bought a copy of this one from Book Outlet after seeing that it involved both autism and Minecraft, which are two interests of mine. This one is about a father named Alex who has difficulty connecting with his son, Sam, who is 8 years old and has autism. When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a new way for the father and son to connect. It reminds me of a movie I saw a few years ago called Life, Animated which was about a father who connected to his son with autism through Disney movies. It is also a book, although so far I have only seen the movie version. Upon doing a bit of research, I found that Keith Stuart himself is a father of a young son with autism, and he also found PlayStation games were a way to bond with his son. I think this is such an interesting story and it could open up so many new ideas and approaches to connecting with individuals who have autism. I’m also very interested to see how Minecraft is incorporated into the story because I’ve never really seen it mentioned in detail in books before and I’m curious to see how such a visual game will be represented on the page.

4) Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

30971706. sy475 To be honest, I’d forgotten that I even had this book on my TBR, but it came up relatively quickly when I searched for books from the past few years that featured a character with autism. This book is about a popular high school student named Chloe whose older sister Ivy is on the autism spectrum. Chloe decides that her sister should have a boyfriend, and attempts to set her up with Ethan, another boy from Ivy’s special needs class at school. Although Chloe would prefer to avoid Ethan’s brother, she can’t because the two of them end up chaperoning their siblings’ dates since Ivy and Ethan are not comfortable going out alone. I do not know much about this author, but I have seen this book tagged as own voices as well. What especially intrigues me about this one is that there is some focus on the experiences of siblings of the individuals with autism. This is a perspective that is often underrepresented, even in research and it is such an important one! When I was in university and college, I did two major research papers about the experiences of siblings and other family members of individuals with disabilities and it was so interesting. I’ve rarely seen YA books with this perspective, and I’m very excited to see how it is represented.

5) When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A.J. Steiger

35098416This book first caught my eye because of the beautiful cover art, but the synopsis was the real selling point for me.  It is about a teenage girl named Alvie who has Asperger’s syndrome, although that term is no longer used,  and is determined to prove to the world that she can take care of herself, and hopes to be legally emancipated from her foster parents when she turns 18. When she meets a boy named Stanley who walks with a cane and has a condition that causes him to break bones easily, she soon finds herself feeling closer to him than she has to anyone in a long time. For some reason, it feels like a very difficult book to summarize because it touches on so many different topics, but I’m intrigued by this one because I’ve heard that it does a lot to tackle misconceptions and negative attitudes about autism, and also because of the emphasis on independence and adulthood/future planning. This is another topic that I think is very important and it is also one that is relevant to me on a daily basis at work, so I’m very excited to see it featured in YA.

 

Top 10 Tuesdays – Authors With a Strong Social Media Presence

I feel like I miss out on a lot of authors’ online presence because I’m not active on Twitter. I have an account, but never really got into the platform in general so I rarely look at it. Instead, I tend to follow the authors that I like on Facebook and Instagram, but it doesn’t really feel like the same kind of presence that a lot of authors seem to have on Twitter. I also tend to find that a lot of authors seem to fall into some kind of Twitter controversy at some point. I think social media is such a great way for authors to connect with their readers and it feels much more personal than just seeing updates about their books and upcoming releases, but it can also be harder to separate the author from their work. So many author seem to get embroiled in some kind of social media controversy or criticized about negative behaviour toward fans. I found it really hard to find authors that had a memorable enough presence for me to really think of for this week’s topic, but there were a few that really jumped out! Even though Twitter is not the platform I use most, it’s the one I decided to focus on here because it’s where I tend to get the strongest sense of an author’s social media presence.

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) Victoria Schwab (@veschwab on Twitter)

Victoria Schwab was the one author who immediately jumped to mind when I saw this week’s topic, because she is the one that I most strongly notice having a “presence” on my social media. Her posts are just so funny, and I love how much she comments on the writing process. Even though I’m not a writer, so many of her posts are so relatable to me, and I always look forward to seeing them.

2) Mara Wilson (@MaraWilson on Twitter)

I guess it’s somewhat debatable if you could consider Mara Wilson an author, although she does have a published autobiography and used to blog quite a bit, which seems to have now switched over to a subscription service instead. Mara Wilson’s tweets were one of the main reasons I kept going back to my Twitter feed because I loved her humour.

3) Jay Kristoff (@misterkristoff on Twitter)

I follow Jay Kristoff on a few platforms, but I think Instagram is where I see his posts most often. I like how actively engaged he seems to be with his fanbase, especially by frequently posting fanart of characters from his books. I have to say that it does bug me a bit how much his feeds tend to feature special editions or exclusives (ie. the Memento novella), but that’s mostly because I’m jealous that I can’t get them!

4) J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling on Twitter)

This is a controversial one because she’s made some questionable posts in the past, but I enjoy J.K. Rowling’s feed for the fun facts she’s added about the Harry Potter universe, even if some of them are a bit weird/unnecessary (ie. the Hogwarts plumbing situation). I haven’t really followed her lately because her feed has become too political for me, but she is definitely someone I would look for when I first started on Twitter.

5) Laini Taylor (@lainitaylor on Twitter)

I only recently started following Laini Taylor on Twitter, after noticing a few very funny Tweets! I especially love her posts about her own love of reading, and when she shares funny stories about her daughter. I don’t think I’ve followed her long enough to really consider her the strongest presence in my feed yet, but her posts have been a lot of fun to read.

6) Maggie Stiefvater (@mstiefvater on Twitter)

Many of Maggie Stiefvater’s Tweets also come up for me on Facebook so she’s been much easier for me to follow than many of the others listed here. It seems that my love of her writing style even extends to her Tweets, because I love her sense of humour and her commentary on her own books/characters.

7) C.G. Drews (@PaperFury on Twitter)

I technically haven’t read either of C.G. Drews’ books yet, but I’m very interested in reading both of them and I have followed her blog for a few years now. I usually see her posts on other platforms rather than Twitter, but I love her quirky sense of humour. Her personality seems to come through so strongly in her posts, and I always look out for them.

8) Noelle Stevenson (@Gingerhazing on Twitter)

This is another account that I just started following, and I’m actually surprised I haven’t been following her social media for a while given how much I love her graphic novels! Noelle Stevenson’s feed is still too new to me to really have a strong presence yet, but she is someone I can definitely see looking out for more often.

9) Seanan McGuire (@seananmcguire on Twitter)

Seanan McGuire is a recent favourite author because of her Wayward Children series, and I’ve been hearing for a while that she’s a great social media presence as well. She’s another account that I’ve only just started to follow, but even within the first few minutes of checking out her Tweets, chronicling her commentary about a flights she was taking, I was hooked.

10) Anna-Marie McLemore (@LaAnnaMarie on Twitter)

This is yet another account that I’ve only just started following. I’ve only read one of their books so far and didn’t quite love it as much as I’d expected, although I’m planning to read more soon. Anna-Marie McLemore’s personality really seems to shine through on their Tweets, and I also love how actively they seem to promote other books and authors.