Top 5 Wednesdays: Spooky Times (Movies/Halloween Specials I Love to Watch Around Halloween)

It’s likely that I would have been able to find some more Halloween-themed books on my TBR, but I wanted to shift the focus a bit for a change and mention some movies and TV shows that I love instead. I don’t really watch a ton of movies or TV anymore, but there are some that I keep going back to. Around Halloween, I especially love to revisit some of my favourites. I’m a huge coward when it comes to really scary movies. I was way too young when I watched The Sixth Sense, and although it was a great movie, it absolutely terrified me. I rarely watch horror movies, and almost never watch slasher movies. I tend to find psychological horror the scariest. I think one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen was an anime called Another, which I absolutely loved but it really creeped me out.

Instead, I tend to go for movies that have more of a gothic feel, or a mix of both humour and scary elements. I know Hocus Pocus and Nightmare Before Christmas are likely to make a lot of people’s lists, but surprisingly enough, I’ve never loved either of them! I don’t even think I’ve ever fully seen Nightmare Before Christmas. The commercials for it freaked me out when I was younger for some reason, and I never really bothered to go back to it. I vaguely remember watching Hocus Pocus, but the only strong memory I have of it is a scene where the cat breathes itself back to life after being hit by a car. I think I’ll have to try both of those movies again 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) The Addams Family – Anyone who has been following my blog for a while would know that this would be my first and most obvious choice. I love The Addams Family in any incarnation, but especially love to watch the Addams Family and Addams Family Values movies from the 90s! I also love to watch The New Addams Family, since that was the version I was absolutely obsessed with as a kid, and it was always on TV around Halloween.

2) Dark Shadows – I wanted to watch this movie in the first place because it reminded me very strongly of The Addams Family. I’ve actually only seen this movie once, in theatres when it first came out. I can’t believe it’s already been 8 years! I keep meaning to rewatch this one around Halloween every year, but somehow never end up actually watching it. This movie is exactly the kind of thing I meant above when I talked about a mix of humour and a creepy/gothic atmosphere.

3) Beetlejuice – This is probably one of the earliest “Halloweenish” movies I can remember watching, aside from The Addams Family. I first saw it at my best friend’s house when we were about 8, and I loved it. I think part of my attachment to it is because I had vague memories of watching the cartoon version from the early 90s, and I also absolutely loved Winona Ryder as Lydia because of how much she reminded me of another Wednesday Addams. It’s been years since I’ve seen it by now, so I’m definitely due for a rewatch.

4) The Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons – I started watching The Simpsons in general because my older brother loved it, and I distinctly remember being scared by several of the Treehouse of Horror episodes, especially Nightmare Cafeteria. Once I got old enough to find them more funny than scary, I started to really love these episodes and find it a lot of fun to watch them (at least the older ones) around Halloween. Ironically enough, my favourite is now Treehouse of Horror V, including Nightmare Cafeteria!

5) Fear, Itself (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4) – I could probably include all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since it’s one of my favourite shows, but this episode is the ultimate Halloween special. The episode is set at a Halloween party, where a fear demon has accidentally been summoned that leads Buffy and her friends (as well as the rest of the guests) to confront their worst fears. This episode was genuinely creepy, but also so great for character development, and it is so much fun to watch!

Top 10 Tuesdays: Halloween Freebie (Books I Plan to Read This Halloween Season)

I started this month with a list of about 30 or so books that I’d purposely saved for October because they seemed a perfect fit for the Halloween season. As I expected, I couldn’t possibly get through all of them, especially now that I’m adjusting back to working full-time in person again. I can’t deny that I’m a little frustrated that I didn’t get to all of the books that I planned, especially because there isn’t really a reason why that I can pinpoint. I think I just underestimated how long each book would take me. To account for all of this, I decided to give myself a bit of an “extended Halloween” and set myself a loose goal of reading all of my Halloween-ish books this week leading up to the holiday, as well as the following week. With the pandemic ongoing, no one really has a strong sense of time right now anyway, so I think even the week after counts as part of the Halloween season! The majority of these are books that I’ve mentioned repeatedly before, so I won’t go into detail here. I also loosely plan to make a Recent Reads post once I’ve read several of them, so to avoid repeating too much, I’m going to just list the 10 that I’m planning to read here, and I’ll go into further detail another time!

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) Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

2) Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

3) Small Spaces and Dead Voices by Katherine Arden

4) City of Ghosts and Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab

5) A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

6) Yesternight by Cat Winters

7) The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw

8) In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

9) The Whisper Man by Alex North

10) Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

The Monster Mash Book Tag

I found this tag not too long ago while searching for some new Halloween-themed book tags, and it looked like so much fun! The Monster Mash is such a guilty pleasure song, and I don’t even hear it that often, not even at this time of year. I was actually surprised that I’d never seen this one before, nor that the song itself hadn’t been mentioned much in other Halloween-themed tags. This tag was originally created by The Restricted Section and the original video can be found here. I found it on The Sassy Book Geek (found here) after searching online for Halloween book tags, and immediately decided it was something that I wanted to try!

1) “I was working in the lab late one night” – What’s a book that kept you up at night?

Definitely Little Girls by Ronald Malfi! I feel like this is the only horror book I ever mention, but it was one of the first that I read and also really creeped me out. I rarely read this kind of horror because of how badly they affect my overactive imagination, but I absolutely loved this one and it definitely kept me up at night because it was so creepy!

2) “My eyes beheld an eerie sight.” – What’s the weirdest or creepiest shit you’ve ever read in a book?

I think the one that sticks with me the most was from And the Trees Crept In. There is a scene fairly early on where the main characters are served some cake with some kind of fruit or jam in it, only to bite into it and see that the filling has become worms! It’s been 3 years since I’ve read this book, and this scene still sticks with me because it’s so gross! I think it especially bugged me because there is a raspberry cheesecake I like to get from a local restaurant, and because the cake in the book was a white cake with red fruit/jam, every time I saw the cake for a while afterwards, my brain would bring back the memory of the worms and it would gross me out (although luckily not enough to fully put me off the cake).

3) “Get a jolt from my electrodes.” – Name a book that completely shocked or surprised you.

Again, this is a book that I bring up all the time, but it is the one that I think is still the best fit for this question. One of the books that shocked me the most was Defending Jacob, which I read back in 2015 and still remember clearly to this day. The ending genuinely shocked me, especially because I’d just been starting to think that the book was starting to feel like it was dragging on too long. It is still one of the strongest and most memorable thrillers that I’ve read.

4) “The guests included Wolfman, Dracula, and his son.” – Name your favorite monster or villain from a book.

This is a tough one, since I often find villains or at least morally grey characters the most interesting. It’s actually really hard for me to pick a specific favourite since I love several for different reasons — Professor Umbridge because she’s so realistic, Count Olaf because he’s hilarious, etc. I think if I had to pick just one, I’d go for a classic and pick the Phantom of the Opera, although probably moreso from the movie/musical than from the book.

5) “Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?” – Name a book that was super hyped when it came out, but no one talks about anymore.

I feel like this is a hard one to answer because hype naturally dies down for books over time, so it just makes sense that hype will slow down as more people read the book and form their own opinions. I feel like thrillers are the most likely to fall victim to this — they get a ton of hype before they’ve come out, but as soon as most people read them, they are over. One specifically that I can think of is Before I Go to Sleep. I remember everyone talking about this one a few years ago, but rarely hear it mentioned at all anymore (although to be fair, it’s been out nearly 10 years now!).

6) “They did the mash.” – Name your favorite book that is a mash up of two or more genres.

The Lunar Chronicles! I tend to think of them as mostly sci-fi I guess, but they are a mix of fantasy, sci-fi and romance.

7) “It was a graveyard smash.” – What is your favorite horror novel?

Again, I rarely read horror so it’s a bit hard to pick a favourite. I think if I had to pick, I’d go for a classic like Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

8) “The scene was rockin’, all were digging the sounds.” – What’s your favorite song based on a book?

I’m not really sure what this means, to be honest. I don’t know of any songs that are based on books. I guess I’d probably pick Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John since that at least has a literary reference and it’s a song that I love, but I don’t know that I’d specifically tie it to The Wizard of Oz, despite its name.

9) “Tell them Boris sent you.” – What’s your go-to book recommendation?

Normally I’d say Harry Potter, but that’s a pretty contentious choice right now. Aside from that, I’d say just about any book by Jodi Picoult, especially House Rules or My Sister’s Keeper.

10) “For you, the living, this mash was meant too.” – Who do you tag?

Since this tag has been around for a few years already, and I have no idea who has already done it, I’d say if you’d like to try it, consider yourself tagged!

11) Bonus Question: What’s your favorite thing about Halloween?

My birthday is right before Halloween, so that time of year was always so much fun for me. I’d go straight from birthday celebrations to Halloween candy within a couple of days. I also tend to love the weather around this time of year (if it’s not too cold yet), and I always found it so much fun to go trick-or-treating. I was so disappointed when I got too old to go anymore!

Top 5 Wednesdays: Books That Took You the Longest to Read

Every year, there are a few books that seem like they take me forever to finish! I’m not really the type to abandon books that I have in progress. Most books take me 2-4 days to read, depending on the length of it. On an average work day, I usually read around 100 pages or so in the evenings since that’s my only time to read. In some cases, there are books that I thought I’d be able to fly through, only to find that they are a bit of a slog. I’m not even counting books that are especially long, like Kingdom of Ash. That one is close to 1000 pages, so it was no surprise that it took me nearly a week! I wish Goodreads offered a way to organize books by how long they took so I’d be able to easily find the ones that took longest. Since it doesn’t, I had to just go by memory of the books in the past few years that I remember struggling to get through.

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) A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

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I’ve mentioned this book several times before, but it was the first one that immediately came to mind when I saw this week’s topic! To be fair, this book is a bit on the longer side at close to 500 pages, but I just couldn’t connect with the writing style and found myself getting so bored. It took me a total of 6 days to finish, and that’s after switching to an audiobook version instead to get through the second half. I thought the audio version was much more engaging and it was much easier to pay attention to it through the lengthy descriptions. To be fair, 6 days is not the worst for a book of this size, but I feel like it would have been much longer had I stuck to the physical copy! I was so disappointed since I love the Arthurian legend and had read The Once and Future King without a problem, but I just couldn’t get into this one. I think I just don’t connect very well with Mark Twain’s writing. The only other book of his that I’ve read so far is Tom Sawyer, which I liked better but also not nearly as much as I’d expected. I’d like to eventually read Huck Finn and The Prince and the Pauper, but my experience with this one has really put me off.

2) The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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To be fair, I had very little interest in this book in the first place, and only picked it up because I saw a ton of hype around it. This book is just over 300 pages (which I can normally finish in 2-3 days), and it took me 5 days to read. I’d seen so many reviews for this one talking about how “powerful” and “fast-paced” it was, and given that it was such a short book, I thought I’d fly right through it. Unfortunately, the book was neither of those things for me. I agree that from a technical standpoint, it was very well-written but I didn’t feel any form of emotional connection to the characters. There were some sections that I really enjoyed, but I also found that having some familiarity with American history, not much of the story was particularly shocking to me. I found that the story was told from such a distance that I couldn’t get that invested in the main character, and ended up feeling like I was forcing myself to continue reading, which was especially frustrating given that the book is pretty short!

3) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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I was familiar with the very basics of this book because of a variety of adaptations, so I finally decided that it was about time to read it a couple of years back. This is another book that was on the short side, at only 280 pages, but it ended up being a huge struggle to get through and took me 5 days. The most brutal part for me was the incredibly boring “framing story” at the beginning, which describes the narrator finding the story of the scarlet letter. It was a very long, very dry way to open the book and almost put me off even continuing with it. Luckily, as soon as it moved on to the main story about Hester Prynne, I was much more interested. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the writing style of this one either, and found my attention wavering quite a bit throughout. I was glad to have finally read this one, but disappointed with the overall experience of actually reading it. I was also a bit surprised to realize how much more there was to the plot than I’d seen in the adaptations which tend to focus just on the letter pinned to Hester’s clothes. I couldn’t get very invested in this one.

4) Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

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I remember this book becoming very popular around the time I was finishing elementary school, but I never had much interest in trying it at the time. I finally decided to give it a chance to see what I’d missed, and ended up regretting it! At 560 pages, it actually didn’t take me an unreasonable amount of time to finish (5 days), but it felt like it took so much longer! I assumed it would be an easy read because it is geared toward a middle grade audience, but I found it so slow and boring. I loved the idea behind the book and really liked the beginning, but I thought it took way too long for the story to really get going, and never connected with the characters or the plot. Reading this book ended up feeling like such a chore, and it was another one that I ultimately switched to alternating between the audio and physical versions just to move it along. I was so disappointed that I didn’t end up loving it, and especially that a middle grade book was so tough to get through.

5) Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

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I’d assumed this book would be an easy 5-star read because of how much I’d loved Uprooted, so I was disappointed to find that I had a much tougher time getting into this one. I still ultimately enjoyed it and rated it 4 stars, but I was a bit frustrated by my slower progress. This is another book that is close to 500 pages, and took me a very reasonable 6 days to read, but it felt like it took so long! In this case, I think it was a matter of poor planning on my part, since I tried to read this one in the evenings after work when I was too tired to really absorb it, instead of starting it on a weekend like I’d originally planned. My biggest gripe with the book is the way it changed perspectives without giving any indication of who was narrating. It usually wasn’t too difficult to figure it out, but I found it a bit annoying, and I generally found the book very slow to get through. I think this is a book I’d like to eventually give another chance, since I often tend to like books less when I read them very fragmented over several days. I loved the overall concept, and I think I might end up liking this one, or at least having an easier time with it next time.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them To Me

It’s tough for me to remember exactly where I first heard about many of the books I read. There are a lot of books and especially series that I end up reading because I start seeing them absolutely everywhere. I tend to actively avoid books that I think are overhyped, but usually come around to eventually reading them anyway. It makes it a bit more challenging to to pinpoint exactly who I think recommended it. For example, many of the Youtube channels I watch have recommended The Raven Cycle, but I’m not entirely sure where I first heard of it or which channel ultimately convinced me to try it. Because I do yearly reading challenges and pick the majority of my books in advance, I also don’t necessarily leave myself much room to take recommendations as they come up so I don’t actively seek them out, at least not from people I know in real life. I’d feel bad if someone suggested I read something and I didn’t end up getting to it. These are all books that I can specifically remember being recommended to me, from various times throughout my 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) Defending Jacob by William Landay (recommended by my mom) – The first year that I started doing reading challenges, I had a prompt asking for “a book your mom loves.” My mom is a huge reader too, and she has many books that she loves. I asked her to pick one for me, and I’m so glad that this is the one she chose! It’s still one of the best books that I’ve read since I started doing challenges. I haven’t watched the adaptation yet, but I’m hoping to give it a try!

2) The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin (recommended by Jodi Picoult) – This is another one that came up as part of my reading challenges, for a prompt requiring a book recommended by one of my favourite authors. I knew I wanted to pick something recommended by Jodi Picoult since she is by far my favourite, and I was excited to find a website (which I’ve unfortunately forgotten since then!) that collected lists of books that various authors have recommended. I ended up loving this one and I thought it was so similar to Jodi’s style.

3) Kill Me by Stephen White (recommended by my ex) – I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book on my own, especially because it is in the middle of a longer series featuring a psychologist named Alan Gregory. This was also for a challenge prompt requiring a book recommended by a friend, so I asked my boyfriend at the time to pick something for me. We have very different tastes in books, and I’d never even heard of this one. I liked the concept of it, but didn’t really love the writing style.

4) The Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale (recommended by my school librarian) – The only reason I found this book at all is because my school librarian literally put it into my hands during a Scholastic book fair at school. She saw my best friend and I looking around and knew that we were both huge readers, so she recommended this one. I ended up reading and loving the entire series, and I think it is so underrated! It came out a couple of years after Harry Potter, and I feel like it got completely overshadowed.

5) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (recommended by a different school librarian) – I first heard of this series because of a different school librarian. He had been the librarian at my elementary school, and after he retired, he would come back occasionally to do “book chats” with us, where he’d read us a couple of pages of recently released books. He read us the first few pages of The Bad Beginning (as well as the first Harry Potter book), and I was instantly hooked!

6) The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo (recommended by Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes) – The majority of my recommendations come from other blogs and vloggers. When I first started watching Sam @ ThoughtsOnTomes, I remember her frequently mentioning The Grisha trilogy, and especially The Darkling! I picked up these books specifically because of her recommendation, and although I liked the Six of Crows books better overall, I really enjoyed this series too!

7) The Flatshare (recommended by Chelsea @ChelseaDolling Reads) – I’d already had this book on my radar, but I was only mildly interested in it until I saw Chelsea’s enthusiasm for it! I expected it to be a fairly generic contemporary romance, but listening to Chelsea’s videos about them helped push this one straight to the top of my TBR. I’ve taken a lot of recommendations from Chelsea’s channel, and often end up enjoying them. This one in particular has become one of my favourite books that I read so far this year!

8) Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (recommended by CeCe @ProblemsofaBookNerd) – This is another channel that I take a ton of recommendations from, and this is one of the books that I most distinctly remembering CeCe mentioning. I’m not sure if I would have found this book otherwise. I’ve only read the first book in the series so far, but I really enjoyed it and I’d like to eventually revisit the series and read the rest. There are currently two more books with another one due out next year. I may need to reread the first one again by the time I get back to the series, but I don’t mind!

9) The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (recommended by Emma @EmmmaBooks) – I’d heard of this series long before I saw Emma talk about it but I was only mildly interested in it. I finally decided to pick them up, as well as The Infernal Devices, last year partly because of Emma’s frequent recommendations of it! Her excitement for these books was contagious, and I finally decided that they were worth a try. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that these are my favourite series, I definitely enjoyed them a lot more than I expected!

10) The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (recommended by Kayla @BooksandLala) – I’m cheating a bit with this one since I haven’t read it yet, but I’m planning on getting to it very soon! BooksAndLala is my favourite channel, and I take so many recommendations from Kayla’s videos! We have a very similar taste in books, especially thrillers, and she absolutely loved this one. It jumped straight to the top of my TBR for this year because of her recommendation, and I’m really looking forward to reading it soon.

7 On Sunday: Longest Books on My TBR

It’s been quiet a while since I’ve done a 7 on Sunday topic! This week, I was intrigued to see that the prompt was for the longest books on our TBR. I could have sworn I’d already done a similar topic at some point in the past, but I’ve only been able to find a post about the longest books that I’ve already read (found here), and even that one is out of date now since it doesn’t include the Throne of Glass series, which I read last year. I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the books that are still on my TBR, and try to hype myself up to tackle them. I almost feel like I need to make two separate lists here, since the longest are all huge classics, so I’ll list the first 7 of those, and then a bonus list of the 7 longest non-classics, since it felt a bit weird to exclude those. Most of those longer classics are on my TBR more as a long-term goal, so I generally count my “real” TBR as starting after them.

7 on Sunday is a new weekly project that was started by Grace of G-Swizzel Books, with a weekly topic for videos and/or blog posts! The official Goodreads group with topics can be found here.

The “true” longest books on my TBR (books that were actually listed first by number of pages on Goodreads):

1) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1463 pages)

2) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1392 pages)

3) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1276 pages)

4) The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (1248 pages)

5) The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George (1139 pages)

6) The Arabian Nights by Anonymous (1049 pages)

7) The Collected Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe (1040 page)

The longest books from where I feel my TBR “really” starts:

1) Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (944 pages)

2) The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George (939 pages)

3) 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (925 pages)

4) Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare (912 pages)

5) Night Film by Marisha Messl (894 pages) — Technically Vanity Fair was next on the list, but I consider that one of my long-term goal books since it’s a lengthy classic

6) Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (776 pages)

7) The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (771 pages — I only have a mild interest in this one, and might even remove it from my TBR)

Top 5 Wednesdays: Fairly Local

I think of all the reading challenge prompts I resent most, books by local authors are pretty high up on the list! It may be a result of my school system having a huge focus on Canadian literature, and I didn’t really enjoy the majority of the books that we were expected to read. I tended to find that there was some kind of distinctive pattern to these books that I didn’t enjoy. Essentially, it felt like they constantly brought up the fact that they were set in Canada by frequently referring to locations, and it felt a bit forced. It wasn’t until the past year or two where I realized just how many of the authors that I already read were actually Canadian, probably because these books didn’t make such a big deal of it. I don’t know exactly how close these authors live to me, but they are within my province so I count that as local enough.

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) Room by Emma Donoghue

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Emma Donoghue is originally from Ireland, but has lived in Canada for nearly 15 years now and is a Canadian citizen. I guess some people might consider it a stretch to count her as local since she was not born here, however by the time Room was published in 2010, she had already been a citizen for more than 5 years, and in the country for over a decade. I read Room back in 2016, and it is still by far one of the most memorable books I’ve read since I started doing reading challenges. This book is told from the perspective of a young boy named Jack, who grew up with his mother in a place he knows as Room, which is the only home he has ever known. Jack’s mother was kidnapped and held captive by a man known as Old Nick, and she has done her best to make Jack’s life as normal as possible given the circumstances. As Jack gets older, Ma comes up with a bold plan for them to escape, relying heavily on Jack to make it work. This book had such a unique concept and I absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, I have not been particularly interested in reading any of Emma Donoghue’s other books since, but I may try another one at some point.

2) Any book by Robert Munsch

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Robert Munsch is another author who is not originally Canadian, but he has lived here since the 1970s. I think I’ve only ever heard of him as a Canadian author, and was surprised to realize he was originally from the US. Robert Munsch was one of my all-time favourite children’s books authors, and many of his books are still so much fun to read! The one in the picture here was always my favourite, and it is about a young girl named Brigid who really wants markers, but her parents are hesitant to get them for her because they think she will end up drawing all over everything and get herself into trouble. Some of Robert Munsch’s books are very weird, but they are generally very funny and cute. Another one that I loved was I Have to Go! which is about a young boy who always refuses to try using the bathroom before leaving the house, and quickly realizes he has to go right after he’s fully bundled up and ready to leave.

3) Just Like Family by Kate Hilton

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I had a reading challenge prompt this year requiring a local author, and was glad to realize that I already had a Kate Hilton book that I was excited to try anyway. Kate Hilton lives in Toronto, and this book is also set there. It is about a woman named Avery who is the chief of staff to Peter Haines, the (fictional) mayor of Toronto. When her long-term boyfriend proposes, Avery starts to question her future and whether marrying him is the right choice when she’s spending so much time with Peter. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! I thought Avery was an interesting main character and I especially thought it was fun to see her trying to balance the demands of multiple competing left-wing groups who each had their own interests in a public project that she is managing for Peter. I loved how the author alternated between Avery’s past and present, and showed the impact her past choices had on her decision about her engagement. I ended up liking this book a lot more than I expected, even though there was not too much plot.

4) An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

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Shari Lapena was one of those authors that I didn’t even realize was Canadian. In fact, because her first thriller, The Couple Next Door, was loosely based on the Madeleine McCann case, I naturally assumed she was from the UK. In fact, she actually lives in Toronto too. I have only read two of Shari Lapena’s books so far, and of the two, I liked An Unwanted Guest best. It is about a group of people who are trapped together in a hotel when a snowstorm hits, and when guests start to be murdered one by one, everyone is left to figure out which of them is the killer. I loved the premise of the locked door mystery, which reminded me a lot of And Then There Were None. I really liked the characters overall and the backstory provided for each, and especially loved the dynamics between different characters. I was also very surprised to realize that I did not predict who the killer was until just before it was revealed, and I absolutely loved the last twist. The only thing that held it back from being 5 stars for me is that I thought the writing in general could have been a tiny bit stronger, but I’m looking forward to reading more of Shari Lapena’s books!

5) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Margaret Atwood is easily one of the most famous local authors, who was born in Ottawa, and I believe she now lives in Toronto too. To be honest, I actively avoided reading any of her books for a long time. My very strict 12th-grade English teacher was obsessed with Margaret Atwood, but we were only assigned her essays, not any of her books. We read In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje (which also happens to be set in Toronto) instead, which I didn’t like at all! I was a bit intimidated to pick this book up in the first place because I somehow assumed that I wouldn’t like it because I didn’t like the other book my teacher had picked, even though they were completely different authors and genres! I finally decided to pick this one up in 2015, as part of my first reading challenge and I loved it. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about it by now and kept very few notes about the books I read during my first challenge to even refer back to. I just remember being very pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it, and I’m looking forward to reading The Testaments too.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Books With Super-Long Titles

My original intent when I saw this prompt was to exclude books that had a subtitle in addition to the title, since it seemed like a much too easy way of finding very long ones. The more I looked at my list, the more I realized that it made more sense to include the subtitles! Excluding those books, the majority of longer titles I found were around 7-8 words long, and there were quite a few of those. I was surprised to realize that the majority of the books on my list that had the longest titles were either non-fiction, or collections of comics. It does feel like cheating a little to count the subtitles, but with them included, they were about double the length of most other titles, so it also felt weird not to! Given the kinds of books they are, I don’t think it makes much sense to go into detail about what the book is about. Instead, here is just a list of a few of the longest titles I found, with a link to the Goodreads page for more information!

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) You Can Only Yell at Me for One Thing at a Time: Rules for Couples by Patricia Marx and illustrations by Roz Chast (15 words)

2) Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America edited by Amy Reed (18 words)

3) #MeToo: Essays About How and Why This Happened, What It Means and How to Make Sure It Never Happens Again by Lori Perkins (20 words!)

4) Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss and Mathew Klickstein (14 words)

5) To Siri With Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of a Machine by Judith Newman (15 words)

6) Hey Ladies!: The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year, and Way, Way Too Many Emails by Michelle Markowitz (16 words)

7) The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought by David Adam (16 words)

8) Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham (22 words!)

9) The Elephant in the Playroom: Ordinary Parents Write Intimately and Honestly about the Extraordinary Highs and Heartbreaking Lows of Raising Kids with Special Needs by Denise Brodey (24 words!)

10) Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh (15 words)

Recent Reads #8

I was surprised to realize it’s been almost two months since I made a Recent Reads post! I usually like to group books together to mention based on some kind of theme, and it’s been tough to do that with a lot of the books I’ve read lately. Since it’s now October, it’s much easier for me to have a bit of a seasonal TBR list. In October, I tend to pick up a lot of thrillers as well as darker fantasy, and books that have paranormal elements. To start off this month, I’ve been especially prioritizing thrillers that I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I usually start shifting over to more ghosts, witches, etc. closer to Halloween, so I’m sure that could be a theme for the next batch! I’m also starting back to work full-time in person as of Tuesday, so that will be a big adjustment! I’m hoping to still be able to read a lot in the rest of the year.

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Of all the books mentioned here, this one is the most recent addition to my TBR. I found The Marsh King’s Daughter on Book Outlet, and added it on an whim. It is about a woman named Helena who grew up in an isolated cabin in the marshlands, born two years after her father abducted her mother and held her captive in his cabin. Now an adult, Helena is shocked to learn that her father has escaped from prison, and believes that she is the only person with the skills necessary to find him since he trained her to have the same survivalist knowledge. To be fair, I’m not particularly interested in wilderness or survival stories, but I really enjoyed this one. I especially loved how the author captured Helena’s conflicted feelings about her father and her childhood, since she spent the majority of it not knowing about his crime. I especially loved the parts of the book that dealt with Helena’s childhood and her attitudes toward both of her parents, and also liked that the author included some of the long-term impact of her isolation even as an adult, such as difficulties with social situations. I did lose a little interest toward the end because there was a lot of focus on a plot thread that I didn’t particularly care for, which I think might be a bit too spoiler-y to mention specifically. It was ultimately that which caused me to round my rating of 4.5 down to a 4, since I didn’t love the ending, but otherwise I enjoyed this book a lot more than I’d expected.

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Immediately afterwards, I picked up Final Girls, one of three Riley Sager books I had on my list for this year, and the only one that I currently own. I’d love to get a copy of Home Before Dark before the end of this month since it seems like the perfect fit for a Halloween read, but it’s currently so expensive! Final Girls has been sitting on my TBR since 2017, and I finally decided to make Riley Sager a priority author to pick up this year. I went into this one with relatively low expectations since it was premised around a slasher-movie-type attack, and I don’t like that kind of movie. The main character, Quincy, is the sole survivor of a massacre that took the lives of 5 of her friends. In the years that follow, the media paints her as another “Final Girl,” lumping her in with two other women who survived other similar attacks by different killers. One of the biggest strengths of this book for me was that whole concept of what it means to be a “final girl” and the impact it has on the characters’ lives. When one of the other final girls is found dead and the other, Sam, suddenly shows up at Quincy’s door, she is left trying to find out what really happened and whether she and Sam are now at risk too. I really enjoyed the writing style of this book and the overall direction of the plot, although some parts were a bit too predictable. I especially enjoyed the final few twists, even if I didn’t love the explanations for the characters’ motives. This was another book that I rated 4.5 but ultimately rounded down to a 4, although there were many parts of it that I really loved.

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I meant to pick up A Game for All the Family last year, but realized very late into the year that I’d forgotten to include it in my challenge plans! I decided to make Sophie Hannah another of my priority authors to try this year, and made sure to include this book this time! It’s another one that I’d discovered on Book Outlet and added to my TBR completely on a whim because it sounded so interesting. This book is about a woman named Justine, who moves to a new home with her family to escape her high-pressure career. Soon after they move, her daughter Ellen begins behaving strangely, mentioning a close friend who does not seem to exist, and she is also writing a very detailed, creepy story about a murder that took place in their new house. At the same time, Justine starts to receive anonymous phone calls from a woman threatening to kill her and her family if they don’t leave. I really enjoyed Sophie Hannah’s writing style and especially some of the humour that was scattered throughout. I loved the chapters devoted to the story that Ellen was writing and thought that mystery was so well-written, but unfortunately I was a bit less sold on the main plotline. I was genuinely very creeped out by the threatening calls, but otherwise I found a lot of the plot about Ellen’s friend very farfetched, and I was ultimately confused about the explanation for what had happened. It’s a tough book to talk about without risking spoilers, but it was another one that I ultimately gave 4.5 and rounded down due to the unsatisfying ending, even though there was a lot that I really enjoyed too.

Top 5 Wedesndays: TL;DR (Adaptations I Watched Without Reading the Book)

When I first saw this week’s prompt, I thought it would be really difficult to find books that would fit, but once I started, I couldn’t stop! For those who don’t know “TL;DR” means “too long, didn’t read” so I naturally assumed that it was specifically asking for books that were very long. Once I looked at the thread in more detail, I realized that it was actually asking about adaptations! There are so many books, especially classics, that I was first exposed to by adaptations. A ton of my knowledge of classics and even Shakespeare comes from shows like Bugs Bunny and The Simpsons. I decided to keep this post a bit on the shorter side (partly because things are really ramping up now at work!), and keep the details of the plots to a minimum, especially since most of these are pretty well-known stories already. Just for fun, I’ve linked the title of the book to the movie trailer or a clip, and the word “book” to the Goodreads link!

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) Bicentennial Man, based on the book by Isaac Asimov – This is one of my favourite movies, and I had seen it so many times before realizing that it was even a book. The movie came out in 1999, and I did not read the book until I was in college, which wasn’t until close to 15 years later! By the time I read the book, the movie was so ingrained in my mind that I strongly preferred that version.

2) The Nanny Diaries, based on the book by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus – I went to see this movie in theatres when it came out in 2007, and I still have not bothered to read the book yet. I didn’t even know that it was based on a book until much later and only have a mild interest in trying it. I liked the movie, and most of the reason I even added the book to my TBR at all was because I’d seen the movie.

3) The Shining (episode of The Simpsons), based on the book by Stephen King – I think a huge reason I haven’t been that into Stephen King’s books is that I’m already so familiar with the storylines/twists from various adaptations. I’ve never seen the movie version of The Shining or read the book, but I know enough about it that I don’t know if I’d really find it scary by now. This has always been one of my favourite Treehouse of Horror segments (along with The Simpsons’ version of The Raven).

4) The Lord of the Rings series, based on the trilogy by JRR Tolkein – Very unpopular opinion, but I really didn’t care for the movies! I was in seventh grade when the first one came out and found it confusing. My high school took us to see the second one, and I came down with a very bad cold that day and could barely stay awake or really focus while watching, and literally all I remember of the third movie is desperately waiting for it to end so I could finally go to the bathroom. I read The Hobbit twice and didn’t particularly love it, so I haven’t been very motivated to try the rest of the books.

5) Les Miserables, based on the book by Victor Hugo – To be honest, I was first exposed to this story by an episode of Animaniacs (here’s a clip), and since then, I’ve watched the 2012 movie version and seen a stage production. This one specifically is a prime case of “TL;DR.” I’d love to try the book at some point, but I’m also a bit intimidated to even try picking it up.