Top 5 Wednesday: Underhyped Books

I was surprised to see it has been so long since I mentioned underhyped books! It’s no secret, at least to anyone who’s read my posts before, that I have a tendency to actively avoid anything that is overhyped, although that does seem to be changing lately. I’ve definitely been picking up popular books more often, and even long before the hype dies down sometimes. This year specifically, I’ve been picking up quite a few books that have been talked about non-stop for quite a while! To be honest, I think the pandemic has played a bit of a role in that because I’ve been cut off from my access to the library, so instead, I’ve been buying more books and reading what I already have a home. Many of the books I’ve been buying are some of the most popular, which makes sense since these are easily accessible (and often more affordable, especially when there are sales). Several of the books that I’m personally most excited for but aren’t so well-known are upwards of $25 for the hardcover, which is very expensive! In contrast, just for the sake of comparison, many of the more hyped books cost anywhere from $15 – $20, so it’s quite a difference. Either way, I’ve read some amazing books in the past few years that definitely did not receive the hype they deserved!

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) Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman

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All of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s books are criminally underrated! For three years in a row, they have consistently been on my favourites of the year lists and I wish more people knew about her incredible writing. Her most recent book, Harley in the Sky, was an easy favourite last year and although it has over 4 stars on average on Goodreads, it has barely over 1000 ratings and only around 300 reviews. Those numbers actually make it by far the least well-known of her books so far, and it’s such a shame because they are all so strong. This book is about a teenage girl named Harley who dreams of become an aerialist in the circus, and after a fight with her parents, she ends up running away from the circus that they own to join a rival instead. As always, I was immediately drawn in by the writing and I loved Harley’s passion for what she was doing. I never really expected to enjoy a book that was literally about running away to join the circus, but this one worked so well. I also was very surprised to see that there was a mental health subplot involving Harley, which I thought was handled so well. I loved the focus on Harley’s relationships with her family and with her friends, as well as the very sweet romance. I completely devoured this book, and was shocked to realize most people had barely even heard of it!

2) Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

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I enjoy historical fiction in general, but have rarely read something that was set so recently. This book is set in New York in 1989, at the height of the AIDS crisis. It focuses on three teenagers, two of whom are gay themselves, and the third is a girl who has an uncle who is gay and also HIV+. Reza is Iranian and gay, but is terrified because all he knows about being gay comes from the media’s portrayal of men dying of AIDS. Art is the school’s only openly gay student but struggles with his conservative parents, and rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through photos. It took me some time to really get into the story, but soon started to feel like the characters really leapt off the page. I really enjoyed the way the author handled the complex relationships between the three characters, although I did find Judy a little irritating at times, especially because she made some kind of strange and potentially problematic comments. On the other hand, I absolutely loved both Reza and Art, and the way both of them reflected such different perspectives. I thought the setting was particularly interesting because it was something that I knew very little about, aside from the movie/musical Rent. I did hear a bit of hype around this one for a while, but definitely not enough!

3) Slay by Brittney Morris

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Of all the books on this list, this is the one that probably received the most hype and also has the most ratings and reviews overall, although still not very many. It currently has around 9600 ratings, and approaching 2500 Goodreads reviews, which is a decent amount but definitely not enough for a book of this quality. This was another book that was easily one of my favourites that I read last year, and I was surprised to see that the hype around it mostly seemed to have died out. This book is about a teenage girl named Kiera who is the creator of a massive multiplayer online game called SLAY specifically designed for Black gamers. When a teen is murdered over a conflict in the game, the news reaches the mainstream and SLAY is labelled as racist and exclusionary and is also targeted by online trolls threatening to sue Kiera for discrimination against white people. I loved the unique premise of this book, and especially loved how it tackled the concept of racism and safe spaces from an angle that I’ve never really seen before. I found the entire concept of SLAY very interesting and loved reading about Kiera’s process of creating the cards based on Black culture and developing attacks or defensive moves to fit them. I thought this book was very impactful and raised a number of very interesting and important ideas, and I hope more people will give it a chance.

4) The Silent House by Nell Pattison

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This is the one and only thriller I have on this list, but it is also a book that completely flew under the radar. I’m not particularly surprised given how many thrillers come out each year, but this one was so good! In fact, it was a little strange for me to notice “USA Today bestseller” on the cover considering no one seems to have heard of this one. This book is about Paige Northwood, a sign language interpreter who is hired to interpret for a deaf family after their daughter is murdered in their home overnight. I loved the unique premise of the story and was actually surprised to realize that it was a concept for a thriller that hasn’t been done before, at least not as far as I know. I loved the exploration of Paige’s role as an interpreter and the explanations that were provided about how it works. I loved the representation of Deaf culture, and Paige’s commentary about some of the attitudes and stereotypes that often come up. I was immediately drawn in by the writing and loved the way the author kept suspicion on so many of the characters, which really kept me guessing. Although I did guess the murderer relatively early, I was still thoroughly invested in finding out how and why it happened. I was also happy to see that this book was the first in a series featuring Paige, and I’m looking forward to trying more. I can see where this one would not stand out compared to other more popular thrillers, but it’s definitely worth a read.

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

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I’m sure I’ve mentioned this one before, but I’m surprised every time to realize how underrated it is! I think this book got overshadowed by On the Come Up since they both involve Black teens trying to break into the music industry, and came out within a couple of months of each other. This book is about a group of teenagers who decide to use the mixtapes of their recently murdered friend/brother, Steph, to get him a record deal and get his music out there, while trying to uncover the truth about what happened to him. I thought all three of the characters were very interesting and I really liked the dynamics between them. I was a little confused about what their end goal was since it was hard to see what the teens would do when they ran out of new material, but it didn’t take long to get invested in the story anyway. I also loved that it was set in the 90s, since the hip-hop references really made it all come to life. I loved the message that this book put forward about lives cut short and the loss of all that talent and potential. Like all of Tiffany D. Jackson’s books, this one tells a very compelling story with strong characters, and it’s a shame that so much of her writing flies under the radar.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Animals From Books

I wasn’t too interested in this week’s topic until I realized how many of the books that are already on my TBR for this year involve animals in some capacity. I cheated a bit because I didn’t pick a specific direction for the prompt — I looked for books that involve animals in any way. I counted books that mention animals in the title or have an animal on the cover, as well as books that have animals as part of the plot. I was actually surprised to realize how many of the books already on my list involved animals since that’s not something that I specifically looked for, unless the challenge prompt asked for it directly. When I was younger, I was absolutely obsessed with books (and movies) involving animals. One of the biggest things that drew me to a book was if it involved dogs or horses. I loved reading stories of real-life animal heroes just as much as fictional animals, like Charlotte’s Web. I’m not even sure at what point that interest changed. I don’t particularly care now whether a book involves an animal or not, although it is often very nice to see them included! On the other hand, I get so anxious when any of my thrillers mention a dog since I tend to automatically assume the dog won’t survive (although luckily, the dog often does!).

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) Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

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The only reason this book came to mind so quickly is because my copy very recently arrived, and I remembered the turtles on the front cover. Otherwise, it is not a book that I would automatically associate with animals. This book is about a woman named Ruthie who works at a retirement centre, where she is responsible for maintaining the property and protecting the endangered tortoises that live in the gardens. While there, she is forced to work with Teddy, who is working there to earn his keep as part of his father’s plan to force him to grow up a bit. Ruthie soon decides to get Teddy out of her way by making him personal assistant to two of the most difficult women who live in the Villa, a role which no one else has managed to last in for more than week. I haven’t read this one yet so I have no idea if the tortoises are a huge part of the story, but the fact that they made it onto the cover makes me suspect that have at least a little prominence. They are also specifically mentioned in the synopsis, so that’s likely another clue that the tortoises are important!

2) The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

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This was actually the first book that came to mind when I saw this week’s prompt, probably because Anthony Horowitz is on my list of priority authors to try this year. To be fair, I chose him mostly because of his recent mysteries, and didn’t realize he was already well-known for several series. This book is about an editor named Susan Ryeland who receives a copy of Alan Conway’s latest novel, which she assumes will be another using his traditional detective format. However, the more Susan reads of his latest book, the more she starts to believe there is a hidden story contained within it of real-life jealousy, ambition and murder. The book does not seem to directly involve literal magpies, but I suspect it’s along the lines of The Cuckoo’s Calling, where the animal mentioned has some similarities to the case. Magpies are known for hoarding shiny objects due to their curiosity, so I would guess that someone involved in the mystery in this one has a similar kind of curiosity or tendency toward stealing shiny objects. To be honest, even though I’ve added this author to my priority list, I’ve somehow become a little intimidated to actually try his books. I have no idea why!

3) Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

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This was another book that came to mind very quickly, and another that I very recently bought! Not only does this one have a cat on the cover, but it also involves a character who owns a cat cafe, so it’s safe to say that animals are involved. Alexis Carlisle, who owns the cafe, enlists the help of Noah, a computer security expert when a stranger shows up claiming to be Alexis’s sister. Noah is madly in love with her and wonders if the timing will ever be right for him to let her know how he feels, and turns to his friends in the Bromance Book Club for help deciding whether to tell her the truth and risk their friendship. I’ve only read the first book in this series so far and I absolutely loved it! I was actually very surprised by how much I enjoyed it since I went into it with relatively low expectations. Now that I’ve loved the first one, I’m very excited to keep going with the series and hope to love the others just as much. I love that this is a romance series that focuses on the men’s perspectives, which is a still relatively unusual. I think I had this one mixed up with the previous one in the series so I may need to revamp my challenge plans a little to make sure I can fit in both. They are companion novels, but I still prefer to read them in order.

4) You Lucky Dog by Julia London

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This is the one book on this list that I’m not 100% sure is on my TBR for this year, but I definitely had it down as an option. I bought it recently from Book Outlet, and added it to my Goodreads list in the first place because it reminded me a lot of 101 Dalmatians. This book is about a woman named Carly who finds out that the basset hound she has recently fostered has accidentally been switched while out with the dog walker. When she goes to meet this dog’s owner to switch them back, the two of them soon realize that their dogs seem to have fallen in love. Given how depressed her dog had been until now, Carly thinks she may have found the key to his happiness and starts to spend more time with Max, the owner of the other dog, and his basset hound Hazel. Even though Max is her total opposite, she soon finds herself drawn to him. The plot to this one seems completely predictable, but also absolutely adorable. If this one isn’t on my TBR for the year already, I may need to find a way to squeeze it in because it sounds like it will be so much fun. It actually seems like exactly the kind of rom-com movie that I tend to love, and I’m hoping that will translate into a book format just as well.

5) City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

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This is series that I probably wouldn’t have thought of on my own, but it came to mind because I have one of the books in it down for a prompt requiring a book with a character who has a cat. It took quite a bit of research to find books that might fit. To be fair, I guess the cat cafe in Crazy Stupid Bromance could have counted, but I don’t really see the animals in the cafe as pets. The main character in this book, Cassidy, has the ability to see ghosts, and her best friend Jacob is a ghost himself. Her parents are also part of a ghost-hunting team known as The Inspecters, who have been sent to Scotland to film a new TV series. I have no idea whether the cat is prominent at all in the series, but it is featured on the cover of all three books so I would assume it plays some role. I’m purposely waiting until October to read these books since it seems like a good one to read around Halloween, so it will be quite a while before I find out, but even the simple fact of it having a cat on the cover was enough for it to fit this week’s theme of animals in books.

6) The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld

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I don’t know why, but I always have a hard time thinking of insects of any kind as animals, even though they are. I thought of this book mostly because of the butterflies on the cover and in the title, although I wasn’t sure if they were involved in the story in any way. This book is about an investigator named Naomi who has a talent for finding missing children. Naomi has vowed not to take another case until she finds her own younger sister, but soon finds herself pulled into a new case. A young girl named Celia is found running from an abusive stepfather and a mother who is an addict, and who sees butterflies around her which she sees as her guides. They also serve as a reminder of the Butterfly Museum that she remembers from when she was younger, a place where she always felt safe. I bought this book, as well as The Child Finder, which is the first in the series, on a whim last year and I’m planning to try them both at some point this year. I’ve had The Child Finder on my TBR for many years now so it’s about time I finally pick it up. Seeing this one again for this week’s prompt is just another reminder to try these two!

7) Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

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This is another book that has been on my TBR for way too long, and I really need to pick this one up before the end of the year. I chose it for this week’s prompt because it involves swans. It focuses on two sisters, Blanca and Roja, whose family is bound by a spell to the swans who live in the woods. The swans will draw them into a game where one of them will be able to remain human, but the other will become a swan. When two local boys become drawn into it too, the spell becomes entwined with the strange magic of the woods, and all four of them are forced to confront difficult truths. Like many of Anna-Marie McLemore’s books, I find the synopsis a little confusing, but I usually end up finding that they make a lot more sense once I get into them and I generally end up loving them. As a side note, it’s also taken me a ridiculously long time (as in, until just now) to realize that the cover art actually has a swan with it’s head tucked into its feathers on it. I’d always assumed it was a rose or flower of some kind. This is another book that I keep feeling a little intimidated to try, even though I really want to read it!

8) Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

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I’m really looking forward to reading this series, although I’ve decided to wait for the third book to come out before I pick any of them up! To be fair, I’ve heard some mixed reviews for this one although in general, most people seem to really love it and I’m hoping I will too. This book is about a witch named Louise who is forced to marry Reid, a witch hunter who does not know that his bride is one. It took me quite a while to realize this book fits for this week’s prompt because of both the title and the cover art, even though I’m not sure the animals are actually involved in the book. I get the impression that serpents and doves are metaphors for the main characters, but I can’t say for sure. This is by far one of my most anticipated series to try this year, and I’m really looking forward to reading it. I’m glad the third book is coming out early enough in the year that I can still prioritize it instead of pushing it back to try next year instead. it’s still several months before I’m planning to pick this one up, but I can’t wait! I love the idea of a fantasy series set in this kind of historical setting, even if the specifics of the world are fictional.

9) The Conference of the Birds by Ransom Riggs

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I chose this book specifically because it has the word “birds” in the title, but really any of the books in this series would fit. I’ve only read the first three so far, but I’m planning to re-read them and then continue the series before the end of the year. It’s another series that I’m planning to read around late September/October since it gives me Halloween vibes, at least because of the creepy photos that are interspersed throughout. This series involves ymbrynes, which are females who can take the form of specific birds and who are also responsbile for taking care of the peculiar children and protecting them. It’s been years since I’ve read the first three books and I really don’t remember the third one too clearly. I have a bit more memory of the first two since I’ve read them at least twice each. Either way, I loved the series and I very surprised to see that it was being continued. I’m looking forward to trying the rest of them, although I’m very cautiously optimistic since sequels to an already completed series always tend to be a little hit-or-miss. The fourth book came out 3 years after the series had “ended” which is enough of a gap to make me a little apprehensive.

10) Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

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This book has been on my list for an embarrassingly long time, especially since Jodi Picoult is my favourite author. Any time I start reading an author’s later works first, I’m a bit hesitant to go back and read their first books. Really the only reason that I’m hesitant to try this one is because there have been a couple of her earlier works that I haven’t loved as much (Picture Perfect and Keeping Faith), although to be fair, Mercy and The Pact are two of my favourites and those were also among her first few titles. Every time I look at the synopsis, I’m interested in this one and the fact that I’ve given the vast majority of her books 5 stars should be reason enough to give this one a chance. This book also involve a character who is an oceanoagrapher who is an expert on tracking humpback whales, which sounds very interesting. I’ve really enjoyed the other books Jodi Picoult had written that involved characters who have expertise on specific animals (wolves and elephants, for example), so that’s another reason to try this one. Either way, it was a great fit for this week’s topic!

You’re Not Good Enough Book Tag (2021)

This is one of the only tags that I tend to revisit every almost every year, and it’s always so much fun! I was actually a little disappointed to find that I didn’t have too many very distinctive characters to use this year, so I ended up having to use a combination of characters from books I’ve read in 2021 and also many from books I’ve read since the last time I did this tag (mid-June 2020). I’ve done my best to include only one character per book or series, although I did have to make one exception and include two from The Dark Artifices because I just couldn’t find another character that was memorable enough to use. In theory, I probably should have waited until a little later in the year to redo this tag, but it is such fun that I didn’t want to wait.

This tag was created by ReadLikeWildfire and Beccathebookreviewer. To participate, you have to make a list of 30 character names, and choose two at random for every question. After you have picked your two names, you decide which character is a better fit for that question, and which one is “not good enough.” As usual, I’ve purposely split my list 50-50 to have an equal number of male and female characters, for the sake of balance. Since this tag has been out for a while now, anyone who wants to give it a try, consider yourself tagged!

1) You have only one more spot on your spelling bee team. Who would you pick to complete your team?

My options are: Aaron Soto (More Happy Than Not) or Pepper (Tweet Cute)

Definitely Pepper! Given how much effort she put into the Twitter war between her family’s restaurant and Jack’s, I feel like she would be more competitive than Aaron. I’m not sure either of these characters have particularly strong spelling skills, so I guess competitiveness will have to be the defining factor. I also feel like I would generally get along better with Pepper.

2) Both characters want to kill you. Which one do you kill first so you have a better chance of surviving?

My options are: Prince Henry (Red, White & Royal Blue) or Julian Blackthorn (The Dark Artifices)

Oh no! I wouldn’t want to kill either of these characters! I think if it was a question of survival, I’d have to get rid of Julian first since he’s much more likely to be a threat due to his Shadowhunter training. I don’t find Henry particularly threatening at all. I wouldn’t think of Julian as a threat in general either, but he has more potential to become one under the right circumstances.

3) You’re on The Bachelor/Bachelorette and you’re down to these two characters. Which one are you going to give your rose to?

My options are: Cardan Greenbriar (The Cruel Prince) or Kiera Johnson (Slay)

Tough choice (taking gender out of the equation) since both were very interesting characters. As much as I liked Cardan as a character, I absolutely loved his relationship with Jude and think it would take a very specific dynamic to be compatible with him. On the other hand, I probably have a bit more in common with Kiera because I also like computer games, so I guess I’d have to pick her.

4) You’ve been chosen for The Hunger Games. Who would most likely volunteer in your place?

My options are: Vanessa Wye (My Dark Vanessa) or Maggie Holt (Home Before Dark)

I don’t really see either of these characters as quick to jump in to volunteer for something like this. I can see Maggie being a little more likely to volunteer, but I think Vanessa would have a stronger interest in the Games and would probably fare much better in them. I guess I’ll go with Vanessa because I think she’d be more willing to participate, although I really don’t see her volunteering either.

5) You’re stranded on an island. Which character would you sacrifice to engage in cannibalism?

My options are: Scythe Faraday (The Arc of the Scythe series) or Kara Resnik (The Themis Files)

Very difficult choice! These are two of my favourite characters from their respective series. I guess if I had to choose, I’d sacrifice Kara because her impulsivity might end up putting us both at risk and I also think she’d be harder to get along with long-term than Faraday. On the other hand, Kara might have better skills to help survive the island.

6) You’re the next DC/Marvel superhero (with your own TV show of course). Who is your sidekick?

My options are: Nesta Archeron (A Court of Silver Flames) or Nikolai (King of Scars)

Definitely Nikolai! Although I really like Nesta as a character and she’d be a powerful sidekick, she’d also be very difficult to work with. Plus, Nikolai’s humour would be a good fit for the comic relief part that often comes with a sidekick’s role (at least for the TV series part of being a hero).

7) You’re a manager at the Avocado Admiring Company. Who would you fire for lack of communication skills?

My options are: Malcolm Kershaw (Eight Perfect Murders) or Ty Blackthorn (The Dark Artifices)

This is a tricky one, since Malcolm is unreliable and Ty has a lot of struggles with communication skills. Of the two, I think Ty is a lot more trustworthy though and it would be much easier to communicate with him than with Malcolm. I think Malcolm would function just fine in day-to-day communication, but he also couldn’t be trusted to communicate as openly and honestly.

8) You’ve just finished a book in which your favourite character dies. Which character is most likely to comfort you?

My options are: January Andrews (Beach Read) or Owen Pick (Invisible Girl)

Definitely January. I think Owen would mean well and make an effort to comfort me, but January is an author herself so I think she’d be a lot more likely to be able to relate to the experience of losing a character you love.

9) Ugh, it’s high school. Who would most likely be part of the popular clique?

My options are: Rhen (A Curse So Dark and Lonely) or Lucy Gray (The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes)

Are we including the fact that Rhen can turn into a monster? Because I think that would really have a negative effect on his social standing. I see Lucy as being a little too independent to really care about being popular, but for some reason, I see her fitting in better with that crowd so I guess I’ll pick her.

10) The day has arrived: You’re finally one year older! Who would have the nerve to forget your birthday?

My options are: Mia Covere (Nevernight) or Addie LaRue (The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue)

Probably Addie, because she’d assume she would be able to get away with it since I wouldn’t remember her anyway. Mia’s very loyal, so I don’t think she would forget if I was on her good side.

11) You’ve just found an upcoming Booktube star. Who would it most likely be?

My options are: Gavin Scott (Bromance Book Club) or Maya Rehman (Yes No Maybe So)

I really like both of them and would probably subscribe to both of their channels, but I think of the two, I’d likely prefer Maya. To be fair, I have no idea what her taste in books is, but it might be fun to see Gavin’s opinions on the books that he and his friends are reading. I just feel like his channel would end up focusing too heavily on sports for my taste, unless we are limiting it to bookish content only. I get the feeling Maya would be into contemporary books, especially ones that deal with social justice, which I also enjoy.

12) Sleepover time! Unfortunately, you can only invite one person. Who would you invite?

My options are: Ronan Lynch (Call Down the Hawk) or Adele (Behind Her Eyes)

It’s a little ironic that I have the two characters on my list who have something unusual about their sleep already. Of these two, I would definitely pick Ronan since I would not trust Adele at all!

13) Bam, you’re pregnant. Who is the father or mother?

My options are: Ari (Bloom) or Simon (Well Met)

Considering Ari is still a teenager, I think I’ll have to go with Simon. I do think Ari would be a great father when he’s older, but he’s not quite there yet. I also think it would be fun for Simon to share his love of the Renaissance Faire with the child and have them grow up being involved with it.

14) You’ve just written a super important text. Who would see it but not reply?

My options are: Kenji (Shatter Me) or Emoni (With the Fire On High)

My gut instinct says Emoni, although it wouldn’t be intentional. I can easily see her getting too busy in the kitchen or with her daughter, and forgetting to respond even if she means to.

15) You’ve just woken up for breakfast. Your mom has been replaced by…?

My options are: Audrey Rose (Stalking Jack the Ripper) or Khai (The Bride Test)

Either of them would be fine, really. I think of the two, I’d slightly prefer Audrey Rose because her interest in science and forensics would be interesting to discuss, but I’d be fine with either of them.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Books That Make Me Smile

For some reason, I always have a tough time trying to think of books that make me smile. There have definitely been books that I’ve read, even very recently, that made me smile but I guess it’s not something that I really think about after the fact. It was particularly challenging to find books that I’d read this year that really made me smile because so far, I’ve read quite a few thrillers and fantasy series. While I’ve definitely enjoyed them, I wouldn’t specifically say that they make me smile. Actually, when I tend to think of books that are almost guaranteed to make me smile, I usually tend to go for graphic novels or even children’s books. These are often just so light and fun to read, and they are a great pick-me-up and break from some of the darker or denser things I otherwise read. I also tend to think of fluffy contemporaries and romances, since those are books that often make me smile too! Even some of those can be a little more questionable since so many tend to include a more serious storyline as well (ie. The Flatshare or Beach Read, which definitely made me smile, but had their share of deeper content).

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) Book Love by Debbie Tung – I read this book in January this year after having it on my TBR absolutely forever, and it was definitely one that made me smile because it was so relatable! This book is a series of comics all about the author’s love of books. These kinds of collections are always very quick for me to read, usually half an hour to an hour at most, but I often find myself going back to read some of the comics over and over. I’d seen many of these before online, but it was a lot of fun to see them all collected in one place and will definitely make any book-lover smile.

2) The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt – I don’t care that I’m way too old for this book, it was so cute! It’s very rare that I pick up a picture book anymore, but surprisingly, I often really enjoy the ones that I do try. This book is told from the perspectives of Duncan’s crayons, with each colour writing him a letter to express their complaints. I thought it was such a creative and fun story and loved the different personalities the crayons had. This was such a fun book to read, and I’m glad I decided to give it a chance. I think this just proves that you’re never too old for picture books!

3) The Baby-sitter’s Club graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier – I put Raina Telgemeier’s name as the author since she was first, although the series has now branched out to a few other author/illustrators, including Gale Galligan, and upcoming books by Gabriela Epstein and Chan Chau. This series is pure nostalgia for me since it was a childhood favourite, and I love that it is being revitalized in a new format for the next generation. I think the authors have captured the spirit of the original series so well and it’s fun to revisit the familiar stories and experience them all again.

4) Little Moments of Love by Catana Chetwynd – This is another series of comics that I’d mostly already seen online, but absolutely loved reading as a collection! It is a series of comics that Catana drew of her and her boyfriend, John. The comics show daily moments in their relationship, such as doing activities together, socializing with friends, and a lot of funny interactions. Their relationship is adorable and I love the way the comics so easily capture their dynamic, and I also very strongly related to Catana in a lot of the comics. I definitely want to read her other collections!

5) The Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer – This one is a bit more of a random pick since I haven’t read these books recently, but these never fail to make me smile! This was by far one of my favourite childhood series, mostly because I found the characters so adorable. I can only distinctly remember reading a few of them, but I actually wouldn’t mind picking up a few more, even now as an adult. I love the way the author captures a child’s perspective through Critter and especially love the illustrations.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Books with Colourful Covers

I think I was at a bit of a disadvantage with this week’s prompt! I have a ton of thrillers on my Goodreads list, and the majority of those tend to be very dark and often monochromatic. Even the YA and adult contemporary books I have on my list tend to be predominantly one colour. I was especially surprised to find a whole slew of books in a row on my TBR in a very similar shade of blue-green. It was much harder than I expected to really find books that struck me as particularly colourful. I ended up skimming through my TBR on Goodreads and finding the books that really struck me as having a lot of colour to their covers. There were a few that I passed over because although they had several colours, they were pretty muted and didn’t necessarily catch my attention as well as some of the others. I tended to go for covers that really larger or more brightly coloured areas, and skip over ones that seemed mostly dark or mostly one or two colours. Really, it was a very subjective matter of looking for things that really struck me as colourful when scrolling through. Again, apologies in advance if the pictures are huge! I still haven’t figured out how to adjust the size when they are in a group

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.

7 On Sunday: Hyped/New Releases I’m Not Interested in Reading (Yet)

I had to stretch this week’s topic a bit, since there are so many great books coming out this year that I’m really looking forward to! I had a surprisingly hard time finding hyped books that I wasn’t so interested in reading. Even the books that I did find were not books that I could confidently say I would never read. Most of them are things that I’m not particularly interested in now, but can’t really rule out reading forever. Looking back on previous posts I’ve made on a similar topic last year and even back in 2019, I very quickly realized that this was the most difficulty I’ve ever had compiling this kind of list. I can’t complain though, since it means there are a ton of exciting books coming out this year! I also went back to a few hyped releases from 2020 that I’ve never really had the chance to mention, but definitely fit this week’s prompt.

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.

1) Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer

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I was never particularly interested in Twilight to begin with, and the only reason I read the series at all was to see what all the hype was about. I rated each of the books either 2 or 3 stars, although I suspect my ratings might be slightly higher now. At the time, I think I got a little swept up in the “anti-Twilight” hype and went into them really not expecting much. I thought the overall storyline was fine, but didn’t care for the characters or for the writing. I’ve been mildly interested in trying the series again since it’s been so long and seeing if my opinion has changed, but I’m not sure if I really want to devote the time to it since I didn’t really like it the first time. If I do that, I’d probably end up reading this one too just for the sake of completion. This book retells Twilight from Edward’s perspective, which I think could be very interesting. On the other hand, we’ve already had a gender-swapped version of the original book which seemed kind of pointless to me. From what I’ve heard about that version, the story was identical, but the genders of the characters were flipped. I’m hoping and expecting that this book would do more than that, but I’ve heard some pretty mixed reviews even from people who loved Twilight, so given that my initial interest in the series was already low, it puts me off trying this one too.

2) Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

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This was a hyped book all through 2020, and one that I never had much interest even though the synopsis does sound like something I’d like. It is about a young woman named Oona who faints as the countdown to the New Year begins, and wakes up 32 years in the future, when she is 51 and living in a house that she is told is hers. She soon learns that with each passing year, she will leap to another random age. It sounds like such a cool concept, and I love the idea of a character hopping around to different times in their own life. This is going to sound incredibly shallow, but I think the main reason I haven’t been interested in reading this one is because I find the cover very off-putting. I’ve often seen it mentioned by others as a favourite cover of the year, and I’m not even sure what it is exactly that puts me off, but I find it very weird and almost creepy. It’s a stupid reason to not want to read the book though, and for that alone, I will probably end up picking it up eventually. I do tend to love time travel stories, especially where the main character tries to cope with jumping back and forth in their own life, so it does sound like something I should enjoy.

3) To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

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This is another book that I’m theoretically interested in trying, but realistically think that it’s unlikely. I never read the Eragon series, despite having the first book my shelves for decades now. It’s one of those series that I wanted to read when I was younger but never got around to, and now I feel like it might be too late to really enjoy it. This book mildly caught my attention last year just because I recognized the author’s name and was surprised to see he had written something new. It is about a girl named Kira who finds an alien relic while on a mission on an uncolonized planet, and soon finds herself caught up in a war, with Earth and its colonies on the brink of destruction. This does sound very interesting, although I don’t read sci-fi or first contact stories very often. I actually have quite a few books involving space on my TBR already for this year, so if I enjoy those, I might be a little more motivated to pick this one up. It also puts me off a bit that this one is nearly 900 pages, so that’s quite a commitment for a book that I’m only on the fence about. I definitely didn’t pick this one up at the height of its hype, and I’m still not sure if it will be like Eragon and just sit on my list unread forever, but I can kind of see myself trying it eventually.

4) The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton

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I first heard of this book because it was a recent Book of the Month choice. I’m Canadian so I don’t have Book of the Month here (unfortunately), but I’ve heard this one mentioned in almost every video on every channel that I watched. For some reason, every time I heard this one mentioned, my instinctive reaction was “Nope, not interested” even though I can’t find any reason why not. It is set it the 70s and it’s about a young woman named Opal who believes she can be a star, and she teams up with Neville, a British singer-songwriter who discovers her at a bar’s amateur night. Just as she’s starting to find her place in the music industry, a rival band on her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a concert, and Opal’s protest sets off a chain of events that serves as a reminder of the repercussions for women, especially black women, who speak out. In 2016, as Opal considers reuniting with Nev, a journalist seizes on the chance to create an oral history of their career, but digging into what happened brings up an new allegation that threatens to ruin everything. To be honest, I have no real reason why my first reaction was to pass on this book, aside from the fact that I’m not particularly interested in books about fame or the music industry. This one reminds me quite a bit of Daisy Jones and the Six, which I loved, so I might be willing to eventually give it a chance. I’d consider it more a book that I’m on the fence about than one that I’m adamantly against reading.

5) Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

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To be fair, I’m not entirely sure how hyped this one really is, but I feel like I’ve been seeing it everywhere lately. I like historical fiction in general, and I’ve liked Lisa Scottoline’s books in the past, but somehow I’m not really interested in the combination of the two. All of the Lisa Scottoline books I’ve read so far have been thrillers, and I think this is actually her first historical fiction. This book is about three best friends who grew up in Rome. Sandro and Marco are both hoping to win Elisabetta’s heart, but everything begins to change in 1937 when Mussolini asserts his power by allying with Hitler. As anti-Semitism begins to take root in the country and WWII erupts around them, the three friends start to realize that Mussolini was just the beginning, especially after the Nazis occupy Rome. To be fair, all of Lisa Scottoline’s books have been 4 star reads for me, which is always a little frustrating because the concepts sound so amazing but the execution never quite hits the mark. I’m wondering if a book from such a different genre might be a better fit, since it was often the very ending of her thrillers that fell a bit flat for me. I’ve read many books set during WWII but none set in Italy, so that alone is enough to put this one on my radar, although I’m not particularly interested in picking it up just yet.

6) Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

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Again, I’m not totally opposed to reading this, but I haven’t read any books by this author yet. I’m sure that if I decide to pick him up, I’d start with The Martian first. This book is his most recent release coming in a couple of weeks, and it is about a man named Ryland who is the sole survivor on a last-chance mission, where his failure could mean the end of Earth itself. However, Ryland has been asleep for a long time and wakes up to find himself millions of miles away with his crew dead and his memory fuzzy. I skipped The Martian when it was at its most hyped because I didn’t have a strong interest in reading books set in space, and especially because I heard it had a lot of technical descriptions of machinery, which really doesn’t appeal to me much. Over the years though, I’ve started to become a little more intrigued by it and would vaguely like to eventually try it. To be honest, when I first saw this one it seemed like a very similar storyline and I was a bit confused about whether the books were meant to be a series somehow, but as far as I can tell, they are both standalones. I think of all of his books, after looking at the synopses of all three in detail, this is the one that sounds the most interesting. I may need to add Andy Weir to a “priority authors to try” list at some point in the future, if I decide that I actually do want to try his books.

7) Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

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I didn’t really expect this book to be so hyped, but I’ve been seeing it everywhere lately. If I remember correctly, it was another Book of the Month pick, so I’ve probably heard a lot of vloggers mentioning in. This book is a cozy mystery about a woman named Lila, who moves back home to recover from a bad breakup. Lila is forced to help save her Tita Rosie’s struggling restaurant and also has to deal with matchmaking aunties trying to involve themselves in her life. However, when a notoriously harsh food critic drops dead moments after he and Lila have a confrontation, she finds herself treated as the prime suspect. Lila is left with no choice but to investigate the incident herself and figure out what really happened, especially to ensure that her family can keep their restaurant. I like mysteries in general, but I’ve never really gotten into cozy mysteries. I tend to like mysteries that have a bit more of a thriller element to them. I’ve also burnt myself out a bit on books that are set in restaurants lately. I have a few that are already on my TBR for this year, but don’t have much interest in picking up any more just yet. This is another book that I probably won’t skip forever, but I’m not really interested in trying it right now.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Incorrect Ratings

This week’s prompt is for books that you were surprised to see had a very different rating from yours on Goodreads! There have definitely been times where this has happened to me, often with a book that everyone else seemed to love and I just couldn’t get into. I’ve had times where I’ve finished a book, hopped onto Goodreads to look at other people’s reviews, and came away with the impression that we must have read a completely different book! It bugs me a bit when that happens with a book that everyone else seems to love — I tend to feel like I’m missing out somehow, even though I know not every book will work for everyone. For this week’s prompt, I thought it might be fun to look at both sides, and pick 5 books that I rated low compared to the Goodreads reviews, and another 5 that I rated high compared to Goodreads. I’m interested to see if there are any patterns!

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.

Books That I Rated Lower Than Goodreads

This was actually really hard, since I have so few books in general on my list that I’ve rated 3 stars or below! I was also very surprised to see that my ratings weren’t really that far off the Goodreads average. I expected a much bigger gap. I also didn’t include every book that might have fit, because I specifically wanted to bring up some that I thought would show the biggest difference.

1) The BFG by Roald Dahl – I rated it 3 stars, and the average Goodreads rating is 4.21. This was one of the Roald Dahl books that I didn’t grow up reading, so by the time I got around to it, I just wasn’t that impressed. I’m actually a little shocked that this is the book with the biggest discrepancy.

2) Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder – I rated it 3 stars, and the average Goodreads rating is 4.19. Again, I read this only as an adult and found it pretty boring. I honestly don’t think I would have liked it much better if I read it when I was younger.

3) Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch – I gave this one 3 stars and the average Goodreads rating is 4.12. I thought this book was fine, but definitely didn’t connect with it as strongly as a lot of other people did. I didn’t really care for the main character, but I’m also not a huge fan of travel stories generally.

4) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – This was definitely a case of “Did we even read the same book?” after I saw all the reviews! The average Gooderads rating is 4.09 stars, and I only gave this 3. I didn’t really like the characters and I’d been hoping to like it a lot more given how much hype there was. I’m mildly interested in giving this one another chance, but I’m not sure it’s worth it.

5) The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – I’m actually very surprised the average Goodreads rating wasn’t a little higher (it’s 4.03 stars) given how much everyone was raving about this! In theory, I should have loved this book but for some reason I really struggled to get into it and thought it felt so distant for what could have been such an emotionally impactful story.

Books That I Rated Higher Than Goodreads

Again, I’m not including all of the books that might fit here just for the sake of keeping the list short, but I’ve picked out the ones that I was most surprised by! The running theme with these definitely seems to be that I like books with unlikable characters a lot more than most people.

1) Lost by Gregory Maguire – I remember being very surprised to see that this book had such a low Goodreads rating, with an average of just 2.82! I gave this book a solid 4 stars. Unfortunately, I read it during my first year of doing reading challenges and I kept very few notes then so I don’t remember much of it, but I remember loving the creepy atmosphere and enjoying the story overall.

2) The Favourite Sister by Jessica Knoll – Thrillers always tend to be a little hit-or-miss, but I absolutely loved this one! I gave it 5 stars, but the average Goodreads rating was only 3.10! I suspect a lot of people didn’t care for it because the characters were so unlikable, but that was part of what I loved. I loved the dynamics between the women, and even though the book was much slower/denser than I expected, I found it so compelling.

3) Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneffer – I suspect this one suffered a bit because of natural comparisons to The Time Traveler’s Wife, even though this one is so different! I gave this one 5 stars as well, but the average Goodreads rating was only 3.27 stars. To be fair, I didn’t love it quite as much as The Time Traveler’s Wife overall, but I found it so intriguing and I loved the atmosphere that Audrey Niffenegger created.

4) The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling – I read this one before I started doing reading challenges so I have absolutely no notes about it anywhere, but I remember being pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it! Putting aside J.K. Rowling’s politics for now, I love her writing style and I was very interested to see how it would work outside of the Harry Potter world. To be honest, I don’t remember that much of the book by now since it’s been about 6 years, but I remember that I really enjoyed it. I gave it 5 stars (compared to the 3.30 on Goodreads), so I must have loved it!

5) Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia – This is a book that I was raving about the first year I started my blog, and I’ve always been a bit surprised to see how little attention it gets! I gave it an easy 5 stars, but the average Goodreads rating is only 3.42. This is another case where I assume the unlikable main character is enough to put most people off, but for me, she was one of the most intriguing parts of the whole thing! Also, the synopsis is a bit misleading — the book has a lot more to do with academic pressure and the flaws in the education system than the fluffy story about a girl learning to welcome new experiences, like the synopsis suggests.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Book Titles That Sound Like They Could Be Good Crayola Crayon Colours

I think this week’s prompt takes the prize for weirdest topic so far! To be honest, I was dreading it a bit when I first saw it because I had no idea how to even begin to approach it. Luckily, I noticed a note beside the topic suggesting we look up some of the weird colours that Crayola has already used. Once I did that, it didn’t take long to realize how many strange ones they had already! After that, it was a simple matter of browsing through my Goodreads TBR list to see which book titles really jumped out at me as something that could be a colour. I was surprised to see that it didn’t take too long to reach a full list of ten using only books published this year and in the future! I really thought I’d have to dig quite a bit further back to find most of them. I guess it helps that there are so many books with interesting titles coming out in the next year or so! These are all books that immediately caught my attention when I noticed them on my list, with a suggestion of what kind of colour they might be.

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) Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen – I would guess some kind blue-green colour, kind of resembling algae that floats on top of the ocean anyway like a kind of “skin,” probably mostly green

2) White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson – Aside from this being one of my most anticipated books of the year, the title immediately struck me as a great crayon colour! I picture it is a kind of very pale gray, close to white but with enough of a gray tinge to be visible

3) Dark Waters by Katherine Arden – This one is probably pretty similar to Skin of the Sea, but a much darker shade to resemble a deeper part of the ocean. I’d imagine it would be a bit more of a deep blue with a little green

4) Flash Fire by T.J. Klune – I feel like this colour probably already exists, but I’m picturing a very bright reddish-orange, maybe with a little yellow or even white mixed in since that sometimes happens with a very hot flame

5) Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler – Again, I somehow get the impression this has been done before, but it jumped out at me immediately as a crayon colour. Ironically enough, I have no idea what colour I think it would be. Blue would make sense, but for some reason, I’m thinking it would be a light pink

6) Sunkissed by Kasie West – Definitely a kind of light tan/brown or even a yellow colour. When I think of something sunkissed, I tend to think of a faint suntan so I’d want a colour that kind of captures that

7) Yolk by Mary H.K. ChoiThis would obviously need to be the same kind of colour as an egg yolk, so a relatively vibrant yellow or gold

8) Black Widows by Cate QuinnI guess it would be hard to make a black crayon that has anything other than just black, but it would be cool if this one could somehow have a stripe of red in it that didn’t get interfered with by the black, since black widow spiders are known for their red markings

9) Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. BrowneThis is another one that would probably be on that greenish-blue spectrum. I was picturing it a kind of blue like a swimming pool, but when I looked up the colour of chlorine, that seems to be more like a pale green

10) Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas – I’m not entirely sure what this colour would look like, but the name was too good to pass up! I’m picturing some kind of dusky pink kind of colour, but it’s a little hard to describe

If You Like This, Try That (#3)

I’ve definitely been sitting on this post for way too long! I started keeping track of a list of possible book pairs sometime last year with the intent of sharing them at some point, but kept putting it off because I wanted to wait until I had a full list of 10 pairs. That took a lot longer than I thought! I was actually surprised to realize how many books I’d read last year that reminded me of another book in some way, although some pairs are definitely more closely connected than others. As I mentioned in my last post in this series, this is not to say that the books are unoriginal in any way! In general, these are all books that I loved and when I found another book that was similar, I ended up enjoying it for many of the same reasons. The challenge with waiting so long to post this is that many of these are books I read almost a year ago now, so it might be harder to remember what exactly I thought they had in common! I’ll definitely have to keep better notes for the next round. In most cases, I’ve tried to pair a relatively popular book with another that might not be as well known, but that’s not necessarily the case for each pair.

If you like Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider, you might also like No One Here is Lonely by Sarah Everrett

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This is definitely a pair where I don’t think either book is particularly well-known, but they definitely have some similarities. Both are books that involve characters who are dealing with the loss of someone close to them, who they have been able to hold onto in some capacity. Neither of these are spoilers as they are easily revealed in the synopsis, but in Invisible Ghosts, Rose’s brother Logan appears to her as a ghost. In No One Here is Lonely, Eden’s is able to speak to her crush Will, who passed away in a car accident due to a new kind of technology that uses his voice and memories to create a digital companion. Both books deal with the characters learning to move forward with their lives and the struggle to let go of someone who they really cared about. Both focus quite a bit on the characters’ difficulties interacting with others and I found both main characters very relatable. Both also had a focus on how hanging on to the past can be detrimental, and I thought they both handled this sensitive topic very well.

If you like What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross, you might also like Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

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To be fair, I didn’t quite love either of these books as much as I expected, but I did end up giving each of them 4 stars. Both are books that deal with a child who was kidnapped and raised by a woman whom they believed was their mother. I picked up both of these because the concept sounded so intriguing, and oddly enough, I ended up having the same overall impression of both: great concept and writing that drew me in at first, but both started to drag a bit as they went on. Both books brought up some very interesting ethical questions caused by the kidnapping and the relationships between characters. Both were also very character-driven, which was both a good thing and a bad thing — if you have trouble buying into the character’s actions (like I did, at times), you might not like the book as much. If I remember correctly, since it has been almost a year for these also, the main difference between these is that What Was Mine involves the kidnapped young woman as an adult, whereas Not Her Daughter focuses exclusively on her as a child. If you’re interested in this kind of plotline, I would recommend reading both although it does feel a little weird to suggest them when I didn’t give them 5 stars myself!

If you liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, you might also like Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is one of my all-time favourite books, and I was immediately struck by the resemblance to it when I read Ginny Moon. Both are books about a young character who appear to be on the autism spectrum, although to be honest, I can’t remember for sure if the diagnosis is ever mentioned on the page in either of them. Both books also focus on the young characters single-minded fixation on solving a mystery, no matter the difficulties this poses for the people around them. In The Curious Incident, Christopher is focused on figuring out who murdered his neighbour’s dog, and Ginny Moon is set on finding the baby doll that she had at her birth mother’s house. Both are also books that involve the main characters’ strained relationships with their parents, but both also have the support of another adult in their lives who try to help them make sense of their world. I thought both books were very impactful stories and very engaging to read, so they were also similar in that respect as well.

If you liked Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, you might also like The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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These were two of the best books that I read last year, and I was surprised to notice the similarities! To start with, both are books that are beautifully written, although a little more dense to read and they can become a little confusing at times (especially The Starless Sea). Both also have main characters who are focused on the search for something. In Strange the Dreamer, Laszlo searches for the lost city of Weep, and in The Starless Sea, Zachary searches for the reason a book he finds in the library included a specific event from his own life. I also found both of these characters very relatable and immediately connected with them both, largely because of their love of reading and self-deprecating kind of attitudes. I also loved the interactions both Laszlo and Zachary had with the other characters and enjoyed the way the worlds were developed. Both are books that on the longer side and are definitely the kind you would need to pay careful attention to in order to fully get into, but they are well worth the effort!

If you liked Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast, you might also like Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley

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It does seem a bit odd to say that two graphic memoirs are similar given that they are based on the author’s lives, but I definitely saw a resemblance between these two. Both are books about the authors’ experiences caring for their aging parents or grandparents. In both cases, one parent was diagnosed with dementia and the way each of the author’s relationships with their parents evolved given their need to take on a caretaking role. In Displacement, Lucy Knisley decides to be the sole caregiver for both of her grandparents on a cruise, and in Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast depicts the challenges she faces with her father’s dementia while he is staying with her. Both books handled the sensitive topics of dealing with aging relatives and the logistics surrounding their care so well, and I loved how both authors did not shy away from discussing how difficult it really was. I thought both struck a great balance in showing both the positive and the negative. I also loved how both authors managed to inject some humour throughout, which helped to lighten the focus a little without detracting from the seriousness of the topic. I’m not the biggest fan of non-fiction generally, but I thought these two both did an incredible job of handling such a tough topic, and both were very impactful, especially since I had a grandparent who had dementia.

If you liked Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, you might also like Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

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To be fair, it’s been about 4 years since I’ve read Everything I Never Told You so it’s a little harder to remember the specifics of that one. Both are books about families who have immigrated to the US from Asia (China and Korea, respectively), and both are dealing with a serious issue. Everything I Never Told You begins with the death of their eldest daughter Lydia, and Miracle Creek involves a court case after the family’s treatment centre using hyperbaric oxygen catches fire, killing two patients. Both books focus heavily on the family dynamics between the characters, with a strong emphasis on the immigrant experience and the lasting impact that it had on the family, including their children. Both authors did an excellent job of crafting complex and interesting characters, and the build-up of small moments that eventually shaped what happened. The primary difference between this one is that Miracle Creek focuses on the court case around the treatment center, whereas does not include that kind legal drama. Either way, both are very strong character-driven books, and if you liked one, you will very likely enjoy the other one too.

If you liked The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, you might also like Beach Read by Emily Henry

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I read both of these because of the hype last year, and in both cases, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed them! I think of all the pairs here, except maybe Strange the Dreamer and The Starless Sea, this is the only one where both books are pretty equally known. Both books are pitched as romances, which they are, but they also touch on some much deeper topics, so it may be best to go into them forewarned that they are not quite as fluffy as they might seem. Both books also include main characters who have excellent banter and chemistry. There were even some similarities in how the characters connected with each other, as both included the main couple communicating at times through notes to each other. I also found both of these books so easy to get into because I loved the writing style, and I very easily connected with the characters in both of them. Ironically, they were also both books that I went into with relatively low expectations and both ended up becoming some of my favourites of the year!

If you liked Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco, you might also like The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

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This is actually the second time I’ve recommend The Madman’s Daughter series in one of these If You Like This, Try That posts, but I think it is such an underrated series! Both of these are series that are inspired by well-known villains, either from history or from classic horror. Both include a young woman as the main character who defies the expectations for women during the period in which she lives, and take an interest in forensics and science and work with their relatives to pursue this interest. Both are also characters who take it upon themselves to investigate a horrific murder, with the help of a young man who is assisting their relatives in their scientific endeavours. Both series are also very engaging and interesting to read, including a great balance of romance and horror elements. They are also both series that require little to no background knowledge about the historical context or horror classics that inspired them — it may help a bit, but it is definitely not necessary to understand what is happening. The main difference is that the Stalking Jack the Ripper is based on real-life serial killers, whereas The Madman’s Daughter is inspired by fiction, but the overall feel of the two series is very similar.

If you liked Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, you might also like The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne

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This might be a little more of an obscure pair that the others listed so far, but I definitely noticed some strong similarities. Why We Broke Up follows a teenage girl named Min who is writing a letter to her ex-boyfriend about the items she is including in a box, each of which represents a key moment from their relationship and eventual breakup. The Places I’ve Cried in Public follows a girl named Amelie who is retracing her own steps to reflect on all the times and places where her ex-boyfriend made her cry. The latter is a much darker storyline, so anyone reading it should be warned that it can be triggering. I’m a little hesitant to say what for since I think it could be a spoiler, but if anyone would like to know, please let me know! Both books very powerfully captured the experience of a difficult breakup, and one of the strongest similarities for me was the way the two characters reflected back on what had happened throughout their relationships. Both were also books that I had a little trouble getting into at times because I found the main characters a little irritating at times, although both also seemed very realistic. To be fair, both were 4 star reads for me, but I thought The Places I’ve Cried in Public was particularly impactful because of the way it handled some very serious topics.

If you liked Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, you might also like Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

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Big Little Lies was one of the strongest books I read my first year of doing reading challenges (now 6 years ago!), and I was a little surprised to find Whisper Network bore such a strong resemblance! Both books begin with a death that has occurred under mysterious circumstances, the details of which become clear as the story progresses. Both also deal with a group of women who are brought together due to their circumstances — in Big Little Lies, they are mothers of children who are in the same kindergarten class, and in Whisper Network, they are coworkers. There is a strong focus in both on the relationships and dynamics between these women, who all may have a connection to the potential murder which took place. One of the biggest unexpected similarities between these books is how both included snippets of interviews, transcripts, etc. from the investigations between chapters. Both books also touch on some very serious topics and some of the complexities of the characters trying to navigate these situations. Both books were also very engaging and well-written, and I think anyone who loved one would also love the other!

Top 5 Wednesday: Mismatched Titles

As always, title-based topics are among the most difficult for me! I generally think that authors or publishers do a great job at picking titles that really fit the content of the book, so it was tough to think of any that didn’t really seem to match. It’s also not something that I’d really think to keep track of, so unless it was a glaringly obvious example, I probably wouldn’t remember it unless it was something that I’d read very recently. I think the earliest example I can think of that I considered a misleading title at the time was Charlotte’s Web. When I first read it in elementary school, I was confused to find that Wilbur was the main character instead! Similarly, I was shocked to find out that Memoirs of a Geisha was a fictional account written by a man and not an actual memoir, although I eventually learned that he had interviewed a real geisha and used her experiences. When I looked back at books I read more recently, it was a real challenge to find anything that didn’t seem to match! I really had to do quite a bit of digging through my lists of books I’ve read in the past few years to find some.

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) Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco – This was the first, and really the only, book that came to mind without any searching. I read this one last October, and I remembered feeling a little misled that Houdini himself wasn’t as much of a major player as I’d expected, given the title. After reading it, I saw somewhere that the author had noted she’d chosen this title purposely because mentioning another more prominent character would have been too much of a spoiler. I can understand that, but it definitely left me feeling a little misled!

2) Ghosted by Rosie Walsh – This one was probably the most frustrating! I was really looking forward to reading this one, but both the title and synopsis was misleading. I thought it was going to be a thriller about the main character’s attempts to find out why the man she’d quickly fallen in love with had disappeared so suddenly, but found the second half disappointing because it completely changed its focus. I did think the twist toward the middle was well done, but it was not at all the kind of book I was expecting it to be.

3) Keep Me Posted by Lisa Beazley – I assumed this book would be almost entirely epistolary given the title, and it wasn’t. This book is about two sisters who decide to keep in touch through handwritten letters, and end up sharing some of their deepest secrets through the process of writing them. I was a bit disappointed to realize that this book was not really the format I expected. Although the letters were still a big part of the story, it wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind. I guess it’s mostly my fault for making an assumption, but I remember feeling like it didn’t quite match.

4) The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud – This one was definitely my fault for making assumptions! Given the title, I kept thinking that this one was related to Jane Eyre in some way, and it really wasn’t. Technically, the title does still match the content of the book since it’s based around the idea of the main character’s view of herself as “the woman upstairs” who is always on the sidelines, but for some reason it sticks in my head as something that didn’t quite match. To be honest, I generally didn’t quite love this one as much as I’d expected, so I’m sure that’s a contributing factor too.

5) The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch – I barely remember anything about this one, except that I found it very slow and boring, unfortunately. It’s been almost three years since I’ve read it so I had to rely on my notes to remember much about this one, but when I’d made my comments on it at the time, I’d noted that I found the title deceptive because the daughter plays such a minimal role in the story, compared to what I’d expected. I thought she would be the main character when instead, it seemed to be her father who had the bigger role. I was very disappointed not to like this one as much as I expected because it sounded so interesting, but I definitely found the title mismatched!