Top 5 Wednesdays: 2018 Reading Resolutions

I am so excited for a new year of reading challenges! Looking back on my previous year, it was pretty easy to come  up with some goals for the new year. In general, my goal is usually to complete my reading challenges and to read all of the books that I’m most excited to read. This year, I decided to add some extra goals to make my reading/blogging life a little easier to manage. Hopefully these resolutions are easier to stick to than the usual New Years’ Resolutions!

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) Finish all of my reading challenges by the deadlines I set

My interest in reading challenges and compulsion to check things off lists got away from me a little, and I ended up with 5 separate category-based challenges that I was very interested in doing, for a total of 180 books. Clearly that is not reasonable to expect of myself within one year, although to be fair, I’ve picked quite a few graphic novels and shorter books. To complete everything in one year would require 15 items per month. This year, to reach a goal of 158 books, I needed to read 13 per month, and barely managed to keep up with that even though that pace is not unreasonable. It would be great if I can finish all the books I want within the year, but to take the pressure off, I decided to split it up. Here are my challenges for the year, with the deadlines I set:

  • Goodreads Around the Year (52 books plus 1 extra wild card, and 2 additional books for a prompt that I split into three) – by December 31
  • PopSugar (50 books plus 2 additional books for a prompt split into three) – by December 31
  • BookRiot Read Harder 2018 (24 books) – most likely by December 31, but I’m prepared to be flexible with this one
  • Modern Mrs. Darcy 2017 (24 books) – The 2018 list didn’t interest me at all, but I decided I really liked last year’s challenge. I’m giving myself until March 31. 2019 to finish this one
  • ATY Top Picks (25 books) – This is a challenge I created for myself using the Around the Year prompts that I voted for that didn’t make the final list, eliminating any that were repetitive or already on a challenge list. I’m giving myself until March 31, 2019 to finish this one too.

Assuming the 15 month deadline to complete everything, a total of 180 books, that would be 12 books per month or about 3 per week. For the sake of comparison, to finish everything within 12 months, I would need to read 15 books per month. It’s theoretically possible, but I’m not going to stress myself about it.

2) Balance my reading better

One of the tricks I’ve always used to complete my reading challenges is trying to balance out the books that I’m reading across the year, and across each month. I’ve found that it really helps to vary the books I pick in terms of length, genre, etc. so I don’t feel stuck reading too many doorstops in a row, or too many books that have a similar storyline. I also strategically plan some of my longer or more difficult books for times of year where I know I’ll have more time to read. I generally like to alternate between longer/more dense books, and shorter/easier books.

Every year, there are also inevitably a few books that I’m not so interested in reading, usually because it’s a prompt that just doesn’t interest me much. One strategy I’ve found that helps is to knock out a few of the least interesting prompts/books upfront so I don’t put them off all year, and get stuck reading all the boring books in December. Last year, I didn’t do the best job of balancing things out, which led to a pretty underwhelming first couple of months, and a pretty mediocre December. This year, I want to balance things out a bit better to make sure there are at least a few books I’m really excited for each month. It’s so tempting to read all of the most exciting books right away, but I think balancing them out will give me a better year overall!

3) Learn to use Instagram to document my reading

Up until now, I’ve used a mix of Goodreads and Facebook to track my challenge progress. I will still definitely be using Goodreads, but for some reason, I found it nearly impossible to keep up with posting on Facebook. I have no idea why. In previous years, I remembered to post about each book as I started it (or occasionally just as I finished). Last year, I have no idea why but I just couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t just that I read so many books. It just didn’t cross my mind to post them, and when it did, it felt like a chore to come up with something to say with each post. I don’t want to completely abandon the practice, since I’ve found people on my friends list are interested in what I’m reading and like to see how much I’ve read. I recently upgraded my phone and discovered that Instagram was already installed (my previous phone had no room for it). I’ve decided to try and use Instagram instead to post pictures of the books I’m reading, with a shorter caption, instead of making a Facebook post each time. Ideally, I’m hoping those posts will show up on Facebook as well, once I figure out how to set that up.

4) Find a better system for tracking my thoughts about each book

Another thing that became a huge chore this year was tracking what I thought about each book. In the past, I was always very excited to jump straight onto Goodreads and post about the books I read in the discussion boards threads, and I also wrote short paragraphs in a Word document with a mini-review of the book. I would note down why I chose it, a basic plot outline, and my opinions. As those of you who have followed my blog for a while have probably noticed, I don’t really write reviews. It’s funny because I used to love writing reviews of CDs for Amazon, but when it comes to books, I have such a hard time getting the ideas down without being repetitive and I’m always worried about giving too many spoilers.

My intent was never to write reviews, but I like to keep track of what I think because it’s hard to remember every book in detail by the end of the year. The first year I did a reading challenge, I posted my comments on each book in a note on Facebook for anyone who was interested, but that was a year when I read 52 books. I now read well over 100 every year, and the Word document I have for last year’s challenges is a massive 70+ pages. I know that no one will want to read all that! I still want to keep track of what I read each month, and I still want to track my thoughts. I’ve decided to try a point-form note system instead of full paragraphs, which will hopefully be quicker and feel like less of a chore.

5) Finish the series I have in progress!

One of my top priorities for the year is to finish off many of the series that I have in progress! I started so many great series over the past year or two, and I’ve taken away my self-imposed rule to limit books by the same author. At first, I was hesitant to include all the books I wanted from series because I thought it would eat up too much of the challenges and leave me little room for anything else, but once I made my lists, I saw that there was plenty of room for both. Here are the series I’m hoping to finish:

  • Red Queen (3 books remaining)
  • Delirium (1 book remaining)
  • The Selection (2 books remaining to finish the original trilogy, Books 4 and 5 are not a priority for this year)
  • Shatter Me (2 books remaining)
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (2 books remaining, at least as of right now)
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2 books remaining)
  • The Raven Cycle (3 books remaining)
  • Matched series (2 books remaining)
  • Illuminae (2 books remaining)
  • The Monsters of Verity duology (1 book remaining)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (5 books remaining)
  • With the Light manga series (6 books remaining)

That’s about 30 or so books from series, which leaves me plenty of space to read a wide variety of other books. I do have a couple of series in progress that I haven’t prioritized (Beautiful Creatures and The Program, for example) but I think any more than I currently have in mind would be too much to manage. It’s also been a full year since I read anything from those two series so it might be hard to pick them up again. The series I chose to focus on are the ones I’ve been enjoying most, or the ones that I’ve been meaning to finish for the longest. I hope to be able to finish them all by the end of the year!

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Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 New-To-Me Authors that I Read in 2017

Part of the fun of reading challenges for me is to discover new authors, and finally get to try books by authors that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I usually add a self-imposed rule to my challenges to try to avoid reading multiple books by the same author to try to encourage myself to read more variety. That went out the window a little this year when I decided I just had to finish The Lunar Chronicles, and it is definitely not a rule for 2018 where I am prioritizing series I have in-progress. I’ve found in the past that without reading challenges, I tend to stick to the same few authors who I know I’m going to like and I don’t branch out past that very much. After three years of participating in challenges, I’ve definitely learned to experiment a bit more and I’ve discovered so many great new authors.

Top 10 Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

1) Celeste Ng

18693763I feel like I really overlooked Celeste Ng in my recent End of Year survey, considering her book was one of my favourites. I read Everything I Never Told You in mid-February after hearing so many rave reviews about it over the past couple of years, and I connected immediately with her writing style. This book was about a Chinese American family living in Ohio in the 1970s, whose teenager daughter is found dead. The book gives such a great look into the lives of the family members and their relationships, and especially their experiences with racism and sexism. I was very interested by how Celeste Ng showed the long-lasting impact of societal attitudes that the parents experienced on their children. It was a beautifully written book, and I’m looking forward to reading her next one.

2) Yaa Gyasi

27071490I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of literary fiction, and I was especially worried about reading Homegoing because I had it linked in my mind with The Underground Railroad, which I didn’t like. I went into this book expecting that I would find it pretty boring, and was surprised to find that it quickly became one of my favourites of the year. This book follows two branches of an African family over multiple generations. One side of the family remains in Africa, and the other moves to America. The story is told in a series of chapters that each focus on one family member and their experiences before moving on to the next person. It takes a lot of talent to be able to create so many distinctive characters who each have their own unique voice. The style took a bit of getting used to, since I sometimes did not want to leave that character’s story, but it was a very powerful book.

3) Victoria Aveyard

22328546It still completely baffles me how much hatred the Red Queen series has amassed online. I was both looking forward to reading it because I saw so many blogs and vlogs discussing it, and nervous to try it because of all the negativity surrounding it. I do see where the book is similar to other dystopian series, although I would also argue that the tropes it uses that people complain are too common are exactly what make it fit into the genre. In any case, I absolutely loved this book and I was drawn into the story right from the start. The plot might not be the most original, but it was very well-executed and I thought the characters were very well-written. I never knew who to trust, and I did not see the ending coming at all. I am very interested in finding out what happens next.

4) Sharon Guskin

255279081The only thing I knew about The Forgetting Time before I picked it up is that I had seen the cover on Goodreads, and the artwork alone was enough to interest me. The main reason I decided to pick it up this year was because I discovered it was recommended by Jodi Picoult, my favourite author, which fulfilled a particularly tricky prompt for one of my reading challenges. As soon as I started reading this, I could see why she recommended it. This book reminded me so strongly of Jodi Picoult’s work, both in terms of the writing style and the subject matter. The book focuses on children who claim to remember past lives, which is a very interesting topic that I had never read about before. I could not put this book down!

5) Diane Chamberlain

23847950Technically, I should have discovered this author two years ago. I had one of her books requested from the library for my first ever reading challenge, but they never had it. After over a year of waiting, they finally told me they couldn’t get it because it was out of print! I have no idea why it took them that long to figure it out. I chose another one of her books this year (one that I had personally seen on the library shelves, so I knew they had it!), and I really enjoyed it. The book I picked, Pretending to Dance, is about a woman who wants to adopt a baby with her husband, but they worry that her past will interfere with the adoption process. The book alternates between her present-day life, and her life as a teenager in 1990, living with a father who has MS. I thought the past storyline was very strong, but the modern-day sections were not as compelling. Even with that said, I really enjoyed the book because of the well-developed characters, and I look forward to reading more of her books.

6) Adam Silvera

25014114This is another author that I’d been hearing a lot about, but kept putting off trying for no real reason. I finally decided to give one of his books a chance when I started planning my list for 2017, and History is All You Left Me kept jumping out at me every time I looked through my TBR list. The book is about a teenage boy named Griffin who is grieving the loss of his ex-boyfriend, Theo, and the only person who seems to understand how he feels is Theo’s current boyfriend, Jackson. This book was such a powerful portrayal of grief and guilt, and the characters really leapt off the page. The story alternates between the history of their relationship and the present, where Griffin is left to cope with the loss as well as his feelings for Theo. It was a very emotional story, and had a lot more impact than I expected.

7) Laini Taylor

8490112As I mentioned in my End of Year Survey post the other day, I feel like I haven’t given anywhere near enough attention to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. For whatever reason, it always seems to get overlooked in favour of the other series I started this year, even though I enjoyed it just as much. This book is so beautifully written and descriptive, and I loved the world that was built. I loved how Laini Taylor took common tropes and presented them in a way that was very fresh. Karou is a fascinating main character, and I loved how we got some of Akiva’s backstory that helped show how the characters connected. I also loved the amazing cast of side characters! I’m definitely looking forward to finding out what happens next, and since I don’t say it nearly enough, I would highly recommend this book!

8) Dawn Kurtagich

28449150I feel like I have to include Dawn Kurtagich because she made me enjoy a book in a genre that is completely outside of my comfort zone. I read And the Trees Crept In, which is a very creepy YA horror story about two sisters who are living in their aunt’s house which seems to be haunted. I’m a huge coward when it comes to horror stories of any kind, and this one really creeped me out but also kept me reading! I devoured the whole thing in just two days, and the only time I could put it down was to purposely give myself time to get it off my mind before bed. I know it may seem silly to find a book aimed toward teenagers so scary, but it was so well-written. Dawn Kurtagich created such an unnerving atmosphere, and even though the ending was a little weird, I thought it worked well.

9) Maggie Stiefvater

17675462To be honest, I think I stereotyped Maggie Stiefvater’s books before I ever gave them a fair chance. I knew of her from the Shiver series, which I had never read but lumped in with Twilight and other similar paranormal romances because it dealt with werewolves. After hearing non-stop rave reviews for The Raven Boys for over a year, I finally broke down and decided to give it a fair chance…and I’m so glad that I did! This book hooked me from the first page, and quickly became one of my favourites of the year. I absolutely adored the characters in this book, and I loved the writing style even though I found the plot a little confusing at times. The style actually reminded me a bit of Harry Potter although the story is very different, and I am very interested in reading the rest of the books in 2018!

10) Victoria Schwab

23299512This was another author that I’d been hearing a lot about but never really cared to try. Eventually, I decided that This Savage Song was a book I just had to read this year, and it ended up being another of my favourites. I thought her characters were very unique and compelling, and I loved the interactions between them. I especially appreciate how Victoria Schwab did not go the typical YA fantasy route and have the two main characters automatically fall in love by the end of the first book. I haven’t read the second one yet, so I don’t know if that changes (no spoilers, please!). I loved the world-building, especially toward the middle of the book where we got a more detailed description of how the monsters came to be. It was a little confusing at first to be thrown in to the world with no backstory, but once it was all explained, it was amazing! The sequel is definitely going to be among the first books I read this year!

2017 End of Year Book Survey

Best books of 2017

Number Of Books You Read:  158 for my challenges, plus about 15 or  so side-reads
Number of Re-Reads: 8
Genre You Read The Most From: Probably YA fantasy or YA contemporary

best-YA-books-2014

1. Best Book You Read In 2017?

It’s hard to pick just one! I can at least narrow it down to one per genre (and even that was a struggle):

Best YA Contemporary – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Best YA Fantasy – This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab
Best Graphic Novel – Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Best Fiction – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Best Horror or Thriller – And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich
Best Non-fiction – Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Best Classic – Lolita, but probably only because it was narrated by Jeremy Irons

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai. I read her first book last year and absolutely loved it, but this one was a complete disappointment. It felt like it took me forever to read (even though it was only 2 days) and it was boring.

Also, Gena/Finn. It was one of the books I was most excited to read, but it was nowhere near as good as I expected. I still gave it 4 stars, but I thought this one would be an easy 5-star book. It just veered off in such a strange direction toward the end, that it seemed like an entirely separate book.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

Definitely a toss-up between The Hating Game and The Status of All Things. I didn’t expect much from either of them, and they both ended up being favourites.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I have no idea if anyone has actually read it based on my recommendation, but I’ve been encouraging people to give Red Queen a fair chance. I feel like it’s a book that gets a lot of hate because it is similar to other dystopians, but I really loved it.

 5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?

Best series started – The Raven Boys
Best sequel – Cress
Best series ender –  Winter

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?

I think any of the authors of the series I started this year: Maggie Stiefvater, Sarah J. Maas, Laini Taylor and Victoria Schwab.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I read a lot of really great graphic novels this year, which is a genre I’ve been trying to read more of. Aside from Nimona which I already mentioned, I also absolutely loved Strong Female Protagonist.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Illuminae! I was hoping for a place on this list to add this one in, since it was by far one of my favourites.

 9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I generally don’t re-read the same books year after year, but if I had to choose one that I’d probably pick Hyperbole and a Half because as soon as I finished, I wanted to re-read it!

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?

11. Most memorable character of 2017?

Probably Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and Roses.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone. For some reason, compared to the other series I started this year, I feel like I tend to overlook this one a lot, even though I liked it just as much as all the others. I definitely don’t give it as much attention as it deserves.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017?

Homegoing was definitely thought-provoking.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? 

Gone Girl! I’ve been meaning to read this for 3 years and kept putting it off.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2017?

This is a hard one because I don’t keep very good track of quotes that I like. I usually just notice them as they come up, and then move on. I actually went back to Goodreads and looked at the quote pages for some of my favourite books to pick:

“Your soul sings to mine. My soul is yours, and it always will be, in any world. No matter what happens. I need you to remember that I love you.”
― Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke & Bone

“Peace is more than the absence of war. Peace is accord. Harmony.”
― Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke & Bone

“The act of reading is a partnership. The author builds a house, but the reader makes it a home.”
― Jodi PicoultBetween the Lines

“There’s no kindness in offering false hope.”
― Naomi NovikUprooted

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017?

Shortest – Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus
Longest – Winter

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

And the Trees Crept In. I did not expect that ending at all.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Cress and Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles! Also, Levi and Cath from Fangirl.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Nimona and Ballister Blackheart from Nimona. The interactions between them were amazing. The friendship between the Raven boys was also great!

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

I’m purposely excluding books from a series for this one, so I would have to go with Fangirl.

21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

The Raven Boys. I’ve heard about this book literally non-stop for the past year.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?

Levi from Fangirl and Reid from The Upside of Unrequited.

23. Best 2017 debut you read?

The Hate U Give

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

There are quite a few good contenders for this one, but I really loved the worlds in Uprooted and This Savage Song.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Adulthood is a Myth

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?

History is All You Left Me and Goodbye Days (even though I still take issue with one of the key plot points in this one).

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Might be a bit of a weird choice, but Baba Yaga’s Assistant. It was a very fast read, but I really enjoyed it! I think Wrecked is another hidden gem, since it is a late-2016 release that was very much overlooked, yet an excellent story.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

I’m not entirely sure what this means, if I’m honest. I would assume it means a book that is very upsetting, so I’d have to say History is All You Left Me

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?

Ella Minnow Pea, which was a lot of fun to read!

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Goodbye Days. As I mentioned above, there was a key plot point that really annoyed me because it didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Even though I tried to overlook it as I progressed through the book, it kept coming up and every time, it bothered me!

book-blogging

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2017?

I can’t actually remember if I started following these people in 2016 or 2017, but some of my more recent favourites are Anushka @GoingThroughBooks, Destiny @HowlingLibraries and C.G. Drews @PaperFury. These last two were actually people I followed on Goodreads, and discovered that they had blogs of their own.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2017?

So I guess I’m a weird kind of a blogger since I don’t actually write a lot of reviews. I find them very time-consuming, and hard to write without repeating myself (and I’m wordy enough as it is!). Instead of reviewing books, I often ended up reviewing adaptations instead. I think my favourite would have to be my review of the movie version of The Girl on the Train (found here) or of the Emma Watson version of Beauty and the Beast (here).

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

I’m not sure if anyone actually read it, but I really liked my post about diversity using the TV show Degrassi as an example of how to do diversity properly. This post can be found here.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Nothing that I can think of. I don’t really go to these kinds of events.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017?

Finally winning a Goodreads giveaway! I’ve entered so many of them and never really expected to win anything, so I was very surprised to get an e-mail last week saying I’d won a book.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

Keeping up with my posts during the week! I have a full-time job, and I always intend to pre-write my posts for the week over the weekend, but I rarely actually do that. In general, I participate in Top 10 Tuesdays, Top 5 Wednesdays, and then I post at least one more time during the week doing something of my choice. It’s hard for me to sit down and write during weekdays after work.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Apparently my post about my 10 favourite books from 2017 got over 100 views, and I didn’t even know it!

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

The Problem with “Problematic” because it took me such a long time to figure out how to put what I wanted to say into words!

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I recently tried ordering from BookOutlet for the first time. My books haven’t arrived yet, so I’m hoping they will be in good condition, but I was very impressed with the Boxing Week deal they were offering, which let me get close to 20 books for about $2 each, including some I want for next year’s reading challenge and couldn’t find otherwise.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Yes, I surprisingly managed to complete all of my reading challenges by December 30, with one day to spare!

looking-ahead-books-2015

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018?

Our Dark Duet. This may literally be the first book that I read.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)?

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

3. 2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Folded Notes from High School by Matt Boren. I only heard about this one recently, but it sounds really cute!

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018?

War Storm and Obsidio.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018?

Just to read as much as I can, and hopefully finish the reading challenges I’ve taken on.

6. A 2018 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable):

I haven’t read any yet!

Top 5 Wednesdays: My 2018 Wishlist

This week’s topic was an interesting one, coming at a time when everyone is reflecting on highlights of the year and looking ahead to specific books we want to read. The topic this week is a wishlist for the year, but discussing the themes, tropes or genres we want to see more of, instead of individual titles. I find it hard sometimes to think about books in terms of specific tropes or styles because so much of my enjoyment comes down to how the individual book is written. When I started to look back on the books I read this year, I actually did notice a few things that I would like to see more of.

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) Platonic relationships that stay platonic

I’m all for romances in books, and I do generally enjoy stories where childhood friends fall in love, but I think there’s a real lack of platonic friendships, especially in YA books. I can only think of one or two books off the top of my head where characters were friends and remained friends throughout the story, without developing any romantic feelings for each other. I find a lot of the time when the characters remain friends, there is some mention of an unrequited crush or “We tried to date in the past, but we decided we were better off as friends.” Even in books geared toward adults, characters often seem to be friends because they failed as a couple in the past. I want to see more books where the two friends are just friends, and dating was never even a consideration. I think this is especially lacking when the pair in the book are opposite-sex friends where both are heterosexual. There seems to be an assumption that two straight people cannot be friends without someone eventually developing feelings. I know there are plenty of cases where friends do fall in love and stay together, but there are also lots of cases where the relationships stay platonic.

2) Social media/online lives as a positive part of people’s lives

I think the attitude in general toward social media and the Internet has shifted. The earliest books I read that were very Internet-focused all essentially focused on the online predators and the risks of talking to people online. To be clear, I still think it is essential for people to be aware of the risks and to take precautions to keep themselves safe. However, I think that using social media and the Internet is also a very positive thing for a lot of people, and it really bothers me when books try to downplay or negate the importance of online communities and friendships. Again, everyone is still responsible for their own safety and to be critical of what they see online, but for many people, online friendships are just as real and as valid as friendships that start in real life. In general, I think books have shifted to account for this, especially with so many books recently that talk about fandoms, online friendships and support groups, and even the risks of sharing things online. I would love to see more books that treat social media and people’s online lives as real and positive parts of their world, and not necessarily a problem that needs to be fixed.

3) Slow-burn romances (or at least romances that take some time)

I’m not 100% sure if “slow-burn” is really the right term, but it’s very annoying to for characters to fall in love instantly in just about every book I read. I know some of that might be because the author only has the 300 pages or so for the entire story to develop, but I find it so unrealistic for characters who didn’t know each other at all beforehand to be suddenly ready to die for each other, move across the world for each other, etc. especially when those characters are teenagers. That’s not to say I automatically hate any insta-love romance, because some of them are just adorable and work decently with the story. However, I would love to see more books that show that it takes time for the relationship to develop. I find it so hard to buy into couples who are suddenly so in love with each other when they just met and really know nothing about each other at all…and then end up shocked and the relationship is threatened when they discover something they might not like about their partner’s past. Maybe if they slowed down a bit and actually got to know the person they were dating, it wouldn’t be such a shock to realize that there is something they don’t know.

4) More variety in New Adult book plotlines

I struggle with “New Adult” as a genre in general. Although I’m sure these kinds of books have existed for a long time, the genre name seems to be relatively new. New Adult is meant to encompass books that are aimed toward 18-25 year olds, focusing on issues such as leaving home, going to university, establishing a career, etc. I think in general, we need more books that focus on this life stage. It’s easy for teenagers to find protagonists who are going through the same experiences as them since most YA books are set in high school, and then there is a jump to adult protagonists who are often married and already working in a career. I was very excited to see a New Adult section on Goodreads with characters who were about my age and might be going through many of the same experiences as I am. There are so few books I can think of that even focus on university or college, or getting a first “real” job after graduation. Unfortunately, the New Adult section on Goodreads was absolutely packed with “steamy” romances, many of which seemed borderline-abusive to me. Where are all the books about living on your own for the first time? About horrible bosses and office politics? About struggling through university or college? I know a lot of people read to escape their real lives, but I’m sure many people would love to have characters their own age to relate to.

5) More fantasy standalones

Actually, I’m sure many of these exist but I would love to read more of them. So many of the fantasy books I’ve been reading or that I want to read are part of series, and it always makes me hesitant. Reading a series for me means committing to read the whole series (assuming I like the first book), and sometimes all I want is one book. I’ve read many great fantasy series over the past couple of years, and I have many books from series on my TBR for 2018 alone, but I would love to see more fantasies where the entire story can be told in one book. I find that some series tend to drag things out unnecessarily, almost to justify being a series instead of one longer book, and many of them tend to drag in the middle. A lot of series tend to have that transitional middle book where not much really happens, aside from characters moving from one place to another, and a ton of exposition. I would love to see more books like Uprooted or The Night Circus, which tell an entire (and incredible) story from beginning to end.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2018

This topic couldn’t have come at a better time! I spent most of my day yesterday trying to finalize my lists of books for the challenges I’m taking on next year, and ordering them from the library. I think this is the most exciting overall list I’ve ever had! It is also definitely the most ambitious, because there were just so many books that I really wanted to read. I might go into more detail about my plans in a future post, but I’ve decided to take on 5 prompts-based challenges, although with extended timelines on at least 2 of them. I also decided to ease up on some of the rules I normally set for myself. For example, I usually try to limit myself to only one book per author to try to encourage more variety, but with so many series in progress, I decided to scrap that rule.

I spent quite a long time yesterday on my library’s website placing holds on the books I want, a process that was simultaneously very exciting and a bit disappointing. I was surprised to find that the library didn’t have quite a few of the books I was most excited for. I’ve put in requests for a bunch of them to see if the library will purchase them for me, but I’m not sure how likely they are to do it. There are still quite a few more that I would like them to order, but I didn’t want to ask for too many all at once. I guess I’ll have to start looking for backup options, either for other ways to get the books or to replace them with something else.

This week’s topic asks for the 10 books you are most excited for next year, which is a tough one to narrow down. There are so many books that I’m really looking forward to reading! I decided to limit this post to stand-alones only, since the entire list might otherwise be taken up by series. If anyone is interested, I can make a post another time about the series I have in progress.

Top 10 Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

1) Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

28919058I first heard about this book on CeCe’s Youtube channel, ProblemsOfaBookNerd, and as soon as she mentioned it, I knew I wanted to read it. The book is about a boy named Tanner who is taking a creative writing seminar where he has to draft a book in the four-month span of the class. I’ve always been interested in creative writing myself, although I’ve never been able to follow through on any of my ideas. Another thing that interested me about this book is that one of the major characters is Mormon, which is a religion that I know very little about. I was also drawn to this book because of the beautiful cover artwork!

2) Crosstalk by Connie Willis

25430566I’ve wanted to read this book for about a year now, but couldn’t fit it in this year. I’ve never read anything by Connie Willis before, but my mom has read Doomsday Book and highly recommends it. This book is about a couple who undergoes a medical procedure to increase empathy between partners, before they get engaged. Something goes wrong with the procedure causing Briddey to connect to someone other than her fiance. I tend to love books that are very social media-focused, and this one takes it to an extreme and warns about the dangers of being too connected. Sci-fi is not a genre I reach for very often, but this book seems right up my alley.

3) Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

31931941This was another book that I really wanted to read this year but couldn’t squeeze in. It is about a teenage girl named Eliza who is the creator of a very popular webcomic, a life she attempts to keep secret, until one of the biggest fanfiction writers for her comic transfers to her school. Eliza seems like such a relatable character, especially because many of the reviews I’ve read seem to indicate that she has some kind of social anxiety. I read Made You Up by the same author this year, and I really enjoyed it, although it was not quite as strong as I had hoped. This book has received such rave reviews from the reviewers I follow on Goodreads, and I can’t wait to try it for myself!

4) Bang by Barry Lyga

31420736This book came out in April 2017, but it seems to have been one of the more overlooked releases of the year. It is about a boy who accidentally shot and killed his infant sister when he was only 4 years old, and has lived with the guilt ever since. I’ve always been horrified by news reports of children who have access to their parents’ weapons (even legal ones) and the accidents that follow. It is a topic that I have never seen addressed in books before, so I’m very excited to see how it is handled. I think it is so important to have a story like this which shows the aftermath of this kind of incident for the surviving child, so people can understand the depth of the impact this kind of event would have.

5) Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

32905343I was first drawn to this book because the title alone reminded me of the famous line from Scooby Doo, where the villain says “I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids.” I checked out the book on Goodreads, only to realize that it was based on that very idea, following a crew of former teen detectives who are now adults who have not seen each other since their last case 13 years ago. I loved watching Scooby Doo cartoons, and I thought the idea of a book about similar kinds of characters sounded so interesting. The book’s actually been out since July, but I didn’t hear about it at all until closer to Halloween. It definitely seems like another of the underrated, or at least underexposed, books of the year.

6) Keep Me Posted by Lisa Beazley

25894060This book at first seemed like the opposite of all the social media books I’m interested in reading. It is about two sisters who decide to keep in touch using handwritten letters to improve their relationship, which seems to be working at first until the letters end up on the Internet. I have never been that interested in “chick lit” books (and I really hate the term “chick lit”), but after reading a couple this year that really surprised me, I’ve opened my mind and added a whole bunch to my TBR. This book seems like a great one to start with because it fits my interest in social media stories, and just seems like it might be a lot of fun to read.

7) Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

25707621I really hope I’ll be able to read this one within the year. It is one of the books that my library didn’t have. It’s been out for two years already, but I hadn’t heard of it until it came up as a recommendation after I read When Dimple Met Rishi. This book is about a Muslim woman named Sofia Khan whose boss persuades her to write an expose about the Muslim dating scene. If I’m honest, I have not read very many books with Muslim protagonists because I have not come across very many that interested me…or very many in general, for that matter. According to the reviews I’ve seen, this book tackles racism and Islamophobia, and it seems like a great read. I really hope I can get a copy of this one before the end of 2018!

8) Almost Like Being In Love by Steve Kluger

239092This is another book that I’m not sure I’ll be able to get. I added it to my list this year because every time I browsed by Goodreads TBR, this book jumped out at me. I didn’t check whether the library had it until after I’d already made up my mind that I really wanted to read it. This book is about two men, Travis and Craig, who fell in love in high school, and when their separate ways. Twenty years later, Travis realizes that he is still in love with Craig and sets out to win him back. Aside from the storyline, part of what appealed to me about this book is the fact that is told in such a unique format. The book is told through news clippings, letters, lists, and regular narrative. I’m a huge sucker for books that are told in such unusual ways, so I’m looking forward to this one (if I can get a copy).

9) Copycat by Alex Lake

33026842I have this book down as one of two options for a prompt, but I’m starting to think I want to read both of them. This book is a thriller about a woman who discovers that there are two Facebook profiles with her name. Not only does the account that isn’t hers have accurate details, but it also has recent photos of her with friends and family, including some taken from inside her own house! This book seems incredibly creepy. I love psychological thrillers, even though they tend to really scare me. It definitely seems to play into everyone’s worst nightmares about the dangers of posting information about ourselves online. This is definitely not the kind of book that I would read at night or if I’m home alone!

10) Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill

33198765I found this book while looking through recommendations on Goodreads, and was immediately interested by the synopsis. This book is about the controversy about parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. In this book, a child who cannot be vaccinated due to a medical condition becomes critically ill after a classmate’s parents make a choice not to vaccinate their child. I remember seeing an episode of Law and Order several years ago on a similar topic and I thought it was a very interesting ethical question. I was glad to find a book on the same topic since it seems like very interesting premise, along the lines of a book Jodi Picoult might have written.

 

The 2017 Year in Review Book Tag

I wasn’t tagged in this one, but I saw it over on Destiny’s blog HowlingLibraries (linked here), and it looked like a lot of fun. This tag has kind of made me realize how out of touch I am with the news, since I didn’t get a lot of the references they made. I don’t know what it was this year, but it feels like in general there’s been quite a bit of negativity and stress everywhere. I’m hoping that this will all ease up with the new year, but if nothing else, at least I know I’ll have a lot of fun with next year’s reading challenges!

1) First Ever Doctor Who (Your favourite female protagonist)

23395680I had a few characters who were good contenders for this question, but I think I have to give it to Kady Grant from Illuminae, specifically because of her interactions with the ship’s AI system. Kady was a lot of fun to read, and I loved her devotion to the people she cared about, and her willingness to do whatever it takes to get out of bad situations. She is definitely one of the most memorable characters I read this year.

2) GCC Cuts Ties with Qatar (An author you cut ties with)

16115612This is actually a tough one for me to answer because (with a few exceptions), I have a self-imposed rule that I try not to read more than one book by the same author in the year to encourage myself to read a wider variety. I think the closest for this one would have to Khaled Hosseini, although I’m hesitant to say I cut ties since I would probably still read his books. This year, I read And the Mountains Echoed, and it was my least favourite of his books. I love The Kite Runner, and I really liked A Thousand Splendid Suns, but I found this one disjointed and not that interesting.

3) La La Land Oscar Mix-Up (A book that surprised you)

23492736I’ve mentioned this one before, but definitely The Status of All Things. I feel like it’s the kind of book you need to be in a certain mood for in order to enjoy, but I rarely read this kind of story and wasn’t expecting much from it. I ended up really enjoying it, and immediately went onto Goodreads to add more books by this pair of authors to my TBR. I love books that involve social media and books that are character-driven, so I guess it’s not a huge surprise that I ended up enjoying this one. I’m glad I decided to give it a chance.

4) Hurricanes and Earthquakes (A book that rocked your world)

17675462I have to give this one to The Raven Boys. After hearing about it non-stop for about a year, I finally decided to give it a chance, and I was really missing out! This book drew me in right from the first pages, and I was captivated the entire time. I put it off for so long because it seemed way too overhyped, although I should have learned my lesson from doing the same with Harry Potter. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series, and find out what happens next! The characters are so well-developed and interesting, and although I found the plot a little confusing at first, it was easily one of my highlights of the year.

5) Louvre Abu Dhabi (Favourite book cover art)

26721568I’m not really one to judge books by their covers, although there are a few that catch my attention. What I sometimes find is that the books with the most appealing covers aren’t always the most appealing reads, unfortunately. I think I have to give this one to The Problem with Forever because I first decided I wanted to read it after the cover art caught my attention at the bookstore. This book was a 4-star read for me. It was a little on the lengthy side for a YA book, but the character development was great. I love the cover because of the beautiful blend of colours.

6) Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi Sells for $450 Million (A take-my-money book)

23299512Hands down, I have to give this one to This Savage Song. As soon as I finished reading it, I knew I had to buy this book and it’s sequel, and I got them both within a couple of weeks of reading it. I was going to put this one down for the book that rocked my world above, but once I saw this question, I knew it would fit best here instead. This is one of the few books I’ve read that literally made me want to run out and buy it as soon as I had read it, and where I actually followed through on that and bought it. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to read Our Dark Duet this year, but it’s top of the list for next year for sure!

7) Total Eclipse (A sequel that overshadows the first book)

132069001I was more focused on starting new series than on continuing ones I’d already started this year, so I don’t have a ton of sequels to choose from. The one series I did finish was The Lunar Chronicles, and I think Cress and especially Winter were excellent sequels. I loved Cinder, and I liked Scarlet but not quite as much. I thought Winter especially was an amazing ending to the series, and it was impressive that book that was so long managed not to feel like it was dragging. And as much as I enjoyed Cinder, that book was very predictable. I would love to read more by Marissa Meyer!

8) Muslim Ban (Favourite diverse read)

32075671I’m starting to feel like this book is becoming the Harry Potter of the year, where it’s almost a cliched answer to any kind of “favourite book” or “best diverse book” question, but I have to say The Hate U Give. I thought this book did a great job of making the issue so clear and accessible to a wider audience, and it really brought it to life for me. I’m sure we’ve all heard the news stories about police brutality and racial profiling, but this book brought it down to such a personal, human level that it was easy to connect with. I was very worried going into this book that it couldn’t possibly live up to all the hype surrounding it, or that the subject matter had overshadowed the book itself, so I was glad to find that it really was that great.

9) Italy Doesn’t Qualify for World Cup (Most disappointing book)

30555488The Underground Railroad! Can a book really count as disappointing if you weren’t sure in the first place how much you wanted to read it? I honestly had no intention of reading this book, and the only reason I picked it up is because it was chosen as a Book of the Month in one of my Goodreads groups. It seemed like everyone was talking about it, and everyone seemed to love it, so I thought I would give it a chance. I’m sure it didn’t help that I went into it expecting that I wouldn’t be that into it, but I just could not connect with the book at all and I found it very boring. The concept was great and thinking about the overall storyline afterwards, I liked what the author tried to do, but I didn’t enjoy reading it at all.

10) Prince Harry Gets Engaged (Favourite ship)

Easy one for this one — Cress and Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles.

11) Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Most anticipated book)

I’m not sure if this is meant to be my most anticipated book from this year, or for next year. Right now, the book I’m most anticipating for next year is What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, two authors that I only started reading in the last year or two, and that I’ve grown to really love. There is no cover art available for this one yet, so I can’t add anything, but the book is due out all the way toward the end of next year — October 2! It’s such a long time to wait!

 

Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Books of the Year (That I Haven’t Talked About Yet)

The end of the year is always the time for lots of “Best Of” lists, although it was a challenge for me since I felt like I’ve already talked about many of my favourite books this year. After looking back on my Goodreads list, I discovered several favourites that I have not discussed very much yet. In many cases, these were books that I loved just as much, but I didn’t feel like I had as much to say about them as other books I’ve read. I thought this week’s topic was the perfect opportunity to mention some of my other favourites and give them the attention they deserve.

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) Seconds by Bryan O’Malley

18630542I’m actually surprised that I haven’t talked about this book at all really, since it is by far one of my favourites of the year. I think I tend to overlook it because it’s a graphic novel, which I devoured in a day. This book is about a young chef named Katie who plans to open another successful restaurant, but runs into a series of problems that prevent her plan from working. A mysterious girl shows up in her room one night offering her magical mushrooms that will give her the chance to re-do her mistakes and make them right. The art style took a little getting used to, but once I got into it, I was hooked. I found the story very compelling, and I liked how it felt like a fresh take on a familiar plot device. It was also hilarious when Katie broke the third wall and sarcastically addressed the narrator. I would highly recommend this book!

2) The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas/Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

3207567128587957I’m including these two books together because they both address racism in a very realistic and powerful way. I’m sure The Hate U Give will make it onto many people’s lists this year, and it deserves it. I was so nervous that this book would not live up to all the hype, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it really was that good. Small Great Things is about an African American nurse who, at the parents’ request, is removed from the care of a patient, who is the child of a Neo-Nazi couple. When an emergency occurs while Ruth is the only nurse on the floor, she is forced to make a split-second decision about whether to follow orders or step in and try to help the child. Although this was not necessarily my favourite Jodi Picoult book, I thought it handled the topic very well, and it was a great story.

3) Wrecked by Maria Padian

28110862This was one of the first books that I committed to reading this year, and ironically enough, I did not get to it until close to the end of the year. This book is a powerful account of a sexual assault on a college campus, as told from the perspectives of the victim’s roommate, and the accused’s friend. I thought it was such a unique way to tell this story from an angle that I’d never seen before. I thought the book was very well-written and the characters were compelling and realistic. I really liked how the two main characters represented several different viewpoints, and how their attitudes shifted throughout the story. I thought this book brought up so many relevant insights about the topic and about the way we treat these kinds of cases and the people involved. The ending was a bit frustrating, but I think that just added to the impact of the story.

4) Asylum by Madeleine Roux 

13597728I feel like I’ve mentioned this book only in passing, although I liked it a lot more than I expected to. This book is the start of a YA horror series about a teenage boy named Dan Crawford who is attending a college prep program where the students’ dorms are in an abandoned asylum for the criminally insane. As Dan and his new friends begin to explore the asylum, they uncover secrets that link them to the building’s past. This book reminds me quite a bit of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children because of the use of creepy “found” photos that supplement the story, and these add a lot to the eerie atmosphere. I thought the storyline was very compelling, although there were a couple of plot holes that made some of the character interactions a bit inconsistent, but I loved the overall story and I thought it was so creepy!

5) Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

18635084This book was special to me because of the population I work with. I work in a day program for young adults with disabilities, including one person with cerebral palsy who reminds me quite of a bit of the character in this book. This book is about Amy, a young woman who has CP, which affects her speech and mobility. While attending her senior year of high school, Amy convinces her parents to set her up with student aides to help her, including a young man named Matthew who has OCD. I absolutely loved both Amy and Matthew and the relationship that developed between them. I also loved how this book addressed the issue of people being afraid to honestly speak their minds to individuals who have disabilities out of pity or fear of being mean. That’s not to say that people should be free to treat others disrespectfully, but a central issue in this book was that Amy wanted to be viewed and treated as a normal teenager, and would have appreciated being spoken to like one. I thought this book did a great job of bringing the characters to life, and although I wasn’t so sure about the direction the plot took in the second half, I still thought this book was very well-done.