Recommending Books I Did Not Love, But You Might #2

As a reader, I do not like hating or even disliking books. Because I know for every person that hates a book, another loves it. Because I know authors put all this time and effort into a piece of art. But not everyone reads the same book.

As I think I have mentioned before, one of the fields I am most interested pursuing in library science is reader’s advisory. In the library and information science profession overall, we are urged to be neutral. Just because I liked a book does not mean other people will. So, if a patron ever comes in asking for a book recommendation or asking about a book I did not necessarily love, I still want to give them the recommendation.

The same can be said for my blog. There are books I gave a low rating to, but they were not without their qualities. I’ve wanted to do another unique recommendations post since the first one I posted back in January of 2018. But since then, I guess I have gotten more critical in the books I choose to read, because I have not found books for these types of recommendations.

Still, a book is a book. It should be read by someone who can appreciate it.

 

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

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Let’s Talk About Love follows an asexual college student who is done with dating after a bad break-up. Now, all she wants is to hang out with her best friends, work in the local library, and figure out what she wants to do with her life while meeting her family’s extremely high expectations. The writing style in Let’s Talk About Love is super simplistic and the book is not hard to get through. Just be aware of a lot of parenthesis.

 

Girls on the Line by Jennie Liu

Screenshot_2019-08-29 Girls on the LineGirls on the Line is a book I would classify to fall under the new adult genre, just without the sexy times. It is set in 2009 China, following two girls that get wrapped up in the country’s bride and child trafficking rings. The plot goes in all different directions. Also, one of the girls definitely qualifies as an unlikeable narrator. The author tries to cover all sorts of topics, particularly those relating to women in China. If you are interested in learning more about issues women face in other countries or social issues in other countries, I recommend Girls on the Line.

 

Where I Live by Brenda Rufener

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Continuing along the line of social issues, this one closer to home, Where I Live deals with teen homelessness. The main character tries to hide from her friends that she is living inside their high school and hiding from a traumatic past. When a classmate gets in trouble, she risks exposing her situation to help. If you are looking to educate yourself on how teenagers live on the street and what society can do to prevent such a situation from ever happening, I would recommend Where I Live.

 

Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub

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Still Star-crossed is a “sequel” of sorts to Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, set right after the events of the play. When someone threatens to break the fragile truce between the Capulets and the Montagues, the prince makes Rosaline, Juliet’s cousin, marry Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin. To prevent this, the two reluctant newlyweds try to find out who is committing the heinous crimes across Verona. If you like Shakespeare and are looking for more retellings of his works, Still Star-crossed is one you should look into it.

 

Freeks by Amanda Hocking

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Freeks is one of those books I would recommend for someone who loves paranormal romance. It follows a travelling freak show that gets swept up in a murder mystery in 1980s New Orleans. There is a strong element of insta-love, so that is something to be wary of if that is not your thing. Besides that, the atmosphere with spooky and an easy, entertaining read. Reading Freeks can be compared to something like eating chocolate cake: it’s too yummy to stop.

 

RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

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The main positive thing I have to say about RoseBlood is that the writing is beautiful, borderline flowery. It is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I know a lot of people are looking for more retellings based on classics, instead of fairy tales. RoseBlood takes elements of the source material and puts it in a modern Paris setting with a fantastical twist. If you don’t mind long descriptions, or plots that tend to tell more than show, RoseBlood is a dark, romantic retelling.

 

The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass

Screenshot_2019-08-29 The Life and Death Parade

The Life and Death Parade has an intriguing concept. A grief-stricken teenaged girl tracks down a group of charlatans that claim to be able to move through the veil between life and the afterlife following the tragic death of her boyfriend. She meets the psychic that told her boyfriend he will never have a future, then meets another member of the group that lures her and the rest of the boyfriend’s family into a twisted game of dark magic. If you like really scary and/or depressing books, The Life and Death Parade might be something you will enjoy.

 

 

What is a book you did not love but might recommend someone who might?

 

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Where I Find Books I Want to Read

As I’m sure you all can understand, books pretty much take up my life. I’ve also been thinking a lot about my career in library science.

One of the areas of library science that is high on my list is reader’s advisory. This has gotten me thinking about where I get my own reading recommendations. This was probably one of the easiest lists I ever made.

 

Goodreads

Screenshot_2019-08-16 Recent updates Goodreads

I joined Goodreads in high school, the Facebook for bookworms. To this day, it’s the only social media I can actually say I like. I’m constantly adding books to my TBR on that site. I read the lists people make as well as the recommendations Goodreads gives based on other books I added. I know Goodreads has gotten a bad rep over the years, but I can’t shake my loyalty. I would forget so many potentially great books if it were not for Goodreads.

 

Book of the Month and other subscription boxes I can’t afford

Screenshot_2019-08-16 Book of the Month       Screenshot_2019-08-16 OwlCrate - Monthly Book Subscription Box

This one is kind of random, I’ll admit. I signed up on their website, though I technically have not subscribed to the service. Despite this, I look forward to the Book of the Month selections, as well as the Book of the Month YA selections, each month. Most times, they have books I probably would not have found on my own. And they cover a multitude of genres. I’ve gotten some interesting recommendations since I started following Book of the Month on their website. The same goes for services like Owlcrate, which I was subscribed to years ago but sadly had to cancel due to lack of funds.

 

Browsing bookstores, libraries, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble and Books a Million online

Screenshot_2019-08-16 Online Bookstore Books, NOOK ebooks, Music, Movies Toys

I have found some really good (and not so good) recommendations while casually browsing my local library. I spend my lunch breaks browsing the bookstores near my work (one of which has a great café, by the way). There are books that I found I’m really interested in reading, so much so I have had to refrain myself from buying them all at once. Particularly since I would have to carry them all on the train, then walking to the bus, and then walking home after getting off the bus.

I also spend a lot of time browsing on Amazon and the websites for Barnes & Noble and Books a Million. Amazon gives me recommendations based on books I have bought as well as books I added to my wish list. Barnes & Noble has a lot of backlist titles on sale and I keep up with new releases on there as well. Books a Million somehow finds all these new releases that no one else knows about, introducing me to cool books to add to my TBR.

 

Watching BookTube videos and reading book reviews on blogs

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Nowadays, BookTube is where I get the bulk of my book recommendations. While browsing the library and bookstores in person as well as online introduce me to more hidden gems, BookTube keeps me up-to-date with the popular releases, as well as somehow manages to hype up books I might not have picked up otherwise. I even recommended BookTube as a source of finding book recommendations in my reference services class last fall.

The same can be said about book blogs. Many of you guys have a knack for finding those hidden gems. BookTube, as well as book blogs, have also introduced me to genres I thought I would read. Mainly, adult romance. Watching Smut-a-thon vlogs and reading romance reviews, listening to people rave about Christina Lauren and Tessa Dare and the Reluctant Royals series has convinced me to give the genre a chance. Enough that, the next time I’m at the bookstore, I might just stock up on those romance mass market paperbacks.

 

Where do you guys mainly find your recommendations?

Review of Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan (Spoiler Free)

I have a new goal for the summer: write more individual book reviews.

Did I just jinx myself? Probably.

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan is another library book that made me think and feel an unexpected number of things. It follows Ren Ishida, who travels to a small town in Japan where his sister, Keiko, ran away to years before. Keiko has just been found stabbed to death in the rain. Despite their weekly phone calls, Ren has always felt the emotional distance from his bubbly, caring older sister. In hopes of learning more about her life, he impulsively accepts her job teaching English at the cram school in town and moves into her room at a politician’s house, where he will take on Keiko’s role of reading to the man’s bed-ridden wife. In the same vein as Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, Rainbirds is more of a contemporary than a mystery. Ren discovers Keiko was hiding more than a few secrets and even comes face to face with his own life decisions.

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Though I went into Rainbirds expecting a more domestic mystery set in Japan, I’m not disappointed in how it turned out. The book was a quick and easy read, with flashbacks between past and present that managed to flow well. As far as I know, Rainbirds is a debut novel. The writing was still lovely. From what I’ve read in reviews, Akakawa, the town the novel is set in, is fictional. The author created a dark, beautiful small town atmosphere. It felt run-down and isolated yet exotic at the same time. Akakawa was as mysterious as many of its inhabitants.

Normally, contemporary novels like this focus on very bad sibling/family relationships. However, Ren and Keiko had a healthy brother/sister dynamic. Keiko was nine years older than her brother and, because of their parents’ tumultuous relationship, she often had to step in as a parental figure. Though there was a lot of responsibility placed on her shoulders, she never took her frustration out on Ren and continued to treat him with concern and compassion. She kept in contact with him even after she impulsively ran away when he entered high school, which is probably why Ren never held any bitterness towards her for it. Yet both siblings are private, independent people, making it harder for them to share troubling events going on in their lives with each other.

The overall arching theme of Rainbirds is “people are complicated.” That includes Ren, who is completely dominated by his Id and screws up a lot in his personal relationships. There is another character, a female student at the cram school, who he finds himself in trouble with. Despite this, Ren isn’t unlikeable. He acknowledges when he’s messed up and there are situations where he gets himself out before things go too far.

If you are looking for a book without romance, I recommend Rainbirds. Ren is a commitment phobe, although it is not written like a flaw. Some people are not interested in long-term relationships, preferring to live independently. That opinion won’t change with “the right person” either. Ren is one of those types of independent people, though he somehow tends to involve himself with women who are looking for the opposite. Usually, it’s how he causes himself, as well as other people, a world of grief.

One element in Rainbirds that I view as both a con as well as a pro is that not all questions are answered. At least, they are not answered clearly; more on the basis of assumption. Not having all the answers is annoying, especially since one of those questions was a pretty big one. At the same time, not all questions presented in real life are answered. Rainbirds isn’t a fantasy, so it shouldn’t be written like one. But I know for many readers, this could be extremely frustrating.

While Ren is smart, there are times when he comes to certain conclusions you have no idea how he got there. To me, it felt more like “cold reading”: he had a theory about someone, threw his suspicions at them, and then watched how they reacted. Most times, this was confusing.

Then, there is the closest thing to a “plot twist” Rainbirds had. When it was introduced, it felt as though the author pulled it out of thin air simply for the purpose of shock value. There was the bare minimum of nonexistent evidence provided to support of how this revelation could have happened. It was so, so out there.

Overall, I give Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan 4.5 stars. I enjoyed the beautiful writing and complex characters. If you are looking for an adult contemporary novel set in another country or if you enjoyed Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, I highly recommend this novel.

Review of Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar (Spoiler Free)

It’s been a hot minute since I did a book review….

Until now, I used the occasional reading wrap ups this year as an excuse for not writing individual book reviews. Truth is, there hasn’t been a lot of books this year that have made me feel a lot of things or think a lot of thoughts as much as Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar.

The novel is the fictionalization of the lives of famous sisters, painter Vanessa Bell and acclaimed author Virginia Woolf. When the four Stephan siblings—Vanessa, Virginia, and their brothers Thoby and Adrian—move into a new house in a bohemian neighborhood following the death of their fancy middle-class parents, they begin the Bloomsbury Group. It is a collection of eccentric intellectuals that break away from the 20th century English norms in their art, writing, and love lives, among other things. Manipulative as she is brilliant, Virginia and her unstable mental health is the center of her family, especially for her big sister Vanessa. But when Vanessa falls in love, the sisters’ once close bond is tested.

vanessaandhersisterlibrarybook

I enjoyed the writing style and format of Vanessa and Her Sister. It is written in a diary format through Vanessa’s first person point of view, with letters and other correspondence from Vanessa, Virginia, and other members of the Bloomsbury Group woven in. Vanessa Bell herself had an interesting way of speaking that the author incorporated into the prose. She also did a good job with the transitions between time jumps; the time passing never came without warning.

Thus leads into my main qualm with the book, which is the pacing. Parts One and Two seemed to fly by. We see the forming of the Bloomsbury Group and their Thursday Night meetings where they talk about art and writing. We see glimpses of what the Stephan siblings had to deal with in regards to Virginia’s mental illness and how they handle tragedy as a family. We also see the forming of the prominent romantic relationships and women embracing their independence, like Vanessa’s back and forth courtship with her husband Clive.

Parts Three and Four were more complicated, yet they seemed to drag on. Everyone in the Bloomsbury Group has a different dynamic with each other that somehow maintain a balance in the overall group, with occasional tilts in the flow later in the book. But any issues or disagreements that come up are handled in a very adult manner, for the most part, which is something I appreciated.

The characters—Vanessa, Virginia, their brothers, and the rest of the Bloomsbury Group—all felt like real people the author might have actually known. I liked watching Vanessa come into her own, learning to stand up to herself and deciding when to put what she wants first when she needs to. Some characters, like Vanessa’s husband Clive, you begin the book viewing a certain way, then have a different opinion of them at the end. One of the characters I loved fit the “sassy gay friend” type.

Some characters I liked, then could not stand at the end of the book. That particular person is Virginia Woolf, someone who is such an acclaimed feminist that does some things against other women, namely her sister, that I find deplorable. She is also described to being very brilliant, although she rarely did or said anything that I found to “brilliant.” Granted, I only read Virginia’s book A Room of Her Own and I didn’t like it much. Most of the time, I found Virginia Woolf—or, technically Virginia Stephan still in this novel—extremely annoying and selfish.

So, if you are a big fan of Virginia Woolf, be aware you might absolutely hate her if you read Vanessa and Her Sister.

But no one in the Bloomsbury Group is strictly good or strictly bad. They are complicated artists and individualists that reject the rules society places on them. They maintain strong friendships, embrace all forms of love and creation, and accept sexuality as a thing that should be explored instead of repressed. Because of them, I would say the novel was primarily character driven instead of plot driven.

Overall, I give Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar 4 stars. If you are interested in reading fiction novels on well-known literary figures or looking for a good historical novel in a different format, I highly recommend this novel.

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Mind-Blowing Mysteries/Thrillers

Mystery and thriller novels were, and still are, some of my favorite genres. Growing up with crime shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Law & Order: SVU led into it. I was obsessed with James Patterson in high school (not the case anymore). Mystery is actually how I got into urban fantasy. Most of the ones I read had a murder mystery plot or had a main character that was some sort of investigator.

Nowadays, I don’t think I read as much mysteries or thrillers as I used to. But I’ve definitely read enough within the last year or so that blew my mind. Those are:

 

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Screenshot_2019-02-04 Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3)

The third book in the Cormoran Strike series, Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling explored the more dark side of humanity in this one. We dive deeper into Cormoran Strike’s backstory, mainly the death of his mother Leda Strike and his interactions with two very evil men he investigated while he was still with the army. We also learn more about Robin’s past, which leads me into a trigger warning for rape, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse. Aside from that, I flew through this book as it took me through one twist after the other. After finishing the book, it took me a while to emotionally recover.

 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Screenshot_2019-02-04 And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None is a classic mystery, published in the 1930s. It follows ten people, who are lured to an island off the coast of England by a mysterious stranger that then traps them inside with the promise of killing them all for their respective crimes. There is no other way on or off the island, so it has to be one of the “guests.” But just when you think it might be one person, they get killed off. Agatha Christie does a good job at making everyone look guilty. And having the characters die one by one to coincide with a creepy nursey rhyme adds a level of gruesomeness to it.

 

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

Screenshot_2019-04-16 Two Can Keep a Secret

The most recent read on this list, Two Can Keep a Secret is set in a small Vermont town with a reputation for killing teenaged girls. True crime buff Ellery and her twin brother Ezra move to this town to live with their grandmother when another girl goes missing and strange, frightening threats appear. While I’m not sure many would call this book “mind-blowing,” since it is a young adult mystery, I still enjoyed it. I was surprised by who the killer was. Two Can Keep a Secret was highly entertaining and I wanted to give it five stars, only it didn’t quite get there.

 

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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After being disappointed by Riley Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, I went into The Last Time I Lied with low expectations. It follows Emma, who returns to the camp she visited fifteen years ago to find out what really happened to her three friends who vanished the summer she was thirteen. Like Final Girls, I flew through it, but I enjoyed The Last Time I Lied ten times more. I particularly like mysteries where not all of the characters are likeable, including the main character. The plot kept me guessing and entertained, and the ending I didn’t see coming.

 

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

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Hunting Prince Dracula is the second novel in the Stalking Jack the Ripper and probably my favorite in the series so far, even though I haven’t read the third book, Escaping from Houdini. Hunting Prince Dracula was set in Romania, at a medical school inside a castle. There was a lot of blood, a lot of death, a lot of mystery, and a lot, a lot of steaminess. I actually almost gave Hunting Prince Dracula four stars until the end blew me out of the water.

 

What is your favorite mystery novel you’ve ever read?

Top 5 Tuesday: Five Complicated Characters for Complicated Slytherins

When I think of Slytherins, and I think of characters like Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape and Albus Severus Potter, I think of one word: complicated.

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            Complicated, because, in the case of Draco, they show different sides of themselves when you least expect it. In the case of Snape, they spend seven books proving how horrible they are until the last second when they do something so unbelievably unselfish you wonder why they acted the way they did. And, because of a character like Scorpios Malfoy, you realize not all Slytherins fit the mold the rest of us made for them.

In the previous posts this month, I recommended specific books for members of the houses. This week, I put on the Sorting Hat and thought of five book characters I think would fit right in with the Slytherins. And it was surprisingly easier than I thought.

 

Lada from And I Darken trilogy by Kiersten White

Screenshot_2019-02-17 And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga #1)

Lada was the first Slytherin I thought of. The girl is the definition of ruthless. She will attack first, ask questions later. While I admire her determination to take back her family’s empire and to prove a woman can be as strong as a man, she tends to treat those who love her like crap. Though her love interest is seriously unlikeable, her little brother Radu is not. Lada justifies her neglect as a way to protect him so he can’t be used against her, but that doesn’t mean her overall behavior towards him should be tolerated.

 

Audrey Rose Wadsworth from the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco

Screenshot_2019-02-17 Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)

Audrey Rose represents the more positive traits of the Slytherin house: demands respect from others, ambitious, self-reliant, and assertive. She pushes Thomas away not because she is disinterested or denying her feelings, but because she is terrified of losing her independence to a man. She can be charming when she wants to be. She likes praise when it’s owed to her. But, unfortunately, from what I’ve learned of Escaping from Houdini, she might be disloyal, too….

 

Shazarad from The Wrath & the Dawn duology by Renee Ahdieh

Screenshot_2019-02-17 The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)

Like Audrey Rose, Shazi has the better qualities of the House. While her bravery might make her a Gryffindor, once she is inside the palace and interacting with Khalid, she shows her inner green serpent. A Gryffindor would have tried to stab him the first chance she got, but Shazi buys her time. She charms him with the tales from A Thousand and One Nights. She survives on her wits and occasionally uses her charm, or her body, to get what she wants. Shazi went into that palace prepared and driven to get justice for her friend and all those other girls. While she might only trust a few people, once you have her, she is yours.

 

Grace Marks from Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

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When you look at Grace Marks, you could see either one of two things: an innocent Irish girl falsely accused of a crime or a conniving murderess that seduced a hapless man into killing two people. Grace shows you what she wants you to see. She’s selective with her loyalty, only that is because she grew up in an abusive household, then endured more years of abuse at the hands of a patriarchal society. She’s also realistic in how she sees the world. She has no problem calling out everything wrong with the world others ignore. The best part about Grace, though she comes off as docile, she can cut you down with her words, so politely you don’t realize you’ve been insulted until she walks away.

 

Lizbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Screenshot_2019-02-17 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)

Lizbeth is the ideal Slytherin. Though she’s not exactly charming, she operates on her own moral code. She is ruthless and determined in her pursuit to make sure those who hurt others don’t get away with it. She makes sure people like rapists and those who take advantage of the less fortunate get what they deserve. Lizbeth also incredibly adaptable, changing her looks and personality to fit in with any setting in her mission. And she’s scary smart.

 

Who is your favorite non-Harry Potter character Slytherin?

Top 5 Tuesday: Five Books for Hufflepuffs to Give Them All the Feels

The one I’ve been waiting for! My Hogwarts House!

For years, I thought I was Ravenclaw. Then, I finally joined Pottermore around the time everyone else was having their “House crisis” from the updated test. Admittedly, I was surprised by my results. But once I heard someone say “our symbol is the badger because we’re cute and cuddly until someone pisses us off” I fully accepted my Puff status.

Hufflepuffs are known for their loyalty and motivated to always do the right thing. They are also adorable and are deep in their feelings—or at least this Hufflepuff is. Though all these books are some of my favorites, they all have elements Hufflepuffs would appreciate: friendship, love, found family, and a hardworking, determined main character.

Here are my recommendations for my fellow Hufflepuffs:

 

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

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While this book is a far cry from “cute and cuddly” The Astonishing Color of After covers the topic of suicide in a serious but surprisingly hopeful way. The main character, Leigh, is a Hufflepuff: she’s hardworking and determined to get answers, even if everyone thinks she’s going crazy from grief. She is loyal to her best friends and her family. The Astonishing Color of After is filled with all sorts of love, friendship, and family. If you want a good cry or you want to feel everything, this is the book.

 

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited screenshot

The Upside of Unrequited is the iconic Hufflepuff in book form: cute and fluffy. If she was into Harry Potter, the narrator, Molly, would be a Hufflepuff. Aside from the diversity packed inside, the main friend group is solid. Molly is best friends with her twin sister Cassie as well as her cousin Abby and has two other best friends that are there for her. There is also a tight-knit family and a sweet romance that pulls at your heartstrings. The Upside of Unrequited is a fun read for anyone, not just Hufflepuffs.

 

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Screenshot_2019-02-06 The Secret Life of Bees

I read The Secret Life of Bees in my high school book club. I completely forgot about it until I turned to Goodreads to find inspiration. If you are unaware, The Secret Life of Bees is set in 1960s South Carolina. Fourteen-year-old Lily lives with her abusive widowed father who says Lily killed her mother when she was four years old. The only person that Lily receives any love from is the family’s African-American maid, Rosaleen. After Rosaleen is viciously assaulted while in police custody for something she didn’t do, the two run away to Lily’s mother’s hometown. There they meet sisters and beekeepers August, June, and May, who take them into their home.

The Secret Life of Bees is all about family, specifically found family, and loving yourself as much as others love you. Lily spent her whole life believing her mother abandoned her before accidentally getting shot, then lived with a father who resented her for something not her fault. But with the help of Rosaleen, August, June, and May, she finds acceptance and learns blood does not make a family.

 

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Screenshot_2019-02-06 Eliza and Her Monsters

Another more hard-hitting contemporary but still on the sweet side, Eliza and Her Monsters follows a shy high school student with a double-life as the mastermind behind a popular web comic. Though it gets heavy later on, the first half of the novel is loaded with cuteness. Eliza is a Hufflepuff: works hard on what’s important to her, good-hearted, even when she wanted to hide, and accepting of others most teased or ignored. Her new friend and love interest, Wallace, is another Hufflepuff, with his patience, kindness, and honesty. They packed on the feels already loaded into Eliza and Her Monsters.

 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Screenshot_2019-02-06 Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity, #1)

Code Name Verity is focused on friendship, particularly female friendship. Two best friends and female pilots in World War II are separated after an attack. One of them is abducted by the Gestapo for enemy intel. Told between flashbacks and alternating points of view, the kidnapped pilot “Verity” reveals her name to be Julie, a British spy. As she hangs on to hope that she will make it out alive, her friendship with Maddie is what gives her strength to endure as, under torture, she reveals her secrets that might or might not save her life.

If you want a book about a good, strong friendship between two strong, flawed women, Code Name Verity is the perfect choice. It’s about what happens when you find your “person,” and how that kind of unconditional love can either make you or break you or both. The novel overall is plain amazing, filled with tense moments, female pilots kicking butt, and real-life action from World War II.

 

Would any of my fellow Hufflepuffs read the books I recommended today?

Top 5 Tuesday: Five Mystery Books for Ravenclaws

Growing up, I thought I was a Ravenclaw. I identified more with Luna Lovegood than Hermione Granger, given that Luna was unapologetically a weirdo. I love to read and I put education ahead of most things. Then, Pottermore crushed my dreams. But more on that another week…

Since Ravenclaws love to use their intellect, mystery books are right up their alley. They also might enjoy books that make them think about serious issues other people avoid in polite conversation, and gain a new perspective on things.

Basically, Ravenclaws love to read. So, here are five books I would recommend to Ravenclaws (or anyone else that likes these kinds of books).

 

Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman

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This was the first book I thought of for Ravenclaws. It is a historical mystery set in fifteenth century England and centered around John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. After her father is arrested by the king’s men, Elizabeth Milton teams up with an Italian scientist named Antonio to clear her father’s name. They find the answers they are looking for hidden within Paradise Lost and uncover a secret that could send the medieval world into a frenzy.

Traitor Angels takes one twist and turn after another. It brings up a lot of questions about religion, science, and morality that make you think. Elizabeth Milton is definitely a Ravenclaw, too. While she can use a knife when she needs to, her best weapon is her brain. She’s smart and keeps a cool head in dangerous situations. If you don’t mind books on the slower side, Traitor Angels is a good read for Ravenclaws.

 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Screenshot_2019-02-04 And Then There Were None

The mother of all “who done it” books. Agatha Christie does an amazing job at creating morally gray characters and makes it clear no one is innocent. Any of the people trapped on this island inside this mansion could be a killer, or it could even be someone else. You never really know. And Then There Were None is an intense read. I think most Ravenclaws like to be challenged.

 

The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A book about books? Isn’t that what most Ravenclaws want? Both The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game have mysteries centered around books. The former is set in 1950s Barcelona, where a young boy becomes enthralled with a mysterious author whose books are being systematically destroyed and sets out to find the culprit. The latter takes place thirty years earlier, following a struggling writer with an unexpected connection to the family from The Shadow of the Wind as he goes on a mission from a benefactor with ulterior motives. While I personally enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind more than The Angel’s Game for its mystery aspect, both are complicated stories with complicated characters.

 

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

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One of the more contemporary novels on this list, I Am the Messenger is a mystery, but it focuses on the idea of “do the right thing.” Underage cab driver Ed Kennedy is feeling a little lost until he accidentally stops a bank robbery. After that, an enigmatic mastermind sends him on various missions of helping and occasionally hurting others that need it. Along the way, different questions are asked, leaving it up to Ed (and the reader) to find the answers. I felt intellectually and sometimes morally challenged while reading I Am the Messenger, so I think Ravenclaws would definitely like this one.

 

The Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

Is it weird to recommend a book written by the same author who created Hogwarts and the four Houses?

Nah.

The main character, Cormoran Strike, is an army investigator turned private detective that toes the line between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. He is so smart and pays such close attention to detail, it’s amazing how he figures it out. His assistant and the other main character, Robin, is definitely a Ravenclaw; she’s feisty and sharp as a whip. The plots of the novels in this series are intricate, mapped out to the last detail. Something I’m sure a Ravenclaw would appreciate.

 

Have I convinced any Ravenclaws to read at least one of these books? Would you recommend these also?

Top 5 Tuesday: Five Adventurous Books for Gryffindors

First off, shout out to Shanah for this brilliant idea for Top 5 Tuesday. When I think February, I think “love” and “romance,” thanks to Valentine’s Day. But Harry Potter is much better!

For this week’s theme, and the themes following, I selected books I think those in the respective Hogwarts Houses might like based on the personality traits they value. Gryffindors are known for their bravery, but of all the Houses, I feel they produce the least amount of readers (with Hermione Granger being the exception, of course). If a Gryffindor did decide to read a book, it would have to be something with a lot of action. And the protagonist absolutely cannot be a wimp. They would rather be off fighting dark wizards and saving the day, so the book better be worth their time.

The five books I would recommend to the lionhearted, adventurous Gryffindors are:

 

The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

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Besides being action-packed and bursting with humor, every single one of the seven main demigods could be a Gryffindor. Percy Jackson especially, with his sense of humor, loyalty, and strong moral compass. Leo, Harry, and Ron would be best buds, as none of them take themselves seriously. Annabeth and Hermione would definitely get along, as they are both strong, intelligent women that are natural leaders driven by pride. When first introduced, Hazel and Frank come off as weak, but they grow into their roles, much like Harry did. Piper has a good head on her shoulders and she is there when you need her to be, while Jason has no problem leading the charge in battle. Of all the books I recommend on this list, a Gryffindor reader would definitely enjoy The Heroes of Olympus series.

 

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

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Skyward is a science fiction novel where pilots risk their lives defending their planet from an evil alien race and the society’s culture thrives on valor. To the point where you show any sign of weakness, you set yourself up for humiliation, even branded a coward in some instances. Protagonist Spensa is definitely a Gryffindor, though unfortunately in possession of the House’s worst qualities: arrogant, impulsive, hot-tempered, and often doesn’t think before she acts.

Which is why only a Gryffindor can truly appreciate Skyward. While the rest of us might see the beliefs of this society as reckless, Gryffindors respect bravery and value it over most things. Also, this book is filled with exciting scenes on the battlefield and there is never a dull moment.

 

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

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Katniss Everdeen is without a doubt a Gryffindor, one that any would aspire to be. It takes a lot of courage to do what she did—volunteering to participate in the Hunger Games to save her sister, taking on a government system at seventeen—and to survive what she did. While there are some slow moments, particularly in the second book Catching Fire, there is an overwhelming feeling of intensity throughout the series. You’re on edge the entire time, waiting for the next thing to happen.  

 

The Darkest Minds trilogy by Alexandra Bracken

It’s been a few years since I read The Darkest Minds trilogy and, truth be told, I personally didn’t love it as much as I did Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger duology. I don’t know if I would classify Ruby, the main character of The Darkest Minds, as a Gryffindor. Personally, I think she’s more a of a Slytherin or a Ravenclaw, sneaky enough to spend five years hiding her powers in plain sight from those holding her captive. The other main characters, like my favorite Zu, are definitely Gryffindors. But the real reason The Darkest Minds trilogy is on this list is the non-stop action, the violence, and the bold government take-down done by kids with guns. I think some Gryffindor readers might enjoy that.

 

Saga graphic novel series by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

I’m not exactly sure why, but I feel like most Gryffindors would enjoy comic books or graphic novels. Superhero comic books to be exact, the ones with all the action and butt-kicking and saving the day. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to DC or Marvel or any superhero comics yet. In the meantime, I’m recommending the Saga graphic novel series.

These graphic novels are explicit—not for the faint of heart (like a Gryffindor). They are also highly entertaining and the world is complex. The main characters, Marko, Alana, and their daughter Hazel, would all be in Gryffindor House. This family has been through so much, yet they manage to stay together as a group as well as stay strong as individuals. And this series has some good humorous moments, too.

 

Anyone else think Gryffindors are not big readers? Would you recommend to a Gryffindor the same books I did or different ones?

10 Books I Don’t Talk About Often on My Blog

I glanced at my bookshelves the other day (as I do often) and I noticed there are books on my shelves that I don’t think I have mentioned ever having read on my blog. Some of these are quite popular, or at least they were back in the day. Others I read years ago, not as well known, that affected me at the time I read them.

Ten books that I don’t talk about often on my blog are:

 

Prey by Lurlene McDaniel

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One of the older books on this list, Prey centers on the taboo topic of teacher-student sexual relationships. Fifteen-year-old class clown Ryan catches the eye of Ms. Settles, the beautiful new history teacher at his school. While his best friend Honey is suspicious of the teacher’s motives, Ryan falls under Ms. Settles’ spell and the two embark on a secret romance that could only ever end badly.

Prey disturbed me as well as sucked me in when I read it. Not only do we get Ryan’s POV, but we also see what is going on through Honey’s eyes, as well as see the thoughts of Ms. Settles as she goes about seducing Ryan. The ending of this novel floored me.

 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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I read The Night Circus when I was a freshman in college, roughly a year after its publication, I think. I remember enjoying it, although I did not fall in love with it like so many other people seemed to. While I was interested in the synopsis—two young magicians that fall in love pitted against each other in a competition midst a magical circus that only comes out at night—it was really out of my comfort zone at the time. Thus, I’m not sure I gave it the fair chance it deserved. Someday, however, I will reread The Night Circus.

 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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I think I mentioned Fangirl in a post when I first started my blog two years ago, but it has not come up since. I read it when I was a senior in college; young enough where I could enjoy it, but old enough to not be able to relate to it. To clarify: I could relate to Cath’s fangirl impulses—her desire to keep writing fan fiction for a book series she adores—and her passion for writing, as well as some of her social awkwardness, but that’s about it.

Despite what others might have thought, I was not scared to go to college. I wanted to go, very badly, after being a loner throughout high school. It was easier for me to socialize once I became a college freshman because so many other people were desperate to find someone to latch on to. I didn’t feel as left out. Once I got my bearings, like everyone else, it was ten times easier to find my people.

 

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

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The Catcher in the Rye is one of those books you either love or hate. I remember walking around the student center at dinner time, asking people if they read it and what they thought of it (majority hated it). I’m the unicorn that falls somewhere in the middle. While I get Holden is annoying, it is not without good reason. If you read the book, you might understand why he is acting out. Plus, he’s fifteen and everything is dramatic at that age. I just took everything about The Catcher in the Rye with a grain of salt.

 

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

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I watched the Peter Pan movie loads of times growing up, but I didn’t read the book until I was in my twenties. I think I read it in a day or two, it was so easy to read. Despite the seriously offensive portrayal of Tiger Lily and the other Native Americans in Neverland, I still gave Peter Pan four stars.

 

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

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An OG urban fantasy young adult novel, Blood and Chocolate is about Vivian, a beautiful young werewolf that falls in love with a human boy named Aidan. This was published in the 1990s, well before the Twilight era. It takes a more “realistic” approach to the human/werewolf interpersonal relationship, as well as shows the supernatural world is not as darkly romantic as humans think. What I appreciated most about it was that the author was true to the werewolf folklore and the ending was bittersweet, the kind that young adult authors nowadays probably won’t dare to write in order to placate readers. (Veronica Roth is a perfect example.)

 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Yes, I did read The Fault in Our Stars. And, really, I only read because pretty much everyone else was at the time. Admittedly, the book didn’t bring me to tears like it did so many other people. I’m not a book crier in general, so that’s probably not a fair assessment. I always chalked it up to having read a mystery novel where a serial killer was using an octopus to kill people desensitized me the same time I was reading The Fault in Our Stars. Although I wonder now, after what I’ve been through, if I would feel differently?

 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Another book I read at the peak of its popularity, right when the movie came out. I liked If I Stay, more than its sequel Where She Went, but not as much as Gayle Forman’s other book published after that, I Was Here. I distinctly remember thinking: “If this were my parents, and I chose to leave this world when I still had a chance to live, they’d be waiting at heaven’s gates to kick my ass.” I have not read another book by Gayle Forman since I Was Here, though I am interested in reading her newest publication, I Have Lost My Way. I will get it from my library, eventually.

 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

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I recently saw Burial Rites on Shanah’s blog. I can’t remember the last time I have talked about this book, if ever. Set in the nineteenth century, is a historical novel about the events leading up to the last public execution in Iceland. A woman named Agnes is convicted of murdering her lover/employer and sentenced to death. Before her execution, she is sent to a farm to be monitored by a reluctant host family and the young minister selected to be her spiritual guide has doubts of her guilt. Only it might not be enough to save her if Agnes can’t tell the truth. I read Burial Rites in the heat of summer yet I could feel the freezing cold of the Iceland landscape. My biggest qualm with the novel, that I can remember, is that the ending was anticlimactic, leading up to something then nothing happened.

 

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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I always forget about Nicola Yoon’s books! I don’t know why. Even making this list, I almost forgot about her again. But I distinctly took off one book solely for the purpose of replacing it with Everything, Everything. Admittedly, I had some problems with this book, like using a boy as motivation to make the main character finally take a chance a break free from her sickly bubble. Only one has to remember to think like a teenaged girl in these situations. I know I was one once, not that long ago. And I know why the big reveal didn’t sit right with a lot of people. Again, I didn’t approve of it either, but I understood the motivation to a degree. Overall, Everything, Everything was a cute, fun read regardless.

 

Have you read any of these books and what did you think of them?