Top Ten Tuesday – More TBR Books

Does the list of books to read ever stop growing? Nope.

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The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield

After Kate Mayfield was born, she was taken directly to a funeral home. Her father was an undertaker, and for thirteen years the family resided in a place nearly synonymous with death. A place where the living and the dead entered their house like a vapor. The place where Kate would spend the entirety of her childhood. In a memoir that reads like a Harper Lee novel, Mayfield draws the reader into a world of Southern mystique and ghosts. 
Kate’s father set up shop in a small town where he was one of two white morticians during the turbulent 1960s. Jubilee, Kentucky, was a segregated, god-fearing community where no one kept secrets, except the ones they were buried with. By opening a funeral home, Kate’s father also opened the door to family feuds, fetishes, and victims of accidents, murder, and suicide. The family saw it all. They also saw the quiet ruin of Kate’s father, who hid alcoholism and infidelity behind a cool, charismatic exterior. As Mayfield grows from trusting child to rebellious teen, she begins to find the enforced hush of the funeral home oppressive, and longs for the day she can escape the confines of her small town.

Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday – Romantic Tropes

This week’s TTT list was difficult (let’s say that’s why I’m late posting it… yeah, let’s say that)! Mostly, I found it challenging because it’s not my genre. I read stories that have elements of romance, but not romance novels. So, when confronted with the things I love/hate about romance novels, I wasn’t sure where to start. Everything I came up with fit into both categories. There are books that do it well and books that do it terribly. So, eventually I decided that the only option was to do exactly that – tell you the things that stand out in romance novels as good and bad. I’m going to pick the top five things that popped into my head.

Instalove – this is a trope in a lot of romance novels, especially YA romances. Two people see each other for the first time and fall instantly in mad, crazy, foolish, unbelievable love. It’s terrible. And it never feels real. But sometimes, an author is able to make it feel right. They create a build up to the relationship even when the feelings are instantaneous. Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday – Books From Santa

Books are kind of a staple present in my house at Christmas. Everyone usually gets at least one book or book related item. Sometimes, it’s all books, all the time. I’m giving eleven books as gifts this year – a good chunk of them to my niece and nephew who are just starting to get into reading. Watching how excited my nephew gets when I give him a book and sitting down to read it with him is honestly one of my favourite things about being an aunt. I love that this kid has picked up this habit.

But that’s not really the point of this post. The girls over at B&B want to know what books I want to get from Santa this year. I’m rarely unhappy with a book, but there are a few that I would love to find under the tree. These are books that I really like but don’t happen to own a copy of – or books where I want a different edition. I’m weird about cover art. I’m also kind of obsessed with trade paperbacks. It’s my preference. I want that version of all these books unless otherwise specified.

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I’ve talked about this book before. I love it. I want to re-read it. I adore the cover. Somehow, I don’t own a copy. Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesdays – Recommendations for People Who Have Never Tried YA

Today’s TTT prompt is books you’d recommend to people who’ve never read blah, since I’m such a huge fan of the young adult genre, that’s my topic of choice. Taking a page from the girls of the Broke and Bookish, I’ve separated the list into reading styles. There’s this misconception by people that haven’t read YA that all the books are the same. That’s like saying that all books written for Adults are exactly the same. No one would ever say that. YA writing is the same. The author writes for a genre style, just within a specific age bracket. Not all YA books are good. And not everyone will like every style. I would never recommend a dark, gritty, depressing book for someone who likes happy, light hearted romances or a straight forward coming of age story to someone who only reads hard sci-fi. It has nothing to do with YA writing; it’s about finding your genre.

Here’s my list:

For people who like their books reality based and a little dark:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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This is the story of a boy who receives a package containing 13 cassette tapes – yes, cassette tapes they make a point that this is strange and he has to find a way to play them – containing 13 reasons why one of his classmates has killed herself. Each tape is about a specific person and their role in her decision. The tapes are moving from person to person so that they know their part. As the story unfolds, Hannah’s reasons begin to come together. I will never agree with her decision, but the book is amazingly well crafted. There’s a rape scene (not hers) in the book that makes my heart hurt.

Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert

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This book is painful to read, because it’s so well written you can fall right into the story. It might resonate more with me because I was that age at that time and understand the pop culture influences of that time. It was easy to put myself back in that mindset. These kids are messing up their lives, and enjoying every moment of it. The drugs run more than rampant. There’s sex, drugs, music, depression, death. This is the dark side of being a teen. Sure, they get themselves into these situations, but sometimes, at that age, all you can do is find a place to fit and hold on.

 

For people who like LGBTQ coming of age stories:

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

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I wrote a review of this one over here. It’s got a good mystery. It’s got the intrigue. It represents bisexuality in a way other books haven’t.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

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The story of two boys, with the same name, growing up near each other, with no awareness that the other exists. Each one is struggling with figuring out who they are. They accidentally meet in an incredibly entertaining way and blossom into fully developed characters. It’s not the strongest representation of the genre, but it has such a unique voice that it’s worth a recommendation.

 

For people who like historical fiction:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

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I’m not a fan of historical fiction. I’ve tried many times, but I’m rarely able to become immersed in the story. I get easily distracted and my thoughts drift while I’m reading. This one was different. It’s the right characters in the right story at the right time. Also, I do find WWII stories more interesting than most historic fiction. My full review is posted here.

The Sweetness of the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

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Totally different from the last suggestion. This one is a girl detective in the 1950s style story. It’s charming and delightful and makes fun of the genre without being disrespectful or silly. Flavia is one hell of a girl. It’s the first in a series with clever, entertaining titles. Give it a shot if you want something totally outside the mainstream.

 

For people who like quirky, tongue in cheek stories:

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

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I did not want to read this story. A story about beauty queens who get stranded on a deserted island. Could this story be anything more than a ‘learning there’s more to life than looks’ rant? Well, yes. Yes, it can be. I finally caved because I needed an audiobook to get through the workday and this was the only one easily available. It won me over almost immediately. It is hilarious. Like actually exceptionally funny. And a complete barrage against consumerism and capitalism. The author’s footnotes are charming as hell. I really think this book is one that should be consumed in the audio format.

 

For people who like ghost stories with a romantic subplot:

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

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A ghost who’s been haunting an English classroom realizes a boy in the class can see her. She’s able to possess one of girls and realizes the boy is being possessed by another ghost. They’ve both been suffering from loneliness and pain for so long that they instantly bond. Together, they’re finally able to do more than just watch people grow up. There’s a subplot about the families their bodies belong to that actually adds to the story. Typical ghost love stories are lame, but this one is totally different.

 

For people who like political commentaries and dystopian fiction:

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

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A pretty obvious suggestion, I know. It’s popular. People are always recommending it. But I’m making it to the people who are still all ‘why would I want to read a book about kids killing kids’. That’s the story on the surface, but these books are super political. It’s a condemnation against a society obsessed with image and celebrity – a message that has gotten lost in the hype and fandom of the books and movies. But at its heart, this book is against exactly what it has become. A society so obsessed with the next shocking form of entertainment and control that they’ve started routing for kids killing each other.

 

For people who like science fiction:

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

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Set in the not too distant future, kids are sent off to schools to learn to become soldiers to help protect Earth from another invasion. Ender is exceptional. He supersedes all expectations and quickly advances through the ranks. This is a science fiction book. It involves many of the tropes of the genre, but it is also coming of age story. It includes no romance. It is all about growing up and contributing to the greater good, whatever the cost. One of my top five favourite books.

 

What books would you recommend? Genre choices? What do you think more people should be reading?

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dare by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (@rachelcohn)

Oh my heart. This book is adorable. David Levithan has done it again. And Cohn has convinced me I might want to read her other work. The give and take of this book feels genuine, largely due to the style in which it was written. Levithan and Cohn took on the roles of Dash and Lily respectively and passed the novel back and forth with no conference about what was going to happen– just like Dash and Lily! Yes, there would have been edits and whatnot afterwards, but the flow of the book is easy and genuine. It was a joyful, easy read.

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Are Dash and Lily breakthrough characters in the world of YA lit? No. They’re pretty typical of the indie/ hipster/nerdy field– a bit pretentious, overly knowledgeable, too smart for their own good. They could be extremely annoying, but they’re not. Dash is exactly as snarly as Lily’s relatives describe him. He’s actually a bit of a snot. But somehow, I grew to love him. He’s exactly the kind of teen character I tend to hate – except for the love of the OED. I’d love to be trapped in that basement room! The moments that turned me to in Dash’s favour – when he sets up a session for Lily to build her own muppet and the scene with the snowball fight. There’s something so charming about this disenchanted kid carrying his yogurt through the park giving in to these pre-teens and their snowball attack. It gives Dash more depth than all his pretentious, over-thought speeches he writes in the book.

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Lily is a more relatable character. I liked her better than Dash. Maybe it’s because I get her more. She’s a weirdo, in your typical bookworm way. She’s socially inept. She’s got a surprising talent (soccer). She has no idea what to do with boys. It makes her charming. Her neurosis and her obsession with Christmas make her less so. She’s pretty damn sheltered, but I like that she’s not a brush off person. She’s not a whatever person. She’s an all in personality. When she likes something, she loves it. When she commits, that’s it, she’s all in – see: wearing only one boot for days until Dash returns the missing one. Her problem is that she’s so all in that she becomes detrimental to herself. She has no friends outside her family because she can’t let go of her intensity. She misses her first connection with Dash because she’s angry he discarded Snarly.

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At the beginning of the novel, Dash and Lily are so enmeshed in their own little worlds that they’re unwittingly desperate for someone from outside those spheres. They’ve been spinning their wheels in the same relationships for so long they have no idea how to move forward with their own lives. They see their paths and they aren’t necessarily happy with them. But their rigid personalities start to wane the longer they write to each other. Dash becomes less abrasive. Lily becomes less intense. Their influence on each other molds them into deeper characters. They become more likable, but not in a generic, caustic way. They grow as they become more willing to explore the things that make them happy, or sad, or worried. Their changes ripple out to touch the other people in their lives. This delightful little story is a reminder that our actions can influence completely unexpected situations. If Lily’s parents hadn’t chosen to go to Fiji, none of this would have happened. She would never have left the notebook at the strand. One decision changed the lives of multiple people, in a very positive way. So many books focus on how decisions can impact us negatively. It’s nice to read a story that shows the positive influences.

This book is charming. There’s just no way around that.

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