Top Ten Cover Freebie!

Hey everyone! This week, I had to pretend I had a good idea for this topic. Actually, I immediately thought of what I said two weeks ago: I would probably have an easier time finding 10 books with blood on the covers than 10 books with food on the cover.

Challenge accepted.

(…Is that a weird thing to say when I issued that challenge? To myself?)

Anyway, I feel like we’re all trying to gear up for Halloween anyway (my fall decorations are already up!) so I think this fits with the season and…and not some weird fascination of mine…that happens to be totally ironic because I freak out at the sight of real blood…

Top Ten Covers With Blood On Them

1. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)

2. Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold

Red Hood

3. Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Stepsister

4. Red Queen (Red Queen, #1) by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)

5. Half Bad by Sally Green

Half Bad (The Half Bad Trilogy, #1)

6. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)

7. Frostblood by Elly Blake

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga, #1)

8. Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Ripper

9. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die, #1)

10. Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Every Other Day

Conclusions: Yes, this was way easier to make than the food list! I can’t even tell you. …That sounds like a weird thing to admit, given the topic of this list…

Top Ten Books I Wish Existed When I Was Younger

Hey everyone! Ok, so this week’s theme is “Books For My Younger Self” and it’s a little vague as to what can fit in that theme. And (as usual), I don’t get warm fuzzies from that them. Or, well, it’s not so much “warm fuzzies” as it is “inspiration.” Same idea, though.

So I started thinking how I could twist it. There have been so many books I’ve read in my 20s that I wish I existed when I was in my teens to show me a different side of the world, in some way or another. I was an introverted kid who learned about life through books and I think YA back in the 2000s (the decade…God…) weren’t always the best at explaining real life (vampires, y’all). Not that there aren’t fantastic books from that time (there ARE), but I’ve been heavily influenced by so many books since that I wish I’d had as a teen.

Let’s get to it!

Top Ten Books I Wish Existed When I Was Younger

1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

By and far, this is the book 16-17 year old me needed. Cath and I were the same person. I wrote (kind of bad) fanfiction and kept to myself a lot. I kind of wish that teenage me could read this and just know that being quiet and doing her own thing was a perfectly acceptable way to spend her time instead of worrying about being liked by people who couldn’t even both to remember my name.

2. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

On a similar note, this book is about losing your voice, both figuratively and literally. I love the nuance of that. But teenage me, who frequently felt like no one was listening to her, would have benefited from seeing how the characters overcame their adversity.

3. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

This one has no deeper meaning here. Teenage me was obsessed with mysteries and trying to figure out the endings before they happened and she would have loved this series.

4. Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab

Ok, now we’re back to the seriousness. I like this book for my teenage self for two reasons: one is just admiring the dedication that people have for the things that they love. I didn’t know too many people who committed themselves that much to something and maybe it would have helped me in some way. The other reason is that the book shows how people can be flawed yet lovable. Both of our leads have serious issues (including mental illness) that they deal with and yet we still care for them deeply. I wish past me could see that and understand that no one is perfect. Heck, present me still needs to learn that.

5. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Besides this being an utterly astounding book, I think past me would learn from its social commentary. I was pretty in-tune to those things as a teen. I was an observer, just absorbing everything I saw around me. I would have immediately been able to apply what I was seeing in the book to the real world. And I would have loved it.

6. Some Boys by Patty Blount

This is a super serious book about rape and surviving it. I never went through anything like that, but I would have related to Grace in other ways. And watching her survive…it would have reminded me of the strength we all have inside.

7. Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Speaking of inner strength, I so wish I’d had the chance to read McGinnis as a teen. This could be any of her books, but I settled on the one I read most recently, about a female hiker lost in the woods. Being set in the same mountains my family has hiked many times would have been really cool for me to read about. I would have liked that.

8. The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

This A Christmas Carol retelling would have been catnip to me as a teen. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and it’s always so hard to find quality stories set during the winter season. Mix that with such a classic story (and a character who shares my first name) and I would have flipped out. It’s already become my tradition to reread this every December.

9. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

This book changed my life when I first read it in…college, I think? Elise is the kind of heroine that I always feel connected to. She doesn’t believe in herself, but she knows she’s highly intelligent and clever and loyal. She just feels like a pawn. But she has strength she only begins to understand when she’s tested. I more or less just described myself at 17. Factor in that Elise has a complicated relationship with religion and we could nearly be twins. Seeing a fantasy heroine like that, it would have completely shifted my world view.

10. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Speaking of shifting my world view, I wish this book was around when I was younger. First of all, the writing is pure poetry and I would immediately have tried to emulate it. I know I would have. But Juliette is a character you don’t soon forget, no matter how long it’s been since you last read the book. I mean, she can’t touch anyone without killing them. She’s fierce and I would have loved that.

In summation, I would have recommended a heck of a lot of books with strong unlikely heroines for Teenage Me. The funny thing is, as I was writing all of these out, I really started questioning what I remember of my teenage years…that maybe I was more like these heroines than I thought.

Yes, I was quiet and reserved and most people couldn’t have picked me out of a lineup as being in their class. I frequently felt forgotten by everyone except the teachers, who constantly used me for an example because I was That Kid, and my best friends.

But I was no pushover. I was quick-witted and clever. I never backed down from an ideological argument. I had a strong sense of justice and would never have done anything that intentionally hurt another person. I always wanted to help others, if that meant being a tutor/mentor or aiding a teacher on their prep period. …I just never saw myself as strong or a leader until someone else took it as granted that that’s exactly what I was.

Wow, this turned maudlin. But truthfully, Teenage Me turned out alright, if I do say so myself.

Top Ten Delicious Covers

Hey everyone! So today’s topic is like “books that make me hungry” and I just feel like that’s an awkward wording? Maybe that’s just me. Hunger is not normally a feeling I associate with books. Unless you count my insatiable hunger for more books to read, but that’s not connected to my stomach.

ANYWAY, I decided to focus on yummy looking covers specifically rather than books about restaurants or anything. Unfortunately, I seem to have a very specific type of book that I read, so this was incredibly challenging. Like, I could do a list twice over of people with blood on them on the cover. I could do a list of covers that include a guitar. But apparently I just don’t read books with food on the cover very often.

As a special treat to you, each of these is also accompanied by my increasingly desperate thoughts as I created this list. Enjoy. Er…bon appetit?

Top Ten Delicious Covers

1. The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski

The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski
(Cool, I got this. I knew this one was going to make it.)

2. Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Amazon.com: Save the Date (9781481404570): Matson, Morgan: Books
(Yikes, this is harder than I thought. Eh, this has a cake on it. That counts, right?)

3. Delicious by Shayla Black

Delicious (Wicked Lovers, #3) by Shayla Black
(Hehe, this is called Delicious and that’s what this list is about…)

4. Hot Cocoa Hearts by Suzanne Nelson

Hot Cocoa Hearts: A Wish Novel: Nelson, Suzanne: 9780545928892: Amazon.com:  Books
(Oh good, a legit entry on this list.)

5. Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
(A possibly uncooked cookie counts as delicious, right?)

6. Devilish by Maureen Johnson

Devilish by Maureen Johnson
(Oh my God, I’ve made it to the books I read in high school and I’m only at 6…but this is a good looking cupcake if you ignore the girl…)

7. The Espressologist by Kristina Springer

The Espressologist by Kristina Springer
(I don’t even drink coffee, but we’re going with this. I’m running out of options.)

8. Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
(OMG, there was a second food book that wasn’t hundreds of books away from the last one!)

9. Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors

Coffeehouse Angel: Selfors, Suzanne: Amazon.com: Books
(Again, don’t even care that I don’t drink coffee. I have 90 more books to look through and at this point, I’d rather make a list about blood.)

10. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Twilight (Meyer novel) - Wikipedia
(…This…this is all I’ve got? Yikes. Ok, well, um…it’s a good looking apple? Nice and…red?)

Top Ten Questions I Get Asked as a Reader

Hello! Ok, so the Top Ten today is one that I just feel…blech…about. I truly don’t care. Sure, I could ask J.K. Rowling some questions or Shakespeare or Ruta Sepetys, but like…I’m more interested in the books. I like the magic contained in the pages and sometimes I fear the answers I’ll hear from the authors. It might ruin something.

So INSTEAD, I thought we could talk through some of the Frequently Asked Questions we get as voracious readers. (I’m sure you’ve heard many of these questions before, you lovely person you!) And I’m going to start with the most dreaded question.

Top Ten Questions I Get Asked as a Reader

1. “What’s your favorite book?”

Uuuuuggggggghhhhhhhhh. Can we just agree to ban this question? For one thing, it’s impossible to choose! For another, my answer is constantly changing! When I went back to school two weeks ago, my students kept asking me what my favorite book was and you’d think I’d have a stock answer, but no. I motion to change this question to, “What have you read lately that was really good?” or “What have you read lately that made an impression on you?” Now, both of those will get FAR better answers out of me.

2. “Ok, then what’s your favorite series?”

I swear, this is usually the follow up. Like, if you don’t name off something they’re familiar with, then you didn’t answer the question. If I said ACOTAR for this answer (which may not even be my official answer), I’d get a glazed look. Then I’d sigh and say, “Harry Potter. It’s Harry Potter.” At least then we’d be able to move past this question.

3. “Haven’t you read the whole library already?”

Why, no, Donna, I haven’t. But that’s my goal! Fortunately for me, more books are published ALL THE TIME so I should never truly run out.

4. “Why would you reread a book you’ve already read?”

Ok, so this is, I feel, the first legitimate question I’ve posted here. No sarcasm. I understand there is a very real debate here. I personally love rereading books. For me, it’s not about already knowing how it’s going to end–it’s that I connected with the characters and the emotions of what they go through. They feel like old friends (looking at you, Greasers) or they remind me of something in my life. Maybe the moment I went through something similar or a moment that happened at the same time I was reading this. Emotion is what brings me back over and over.

5. “What’s so special about Young Adult?”

Honestly, I wish I got asked this question more often because I think everyone immediately thinks every book is like Twilight and dismiss it. (Speaking of, let’s all be honest–if we lived through the Twilight craze, we all now want to read Midnight Sun.) But that’s not at all the genre! YA deals in everything, from the action thriller to the romance to the political movement to social issues–and that’s only the realistic fiction. YA is nuanced in the best ways. I love how the characters usually struggle with an internal conflict at the same time they deal with the external. And they’re usually good people trying to do the best they can. I can’t always say that for characters in adult fiction.

6. “Is the movie better than the book?”

As a general rule, no. But I’m not going to make a definitive decision on that because I think there are times when the movie is better (or at least more iconic). The Princess Bride is an example of this. I’d also like to throw Wicked into this, even though there isn’t a movie yet. I detested the book but I love the musical.

7. “But Miss ——–, why can’t we just watch the movie?”

I frequently get this question from my students. Sigh. As we all know, movie versions are very rarely tied closely to the text enough to be a substitute. There’s something lost in translation between the two art forms, especially when you factor in the time element. Besides, it’s just not the same.

8. “Uh, Miss ———, why are we reading about serial killers?”

To get my students’ attention, I begin the year with short stories, particularly a focus on the macabre. So we read “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl, “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury, and “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. (If you are unfamiliar with any of them, I highly recommend you Google those. They’re fantastic.) So, Johnny, the reason we’re reading about serial killers is because it’s fun for me to see your faces when you realize this guy cut up his roommate and hid the parts under the floorboards.

Admittedly, I have a weird sense of humor. But oh my God, is it fun to show these kids they aren’t in Kansas anymore.

9. “Where do you get all your books?”

I have a large collection of books I’ve accrued through various means: gifts, used book sales, ThriftBooks, and buying them new. When I was younger, I usually asked for specific books as gifts because, as you often are at 12 or 13, I was broke. (Many of those books I still have.) As I got older, I started switching to used books when I realized I didn’t care so long as they were in good shape. My library sells their discarded books for a quarter. Half-Priced Books was a big for me for a time, though their prices when you sell to them are stupidly low and that turned me away. ThriftBooks has recently been my go-to because they are so cheap and I can get a variety of things.

10. “What do you want for Christmas/your birthday?”

Gift cards. I have reached the age where I would rather you just give me a gift card to a bookish place and I will take care of the rest. Most of the time, it’s because I don’t even know what I want yet. If I want to read a book that badly, I’m going to get it from the library rather than wait and see if I got it for a gift. Also, please never ever surprise me by picking out books for me. The odds are high that I’ve either A) read it before or B) decided I don’t have any interest in it. (One of my friends once bought me a couple Terry Pratchett books and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was not at all interested.)

I’m super curious — what questions do you frequently get asked by nonreaders? Are you as annoyed by some of them as I am?

Top Ten Books I Wish Were Adapted by Netflix

Oooooooh boy do I have a list for this one! Like, when don’t we want our favorite stories adapted for TV or movies?

Although, on second thought…more than one book has been ruined by this. So, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that they are able to do these stories justice. These are the stories I’d most love to see on the small screen.

Top Ten Books I Wish Were Adapted by Netflix

1. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

This was absolutely the first book I thought of and I think it would be perfect for Netflix. It’s creepy and snarky with interesting characters. We all know slasher/horror movies are super popular, especially with young people, so I feel like this makes business sense.

2. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

This book has been around for, geez, something like 17 years? God, I feel old. But the point is that it’s got a large following and, with its theme of friendship and the magical twist, it would make for a good series. Factor in the setting of 1899 England at an all-girls boarding school and Gemma’s connection to India and Indian culture, and you have appeal.

3. The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Netflix keeps making all these dating movies and reality shows (not that I’m mad about this), but wouldn’t it just be so much cooler if the other person was a literal god? Kate is put in an impossible position and is forced to accept a six month stay in the Underworld in order to keep her mom alive as the cancer ravages her body. I mean, tell me that wouldn’t make a good movie.

4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I’m not going to lie, I’m actually surprised this one hasn’t been made into a movie yet. This book took the book world by storm when it came out–and for good reason. It’s engrossing and you relate to the characters and it fits really well into nerd culture as we know it–which is hot right now. I just saw an ad for a CW show about a gamer girl. This would fit into that kind of demographic easily.

5. My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

Maybe it’s because this series has always felt like a movie in my head, but I think it would be a super cool TV show. With seven books, it would be easy to turn it into the next Buffy-type show. (In fact, the book references Buffy a lot.) It would be awesome to see how their CGI department handled showing souls and how the actress handled Kaylee’s banshee traits.

6. Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Ok, ditto what I said above. I really just want to see how they battle soul zombies on TV.

7. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

I want to make sure I share some love with YA contemporary romance as well. This has long been one of my favorite Dessen novels. I adore Dexter and I love the element of having Remy be the subject of this incredible one-hit wonder of a song. I think it’s a mature story that can still be funny and cute. And maybe there’s a way to bring it into 2020 that adds something interesting to the story.

8. Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Speaking of YA contemp, I would absolutely adore seeing a TV show or movie about a girl who plays football. There are so many stories where the girl is a tomboy until she befriends some girls and then she discovers her feminine side, but Jordan is not like that. And I’d like to see her stay tough.

9. The Taking by Kimberly Derting

I will be the first to tell you that anything about aliens usually gets a groan from me, but I think this would work super well as a one season TV show. In this story, a girl has been missing for like 3 years. To her, no time has passed. To everyone else, she looks exactly the same as the day she left while they’ve all aged. Her world isn’t the same anymore and she finds herself relating more to her ex-boyfriend’s younger brother…who is the same age she is now. It’s funky, but it would be easy to turn into a show.

10. Splintered by A.G. Howard

I’m maybe reaching a little with this one, but I have this love of all things Alice in Wonderland and I think a modern twist on it wouldn’t go amiss. Especially since the story involves unconventional characters and skate parks and madness and a freaking crazy world. But yeah, lots of CGI necessary.

Excuse me, why is ACOTAR not on this list? Ok, I feel like I have to defend myself a little here. With this story, I think I have such a strong image in my head of what Rhys looks like and what Feyre looks like and what Tamlin looks like and what their worlds look like that anything short of that would be a disappointment. Also, Feyre is so in her head and descriptive about her feelings toward people and things and places that I feel like a lot of that would be lost translating it from the page to the screen. This is one story that I’m just not sure anyone could really do justice to and I don’t necessarily want them to try.

Top Ten Books I Loved But Never Reviewed Here

Hey everyone! So this topic is one I actually really like–but I have one caveat. I am a compulsive reviewer on Goodreads. Literally every book I’ve read for the last 12 years gets some kind of review. And if I didn’t, it was probably a book I didn’t finish reading.

For this week, I’m going to focus on books I loved that aren’t YA. I do read outside the genre, but I always feel a little weird making posts about them since you’re probably here for the YA. Anyway, we’re shaking things up a bit today! Hopefully you find something new to try!

Top Ten Books I Loved But Didn’t Review Here

1. On Dublin Street by Samantha Young (Contemporary Romance)

This, I think, will always be one of my favorite romances. Set in Scotland (I have a thing for Scotland…), we meet Jocelyn, who hasn’t really dealt with the trauma haunting her. A random accident introduces her to Braden Carmichael, who is used to getting what he wants–or at least making the situation favorable to him. Joss doesn’t want any attachments, period, so Braden strikes a deal with her so he can try to slowly win her over. There is a lot of emotion in this book. Every book in this series makes me cry at least once. The lovable characters make it that much better.

2. The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught in Between by Michael Dobbs (Nonfiction)

This was written to coincide with a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum exhibit, but it’s utterly fascinating. The story focuses almost exclusively on a village in southern Germany not far from the French border. As life becomes more restrictive for the Jews, we follow them in their many attempts to flee Germany. Some make it, some don’t. And it’s heartbreaking how the system quickly became rigged against them. I thought I knew a lot about the Holocaust, but until you see it following a single person’s journey, you truly don’t get it.

3. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down by Colin Woodard (Nonfiction)

Like many of you, I grew up in a world where Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was one of the biggest movies and everyone’s seen it. But even before that, I was fascinated by pirates. As a kid, my brothers and I played made-up games where we were pirates. This book looks at the Golden Age of piracy and most of the pirates you’re most familiar with. Blackbeard, Calico Jack, etc. Some of the stories are so outlandish and bizarre that you know they have to be true because no one could have made that up.

4. My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (Historical Fiction)

Alright, stop the presses. If you haven’t read anything by the duo of Dray and Kamoie and you like historical fiction, YOU NEED TO. They only have 2 so far, but even their first book, America’s First Daughter, blew me away. Meticulously researched, My Dear Hamilton is, obviously, about Eliza. And it doesn’t shy away from what Hamilton got wrong.

5. The Captive by Grace Burrowes (Historical Romance)

Grace Burrowes is an astonishingly prolific writer. She writes something like 3-4 books per year. And 8 times out of 10, they’re pretty good. This books (and series) deals with characters we’ve met briefly in previous series, but you don’t need to read them to understand this. But what’s cool about this series is it looks at ex-soldiers of the Napoleonic wars as they readjust to society and deal with their trauma. I think that’s overlooked for the time period.

6. The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold (Nonfiction)

I’ve been a Ripper-phile for years, but not in a creepy way. Like I-want-to-solve-the-mystery way. This book, which also won a Goodreads award last year, turns everything you know on its head. It takes a look at all five of the canonical victims and examines their lives prior to their murders — and sometimes what was said at their death inquest. It’s feminist, sympathetic, and will absolutely rewrite everything you think you know about the Ripper victims. (Hint: they weren’t prostitutes.)

7. Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks (Historical Romance)

You know that feeling when you start reading a book and you realize that all the stars align and you hold pure magic in your hands? This was the book for me. It’s a historical Scottish romance (Outlander made me an addict…), but it’s more than that. Our main character, Eveline, is nearly entirely deaf, but everyone around her just thinks she’s “touched”. So getting a love story that gives Eveline agency and deals with her needs in a historical setting was so fascinating and different. I actually reread this often.

8. Working Stiff by Rachel Caine (Science Fiction)

While I’d read Rachel Caine books before (specifically the Morganville Vampires series), the premise got me on this one. Bryn just starts a job at a mortuary when she sees something she’s not supposed to and gets killed. On the first day. Sucks, right? Turns out what she saw was her boss resurrecting dead clients with the help of a new pharmaceutical drug–that’s now being used on her to help bring down the company. It’s dark, it’s suspenseful, and I really enjoyed it.

9. Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean (Historical Romance)

MacLean is a sure-fire pick for me. I will always enjoy her books (and I recommend all of them). This 2018 release is one of her best yet, though. This series mixes upper crust girls with the darker side of London, which I like because it allows me to see so much more about life in the early 1800s than I knew about. And Felicity is a BOSS.

10. Wolf’s Head by Steven A. McKay (Historical Fiction)

Ok, so I’m ending with this Robin Hood tale. This is much more accurate, I feel, to how it really would have been. Like, Robin is a legit outlaw. He’s not a hero, but he is impressive. It is very grounded in its historical setting and I liked seeing that version of the story I know so well.