Bookish Fun: Video Games Inspired by Books

While reading is certainly one of the big hobbies of my life, something I’ve also been doing since I was pretty young is video gaming. Yes, I know, I’ve heard it all – it’ll damage your eyes, melt your brain, waste your time, blah, blah, blah. Regardless, I love raiding tombs, spending hours crafting an island paradise full of cute animals, ordering Sims around like a mini-God, working out puzzle rooms designed by a crazed computer, or defeating other civilisations with my superior ability to build a rocket. There are so many fabulous games out there for people with all different kinds of interests and skill levels. However, would you be surprised to know that there are a few which were actually inspired by books? Okay, you’re probably not that surprised, but I thought it might be fun to have a look at a couple.

Nancy Drew Detective Game Series | Nancy Drew Series – Caroline Keene

The Nancy Drew mystery series has been around since the 1930s(!) and it’s managed to remain pretty popular since then (there have been multiple adaptations in the last few years alone). I got into these books when I was around ten years old and not long after also discovered the video games. To give you an idea of just how popular these point and click adventures are, the first entry, Secrets Can Kill, was released in 1998 and only last year, they released installment number 33! These games are so much fun and super re-playable. They’re full of challenging & entertaining puzzles, interesting characters and exciting stories. While the plots differ from the books for the most part, they do feature all the popular characters including The Hardy Boys. I highly recommend these even if you’re not a gamer. Plus they’re usually super cheap during Steam sales (some of my favourites are Curse of Blackmoor Manor, Tomb of the Lost Queen and Shadow at the Water’s Edge).


American McGee’s Alice & Alice: Madness Returns | Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll

This gaming duology takes its concept from Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. People have often considered the Alice stories with regards to mental illness, but these video games take it a step further by having Wonderland exist as a mental retreat for institutionalised Alice’s traumatised mind. Here, Wonderland is a lot darker and more violent, but I suppose that’s necessary for a video game. The games feature a slightly older Alice battling her way across the land using a variety of weapons whilst attempting to repair her mind in the wake of her parents’ deaths. Fans of the stories will be happy to know that the games do include a lot famous faces such as the White Rabbit, Queen of Hearts and Cheshire cat. The design style leans towards comic book-ish but there are some super pretty and engaging environments, as one would expect of something set in Wonderland.


Metro Series | Metro 2033 – Dmitry Glukhovsky

If you’re a fan of first person shooter or survivor horror games, then you’ve probably heard of Metro 2033 and its sequels Metro: Last Light & Metro: Exodus. The original game is based on a book of the same name by Russian author, Dmitry Glukhovsky. Both are set in Moscow following the fallout of a nuclear war in which people are forced to live in underground bunkers and tunnels – a network called the Metro. Aside from the fallout radiation, survivors also have to deal with extreme human factions and dangerous mutant creatures. The story follows a man named Aryton who is tasked with journeying to the heart of the Metro to warn people about a threat known as the Dark Ones. The book and game share many similarities but also quite a few differences – most notably the game’s ability to make the player feel extremely uneasy for most of its run time and its different two endings.


The Witcher Series | The Witcher Series – Andrzej Sapkowski

If you’re considering video games with their origins in books, The Witcher games are definitely the most well-known. These are somewhat different to others on this list in that they don’t attempt to directly adapt the novels. Instead, they act as sequels. Well, at least they were sequels until the author realised how popular the games were, got ticked off at how things were handled, and went back to add extra books to the series. Because they’re follow ups, the games include a heap of prominent and smaller book characters and showcase many different parts of Sapkowski’s world in lush and fantastic detail. While it helps to have read the books to understand references, in-jokes, and backstories when playing, it’s not essential for enjoyment. Also, this is definitely a series which improves with each installment. Although the first game leaves a lot to be desired, it’s worth pushing through to eventually get to play Wild Hunt (one of my favourite games of all time).


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring | The Lord of the Rings Series – J RR Tolkien

There have been a HEAP of Lord of the Rings games and it’s easy to understand why: the franchise is ridiculously popular. One of my favourites is LEGO LotR, but considering how movie influenced it is, (and the fact I wasn’t a big fan of Shadow of Mordor) I’m going with The Fellowship of the Ring game for this list. Released the year after the film, you’d think it’d just be a basic, cash-in type thing but it’s actually very much a book adaptation. The characters are modeled using the book’s descriptions, not the actors, and the storyline includes a lot of sections from the novel which aren’t covered in the movie. This is particularly so where it comes to Frodo’s journey to Rivendell e.g. the Barrow Downs, Tom Bombadil, Farmer Maggot, etc. It’s not the best game around (oh lord, the graphics!), however if you’re a LotR fan it’s definitely fun running around fixing weather vanes as Frodo, battling trolls as Aragorn and using magic to defeat a Balrog as Gandalf.


Bioshock | Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

Okay, this one is a bit less straightforward. Good thing I named this post “inspired by” and not “adapted from”. Bioshock is a first person shooter set in the rundown underwater city of Rapture. Philosopher/writer, Ayn Rand, is all over this game. In their development of the philosophy behind Rapture, the game’s creators relied heavily on Rand’s theory of Objectivism from Atlas Shrugged, which advocates for individuals focusing on their own interests over those of others with minimal state intervention (radical selfishness, in essence). Rapture is basically a depiction of just how bad strictly applied Objectivism can be, especially when its ideas become warped. The game also has other links to Rand and her work, e.g. the similarities between Rapture’s creator, Andrew Ryan, and Rand, smaller references to the novel such as posters stating ‘Who is Atlas?’, and the links between the plight of John Galt and the game’s backstory events. It seems philosophical texts can make good games just as well as fantasy books.


Sherlock Holmes Series | The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

Much like Nancy Drew, the Sherlock Holmes series is a set of adventure-mystery games which feature Doyle’s famous detectives, Holmes and Watson, investigating some sort of crime in an attempt to solve it. The player solves puzzles, locates hidden clues and analyses them, and talks with suspects. The games’ storylines are largely original (with a few exceptions such as in Crimes and Punishment) and don’t really adhere to the novels but still seem to maintain the feeling of them. The series has been around since 2002, with the latest game released in 2016, and it’s remained fairly popular during that time, even winning a couple of awards. So if you’re a Sherlock fan and enjoy a good mystery game, this might be a fun series to give a try during your spare time.


And that’s it from me for now! Are you someone who loves playing video games? Have you played any of the ones in this post? (Psssst…If you’re as obsessed with the Nancy Drew games as me and my sister, let me know your favourite!).

Future TBR: Classics I’d Like to Try Reading

I am not a classics lover. In fact, of the limited number of classic books that I’ve actually read, probably about 80% of them I’ve disliked. However, in the spirit of the whole ‘broaden your reading horizons’ vibe I’ve had going on in recent months, lately I’ve been thinking more and more about giving classics another chance. So, I’ve been doing my research (looking at the many ‘classics for beginners’ lists available across the bookish web), thinking back to classics adaptations that I’ve enjoyed, and making heart eyes at the Penguin Clothbound Classics editions. Finally, I have myself a list of 8 classic novels that I’d like to give it my best shot at reading and hopefully enjoying.


Emma – Jane Austen

7181805. sy475

Technically I’m already 100 pages into this one but as I’ve yet to finish it, it counts. As I mentioned above, there aren’t many classics I can say I’ve read and enjoyed but Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is one of the few. So, why not try another of her books? At this point I’ve seen two adaptations of Emma (plus Clueless) and really enjoyed them. As a character, Emma is full of herself and bit of a spoiled brat, but I kind of love her for it. The story is basically just her setting people up and meddling in people’s affairs. As you can imagine, romantic shenanigans ensue. Despite this lighter plotline, the book actually takes a great look at issues like social class and the oppression of women. Sure, there’s a somewhat…uncomfortable age gap between Emma and her love interest, Mr Knightly, but eh. Different times.


Dracula – Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker

This will sound weird, but I’m not sure if I’ve already read this. When I was in high school, we were studying representations of Dracula in film and TV but (bizarrely) did not have to read the book. Me, being me, borrowed it from the library anyway. However, to this day, I’m still unsure if what I read was one of those dumbed down/revised/changed language versions for students or the real book. I was sick at the time and it was about 11 years ago, so the only way to find out for sure is to read it (or re-read it?). I’ve always been a vampire fangirl and Dracula is pretty much the original vampire story. The book is about a lawyer named Jonathan Harker who travels to Transylvania to assist Count Dracula with a London house purchase. In doing so, he makes some horrifying discoveries which set off a chain of events back in England.


The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle

7148831. sy475

How could I possibly go past trying out a classic Sherlock Holmes story? The majority of Conan Doyle’s Holmes tales were short stories but The Hound of the Baskervilles is slightly longer, and probably the most famous. In perfect Gothic novel fashion, the story is set in a creepy mansion among the dark and misty, English moors. Here, a dark curse is believed to be upon the Baskerville family involving a spectral dog, said to hunt down any members who risk wandering the grounds at night. After the death of his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville, Dr. James Mortimer calls upon Holmes and his assistant, Dr. Watson, to investigate and hopefully protect Charles’s heir, Henry, from a similar fate. It’s said to be a little scarier than your average Holmes story but perhaps that’s why it’s so fun.


The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Going back to those ‘classics for beginners’ type lists I mentioned above, Dorian Gray is a book which seems to feature on a lot of them. This is probably for two reasons – (a) it’s shorter than a lot of other classic novels, and (b) the writing and themes are somewhat easier to grasp. This was the only novel Wilde ever published as the rest of his works were plays. While at university, I saw a production of The Importance of Being Earnest and thought it was fantastic so if I’m going to try classics, this seems like a good choice. The novel is about a man who sells his soul for eternal youth and ends up falling into a spiral of debauchery and desire. It’s full of morally ambiguous characters (yes!) and the themes are still highly relevant today.


The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas pere

Yes, I know. I’m already crying at the sheer size of this gargantuan book. It’s over 1200 pages long (blame publishers who though paying authors by the word was a good idea)! But, hey, at least if I end up hating it or bored out of my brain I’ll have a fabulous, new paperweight. Still, I’ve seen & heard some amazing things about this book. It’s a tale of adventure and suffering, but above all it’s about REVENGE! And I just can’t help loving a good revenge story. After being condemned for a crime he didn’t commit, Edmond Dantes is sent to the fortress of If. Here he learns about a treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo. Dantes becomes determined to escape, find it, and use it to destroy the three men responsible for his incarceration.


Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

20893528

I’m one of those people that as soon as they see a movie they really enjoy suddenly feels a strong need to read the book it was adapted from. Sometimes I’m able to wait out the desire until it goes away but other times, not so much. As you’ve probably guessed, I saw Greta Gerwig’s Little Women back in January and guess what, I still want to read it. Yes, I know there are issues with the ending and it’s not a small book by any means, but still. A lot of the classics on this list were written by English writers so it’ll be nice to see how an American classic compares. Also, a book about four women, written by a woman back in 1868? That’s pretty darn special in and of itself.


A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings

Have you really tried to get into classics if you haven’t given something by Dickens a red hot go? Apparently not, or at least so I’ve heard. A Christmas Carol is one of those stories that’s just massively loved and re-read over and over, especially at the most wonderful time of the year. It’s only a shorter read so I feel like it’ll be a good way for me to dip my toes into Dickens without getting stuck into one of his larger novels (which seem to have mixed reviews despite still being memorable “classics”). I’m also somewhat familiar with the plot here courtesy of it showing up in things like The Muppets and The Simpsons – this is supposedly helpful if you’re someone looking at trying out classic authors/books.


Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Okay, after the unpleasant experience that was Wuthering Heights, I’m willing to give the Bronte sisters another chance. Here’s hoping Charlotte does better by me than Emily did. Jane is another one of those romantic classics that people talk about a lot. I’ll admit, one of the reasons I’m inclined to read it is the strength and independence of Jane herself which, considering when this was written, is pretty admirable. I also like the fact that the two central characters in this book aren’t your typical romantic leads. Again, this is a classic I’ve seen an adaptation of so even if I have some difficulty with the writing style, I should still be able to follow what’s going on.


What do you think of my classics reading list?

If you’re someone who really enjoys classic novels, I’d love to hear which books you’d most recommend to someone starting out with them. Or better, what is your favourite classic novel and why?

Books To Avoid During a Pandemic

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of lists centered around books that are perfect for occupying one’s time during the social isolation periods of a pandemic. There’s long books, uplifting books, gripping books, and everything in between. But what about books you SHOULDN’T read? Ones full of the world ending, awful viruses and infections, and post-apocalyptic wastelands. Probably not something people want to be thinking about at the moment, huh? So, why not look at a couple of them anyway?

The Stand – Stephen King

1454116

I’m pretty sure a lot of people predicted this book would show up. Like IT, The Stand is a doorstopper of a read at over 1100 pages and is considered to be one of Stephen King’s best. The Stand is set in a post apocalyptic world in which 99% of the population has died as a result of a super flu. The scattered survivors end up drawn to two camps led by very different individuals. Nebraska is home to Abigail Freemantle, a 108 year old woman who supposedly receives visions from God. In Las Vegas, Randall Flagg reigns – a man with supernatural powers who thrives off death and destruction. It’s a story about the struggle between good and evil and how quickly things like human greed and corruption can flourish when allowed to do so.


Year One (Chronicles of the One 1#) – Nora Roberts

34311452

Another book, another population murdering, world ending virus. However, if you like your apocalyptic stories mixed with fantasy, this is the one for you. In Year One, the plague (“The Doom”) is rooted in magic and after the decimation of humanity, magic starts to spring up rapidly among the immune survivors. Some fall on the light side of things – faeries, good witches, clairvoyants, etc. Then there are those gifted with dark powers who are interested in torture, rape and murder. To make matters worse, the government is also rounding up survivors in the hopes studying and testing them to determine the reason for their immunity. The book follows three groups of characters as they flee the city in search of safety and a new start.


Contagion – Erin Bowman

35068650. sy475

Now for something different, Contagion is a YA sci-fi read. Much like in the movie Alien, this book involves a team from a small ship called ‘Odyssey’ responding to an SOS signal from a mining crew on a distant planet in the hopes of carrying out a search and rescue mission. When they arrive, they find a bunch of dead bodies, rotten food and an abandoned site. And so, as you’d expect, they try their best to find out what happened. The next thing they know, an unknown contagion has infected the crew with potentially catastrophic consequences if it gets out. Not exactly comfort reading in today’s climate, huh? Also, there may or may not be some space zombies and a fight for survival thrown in the mix.


Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

20170404

Like The Stand, Station Eleven is a book which involves the wiping out of 99% of the population by means of a flu. In this case, “The Georgian Flu”. The book focuses on two timelines. The first details the lead up to the outbreak in which Arthur, a stage actor, is attempting to reboot his career by performing Shakespeare. Instead, he dies on stage and shortly after everything changes. The second skips forward into the future to follow the lives of several survivors and shows how they connect with one another through a group of actors and musicians called The Traveling Symphony. It’s a novel about nostalgia but also about just surviving versus actually living.


The Fireman – Joe Hill

29875363

Time for a different sort of pandemic from your average flu – one that involves the spread of highly contagious spore which causes black and gold “scales” to appear across the skin prior to spontaneous human combustion. I guess Coronavirus doesn’t sound so bad after all… The story revolves around a nurse named Harper who, after contracting the spores, disregards a pact she made with her husband to kill themselves if they were ever infected. This is so she can hopefully live long enough to deliver her baby. When her community begins to devolve into chaos and her husband abandons her, Harper finds aid in the form of a mysterious figure known as The Fireman, who has somehow learned to control and use his Dragonscale affliction.


Blindness – José Saramago

2526

In Blindness, we, again, have a very different epidemic. The book begins with a man spontaneously losing his sight while waiting at a traffic light. He then sees a doctor to find an explanation for his condition who, after some time, also goes blind. All of a sudden, the city is rife with it, bright-white blindness spreading from one person to the next without warning. In an attempt to halt it, authorities confine those affected to an empty mental hospital where a criminal element soon takes over. Among it all, the doctor’s wife somehow retains her sight and does her best to look after those trapped but without revealing her unaffected vision. It’s a bleak view of society and a terrifying look at what people will do out of fear. Fun fact, this book won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.


The Maze Runner Series – James Dashner

6186357

This might not apply to the first book as much because the full context for events doesn’t become apparent until further in. Still, the series as a whole fits this list. *major spoiler warning* In The Maze Runner books, the world has been affected by a man-made disease known as ‘The Flare’, intended to reduce the world’s population due to limited resources. Instead of eventually disappearing as planned, the disease mutated, became airborne and spread across the world, reducing those infected to savage, cannibalistic beings. In an attempt to combat it, the group WICKED was formed and began to conduct experiments on the small percentage of the population who were not affected by the The Flare (such as sticking them inside a ginormous maze), hoping their brain patterns/responses would reveal a path to a cure.


The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton

7670

A team is deployed to retrieve a military probe, recently returned to Earth after a mission to take samples from the outer fringes of space. They quickly become uncontactable. Then the aerial satellite images of the closest township, Pidemont, Arizona, come through – the entire population deceased, as if they simply dropped dead in the street. The government quickly initiates ‘Operation Wildfire’, putting a small group of scientists in a race to discover how to stop a deadly alien organism, needing only a few seconds incubation, before it becomes catastrophic. This is the book for those who love highly scientific and technical based reads.


Wilder Girls – Rory Power

42505366

If the whole quarantine element is what keeps you up at night, maybe avoid Wilder Girls. Also, body horror, because there’s a fair bit of that here if you’re squeamish. The book is about a bunch of girls from a boarding school on an island off the coast of Maine being infected with some kind of crazy and painful, body altering disease called the Tox. The girls are kept isolated on the island where they’re forced to deal with limited supplies (ain’t no chance to go to the shops and panic buy here), bad weather and aggressive animal attacks. It’s dark, atmospheric and mysterious.


And there we have it, nine books to avoid reading during the current COVID-19 pandemic if you want to keep those anxiety levels and crazy dreams about the end of the world under control.

In all seriousness though, I hope you and your families are all doing well, staying safe and remaining isolated as much as you possibly can. As much as I like to joke about all this apocalyptic fiction type stuff, this is in no way our current predicament. Things may seem frightening, stressful, and lonely right now, but just know that you’re not alone. Despite all the darkness, things will be okay again. It’ll take some time, but we’ll get there. In the meantime, take up a new hobby, write that book you’ve been putting off, play Animal Crossing: New Horizons til your fingers cramp, whatever keeps you sane.

And most important of all, stay positive.

gifs:lotr1 | Tumblr

Bookish Fun: Books Which Give Me Summer Vibes

To my immense relief, at the end of this week summer will finally be over in Oz for yet another year. What’s that sound, you ask? Oh, just me screaming with joy. I don’t do well with hot weather, guys. Not at all. I melt and it’s super gross. However, books can always make something sucky more positive and lately I’ve been thinking about what books I most easily associated with summer as a season. So, here are the books that give off definite summer vibes for me:

The Unhoneymooners – Christina Lauren

42201431

Romantic contemporaries have strong summer vibes in general but The Unhoneymooners feels especially summery for me. Most of the book takes place in Hawaii as the story involves a best man and maid of honour using their siblings’ honeymoon after everyone at the wedding but them gets food poisoning. There are mai tais, sexy massages, snorkeling, and some steamy moments. The perfect summer holiday read. I mean, just look at that cover! How could you think otherwise?


Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman

Image result for call me by your name book cover"

The fact that this book is set over the course of one summer is probably a good indication as to why I’ve listed it here, but it may also be the fact that it’s about love and set at a villa in the gorgeous Italian riviera. People spend lazy afternoons by the pool, at the beach or cycling through the countryside, fresh produce and seafood abound, and the characters sit and drink wine well into the evening discussing things like music, language and poetry. In the midst of all this, the book explores a consuming, obsessive, intimate and bright burning love affair between a teen and a grad student in beautiful and raw prose. Summer vibes all around.


We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

21882188

I’m not a big fan of this novel while others absolutely love it. Yet, that doesn’t seem to prevent it from very clearly coming to mind when I think of summer. The book is set on an island which the wealthy characters of the story return to every year for part of the summer. The story has a mystery element due to the main character, Cady’s, memory gaps from last year’s trip (and we all know that aside from romance, mystery is summer’s favourite genre). There’s also some family drama, heartbreak, much time spent at the beach, and a twist ending. It makes you think about youth, the loss of innocence and forgiveness.


Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson

18189606

Morgan Matson has a lot of books that scream summer, but I’m going with Since You’ve Been Gone. I believe the exact words in my review of this book were, ‘This book is summer in literary form’, and it is. SYBG is about a girl named Emily who is left a list of 13 tasks to complete over the summer by her friend Sloane who has mysteriously disappeared. Over the course of the book, Emily makes new friends, falls for a boy, gets a job at an ice-cream parlour, camps in her backyard, goes skinny dipping, crashes a party, and just generally learns to come out of her shell. The book is fun, light, sweet and a lovely story about female friendship.


Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie

Image result for death on the nile"

When summer rolls around, we break out the romance and the mystery novels. This is obviously one of the latter. If you’re after a good crime book, you can never go wrong with the queen of crime, Agatha Christie. Death on the Nile gives me those summer feels because, as you can tell from the title, it’s set on a river cruise in Egypt. After a newlywed socialite and heiress is found shot to death, famous detective, Hercule Poirot, hits pause on his holiday to determine who caused her untimely demise. Ruins, relentless sun, plenty of linen suits, jealously, and a lot of death. Sounds like summer to me. Okay, maybe minus the death part.


Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

16085481

Summer in Singapore. This is another fun and light, but slightly trashy, read. It’s full of drama, crazy socialites, judgmental families, extravagant parties and ridiculously expensive things. If you’re the kind of person who binges soap operas or reality TV during summer (like me) for some mind-numbing entertainment, this is on par with that. Some of the storylines are somewhat ridiculous but as a bit of a satire, it’s what you’d expect. It also has a romance based story, so there’s that.


IT – Stephen King

Image result for it book cover

This is a weird one, I know. Go with it. My favourite parts of IT are the ones involving The Losers Club as kids and the bulk of this timeline takes place over the course of a summer. Sure, the characters spend most of it terrified and fighting to protect themselves from a creepy, child eating, clown shaped entity from another dimension. However, in between they also have some nice moments in support of the book’s friendship and coming of age themes. As the group solidifies, they spend a lot of their days hanging out with one another – riding around town on bikes, going to the movies, or seeking refuge in an area they call The Barrens. Here they play in the stream, build a dam, and even construct a hidden clubhouse. Feels like a childhood summer to me.


The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

Image result for the sisterhood of the travelling pants book

As far as YA contemporaries go, this one falls into the forgettable 3-star mush of ones I’ve read but it definitely rises to the surface of my brain when I think about summer vibe books. I mean, each book in the series deals with a summer in the life of a group of friends as they go to different places and have varying experiences. In the first book, one travels to Greece, another to Soccer camp, another takes a summer job at home, and the fourth goes to visit her dad. They make new friends, tackle emotional challenges, fall in love, and get out of their comfort zones. At the heart of the book is strong bonds of female friendship and being there for someone when they most need it.


Circe – Madeline Miller

Image result for circe madeline miller

Circe is a book that gives me strong summer vibes but I guess that’s just Greek mythology. A lot of the story takes place on a mythical island called Aeaea. Beautiful, but also a prison for poor Circe. Over the years, she occupies her time tending her garden, raising animals (both real & illusions), weaving, and developing her witchcraft. People come and go from Aeaea, the decent of which get to experience Circe’s hospitality by enjoying large feasts and sharing stories. Despite the loneliness of Circe’s life at times, this book makes me think of the parts of summer that I actually like – 1) the quiet, picturesque moments of natural beauty, 2) the social gatherings where people chat, eat, drink and enjoy each others’ company as the sun goes down, and 3) that sense of adventure in experiencing something new.


Which books most remind you of summer or give you serious summer vibes?

Top 10 Tuesday: Books on my TBR I Predict will be 5 Star Reads

I’ve never done a post like this before. Why? It’s simple, I don’t give out many 5 star ratings. Check my Goodreads ‘read’ shelf and you’ll see that books with those five shiny things after them are in short supply. Remove all 7 Harry Potter books, and the list gets even shorter. The reason for this is that I don’t often read books that I absolutely crazy adore and have very few negative things to say about. I know I sound like a snob, and perhaps I have too higher standards, but unfortunately, it’s just the way I am. Because of this, posts like these have always seemed unrealistic for me. However, today we’re making an exception and attempting to be optimistic! Okay, not over the top optimistic which is why there are only 8 books on this list instead of 10. As far as final ratings are concerned, I’ll still consider it a win if any of these books manage to get a 4.5 star rating.

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War 2#) – R. F. Kuang

41118857. sy475

The Poppy War was one of my favourite reads of 2019. I even gave it one of my rarely awarded 5 star ratings. With sequels is always hard to know whether they’ll live up to the original and before TDR was released, I was very nervous. After the ending of book 1, I wasn’t sure where the story could go but I now have a good feeling about this one! The average Goodreads rating is high, reviewers I trust have said super positive things and the blurb sounds great. So I’m pegging this for another 5 star read and I think the odds are high.


A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

22822858. sy475

I’ve only just started this book but I’m willing to make a bet that A Little Life will crack the big five stars. Now, this is in no way a short read – it’s over 700 pages long, and I’m fully aware of the fact that the story is supposed to be emotionally grueling (majorly so). Yet, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it – the writing, the realistic and wonderfully crafted characters, the fact that it doesn’t leave you until long after you’ve finished it. I’m looking for something that’ll worm its way into me and stay there. I really hope this is it.


Educated – Tara Westover

35133922

As I’ve mentioned a few times over the last couple of months, non-fiction reads have started to grow on me and Educated is a book I’ve had on my TBR for a few months now. I actually started it a little while back and got distracted but I’m determined to go back. A story about a young woman from a survivalist family, who with little education at all, managed to teach herself enough to be admitted to university and eventually earned a doctrate sounds like the kind of story I need in my life. I’ve seen some rave reviews of this book so I’m hoping it lands 5 stars with me also.


The Toll (Arc of a Scythe 3#) – Neal Shusterman

43822024

This is another book where I’m basing a five star prediction on the fact that I rated previous books in the series highly. Scythe was a 5 star read and Thunderhead a 4.5 star read so the chance of another high rating seems likely here. I really love this series so it would be heartbreaking for it to stumble at the final hurdle. Book two ended in a major cliffhanger and I’m super excited to find out what happens next (well, after I re-read books one and two to refresh my bad memory). I’ve seen some amazing reviews and some disappointed reviews. I’m desperately crossing my fingers hoping I’ll be in the former camp.


The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon

40379447. sy475

Another enormous book and another one I’ve started and will have to return to at some point. While the few pages that I’ve already read of Priory weren’t exactly grabbing me in a choke-hold of engagement, with a book this big I’m willing to put the time in to reach a point where I’m sure things will pick up in a major way. I still have a good feeling about this one being an amazing read. I’m trusting the hype train to be right here. It has everything I need – dragons, a badass female ruler and warrior, magic, a good verses evil battle. Don’t let me down Samantha Shannon!


The Wise man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

Related image

Time for another sequel. In 2019 I finally, FINALLY read The Name of the Wind and to my immense relief, I thought it was fantastic. It ended up being a 5 star read and got a place on my top 10 list of the year. Now, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll enjoy the sequel. I’m guessing another 5 star rating is likely but the problem is, the third book is still nowhere in sight and it’s already been YEARS. Who knows if it’s ever coming??? As a result, I think I’ll be putting TWMF on hold for a while even though I know it’ll be good. Don’t worry Kvothe, I’ll come back for you eventually.


Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Image result for mexican gothic silvia moreno-garcia

Now, Mexican Gothic hasn’t even been released yet so with this one I’m going entirely off a great blurb, good feeling in my gut and gorgeous cover. It’s a little scary though because these days I’m such a Goodreads rating snob. I’m really hoping that this book is what the movie Crimson Peak could have been if it had actually lived up to its potential and not gone…well, off the rails. A haunted house, creepy family, debutante heroine, suspense, mystery, and all in 1950s Mexico. I’m super excited. Please be gooooooooodddd.


Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff

43728380. sy475

Jay’s Nevernight series is one of my favourites and I’m hoping that lightning strikes again with EotV. Teenage Ashley was majorly obsessed with vampires and I’ll admit, I still have a guilty pleasure love of them so I’m super keen on the idea of a darker, more adult fantasy approach. If anyone can pull it off, Jay can. As with Nevernight, this seems like another historical based world which is also really exciting. Basically bring on the violence, blood, romance, witty dialogue and emotional trauma. And GIVE ME A 5 STAR READ, PLEASE.


What do you think of my 5-star predictions? Way off base or likely to hit the mark. I’m crossing all my fingers and toes.

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.

Bookish Fun: Around the World in 20 Young Adult Books

Recently I published a post outlining some things I really wish were found in YA lit more often. One of the items on my list was more books set in countries other than the USA or England, as these two settings seem to dominate the market. This got me thinking: what YA books out there ARE set in other countries? Well, it took some time to track them down but here are 20 of them. While I haven’t read many of the books listed, I’ve certainly found a lot to add to my TBR. Now, I present to you, a trip around the world courtesy of YA novels. Be prepared for plenty of live abroad situations, many estranged overseas relatives and a LOT of romance.

Note: I apologise in advance for the gaps in this list, particularly where it comes to South America and Africa. I had trouble finding YA books set in these locations. If you know of any that you’d like me to add, send them my way!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is plane-divider.jpg

Scotland: Her Royal Highness – Rachel Hawkins

41734205

We’re starting out in the land of kilts, rolling green hills and fabulous castles. I’ve actually visited Scotland and it’s an absolutely beautiful place so, note to self, find more books set there. This YA contemporary follows Millie, an American teen who moves to a prestigious boarding school in the Scottish Highlands after a bad break up. To her surprise, she ends up roommates with Flora, not only a princess in personality, but the princess of Scotland. Prepare yourself for an fluffy, sapphic, enemies to lovers romance with a stop off at friendship along the way in a stunning UK setting.

Spain: The Fountains of Silence – Ruta Sepetys

43220998. sy475

After less rain and more sunshine? Perhaps some tapas? Well, Spain is the answer. The Fountains of Silence is set in 1950s Madrid during the dictatorship of General Franco in which tourists were encouraged to visit the country to help improve its financial problems. Eighteen year old photographer Daniel arrives with his family, hoping to learn more about and connect with the place of his mother’s birth. Here, he meets hotel maid Ana who slowly begins to educate him on the buried secrets of the country at great risk to herself and her family. The story follows several characters as they make their way through a dark and painful period of history.

The Netherlands, Austria, Italy, & Czech Republic: Wanderlost – Jen Malone

26244548

Ever wanted to do a multi-country trip through Europe? Then this will be right up your alley. After her sister Elizabeth gets into some trouble, Aubree agrees to help her out by taking over Elizabeth’s summer job leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe. The problem is, Aubree knows very little about European countries and it doesn’t take long before things start to go completely pear shaped. Then, to make matters worse, the tour picks up an unexpected guest: the company director’s son, Sam. Aubree can’t help falling for Sam but how can she possibly be herself when she’s supposed to be pretending to be her sister? And what would happen if he ever found out?

Greece: Love & olives – Jenna Evans

48426098

Greece has been on my holiday dream list for years now. There’s just something about its wonderfully rich history and the beauty of its islands. At some point I’ll get there, but until then perhaps Love & Olives can help pass the time. Now, this is actually an upcoming 2020 release but eh, who cares. The book introduces us to Evie, a Greek myths enthusiast. Upon receiving a postcard from her estranged father, she hops on a plane to Santorini to assist with his National Geographic Documentary about theories of Atlantis. As the shoot goes on, Evie has to deal not only with the emotions associated with seeing her father again for the first time in years but also his charismatic protege, Theo.

Romania: Hunting Prince Dracula – Kerri Maniscalco

33784373

We’re slowly making our way over to the east of Europe, and our next destination is Romania. It’s home to Dracula, stuffed cabbage leaves and preserved medieval towns. Woo! While the first book in this series is set in London, the sequel sees the two leads, Audrey Rose and Thomas, journeying to one of Europe’s best forensic science schools, which also happens to be a castle. Cause when in Romania, right? Then, as you’d expect, corpses start turning up, and not just the ones scheduled for dissection. Rumours soon spread that Vlad the Impaler himself has returned and is out for blood. So it’s up to our plucky duo to solve the mystery.

Russia: The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

25489134. sx318

Like Greece, Russia is one of those countries that I’ve wanted to visit for some time but it’s also one I’d prefer to do with a friend. Anyone up for a trip with me? Incorporating Russian folklore, TBATN is about a girl named Vasilisa who lives with her family in a small, northern village. Vasilisa is special in that she can see and converse with the creatures/spirits that live on their land. But after her father re-marries and a new priest enters the community, attitudes towards these beings and Vasilisa’s abilities change, leaving her an outcast and old superstitious practices abandoned. Soon things in the village begin to go very wrong such as failing crops and sinister things emerging from the forest. Now it’s up to Vasilisa to use her gifts to save the people she loves most.

Taiwan: The Astonishing Color of After – Emily X.R. Pan

35604686

We’ve jumped continents and it’s time to see what Asia holds for our YA travels. First up we have the story of Leigh. After her mother’s suicide, Leigh travels to Taiwan to visit her grandparents for the first time. She is convinced that her mother has been reincarnated as a red bird and is somehow trying to speak to her. This takes her on a journey in which she develops bonds with her grandparents, comes to terms with her mother’s mental illness, and learns more about her mother’s history and Taiwanese culture. In turn, she also gains a greater understanding of herself. It’s a story about grief, mental health, family and identity.

Hong Kong: Somewhere Only We Know – Maurene Goo

36992163. sy475

While Hong Kong may not be the best travel destination at present, we always have travel in the form of books. Somewhere Only We Know is a YA contemporary romance. Lucky is a huge K-Pop star currently preparing for her big American debut. When she sneaks out of her hotel room in search of some fast food, she accidentally runs into Jack, a tabloid reporter who has slipped in searching for a story. The two end up deciding to spend a day together adventuring around Hong Kong, free from the stress and rules of their normal lives. Only problem is, neither party is being honest with the other.

Japan: I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn

39828159. sy475

Japan! Another country on my to-visit list. Cherry blossoms, great food in quirky locations, gorgeous scenery, ridiculous numbers of vending machines, what’s not to like? I Love You So Mochi is, once again, a YA contemporary romance. Kimi loves fashion and spends her spare time creating outfits for herself and her friends. However, her mum sees this as nothing more than a distraction from her painting portfolio. When Kimi is invited by her grandparents to spend Spring break in Kyoto, she decides to take the chance to get away for a while. In Japan she meets Akira, a med student and part time mochi mascot. Over the course of her trip, Kimi embraces everything Japan has to offer, forges new bonds with her family, falls in love, and evaluates her future.

Pakistan: Written in the Stars – Aisha Saeed

22521951

Say hello to southern Asia. This time we’re in Pakistan, the fifth most populated country in the world! Our next book follows the story of Naila, a teen from a highly conservative American-Pakistani family. After falling in love with a boy named Sarif against her family’s wishes, Naila’s parents quickly whisk her off to Pakistan to visit their relatives in the hopes of re-immersing her in their culture. However, Naila is soon shocked to discover that her parents have actually brought her there for an arranged marriage. Cut off from everything she knows and stuck in a situation she sees no way out of, Naila has no choice but to remain strong and hope that Sarif will find her before it’s too late.

Iran: Darius the Great is Not Okay – Adib Khorram

37506437

Iran – home to beautiful architecture and a welcoming population. Darius is about to take his first trip to Iran and it’s exciting but also overwhelming for a chubby, geeky guy with clinical depression, zero social life and a difficult relationship with his father. Upon arrival, Darius feels somewhat out of step with the language and culture. That is, until he meets Sohrab – a boy who just gets Darius and not only shows him what it’s like to have a best friend but to feel Persian for the first time. The trip offers Darius a chance to understand and accept himself, and to form new, close relationships with members of his family. Set among the bustling background of Yazd, this is a story about friendship, self-acceptance, depression, identity and family.

Qatar: Love from A to Z – S. K. Ali

40148146. sy475

And…we’re back to romance, this time in Doha – the place to go for huge buildings, swanky hotels, amazing shopping, and well, if you want to feel poor. Our two main characters here are Zayneb and Adam. After confronting her teacher for anti-Muslim remarks, Zayneb is suspended and her parents send her to her aunt’s in Doha. College student Adam is dealing with both the recent loss of his mother and a multiple-sclerosis diagnosis (something he’s avoided telling his father and sister about). When the two meet on the flight to Doha, an unexpectedly wonderful connection forms. This is a book which deals with some heavy topics but if you’re after an un-apologetically muslim, own voices novel, this is one to think about.

Saudi Arabia: A Girl Like That – Tanaz Bhathena

29451548

Time for YA contemporary, but told a little differently and this time set in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This is a story that begins with the deaths of our lead and her love interest. Zarin is a bright student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also someone parents call ‘troublemaker’ & whose romances are endlessly gossiped about. You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. And yet, eighteen year old Porus has only ever had eyes for her. But how did Zarin and Porus end up dead, crashed on the side of a highway? When the police arrive, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is plane-divider.jpg

Egypt: In a Perfect World – Trish Doller

32333213. sy475

Egypt is another country on my ‘must travel to before I die list’ and although I’m not great with hot weather, I’m determined to see those Pyramids. Once again, we’ve got ourselves a contemporary romance. In a Perfect World centers around Caroline, whose perfect summer plans are completely thrown out the window when her mother is hired to open an eye clinic in Cairo. Instead of soccer camp and a job at the amusement park, Caroline will be spending not only her summer but her final year of high school in Egypt. Despite her cultural shock, Caroline finds herself opening up to new experiences, food and culture and falling for a boy who challenges everything she thought she knew about life, love and privilege.

South Africa: Deadlands – Lily Herne

16166049

Ever been to South Africa? Well, here’s your chance. The catch: zombies. Ten years after a zombie apocalypse, the dead freely roam the suburbs of Cape Town while survivors cluster on farms and in urban shantytowns. They are protected by mysterious, robed figures known as Guardians who are somehow able to control the zombies. Each year the Guardians hold a human lottery in which 5 teens are chosen to leave the enclave for an unknown purpose. Seventeen year old Lele can’t help but resent her current situation – a school run by a fanatical, Guardian devoted cult, the recent death of her grandmother, and a lack of freedom. So when she’s selected during the lottery, Lele sees it as an opportunity to get answers to some of her biggest questions.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is plane-divider.jpg

Beliz & Guatemala: Wanderlove – Kirsten Hubbard

9807262

We’ve hit the bottom of North America and this time it’s two destinations in one. Wanderlove is a travel story centered around 18-year old Bria who accidentally signs up for a trip to the wrong Central America. On tour she runs into diving instructor Rowan and his humanitarian twin sister, Starling, and decides to ditch her group in favour of a trip more off the beaten path. As they travel through islands and villages, Bria soon realises that her and Rowan are in search of the same thing: escaping their past. However, with time, Bria learns that in order for her to move forward, first she’ll have to deal with her baggage.

Canada: The Gathering – Kelly Armstrong

7896345

Skipping over the USA, we’re heading up to Canada and this time to a paranormal/fantasy read set on Vancouver Island. Maya knows very little about her past, specifically her parents. Her only clue is a paw-print shaped birthmark on her hip. She’s never had much reason to think about it, until now. All of sudden strange things have started happening – unexplained deaths, cougars just showing up and following her around, and her friend, Daniel, getting weird ‘feelings’ about people and situations. Then there’s the hot, new guy, Rafe and his damaged sister, Annie. Seems like there’s more to town than there seems.

The Bahamas: Learning to Breathe – Janice Lynn Mather

36373389. sy475

Sun, sand, and…teenage pregnancy. Indira Ferguson has done her best to live by her Grammy’s rules – study hard, be respectful, and never let a boy take advantage of her. But it hasn’t always been easy, especially while living in her mother’s shadow. When Indy is sent to live with relatives in Nassau, trouble follows her. Now she must hide an unwanted pregnancy from her aunt, who would rather throw Indy out onto the street than see the truth. Completely broke with only a hand-me-down pregnancy book as a resource, Indy desperately looks for a safe space to call home. After stumbling upon a yoga retreat, she wonders if perhaps she’s found it. But Indy is about to discover that home is much bigger than just four walls – it’s about the people she chooses to share it with.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is plane-divider.jpg

Australia: On the Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

2999475

Welcome to my happy home in the land down under. As far as Aussie YA goes, I pretty much had to include a Melina Marchetta book. OtJR is about a girl named Taylor who was abandoned by her mother when she was young and now lives in a boarding house for troubled and neglected kids. Here, Taylor acts as a leader for the residents in their territory wars with the local townies and cadets. Her closest friend is a woman named Hannah who lives on the edge of the school grounds. However, when Hannah mysteriously disappears and Taylor sets out to find her, she comes across a journal about five friends who used to live in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. This leads her on an emotional journey to uncover what happened to her mother and why she left all those years ago.

New Zealand: Antipodes – Michele Bacon

35804605

Heading just across the channel to NZ, it’s time for some extreme sports, fabulous scenery and lots of sheep. When Erin arrives in Christchurch for her work-study abroad program, her life and reputation are a bit of a mess. She’s lost her boyfriend, been kicked off the swim team, and severely damaged her future college prospects. This trip seems like the perfect opportunity to get things back on track but Erin’s less than impressed when she’s introduced to her host family, their cold & cramped living conditions, and her itchy school uniform. Yet, the more Erin opens herself up to her new surroundings and the people around her, the more she starts to rethink her priorities and realise the kind of person she wants to be.


That concludes our journey! I hope you’ve had a wonderful trip – saw some new sights, experienced some wonderful things. Okay…maybe just found a few new books to add to the ever growing TBR pile. What are some of your favourite reads set in other countries? What countries would you most love to travel to?

Bookish Fun: 16 Book, Reading and Author Related Facts

It’s time for a few bookish, reading and author related facts. I thought this might be a fun post and something different from the usual parade of reviews, tags and top 10s I usually publish. Besides, you never know when you’ll get hit with a literary trivia question down at the pub. You’ll be thanking me when your team starts looking at you in awe.

BOOKISH FACTS

  • I’m never complaining about the cost of my book hauls again. The most expensive book ever sold was a scientific journal of Leonardo Da Vinci’s called The Codex Leicester. It was purchased by Bill Gates for $30.8M back in 1994. At least I know he would have made the money back quickly.
Harry Potter Wow GIF
  • The longest sentence in a book is over 800 words long (!!!) and can be found in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I don’t know about you, but I’d fall asleep long before ever finishing it.
  • Just in case you were wondering, three of the most read books in the world are The Bible (duh), Quotations from Mao Tse-Tung, and Harry Potter (the power of a boy wizard, folks).
  • The largest library in the world is the Library of Congress in Washington D.C, USA. It has over 168 MILLION books. My book loving, little heart just skipped a beat. Or two.
Beauty And The Beast GIF
  • Two banned book facts for the price of one: In 2015, Looking for Alaska by John Green was the most banned book in America, while Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carol used to be widely banned in China because of its inclusion of talking animals. Colour me confused.
  • There is an actual word to describe the fear of running out of things to read – Abiblophobia. I feel seen.
  • In Birmingham, UK, 2.5 million Mills and Boon books were pulped to create the top layer of the M6 toll road. Well, if you ever want to drive over some erotica, you know where to go.
  • In 2010, a cook book titled The Pasta Bible had to be reprinted due to a missed typo in one recipe calling for ‘freshly ground black people’ rather than ‘pepper’. I bet someone lost their job over that one…
Andy Samberg Jake Peralta GIF by Brooklyn Nine-Nine

AUTHOR FACTS

  • Before writing his novels, J RR Tolkien spent two years working for the Oxford English dictionary. Bonus: Apparently, his favourite phrase was ‘cellar door’. Your guess is as good as mine.
  • Dr. Seuss’s editor made a bet with him for $50 that he couldn’t write a book using 50 words or less. He won using Green Eggs and Ham which was exactly 50.
  • Sarah J. Maas first wrote Throne of Glass when she was only 16. At the time, it was a lot longer and contained plot points from books 1-4. She published it on Fictionpress.net before realising its issues and rewriting it closer to what she eventually published.
  • Stephen King holds the record for the author with the most books on the NYT Bestseller list at one time. In 1995, he had 4 on the list! Writer goals right there.
  • Brandon Sanderson originally had plans to be a doctor and only realised how important writing was to him during a break from his biochemistry studies as a missionary in South Korea. As soon as he returned home, he enrolled in English instead.
  • Charles Dickens had a secret door in his home through a bookcase. The shelves were full of fake books with bizarre names such as The Art of Cutting Teeth. Note to self: If I ever get a library, put a fake bookcase door in.
That'S Cool Scarlett Estevez GIF by Lucifer
  • Agatha Christie liked to think through  her stories while eating an apple in the bath. I mean, I haven’t tried this method but she was the queen of crime, so…
  • Amie Kaufman was introduced to Jay Kristoff because of her confusion over obtaining a US Individual Tax Identification Tax Number. Amie was told Jay could help her as he had recently had the same problem. She offered to buy him brunch and the rest is history.
  • Rick Riordan modeled Percy Jackson after his son Haley who not only has a similar sense of humour but ADHD and dyslexia. Bonus, Percy was originally written as a short story to entertain Haley who suggested that his dad turn it into a full book.
Aww GIF

Did you learn anything new? Because I certainly did. What’s your favourite piece of bookish or author related trivia?