My Favourite Books This Year (so far)

This has been a good book year. I am a little behind on my goal (14/37), but I’m not feeling too discouraged. Aside from reading lots of good books, I have a bunch of books that I’m excited to read.

In no particular order, here are five of my favourites that I’ve read this year.

You by Caroline Kepnes

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

I watched the show on Netflix before I read the book, but I really enjoyed both. Joe Goldberg is the character you love to hate (or hate to love). The book is the prefect combination of creepiness and flawed characters. It almost reminded me of Gone Girl.

I look forward to reading the sequel!

Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

I’m pretty sure I included The Girl in the Tower in last year’s favourite book list, and I could not NOT include Winter of the Witch in this year’s list. Basically the whole series is my favourite. It’s a fantastic final novel in the series. Of course I’m sad it’s over, but it left me perfectly satisfied and ready to see what Katherine Arden is going to do next.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

I wanted to read this book because Maggie Stiefvater was reading it and if you can’t copy your favourite authors, who can you copy? I’m glad I did, though, because the Changeling is very good. It went in unexpected and deliciously dark directions. It’s one of those books I probably wouldn’t have heard of if it hadn’t been recommended by an outside party. A secret gem!

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

Okay, I actually haven’t finished this one yet. But, I’m within 100 pages of finishing so I’m going to count it. It’s a funny novel with an interesting premise. It feels like a lot has happened but at the same time not a lot. But I’m very excited to finish it, because it’s taken a turn I wasn’t really expecting.

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

This book is what it says. Shaun Bythell kept a diary for a year of life as the owner of a used bookstore in Scotland. It was a fun sneak peak into what actually happens in a bookstore, and as someone who dreams of working in a bookstore, it was a delight and a terror at the same time. Nothing is sugar coated, but at the same time it felt like I was actually working in a bookstore. A good read for anyone who loves books and bookstores.


If you want to see all the books I’ve read this year, you can go here to find them!

Favourite Books about Books

When I read a book/novel and one of its main plot points is a book or books in general or a bookstore, some weird thrill sparks inside me. It’s a strange sort of joyful feeling. Like something has really clicked.

I just love it.

Maybe it’s because I’m such a bibliophile myself, it’s a double-whammy of bookishness. It’s hard to explain and quantify, so hopefully you can relate (through another genre or trope) or you can pretend you understand.

Anyway, I want to share my favourite books about books and hopefully you’ll find a new favourite yourself or just something fun to read.


Bibliophile

Searching for perfect book lovers gifts? Rejoice! Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany, is a love letter to all things bookish. Author Jane Mount brings literary people, places, and things to life through her signature and vibrant illustrations. It’s a must-have for every book collection, and makes a wonderful literary gift for book lovers, writers, and more.

The title says it all really. It’s a book for bibliophiles and it’s all about books and bookstores and libraries. Like a bible for bookworms. It’s written and illustrated by the super talented Jane Mount.

My favourite part is the wonderful artwork, the illustrations of these book covers and spines. It’s like a whimsical illustrated encyclopedia of everything books.

Image: Bibliophile

There are stories about bookstores around the world (places to visit one day), and plenty of recommendations from fellow bookworms (as if I need MORE book suggestions). It’s just pure joy in book form.

The Little Paris Bookshop

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

I first read/heard this book via Audible just last year, and I was so impressed by the story. A book barge? In Paris? A man who can prescribe books like medicine? Yes, please! There’s even a character who’s a struggling writer, which is a bonus for someone who’s also a writer.

Nina George knows how to write a really cozy book. I felt like I was really traveling through France on the waterways. As we’re journeying, reading and books remain an integral part of the story. As Perdu and his motley crew make their way to the south of France, they spread the love of reading wherever they go.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco web-design drone, and serendipity, sheer curiosity and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey have landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he has embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behaviour and roped his friends into helping him figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the secrets extend far beyond the walls of the bookstore.

I think this is the first novel I read that gave me that “thrill” of reading a book about books. So, of course, it had to be featured on this list. The main characters works in this enigmatic bookstore and has a bookish adventure.

I actually haven’t read it in a while, so it might be time for a re-read.

I remember it was whimsical and slightly off-kilter, but in a really good way. I was constantly trying to figure out what was going on along with the characters. There are twists and turns and you end up in a place that is truly unexpected.

This book made me want to write about bookstores.

The Book Thief

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. 

I don’t want to say too much about the plot of this book, because it can easily be spoiled. The ending is MAJOR. But if you haven’t read The Book Thief yet, I highly recommend it.

It’s pretty obvious by the title that books are going to be important in this story. While it’s not as cozy or whimsical as the other books, it’s still an important read. Maybe more so because of the historical factor. In the historical context of a place where certain books were considered dangerous, the idea of literature as rebellion is important.


I hope you enjoyed this little list of my favourite book books! If there are others that you know of, please let me know. I always need more books to read.

A Curious Playlist

As a pimply awkward teen, who was a big unabashed fangirl, I loved when authors included playlists of music they listened to when writing. It was a tiny peek into their writing process and into their personal lives–specifically their taste in music. Even now, sometimes when I hear a certain song, it reminds me of the book.

When I started writing, I always made playlists for my bigger projects. Even for novels (and half-written novels), one of the first things I do is make a playlist. It’s a good way to set the tone and atmosphere for future writing. Usually, I’ll add songs as I go, as the plot, characters, or whatever changes.

Since I’m a big over-sharer, I want to share the playlist for my WIP (The Curious Adventures of Winifred McQuary). It’s a strange (or curious [budum-ch!]) mixture of instrumental music and not, even some soundtrack music mixed in. Enjoy!

  1. One Summer’s Day (From Spirited Away) by Joe Hisaishi
  2. Summer Days by Kai Engel
  3. Don’t Let it Pass by Junip
  4. A Town With an Ocean View (From Kiki’s Delivery Service) by Joe Hisaishi
  5. Far Away by Junip
  6. Tristana by Nils Frahm
  7. Let Go by Frou Frou
  8. The Sixth Station (From Spirited Away) by Joe Hisaishi
  9. From Finner by Of Monsters and Men
  10. Mess Around by Cage The Elephant
  11. Trip Switch by Nothing But Thieves
  12. I’m Not Your Hero by Tegan and Sara
  13. Ambre by Nils Frahm
  14. Wait by M83
  15. Closer by Tegan and Sara
  16. Pstereo by Emilie Nicolas
  17. Reprise (From Spirited Away) by Joe Hisaishi
  18. Dreams by The Cranberries
  19. The Dragon Boy/Bottomless Pit (From Spirited Away) by Joe Hisaishi
  20. I Was A Fool by Tegan and Sara
  21. Lover, Please Stay by Nothing But Thieves
  22. Don’t Let It Go by Beck

 

As you can see, I like music from Studio Ghibli (specifically Spirited Away, which was a direct influence on the book in general).

What music do you like to listen to while writing? I’d love to know!

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Top 7 Book Adaptations

I like book adaptations. Generally. There have been a few that have just made me want to rip out my eyeballs (The Hobbit, Ready Player One, etc.). I pride myself on being able to see past necessary changes needed for movies/TV, within reason of course.

For me, if an adaptation captures the feeling or essence of the book, then I’m pretty happy. Though there have been adaptations that do capture the feeling (the 2017 Anne of Green Gables series) but have a crazy amount of unnecessary plot deviations that irk me.

Here are my favourite movie/TV adaptations (in no particular order).

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The Harry Potter purists will whinge about how the movies leave out important plot points and sometimes even characters (R.I.P. Peeves), but the first Harry Potter movie completely brings to life the world of J.K. Rowling’s imagination. And of course, the first book is much lighter and shorter than the later books, which makes it easier to adapt in general.
I grew up reading the books, anticipating them as they came out, and I also grew up watching the movies. As a child, watching my favourite characters and places come to life was simply amazing.
Fun anecdote: When I was 11 years old, I wrote to Warner Brothers asking them if I could be in the next movie (Prisoner of Azkaban) as an extra… I didn’t get a reply.

 

The Lord of the Rings trilogy

When I watch these movies with my father, I always laugh at him when he grumbles and gripes about all the things Peter Jackson got wrong. But, he is a Tolkien purist. When I was a wee lass, I was read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (mostly) and have since re-read The Hobbit and am in the process of re-reading The Lord of the Rings.
Disregarding the travesty that are The Hobbit movies, I think Peter Jackson does a decent job on these. By using real landscapes, real people, and not as much CGI, he was able to make Middle Earth feel very authentic. I won’t even start on the music. I LOVE the soundtrack (especially in the scene I’ve included).

 

The Great Gatsby (2012)

Another movie with an amazing soundtrack. I never had to read The Great Gatsby for school, I read it for fun and fell in love. Reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing is like eating a decadent cheesecake.
This movie really encompasses the feel of Gatsby’s world. The characters are just as vibrant and colourful as the space they occupy. In my opinion, I think Leo’s career was leading up to him playing Gatsby. He’s perfect.

 

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

My apologies to Colin Firth, but this adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel is beautiful and captures a more rugged, authentic feeling. I enjoy Keira Knightly’s understated performance of Lizzie Bennet. But, I think my favourite part is the wonderful English countryside.
Give me a Regency era dress, a book, and some rolling English hills and I’d be set for life.

Honorable Mention: Bride and Prejudice!

 

The Magicians (TV series)

This is actually the first adaptation where I like the adaptation better than the actual book. I read about 85% of The Magicians before I finally gave up. Now, this isn’t a review of the book, but of the show. I’ve watched it from the beginning and I’ve consistently enjoyed it. The plot deviates quite a bit from the book, but I actually like where the show went compared to the book. I actually care about the characters in the TV series, where I didn’t care about them in the book. I think that says something.

 

Anne of Green Gables (1985)

I mentioned earlier that the most recent adaptation of Anne Shirley’s adventures in Avonlea has left me disappointed, but the 1985 mini-series is an absolute gem. I grew up reading Anne of Green Gables and I still pick up the books if I need a literary breath of fresh air. I am a self-proclaimed Anne purist.
This series follows the story fairly close and Meghan Follows will always be Anne for me. The mini-series captures the whimsical nature of L.M. Montgomery’s books in a way the recent series has not quite managed.

 

Gone Girl

I think I saw the movie before I read the book (the horror!), but the movie was so good that I really wanted to read it. I loved the book just as much. Rosamund Pike as Amy and Ben Affleck as Nick are perfectly cast. This is one movie that I actually like Ben Affleck in. The atmosphere of the movie matches the book wonderfully and makes up for a simplified plot. Though what they can fit in the movie works well for the format.

 

These are a bunch of my favourites, but what are some of your favourite movie/TV book adaptations? Let me know in the comments!

3 Things that Inspired my WIP

For the last ~6 years, I’ve been working on a novel (sometimes more actively than other times), and I’ve lost track of how many drafts it’s gone through. But, this book wasn’t born in a vacuum, and I’ve been inspired by quite a few different media.

Here are the top 3 things that inspired my novel.

Spirited Away (Film by Studio Ghibli)

ghibli_howlsdvdsleeve2

Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro Ogino, a sullen 10-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighborhood, enters the spirit world. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba, Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba’s bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world.

I’ve been a lover of Studio Ghibli movies since I was a child. Spirited Away is my absolute favourite and the first inspiration for my novel. If you read my most recent draft, you can pinpoint a few key elements that have made it through all the drafts that are directly drawn from this movie.
If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it.

 

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

by Emily Croy Barker

the thinking womans guide

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.
Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her “real life” against the dangerous power of love and magic.

As I was working on the very rough first draft of my WIP, I discovered this book at my local bookstore. When I read the back cover, I knew I had to read this. It was the portal fantasy I had to read! It was just similar enough to my own work that it gave me a sprinkle of inspiration, especially how to handle the going through and coming from the portal.

 

Pstereo by Emilie Nicolas (music video)

I can’t even remember when I discovered this song. But when I saw the music video, the imagery just spoke to me. I’d already had this idea for my WIP, but this helped me visualize it and gave me some much-needed inspiration. And it’s a great song to boot.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, and these are not the only things that have influenced my work, but they are the most impactful.

 

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Top 5 Amazing Bookworms (Fictional & Real)

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.
– C.S. Lewis

I am a self-proclaimed bookworm. Real life prevents me from reading as much as I want to. Recently, I wrote a post about how reading is my escape from reality and I know I’m not alone.

Here are my top 5 favourite bookworms from fiction and real life:

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)

hermioneThis Harry Potter character has been a kindred spirit since I first discovered J.K. Rowling’s world. We’re both a little intense, want to follow the rules but willing to break them for good reason, and we both love reading. I just wish I could have her work ethic.

 

Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

Belle is also my favourite Disney princess (brunette power!) She uses reading to escape her provincial life (especially so in the 2017 version). Girl, same. Her love of reading allows her to have more empathy. And when she sings: I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I just feel it to my core.

 

L.M. Montgomery

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As a Canadian (especially a female), Anne of Green Gables is written into my DNA. As much as I always felt Anne Shirley is a kindred spirit, her author is also someone I relate to greatly. Her early life was tough (losing her mother and her father basically abandoning her), and sometimes she was the only child in her home. She found solace in her imagination and books. As someone who’s had more than enough time alone, books are friends that will never leave you.

 

Matilda (Matilda by Roald Dahl)

To me, Mara Wilson will always be Matilda. I will admit I watched the movie before reading the book. Matilda’s gumption and desire to learn is so inspiring. I was lucky to have a mother who took me and my little sister to the library when we were children. If only reading books gave one the power to move things with one’s mind.

 

Queen Elizabeth I

queen-elizabeth-1

Queen Elizabeth I has been a favourite historical figure of mine for a long time. As a royal, she had access to an amazing education (especially for women of that time). She was very well-read (in multiple languages) and translated Classic works into English. She also slayed as a monarch!

 

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Top 5 Favourite Books This Year (so far)

It’s July, over half-way through 2018 and so far this year I’ve read 20 books (according to my 50 Book Pledge where I track my reading).

I’m terrible at picking one favourite. The question: what’s your favourite book? terrifies me. But, I can easily point to a few that I’ve liked more than others.

Here’s my top five (in no particular order).

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters
The WonderI discovered Emma Donoghue by reading Room, which was amazing as well. The Wonder was on my TBR list for a while and I was excited to find it in a used bookstore.
The Wonder is such an interesting story. The characters are so real and the setting is unlike anything I’d read before.
There’s mystery, intrigue, and just enough of a twist near the end. The book has a happy ending, but not in a cheesy sort of way.

 

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

the snow childThis was one of those books that got me just from the cover. It also happens to be my exact cup of tea: a fairy tale-esque story with just the right amount of magic sprinkled in, so subtle that it blends with the environment.
Again, the characters were a big draw for me. All I wanted to know was what happened next.
This is the perfect book to read in the winter, to warm your heart and steel yourself for the long cold.

 

 

Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

31bdysyonpL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This book was recommended by Our Shared Shelf, Emma Watson’s book club. I bought the Kindle edition and devoured it in about two days.
This book is food for the soul with its beautiful poetic prose and thoughtful subject matter. It’s a memoir, so things get heavy, but never in a way that is too much.
Mailhot’s work speaks to me in ways that I can’t put into coherent words.

 

 

 

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

the little paris bookshopI actually listened to the audiobook version of this before I bought a physical copy. It took me a couple minutes to get into it, but then I was enchanted. Novels about books are some of my sweetest treasures. I’m a big fan of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, and this book is nothing like that, but still very good.
It’s lyrical and warm prose mixed with a heartwarming yet tragic story. The characters were eccentric, funny, and a little sad.
When I finished, I felt like I’d taken a warm bath.

 

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Amazon | Goodreads | Chapters

the girl in the towerThis is the sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale, which I read after I bought the beautiful British edition on a trip. I’d been looking forward to this and it didn’t disappoint one bit. It was like going for coffee with an old friend.
Like The Snow Child, Arden draws inspiration from Russian folktales and weaves them effortlessly into the very real medieval Moscow.
I await the next book eagerly!

 

 

 

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