T is for (Books About) Twists #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

It’s a challenge to do a book with a good twist. The author has to insert clues into the story so that it’s not out of nowhere, but be cagey enough to fool most people so that when the twist comes, their minds are blown. Here are some books with twists I didn’t see coming.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (thriller): Show of hands, is there anyone who isn’t familiar with either the book or movie? Unreliable narrators have to be really well done for me to buy it, and with this one, I was fooled, in the best possible way. There were several twists in this book, and each one left me gasping. If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend it. Even if you know what happens, seeing it unfold in the book is masterful.

The Woman In the Window, by AJ Finn (thriller): I usually HATE books with the drunk main character who can’t remember what she did unreliable narrator. I only read it because my friend, Ramona, recommended it to me, and she has the skill of knowing what other people will like. This book seemed like exactly that book for the first half, and I was losing faith. After the big twist comes, I could literally not put this book down. My adulting ended for the day.

My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult (contemporary): Anna has been a donor for her sister Kate her entire life. Kate is diagnosed with leukemia, and Anna is a perfect match. When Kate needs a kidney, Anna refuses and gets a lawyer to petition for medical emancipation so she can make her own decisions about her body. The book presents some interesting ethical dilemmas (which I always love) and presents a series of thought-provoking twists at the end. This is a great discussion book.

The Westing Game, by Ellen Rankin (YA): My teacher read this to our 6th grade class, and because the main character, Turtle Wexler, liked to kick boys, I somehow got the nickname “Turtle.” It didn’t stick, but it’s the reason I now collect turtles. It’s a mystery about Mr. Westing, a rich man who died and left his fortune to whoever can solve his riddle. I remember being shocked by the twist at the end.

What books with twists do you recommend?

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S is for (Books About) Suicide #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about suicide and suicidal thoughts. I love that the topic is getting more interest, that books and movies are generating more conversations about it. I don’t love that a lot of the information out there is false. Here are my thoughts on a few books on the topic.

Why People Die By Suicide, by Thomas Joiner (psychology): After his father committed suicide, Thomas Joiner set out to learn all he could about the topic. This book is accessible to people even without a background in psychology and mixes research with personal experience. It’s a fantastic and important book.

All The Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven (YA): Theodore and Violet are both struggling with suicidal thoughts. Violet, after the death of her sister, Theodore because of his depression. The two teens fall into a tumultuous relationship. I loved this book because it shows the path that suicidal thoughts can take, how they can grab a person and drag them down. However, this book could be triggering to someone actually struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. It’s fantastic but be cautious about reading it. (Spoiler alert: it’s not a happy ending)

13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher (YA): I debated whether or not to talk about this book because I could devote an entire blog post to it (and maybe I should). As an adult who isn’t struggling with suicidal ideation, I loved it. It’s an entertaining (but dark) read. Previous coworkers who work with teens have said teens have cited this book as a reason they attempted suicide. But let’s be honest… there’s always something that’s going to be the trigger. The two major specific problems with this book are that it made it seem like there’s no point in asking for help, and that suicide is an effective way to revenge yourself on those who’ve wronged you. It’s a good book for insight into the mind of someone contemplating suicide, but I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide. Teens who read it should have someone to discuss and process the book with. I won’t say teens shouldn’t read it because, other than suicide, it touches on topics of bullying and sexual assault, things I think teens need to be encouraged to talk openly about with adults. But… use caution.

So that’s it for me. Are there any books about suicide you’d recommend?

R is for (Books About) Regret #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

We’ve all done things that we regret. I don’t think you can get through life without at least a few. But in some books, regret is an underlying theme that’s so strong it’s almost another character. These are a few of those books.

And The Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich (YA horror): The first time I read this book, I had no idea what was going on, but in the best possible way. It’s told in odd formats, with straightforward text and journal entries. Some parts didn’t entirely make sense, but I went with it and ended up loving the payoff. Silla is an unreliable narrator, and it’s clear she’s regretful about something, but what isn’t clear until the end.

Artemis, by Andy Weir (science fiction): While I didn’t think Artemis was as good as The Martian, I still really enjoyed it. Jasmine is an honest smuggler who gets involved in a huge conspiracy. Throughout the book, she mentions that she needs to make a particular amount of money, and it’s clear that there’s something she wants to make amends for. It was telegraphed pretty well long before the ending, but there were enough surprises along the way to make it an enjoyable ride.

1984, by George Orwell (literary): Winston has purchased an illegal diary and wants to write his thoughts but is consumed by guilt and worry that he’ll be found out. As his rebellion grows, he continues to feel guilty about what he’s doing. The ending is a masterpiece with the Thought Police manipulating him and then using his feelings of regret to keep him prisoner. It’s terrifying.

What are your favorite books about regret?

Q is for (Books About) Quirky Characters #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

I love quirky characters, especially when they feel authentic, not like the author was trying to insert a bunch of quirks just to distinguish Character A from Character B.

The Martian, by Andy Weir (science fiction): Mark Watney is probably one of my all-time favorite characters. When he gets stranded on Mars, he doesn’t let anything get him down for long. He deals with each challenge as they come, cursing a little and keeping his sense of humor. The book does a better job of showing this character’s personality than the movie does (of course), but the movie is still worth watching.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (YA): Full disclosure: I liked the first one better than the second two. If I had to do it all over again, I’d probably stop after the first. But anyway, the first book did something unique in using old photographs and building a book (and characters) around them. Because the children are all peculiar, they’ve developed some quirks which makes them fun to read about.

John Dies At the End by David Wong (?): I’m honestly not sure how to classify this book… maybe science fiction or fantasy? It’s weird though. The movie didn’t do a good job of capturing the awesomeness of the book, but I’m not sure any movie could. David Wong (the narrator of the book) was involved in a huge conspiracy after taking a drug called soy sauce. Weird things happen to him and his friend John, and the way they react to the events is strange and fun. The sequel was as good as the original. If you read it, be warned: some of it probably won’t make sense. And that’s okay.

What are your favorite books about quirky characters?

P is for (Books About) Purpose #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

There are so many good books about purpose that I found it extremely difficult to narrow it down. Because I limited myself to three books for this one, they’re all non-fiction. This will probably be my only exclusively non-fiction list for the whole challenge.

Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl: Dr. Frankl was a Jewish psychotherapist who ended up in a concentration camp during World War II. He talks about what he saw firsthand about the difference between people survived and who didn’t. People who had a purpose survived more often than not. His purpose was finishing this book.

Lucky Man, by Michael J. Fox: Mr. Fox explains that he was in a downward spiral of alcohol abuse when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and the disease made him focus and get serious about living his life. I loved him as an actor, and I appreciated his candor about the good, bad, and ugly in his own life.

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi: This book tore my heart out. It’s a moving book of a doctor who’s diagnosed with terminal cancer but continues his work because he needs that purpose in his life. In the meantime, he also wrote this book to reflect on his life and what it all meant to him. It was lovely and sad.

What books about purpose do you find meaningful?

O is for (Books About) Overcoming #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

Most books, on some level, can be boiled down to a plot about overcoming something. Romances are all about overcoming internal or external barriers to find love. Horror novels are about overcoming the awful thing to survive.

But there are a few books that are more about on overcoming something huge, and so I picked a few to focus on today.

Ice Castles, by Leonore Fleischer (YA before YA was a thing?): Lexie wants to be a figure skater more than anything, but she doesn’t have much money, and she’s “too old” to train. When she gets an opportunity to get the training she’s wanted, she goes for it. But when a freak accident threatens to stop her from reaching her dreams, she needs to call on every bit of strength she has to overcome the odds against her. I read it as a teenager and was inspired by Lexie’s determination. It’s one of my go-to feel-good books, especially if I’m feeling sorry for myself and need a reminder that the only thing holding me back is me. (The movie was good too.)

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury (literary): Montag is a “fireman,” one of the people who burn books. When a woman is ready to die for her book collection, he starts to wonder what’s so special about books, and the first time he opens one, he feels like he’s connected to another world. Montag has to overcome everything he’s been told and then flee from the people who are pursuing him for daring to read. The first time I read this book, I connected to it deeply. I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if someone told me they had to burn all my books. The world Bradbury constructed is terrifying but also feels like something that could happen. I can understand why someone would literally die for their books.

Made You Up, by Francesca Zappia (YA): I’m always hesitant to recommend this book. I loved it, but the main character supposedly has schizophrenia (which I think is wonderful). However, it’s fictional schizophrenia and doesn’t really look the way it would in real life. So if you do read this book (and it’s good if you know it’s complete fiction), please remember it’s not much like real schizophrenia. Anyway… Alex is a high school senior who can’t always tell the difference between fiction and reality. She has to literally overcome the false information her brain is telling her in order to have the life she wants.

Those are my picks. What are your favorite books about overcoming?

N is for (Books About) Nostalgia #atozchallenge

A note for regular readers. I’m going to suspend my updates on book challenges until April is over. I’ll do a summary post for the first Monday in May.

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

I grew up in the 80s and we didn’t have the sense that our weird hairstyles and freaky clothing were anything strange. It seemed normal to layer two pairs of neon socks. I never jumped on the big hair bandwagon, but I did wear the huge glasses for far longer than I should have.

The 80s seem to be one of those time periods that are easy to be nostalgic about. We did have great music, iconic movies, and memorable video games. It’s no wonder that contemporary books go back in time to be set there, and that people love them.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (science fiction): This movie is set in the future, but thanks to a massive multiplayer video game, there are a ton of callbacks to the 80s. Both the book and movie are fabulously fun with tons of references. Even if you lived through it, it’s probably impossible to catch all the references… but it’s fun to try.

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell (YA romance): Eleanor and Park first bond over music and comic books. He lends her his Walkman and a tape of music he thinks she’ll like, like The Smiths. She doodles on her paper bag-covered schoolbooks. It’s a lovely story and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the 80s.

How to Build A Girl, by Caitlin Moran (YA): Okay, technically this was set in 1990, but though times did change, they didn’t change that fast. Johanna wants to remake herself, so she starts writing about music and turns herself into Dolly Wilde. It’s an interesting coming of age novel,

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