Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Reads

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is a Halloween freebie. I rarely read scary stories or watch scary movies. I avoid anything horror or paranormal and I hate gore. I’m more of a realistic contemporary kind of reader, although lately I’ve been enjoying magical realism and poetry as well. I do enjoy a good suspense-filled mystery, however. As such, this list features books that are mysterious or creepy or subtly scary — perfect October reads.

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1. The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle: The Accident Season is a strange, lyrical, atmospheric novel. Cara’s family is cursed: they become accident-prone every October, and family members have even died in the past. Cara is determined to find answers. The book culminates in a Halloween party, the Black Cat and Whiskey Moon Masquerade Ball. Read my full review here.

Yovanoff Paper Valentine

2. Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff: Ghosts and murder: Hannah is being haunted by the ghost of her best friend who died from anorexia. Oh, and someone is on the loose killing girls in her small town. What I love about this book is that it’s difficult to assign to one genre. Yes, it has mystery and suspense that keep you wanting to find out what happens next. However, it’s also full of interesting and complex characters, so many well-written and quotable passages, and a multitude of insights about love, death, guilt, relationships, and imperfection.

3 & 4. Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man/Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls by Wendelin van Draanen: Sammy Keyes was such a fun series to read. I remember getting the very first book at a Scholastic Book Fair back in elementary school. The Skeleton Man is the first one I read in the series, so for that reason it stands out. But The Night of Skulls is great, too: graveyards, undertakers, and death rites abound.

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5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling: While of course all the Harry Potter books have witches and goblins, magic spells and ghosts, and all manner of Halloween-related things, this one out of all seven makes me think of Halloween the most. It must be the introduction of Dementors, those horrible cloaked figures; an escaped “mass murderer” on the loose; Trelawney’s talk of the Grim and the sightings of the black dog; and the whole werewolf situation. Plus Hagrid’s giant pumpkins. Definitely the pumpkins.

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6. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma: I once saw this book described as “Orange is the New Black Swan” and I think that is a very apt description. It is dark, disturbing, and creepy. It alternates between the cutthroat world of ballet and the strange events at a juvenile detention centre. I don’t even know what genre it could be considered; it has elements of horror, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, and more.

Moriarty The ghosts of ashbury high

7. The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty: This is probably the most humourous pick on this list of “spooky Halloween” reads. Chock-full of Jaclyn Moriarty’s signature humour and quirky writing, it features possible ghosts haunting the school, mysterious new students with unsettling pasts, and gothic writing assignments.

Hannah Of scars and stardust

8. Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah: A younger sister who is attacked. An unsolved mystery. Obsessions and myths. Creepy cornfields in a small town. The howling of wolves – wolves that the main character believes were her sister’s attackers. Wolves that may strike again.

Happy Halloween everyone!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Sensory Reading Memories

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Although this week’s topic is top ten villains, I’m returning to a previous topic that I missed the first time around: books with sensory reading memories. This topic is such an interesting and unique one, so I knew I had to write about it at some point. I am the type of person who can remember what I was wearing on my first day of grade nine. I know what year and with whom I watched a certain movie. I can listen to songs from high school and be instantly brought back to a certain memory. So here are a couple books that I strongly associate with certain memories!

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The Grooming of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

This is the first book I ever read in the Alice series, and I then went on to read the rest of the series. It had initially jumped out at me at the library because I had the exact butterfly shirt from the Gap that the girl on the cover was wearing (haha). I remember reading this on a blisteringly hot evening during the summer between grades 4 and 5. My mom was on one end of the couch with a book, and I was on the other, wearing a giant baggy t-shirt and sipping a strawberry smoothie, with my feet in a bucket of ice cold water to try to cool down.

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Multiple Choice by Janet Tashjian

I picked this one out of a bin at summer camp when we had half an hour of free reading time after lunch. My friend was trying to read another book, but I read out the first lines of mine to her: “I wish my brain were a toaster. That way I could use it when I wanted to, and when I was done, I could pull the plug and shut it off.” (Don’t we all?) She was hooked, so she tossed her book aside and we read it simultaneously. I remember thinking it was fun to read a book with someone, but also a little stressful: I didn’t want to read the page too fast and then have to wait for my friend to finish before turning the page, but I also didn’t want to have to rush to keep up with my friend. Oh, the irony of obsessing over this while reading a book about a girl with OCD…

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Crank by Ellen Hopkins

It was Friday night and my 13th birthday party. I was supposed to be out celebrating, but near the end of the school day, I started to feel sick. Turns out I was coming down with the flu. My mom had to call all my friends and cancel. So, instead of eating pizza and cake and watching a movie with my friends, I spent the night at home on the couch, reading this book. Poor me.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

I was reading this in bed during the fall of grade three, and I remember having a huge bruise on my head. Back then, I was a bit clumsy and accident-prone, it seemed. One day after school, I had been playing on the playground. I turned around quickly, not realizing a wooden post was right behind me, and smacked my head into it. The bump on the side of my forehead swelled out into an egg shape immediately, and I could see my friend trying not to laugh at what it looked like. So all of this is to say that I remember having a big, painful bruise on my head while reading this book, and I could only lie certain ways on my pillow, and the world of Hogwarts was a wonderful distraction from it all.

What books do you strongly associate with certain memories in your life? Can you remember what you were doing or what was going on in your life when reading a certain book?

Throwback Thursday: My First Teen Reads

I was thinking about Throwback Thursdays and nostalgia and some of the teen books I read back in late elementary school and early high school, and then I thought, why don’t I combine those topics into a blog post? So here are some of the very first teen books I remember checking out, when I first ventured into the teen section of my local library. (I hope this doesn’t date me too much!)

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen
(originally published May 1, 1998)

Sarah Dessen’s second novel! My first introduction to Sarah Dessen, the queen of young adult novels. I loved this and her first book, That Summer. I’m pretty sure I read them when I was in grade six, and then the movie How to Deal came out, which starred Mandy Moore and was based on Someone Like You and That Summer. I loved that too, and I actually still own the DVD. The first picture was the original cover when I read it; how covers have changed!

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What’s in a Name by Ellen Wittlinger
(originally published March 1, 2000)

The residents of Scrub Harbor are caught in a war about the name of the town: some want to change it and some want to keep it the same. With this as the backdrop, diverse teens in the town narrate their own chapter while exploring questions like who they are, what identity is, and, of course, what’s in a name.

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Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
(originally published August 28, 2001)

Ah, the funny, smart, observant, cynical character of Jessica Darling. Her journals chronicle her life at high school after her best friend moves away, her encounters with the popular girls, and the indescribable Marcus Flutie. Her sarcastic remarks and observations elevate this above your average YA novel.

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Love and Other Four-Letter Words by Carolyn Mackler
(originally published January 2002)

To be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot about this book. I think it deals with all the typical teen novel themes: family, divorce, friendship, crushes, growing up, and change. But I remember loving it when I read it way back in the day. And for some reason, it stands out as one of the very, very first books I ever checked out from the teen section. Because of that, it has to have a place on this list!

California Diaries by Ann M. Martin
(originally published starting in 1997)

This series was a spin-off of The Baby-sitters Club, in which Dawn moves back to California and reunites with her friends Sunny, Maggie, Amalia, and Ducky. All the students at school have to keep a journal, so each book in the series is the journal of a different character in the group. California Diaries was much edgier than The Baby-sitters Club, dealing with issues like anorexia, teen partying and drinking, and a parent dying of cancer. Someone attempts suicide; someone else is the victim of a hate crime; another deals with an abusive boyfriend. In other words, the series tackles some pretty heavy issues. At the time, I remember thinking California Diaries was much cooler and more scandalous than The BSC, and I felt kind of cool and adult for reading them. I don’t actually know if the series is considered teen fiction or children’s fiction. The characters are 13 years old (except for Ducky, who is 16), so they’re kind of on the cusp.

Did you read any of these back in the day? What were your first teen reads?

Review: The Accident Season

fowley-doyle-accident-seasonTitle: The Accident Season

Author: Moira Fowley-Doyle

Published: August 18, 2015

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

A few months ago, the Top Ten Tuesday topic was “Books Set Outside the US” (see my post here). As The Accident Season takes places in Ireland, many bloggers included it on their lists and ranted and raved about it. I had never heard of it before. But then a few days later I was at the library, and it jumped out at me on the shelves, even though I’d never seen it before. I decided I had to get it and read it, and I’m so glad I did!

The Accident Season is such an original and lovely book. It’s creepy and magical and strange and imaginative. There are tarot cards and lots of whiskey and an abandoned ghost house. There are secrets and accidents and changelings. There are dreamcatchers hanging from trees, and messages typed on typewriters and displayed around the room. The whole thing is so atmospheric, if that’s the right word. Everything, from the style of writing to the plot to the objects and the characters, contributes to a strange and haunting sort of mood.

I loved the idea of the secrets booth set up at school, where students typed up their secrets in private on a typewriter and put them in a box. Then all the secrets are displayed in a room. I think that would be such a cool thing to view, and to see all these anonymous secrets and confessions that you maybe relate to.

October is the perfect month for this book to be set during – October with its black cats and witches and creepy happenings. The whole book is leading up to a Halloween party set in an abandoned mansion, appropriately named the Black Cat and Whiskey Moon Masquerade Ball.

I’ve been reading a lot of magical realism books this year, and I’m so glad this was one of them. I would highly recommend it.

Favourite Quotes:

“Accidents happen. Our bones shatter, our skin splits, our hearts break. We burn, we drown, we stay alive.”

“We bite back the things we can’t say and we cushion every surface for the inevitable moment when they all come fighting out.”

“There are no ghosts; only the dust in the light, our breath and the wind in the quiet, and the feeling that something, or a lot of somethings, are watching us. So maybe there are ghosts after all.”

“So let’s raise our glasses to the accident season,
To the river beneath us where we sink our souls,

To the bruises and secrets, to the ghosts in the ceiling,
One more drink for the watery road.”

You might also like: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 80s Movies

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a movie freebie, so I decided to go with my favourite 80s movies, plus a few I still want to see. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with watching 80s movies, particularly John Hughes and the Brat Pack ones. Now, I just finished watching Stranger Things and, with all its homages and references to 80s movies, it reminded me again of why I liked watching them and why 80s movies are some of my favourites.

1. The Breakfast Club: I love books or movies or other media that take a quirky, diverse group of characters and throw them together in a situation. As they talk to and hang out with people they might never have associated with, tensions rise, secrets are revealed, and unexpected connections and friendships are forged. Bonus points if the characters are confined to a single room or location, because that really ramps up the conflict! The Breakfast Club is equal parts hilarious and touching, and I’ve loved it since the first time I watched it.

Favourite quote: “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”

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2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: This movie is such a fun ride, with so many memorable scenes and funny quotes. Who wouldn’t want to play hooky with Ferris and Cameron?

Favourite quote: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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3. Stand By Me: Based on a Stephen King novella, four 12-year-old friends set out to find the body of a missing boy. I think it is one of the best coming-of-age movies of all time. It’s nostalgic and emotional, and it’s also hilarious and truthful in its portrayal of the kind of friends you have at twelve, the kind of friends that bicker with each other but also fiercely stand up for one another. I sometimes get a little teary watching it, and the ending is made even more sad knowing about the untimely death of River Phoenix.

Favourite quote: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

 

4. A Christmas Story: This is also one of my favourite Christmas movies. It’s about a boy who wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but I like it because it’s more of a coming-of-age movie (can you tell I love coming-of-age stories?). It has so many funny and relatable scenes: Ralphie’s friend getting dared to touch a pole with his tongue and then getting stuck, Ralphie finally snapping and beating up the bully, the leg lamp, and Ralphie letting loose an F-bomb while helping his dad and then being terrified of the consequences.

5. Pretty in Pink: A classic Molly Ringwald/John Hughes/Brat Pack movie. I don’t think a list of 80s movies is complete without it.

Favourite quote: “It’s called a sense of humour. You should get one. They’re nice.”

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6. Sixteen Candles: Another classic Molly Ringwald/John Hughes movie filled with classic teen angst.

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Some 80s movies I still need to see:

7. The Goonies: This has been on my to-watch list for so long! There are similarities with Stand By Me, and now many are comparing it to Stranger Things as well. I just have to watch it.

8. When Harry Met Sally…: I can’t believe I haven’t actually watched this classic from beginning to end. I mean, I know about it, I’ve seen random clips, I know about the infamous diner scene. I’ve just never sat down and watched it.

9. St. Elmo’s Fire: As it says on imdb, “A group of friends, just out of college, struggle with adulthood.” I can certainly relate to this, and it has many of the Brat Pack actors and actresses.

 

Update

Wow, I have not posted in three months! Things kicked into high gear in August and have stayed pretty busy since. Lots of interesting and exciting things have been happening, so I haven’t been able to do as much reading and writing as I might have wanted.

I started a couple new jobs, one of which has some brutal 7am starts. It’s hard to feel creative and inspired to write when you’re sleep-deprived and going around like a zombie.

I have not read many books these last few months, which I’m kind of sad about. I did finish The Accident Season a while ago, though, so I’m going to post a review for that. I also have a few reviews pending for books I finished much earlier this year. Right now I’m re-reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Harry Potter books are often my go-to when I want to read something but am too distracted to start something new. When I finish this 6th one again, hopefully I will have a post on it for my re-reading Harry Potter blog series.

Coming up is the 7th annual Broke and Bookish Secret Santa. I’d never heard of it before, but I definitely want to participate this year! It sounds really cool and I’m excited.

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Happy reading!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set During the Summer

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Books with X Setting.” I decided to go with a summertime setting. At first I was debating doing books set at summer camp or at a beach house or by the ocean, but what they all have in common is that they’re set during the summer.

What is it about books and summertime settings that seem to go so well together? There’s something about the freedom from studying and annoying teachers and locker drama and finding someone to sit with at lunch. The longer days, the sleeping-in, the late nights or all-nighters. You’re free to have new experiences, meet new people, travel, and figure out who you are. These books capture those summers where anything can and does happen, when you start to see things – or people – differently, when you go outside your comfort zone.

The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen: Sarah Dessen is the queen of summer YA novels. I could have chosen a number of her novels, but I decided on this one. It’s a summer of change and discovery for Macy, featuring romance, quirky workers and the chaos of catering jobs, and dealing with grief.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares: Another ultimate summer read. Four friends spend their summer apart – one in Greece, one in Baja California, one in South Carolina, and one at home – experiencing love and loss, staying connected through their magical pair of jeans.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han: Belly spends her summers at a beach house with her family and family friends Susannah, Jeremiah, and Conrad. But this particular summer is different: she starts to see things differently – and maybe Jeremiah and Conrad start to see her differently too. A cute, sweet read.

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler: Jude Hernandez is spending her summer helping her dad restore his motorcycle and trying to avoid the charming Vargas brothers. There’s a sweet romance, three-dimensional characters, and lots of emotional moments involving family, memory, and her dad’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson: A sad, realistic novel about a girl who is dealing with her dad’s diagnosis and grief, while also navigating relationships with her former best friend and former boyfriend, and learning how to be confident and not run away from everything.

Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson: Three totally different girls spend their summer working at a peach farm in Georgia. Full of friendship, vignettes about the girls’ family and history of the town, and a little bit of magic.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: The synopsis states: “A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth.” And if you haven’t read it, that’s all you need to know, don’t read anything else about it, just read the book.

The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy: Three sisters encounter crushes, heartbreak, bullying, sneaking out, and other shenanigans at summer camp. Ultimately it’s about the bond between sisters.

 

Do you like books set during summer? What other settings do you like? Leave me a comment 🙂