Top Ten Tuesday: Books with sensory memories

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Today’s theme was submitted by Jessica at A Cocoon of Books. It’s an interesting and unique theme: books with sensory reading memories (where I was, what time of year it was, who I was with, what I was eating, etc.) At first, I thought I’d have trouble with this theme, but then the memories just started rolling in.

  • Honestly, I remember little to nothing about What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones. I read it in the summer after seventh grade (2003) and Far Away by Staind was super popular. I remember that it came on the radio while I was reading and now every time I hear that song, I think about this book.
  • I remember that it was hot as all heck when I read Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.
  • I read Room by Emma Donoghue in an airport when I arrived five hours early for my flight because I am an anxious person and for some reason, I was just convinced that the plane was going to leave without me.
  • I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett in an airport amid a blizzard as my flight was delayed one hour… then two hours… then three hours… then four hours…
  • Some backstory: back in 2013, I lived in a more or less abandoned area of town in a huge house that had been converted into multiple apartments. The house was actually pretty nice but it had five doors. As I mentioned, I am an incredibly anxious person and was therefore always checking to make sure all five doors were locked. It didn’t help that this apartment was like a quarter mile from this super seedy motel where actual murders had happened. My boyfriend had to go to New Mexico for like two months for work and I made the brilliant decision to read Gone Girl while alone in the house.
  • I read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher on the last shift of my last college job. RIP jobs that paid me to read. I did not take advantage of it nearly enough.
  • I read Lovers Like Us by Krista & Becca Ritchie in the guest room of my mom’s house and felt suuuuper awkward about it.
  • I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green right after my boyfriend moved halfway across the country. Honestly, it was probably not the ideal time to read a sad book like that because I remember sobbing like crazy. I don’t usually cry when reading!
  • In 2011, I had a job that I absolutely loved tutoring high school kids after school. I made a lot of really great friends and I hope that I made a difference in those kids’ lives. I was in my senior year of college and it was our spring break when I read the entire Hunger Games trilogy over the course of a weekend (plus Monday morning). I wasn’t really paying attention to the fact that it was not actually the kids’ spring break, so I went to the high school a total zombie. I told all my kids to read it.
  • I was so excited when Infini by Krista & Becca Ritchie finally came out. It’s probably my favorite book that they’ve ever written and Luka is one of my all-time favorite characters. I was anticipating it so much that I considered taking a day off work to read it. I ended up not doing that because I couldn’t justify it, but then I woke up with a horrible cold the morning after it came out. I never get sick! I ended up taking a sick day and reading most of the book while trying (and generally failing) to breathe.

Honestly, I could keep going! I have sensory memories about so many books, but I’ll stop here. Do you ever get transported right back to where you were, what was going on in your life, or the people you were with when you read a particular book?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I want my future children to read

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Today’s theme is ten books I want my future children to read and rather than write about the various board books that I’ve read to my nephew and my friends’ children, or write about the middle grade books I loved back in the day, I thought I’d talk about ten issue-driven YA novels that would help expand their horizons without being too preachy.

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If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo: A reminder that something as simple as using the correct pronouns and treating someone like a human being can make all the difference.
What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler: A reminder to speak up – especially when it’s hard – if you see something that shouldn’t be happening.
The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson: A reminder that not all members of a region or a religion are the same and to keep an open mind.

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The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin: A reminder that it’s okay to fail as long as you pick yourself back up and keep going.
The List by Siobhan Vivian: A reminder that words and jokes can hurt and to be careful with what you say.

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Cherry by Lindsey Rosin: A reminder that it’s okay to do what you want with your own body as long as everything is consensual and you’re being safe.
A List of Cages by Robin Roe: A reminder to always be kind because you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: A reminder that racism is alive and well in this country and it’s up to us to consciously fight it.

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Made You Up by Francesca Zappia: A reminder to actively fight the mental illness stigma rather than feeding into it.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: A reminder that teenage girls are strong and powerful and can do anything that they set their minds to.

If you had to choose ten books that you’d want to pass along to your future children, what would they be?

Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations for people who want to get into YA

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  The topics are officially back, and this week is all about book recommendations.  The actual theme is ten book recommendations for _____, and I decided to go with ten book recommendations for people who want to get into YA.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why adults read YA.  For me, it’s an escape from the everyday realities of my adult life – work, bills, conflict – but the genre has also evolved from when I was within the target demographic.  For the most part, the genre has grown out of its former boy drama stereotype and branched out into much more varied stories.

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If you follow YA at all, you’ve probably seen a lot of hype surrounding Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.  It’s a poetically written, character-driven story about two polar opposites who become friends and grow into better people.

Similarly, Morgan Matson’s books always get a fair bit of hype, and with good reason.  She crafts realistic characters who face real-world problems in an age-appropriate way – something that used to be almost unheard of in YA.  In Since You’ve Been Gone, Emily’s best friend has disappeared without a trace, leaving her only a list of thirteen tasks to complete before summer ends.

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An author that (almost) always does the genre justice is Libba Bray.  I’ve been a huge fan of hers for over a decade now, and I continue to read everything that she publishes.

In Beauty Queens, Bray delivers a story focused on a group of teenage beauty pageant contestants that have been stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash.  The diverse cast uses their combined talents to survive while simultaneously dismantling the patriarchy.

Changing styles completely, Bray’s Lair of Dreams follows a psychic flapper and her oddball group of friends through 1920′s New York City as they solve mysteries and fight stereotypes.  This spooky series is ongoing, with the third book publishing later this year.

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The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr, a young girl who witnesses police shooting (and killing) her unarmed friend, and the fallout from friends, family, and the media.  In addition to police brutality, it discusses the demonization of victims and the realities of being a young POC in the United States.  Somehow, Thomas does this without ever once sounding preachy.

By now, Red Rising is a few years old, and you’ve probably either read it or decided that you’re over the hype.  On the off chance that you haven’t, let me tell you about this wonderful story.  This intricately built world features a number of castes and a protagonist who attempts to dismantle the system from within. It’s rare for dystopian YA to feel new, but Pierce Brown has created an incredible world.

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David Levithan is a pretty ubiquitous YA author, and his books rarely disappoint.  The best in recent memory is his collaboration with Nina LaCour, You Know Me Well. Stepping aside from the typical romance plot, Levithan and LaCour build a beautiful friendship between two strangers struggling with their own problems.

With a host of taboo topics, The Death of Bees easily steps away from what you might expect from YA.  This is a dark, twisted, creepy story about the powerful relationship between two sisters, and everything that the older sister would do to keep the younger one safe.  Tackling topics such as drug abuse, dead parents, and prostitution, it’s not for the squeamish, but it’s so worth it if you’re willing to take a chance.

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Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On is unlike anything I’ve ever read.  It’s based on the world of Simon Snow, a Harry Potter-esque character from Rowell’s Fangirl, and Simon’s rival-slash-love interest, Baz.  Simon and Baz put their differences aside to fight some evil monsters, and somehow, at the same time, fall in love.

My Lady Jane is based on the true story of Lady Jane Grey.  The authors take a lot of creative liberties with Jane’s life, involving shapeshifters and a bunch of Monty Python-style references, to create a hilarious retelling of the events that led to England’s Nine Day Queen.

And here we have the top three books I read in May 2015!

Just a Little Kiss | Renita Pizzitola: I’ve loved all of the books I’ve read by Renita Pizzitola, so it’s no surprise that Just a Little Kiss is on my list of May favorites.  There’s something about her books that feels so lifelike.  This one made me wish that I lived in that tiny beach town and could find someone like Mason.

In the Unlikely Event | Judy Blume: Even after all these years, Judy Blume still has it.  I haven’t posted a review for this gem yet, mostly because I’m still trying to sort out my thoughts.  One quick thing – as someone who lives in New Jersey and has been to Elizabeth several times, it was so weird and also cool to read a book set there.

Beauty Queens | Libba Bray: Put this one on top of my favorite books of all time list.  Libba Bray can do no wrong in my mind, and Beauty Queens is yet another awesome story, just as I’d expect from her.  Somehow she manages to be hilarious while also surreptitiously educating teenage girls on the importance of feminism.

Did any books you read last month stand out?