Top 4 Netflix Book-to-Movie Adaptations

As Netflix has grown more popular, they have started producing more and more of their own content. Plenty of top ranking shows, movies, and documentaries are Netflix originals. A handful of these are based on best-selling novels, and most of the time they do a pretty solid job bringing these beloved books to life. I have compiled a list of my top four book-to-film adaptations from Netflix which are all very close to my heart.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before—Jenny Han. When I was 14, this was one of my all-time favorite books, but I had forgotten about it as I got older. As soon as I heard Netflix was coming out with a movie adaptation of it, it immediately jogged my memory and I couldn’t wait.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, it is about a girl named Lara Jean who wrote five love letters throughout her life, kept them in a box with no intention to mail them. So when they suddenly got out and all the recipients had them, including her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh, Lara Jean freaks out. She decides to fake date a different letter recipient named Peter to throw Josh off, but that doesn’t exactly go as planned—you’ll have to watch to find out why.


Book to movie adaptations are always hit-or-miss, but this one did not disappoint for me. They cast it well because the characters are exactly how I envisioned them, and they truly brought the story to life. I highly recommend this film to any lovers of the books!

All the Bright PlacesJennifer Niven. This novel is definitely a bit heavier than the previously mentioned one, but it is still phenomenal. It’s definitely a tear jerker, but in the best way. If you haven’t read the book, it follows Theodore Finch starting when he finds his classmate, Violet Markey, about to jump off a roof. He doesn’t know her very well but decides to befriend her anyway, making a silent pack to himself that he won’t let her struggle alone. As he is dealing with his own mental health issues, this is something he hopes will help him, too. It’s a beautifully written story, but I definitely recommend reading it alone (unless you don’t mind people seeing you sob uncontrollably).


Netflix did a great job bringing it to life as a film—it’s a great blend of tragic and heartwarming, and is sure to tug on your heartstrings. Whether you loved the book or just prefer to watch movies, I recommend getting cozy with a box of tissues and putting this one on.

1922—Stephen King. This one is for the horror/suspense junkies out there. This novella is quite different from the previous two books on this list, but the film adaptation is pretty solid and very underrated. The story follows a farmer named Wilfred who kills his wife—and gets his son in on it—in order to avoid having to sell his land. After this happens, weird things begin to happen around the farm, most of them unexplainable.
The film adaptation came out in 2017, which was a big year for King, so naturally this one was swept under the rug a bit more. That being said, the film does bring certain aspects of the novella to life and the story is very interesting. If you’re a fan of King and a fan of supernatural horror stories, this movie should definitely be included in your scary movie marathon.

Let it Snow—John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson. When I was in middle school, I went on a John Green kick, much like a lot of people my age. In doing so, I stumbled upon this masterpiece of a story. This is one of my favorite holiday stories and when I saw they were making a movie out of it, I freaked.


If you’re not familiar with the novel, it follows three different main characters in the same town as they handle various decisions. Without giving too much away, we have best friends who may or may not have feelings for each other, a celebrity encounter, and a girl dealing with a breakup. These stories all take place simultaneously around the holiday season—I mean, what more could you ask for?!
Netflix turned this novel into a film last year and despite some small changes, I absolutely loved it. I felt that the changes really added to the story and the actors were perfectly chosen. It really is an adorable film and sure to put you in the holiday spirit (so maybe save this one for after Thanksgiving).

Book Review

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

Publisher: Atria/ Emily Bestler Books
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Buy Local
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

Dear Emmie Blue tells the story of Emmeline Blue as her life falls to pieces. When she was 16, Emmie released a balloon with a secret written on it, only for it to wash up on a distant shore and introduce her to her best friend, Lucas. Now in her twenties, she is hopelessly and irretrievably in love with Lucas, and thinks he is finally going to ask her out—only for him to announce that he is getting married. To make matters worse, Lucas wants Emmie to be his “best woman,” prolonging and magnifying her anguish. From her dead-end job, distant mother, and aloof landlady, Lucas’s engagement is the last straw for Emmie.

Despite all the loneliness and heartache, however, wonderful things are in store for Emmie Blue. Lia Louis’ novel pays homage to the idea that life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, and reminds us that unexpectedly wonderful things could be waiting just around the corner.

Thoughts

I don’t know about you, but this year has been a doozy for me. This was a book that I desperately needed to help me cope with this unpredictable—and sometimes depressing—world we’re living in. This might seem to be an odd sentiment, given that Emmie faces heartbreak and calamity for a decent portion of the book. I would argue, though, that a book with a certain amount of despair is fitting, given the current state of things (so long as all ends well). While Louis undoubtedly forces the reader to empathize with the protagonist, there is a certain hope found in seeing a character continue pressing on, even when things look bleak.

I think a great deal of charm in this novel comes from Emmie Blue herself. She manages to be strong and fragile, resilient and weary, all at once. More so than this, you truly feel for her throughout the book. Especially when she divulges the details of a sexual assault in her youth, and wrestles with her broken relationship with her parents, you can’t help but root for her. It’s hard to not be in Emmie’s corner, especially concerning her relationship with Lucas—a kismet meeting if ever there was one. Both Emmie and us as the reader see these two as so obviously destined to be together, and it’s beyond frustrating that they aren’t. Even characters that I didn’t find very likable, such as Rosie and Marie, were appreciated insofar as they related to Emmie.

Dear Emmie Blue is an important reminder that life is unpredictable, and that sometimes that’s the best thing about it. If everything stayed the same, there would be no way for things to get better. It’s a cheesy sentiment, sure, but true nevertheless. The only complaint I had about this book comes from the predictability of the ending, but I would argue that even this lends a certain charm—knowing how something ends doesn’t make the journey any less meaningful, right? I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a mental reset, or a reminder that there are sunnier days ahead.


Thank you to Changing Hands Bookstore for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

A Series of Unfortunate Events Ranked

When I was little, my mother bought all 13 books in this series because it was the first series we found to have a character named ‘Violet,’ my sister’s somewhat unusual name. This was what began my love for this series, and I have endlessly consumed the books, movies, and TV shows based on it ever since. From Klaus’ distaste of bread pudding to Violet tying her hair up when inventing, and from Sunny transforming from an infant who loved to bite into a brilliant chef to Lemony Snicket’s endless wit, I love everything about this series. That being said, I love some of the books more than others. Here is my ranked list of every book in the series.


13. The Vile VillageThis book just didn’t do it for me. It was lacking the humor and the storyline, and characters were just not as engaging as the other books on this list. In each of these books, ridiculous and comically unfair things happen; here, it felt like just unfair things happened. It is somewhat of an outlier in the series, both in terms of plot and tone, which is why it ended up near the bottom of the list. Also, the book seems to taunt the audience by naming the town “VFD,” but it isn’t the real VFD we don’t even learn anything about VFD!

12. The Miserable MillAs much as I enjoyed Count Olaf dressing up as Dr. Georgina Orwell, this book just was not as interesting as some of the others. I found the tone depressing, but not in Lemony Snicket’s classic, darkly humorous way. In general, this book felt like filler and it didn’t have much of a real and lasting impact on the broader plot of the novels. Overall, it was not my favorite and was pretty hard to get through without feeling sad.

11. The Slippery SlopeWhat this book is missing is the dynamic between the Baudelaires and their guardians. Though naturally they need to be on their own at some point, as well as the plot needing some diversification, this book lacked many of the elements that make A Series of Unfortunate Events books so wonderful. I also felt like this book dragged on a bit too long, and with the exception of meeting Quigley, it was not as integral to the plot of the series.

10. The Carnivorous CarnivalThis book definitely isn’t bad, but it just isn’t my favorite. I really liked the “freaks” who were really just relatively normal human beings, and I love the sheer absurdity of feeding the Baudelaires to the hungry lions. However, despite these humorous moments, it was simply not as engaging as some of the others, and I did not leave this book desperate to read the next one like I did with the books further up on this list.

9. The EndThough this book is rather sad and I wish things could be different, the ending of the series is fitting. I found it bittersweet to learn the answers to some of the secrets that had plagued the Baudelaires since the beginning of the series. Part of the fun of the books was the thrill of the secrets and reading until late hours in the night hoping to find answers. Secrets were a driving part of the plot, and, while my curiosity was satiated, I was slightly saddened to learn the answers because it meant that the series was over. That being said, it is a good and interesting conclusion to this 13 book series.

8. The Hostile HospitalWe are now getting into the section of this list where I thoroughly enjoyed all of the books listed here. Cutting off Violet’s head is a stroke of genius and Lemony Snicket’s writing perfectly blends humor and horror. The library is also one of the best parts of this book because it makes the mystery of VFD even more intense.

7. The Penultimate PerilThe morality of this book is a lot more gray than some of the earlier ones, with some characters not exclusively good or evil. Though I like this development a lot, it does not lend itself to as much wittiness as the stricter binaries that the earlier books do. My favorite part of this novel is how close we get to unraveling the secrets without actually revealing them. This makes it very intense and engaging. It’s also a stroke of sheer inspiration to organize a hotel based on the Dewey Decimal System!

6. The Bad BeginningThe first book in this series is a classic for a reason. Meeting iconic characters like the Baudelaire orphans, Count Olaf, and Mr. Poe is the reason why this book is number six on the list. It establishes the amazing dichotomy between children and adults, good and evil, and smart and stupid. I really adore how the children need to convince an incompetent adult that Count Olaf is evil. This is not present in some of the later books and it is detrimental to them. Though the plot is not as complex and interesting as some of the later books, it is still amazing, absolutely hilarious, and sets the tone that we all know and love for the rest of the series.

5. The Grim GrottoThis book sets up the ending for the next two books and introduces the newest danger: the Medusoid Mycelium. I also love the mystery of the Question Mark, which only shows up on the radar as a “?.” I’m still angry at the TV series for telling us what the question mark was, because the ominousness of not knowing was why it was so terrifying. Overall, this was an excellent addition to the series and I love the shenanigans—albeit rather frightening ones—that accompany the Baudelaires and Count Olaf on a submarine.

4. The Reptile RoomWho can forget the whole page of “ever?” The Reptile Room is full of wonderfully executed twists and turns, and I adore that it almost reads like a classic mystery novel. Uncle Monty is also one of my favorite adults in the whole series, and his charm is one of the reasons why I love this book as much as I do. This is also the first novel where we get one of Count Olaf’s disguises. The disguises are a hilarious constant throughout the series. When I was reading the series the first time, finding out his latest disguise was always one of my favorite parts to each novel so needless to say, the very first disguise he donned was particularly exciting.

3. The Wide WindowThere is something deliciously hilarious about Count Olaf dressing up as a sailor named Captain Sham and having none of the adults notice his disguise. This book really sets the precedent that the adults either can’t or won’t help the Baudelaires, something that remains constant throughout the series. Thus, in this book, we find the orphans coming into their own. 

2. The Austere AcademyThis was our first introduction to the Quagmires! I absolutely love the Quagmires, and their introduction leads to even more knowledge of VFD and the secret lives of the Baudelaires’ parents. It is also where we first meet Carmelita Spats, who is undoubtedly one of the most hilariously entitled characters that I’ve ever read. The ideas of an “Orphan Shack” and a Vice Principal named Nero who plays the violin are similarly brilliant. Overall, this book is amazing and one of my favorites!

1. The Ersatz ElevatorThis book is my all time favorite! I love the constant fluctuation between what is “in” and “out.” It also exemplifies the narrator’s dark humor and both clever and hilarious writing style.The Ersatz Elevator is also perfectly paced and highly suspenseful and it was honestly difficult to find anything wrong with it. I also love how it introduced us to Esmé Squalor, a recurring character. She adds a lot to Count Olaf’s pretensions of grandeur and their relationship creates two compelling villains for the remainder of the series. This book represents everything that is great about the series!


I hope you enjoyed my ranking of these childhood classics! Feel free to comment your list or to disagree with me in the comments! If you want to purchase any of these books, go here!

Top 5 Subreddits for Book-lovers

Reddit is one of the most popular social media sites in the world because it provides a platform for almost anyone to talk about almost anything. There are subreddits for nearly every mainstream or niche hobby a person could think of—so yes, there are many, many great subreddits for book-lovers. Whatever book related advice, discussion, or personal anecdote you want to discover or share with others, Reddit has a platform for you. I’ve found many great subreddits during my time there. I’m going to share my five favorites, but by all means, feel free to dig into the hundreds of book-related communities Reddit has to offer to find the ones that are best for you!


r/suggestmeabook—This subreddit is essentially what you would expect: a community where you can ask for books suggestions. I’ve used a lot of websites and read many blog posts to find book suggestions in the past. Those were great sources for me when I had a vague idea of what I was looking for. I could read lists about the best new books of the year or best books about a certain topic or time period on blogs much like this one and discover some truly great reads. However, if you have a specific idea of what you’re looking to read next and you’re struggling to find it on a more general platform, r/suggestmeabook is the place to go. If you want “a book set in space with a strong female protagonist, a happy ending and an equally well-written sequel” or “a book with talking animals that isn’t written for children and also includes a healthy family dynamic” or even “a book based on a true story that I can read in a day and will make me cry by the end,” the members of this subreddit will find those books for you. There have been times where the requests are so specific I don’t think anyone could possibly suggest a book that fits all of the criteria, but they do. Every time. Try it out and I promise you won’t be disappointed.


r/shortscarystories— I cannot express how happy I was to discover this subreddit. It is a great subreddit which I encourage you to check out and it is r/shortscarystories is amazing for those of us who enjoy a well written scary story. This subreddit provides a platform for writers of any experience level to share their original scary stories. These stories must be longer than two sentences, but under 500 words, making them the perfect length to read on a lunch break, while waiting in line, or before going to bed (if you’re brave enough). I enjoy this subreddit because it’s a way for me to read stories I otherwise never would. Although they may not all be literary journal worthy, these stories are fun and a great way to fit in some reading time during a busy day.


r/bookshelf—This is yet another subreddit I’m grateful to have discovered. Members of this community post aesthetically pleasing pictures of their bookshelves daily. I love scrolling through new posts and seeing the effort people have put into arranging their shelves or seeing the new additions they’ve made to their collections. These posts range from pictures of expensive vintage collections, to single shelves of brightly colored spines and twinkling lights. Everyone can enjoy the diversity of the reading community through these posts and celebrate each other’s passion for reading. This subreddit is an all-around feel-good community of people sharing what they enjoy so that others can enjoy it, too. What’s not to love?


r/bookclub—Have you ever wanted to start a book club but you can’t get it off the ground? r/bookclub is a great solution to this problem. I enjoy this subreddit because it allows thousands of people to come together and share their thoughts about books. However, I also spend a lot of time in the comment sections of this subreddit because it’s a great place to find users who want to start niche book clubs. Many members will suggest starting book clubs for a certain series they’ve been wanting to read or a book club about a certain social topic they feel is important. r/bookclub is a great place to start when looking for a book club that fits your specific interests, or even for getting your own book club idea off the ground.


r/writingadvice—Although this subreddit is geared towards writers more than readers, there’s a place for all book-lovers in this community. As a writer, I enjoy posting short excerpts of my work to get feedback from other writers. However, even those who love reading but don’t post their own writing are invaluable to this subreddit. As a reader, you can read many great stories from amateur writers and give them your feedback. The perspective of a reader is valuable in the process of making revisions. The r/writingadvice community welcomes anyone who has a passion for good writing regardless of whether you are writing it yourself or just enjoying the work of your peers.

Perfect Imperfections

If Sense and Sensibility were a twenty-first century novel, Marianne would be the heroine, not Elinor. There is no way a woman with perfect composure who never offends anybody would take the spotlight. Marianne always speaks her mind, sometimes to the degree of incivility. She wears her heart on her sleeve and gets it broken. This brings a drastic change in her personality as she adopts discretion for the first time in her life. Elinor, whose perspective we have the most access to, and can therefore be considered the primary character, is politically correct from the beginning. She is fully functional when she’s down in the dumps and low-key patronizes her sister for indulging in a mourning period.

Granted, it’s Jane Austen. But even Thomas Hardy with his candid, earthy writing could not do worse than Bathsheba Everdene in Far from the Madding Crowd, whose only fault is that she dares to run a farm without consulting a man. She is punished for it by being put through a series of toxic relationships that break her spirit and rob her of her independence until, spoiler alert, she finally submits to the man she spurns in the first chapter.

Many of our revered classics—The Picture of Dorian Gray, Anna Karenina and The Great Gatsby for example—were highly controversial when they were first published and received mixed reviews. It had a lot to do with the fact that the main characters sinned repeatedly without obvious remorse, and that readers of that time could not stomach the acres of moral grey area that these fictional worlds presented. One could say that they were ahead of their time, like most great works of art. They paved the way for eminent writers of our time to create realistic characters with quirks, vulnerabilities, and impulses.

It’s more than just the artistic cliche of romanticizing pain. I think society became more accepting of imperfection as time went by—or at least less ashamed of it. We finally admit that we relate well to flawed characters because they give us hope that we too can experience amazing, extraordinary things, battered and dented as we are. The last thing the modern reader wants is a morally unscrupulous hero or heroine. What we want is to witness growth.

The Creative Spark: 4 Books to Help You Find It and Use It!

During this unprecedented time of social distancing and embracing your inner homebody (I refuse to call it “isolation”), a lot of people are finding outlets for their energy. Through exercise, cooking, meditation, reading, writing, and crafting, people are exploring different facets of their personalities.

It goes without saying that this is a perfect time to explore your creativity—and put it to good use! 

Just like your biceps or hamstrings, your creative muscles needs to be exercised…and frequently. But what if you never really used it? Or can’t find it? Or think you have lost it like a sock in the dryer? Luckily, there are some terrific books and creative guides to help you along the way.

From full on narratives about the creative process to journals that push you to jump out of your comfort zone, there are books for every type of creative. You don’t have to be writing the next great American novel, or painting your way to Van Gogh-esque fame to be creative. You may just want to play with watercolors, pen a poem, or learn some new photography tricks. Or maybe you want to discover what creativity means to you and how you can incorporate it into your everyday life! 

No matter where you are on your creative journey, the following four books are exceedingly helpful in getting those juices flowing. Whenever I have needed a nudge (or a cattle prodding!), they have certainly done the trick! 


The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity—Julia Cameron. Let’s start with what I consider one of the gold standards when it comes to unblocking creativity. Julia Cameron’s workbook/guide has been recommended by many creative individuals, and for good reason—it is a tough, no holds-barred look at creative blocks and how to remove them. Through a series of weekly exercises and reflections, Cameron walks you down, through, over, and under the path to removing obstacles to your creativity. Be warned that this book is a marathon (it is a 12 week program) and not a sprint, so be sure you have some time devoted to really doing the work. It’s like a cheaper version of psychoanalysis!

Also, don’t be put off by the word “spiritual.” Cameron is sensitive to peoples’ beliefs and encourages you just to get in touch with whatever or whoever your spiritual guide happens to be. My biggest takeaway from the exercises, something that I do everyday, are the morning pages. Less focused than journaling, morning pages are essentially a three page brain dump. You just write whatever you are thinking about without judgement, and without editing. They clear your mind of clutter and position you for more creative thinking. And they work! 


Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear—Elizabeth Gilbert. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love memoir has been an inspiration for those searching for more meaning and purpose in their lives. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear focuses on the creative side of purpose, how to work with your ideas, and dealing with the fear that just may be paralyzing you. Loaded with lots of personal anecdotes and advice, this book works for anyone who is venturing onto a new creative path, trying to rekindle an old project, or cultivate a new idea.

Particularly inspiring is Gilbert’s letter to fear, where she explains that it is allowed to tag along, but with the caveat that she and creativity are the ones driving the car! One important takeaway is not to sit too long on that good idea. It will not stick around forever, and may present itself to someone else who will take action upon it. Sound like rubbish? Ok, but how many times have you said, “I thought of that first!”?


The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion—Elle Luna. Discover the difference between a job, a career, and a calling with Elle Luna’s The Crossroads of Should and Must. Digging deep to help you discover what you really want, Luna’s book is part narrative, and part memoir, with some exercises thrown in.

The book is particularly useful in identifying obstacles and addressing them (those pesky fears again!). Those who feel a creative calling but aren’t sure how to define or act on it will find this book particularly inspiring. The actual physical book is a joy to read as it resembles a board book with thick cover, numerous illustrations, and varied formatting.


The Steal Like an Artist Journal: A Notebook for Creative Kleptomaniacs—Austin Kleon. For journal fans, The Steal Like an Artist Journal takes the concept of writing prompts a few steps further. Created by “writer who draws” Austin Kleon, you can expect suggestions like “make a mixtape for someone who doesn’t know you.” Steal Like an Artist is part journal, part sketchbook, and always interesting. Kleon encourages you to take your creativity outside your space to complete some of the entries. It is a very literal version of “stepping outside your circle.”

For example, one entry has you choose a color, visit a bookstore and write down the first ten titles you see with that color. Kleon’s twist on the traditional prompted journal forces you to use your creativity in different ways. For those looking for something other than a blank journal page, this may be the right fit.


Now go forth, find and use your creativity!

Book Review

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 517
Format: Hardcover
Buy Local
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Summary

As I’m sure many of you know, this novel is the prequel to the Hunger Games series. It is set 63 years before Katniss’ Games and follows President Snow, known at this time as Coriolanus Snow.

Snow is only 18, and his family is facing hard times as the effects of the war play out. The story begins the morning of the reaping for the 10th annual Hunger Games. Snow is determined to get into University, and needs to mentor a winning tribute to help solidify his spot. The odds are not in his favor when he is assigned the girl tribute from District 12.

Much to his surprise, his tribute wows the crowd all on her own. Determined to win, no matter the cost, Snow takes a chance on her. He grows close to her as their fates are largely intertwined in a game unlike any before, leaving him to wonder, was it all worth it?

Thoughts

There were a lot of mixed expectations towards this novel—some people were upset that President Snow was getting a prequel when he was very clearly a terrible person. While I would love a prequel about Finnick or Mags, I also love a good villain origin story and couldn’t wait for this novel to come out. The moment I saw it on the shelf at Target, I ran to pick it up and, honestly, it exceeded my expectations.

I fully expected it to be a story that showed Snow as an empathetic, caring person who was turned sour by a negative experience. Without giving too much away, I can say the story subverted my expectations completely. While he certainly did not have the upbringing I expected, his goal was always clear. Various obstacles were thrown in his way, all adding to his character but never wavering his stance. In that way, the star of the story is the first person point-of-view. His actions and his thoughts are so different at times, if we weren’t constantly in his head, that we would have no idea. It appears that from a young age, Snow mastered the art of performance. While he certainly isn’t an admirable character, he sure is an interesting one. The connections between his actions and circumstances in this novel, to that in original Hunger Games novel are beautifully done and I loved finding them laced throughout. I had more ah-hah moments than I can count!

The only reason I didn’t give this novel a full 5/5 stars is because of the ending. There was one unanswered question that I still haven’t found the answer to, which caused some of the ending to feel anti-climatic. It is too small of a detail, though, for me to not highly recommend all Hunger Games trilogy lovers give it a read.

Even if you absolutely despise President Snow, this will be a treat for you. I truly hope it becomes a movie soon so I can enjoy it all over again!

Percy Jackson Books Ranked

As I’m sure many of you have already heard, Rick Riordan recently announced a Percy Jackson TV series coming to Disney+. This is a much-deserved reward for the loyal fans who have read and loved the books, only to be sorely disappointed by the film counterparts. Our patience has finally paid off—now, we’re getting a series comprised of one season for each book, produced by Riordan himself! In honor of the wonderful news and to help pass the time before it comes out, I have put together a personal ranking of the books in Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Bear in mind that this list does not include the books from the Heroes of Olympus or Trials of Apollo spin-off series. It also goes without saying that this list is rife with spoilers—read on at your own risk!


5. The Sea of Monsters. Starting things off at number five is The Sea of Monsters. Granted, this book has plenty of memorable moments: Annabeth listening to the sirens, the team’s fight with Polyphemus, and—of course—Tyson’s introduction as Percy’s cyclops half-brother. This book was also a beautiful ode to The Odyssey, and featured a host of callbacks, from the sorceress Circe to Polyphemus’s anger with being thwarted by Nobody. This book is last on my list, however, mainly because it largely focuses on setting the stage for the books that follow—aside from the few interactions with Luke’s assembled army, there is little development in regards to the war with Kronos and the Titans. Despite this, The Sea of Monsters has perhaps one of the best endings in the series, with Thalia being resurrected by the Golden Fleece, adding a twist to the Great Prophecy.

4. The Lightning Thief. Oh, The Lightning Thief. Where do I begin? When ranking a series, it’s worth mentioning that the readability of a series is largely dependent upon a captivating first book. If we didn’t like the first book, we wouldn’t want to read the rest. This book is singular in the series in that the reader is immersed in a world of modern-day Greek gods for the first time—from discovering Percy’s godly parent to learning that Mount Olympus now resides above the Empire State building, there is a certain level of novelty and whimsy that can’t be replicated in the other books. Overall, The Lightning Thief is a mostly-lighthearted introduction to life at Camp Half-Blood and the world of modern Greek mythology. It places fourth on the list only because I find the books get better as the plot thickens, which is why my top three picks are the last three books in the series.

3. The Battle of the Labyrinth. This book is centered around one of the coolest (and also creepiest) myths out there, which is why it is one of my favorites. Nearly everyone knows the story of Icarus and Daedalus, which means Riordan could spend less time on the backstory and fully focus on advancing the plot. This book was full of shocking twists—from the revelation that Quintus is actually Daedalus to Luke becoming the host for Kronos’s spirit, this book was certainly not lacking in action. The Battle of the Labyrinth itself was also a satisfying conclusion to the buildup of the preceding books regarding the two armies preparing for war. It was also refreshing to see Annabeth finally lead a quest of her own. The only aspect of this book that didn’t sit well with me was Rachel’s addition as a love interest for Percy—to me, this felt forced and unnecessary.

2. The Titan’s Curse. I truly can’t sing enough praises for this book. There are just too many wonderful things, where do I begin? We’re introduced to the hunters of Artemis, Thalia, and—of course—the di Angelo twins. We get to meet Nico and discover yet another child of the Big Three. Not to mention, there are some good dam jokes in this book. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.) The Titan’s Curse also serves as a bridge between the light-hearted books in the beginning of the series and the higher stakes characteristic of the later books. This is the first book featuring a major character death, and shows that war has casualties and nobody is safe.

1. The Last Olympian. I know, I know. Perhaps its cliché of me to choose the last book as the best, but come on. Finding out that Silena was Kronos’s spy at Camp Half-Blood still remains one of the greatest plot twists of all time. Percy taking on the Curse of Achilles was an amazing decision, and allowed for a much-needed exploration into Luke’s past. Plus, Percy and Annabeth’s relationship has such a beautiful progression throughout this book—Annabeth being Percy’s anchor to the mortal world? Percy turning down immortality for Annabeth? The underwater kiss? It was unbelievably satisfying to see these two finally get together. This book also has a wonderful redemption arc for Luke, and has a satisfying conclusion with Rachel’s status as the new oracle. It also sets the stage perfectly for the Heroes of Olympus with the next Great Prophecy.


So, there you have it! There’s definitely room for discussion regarding this list, but I hope you enjoyed this one reader’s thoughts. I’d love to hear your own ideas about the series, too! If you haven’t read these books, or are looking to reread them, you can find all of them at Changing Hands website here.

Book Review

Again, But Better by Christine Riccio

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Contemporary, YA Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
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My Rating: 4.95/5 stars

Summary

Written by well-known BookTuber Christine Riccio, Again, But Better is a story for anyone needing encouragement to find themselves and gain the confidence to live in the moment. The novel follows shy and awkward Shane, a 20-year-old pre-med major who decides to spend a semester in London on a limb. As Shane begins her semester abroad, she is determined to essentially re-do her college experience—this means not overthinking, being more outgoing, and having the confidence to go after her dream and her crush. However, as Shane begins to explore new experiences, she is constantly torn between her desire to be a writer and her parents’ expectations of medical school. When these two forces collide, Shane has a decision to make—but will she make the right one? Riccio frames the story so that we are not just reading about Shane’s development, but we begin to understand that everyone is just trying to find themselves. In the end, Riccio shows us that with some courage, faith, and strength we can live up to our personal expectations and desires, and that ultimately anything is possible.

Thoughts

I originally picked up this book because I strongly resonated with the description of Shane. I thought it was unique that a young adult novel focused on a 20-year-old rather than the typical 16–18-year-olds. Shane’s age, as well as the internal conflicts she deals with throughout the novel, is a subject that was close to my heart—Again, but Better is about a college student trying to find who they are and who they want to be, and I think this is something everyone can relate to, especially college students. The novel is great because the reader can feel the anxiety and struggle Shane experiences, but the struggles of the other characters are also evident. There is a beautiful balance in seeing not only how we can be consumed by our own worry, but also the great comfort of knowing everyone is sharing this experience.

One of the aspects which I greatly appreciated was how Riccio doesn’t sugarcoat the fantasy of having a crush or the fear associated with going outside your comfort zone. The initial interactions between the characters is awkward—especially as Shane describes not knowing how to stand in front of her crush, or not initially “clicking” with one of her roommates. The evident anxiety within Pilot (the male protagonist and Shane’s love interest) in making an incorrect decision is one which almost everyone can relate to, and Riccio doesn’t represent this agony as simple. People are oftentimes represented to us from what we outwardly see, but this book makes a good point in showing that what we outwardly express isn’t what we always are; it links the perception of who we are on the outside to who we want to be on the inside.

Above all else, I loved how the central idea of the novel wasn’t consumed with the notion that if Shane only finds “love,” she will inevitably find herself. The romance within the book adds exceptional flavor, but it is in no way the main course. Rather, Riccio chooses to emphasize Shane’s discovery of herself in a time separate from Pilot. It is a book that goes beyond the stereotypical “find love and find yourself” narrative, but really focuses on the development of the characters and the development of yourself as a reader. This concept is so refreshing in a young adult novel.

Again, But Better is a fast-paced and personal read for those who want something lighter, but still deeply meaningful. No matter who reads it, the themes and development of the characters is something that can resonate with everyone. We overthink, we get discouraged, and we let others expectations of ourself get in the way of what we really want. The second half of the book allows the reader to acknowledge Shane’s mistakes and see where we ourselves tend to slip up. We see her struggle, and the struggles of those around her, as we try to navigate the world in relation to others and ourselves.

If you enjoyed Again, But Better, author Christine Riccio created a Spotify playlist to accompany the novel that can be found here!


Guest post courtesy of Lauren Kuhman

6 Great Books Written During the 1920s

Massive amounts of literature were produced during the Roaring Twenties, from the Harlem Renaissance to the Lost Generation. Many of these works are just as relevant and engaging now as they must have been to readers 100 years ago. This list contains some of my favorite pieces of literature written during the 1920s, but is just a jumping off point for the many brilliant authors who were writing during this time.


To the Lighthouse—Virginia Woolf. I must admit, I am a huge fan of Virginia Woolf. No one can write sentences as beautifully as she can, and no one has mastered the semicolon quite like her, either. To the Lighthouse is the perfect example of her literary genius—it employs the stream of consciousness style and is deeply introspective. The story centers around the Ramsay family and their various relationships. Though the plot is relevant, it functions more as a background in which Woolf explores philosophic questions of death and the human condition. It is a modernist classic that still holds up over a century after it was written.


Cane—Jean Toomer. Another classic modernist work, Cane is a collection of short vignettes that center around the Black experience in America. It is highly experimental and includes short stories and poems that explore sexuality, spirituality, creativity, frustration with the world for what it has—or rather, the lack thereof—to offer, and so many other critical ideas. Cane is an interesting work and a hallmark piece of literature from the Harlem Renaissance, as well as one one that is definitely worth reading. 


The Great Gatsby—F. Scott Fitzgerald. Could this list really be complete without The Great Gatsby? Absolutely not. This book is a classic for a reason, with themes ranging from disillusionment with the American Dream and class inequalities, it still resonates with audiences in the twenty-first century. The characters are colorful, from the elusive and mysterious Gatsby to the bored and shallow Daisy, which makes the book a fun read. If you weren’t forced to read this book in high school, you should definitely check it out now!


Siddhartha—Hermann Hesse. Originally published in German, Siddhartha is a journey of self-discovery. It is set in ancient India and the main character leaves behind his home in favor of the life of an ascetic. Siddhartha parallels the Buddha and adopts similar practices, such as meditation and renouncing all possessions. Eventually, Siddhartha seeks out the Buddha (referred to as Gotama), however Siddartha does not appreciate how generalized the Buddha’s teachings are, so he returns to his quest for enlightenment alone. This book brings the reader along on its titular character’s journey, compelling them to consider the same questions as Siddhartha and similarly reevaluate their own lives.


Passing—Nella Larsen. This book is about the intertwining lives of two childhood friends, Clare and Irene. Set in Harlem in New York City, the two friends gradually become more and more fascinated with each other’s lives. Passing deals with themes of race, sexuality, and class, among others. Clare passes as white and lives as such with her white husband who does not know her racial identity, which is the main cause of the novel’s tragedies. Both characters struggle against race, gender, and class norms in American society, with Irene being more rigid in these binaries while Clare fluctuates between them. It is definitely an interesting read and is still relevant 100 years after it was written.


The Mysterious Affair at Styles—Agatha Christie. This is the first novel featuring one of the most iconic characters in literature: Hercule Poirot. With his characteristic mustache and punctuality, Poirot is the classic mystery novel detective, so reading his debut story is immensely entertaining. The plot centers around the poisoning of Emily Inglethorpe during World War I, and Poirot unravels the mystery in his typical, fastidious fashion. Christie was highly influential in shaping the mystery genre, and this book contains many of the notable tropes of the genre—such as red herrings, many suspects, and numerous twists and turns that leave the reader anxious to figure out who the murderer is.