A spread of books against a paper background. The books include What We Devour, Elatsoe, Now Entering Addamsville, Gallant, The Scorpio Races, and Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village.

Spooky Books for the Faint-ish of Heart

When the temperatures cool down and the days get shorter, sometimes you just want to curl up with a good book. Personally, I tend to associate autumn with a good something mysterious or spooky – probably because I always think of Halloween. A lot of readers probably reach for the latest horror or thriller novel if they’re looking for something spooky. Me? I’m a bit of a coward. I enjoy a good scare here and there, but I’d prefer to avoid something that’s going to keep me up at night or make me afraid to go out in the dark.

The good news is that there are still plenty of spooky books for the faint-ish of heart, and I’ve compiled a list of my favorites in this post. These books cover a variety of genres, from magical realism to historical fiction. The one thing they do have in common: ghosts, monsters, or something just the slightest bit unsettling.

A quick note before we begin: though these books would likely not be categorized as “horror,” many of them still contain themes the some readers may find triggering or otherwise wish to avoid. I’ve included links to the content warnings for each book so that you can be informed if you choose to read any of these books.

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Photo of two library books stacked on top of each other. They are The Merciful Crow and The Faithless Hawk by Margaret Owen.

Libraries Are For the Bird Books

It’s strange how when the world comes to an end, you focus on all of the big things that change. When the plague (you know what I mean) first started ramping up in 2020, we knew a few things we could expect. We knew that our work and school schedule would be disrupted, we knew we’d have to adjust to a “new normal” (ugh, I hate that phrase) in our daily lives.

But I think as things in the U.S. start becoming more normal-ish, I’m realizing that there are a lot more “little things” in my life that have changed. And while it might seem silly, one of the things that’s definitely changed is my reading habits.

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A stack of books. From top to bottom, they are: The Near Witch, Outside In, Circe, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, The Weight of our Sky, Unravel the Dusk, Children of Blood and Bone, and Ninth House.

10 Books I Want to Read Before I Collapse from Exhaustion at the End of 2020

In 2020, I set a goal to read 65 books. I set it a bit higher than my previous reading challenges, which were usually in the 45-50 range, but I knew I would be able to meet it.

The thing is… I wasn’t really expecting to meet it so soon.

Since I no longer have my big reading goal looming over me, I want to be more intentional about what books I read throughout the rest of the year. This is for two main reasons:

  • I still have some smaller reading goals to complete, like reading #OwnVoices diverse books and nonfiction books.
  • I may or may not have gone on a book shopping spree the last few months, and now I have several books on my shelves that I should read before I buy any new ones.

Charmaine did a list like this at the beginning of July (which makes a lot more sense, since she still had half a year to work with), so I stole it felt inspired by it and decided to make my own reading commitment for what’s left of the year.

So without further ado, here are 10 books I want to read before the end of 2020!

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Two funko pop figurines depicting Day and June from Legend by Marie Lu. The figurines are standing in front of a stack of the Legend trilogy.

Making My Own Bookish Figurines

It seems like everyone and their weird uncle has started a new hobby lately. Some people are baking bread, making soap or candles, or learning a new language.

Me?

Well, I’ve also started a new “quarantine hobby.” It was a terrible idea, not because I hate it, but because I’ve become practically obsessed with it over the past few weeks and I can’t make myself stop.

I started making custom figurines.

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A copy of The Hunger Games sits against a background of scattered book pages.

May The Odds Be (N)ever In Your Favor

Here’s your hot take for the week: We don’t understand The Hunger Games.

“But Maggie,” I hear you say, “How could we not understand The Hunger Games? It was the biggest teen movie franchise since Twilight! Don’t you remember reading about how well the movies performed commercially? Didn’t you give a presentation on the cultural impact of dystopian fiction on young adults?”

I did indeed give such a presentation, but that doesn’t debunk my claim right off the bat. There are plenty of readers and viewers of The Hunger Games who looked beyond the hype and saw the message of the story – we wouldn’t still be talking about it otherwise. But in general, our society has missed the point.

Let’s get one other thing out of the way: The Hunger Games is not my favorite book or film series, not by a long shot. If you asked me to name my top ten books of all time, I doubt it would make the list. That’s not to say it’s a bad book though! I think it’s an excellent read and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to better understand young adult literature. Personally though, I’m more interested in how The Hunger Games is (or maybe was) a cultural phenomenon.

For those reading this who missed out on The Hunger Games or just did not care, here’s the premise: a futuristic and dystopian nation known as Panem holds an annual “Hunger Games” in which 24 “tributes” between the ages of 12-18 are selected to participate in a televised fight to the death. The heroine, Katniss, volunteers for the Games to take the place of her younger sister Prim. Fair warning, there will be plenty of spoilers as we keep going!

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Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her sister’s place in the Hunger Games.

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A stack of green books on a green background. From top to bottom, they are: Goliath, Liar, The Maze Runner, and Insurgent.

YA Character Tropes: Scrap or Save? (+Quiz)

If you handed me a young adult novel and gave me thirty seconds to look at it, I could probably tell you a bit about the cast of characters. There’s a pretty good chance the cast consists of a dark and mysterious guy, an insecure girl, and a vaguely attractive childhood friend.

Not all YA books would be like that, of course, but a majority of them do contain these basic character archetypes. They’re like pages in a coloring book – an outline for the writer to fill in with whatever colors or patterns they see fit. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some of these archetypes have become tropes. In other words, all of the writers are coloring in the picture the exact same way.

These tropes make stories predictable, which gets boring for the audience. But are all tropes really that bad? Can any of them be salvaged? I’ve picked ten of the most common character tropes in YA fiction to try and answer which tropes are really worth saving (and how to save them), and which ones should be tossed aside.

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A blurred photo of many books on a bookshelf. None of the titles are readable, but there are a lot ofthem.

Book Blurb Blacklist

A good book is hard to find. This is a truth that I have acknowledged my entire life, but I have come to realize it more and more recently. With a Barnes & Noble gift card in hand, I have browsed the shelves dedicated to young adult literature in search of a book worthy of my “hard-earned” dollars.

Sometimes, a book catches my eye. Maybe the title is clever, or the cover is pretty. Either way, I find myself picking it up to take a closer look. I read the blurb – that little summary on the dust jacket or back cover – and, more often than not, place the book back on the shelf.

You see, there are so many authors trying to hitch a ride on the YA Fiction Express right now. And, quite frankly, that means that there are many, many sub-par books out there. Books full of clichés, poor writing, and very little creativity. I’ve found that while reading book blurbs, there are certain words and phrases that almost always turn me off to a book. Now, I’ve compiled the “Book Blurb Blacklist” so you can be an informed reader too.

Warning: Sarcasm imminent.

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