For this addition of Top Ten Tuesday we’re discussing all those books we read on a whim. You know the ones, those major bummers or surprise favorites that you decided upon reading merely on cover lust or synopsis. I know it’s shocking, but I too occasionally stray from my carefully curated TBR into the wild book yonder. And a lot of those times the stories I discover in the process get lost in the shuffle, never going mentioned on the blog. So in writing this post I chose ten novels that upon reading I had never heard of the author, had never been recommended to me, and had never read a review of. You’ll see upon reading I journeyed into some universal must-reads, while also encountering those flops best locked in the vault of bookish past. In any case, here’s to the spontaneous reader in all of us! May your freak book flag fly!
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
As you guys may recall, I read Anna and the Swallow Man not long ago too lackluster feelings. It was the first occasion in a very lengthy time that I allowed myself to just go with the reading flow, so needless to say the experience wasn’t good for the voice in my head saying, “Be spontaneous, Megan”. I know it may be shocking that I genuinely knew nothing about Gavriel Savit’s critically laurelled debut, but I follow very little of the bookish happenings outside of the young adult world. It was only when a fellow historical fiction advisor told me it was being heralded as the next The Book Thief (an impossible feat and cruel labeling if you ask me) that I paid heed to it. However, despite my subpar rating, I’m glad I read this would-be Oprah’s Book Club pick if for no better reason than to have an opinion of it. Not the best impulse check out I could have made, but hardly a pointless pursuit.
The Girl With the Wrong Name by Barnabas Miller
I don’t talk about The Girl With the Wrong Name nearly as much as I should on the blog, but here I am giving credit where credit is do as the single best out-of-the-blue read I’ve stumbled across. I can’t say what drew me this 2015 dark horse, however I am eternally thankful I defied my bookish prejudice and gave it a shot. After all, it does have every working for a craptastic fiction fiasco, from the God awful cover (hello 2003 fashion, anyone?) to the spoilery synopsis that does more harm than good. Unfortunately I feel that’s why Barnabas Miller and his debut have received so little love; no one is compelled to pick up his true mystery masterpiece. Let me extend my influence on this small corner of the web, and tell all of my 75 followers to pick up this book stat! It just may find a way onto your own Top Ten Tuesday- Read It On a Whim compilation.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Similar to Anna and the Swallow Man, by the time I read Everything, Everything it had already blew up across multiple reading platforms without my knowledge. Drawn to the pretty cover and 20% discount at Target, I picked it up for no other reason than I could. It was only upon reading that I realized just how mixed and varied the ratings of other reviewers were. There were people who kissed the ground Nicola Yoon walked on, or alternately my own camp of pragmatics who hated the ending and wanted a do-over. It was also the first time on this blog that I wrote a review (one of my favorites ever, check it out here: Everything, Everything Review ) whereas I expected other people to have an opinion on my own thoughts. However this time around I won’t be so easily kept in the dark, as I’m on high alert waiting for Yoon’s second novel, The Sun is Also a Star, to start rolling in the BEA ratings.
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
Out of Darkness was the very first ARC I ever had the pleasure of reviewing (check it out way back in the blog archives:Out of Darkness Review), and thus will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m extremely thankful it was such a great reading experience, as I’ve never turned my back on R&R via NetGalley since. There’s just something so special about receiving a book you know nothing about, but after closing the final page you become an invaluable part of the book’s marketing team. Another perk (in my opinion) of being one of the very first reviews up is a total blankness of thought. You know for sure that the views you’re presenting are 100% your own and totally uninfluenced by previous reviews of other bloggers. I never would have discovered any of this had I not taken a chance on little known author Ashley Hope Perez’s second novel, and I can now be eternally grateful she not only wrote a fantastic story, but opened my eyes as well.
The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg
I have no recollection of how, when, or why I stumbled across The Porcupine of Truth way back in September of 2015. Bill Konigsberg’s second novel has never found notoriety on Booktube, nor is it a staple among the blogging community. Not to mention that few things stand out about the synopsis, cover, or blurbs to really draw me in. So really, all bets are off on how I ever ended up reading this one in the first place. But nevertheless I’m forever indebted to funny man Konigsberg for opening my eyes up to what great characters, great plot, and a great message look like in all their unabashed glory. It’s one of those rare gems where few people will ever actually pick it up (not another John Green rip off again, am I right?) but those who do can expect a bond to form with this one of a kind novel. If nothing else reading Porcupine will likely give you a card holding membership to the Read It On a Whim club.
Zac & Mia by AJ Betts
I read Zac & Mia in the days before I finally realized I had “sick teen fatigue” and gave such novels in the TFIOS vain a break. Despite having a premise very similar to that of some white hot novels (cough, Everything, Everything, cough), it never caught on here in America as AJ Betts is an Australian based author. My library has a habit though of shelving what is quite frankly THE most obscure books out there, so that’s how push came to shove and I ended up reading a book with less than 1,000 Goodreads ratings. The cover is absolutely lovely, which is what immediately drew me in, and it’s Perth based setting fulfilled a reading challenge I had. Other than that I can’t say a whole lot about this one, positive or negative, as it was just everything you would expect from a cookie cutter contemporary. It was one of those instances where it hardly mattered I read this as a spur of the moment pick up, as a boring book is a boring book.
Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
As a young writer myself, I’m always on the lookout for authors of a similar age who’ve already published a novel. While it can be a little disheartening, I love seeing new talent and the feeling that my own aspirations are within reach. Amy Zhang is one such storyteller. At the ripe old age of 16 she saw her debut, Falling Into Place, hit shelves everywhere. That was all I needed to know in order for me to immediately pick it up and see for myself. As my bookish plans often go, it took me a while to get around to it, but when I did finally read Falling I was pleasantly pleased. It’s a fairly typical young adult contemporary, but what Zhang does with her characters is second to none. I could practically feel protagonist Liz jump off the page, along with the tragic plight she faced. I went in with my bar of expectations at sub-ground level, but closed the final page eagerly anticipating all the years of writing Zhang has ahead of her. In honor of that I have to ask, has anyone been fortunate enough to check out This Is Where the World Ends?
All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry
At the time I fell in love with All the Truth That’s In Me, Julie Berry had already penned several novels to positive reactions. I was blissfully unaware of any of this though until she branched into the demographic of young adult historical fiction, solidifying herself as a must read author of mine. Her story, told in second person, bridges the gap between a 1700’s Puritan-esque community, a mystery, and a tale of true love. It’s just as great as it sounds. Yet I don’t feel nearly enough people have been made aware of the sheer genius behind this little book. In my opinion the cover is terribly misleading (it presents more as supernatural horror than a sweet, introspective romance), the excerpt from the book likely turns all second person POV haters away on sight, and there’s nothing about it to stand out in an oftentimes crowded field. The reason I’m just now telling you all to pick this one up on a whim is spurred by Berry’s second release in the genre, The Passion of Dolsa, out on April 12th. I highly recommend bundling the two on your next Amazon book run, and getting twice the fun in one lovely shipment.
What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles
Three words; long. Car. Trip. Enough said. But seriously, if it wasn’t for ever lovely Chicagoland construction and the unavailability of better known books on my e-book library, I never would have came across What Happened to Cass McBride?. I read the little known and totally under appreciated read a few years back, and it still remains a favorite of mine in the mystery genre. It’s snarky, spine tingling, and insightful with enough thrills to hold pace with every Pretty Little Liars installment out there. Lacking in the flash of the former, I can see how it’s easy to dismiss as just another teen read. Not the case. Gail Giles holds her audience captive with quick plotting (I read the whole book in one sitting), an interesting portrait of kidnapper vs. captive, and the occasional use of shock and awe. I’m unfamiliar with any of Giles other works, but when looking for a snappy read know this one comes highly recommended.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
In my attempt to keep this post as authentic to the theme as possible, I had to dig deep into my reading archives to find a time when I didn’t diligently plan out my bookish course of action months in advance. And in that digging I stumbled upon The Forest of Hands and Teeth, a horror novel I read nearly three and a half years ago when I first got into the YA game. According to Goodreads I rated it two stars (once a critic, always a critic), and if I remember correctly I slighted it for what I felt were major plot holes and a dissatisfying ending. Interestingly enough, I actually remember picking this one up for some odd reason I no longer recall. It was right at the peak of The Hunger Games craze and I would later find out it frequented those “If you like …, you’ll love…” charts that were so popular. But anyways naive reader me just plucked it off the shelf willy nilly, decided it sounded good, and checked it out. Such utter ignorance to the subtle nuisances that go into book perusing! Anyways, if for some reason you’re interested in returning to circa 2012, I apparently don’t recommend this one!
What books did you read on a whim? Do you always let the bookish spirits guide you, or are you a choose your own adventure type of gal? Let me know in the comments!
-Keep Calm and Read On