Top 5 Books that Caused a Major Hangover

It’s Tuesday, so it’s time for another Top 5 post! Thanks again to Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm for the topics.

We all know what a book hangover is. It’s the emotional devastation that sets in after you’ve read a particularly good book, when you realize it’s all over and you can never experience it again for the first time. It’s the inability to function the next day after you’ve spent the whole night devouring the book. It’s the physical pain of having to choose another book to read because you’re afraid nothing will compare to what you’ve just read.

It’s both the worst and best feeling in the world, if you’re one of those readers that look for complete emotional devastation and mild functional impairment in their reading experience.

Recently, though, I realized that I don’t get to experience this as much anymore, but that I’m likely to get hangovers from series. So, in this post, I included both series and individual books (also because I can’t choose just any one book in the series – that’s not cheating, is it?). Anywaaay, let’s get right to it.

Continue reading “Top 5 Books that Caused a Major Hangover”


Top 5 Bookish Habits

Hey guys! Sooo… Let’s just ignore the fact that I haven’t posted in a week or so, and that I’m doing a Top 5 Tuesday post on a Friday… Whoops? *coughs* This week has been CRAZY! I had a couple of deadlines for grad class and a research proposal, and on top of that I’ve been trying to hit four runs a week to prep for my 21K in April, which I squeeze in after my 9:00PM grad classes. It’s been brutal, and by the time I get home I just want to pass out for a week.

But! I’m alive now, writing this post. Better late than never, as they say.

Once again, this one’s hosted by the wonderful Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm. This was a pretty fun prompt, so I’ll get right to it!

Continue reading “Top 5 Bookish Habits”

Top 5 Books that Exceeded Expectations

I’m back for another Top 5 Tuesday post! Once again, this one’s hosted by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm. This week’s prompt was a bit challenging because I couldn’t think of just five books, so I whittled it down by choosing the five books that exceeded expectations and the ones I loved so much that I plan to reread them. Here they are, in no particular order:

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (2016)

The Hating Game

My bar for contemporary romance isn’t even high in the first place, but WOW did this exceed expectations I didn’t know I had! It has all the romance tropes I love – enemies to lovers, witty banter, a quirky heroine and a straight-laced hero, bed-sharing, and the game motif – and it did everything right. It made me laugh, it made me sigh, it made me giddy, and it made me believe in the contemporary romance genre again. I hold any book in the genre now to this standard.

Possession by A. S. Byatt (1990)


Whenever I read literary books, there’s a tiny part of me that still feels like I’m “obliged” to do it – obliged to be more understanding of it, more deferential, more patient with the author’s formal experiments and meandering prose – so that at the end of it all, I can feel proud that I’ve conquered another literary work, even if I hadn’t exactly enjoyed it.

Not so with Possession. Possession is one of those literary works that’s also a romance and a thriller – if you can imagine a thriller set in academia, with two scholars of two dead Romantic poets as the protagonists. Plus, this is also a book-within-a-book, where we have the main narrative alternating with the trail of letters and documents left behind by the dead poets that our protagonists follow in order to unravel the real nature of their relationship. This book was magical and transporting, compulsively readable, and intellectually rewarding to read.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (2004)

the secret history

Yes, this is the second book on this list set in the academe, and yes, I’m nuts for books set in the academe, especially if they promise dark undercurrents. This was one of those books that just hit the right notes for me – the discussion on the classics (even if I didn’t understand any of the Greek stuff), the group of brilliant misfits, the exploration of the repercussions of good and evil. This was also a startlingly insightful character study: Tartt’s characters are unlikeable and many times unsympathetic, but I was helplessly drawn into their orbit anyway, seduced, like the narrator, by the group’s air of brilliance and exclusivity. I was morbidly fascinated and invested in these characters until the bitter end, even when all their relationships with each other turned poisonous. This was another addictive page-turner that I’d recommend to anyone who’d appreciate its darkness.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The signature

Like I mentioned in my review on City of GirlsI honestly wasn’t expecting a lot from Gilbert in the first place, so I was genuinely surprised by how much I loved this one. The Signature of All Things is a historical saga spanning most of the 18th and 19th centuries, and it vividly portrays American society and the world caught in a whirlwind of change. It touches on the issues of women in science and of being an unattractive and intelligent woman; it explores the wider issues of colonialism and scientific discovery. Breathtaking in scope without sacrificing intimacy of detail, reading The Signature of All Things was a transcendent experience.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (2013)

A Tale for the Time Being

This is a very dear book. In A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth, in present-day Vancouver, discovers a lunch box with some letters and a diary written by a certain 16-year-old Nao from Japan. I was more invested in Nao’s story, to be honest, but I remember finishing this book feeling like I had a lot to think about – especially about our existence in space and time. In the story, the author had also experimented with the notion of novelistic time by introducing the idea of parallel universes. It fell a little short in execution for me, but it’s definitely still worth the read.

Topics for Top 5 Tuesdays this February

Have you read any of these books? What books have exceeded your expectations? Let me know in the comments!

Top 5 Books that Weren’t What I Expected

Hey guys! Every Tuesday this February, I’ll be doing Top 5 Tuesdays, hosted by the wonderful Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm. Today’s topic is the top 5 books that weren’t what I expected. The way I see it, this can go two ways: a book wasn’t what I expected in a good way or in a not-so-good way.

In the case of the former, I was happily misled by the synopsis through the author’s use of an ingenious plot twist; but in the case of the latter, I was misled by the synopsis in a way that made me want to demand my money back. (Luckily, there’s just one of that on this list.) Regardless, I did my best to make my write-ups as spoiler-free as possible, since the pleasure in reading these books is precisely the feeling of surprise.

Anyway, let’s get to it!

Authority (Southern Reach #2) by Jeff VanderMeer (2014)


This is the only book on this list that was unexpected in a not-so-good way, and the only book that’s a sequel. I had such high hopes going into this, too, since the first book, Annihilation, was easily a 5-star read for me. In Annihilation, an expedition is sent to the mysterious and unpeopled Area X, a geographical location that has been cut off from the world for decades. The catch? None of the previous expeditions came back alive – or if they did, they were never the same.

I can’t rave about Annihilation enough. It was page-turning, adrenaline-pumping, skin-crawling, and hallucinogenic; every single scene worked to forward the plot, and so was packed with action or suspense. The only downside to it was that it ended on a cliffhanger (understandable, I guess), so I couldn’t wait to read Authority. 

I was expecting this to pick up where Annihilation left off – as the sequels do, and as the synopsis alluded at. I expected that we’d finally know more about Area X, and what happened to the scientists who went on the expedition. But instead, Authority was basically a rehash of Annihilation from the point of view of a new character that I could really care less about. Instead, Authority consisted of people filing a ton of paperwork and making dead-end guesses. It had not a single iota of the action, suspense, and lush landscapes of the first book. Even when I finally found a semblance of plot in the last thirty or so pages, it still wasn’t worth slogging through 300 pages to get there. It was a complete letdown that discouraged me from even finishing the series.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell (2019)

How to Do Nothing

I’ve seen a number of people giving this two stars or less because they expected it to be a self-help book. Originally, even I was expecting it to be self-help-y – the title does place it among the ranks of Soojung-Kim Pang’s Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less or Eyal and Li’s Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. I was expecting an informal tone, a couple of lists, and a couple of fallacious causal claims about how doing nothing can actually increase your productivity.

Turns out that this book is nothing like that. Odell’s writing here is accessible but dense – closer to a slightly dumbed-down academic essay than a blog post – and instead of advocating hacks to productivity, she actually questions the very imperative to be productive in the first place. She draws from an astonishing variety of examples and disciplines to make her points – art, psychology, ecology, and women’s and labor rights – and articulates possible modes of resistance against the current capitalist ethos by reclaiming spaces for thinking, reflecting, and ‘doing nothing’. This was a tough but ultimately rewarding read. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re looking for critique of the ‘down with capitalism’ variety, then I can’t recommend this enough.

What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] by Zoë Heller (2004)

What Was She Thinking?

What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] is told from the perspective of schoolteacher Barbara Covett. Barbara intends her notes to be a defense for her colleague Sheba, whose affair with an underage male student had just been uncovered by the media. The frame had led me to believe that this was a story about how Sheba’s affair had been exposed, but further into the story, I realized how it really was about Barbara’s relationship with Sheba – and how it becomes more and more insidious the more she reveals more about Sheba’s affair with the student. This was a chilling read that I couldn’t put down until the very end.

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (2011)

Gillespie and I

Gillespie and I is told from the point of view of the elderly Harriet Baxter, who is writing a memoir about her acquaintance with the talented artist Ned Gillespie and his family. The bulk of the story is set in the late 1800s, so it has a bit of a Jane Austen feel. I can’t say more without giving too much away, but there was an unexpected twist halfway through the novel that upended everything I knew about the first half and recast all the events thus far in a new light.

This novel also hit all the right spots for me – it had both vividly-painted characters and a very tight and clever plot that made it as compulsively readable as a thriller. I usually stay up late reading, but this was one of the novels I remember reading until the sky lightened. A really fun page-turner that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys good writing and being surprised by a story.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (2013)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

I saved this for last because this novel is very close to my heart. I don’t usually cry while reading but I was moved to tears while reading this one. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is told from the perspective of Rosemary, who has progressively transformed from a talkative child to a silent and reticent young adult after her sister, and then her older brother, vanish one after the other. Again, I can’t say much without giving it away, but it’s been hinted in the synopsis that there’s something special about her sister Fern, and the surprise consists in finding out what this is and what became of Rosemary’s once happy and boisterous family. This was a heart-rending novel about family and the power of love to transcend all kinds of divides.

Topics for Top 5 Tuesdays this February

Have you read any of these books? What book have you read that wasn’t what you expected? Let me know in the comments!