YA Earworms That’ll Get Stuck In Your Head

Earworms are the best/worst thing. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, earworms are those songs that get stuck in your head for whatever reason. It could be that you heard it in a commercial or on your streaming music service of choice. It could be that you woke up with the lyrics to “Frosty The Snowman” in your head in the middle of March for no reason. It could also be that you’ve read book titles that call to mind the name of a song and then suddenly, you’ve got yourself a bookish earworm.

Let’s take a look at some of the recent YA earworms you have recently or may soon encounter. These book titles have gotten a song stuck in my head and continue to do so every time I run into it.

Don’t blame me when you’re singing these songs to yourself.


Freshmen by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

This YA title came out last summer, and it follows a girl named Phoebe who is super excited about going to college—the same college her long-time crush Luke is going to. When Luke breaks up with his girlfriend, it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime for Phoebe, especially as the two of them become closer.

But when there’s a scandal related to Luke’s soccer team and a series of texts of photos of girls in compromising positions, both Luke and Phoebe need to come to a reckoning about “the college life.”

Naturally, the book’s title does this for me.


Hold My Hand by Michael Barakiva (May 21)

If you’re looking for a love story about two boys, then this is one you’ll want to make sure to pick up. It follows Alek, an Armenian American guy, who has a life before Ethan and one after Ethan—and it’s the after Ethan where he’s come out of his shell and found the confidence he never knew he had. When their six-month anniversary comes around, they’re going to do something really special to commemorate it.

But then Alek discovers something about Ethan that changes the entire course of their relationship. This is a funny book, featuring the ups and the downs of a teen relationship.

Was there any question of this earworm?



If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann (June 4)

Amazing cover, right? In addition to the cover selling the heck out of this book in and of itself, the description makes this book a must-read. Winnie is finally out of high school and ready to start her college adventure. But first, she’ll be spending the summer working at her grandma’s diner in a small town, where she begins falling for a guy she wishes she wasn’t feeling big feelings for. Gossip travels fast in town, and with Winnie hoping to inherit the diner in the future, her reputation is coming before her—as is the unsolicited advice of neighbors for how she can lose weight and make herself more attractive.

With the diner in trouble financially and her dreams at stake, Winnie decides it’s time to do something. So, she’s entering a television cooking contest and hoping to cash in big.

Hello, Sheryl Crow!


The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel by Moe Bonneau (May 21)

This is the third book on this little list about life in that final moment of high school and about what happens after. But this one is about friendship: what happens when two former best friends reunite when one experiences a pregnancy scare?




It’s not a stretch, y’all, that this immediately got some Elvis in my head.


Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan (September 10)

I’m obsessed with the book’s jacket as much as I continue to have mad grabby hands for the book itself. The story follows a girl named Athena living in a small, conservative Louisiana Catholic school in 1992, when her beliefs about feminism are radical, essentially making her an outcast. Then a rumor begins: Athena’s pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. Now the two of them not only have to quash the rumor, but the opportunities presents itself to educate everyone about what it really means to be pro-life (and pro-choice).


Bikini Kill is more than appropriate for the book, too.


SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson

Queen of YA Laurie Halse Anderson’s memoir in verse follows her own personal experiences as a victim—survivor—of sexual assault. It’s a moving and harrowing story, with a through thread about the power of words, of story telling, and defending freedom of speech that empowers young readers and those who serve them. It’s a heavily decorated memoir and for good reason.


Even though it’s more joyful from beginning to end, I do think that the book’s song doppelgänger is appropriate:


Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo (May 7)

Maurene Goo is the queen of romantic comedies and, more specifically, queen of rom coms which are named after songs. This book follows a K-pop star while she’s in a hotel preparing for her American debut and a tabloid journalist who sneaks into the same hotel she’s at and the two run into one another. Hilarity…and love…ensue.



Want more YA earworms? I’ve got you covered, of course.

The Wasted Potential of Ellaria Sand in GAME OF THRONES

Game of Thrones is like free popcorn. It dehydrates you and makes you crave water or soda. In the end, you feel unsatisfied and yet wanting to nibble on more of it because that salty taste won’t leave you.

Mind, I had a bad experience when introduced to the books from A Song of Ice and Fire, so I can only watch clips at a time of the show. I use spoilers to keep up because seeing entire episodes at a time would be too depressing, and the cliffhangers keep drawing me back despite my distrust. Other people can find joy in the show, but mainly I keep up to satiate my desire for spoilers.  Speaking of which…


Women Who Cause Harm

One of our previous Book Riot contributors talked about how in Game of Thrones, women are seen as sex objects and defined by how men desire them. The exceptions, Arya and Brienne, adopt masculine roles.  There’s another issue with the women in Game of Thrones: revenge motivates most of their actions.

We can argue that the “strongest” characters in Game of Thrones are those that avenge slights to themselves or others; Arya kills to avenge her family and her friends, as an example. Cersei avenges her family, and while it backfires at times, you have to admire her hypocritical resolve. Dany wants to reclaim her throne to pay for a lifetime of pain and assassins sent after her before she turned eighteen.

In contrast, the women who seek to turn the other cheek tend to die. Catelyn Stark, a non-sexualized woman who avoids the revenge route, dies futilely trying to save her son; Selyse hangs herself after she and Stannis sacrifice their only child for a steady victory. Melisandre, who has been exiled for her actions, only seeks to support who she believes is the Red God’s champion. While this drives the point that in this world, you have to right all the wrongs set against you or others will tear you to pieces, it also seems dismal that forgiveness is rarely an option unless the person who hurt you makes amends.

The Exception

Then we get to Ellaria. And we groan in frustration. Ellaria Sand became a hot button for many people, for good reason. She causes undue conflict out of a desire for revenge and pays a heavy price. Yet we didn’t need that subplot at all; the books don’t have it. And she’s the exception that shows how revenge backfires.

We meet Ellaria as one of Oberyn Martell’s lovers. They aren’t married, but they have a child together, Tyene. To avenge his sister Elia, Oberyn takes on the Mountain in a trial by combat; he dies because he spends too much time extorting a confession from the Mountain for his sister’s murder, and doesn’t wear a helmet. Ellaria, in turn, wants revenge for him. Oberyn’s brother Doran says that they can’t take on the Lannisters in a fight they will lose, and they certainly won’t kill their royal hostage, the innocent Myrcella Baratheon, in revenge. Ellaria then goes off the deep end; she poisons Myrcella fatally, kills Doran and his son, and agrees to join Dany’s alliance for war.

This backfires, badly; Cersei has made her alliances, and she aptly points out that Myrcella was an innocent bystander who had no part in her family’s schemes. When Cersei receives a captured Ellaria and Tyene, she locks the two up, poisons Tyene with the same lipstick used on Myrcella, and promises that Ellaria will live long enough to see her daughter’s corpse rot. That storyline ends rather abruptly, with Ellaria and Tyene waiting in the dungeon for the end.

In the books, Ellaria argues against seeking revenge for Oberyn, despite what the other Sand Snakes want. Doran agrees with her and tells her to go to her four children. As she puts it, the death didn’t bring her lover back, and he wouldn’t want others to slay innocents for him; also, her daughters may engage in this pointless cycle and sacrifice their lives as well. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but in the books it makes more sense.

Why was the Change Necessary?

Did we really need Ellaria to become the one who would hurt a girl—a girl no older than her Tyene? And did we need harebrained revenge to justify how Cersei could persist in gaining victories against her enemies? Viewers pointed out that Ellaria came off as unreasonable and hypocritical. Murdering her own family totally crosses the line. The writers decided the best fate for Ellaria was to give her to the show’s most sadistic character. Which, yeah. Why?

There is no clear answer. Maybe they wanted to give a reason for Cersei to gain victories. Even so, there are better scenarios that don’t throw characterization in the mud.

You could do the same arc, where all the Martells are in conflict about how Oberyn died for nothing and didn’t avenge his sister. Have Ellaria’s daughters talk about revenge, and make it more about the ongoing theme of settling a blood feud versus venting your rage and grief on the world. She and Doran could have their reasonable talk, where Doran also worries about crossing the line and if they can truly avenge all their losses. If the Martells enter Dany’s alliance, they could still lose badly, He lost Elia already, and now Oberyn. Myrcella has nothing to do with the plot, and the whole point of Tyrion sending her to the Martells was damage control and to remind Joffrey and Cersei to not act like idiot politicians. If Myrcella still needs to die for Cersei to make her claim to the throne, then you could write it as a rogue Sand Snake or the coup from the books that injured the young girl.

 Season 8 and the End

While I’m still not going to watch full episodes of Game of Thrones and will keep up via spoilers, I do wonder where the revenge theme will go. Dany and Jon have tried to convince Cersei to ally with them against the wights and have failed, while Jaime has decided to join their cause. Arya, Bran, and Sansa have vowed to stick together now that they’ve killed Littlefinger and avenged their father.

“In the game of thrones, you win or you die.” But that doesn’t speak for the blood feuds that ensue or the pain. If Dany retakes her throne, or Sansa outlives the other contenders, that would be interesting. This world seems to support the Inigo Montoya characters, who make sure the people they kill are guilty and deserve a sporting chance before running them through their swords.

Getting the Joke: Can An Iconic Villain Work Without His Hero? Thoughts on the Upcoming Joker Movie


I can’t say I’m surprised. But I am creeped out a little, and a bit underwhelmed. So maybe DC is working at lowering the bar so as to wow us?

My brother has been arguing that Marvel overall makes better content than DC. Never mind that we grew up on WB 39’s Batman and Superman show blocks. It would help, however, if DC films overall took pages from the MCU and focused on expanding their roots rather than trying to grab for dollars.

The New Teaser Trailer

October 4, DC will release another villain-centered film, about the Joker. They released a trailer. Only, in this case, Joaquin Phoenix is the Clown Prince of Crime, who seems to be an ordinary man that turns to criminal behavior after a series of bad days at a terrible day job. He wears makeup to hide his true face and tries to fake a smile. We still don’t know what exactly causes him to snap.

Who is The Joker?

The Joker is Batman’s most well-known villain. He’s a man with a terrifying clown face, who often tries to poison people with gas that leaves them with frozen smiles on their faces.

Notable live-action Joker actors include Cesar Romano, Jack Nicholson, and Heath Ledger. Cesar was certainly the funniest of the three, due to his stealing the show as well as any cash available on the live-action Batman series. Heath had the most realistic take on the Joker as an agent of chaos that can grasp morals but just doesn’t care.

Voice actor Jokers are even more legendary; we know Mark Hamill who gave us the definitive Joker voice for the DC Animated Universe and subsequent spinoffs. Kevin Michael Richardson did a remarkable job on The Batman, especially since he came after Mark did and had big shoes to fill. Jeff Bennet had the best Joker song ever on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which epitomized Joker’s chaotic attitude towards the world as he gains godlike powers. Even Zach Galifianakis got a moment of his Joker hitting on Batman while hitting him in The Lego Batman movie.

An Ideal, Not A Humanized Being

Most incarnations of the Joker treat him as an “arch-criminal” who uses the insanity plea to stay alive. In his first appearance in the Batman comics, he targeted three public officials and poisoned them, just because he could. He deliberately got himself committed once to take advantage of a patient at a psychiatric ward. Even so, Batman and Robin know that the Joker is a rational human being who could grasp consequences.

The insanity defense came into play when the Silver Age switched to the Bronze Age in comics, and Joker actually started killing too many people to justify putting him in a normal prison. One newspaper comic series had a defense team make the plea when they agree to take Joker’s case; they pay the price for it since no one wants the team defending the Joker.

Each incarnation varies on if he gets the insanity defense or treated like a rational human being; the parody in the Lego Batman Movie uses Arkham Asylum as the default prison for all the prisoners in Gotham, including him. Batman: The Animated Series has the implied take that Joker is actually sane but relies on the defense when it suits him, as shown when he gets declared sane after inheriting millions.

Finally, we get to the Dark Age. Here, Joker all but admits that he and Batman have an inexplicable connection. He needs a figure of complete reason and authority to thwart. A Joker without a Batman is just a sad clown and failed comedian. Batman Beyond lampshades it in their film Return of the Joker, where the new Batman tells off Joker for wasting his life trying to get a laugh out of Bruce who doesn’t laugh. Lego Batman centers the plot around Joker wanting Batman to admit that they need each other and have a relationship, where they hate each other with mutual fire.

Here is the thing: both the former films were written by Batman fans, engaging in two surreal animated worlds built on loving nostalgia. Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, Bruce Timm, Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna,
Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington know they had more flexibility because those worlds have less consequences. Lego Batman is a pastiche on 70 years worth of fights.

“Cool Motive, Still Murder.”

The big issue with humanizing the Joker is that, realistically, a man like him wouldn’t last long after being caught and sent to prison. Eventually, someone would put him away forever or off him, as is implied happened to the Joker in The Dark Knight after his actor’s untimely death. That Joker has immunity for all his crimes stretches the suspension of disbelief.

There is also the fact that Joker causes harm. And the people he makes suffer are stuffed into the fridge, like Barbara Gordon into The Killing Joke, or Dr. Harleen Quinzel, who became Harley Quinn. One of the best Batman comics and Animated Series episodes, “Mad Love,” addresses this; Dr. Quinzel was a naive Arkham intern that believed Joker’s sob story about having an abusive father. When she turns to crime and traps Batman, the Dark Knight reveals that Joker has a million sob stories, each with different variations, that he uses to win people’s sympathy. Harley refuses to believe Batman until Joker pushes her out of a window for “stealing his thunder” and explaining the joke. Even with this, she can never leave the Joker or his bad influence until he dies for real, and with his death comes the offscreen realization at the horrible things she’s done and endured.

A Joker with less depth works because we remember he’s a clown and a monstrous one. He can make us laugh and gasp in horror at the same time. We don’t question the logic in most animated films because we see them on an abstract plane. In live-action, you mess up the Joker and you just get titillating shock value, as we saw with Suicide Squad and Harley Quinn joking about having schizophrenia. (No. DON’T do this.)

Can A Feature Joker Film Work?

I have my doubts, for the reasons stated above. Doing a live-action Joker requires a willing suspension of disbelief. It’s hard to translate his comic book shenanigans to real-life actors, as we saw with the first Batman. They’re too stylized and ridiculous.

Also, again, Joker’s main shtick is that he harms people and uses the clown persona to underplay the horrors. This isn’t Venom, where Eddie Brock without Peter Parker in his life manages to negotiate with a hostile Symbiote. The Dark Knight pulls no punches in showing that he murders dozens and causes havoc in the city. That’s what makes the movie work, that his actions have consequences and no jokes can undo that. (We are not mentioning Suicide Squad.)

Despite this, maybe it could work. The trailer also features other characters with clown masks causing havoc; Joaquin’s Joker also doesn’t kill anyone onscreen. Once he murders a person, the sympathy points go down. They go down hard. But he hasn’t killed anyone. Yet.

I hope Joaquin can pull it off, speaking as a Batman fan. A good DC movie matters because we know that DC can make good movies when they focus on stories. My worry is they’re just making this for the money, to fill the niche that Venom has created with supervillain protagonists.

Next article on Joker will be covering his top five moments in cartoons, from various incarnations. I hope to also cover the other Batman villains that I wish would get the feature-length options, both well-known and underrated.

QUIZ: Which American Girl Doll Are You?

If you’re a millennial, you likely spent a good chunk of your childhood begging your parents for an American Girl doll. They were the height of cool in the ’80s and ’90s, and even if you didn’t have one, you knew which one you wanted. If you couldn’t get your hands on one of the dolls, the accompanying book series for each doll gave you a glimpse into their lives and moments in American history. But the question remains: Which of the historical dolls are you? Which one speaks to your essence? Take our American Girl Doll quiz below to find out!

American Girl Doll Quiz

So which doll did you get? Share your results in the comments!

Check out more on quizzes on Book Riot:

Quiz: Tell Us Your Favorite Children’s Books and We’ll Tell You Which Baby-Sitters Club Member You Are

Which Literary Chef Are You? Take the Quiz!

Quiz: Which Hollywood Monster Are You?


*American Girl Doll images from americangirl.com

Accessories for Nature and Science Book Lovers

Accessories for nature and science book lovers should include tools for observation of the natural world, right? Therefore I submit to you, dear fellow nature and science books lover, this list. A few of my favorite nature and science book reading accessories:

The iNaturalist app is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. “One of the world’s most popular nature apps, iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you…” And it is a great community party of like-minded nature nerds.

At the seashore this summer in a tide pool? People like us frequently find ourselves in them.  Peterson’s Field Guide To The Atlantic Seashore Is Actually A Guide To Life.  You will need a magnifying hand lens or loupe for up close looking at lacy bryzoan species on kelp, no euphemism (see above).

wild cheryl strayedWhat are you wearing? A backpack of course. And bib overalls or a very of-the-moment Us jumpsuit as you potter about the community garden looking every inch a farm girl. Duluth Trading Company patented its own “crouch gusset” overalls for “crouch without the ouch.” Spring fashion goals!

Anyone who spends any amount of time out-of-doors outdoors sauntering or urban birding needs a wide-brimmed sun hat and tick repellentAnd binoculars, obviously.

Let’s talk about footwear.  Hiking boots or trail-running shoes that are waterproof are a must-have because, duh, nature trails are not always tidy. Try these, Salomon Quests recommended by Wirecutter for the muddy path less taken.

Furthermore, a jaunty bandana. You need one for sopping sweat from your brow, for carrying wild-picked blackberries.

How have you styled your beard, gentlemen? Like this, I hope, as you read from the nature and science book Peterson’s Guide to Wildflowers.


How to Pick the Best Travel Guide Books

Travel. I love it. I live it. I breathe it. In my view, it all starts with the rush of exhilaration when I choose the magical destination for my next trip…only to come crashing down when I have to choose a damn travel guide to start my research. Because you don’t want to be lugging around every travel guide. You need to narrow it down to the best travel guide books. And I mean, really narrow it down. 

I hate that part.

We’re not talking the travel-inspiring books. We’re talking the more practical side of travel planning. And seriously, there are so many travel guides on the market, it is a nightmare of global proportions to choose only one. Add to that how quickly the information can date, and you are left wondering if this really is such a good idea.

The thing is, each travel guide has its pros and cons. Some are perfect for the USA, some have a better understanding of the winding roads of New Zealand. There are guides perfect for your architectural adventures through Rome while others take you on a culinary tour of Paris. But unless you have nine months to read up on every travel guide, it’s really hard to know which is the best travel guide books. 

How to pick out the best travel guide books, along with 11 of our personal favorites. book lists | travel guides | how to pick a travel guide | best travel guide books

So I did the hard work for you. I narrowed it down to 11 of the best travel guide books and the reasons why (just so you know I didn’t simply accept whichever book was left on the library shelf). And how did I choose the best? Well, I read each of their editions for a city or country I am already VERY familiar with. Now, usually, we would only be reading travel guides of places we want to learn more about, right? What better way to ‘test’ a travel guide than to see if they know it as well as a local!

Before you start buying up on guidebooks, here are a few tips to help you choose your own:

  • Always check the publication date. It is a depressing state of affairs, but plenty of establishments can close within a very short time, and public transport is an ever-changing beast.
  • Consider buying both hard copy and e-format. Hard copy to take notes and e-format to use while on the road. 
  • Think about the character of the destination AND the character of your travel. Each publication has its target audience and style to go with it. Some will try to spread that net to catch a few more readers, but they can’t escape their own character. Then head to the library and read a few pages of each. You’ll soon pick up on what I mean.
  • Check the author bio on the book (e.g. Lonely Planet lists the contributors on the back page). Make sure at least half of them are local-based. It is too easy to ‘phone it in’, without any first-hand experience from the streets they are talking about. By supporting publications with local writers, you are supporting responsible local tourism AND encouraging more #ownvoices in the publishing industry.

The Best Travel Guide Books

Lonely Planet Guide

best travel guide booksUpfront honesty: Lonely Planet Guides are my go-to for travel. Maybe I’m biased for an Australian publishing company, but they are definitely one of the few travel guides that remember how absolutely RIDICULOUS it is to travel to ANYWHERE from Australia (or New Zealand, for that matter). I find the LP guides are best when you are travelling to a country or region, rather than a city or town. LP has a great understanding of distance, travel, and all the little mysteries you can find in between. For example, the LP guide for Italy is brilliant for travelling around the country-side on trains and buses but the specific details for Rome are limited with less detail and enticement. Bonus note: LP has a whole extra range of books like The Not-For-Parents Travel Book and The Solo Travel Handbook. But that’s a whole other series.

Great for: Big picture travel across a whole country for most regions but especially Oceania, Asia, and the “Shoestring” range. New Zealand is the best ever.

Not so great: They need to update their South America collection. The most recent edition for Ecuador was lacking in detail and encouragement to try new things, especially for the Galapagos Islands. Really felt like at least two of the white male writers phoned it in from their NY base.


best travel guide booksFodor’s guides are hugely popular. Fodor’s ‘Go List’ is one of the most eagerly anticipated travel lists each and every year. If you are looking for the top 25 things to do in any given location, Fodor’s are brilliant for that. On the other hand, I found the Fodor’s to be lacking in those little touches away from the main thoroughfare. It’s the difference between seeing the Sydney Opera House and taking a walk around the corner to see Lady Macquarie’s Chair. The view is everything. This style works best with the European holidays and really seems to appeal to the Baby Boomers and older retiree generation.

Great for: The best highlights of any city, especially in Europe (e.g. Paris). 

Not so great: Personal local touch, or if you plan to stay in one place for longer than a week at a time.


best travel guide booksFrommer’s guides are highly recommended by many travellers who are looking for a little more comfort. They are brilliant for recommending and prioritising the highlights of any destination. However, they lack the insight of someone who has recently stood in line for many tourist attractions. For example, Frommer’s includes excellent tips on the best days to visit the Vatican Museum but it doesn’t warn you about the line that continues three blocks down from the entry doors.

Recently, they have been changed their focus to a more budget-friendly approach, but I don’t think it is coming through with their local writers.

Great for: Mainstream Travel with an upmarket touch, especially Western Europe (see Frommer’s Europe).

Not so great: “One block over” travel, stepping away from the regular, e.g. the Melbourne guide did little to entice me into exploring the city’s famous laneways of culture, coffee, and bookshops.

DK Eyewitness

best travel guide booksIf you’re travelling for culture and museums and art galleries and architecture, then the DK Eyewitness brand is the first guide you should pick up. This guide proudly stakes its brand on everything you want to SEE on a holiday—but not necessarily everything you want to DO. When I was researching for our holiday in Italy, the DK Eyewitness Italy guide had the BEST maps and layouts for all the biggest establishments. They are very detailed in the visuals, but I personally find them lacking in the roadside information (e.g. suggestions for food, parks to stop at, etc). I use them for building my ideas before I travel.

Great for: visually inspiring your holidays. Beautiful for places like Rome or London. Great guide for Italy

Not so great: Day-to-day travel details. Once I stepped out of the Vatican Museum, it was pretty much useless.

Rick Steves

best travel guide booksTo be honest, I never knew what the Rick Steves series was about, and then I learned I am not part of their target audience. The Rick Steves series is highly recommended for travel virgins, particularly those from the United States. The style of the guide is very good at taking the ‘scary’ out of travel and encouraging people to take that first leap into a completely unknown country. They provide a fairly good and well-travelled itinerary to help you find your feet when you first arrive. Anything outside their recommended zone and you’re on your own.

Great for: First-timers travellers visiting one of the major cities of the world, like London or Paris

Not so great: Anyone looking for a little more depth, e.g. do not use for Venice—that’s a city you need to be lost in at least once.

Rough Guides

best travel guide booksThese are the perfect guides for taking a step off the beaten track. I absolutely loved our Rough Guide for Southeast Asia. I find Rough Guides tend to be in the same style as Lonely Planet, offering you a jump to the left with more adventure. Rough Guide is even better for bushwalks, tramping, hiking or general “rough adventures”. They have an excellent understanding of responsible travel and are great for highlighting the towns between the cities. If you are travelling for the history of a place, this is the guide for you.

Great for: Historic or off-the-beaten-track adventures, like SE Asia, NZ, South America

Not so great: Big cities or glossy photos for visual cues. It was of no help in Kuala Lumpur.

Bradt Guides

best travel guide booksThe Bradt Guides were originally for British travellers venturing into Europe. Many years later, they have expanded to cover the rest of the world but stayed true to their character: preparing you for the culture shock of travel. Bradt Guides have all of these amazing cultural insights mixed in with the essentials. By the time you finish reading them, some of the biggest cultural differences won’t feel so different for you. For example, you won’t think twice if Nonna comes out to the restaurant and lures your children into the cucina for some special sweets. You’ll probably just laugh and follow them.

Good for: Cultural highlights of countries and regions, especially Macedonia.

Not so great: Asia. The Borneo guide was lacking in details about the various cultures and land issues for the locals.

Blue Guides

best travel guide booksI really feel like this is the series for Book Riot readers. There is a certain character that comes from these books, filled with history and art and architecture and culture. It is like you are travelling with a book personified, whispering secrets in your ears. There are all of these little tips and history notes filling the book, with a scholarly approach that reminds me of Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Blue Guides aren’t for everybody, but for those who love them, they really love their books.


Great for: Book Riot, history and literary buffs, that big cultural holiday you were taking through the Romantic History of Europe. The Blue Guide: Greece (The Mainland) is especially lovely to read!

Not so great: The rave scene in Berlin. Not really the Blue Guide style.

Footprint Travel Guides

The greatest strength of the Footprint Guides is in their understanding of transport. It is one of the few series that understands the travel around a city AND the travel between cities. Too many times, I have seen other books recommend going from this site to this site, without any explanation on the travel between the two. Footprint Guides provide all transport details as part of their planning, and it really helps. The highlights and cultural backgrounds are also very detailed and helpful. The only thing I would add would be some more information on cost details and budget ranges.

Great for: transport. Really useful in busy, stretched out places like Bangkok and Thailand

Not so great: Budget details.

Insight Guides

best travel guide booksThis is another beautiful, glossy, and impressive guide book that will encourage you to grab that passport and head straight to the airport!! Just don’t take these books with you—they are pretty useless with the actual travel information. The Insight Guides are produced by the Discovery Channel, so it is really no surprise they are aimed at beauty and practicality. There is plenty of background information and recommended highlights, making them best for the planning segment of your holiday.

Great for: Giving you an idea in your mind of where you want to go. The Insight Guides Turkey is especially memorable

Not so great: Actual travel. Don’t rely on these books to get you around a city like Naples and the Amalfi Coast.

This is… by Miroslava Saska

best travel guide booksOkay, these are not really travel guides. They are of absolutely no use to any of your travel plans or itineraries…but they are just so beautiful! I don’t care what you say—they are the Best Travel Guide Books. They are the books I turn to when I am trying to inspire my kids for holiday ideas. It all started with This is Venice, where our then 2-year-old kept reaching out to touch the pictures of the gondola. Ten years later and he still vividly remembers the city of boats. Our goal is now to collect each book for the cities and countries we have travelled to. So far it would include:


As always, I’m open to suggestion and we LOVE suggestions here at Book Riot. So, if I have missed your favourite, please tell us all about it in the comments. Or if you are looking for a suggestion for your dream destination, ask us!

Bon Voyage!

12 Bookish Netflix Originals Streaming in April 2019

There are 44 Netflix originals hitting your browser/app/TV/however you watch Netflix in April, and I’ve done the (super enjoyable tbh) work of figuring out which ones are bookish.

Get your bookish watching on with these current streaming Netflix originals readers will love. books to film | bookish movie | netflix originals worth watching

Bookish Netflix Originals Streaming in April 2019

Titles link directly to Netflix.

April 1


Based on the Ultraman manga series, the Netflix series serves as a continuation of the 1960s Japanese tokusatsu (a type of TV series).

For more on manga, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Manga.

April 5

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2

Based on comic The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, I am hoping that season 2 will leave behind the weird vaseline effect used to blur the backgrounds in season 1.

Our Planet

This is not based on a book, but it is a nature documentary for nonfiction lovers and everyone else. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough!

Roman Empire

I swear I didn’t intend to list a whole lot of nonfiction-ish titles that aren’t actually based on books, but this docu-series (which looks more like a drama) is narrated by Sean Bean and looks like just the sort of Julius Caesar trash my heart wants.

April 10

You vs. Wild

This kids’ reality science and nature series looks like an, er, pick-your-path style story, as the audience makes choices throughout (it is unclear to me how this will work).

April 12

The Silence

Starring Stanley Tucci, Miranda Otto, and YA Queen Kiernan Shipka, this horror thriller is based on The Silence by Tim Lebbon. (Content note: Shipka plays a Deaf character, but is herself hearing.)


Written by and starring Ryan O’Connell and based on his book, I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, this #ownvoices show is about a gay man with cerebral palsy, and it looks hella funny.

April 19

Brené Brown: The Call to Courage

This documentary is based on our post of Brené Brown Quotes. (No it isn’t, but that would really be something.)

April 22

Selection Day

This Indian series based on the novel Selection Day by Aravind Adiga is about two brothers who have been trained by their father to become the next great pair of cricket batsmen. YES GIVE ME ALL OF YOUR FAMILY SPORTS DRAMEDIES. The series appears to be dubbed in English over the original Hindi.

April 26

The Protector

This Turkish TV series is categorized as based on a book, but I haven’t been able to find any further information. If you know anything, please chime in!

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: season 2

Does it count as based on a book if there are comics based on the original TV series from the 1980s? I’m gonna say yes.

April 30

Baki: Part 2

The second season of this Japanese series based on the manga Baki is rounding out the month. (Please note: this series is very violent and is not for children.)

Did I miss any bookish originals coming to Netflix this month? Check out the complete list here.

Clever Bookish Marketing from the London Book Fair

A book fair is an opportunity to marvel at the massive amount of money pouring through various nooks of the publishing industry. It’s also, of course, a venue for ingenious book publicity. Here’s some of the most eye-catching standalone marketing from the most recent edition of the London Book Fair.

A tiny folded business card, showing a cartoon-style octopus and ocean, with the text "The Golden Key" and "Bangon Books"

An adorable miniature book-shaped business card, for a representative of Bangon Books, the publisher of The Golden Key

A sloth hangs upside down, smiling. Text reads "Hang out with me."

A sloth-centric “Hang out with me!” business card, showcasing the work of British illustrator Izzi Fitch

A blue pamphlet resembling a passport, with the text "Antoine Cassar" and an image of a bird over a globe

A simulated passport, containing the border-challenging poem “Passport” by Maltese writer Antoine Cassar

A fox and a hedgehog look worried, with images of beds and pillows and the text "I can't go to bed, this just isn't right!"

A mini sample from Sophia K. Bennett and Christopher Bennett’s children’s book I Can’t Sleep on That!, with a QR code on the opposite side for illustrator Stag Prints

black poster featuring an astronaut, a toilet cleaning brush, and toilet paper, reading "Finally you are alone"

A poster hung on a bathroom stall, facing the toilet user, promoting both the value of a quiet space and the introverted creativity of Latvian authors

A pink box with the text "Period" and "It's about bloody time", containing sanitary products

Another bathroom publicity stunt: free tampons and sanitary pads in a case advertising Emma Barnett’s upcoming book Period.

Colorful pillow-shaped business cardColorful pillow-shaped business card

A pillow-shaped card from the perspective of Mr. Pillow, a character created by Ukrainian illustrator Dariia Bila

15 Book Adaptations to Stream for Free with Your Library Card

I’m often shocked by the number of people I speak to who don’t know that “Netflix through your library” is a service that does indeed exist! It’s called Kanopy, and like Overdrive or Hoopla, it’s a service that you can access for free with your library card (providing your library offers Kanopy in their array of digital services). Kanopy has an interface that is similar to Netflix’s, and offers over 30,000 movies, documentaries, and children’s programs. Your access is determined by your library and their subscription plans, but my local library offers 10 free credits per month, which I can redeem for 72-hour movie rentals!

Kanopy logo

I love Kanopy for their extensive indie and foreign film collections, but they also have a really great collection of adaptations of great books! Here are fifteen relatively new bookish adaptations that you can stream right now. As usual, more books by white authors tend to be made into movie than books written by authors of color, so that’s something that the book and film industry continuously needs to work on.

Miseducation of Cameron Post movieThe Miseducation of Cameron Post

Based off of the book of the same name by Emily M. Danforth, this adaptation stars Chloe Grace Moretz and won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Drama at Sundance. It tells the story of teenager Cameron, who is sent to conversion therapy after she’s discovered kissing a girl at a school dance. It’s not available on DVD, tragically, so I’m thrilled that libraries can still offer it to patrons via this streaming platform!

The Children Act movieThe Children Act

Ian McEwan’s books are a favorite for adaptations and often command an A-list cast, and this adaptation of The Children Act is not different. It stars Emma Thompson as a High Court judge who is presented with a complicated case: a young man is in need of a blood transfusion in order to live, but his Jehovah’s Witness parents won’t consent to the procedure as it goes against their religious beliefs. Stanley Tucci also stars.

Half a Yellow Sun movieHalf a Yellow Sun

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is probably best known for her books We Should All Be Feminists and Americanah, but her second novel, released in 2006, was made into a 2013 movie. The story follows four characters, three of them Nigerian and one English, right before and during the Nigerian Civil War in the 1960s.

Room movieRoom

Room by Emma Donoghue is the harrowing story of five-year-old Jack, who lives in a single room with his mother. They’ve been held in captivity for all of Jack’s life, until a risky plan finally results in their liberation and Jack’s introduction to the real world. The movie adaptation stars Brie Larson, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

Jasper Jones movieJasper Jones

Craig Silvey’s novel was honored by the ALA as a best pick for young adults, and in 2017 it was made into a movie. Set in a fictional town in Australia, it tells the story of 14-year-old Charlie, who is called out of his house one night by Jasper Jones, a White-Aboriginal boy who has discovered a terrible crime and is afraid he’ll be blamed for it.

Nowhere in Africa movieNowhere in Africa

This German film is based off of a 1995 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, about a German Jewish family who immigrated to Kenya in 1938 in order to avoid persecution in Europe. The movie won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

My Friend Dahmer movieMy Friend Dahmer

Based on the 2012 graphic novel by Derf Backderf, this movie is an exploration of the teenage years of the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who was caught in 1992. The movie chronicles the troubles that Dahmer struggled with during his teens, ending not long after high school when Dahmer began acting on his dark impulses.

Lamb movieLamb

This movie was adapted from the novel Lamb by Bonnie Ladzam, and follows a middle aged man who abducts a “willing” 11-year-old girl on a road trip across the country to save her from unhappiness and unfulfillment, only to find the journey doesn’t go quite as either of them anticipated.

Sold movieSold

This 2014 movie is based off of Patricia McCormick’s YA novel, and was produced by Emma Thompson. It is about 14-year-old Lakshmi who leaves her village in Nepal and finds herself tricked into sexual slavery, and the lengths she must go to in order to survive.

Into the Forest movieIn the Forest

Starring Ellen Page and Rachel Evan Wood (be still my heart!) and based off of the book by Jean Heglund, this movie is about two sisters living in the near future who find themselves stranded in the woods after their father dies and a massive technology failure leaves them adrift and without resources.

I capture the CastleI Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is one of my favorite books of all time, and this adaptation does a fair job at capturing the whimsy and gritty realism of a family living in poverty in a falling-down castle, and how their lives are irrevocably changed when an American family purchases the neighboring estate.

Swallows and AmazonsSwallows and Amazons

Swallows and Amazons is about two groups of siblings vacationing in England’s Lake District who engage in competition for an island in the middle of a lake. This 2016 adaptation is not the first time Arthur Ransome’s children’s classic has been made into a movie, but the visuals here are truly spectacular.

Dark Places movieDark Places

This Gillian Flynn adaptation may not be quite as popular as Gone Girl or Sharp Objects, but it is really worth watching! Starring Uma Thurman as Libby, a survivor of a massacre that killed her mother and siblings. She played a key role in her older brother’s arrest for the crimes, but now, years later and down on her luck, she revisits the case and discovers there may be something key she’s been missing about that night.

We Need to Talk About Kevin movieWe Need to Talk About Kevin

Adapted from Lionel Shriver’s novel, this film stars Tilda Swinton as Eva, the mother of a teenage boy named Kevin who is in prison for killing several classmates at his high school. Eva revisits her memories of Kevin and his manipulative behavior to understand how he grew up to commit his crimes and question who is to blame.

The Spectacular NowThe Spectacular Now

Based off of the Printz Honor book by Tim Tharp, this movie stars YA adaptation darlings Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller (a year before The Fault in Our Stars adaptation!) as two classmates who become unlikely friends and more just on the brink of graduation, and what it means to live in the moment when you feel like your whole life ought to be building towards a future.

Plot Holes are the Real Crimes of Grindelwald

Spoilers ahead!

I’ll always be a fan of the original Harry Potter books and movies, despite the tokenizing way that Rowling writes diversity and multiple inconsistencies in her world-building. I enjoyed the 2016 prequel movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I loved the new characters: Newt, Jacob, and sisters Queenie and Tina Goldstein. The setting of the Wizarding World in the 1920s United States was a little underdeveloped but still vivid and intriguing, with slang and speakeasies. Disappointingly, the 2018 sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald undoes much of the characterization that made me enjoy the previous movie.

crimes of grindelwald feature

Although J. K. Rowling has mentioned repeatedly that Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald had a sexual and romantic relationship, the film stays frustratingly noncommittal on this fact. Saying that Dumbledore and Grindelwald were “closer than brothers” is not LGBTQ representation. Some non-romantic friends describe themselves as closer than siblings, and not all siblings are close. The statement is too vague to mean anything, and all evidence of the relationship remains offscreen.

It’s also hard to imagine Dumbledore refusing to take sides against someone because he used to be in love with him. In prequels like the Fantastic Beasts movies, set many decades in the past, it’s difficult to tell whether the characters are inconsistently written or whether they’ve changed in the intervening decades. This might be the pivotal relationship that inspired Dumbledore to take clear moral stances later on, but the audience doesn’t have enough information to decide.

Another inconsistency is the Obliviate or Memory Charm. At the end of the first Fantastic Beasts movie, Jacob’s memory is apparently Obliviated, removing all of his memories of magic. The sequel reverses this. Queenie says that the charm was temporary and only meant to eliminate “bad memories.” However, the usual purpose of the Obliviate spell isn’t to remove traumatic or otherwise unpleasant memories. It’s to protect the wizarding world’s secrecy by ensuring that Muggles like Jacob don’t remember its existence. This seems like a confusing attempt to retcon the ending of the first movie into the plot of the second.

Queenie’s treatment of Jacob is also out of character with the nurturing, nonjudgmental, flirtatious character I enjoyed in the first movie. Inexplicably, she admits that she placed a love spell on him. The Harry Potter books do an excellent job of showing that love spells and potions are coercive: the Wizarding world’s equivalent of date-rape drugs. Aside from being abusive, Queenie’s enchantment of Jacob is unnecessary, even counterproductive. She can literally read his thoughts, so she always knew that he was attracted to—and eventually, deeply in love with—her.

Death Eaters and their obsession with blood purity have always been a possible metaphor for real-world white supremacists, including Hitler and Nazis. However, this message seems undercut by the irony of Yusuf Kama, a French and Senegalese pure-blood wizard who shares this fixation on blood purity. Queenie Goldstein—whom I’d always interpreted as possibly Jewish because of her surname—attends one of Grindelwald’s rallies. Grindelwald preaches the superiority of wizards and witches over Muggles. It’s hard to imagine why this message appeals to Queenie, who is engaged to a Muggle.

The pale, blond, blue-eyed, aristocratic Malfoys from the original books and movies made the parallel to white supremacists clear, but these movies conflate white supremacists with their targets. Nagini’s true identity as an East Asian woman who is an Animagus also prompted criticism because it objectifies her and plays into harmful stereotypes. By diversifying bigoted and stereotypical characters, the movie presents false equivalencies between racists and their targets.