September 24, 2017

Rewind & Review #94


~Last two weeks were pretty ordinary.
~Had my first exams of the semester. Did surprisingly well on both. 
~First workshop of advanced creative writing was emotionally draining, since my professor completely misunderstood my WIP, and I wasn't allowed to speak up and defend it. Grateful for friends who did like it.
~Celebrated one of my best friend's birthdays. :)

Books I Received for Review
The Beloved Wild by Melissa Ostrom
Suiters and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey
You Won't Know I'm Gone by Kristen Orlando
In Her Skin by Kim Savage
In Search Of by Ava Dellaira
Bound to You by Alyssa Brandon (all from Macmillan)
The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody (from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley)
Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen (from Bloomsbury via NetGalley)

Books I Bought
Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelly George

Books I Read
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
What To Say Next by Julie Buxbaum (2.5 stars)
Paris My Sweet by Amy Thomas (4 stars)
Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau (2 stars)
~a friend's manuscript
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (reread)
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman (3 stars)
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson (reread)
Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill (3 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 9/11-9/16)
   (from 9/17-9/23)

September 23, 2017

Review: Things I'm Seeing Without You

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Things I'm Seeing Without You by Peter Bognanni
Grade: D
Release date: October 3, 2017
An ARC was provided by Read Between the Lynes in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler has just dropped out of high school. She can barely function after learning of Jonah’s death. Jonah, the boy she’d traded banter with over texts and heartfelt e-mails.

Jonah, the first boy she'd told she loved and the first boy to say it back. 

Jonah, the boy whose suicide she never saw coming. 

Tess continues to write to Jonah, as a way of processing her grief and confusion. But for now she finds solace in perhaps the unlikeliest of ways: by helping her father with his new alternative funeral business, where his biggest client is . . . a prized racehorse?

As Tess’s involvement in her father’s business grows, both find comfort in the clients they serve and in each other. But love, loss, and life are so much more complicated than Tess ever thought. Especially after she receives a message that turns her life upside down.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Suicide books are always shaky ground, but they can be done well. Things I'm Seeing Without You is not one of those. The only reason I finished it is because I didn't want to DNF it.
There seems to be this problem of male authors writing female protagonists...that don't sound female at all. Tess did not sound like a girl. She sounded like a blank slate mixed with a guy. She didn't make good choices, and her parents were just absentee enough and permissive enough that she got away with a lot.
The whole thing with Jonah was confusing. The timeline felt weird, and I wasn't sure what was true and what wasn't.
The plotline with Grace wasn't that great either. She felt shoehorned in at times and super obnoxious, and I needed the only other female presence in the book to not be someone I wanted gone.
A lot of the plot that I had issues with are spoilers, so keep reading if you want to be spoiled.
Tess finds out, when someone replies to one of the post-death messages she sends Jonah, that he wasn't the one messaging her for the last several months. He handed the reins over to his roommate, Daniel. Who is creepy and weird and has five million red flags that Tess (or her father at the very least since he's not a teenager, and I acknowledge teenagers can sometimes be blind to warning signs) never objects to. Also, Daniel wasn't that interesting either.
There's foul language, drug use, and underage drinking. There's a description of a naked picture, and there's fade-to-black sex.

The Verdict: Not worth your time. I don't know why I haven't given up completely yet on YA books written by guys with female protagonists. The only good one is The Fault in Our Stars.

Will I be adding this to my library?: Nope.

September 21, 2017

So You Like... #57

I usually don't see movies more than once in theaters, but there's one that I loved enough to bookend my summer with. I saw it opening weekend and then right before I went back to school. And now I'm about to give you book recommendations for the movie. So you like...



WONDER WOMAN.


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Did you love Wonder Woman, too? Did you cry as much as I did? What other books would you recommend for fans of Wonder Woman?

September 20, 2017

Review: Speak Easy, Speak Love

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Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George
Grade: B
An e-galley was provided by HarperCollins via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer.

Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: If this is your first time reading one of my reviews, you may not know how much I love Shakespeare retellings. But I do, so Speak Easy, Speak Love was absolutely one of my most-anticipated books of 2017.
The beginning was a little rough, but stick with this book, and it'll smooth out for a strong middle and end.
The fact that Benedick and Beatrice had no prior history and didn't hate each other to begin with kind of ruins the fun of the plot, although the scene where they dance at the Masquerade is well done. It's reminiscent of Shakespeare's without being too derivative. And I liked how their relationship progressed, and they were both able to pursue their dreams. I did appreciate how the author played with the plot surrounding Hero. She, like Lily Anderson in her Much Ado About Nothing retelling The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, changes the plot so it causes just a little less drama, although there's definitely still slut-shaming. Speaking of Hero, her personality really bursts off the pages. She was vibrant and lovely and not so meek as other interpretations of Hero, but just as much of a Hufflepuff. I also really liked Prince/Pedro in this adaptation, and I thought the author did a good job of incorporating Verges and Dogberry.
Other little things I liked: how the chapter titles are quotes from Much Ado About Nothing, how Benedick's dad was impressed by Beatrice, the accurate time period references.
There's underage drinking, of course (this is a Prohibition era novel). The s-word was used a few times.

The Verdict: Didn't quite live up to my expectations, but it was still a fun read.


Will I be adding this book to my library?: My preorder came yesterday!

September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall 2017 TBR List


Besides the stacks of already-published books I'm hoping to read this fall, these are the fall 2017 releases I'm planning to read.

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1. Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows

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2. A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess

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3. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George

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4. One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

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5. You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

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6. That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston

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7. Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

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8. Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

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9. Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski

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10. Dear Martin by Nic Stone

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11. Renegades by Marissa Meyer

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12. Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

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13. The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody


What's on your fall TBR list/what fall releases are you eagerly anticipating?

September 18, 2017

Interview with Kathryn Ormsbee, Author of Tash Hearts Tolstoy

Today, please welcome an awesome author to the blog! Kathryn has written some middle grade I have yet to read and two YA books I loved, and she was willing to do an interview so scroll down for that. But first...here's a little about Kathryn and her latest book!


The Book

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After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

The Author


Kathryn Ormsbee hails from the Bluegrass State and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Once upon a time, she co-created a Shakespearean web series that is absolutely as nerdy as it sounds. Lucky Few was her first YA novel. She's also the author of The Water and the Wild fantasy novels. You can find her online at the links above!


The Interview

Emma: Stevie and Tash are such unique, realistic protagonists. What's your secret for writing strong heroines?
Kathryn: To me, writing strong characters means writing real characters—ones with ugly flaws, icky secrets, big aspirations, and their own take on life. And they don’t have to be physically or emotionally strong to be strong; they just have to be wonderfully themselves. I love people watching, whether it’s in a public park or with a group of friends or while viewing a favorite TV series. There are endless creative possibilities when it comes to personalities and their interactions, and I never grow tired of filing away those possibilities for future consideration. Then, at the beginning of each of my writing projects, I take time to really delve into my characters, figuring out what makes them tick and developing all their little idiosyncrasies.

So I guess my secret would be to first take in great storytelling content with excellent characters; those techniques do rub off on you. And second, spend time getting to know your characters and making them distinctly your own creation; develop their personalities and backstories and throw them into different scenarios to see how they behave. Even if you don’t end up using any of that content in the book itself, that depth of knowledge and understanding is going to show up in your character on the page.

E: What was your favorite part about creating the Unhappy Families web series in Tash Hearts Tolstoy?
K: My favorite part was the chance to pay tribute to the real world of web series. I loved co-creating a Shakespearean-inspired web series with my friend Destiny Soria, and that experience played a lot into how I portrayed the behind-the-scenes workings of Unhappy Families. I also loved bringing together a fictional cast of characters and recreating that dizzying feeling that accompanies any project in the performing arts. And if I’m honest, it was a bit of wish fulfillment. I really want to see an Anna Karenina web series!

E: You were homeschooled, right? How did that affect how you wrote the homeschooled characters and co-op in Lucky Few?
K: Yes! You’ve uncovered my not-so-secret. I was homeschooled K-12, and I’ve never been as weirded out by that fact as other people seem to be. My homeschooling experience was why I wrote LUCKY FEW, so I channeled a lot of my teenage perspective into the characters of Stevie and Sanger. I wrote LUCKY FEW to be the novel younger Kathryn would have appreciated, with plenty of dark humor and close girl friendships. But most importantly, I wrote it to be a novel I could have seen myself in. Growing up, I never encountered a homeschooled character that remotely resembled me or my friends, so I wrote a story that confronted the typical homeschool stereotypes head-on.

E: Can you talk about writing Tash as asexual? There are so few asexual characters in YA, and I felt you did an excellent job with Tash.
K: Thank you. It really means a lot to hear back from readers on the asexual rep. I knew going into Tash that I wanted to write an asexual protagonist. I’m demi, and as a teen, I struggled with pegging my identity. So, much like I wrote Lucky Few to be the book Homeschooled Me needed, I wrote Tash to be what Questioning Me needed. I would have loved to have seen a character on the ace spectrum who accepted herself and lived bravely and creatively.

Since I don’t share Tash’s ID, I consulted with a sensitivity reader who does identify like Tash throughout the drafting and revision process. I also gave the manuscript to other ace readers for their feedback. I wanted to do everything in my power to get this rep right. There is so little explicitly asexual rep out there, and so much misinformation and stereotyping on top of that. I didn’t want to perpetuate any of those harmful portrayals but, instead, actively combat them. And I really hope that readers can find encouragement and validation in Tash’s story.

I also know, though, that Tash’s story won’t speak to other ace readers. And that’s okay. This is a pretty niche book, Tash is a very particular character, and every individual’s experience is different. I think that’s why it’s so important to support more asexual rep in YA, period. We need so many more voices and perspectives in this arena. Every teen deserves to see themselves on the page.

E: If an adaptation was going to be made of either of your YA novels, would you want it to be a movie, TV show, stage play/musical, web series...?
K: Normally, I prefer TV series to movies, but I think Lucky Few would be best suited to an indie movie budget. That’s the far-fetched dream! As for Tash Hearts Tolstoy, I would love to see a web series take on the fictional Unhappy Families and make it a real thing. There’s a reason I chose Anna Karenina as Tash’s project: I’ve always thought it would make a freaking fantastic LIW (literary-inspired web series).

E: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, which artists or genres do you favor?
K: Do I ever. When I’m drafting, I can get distracted by lyrics, so I generally just put on a sound mix on Noisli. But when I’m revising (which takes up most of my writing time), music is a must. I compile official music playlists for all my books, and each of those favors a different style/genre/mood to fit the story. (Yes, I am a nerd.) But some of my favorite go-tos, no matter the project, include Arcade Fire, Metric, Lights, Sufjan Stevens, and Simon & Garfunkel.

E: When it comes to writing, are you a plotter, pantser, or a combination of both?
K: This isn’t the sexy answer, but it’s a strange combo of both. I use Scrivener to draft all my novels, and at the start of every project I create a ton of chapter files and then fill each one with a few all-caps lines detailing what needs to happen in that chapter. I do so as I’m chugging caffeine-filled tea and blasting upbeat music; it’s a very dramatic process. So I do start with a written outline of sorts, but my characters inevitably switch things up as I’m drafting. And I have to remind myself to stay open to that possibility. I think those unexpected changes are necessary to create a story that feels authentically compelling, not forced.

E: Anna Karenina plays such a fun part in Tash Hearts Tolstoy. Are there any other classic novels that you hope might influence future books of yours?

Yes! In fact, I can tell you classic novels that already have influenced some of my other books. My Middle Grade fantasy series, The Water and the Wild, was heavily influenced by Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. I’d also love to do a Jane Austen tribute or modernization one day. Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel, and I think it’s so underrated. (I get very hipster about Persuasion.) So perhaps one day you’ll see an Anne Elliot or Captain Wentworth tribute in my writing.

E: I like to ask authors what recent YA releases they'd recommend. Are there any you've loved?
K: Oh gosh, absolutely. I highly recommend Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat. In most recent news, I’m halfway through Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens, and I’m head over heels in love.

E: Cake or pie, and what kind?
K: PIE. ALWAYS PIE. Key lime is my dessert religion.

K: Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Emma! <3
E: Thanks for stopping by my blog!

If y'all haven't read Tash Hearts Tolstoy yet, get on that ASAP!

September 16, 2017

Contemporary #QuietYA Recommendations

I know contemporary is the favored genre of most in summer, and I know September is technically fall, but that doesn't mean y'all have to stop reading contemporary fiction. In fact, I have some great underrated recommendations for y'all today. I've mentioned a few of these on the blog before, but they don't get enough attention in general, so I have to compensate for that.


If you like teen movies and want something a little fluffy and fun, you should read...

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However, if you'd rather read something a little more serious and thought-provoking, you've gotta read...

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Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali.


Another title on the fun summer spectrum is...

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I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski, which has summer travel and loads of drama.


Or maybe you've just started college, and you're having a bit of a rough time with your roommate. If you want to learn you're not alone, read...

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Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.


Jen Malone is great at fluffy contemporary stories with more serious moments. If you've read her 2017 release, you absolutely have to check out my favorite of her backlist titles:

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Bloomsbury's If Only... line had some hits and misses, but this title was definitely one of the hits.

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Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan.


This next title is most definitely #quietYA because it wasn't even on my radar for a while. But I decided to give it a try, and wow, did I love it. If you like ex-pat experiences and privilege checks, you should read...

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In a Perfect World by Trish Doller.


I hope this post helped you find some new books for your TBR list! If you end up liking any of my recommendations, please let me know because it absolutely makes my day.

September 15, 2017

Make Me Reread

I have so many books I want to read, but I also have a lot I want to reread. So, if y'all don't mind, I'd love your help in deciding what to reread next! All you have to do is vote in the polls below. Super easy! :) 

I'll choose one book from each post to put in my immediate reread stack.


What should I reread next?

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith
Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee
Do Riddles



What should I reread next?

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Poll Maker




What should I reread next?

Prisoner of Night and Fog duology by Anne Blankman
Books of Bayern series by Shannon Hale
The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer
quiz


Thanks for voting!