May 31, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Beach Reads 2016

I don't think I'll be going to the beach at all this summer, but if I were, these are the books I'd bring with - and ones you should bring with you.


2. What You Always Wanted by Kristin Rae

3. Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern


5. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

6. Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

7. Don't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche

8. Swept Away by Michelle Dalton

9. First & Then by Emma Mills

10. Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Bonus picks: The Revenge Playbook and 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen

May 30, 2016

Reflecting on My Sophomore Year

Last year, I used a Random Friday post to talk about my freshman year of college, but I decided to do it as a normal post this year.

Academically, I've completed 68 credits (and I'll be at 72 by the fall, thanks to the course I'm taking this summer). I'm well on my way to graduate on schedule. I didn't make the Dean's List either semester because I've started getting B's. I even got a C in ethics last semester, which will haunt me forever. If I have the time fall semester senior year, I might retake it and see if I can get at least a B.
I've taken two courses for my history minor now: Revolutionary Europe and History of America in the 1960s. The latter was definitely my favorite.
I also developed photography skills this semester (pun intended), and I've started writing poetry and I worked on my prose skills.

I worked a lot of hours at the athletic center front desk - 12 hours a week in the fall and 9 hours a week this spring (6 of which were all in the same day). Ideally, I hope to work 12 hours next semester as well but it'll be only 3 days instead of 4. I'm also going to be working the front desk of my dorm on Sunday afternoons, and I'm glad to be earning extra money. (In case you weren't aware yet, I'm saving to fly to Illinois for a week over Christmas break and visit my friends and hopefully see Hamilton in Chicago.)

I didn't get along well with my roommate. She wasn't great at communicating, and I felt like she was often a bit annoyed with me, so I didn't push things. 
Former roomie Elise (from freshman year), another friend, and I tried for an on-campus apartment, but we didn't get it. The other friend, who I was going to room with in the apartment, didn't want to move to my dorm and I didn't want to move back to hers, so I ended up getting a single room for next year.

I'm gonna do a quick month-by-month recap of the school year.

August: Got back to school; had only two days to move and settle in as opposed to a whole week. It felt frenzied and I didn't like it.
September: Went to Red River Gorge with three of my friends on Labor Day. We swam in the river and relaxed on the beach. The theater department put on "The Diary of Anne Frank," and I went to see that since my former RA was Miep.
October: Homecoming dance. My mom visited for fall break - we stocked me up on groceries, shopped at the mall, and ate lunch at Shakespeare and Co. Taylor Swift came to Lexington, and the concert was amazing.
November: I had little time to read. I went home early for Thanksgiving and got to visit my BFF at her university - I even stayed overnight. 
December: I read in my first fiction/poetry reading. I tackled my third finals week. I had one portfolio and three exams. Christmas was super quiet; my aunt and uncle came over for dinner. I babysat a bit over break.
January: Back to school! I finally got a good section of chapel buddies although Mary-Courtney quickly abandoned me when she became a chapel checker. (And the girl behind me sang loudly and poorly and always put her smelly boots on my seat.) I also got on a horse for the first time.
February: All I remember is cold...and then one Sunday that was warm enough I could wear shorts. I also remember finishing Gilmore Girls and watching Fuller House on Netflix. I also applied for my first internship (which I didn't get).
March: Went home for spring break. We went to the VMFA where I met Degas's "La Petite Danseuse." It was everything I imagined it would be.
April: The crazy busy month as always. I saw Sophomore Musical and the theater department's production of As You Like It. Legacy Games happened; my class came in third. I attended Highbridge (my school's annual short film festival). I read in the fiction/poetry reading.

Other random happenings:
~In walking to a professor's house with some classmates (she was hosting class at her house that day), I had to hop a fence. Never again. I'm too short and I wear flip-flops too often to do that.
~I went on several late night drives with Julia - both just to drive and listen to music and chat, and also to Sonic.
~I was, for a short time, the assistant stage manager for SoMu.

And now I look forward to my junior year. I'm excited for the classes I'm taking next semester, and there's a couple classes that'll be offered in the spring that I'm dying to take. I can't wait to have my own room, and I'll be in the same suite as Mary-Courtney and another friend. And I can't wait to see what God plans to do in my life.

May 29, 2016

Rewind & Review #62

~I've joined my university's team at The Odyssey. I'll be blogging there hopefully every week. (You can check my About Me page for the link to my page there. I also think I'm going to start linking to my articles in my Rewind & Review posts, so see below for my first two posts.)
~I went to the VMFA again, this time with my best friend. It was a quiet afternoon of art. We saw the 360-degree photography exhibition and wandered through the 19th-20th century French art, the modern art, and the American art galleries.
~The best friend also introduced me to the best pie shop in Richmond. I take pie very seriously, so it was a wonderful discovery. I had a slice of sour cream and blueberry that was to die for.
~I started my summer biology course. I don't have to post on any forums or interact with my classmates, which is great. I'm a bit concerned about the quizzes, though, and there are two labs a week which seem to take longer than I'm used to with my homework. 
~We don't think my Little Love (a.k.a. Sunny, a.k.a. Fluffhead, a.k.a. our dog) is going to make it through the year, possibly the summer. He's showing early signs of kidney problems and he isn't eating regularly like he should. :(

No book haul this time. Sorry, y'all, I wasn't feeling up to it.

Books I Received for Review
We Own the Night by Ashley Poston (from Bloomsbury via NetGalley)
How to Make Out by Brianna Shrum (from Sky Pony Press via Edelweiss)
Losing Gabriel by Lurlene McDaniel (from Random House)

Books I Won/Traded for/was Gifted
A Tyranny of Petticoats by various authors (gifted from my Secret Sister, Emily, a.k.a. @WilowRedHouse on Twitter)

Books I Bought
Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Books I Read
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (4 stars)
Just One Day by Gayle Forman (reread)
Break Me Like a Promise by Tiffany Schmidt
Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs (reread)
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston (3 stars)
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor (3.5 stars)
The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye (4.5 stars)
The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows (3.5 stars)
The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine (DNF)
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (reread)
Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw (3 stars)
Taste Test by Kelly Fiore (reread)
The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson (reread)
Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin (4 stars)
Poison is Not Polite by Robin Stevens
We Own the Night by Ashley Poston

Blog Posts You Might've Missed
   (From 5/9-5/14)
   (From 5/15-5/21)
  • Reflecting on My Sophomore Year
  • TTT: Beach Reads 2016
  • Review: Break Me Like a Promise by Tiffany Schmidt
  • More of My Poetry
  • Writing Prompt #6
  • TTT: Reasons I Love Joseph-Beth Booksellers
  • 2016 Has Not Been My Year, Book-wise
  • Random Friday: Superheroes
  • Review: The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • SST: All the Feels Favorite Quotes + Giveaway
  • Why I Love Since You've Been Gone
  • TTT: Most Anticipated 2016 Releases Part 2
  • Sixteen 2016 Reads Check-In
  • Review: We Own the Night by Ashley Poston
  • So You Like... #28

May 27, 2016

Random Friday: Summer 2016 Reads

Want to participate in Random Fridays? Just do the following: 
  • Include the above image in your post and link back to my post.
  • Blog about this week's topic.
  • Add the link to your Random Friday at the bottom of this post.
I hate how few books release in summer. You'd think there would be tons because kids have more time to read, but whatever. Anyways, because of this dearth of new releases, I only have fifteen books I'm going to feature in this post (it would only be five, but there isn't a summer reads Top Ten Tuesday this year, so I'm combining my posts).

1. Tumbling by Caela Carter
One of my Sixteen 2016 Reads, so I'm obviously stoked.

2. Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
This sounds like such an interesting mix of history and fantasy.

3. The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno
This has so much potential.

4. Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
Another Hundred Oaks book!

5. The Loose Ends List by Carrie FIrestone
I just love the cover, and it sounds fun and also touching.

6. The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle
I think this one was pitched as a Pitch Perfect read-a-like (although I could be mistaken), but even if not, it still sounds good, and I haven't seen a lot of bloggers talking about it.

7. Stars So Sweet by Tara Dairman
I love this middle grade series so much, and I can't wait to see what shenanigans Gladys gets up to this time.

8. The Way Back Home by Alecia Whitaker
I think this is the final Wildflower book, and I'm hoping it goes better than The Road to You.

9. Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies by Laura Stampler
*starts singing the One Direction songs*

10. P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
*makes grabby hands* Kasie West hasn't let me down yet.

11. The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond
Historical fiction!

12. A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody
Another Sixteen 2016 Reads pick, and this one sounds super fun.

13. All We Have Left by Wendy Mills
Look at that cover, y'all. This one sounds like it could definitely be an emotional read, so hopefully it won't fall victim to my reading slump.

14. Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott
The sequel to Court of Fives. Very excited for this story to continue!

15. Vicarious by Paula Stokes
I've enjoyed pretty much all of Paula's books thus far. I'm sure this one won't be the exception.

Which summer releases are you looking forward to? What books do you hope to read this summer?

May 26, 2016

Review: When We Collided

When We Collided by Emery Lord
Grade: B
Summary: Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.

Vivi and Jonah couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi's zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there's something important Vivi hasn't told him.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: It's happened. I never thought it would. But it has: I didn't completely love an Emery Lord novel. The Start of Me and You was one of the best things that ever happened to me and Open Road Summer inspires the same warm nostalgic feel in my gut whenever I think about it. So why didn't this happen with When We Collided?
When We Collided was much darker than Emery's previous books, even when Paige was dealing with grief and her fears in The Start of Me and You. I could feel Jonah's grief and struggle just as poignantly as I felt Paige's. Vivi, though, was going through something different. She seemed like she was in a upward spiral that would suddenly end in a broken off cliff and her only options would be to plunge off the edge or slowly trek down. I had a feeling she would plunge. She was wild and uncorraled (which apparently isn't a word, but it should be), and I think some guidance and a few restrictions would've been effective. Her mom was not a terrible mom by any means (YA has a lot of those, so I would know) but I felt she didn't parent effectively. I loved the storyline about Vivi's dad, though, and would've liked a little more build-up for that earlier on. In addition, I felt Vivi was too unrealistic at times - too out there and larger than life. Maybe that's part of her bipolar disorder, something I haven't seen in too many people I know in real life. But I felt like her dramatic personality was a bit too much for me.
Jonah was great, though. I obviously can't say if his perspective was accurate to a teen guy, but it was distinguishable from Vivi's. I loved how hard he worked and how much he cared - both about Vivi and his family. There's a quote towards the end of WWC that goes, "My cheeks are wet, but oh, my heart - it is so full" (pg. 328 of my ARC). Jonah's heart is so full, y'all. I loved how he liked his small town but he did want to leave. He didn't disparage Verona Cove, but he knew it wasn't the right place for him to spend the rest of his life. I loved hearing about his food passions (and believe me, I have recipe ideas brewing in my head for From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen). His family was great. I think I wanted a little more fleshing out for his younger sister Bekah and I almost wanted a flashback or a descriptive memory of the family before his dad died. Those would've made more of a good thing.
WWC has more foul language and sexual content than Emery's previous books, and neither of those are really my thing. That might've contributed to why I didn't love When We Collided.

The Verdict: I don't have that warm happy feeling in my gut like I get with Emery's first two books. But I still enjoyed When We Collided.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Already have.

May 25, 2016

From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen: Blueberry Scones

Summer means I get to bake with berries. I mean, I can bake recipes with them in the winter but then I have to use frozen berries, and where's the fun in that? You have to defrost the berries and they aren't usually as flavorful so I'd rather wait until summer.

Maine is known for its blueberries, and I'm so glad Michelle Dalton used this as a minor theme in Swept Away. The characters are all fans of blueberry pockets that they call "bloobs." I could've attempted to make those, I suppose, but I decided to bake blueberry scones instead.

The recipe produced scones I think one of my English professors would be quite proud of. (She's always making scones for her classes.)

Spiced Blueberry Scones
(makes approximately 18 scones)

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
6 T. unsalted butter at room temperature
1 t. vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 c. half-and-half
1/4 c. fresh blueberries, rinsed (I think I used closer to 1/3 of a cup)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the baking sheet.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Add the butter and stir until well-blended. In a different bowl, combine the vanilla, egg, and half-and-half. Stir into dry ingredients. Gently fold in the blueberries.
[Here the recipe says to roll out the dough and cut it, but because of the blueberries, I didn't think that was a good idea. So here are my modifications.]
Form the dough into small rough balls, probably about an inch or two inches across and an inch high. Space them out a bit on the baking sheet, probably six to eight at a time depending on the size of the sheet. 
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden-brown. Serve warm.

I am in love with these scones, y'all. I could've eaten five (but I limited myself to two). I might even make them sometime without the blueberries. 

Have a recipe/book suggestion for From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen? Leave it in the comments below!

May 24, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Feel Differently About

I tend to not reread books I didn't like, so most of the books in this post are going to be ones that I no longer like. I'll start with the ones I like more now than I did before, though.

Good Different

1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I was so-so on this one when I first read it, but now it's one of my favorite books.

2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I didn't like Anne for several years, but now she's near and dear to my heart.

3. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
I still dislike Lola as a character, but I like her book more than I used to.

Bad Different

4. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
This used to be one of my favorites in the Percy Jackson series, but when I reread the series this spring, I found I didn't like it nearly as much anymore.

5. Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray
Man, this used to be one of my favorites. It was one of the first YA books I read, and I loved that it was a retelling of Hamlet. It ended up being a big disappointment and nothing like I remembered.

6. Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano
This is mostly its sequel's fault. I didn't like Nearly Found at all, and it weakened my opinion of Nearly Gone.

7. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen
This is a similar case to Falling for Hamlet. Upon finally purchasing and rereading it, it was much too slow and not nearly as touching as I first thought.

8. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
In contrast to Lola, I liked Isla when I first read it.

9. The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller
It's still a cute and fun read, but I only like it instead of loving it.

Are there books you like more now than you did before? Or are you more like me - you have a ton of books you dislike now?

May 23, 2016

Writing Prompt #5

Time for another prompt!

Day #9: Think of any word and search it on Google images. Write something inspired by the seventh image.

I stared at my bookcase for a while, trying to come up with a word from a book title that might produce something good. I decided on thorns. This was the seventh image:

I ended up writing a poem. It's currently untitled, so if y'all have any ideas, feel free to comment below. I also don't think the poem is complete yet, but it feels complete in this moment. Apologies for how dreary it is. I tend to write a lot of hopeless poems, even though I love happy endings.

The moon sits
high in the sky,
farther than it looks.

My fingers stretch.
I think I can grasp it,
if I only try hard enough.

The barbs tear my fingers;
I withdraw, clutching
my bleeding fingers to my chest.

I sit, huddled on a bed
of dead leaves and fear.

My shoulders,
hunched against the cold,
my hair, wild and unkempt
from years of neglect.

I have grown under this bush,
lived here for years.
Soon I will be too big,
and the thorns will tear me

unless, I curl smaller and smaller.
No room to move
under the briars,
no room to do anything
but fade away.

So what image did you pull up on Google? What did it inspire you to write?

May 21, 2016

Emma Recommends More #QuietYA

I mentioned in April that I was going to have to do another #quietYA post, and here it is! I love posts where I get to sit around and recommend books to y'all. I pulled all of these from the official #quietYA list on Goodreads, so they've been vetted by other bloggers, too.

If you're in the mood for a good retelling, check out Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen (and the subsequent books in the trilogy).
I love a good genderbent retelling and girls who love weapons. (Plus the covers are pretty.)

2015 was the year of Westerns in YA, and there were three on my radar and I liked all of them. Two of the ones I hear little about are Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman and Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee.
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All three (including Rae Carson's Walk on Earth a Stranger) involve the female protagonist pretending to be a boy for her safety. They also all involve diversity and swoony romances.

But if you prefer contemporary fiction, than Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally might be a good bet for you.
It's the third in the Hundred Oaks series, but you can read the series out of order or as standalones since they're really just companion novels (although couples and characters from earlier books do make appearances). Anyways, this one is a bit more serious and religious than Miranda's others, but I really enjoyed it.

A really great read this year is The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne.
It's particularly necessary in this politically-fraught year (thankfully none of the candidates in the book are as stressful as the real life ones we're dealing with).

Another of my recent contemporary favorites is 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen.
It deals with female friendships and slut-shaming.

But if fantasy is more your thing, then I have a couple recommendations for you.

I haven't seen the most positive reviews for Stray by Elissa Sussman, but I liked it.
It plays with the fairy godmother trope in fairytales, and it features baking and lots of female characters. (Also, how gorgeous is that cover?!)

Another female-focused fantasy is Court of Fives by Kate Elliott.
It's been several months since I read it, but if I remember correctly, it's low fantasy like The Winner's Curse. The worldbuilding is great, and the love Jes has for her mother and sisters is beautiful.

If you like your books dark and twisted, then A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis might be a good one for you.
There's a murder mystery, feminism, and eye-opening details about a part of American (well, Victorian in general) history that is rarely talked about.

I read this next book two years ago, and I decided to reread it and see if I liked it more the second time around. (Spoiler alert: I did.)
Breakfast Served Anytime is introspective and largely character-driven. It's infused with Kentucky. When I first read it, I hadn't lived in Kentucky yet. Now I have, and I could feel the state's influence on the characters and plot.

Have you read any of these #quietYA books? Which books do you think are underappreciated?