June 30, 2016

Review: The Memory Book

The Memory Book by Lara Avery
Grade: C-
Release date: July 5, 2016
An ARC was provided by Poppy in exchange for review consideration.
Summary: Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way--not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie's notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It's where she'll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart--a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she'll admit how much she's missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: If you've been following my blog for about a year now, you'll know I read and reviewed Lara Avery's debut, A Million Miles Away, and I quite enjoyed it! Unfortunately, my feelings for The Memory Book were not the same.
I felt bad for Sammie, I really did. But the first part of her story was quite boring and felt rather typical, and I didn't connect to really any of it. Her relationship with Stuart lacked the depth I wanted, and there was relationship drama, the kind that I'm sick of reading in books. 
I think the latter third of the book, once her memory problems really start to kick in, was done realistically but I'm not sure prose was the right medium. The short scenes would almost be better suited to a movie. Sammie's friendship with Maddie was realistic and it went through appropriate ups-and-downs.
There's a fair amount of casual underage drinking and foul language.

The Verdict: If you like illness books, you'll probably like The Memory Book. Otherwise, I'd pass on this one.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: No.

June 29, 2016

Non-Fiction and Me

I've never been the type to read non-fiction, unless required for school. Don't get me wrong - I love history, but I'd rather read fiction. The Internet is my non-fiction research when I'm interested in learning more about an important person or event.

With my growing love for Hamilton, though, I realized I should probably read the Ron Chernow biography that started it all. As of writing this post in early June, that hasn't happened yet (although I am the first hold of twelve at the library). It's a whopping 818 pages, so that's going to be a load of fun.

In addition, I saw some tweets earlier this year about a Thomas Jefferson biography that sounds like it doesn't paint him in an especially good or bad light. I have a lot of opinions about Jefferson, so I'm willing to give this one a try.

And finally, when we were at Joseph-Beth before leaving Kentucky for the summer, I saw a biography about some of the First Ladies, which definitely caught my attention. I've had a middle grade book about the First Kids for several years now. The First Ladies are just as fascinating to me.

So I guess I'm taking a little foray into the land of non-fiction. Some day, when I have time at Barnes & Noble or Joseph-Beth, perhaps I'll wander around the history and biography sections and see if anything else catches my eye.

So what about you? Do you read non-fiction? Why or why not? Do you have any recommendations for me?

June 28, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Plan to Finish This Year

It's a freebie week, so I decided to share the ten series I am determined to finish this year. Some won't be terribly difficult since I've read all but the last book and I have said book on preorder. Others, I'm depending on libraries and those who gift me books to help me out.

1. Dissonance duology by Erica O'Rourke
I still haven't read Resonance even though it came out almost a year ago, and yes, this bothers me greatly.

2. Broken Hearts and Revenge trilogy by Katie Finn
The last book in this trilogy just released last month, but I have it on my Secret Sister wishlist, so unless I remove it once the current round is over, I'll have to keep hoping Secret Sis will gift it to me.

3. A Wicked Thing duology by Rhiannon Thomas
Since book two is only a few months old, I think I can be given a pass on not finishing this duology yet. I might've back in April, because I saw an ARC for sale at Half Price Books, but my conscience wouldn't let me buy it, even though I knew someone else will eventually.

4. Nil trilogy by Lynne Matson
I loved Nil Unlocked, and I really can't wait to read the conclusion. Alas, I am low on book-buying funds at the moment, so here's hoping one of the libraries I frequent will take pity on me.

5. Waterfire Saga series by Jennifer Donnelly
(Can we talk about how Photoshopped and horrible this cover is? Like, the other covers in this series have been lovely but this one looks so fake.)

6. The Remnant Chronicles trilogy by Mary E. Pearson
This one better end well.

I've preordered these next four series' conclusions, so finishing them will be a snap!

7. Snow Like Ashes trilogy by Sara Raasch

8. Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo

9. Firebird trilogy by Claudia Gray

10. The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

What was your topic for Top Ten Tuesday this week? And what series do you plan to finish before 2016 is over?

June 27, 2016

Books I Loved But Never Reviewed

I haven't done one of these posts in several months, so I figured it was time for another. Basically it's an opportunity to rave about all the books I've loved lately.

Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern
Illness books are always iffy for me, I guess, because I worry they'll just be riffing off The Fault in Our Stars. That's not the case with Rules. I loved how it featured imperfect, driven characters who weren't sure their relationship would last. Rose's passion for ballet was also what I wanted but didn't get from Up to This Pointe.

Fridays with the Wizards by Jessica Day George
This is the latest in one of my favorite middle grade series. I love Celie's spunk, and I like that the sibling relationships continued to be explored - and I was so glad to see her parents again. As far as middle grade series go, the family bonds are important and present in the Castle Glower series. (Also, there's gonna be a fifth book, which has me very excited.)

The Possibility of Now by Kim Culbertson
Considering I wasn't a big fan of Kim's last book, I really enjoyed this one and was quite surprised by it. It's a solid contemporary - nothing especially groundbreaking, but I liked it nonetheless.

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Kestrel broke my heart so much in this book. She is definitely not the girl she was in book one, and she is a bit more of a warrior but she still prefers strategy to combat, which I love. I'm still not on board with the romance, but I'm glad that the love triangle I started to worry about didn't really happen.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
I'm not sure how much The Star-Touched Queen is based on Indian mythology, just because that's an area where I have little knowledge, but it felt so fresh and original to me. I was biting my nails and feeling on edge for so much of the book, but all in a good way.

The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon BIggs Waller
Mmmmm, historical fiction that explores the periods rarely talked about is my favorite. Throw in a determined heroine, a swoony sailor boy, and an adventure, and you've got a recipe for a perfect Emma book.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
*flails* I love Morgan's books so, so much, and The Unexpected Everything is no exception. It's incredibly long, and I didn't mind one bit. It's full of cameos and nerdy references and awkward, growing characters. Oh, and of course, there's another book boyfriend for me.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Considering I didn't like A Court of Thorns and Roses all that much, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked A Court of Mist and Fury. I'm still not the biggest fan of the romance (and the sexual content is definitely much more mature than I prefer in my books), but the plot is stellar and Maas is the queen of foreshadowing.

The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
If you love your fantasy novels to have rich descriptions of setting and objects, then this is a book for you. Plus there's romance, mystery, and angst (in the best way possible, trust me; I don't normally do angst, but I liked this).

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
This book is not just a pretty cover. The beginning is a little slow, but you must push through because the second half is excellent! I didn't expect half the plot (except the romance), and my poor feels are still recovering.

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
I was worried for a good part of this book about where the romance and plot would go, but I was so wrong. Shahrzad's development is great, and I loved the diversity amongst the women.

Have you read and liked any of these books, too?

June 25, 2016

Writing Prompt #7

It's time for another writing prompt and this one is actually from the prompt challenge list, unlike the last one.

Day 16: Pretend you are sitting in a park. Write an "ode" (poetry or prose) to a person that passes you. Begin the ode with the line, "I noticed you were in a hurry..."

I noticed you were in a hurry. Which isn’t unusual on a college campus where students are always running late to class. But see, it’s dead hour. There aren’t any more classes until 12:45. So where could you be rushing off to? You half-jogged, as if you didn’t want to run but walking would be too slow. I’ve done that before, so I know what the mindset behind doing that is like.
You weren’t carrying a backpack, so you weren’t headed to the library to cram in last minute studying. Nor were you probably going to a meeting with a professor. I mean, you could’ve been. I’m just guessing here. But you weren’t headed towards any of the academic buildings.
You were walking towards the cafeteria… Which doesn’t close until 1:15, so you have plenty of time to get lunch. That can’t be it.
Now that I think about it, you were coming from the direction of the library. Maybe you were already studying—with friends of course so you could leave your stuff there—and you ran back to your room to get something you forgot. Maybe you forgot to switch your laundry from the washer to the dryer; man, I hate it when people do that. When there’re only six washers for the entire dorm, it creates quite the traffic jam.
I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, though, mysterious person in a rush. You probably forgot notes or a textbook. Heaven knows how many times I’ve done that.
You were wearing a cute sweater-jacket-thing. I loved the color, and it looked like it had pockets, which is so rare for girls’ clothing. I wonder where you got it. I wish I knew you so I could ask where you bought it. But it would be weird asking a stranger—especially one who was in a giant hurry.
Oh, crap, it’s 12:40. I’ve gotta get to class. Now I’m going to be the one in a hurry.

Feel free to share your "ode" in the comments below or on your own blog! If you share it on your blog, please link to it in the comments. I'd love to read what you've written.

June 24, 2016

Random Friday: Weird Holidays

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There are some really weird holidays out there, just saying. My favorites, though, are the national food holidays that happen pretty much every day. (I had a habit of wishing my chapel buddy this past semester a "Happy [insert whatever food day it was] day.")

Today, for example, is National Pralines Day.

Which is completely random. (Trust me, I Googled it to see if there's an historic reason for it. There's not.)

And my birthday, July 16th, is National Corn Fritters Day.

Don't get me wrong - there are some that make sense.
February 14th is Creme-Filled Chocolates Day, February 22nd is Cherry Pie Day, October 31st is Candy Apple Day, and December 24th is Egg Nog Day.

But I want to know who got to determine all these random food days. Who got to decide that the second week in November is Split Pea Soup Week, or that October 15th is Chicken Cacciatore Day? I'd like that job, I think.

So what weird holidays have attracted your attention? What food day is your birthday? You can use this generator to find out.

June 22, 2016

Review: And I Darken

And I Darken by Kiersten White
Grade: C-
Release date: June 28, 2016
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: As much as I love historical fiction, it is very much hit-or-miss for me. Unfortunately, And I Darken was a miss.
The book opens with Lada's birth, and a good half of the novel takes place before she is even fourteen (I think - years and ages were fuzzy). She and Radu sounded much older than twelve and thirteen, and I wanted more of the novel set during their later teens. I understand the author was establishing relationships and developing characters, but I think a few well-placed flashbacks could've done that instead. And I Darken could've been a whole one hundred pages shorter and been much better for it.
I appreciated Lada's fierceness, but overall, she's very anti-woman. She dislikes Mehmed's mother and two of the sultan's wives from the start, even though they haven't tried to kill her. Lada also looks upon femininity as weakness, which I don't think is a positive message for teen girls to read.
I liked Radu's parts of the story more than Lada's, which is rare for me. I usually don't prefer the male characters to the female characters in books with more than one character POV narration. He goes through great character development while staying true to himself.
Overall, And I Darken read very much like an older historical fiction YA novels, one that was published ten or so years ago. Not much happens, plot-wise, for a good part of the novel, and I only kept reading in hopes that it was just the beginning that was slow. That didn't prove true. In addition, I think I've finally realized Kiersten's books aren't for me, which is unfortunate. Her writing style is just a little too straightforward for me.

The Verdict: Honestly, probably not worth your time.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: No.

June 21, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite 2016 Releases Thus Far

Normally I'd change this topic up a little and share all of my favorite books that I've read in 2016 thus far, but, surprisingly, all my favorite reads of 2016 have been 2016 releases. So here are my favorite books of 2016 so far!

1. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

2. What You Always Wanted by Kristin Rae

3. Fridays with the Wizards by Jessica Day George

4. The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

5. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi


7. The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller

8. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

9. The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

10. Poison is Not Polite by Robin Stevens
(technically a 2015 release, but it wasn't published in the U.S. until 2016)

11. The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

12. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

13. The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

As a girl whose favorite genre is contemporary, I'm pleasantly surprised that half the list is fantasy. I do love fantasy, don't get me wrong, but it's never been as near and dear to my heart as realistic fiction. 
Anyways, what books have you loved this year?

June 20, 2016

Interview with Courtney Griffin, Senior Publicist at Bloomsbury

It's been quite a while since I shared an interview with an industry professional, but that's what I have for y'all today. I met Courtney Griffin at the Boldly Bookish author tour in Chicago a year ago, and she's been a wonderful contact to have at Bloomsbury. (Although, if I'm being honest, everyone on the Bloomsbury marketing and publicity team is great.) So without further ado, here's the interview!

Emma: What does a normal work day look like for you?
Courtney: Part of the fun of working in publicity is that every day can be different. Last week I was out on the road with our Boldly Bookish tour, and literally woke up in a new city every day. Going on tour is always fun because it’s a chance to spend time with your authors, and to hear them speak passionately about their work while interacting with their readers. I also get to talk to authors every day, whether it’s working with them to set up an event or coordinating an interview. I work with bookstores all across the country (and have luckily gotten to visit a lot of them on tour).  I collaborate with the rest of the publicity department, plus our marketing and editorial teams, to brainstorm ideas or just communicate information. A large part of my job is working with media to help our books get publicity, so I’m always pitching, updating existing contacts, or researching new ones, as things are always changing. But it’s not all glamorous. I spend a lot of time doing things like writing press materials, mailing books out, processing invoices,  keeping track of mailing schedules, and organizing piles of paper on my not so neat desk.  

Emma: What role does social media play in publicity and marketing campaigns in the publishing industry?
Courtney: Social media can be crucial to publicity and marketing campaigns. I’ll confess that I stayed off of Twitter for as long as possible, but finally getting on board has really allowed me to expand my circles, personally and professionally, and build some wonderful connections and friendships. It’s so exciting when you see other people posting and sharing enthusiasm about a book you’re working on, and social media is such a great catalyst for spreading that excitement. It’s also really fun when I get to meet bloggers when I’m traveling for work.

Emma: What do you recommend someone study in college, if they want to become a book publicist?
Courtney: I studied English in college and thought I wanted to work in editorial, but a publicity opportunity came along and I haven’t been able to give it up!  I think you can really study anything, as long as your writing and communication skills are strong, you have patience, and you are easily excited by things like orderly signing lines.

Emma: Do you get to read for pleasure, or is your reading time consumed with books for work?
Courtney: I do make time to read for pleasure, though I always wish I had more. I love reading YA and middle-grade, but I also really enjoy reading adult fiction and nonfiction. I think I need the balance to keep me sane.

Emma: What should bloggers know about working with publicists?
Courtney: Working with bloggers is so lovely and seeing their excitement about a book is definitely contagious. Though we wish we had enough ARCs to send every book to every blogger who requested it, we truly do have limited quantities. I’m also a big fan of when bloggers send me review links; even if I’m not able to respond to every email, it’s very much appreciated! 

Emma: What should aspiring authors know about working with publicists?
Courtney: It’s always great when authors are excited and willing to work to promote their books. Publicists generally are working on several titles at one time and maybe even several tours at one time, but we always aim to do our best for your book. We’re all book lovers and we want your book to do well!

Emma: Bloomsbury has some of the best preorder campaigns. Is there a particular one that's been your favorite?
Courtney: Our marketing team does such a wonderful job creating the preorder campaigns. I think my favorite so far has been the tote bags for Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. As someone who read through nearly every preorder email, I think it’s safe to say this has been a favorite for readers too. 

Emma: What upcoming 2016 and 2017 releases are you excited for?
Courtney: I got excited just reading this question. Danielle Paige’s STEALING SNOW in Fall of 2016. I love the twists and turns she works into her books, and think her fans will really love this one. I’m also really looking forward to Emery Lord’s next book, The Names They Gave Us, which comes out in 2017. You can always count on Emery’s novels to be smart, thoughtful, and feel so genuine. I’m also really looking forward to reading Diane Guerrero’s memoir, IN THE COUNTRY WE LOVE, which just came out. I love her in Jane the Virgin and Orange is the New Black, so I’m looking forward to learning more about her background and her family’s experience in the US.
Emma: I can't even begin to describe how excited I am for Emery Lord's upcoming book. She's such a great writer.

Courtney's bio:

Courtney Griffin is a children’s book publicist in Manhattan. She enjoys cuddling with dogs, reading books, watching TV, and drinking coffee. She lives in Brooklyn with a stuffed unicorn and other roommates.

You can find her on Twitter at @cocogriff.

So does the publicity side of publishing interest you? Or what other careers in the book industry would you like to see interviews about?

June 19, 2016

Rewind & Review #63

~I suffered from a serious case of ennui.
~My allergies finally kicked in, and it was not fun.
~We visited a new used bookstore. It reminded me of both Books-a-Million and Half Price Books. Their selection wasn't too bad; they had a lot of fandom merchandise and other bookish knick-knacks, too.
~Last weekend, I went to B-Fest events on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. I won the trivia contest on Friday night, so I got a ton of cool stuff, and I finally met Sara Raasch! (And saw Anne Blankman again. :D) (Pictures from Saturday below.)
~I finally started an Instagram just for bookish posts. If you want to follow me, my handle is @awkwordly_emma.
~Some of my biology assignments have been ridiculously unclear. I've taken online college classes before, but this is turning out to be one of the hardest.

Books I Received for Review
All We Have Left by Wendy Mills (from Bloomsbury via NetGalley)
Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu (from Macmillan via NetGalley)
The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts (from Entangled Teen via NetGalley)
Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies by Laura Stampler (from Simon Pulse via NetGalley)
Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung (from Random House Knopf BFYR via NetGalley)

Books I Won/Traded for/was Gifted
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore (won from Nori's blogoversary giveaway)
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (won at the B-Fest trivia contest)

Books I Bought
Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Compulsion by Martina Boone
Song of Summer by Laura Lee Anderson (I had an e-book credit, so bought for my Kindle app)

Books I Read
The Land of 10,000 Madonnas by Kate Hattemer (3.5 stars)
And I Darken by Kiersten White
Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando (reread)
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (reread)
The Classy Crooks Club by Alison Cherry (DNF)
Love Fortunes and Other Disasters by Kimberly Karalius (3 stars)
The Memory Book by Lara Avery
Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter by Beth Fantaskey (3.5 stars)
The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh (5 stars)
Ruined by Amy Tintera (4 stars)
It Wasn't Always Like This by Joy Preble (DNF)
This Is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer (2 stars)
The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore (4 stars)
Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies by Laura Stampler
Royal Wedding Disaster by Meg Cabot (3 stars)
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (4 stars)
Smash & Grab by Amy Christine Parker (DNF)
The Main Street series by Ann M. Martin (reread)
The Summer of Lost and Found by Rebecca Behrens (3 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed
   (from 5/30-6/4)
   (from 6/5-6/11)
  • Interview with Courtney Griffin, Senior Publicist at Bloomsbury
  • TTT: Favorite 2016 Releases Thus Far
  • Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White
  • Random Friday: Weird Holidays
  • Writing Prompt #7
  • Books I Loved But Never Reviewed
  • TTT: Series I Plan to Finish This Year
  • Non-Fiction and Me
  • Review: The Memory Book by Lara Avery
  • The Chapter Sampler Test Part 2
  • Review: Poison is Not Polite by Robin Stevens