July 29, 2016

The Chapter Sampler Test Part 3

This is the final post in this series, and I think it's been a successful endeavor! I'm going to continue to use this technique to cut my TBR list, especially when I don't have a lot of released books to read. So stay tuned to see if I do another of these posts! (And here are the links to the first and second posts, in case you're curious to see what started this experiment and what books have been up for elimination.)

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City of Spies by Nina Berry
I couldn't decide at first after finishing this one, but I eliminated it.
Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg
Um, definitely no.
Once was a Time by Leila Sales
Keeping it on the TBR.

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The Season of You and Me by Robin Constantine
A keeper. Points already for a diverse love interest.
I'm cutting this one.

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The Natural History of Us by Rachel Harris
It seems like a cute companion (to The Fine Art of Pretending), and I could always use a good, fluffy romance in my life. It's staying.
Song of Summer by Laura Lee Anderson
Most definitely staying! I actually went ahead and bought this one for my Kindle app a few days later, since I had an e-book credit.

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Mistletoe & Mr. Right by Lyla Payne
Definitely seems cute and reminds me a bit of Leap Year (only it's set at Christmas instead of in February). It's staying.
It's a no-go.

Only lost five out of ten books this time. Still, my TBR list is looking a lot better and not making me quite as anxious. Overall, I cut 13 books, which is about 18% of my TBR.
Was I right to keep or eliminate these books? Are you going to try this experiment now?

July 28, 2016

Squad Up: the Literary Heroine Edition

I've talked about squads before, a term for friend groups, popularized by Taylor Swift and Co. I know a lot of bloggers have talked about which authors and bloggers they'd want in their squads, but I'm here today to share which YA female protagonists I'd want in my squad. (And maybe I'll do a sequel at some point of the YA guys who would be in the squad.) Basically, these girls are smart, creative, and/or would go to great lengths to protect those they care about.

We'll start this off with Marguerite Caine from A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. She's passionate about art and she would literally cross parallel dimensions to save her loved ones.

I also want to include Caddie from Rachel M. Wilson's Don't Touch (and not just because the book is one of my favorites of all-time). There's always room for broken and mending girls in the squad.

My squad would never be complete if I didn't include Lara Jean Covey from To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han. She's just so lovable and optimistic. Plus, I'd need someone to bake with.

And I can't forget the inimitable Kat Bishop from Ally Carter's Heist Society. She's determined and all-around wonderful.

Obviously Emily Hughes from Since You've Been Gone would be part of my squad. I've often said she and I are kindred spirits, so I think she and I would probably be the Taylor and Karlie of the group.

Cath Avery from Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl would be another kindred spirit. We're both introverted and love to write. Plus she'd be someone to fangirl with (although I'm sure Lara Jean would always be down for some fangirling, too).

My squad definitely needs Kestrel from The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski. She's clever and creative, and I'd hope to absorb some of her smarts just by hanging out with her.

I also would totally want Dee and Reagan from Open Road Summer in the squad. They're the perfect balance of sweet and snarky. Dee is one of my favorite YA BFFs, and Reagan really grows on you as the book goes along.

Speaking of friend groups... I can't forget Gigi, Bea, and Neerja from Sarah Strohmeyer's Smart Girls Get What They Want. They stick together, support each other, and are awesome on their own, too. Plus, I'm sure they'd always be down to help with tough homework assignments.

Another smart girl I'd want to include would be Aysel from My Heart and Other Black Holes. I admire her quiet spirit, and she needs a solid group of friends to turn to.

I really love The Lunar Chronicles, y'all. They're full of diverse ladies, and I'd happily include Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter in the squad. Cress is definitely a kindred spirit, and I feel like Scarlet and Reagan would either get along super well or tear each other apart. And, gah, I would just love to spend time with Winter and Cinder.

The last already-formed squad I'd want in my squad would be Paige Hancock and Co. (Tessa, Morgan, and Kayleigh) from The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord. Paige is another kindred spirit, and her friendships with Tessa, Morgan, and Kayleigh are some of the best-written in all of YA.

So which heroines would you include in your bookish squad? 

July 27, 2016

Review: The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash
Grade: A
Summary: John Hughes meets Comic Con in this hilarious, unabashedly romantic, coming-of-age novel about a teenager who is trying to get his best friend to fall in love with him from the author ofThree Day Summer.

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy...
Archie and Veronica...
Althena and Noth...
...Graham and Roxy?

Graham met his best friend, Roxana, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago, and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.

But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.

When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be...even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I love books that cater to teen nerdiness and remind us that our passions are something to revel in. After feeling kind of meh about Tash's Three Day Summer, I was nervous for The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love. But I needn't have worried because Geek's Guide blew Three Day Summer out of the water.
I loved the characterization. Roxana is human and definitely not a manic-pixie dream girl. Graham acknowledges her flaws and loves her despite them. I also very much liked how his feelings for her were resolved. Not going to lie - I really wanted them to get together, but that would be something Samira, Roxy's younger sister, would write in her fanfiction. It wouldn't be realistic for Graham and Roxy's character arcs. The rest of the main cast is pretty good. I never warmed to Devin - he was just a little too perfect - but Casey was fun, and Felicia and Amelia were wonderful. Felicia is extremely smart and pretty, proving that girls don't have to choose. At times, Amelia felt like she was just helping the plot along but I liked where things ended with her and Graham. Anything more would've been too perfect.
I worried about the length of the book, too. It's only 256 pages, and short YA books often feel rushed or like not enough was resolved. That's not the case with Geek's Guide. Since it takes place over only three days, the shortness suits it and nothing felt rushed.
I also don't ordinarily like books narrated solely by guys. I've tried a lot of them, but I don't usually connect with the voice. Not the case here. Graham's voice didn't come across as overly simplistic, but I also didn't think he came across too female, either (which can be a problem when female authors write male protagonists).
There's a teeny bit of foul language, but I think I caught less than a handful? It's a pretty clean book overall.

The Verdict: Geek's Guide felt extremely realistic to me, and that's something I appreciate in my contemporary fiction. I highly recommend this book if you consider yourself a nerd at all, or you're a fan of The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You or Going Vintage.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Absolutely! It's on my wishlist.

July 25, 2016

Interview with Kristin Rae, Author of What You Always Wanted

The Author

Lover of books, music, movies, crafty things, and chocolate. My contemporary YA novels WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN, and WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED are out now from Bloomsbury. Represented by Marietta Zacker of the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.

The Books

The summer before senior year of high school. It’s supposed to be one of the biggest summers of her life, but Pippa is headed to an art program she has no interest in. The one saving grace is it’s in Italy. And when the opportunity strikes, she decides to ditch the program and travel Italy accomplishing her own list of goals. Things like swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, eating a whole pizza in one sitting…and falling in love with an Italian boy!

As she explores the famous cities of Rome and Pompeii, Pippa finds herself falling for two boys: a local guy she knows is nothing but trouble and a cute American archaeology student who keeps disappearing and reappearing at the strangest moments. Will Pippa find her true love before her parents find out the truth about her summer program?

Theatre girl Maddie Brooks has always had high standards for guys. But she has yet to find one who can live up to the classic Hollywood heartthrobs, especially the dreamy song-and-dance man Gene Kelly. When Maddie begins to carpool with Jesse Morales, her new neighbor and star pitcher of the baseball team, she’s struck by his wit, good looks, and love for his family—but a guy so into sports is definitely not her style. Then Maddie discovers that Jesse was raised as a dancer and still practices in the community theatre’s dance studio to keep in shape. Perhaps her perfect dream guy exists after all! But when it becomes clear that baseball—not dance—is Jesse’s passion, can Maddie find a way to let her dream guy go and appreciate the charms of the amazing guy in front of her?

The Interview

Emma: What's your favorite part of writing contemporary YA fiction?
Kristin: I love writing the emotional stuff that comes with crushes and first loves and disappointments and new friendships and hard mother-daughter conversations. 

Emma: What would happen if Pippa and Maddie hung out?
Kristin: I think Pippa would enjoy taking Maddie out for a Chiara style makeover and for-fun photoshoot, then they'd watch classic movies and eat cupcakes (yellow cake with chocolate frosting). 

Emma: I love Darren and Jesse. What's your secret for creating such swoonworthy boys?
Kristin: Thank you! I try not to depend entirely on looks for the attraction. Obviously my MC is going to find the love interest appealing, but there should be more to them. A swoon-worthy boy should make you laugh, and make you think about things you may not normally think about. I like them to have their own moments of realistic awkwardness too. And, like Pippa, I like the good boys. :) 

Emma: Where would you love to travel and what would you do?
Kristin: I've been fortunate to travel to some great places already including Italy, Hawaii, Alaska, the Caribbean, and various other beautiful places in the US, but I'd love to see Scotland and real castles, England and all the famous movie and mini-series shooting locations (like Bath!), Canada (anywhere!), and I'd always go back to Italy. 

Emma: What's the best part of traveling?
Kristin: I'm a total tourist when I travel. I take a million pictures, even of random little details because I find everything inspiring with a potential story behind it. And I eat ALL THE FOOD. I'm just fascinated with the idea of traveling. How we can wake up in our own bed and fall asleep that same night somewhere completely different! We're very spoiled by modern transportation. 

Emma: In honor of Maddie, classic movies or live theater?
Kristin: Depends on my mood (and the money in my wallet). 

Emma: If Maddie and/or Pippa were putting together summer playlists, what artists would they likely include?
Kristin: Maddie would load that playlist with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and Ella Fitzgerald. Pippa listens to artists like Mindy Gledhill, Eisley, Sucré, The Honey Trees, Colbie Caillat, Copeland, The Civil Wars, and Joy Williams' solo stuff. 

Emma: What are some YA titles you'd love to recommend?
Kristin: The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis, The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski, Map to the Stars by Jen Malone, Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan
Emma: I hadn't heard of The Sweetest Thing before, and I just added it to my TBR list!

Emma: And now my standard question: what's your favorite fairytale and why?
Kristin: Oh wow, that's hard! I'm such a Disney child, so their adaptations are what come to mind first. And considering when I was in second grade I thought I was going to turn into a mermaid and have to be carried around in a tank of water for the rest of my life, I'll say The Little Mermaid. 

You can find Kristin and her books at the links below:
Kristin's website: http://www.kristinrae.com/
Wish You Were Italian at Read Between the Lynes: http://www.readbetweenthelynes.com/book/9781619632868
What You Always Wanted at Read Between the Lynes: http://www.readbetweenthelynes.com/book/9781619633452

July 24, 2016

Rewind & Review #65

Created by Shae Has Left the Room

~I finished my online biology course. That's a load off my shoulders.
~I started studying for my American Lit CLEP exam, which I'll take later this week.
~My birthday was the 16th! Presents and cards started rolling in a few days before. I spent the 15th with my BFF, which was lovely, and then my parents and I went up to the Shenandoah Valley for the weekend. (More about this in a future blog post.)
~I started thinking about going back to school, since we leave in less than three weeks. Which means I have to fit in a ton of reading, writing, blogging, and other activities into the next few weeks.

Books I Received for Review
Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige (from Bloomsbury via NetGalley)

Books I Won/Traded for/was Gifted
A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody (won in a Goodreads giveaway)
Vicarious by Paula Stokes
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge (all won in @arnoldjaime13's Twitter giveaway)
Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee (birthday gift from my BFF)
Two Summers by Aimee Friedman
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (birthday gifts from my parents)
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (from my Secret Sister, Emily)
This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton (ARCs my Secret Sister got for me at ALA :D)

Books I Bought
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
The Way Back Home by Alecia Whitaker
Stars So Sweet by Tara Dairman

I got the following books at a giant book fair, all for $28:
Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau
Up Over Down Under by Micol Ostow and Noah Harlan
The Finnish Line by Linda Gerber
Lost in Paris by Cindy Callaghan
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

Books I Read
Autofocus by Lauren Gibaldi (3.5 stars)
The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne (3.5 stars)
The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind by Meg Medina (3 stars)
Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore (reread)
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith (reread)
Compulsion by Martina Boone (4 stars)
Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae (reread)
Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern (reread)
Two Summers by Aimee Friedman (4 stars)
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch (3.5 stars)
The Way Back Home by Alecia Whitaker (3 stars)
Hamilton: the Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (4 stars)
Up Over Down Under by Micol Ostow and Noah Harlan (3 stars)
Vicarious by Paula Stokes

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 7/4-7/9)
   (from 7/10-7/16)

July 23, 2016

Why I Love To All the Boys I've Loved Before

I remember walking into Half Price Books way back in April of 2014. I think I sold some books I no longer wanted and then wandered over to their new books section. I don't remember most of the books that were on the few shelves they gave YA, but I do remember one - To All the Boys I've Loved Before. I remember reading another blogger's very favorable review of it a few days earlier, and I hadn't heard much about TATBILB prior to that. For some reason, I decided to take a chance on it, without having read a single page - something that was and is very rare for me to do. I haven't regretted that decision one bit, because To All the Boys I've Loved Before is most definitely one of my "we never go out of style" favorites to this day, and I'm going to tell you why.

1. The short chapters
This is kind of a superficial reason, but as much as I love long chapters, short chapters are fun, too, and they add to the charm of TATBILB. They really bring Lara Jean Covey's voice to life. And if you read the book aloud with a friend (like I did with Julia over the course of four eight hour drives to and from our university), it makes it much easier to find stopping points and take breaks to drink water or whatever.

2. Fake relationships are my kryptonite.
I don't have a lot of tropes that I will proclaim that I love, but fake relationships are definitely one of them, because I know the couple will inevitably actually fall for each other and it creates such great tension. (Side note: if you've read TATBILB and want to read more fake relationship books, try The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes and The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West.) Lara Jean is obviously one half of the fake couple, which leads me to...

3. Peter Kavinsky and his character development
Jenny Han does a wonderful job of fleshing out Peter. I loved getting to know him, and I was rooting for him so badly. He and Lara Jean complement each other nicely, and he loves her quirkiness.

4. The sister relationship
One of the strengths of TATBILB is watching how the dynamics change between Lara Jean and her older sister, Margot, and Lara Jean and her younger sister, Kitty. Margot goes off to college in Great Britain, and that changes a lot for Lara Jean - how responsible she has to be, how Josh views her, how she acts, etc. And I loved watching Lara Jean realize Kitty is growing up, even though she's still young.

5. The baking
Lara Jean loves to bake, so I knew she'd be a kindred spirit. Plus, she provided the recipes for two From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen posts. In the first book, she bakes cowgirl cookies, and in P.S. I Still Love You, she bakes Taylor Swift's chai sugar cookies (which basically make your house smell like Christmas). I baked both types recently, and although I had problems with the icing, they still tasted wonderful.

If baking isn't your thing, though, and tea is, I created a Lara Jean Covey tea blend on Adagio, so you can give that a try, if you like.

I'll leave you, as has become my custom, with bookstore links because this is a book every lover of contemporary YA needs in their life.


July 22, 2016

Random Friday: Favorite Summer Places

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.
Hi, everyone! Sarah is back to guest-host Random Fridays again! I'll let her explain this week's topic now.

Hello, everyone! This is Sarah of Dreams and Dragons, and I’m super excited to be guest posting for Emma! This week’s topic (which Emma actually let me choose- that was pretty cool) is favorite summer places. Being in a poetic mood at the moment, I decided to express my thoughts in verse rather than prose.

Part I: Marienville

Leave behind the city;

Leave behind business;
Leave behind hurry and bustle;
And climb,
Up into the mountains,
Up to a little town in the high hills,
Up to a cozy cabin in the green woods,
Familiar as your own home.
Clamber out of the car,
Stretch your arms and legs,
Breath in fresh, sun-filled air,
And relax-
There’s a week of peace ahead of you.

Wake early in the mornings-
Forget plans to sleep in.
Hear the outdoors calling you,
Beckoning to you,
Luring you from your bed to the front porch swing.
While away the morning in dreams-
Sip hot berry tea,
And listen to the morning’s whispering song.

Leave the cabin for the woods;
Trek along well-worn paths and half-forgotten trails;
Trek up, up, up the mountains to the skies,
And down, down, down into the valleys;
Trek ‘til civilization’s far away and you wonder-
Did you wander into the Greenwood by mistake?
Is this still Earth, or have you found the way to Fairyland?

Return to the cabin in the still-hot evening.
Cook your dinner on gas-grill flames;
Cook your dessert over woodfire coals,
Roast marshmallows to golden-brown perfection and eat ‘til you’re satisfied.
Then sit-
Sit and lick sweet marshmallow goo and melted chocolate from your fingers;
Sit and listen to the fire’s pop and crackle and the chirp and rustle of nightly noises;
Sit and watch the shadows wrap the world in mystery.
Let your imagination run-
Fill in the darkness with dreams and what-ifs
‘Til you run-
Back to the cabin
And remind yourself that this is real life, not a story;
Remind yourself that there are no monsters out there;
Remind yourself, but don’t stop imagining.
Don’t stop ‘til you’re curled up in a sleeping bag,
Safe from all but your dreams
And sleep ‘til tomorrow comes
And it all begins again.

Part II: Home
The start and end of every quest,
Here’s the place that I love best.
For in summertime, there’s much to do-
Yet nothing much to wear on you.
Easy walks on breezy days,
Or bike rides down well-traveled ways.
Long afternoons with book in hand,
And imaginary journeys to far-off lands.
Jaunts with family and with friends-
For ice cream and movies before the season ends.
Yes, for a lovely, lazy summer, know:
There truly is no place like home.

Part III: White Sulphur Springs
All my life I dreamed of the valley-
Of Imladris, Rivendell, Elrond’s fair house.
Not once did I dream I knew it already
Until I needed it most, and then it was found.
White Sulphur Springs, my own Rivendell,
My Last Homely House before the unknown.
Deep-set in tall misty mountains,
A refuge where cares neither come nor stay,
A place of many meetings of new friends and old,
A household of wisdom, a stronghold of light,
A defense against the powers of darkness,
And a readying place where travelers weary
Can rest and prepare for the next leg of their journey,
And leave strengthened, encouraged,
And unafraid of what lies ahead. 

What are your favorite summer places? Tell me in the comments, or write up your own Random Fridays post!
Thanks again to all of you for reading and to Emma for having me on the blog! I hope you all enjoyed my poetry!

July 21, 2016

When You Visit a University Other Than Your Own

*apologizes in advance for the number of pictures in this post*

I've visited a handful of colleges and universities, mostly as a prospective student. However, back at the end of June, my mom had the day off and I decided I wanted to walk around the University of Richmond campus that morning. I've always thought Asbury is pretty, but it's nothing compared to the U of R. (I mean, I'll grant that Asbury's semi-circle is picturesque, but the rest of the buildings are pretty blah, especially my dorm.)

U of R at times felt like it had been picked up in England (or even New England) and dropped on a sprawling campus a few miles from downtown. It was very peaceful, although I'm sure it's not always that way. The day we visited was super nice - the temperatures climbed to the upper eighties by noon, but they were in the mid-seventies when we were there, and there was a slight breeze. Plus there were plenty of shady trees. 

What I wouldn't give for Asbury to look like U of R. Of course, it would mean we'd need approximately 1600 more students and a lot more prestige and history. But I'd probably never leave if Asbury was this pretty. (See below for pictorial evidence.) Oh, and just to set the record straight, I'm not considering transferring at all. First of all, the University of Richmond doesn't have a creative writing major and I most definitely want to stick with that. Secondly, I'd miss all my friends too much. Third, the size of the student body wouldn't bother me too much (a couple of the universities I looked at were that big), but I like the smallness of Asbury. I like that I recognize a good 3/4 of the student body and probably 95% of the people in my graduating class. It would be nice to be closer to home and my best friend, but I'll stick with the 'bury.

But that doesn't mean I can't drool over these pictures and use the campus as story inspiration. **Note: I don't remember/know what most of these buildings are.

Isn't it picturesque? Of course my photos can't fully capture the atmosphere, but it was definitely lovely.

July 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set Outside the United States

It's so great to find YA books set outside America. All of these titles are set entirely or mostly outside of the states.

1. Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

2. The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

3. Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout
(South Korea)

4. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

5. Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

7. Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

8. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
(Germany, Japan, and plenty of places in between)

9. The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller
(England and China)

10. The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

What are your favorite books set outside the United States?

July 18, 2016

So You Like... #30

About a month ago, I did a So You Like post themed around country music, and I decided to do a similar post today. Only today's So You Like is themed around...

(As always, covers link to the book's Goodreads page.)







I tried to go for books that coordinate with the classiness of classical music and going to see a symphony perform. What do y'all think?