November 30, 2016

Review: Map to the Stars

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Map to the Stars by Jen Malone
Grade: C-
Summary: The California dream was supposed to give seventeen-year-old Annie Shelton a fresh start far removed from her dad’s unusual betrayal. But when things don’t go according to plan in La La Land, Annie’s mom snags a last-minute gig as makeup artist to a teen movie idol and finagles a spot for her daughter on his European promotional tour.

Down-to-earth Annie would rather fangirl architectural sights than an arrogant A-lister. That is, until behind-the-scenes Graham Cabot turns out to be more sweetly vulnerable than she could have imagined.

Too bad falling for a poster boy isn’t all red carpets and star treatment, especially when you factor in obnoxious fans, an overprotective assistant, a stage mom/manager, and a beefy bodyguard.

But it isn’t until the paparazzi make an appearance that things get really sticky…
 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I read a lot of Jen Malone's other stuff before getting to Map to the Stars. For some reason, I thought the story was set entirely in Hollywood (goes to show you how well I sometimes read synopses), but I liked that it did move around the Western world a bit.
To be honest, most of the romance felt very cliche and expected at times. I guess this comes from the fact that I read too many One Direction fanfics back in the day. I've seen pretty much any dating-a-celebrity plot/trope you can think of. Graham nicknames Annie Pickles early on, and I wrinkled my nose every time he called her that.
Besides that, I didn't like how Wynn felt mostly like a sounding board for Annie. She felt like she was only there as a support device, not as a character in her own right.
I really liked how the plot with Annie's dad played out. I thought for a while that he had cheated on Mrs. Shelton, but the actual betrayal was so much worse and more original. The fact that the Shelton girls forgave him eventually made them such wonderful people. And I did like the mother-daughter relationship. Annie's mom isn't a typical bumbling, clueless YA mom. She's present (she's the whole reason Annie is along for this crazy ride with Graham) and cares about her daughter.
I caught about eight PG-13 swear words. There were some steamy make-out sessions. Also, Annie describes a woman as "gypsy-looking" at one point, and I'm deciding if the term is being applied appropriately or not.

The Verdict: Pretty good, if you like celebrity-noncelebrity love stories. Otherwise, you might want to pass on this one.


Will I be adding this book to my library?: Already did, courtesy of my Secret Sister.

November 29, 2016

Mind Games Blog Tour: Q&A + Giveaway


The Author


Heather Petty has been obsessed with mysteries since she was twelve, which is when she decided that stories about murders in London drawing rooms and English seaside villages were far superior to all other stories. She is the author of the Lock & Mori series. She lives in Reno, Nevada, with her husband, daughter, and four hopelessly devious cats. You can visit her online at HeatherWPetty.com.

The Book

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Mind Games by Heather W. Petty
You know their names. Now discover their beginnings. 

Mori’s abusive father is behind bars…and she has never felt less safe. Threatening letters have started appearing on her doorstep, and the police are receiving anonymous tips suggesting that Mori—not her father—is the Regent’s Park killer. To make matters worse, the police are beginning to believe them.

Through it all, Lock—frustrating, brilliant, gorgeous Lock—is by her side. The two of them set out to discover who is framing Mori, but in a city full of suspects, the task is easier said than done. With the clock ticking, Mori will discover just how far she is willing to go to make sure that justice is served, and no one—not even Lock—will be able to stop her.


The Interview

Emma: Why did you decide that Moriarty would be female in your interpretation of the Sherlock legend?
Heather: Once I thought of the possibility, I fell in love with the idea of creating a female villain who used her intelligence instead of her sexuality to get what she wants. I also loved the idea of flipping the Bad Boy/Good Girl trope to tell a Bad Girl/Good Boy story. 


E: What other classic works of literature would you love to retell - or see retold by another YA author?
H: This is a rough question, because there are so many quality adaptations that exist already, and there is probably an amazing book that has retold any classic I can name. But I think, rather than another retelling of a classic, it would be awesome to see more YA adaptations of folktales and mythology that never make it onto curriculum reading lists, like Ellen Oh’s PROPHECY, Cindy Pon’s SILVER PHOENIX, or Zoraida C√≥rdova’s LABYRINTH LOST. America is filled with so many rich and inventive cultural traditions, it would be a shame to limit ourselves to only those stories with which we are already familiar.


E: What was your favorite part of writing MIND GAMES?
H: I really love Alice’s character, and she plays such a large role in MIND GAMES that I got to explore more about her and reveal more of her past and how that connects to Mori’s mother. 


E: How has your experience as a sophomore author differed from your experience as a debut author?
H: It’s a different headspace, for sure. I knew more about the process, but there’s also a different kind of pressure. I really want every book to be better than the last and for the story to progress in the best way possible. And the second book in a series is all written on deadline from word one, which adds more pressure. But even when I was my most stressed, I was still so excited to have the opportunity to do what I love and to be able to keep telling this story. Putting MIND GAMES out into the world still feels as amazing as it did the first time with LOCK & MORI. 


E: If you could create Lock and Mori teas, what would they smell like?
H: My obsession while I wrote MIND GAMES was Earl Grey with Vanilla and steamed milk. That tea will probably always remind me of the book.  


E: What would Mori and Lock eat for their last meals?
H: Neither of them are too focused on food. Sherlock would probably eat whatever Mrs. Hudson brought to him at the prison. And I could see Mori refusing to eat anything. 


E: Are there any other recent YA releases you've loved?
H: I recently ready Adam Silvera’s HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME, which destroyed me in the best way possible. It’s a gorgeous book. I was also blown away by Kerry Kletter’s THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED. 
Right now I’m reading TINY PRETTY THINGS by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. I haven’t had a lot of reading time lately, which has made me read the book slowly, and I’m loving how visceral and real the characters feel. The authors also did an amazing job of making me fall in love with the characters, even when they aren’t all acting very likeable all the time. I’m still rooting for them. I still want them all to succeed. A character master class, for sure. 

The Giveaway
(U.S. only)

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Gift Guide for the History Nerd in Your Life


Perhaps there's a young history lover in your life, and you're wondering what fiction they might enjoy. Look no further than these eleven young adult historical fiction/historical fantasy suggestions.

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1. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
2. Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Stacey is one of my latest favorite historical fiction authors. She creates such strong characters and sets the scene well. The former is set during the Gold Rush and the latter during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

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3. Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
1940s Amsterdam. Smuggling. A missing person.

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4. Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
What if you were like Hitler's niece? That's basically the premise of this thrilling historical mystery.

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5. A Tyranny of Petticoats by various authors
Short story anthologies can be a hard sell, but this one is magnificent. It's all about American girls in history, from pre-Revolution all the way to the 1960s.

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6. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
The desegregation of schools in rural Virginia. I'd like to think this book inspired me enough to write a paper about school desegregation for my History of America in the 1960s class last spring.

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7. The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters
If you like Shakespeare retellings, this book is for you.

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8. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Another Gold Rush tale, only with a bit of magic.

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9. This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee
A bit historical fantasy, this one is basically how the legend of Frankenstein came to be, complete with Mary Shelley cameos.

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10. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
A murder mystery set mostly in an insane asylum but definitely not quite as creepy as it sounds. Trust me, I don't do horror novels.

Bonus pick:
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Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
A hardcore Western with plenty of dust and murder.


So what was your specific topic for today's Top Ten Tuesday? Share the link in the comments, and I'll try to stop by and check it out!

November 27, 2016

Rewind & Review #74


~I survived two presentations, an exam, and a quiz. Now to finish a paper, a CNF essay revision, and my 75-page fiction portfolio before their due dates during finals week.
~I got to go home on Tuesday, and I'll go back to school tomorrow.
~I saw Moana and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Both were great.
~I got a new phone finally! It's so good to have so much more storage.

Books I Received for Review
Mind Games by Heather W. Petty (finished copy from publisher for being on the blog tour)

Books I Won/Traded for/was Gifted
Rebel Magisters by Shanna Swendson (gifted by Secret Sister)
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Kids of Appetite by David Arnold (B-Fest prizes that finally arrived)

Books I Bought
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

Books I Read
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (reread)
Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth (4 stars)
Alterations by Stephanie Scott
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare (4 stars)
The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne (reread)
Rebel Magisters by Shanna Swendson (4 stars)
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (reread)
Hans Christian Andersen Tales by Hans Christian Andersen (3 stars)
A Song to Take the World Apart by Zan Romanoff (DNF)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (3.5 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 11/14-11/19)
   (from 11/20-11/26)

November 25, 2016

Random Friday: What I'm Thankful For


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.
Happy belated Thanksgiving to my American readers! Right now I'm probably binging Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life or at Best Buy in an eternal line, getting my new phone (two years is a long time to endure only 8 gbs of storage, y'all). But here's what I'm especially thankful for this year.
  • New friends and old friends.
  • Hamilton. 
  • Taylor Swift. Even though she's left us music-less this fall.
  • All the wonderful authors out there who keep producing beautiful words.
  • All the opportunities I've had so far this school year.
  • My parents, for continuing to provide me with an education and for supporting my aspirations.
  • The time I had with Sunny, even though I selfishly wanted more.
  • The end of my writer's block and the new book I've been working on.
  • Joseph-Beth Booksellers. I've said this before, but I walk in and I'm home.
  • That God blessed me with such a deep love for books.
  • Pumpkin spice lattes (but only when they're decaf and from Starbucks).
  • Fuzzy blankets, stars, donuts, boots, and pretty dresses.

And now let the Christmas music begin. (Well, openly. I've been listening to it since November 1st.)


November 24, 2016

I'm an Honorary Gilmore Girl

*pulls out treasure trove of Gilmore Girls gifs*

I am so psyched for the revival episodes to hit Netflix tomorrow, although I don't know how fast I'm going to be able to watch them since my mom and I have to go shop for a new phone for me... Anyways, I decided now would be a good time to list my favorite episodes from every season of Gilmore Girls


SEASON ONE

Rory's Birthday Parties
I love the contrast between the two parties and how it feels to have Richard and Emily enter the girls' Stars Hollow world.

Kiss and Tell
The classic "thank you" after a first kiss moment.


SEASON TWO
(Season two is my favorite, so get ready for a lot of episodes...)

Nick & Nora/Sid & Nancy
Anyone who knows me knows I'm firmly Team Jess, so his introduction is a classic episode.

The Bracebridge Dinner
There's just something so enchanting about the setting and the atmosphere. (Plus, SHIP.)


A-Tisket, A-Tasket
MY SHIP IS PRACTICALLY SAILING. (Dean needs to take a chill pill, though.) Also on the ship radar are Sookie and Jackson (so many heart eyes for them) and a brief moment for Luke and Lorelai.

There's the Rub
I love how this episode starts to build Paris and Rory's friendship and continues to build my Jess-Rory ship.


I Can't Get Started
Literally all the messes. Rory is an idiot about boys as usual but at least this finally happens:


SEASON THREE

They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They?
Dance marathon! Kirk is a dweeb. Dean and Rory are finally over. Good times all around.


A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving
There's just something about the eccentricity of the various Thanksgivings that enchants me.

Those Are Strings, Pinocchio
The better of the two graduation episodes.


SEASON FOUR

The Lorelais' First Day at Yale
It's not even set on Rory's first day of classes, but it's so good. I may have rewatched it the night before I started my junior year of college in August...

The Festival of Living Art
The wackiness of Stars Hollow is on display in a lot of episodes, but this is by far one of my favorites.

Last Week Fights, This Week Tights
*bounces* Shipshipshipshipship.

Raincoats and Recipes
That pterodactyl screech you hear is me. Also the Dragonfly Inn opens, which is something the series has been moving towards since season one.


SEASON FIVE

Written in the Stars
Luke is all in.

Wedding Bell Blues
So of course I hate Christopher in this episode (what episode do I not hate Christopher in?), but I love Richard and Emily at their vow renewal, and this is one of the few episodes when I really enjoy Logan with Rory.


SEASON SIX

Let Me Hear Your Balalaikas Ringing Out
Jess is back, so... Plus he's the only one talking sense into Rory.

The Real Paul Anka
More Jess. Rory being a bit of an idiot as usual like she has been for most of this season.


SEASON SEVEN
(Let's be honest, this whole season was a disaster. Except for...)

Bon Voyage
Don't mind me, I'm just weeping over Richard telling Lorelai how proud he is of her and Emily saying, "It's not as though the two of you are saying goodbye," but really, he was saying goodbye to us. 


So those are my favorite episodes of one of my favorite shows ever. Now get ready to binge A Year in the Life.

November 23, 2016

So You Like... #38

There's a mini trend I've noticed in YA fiction lately, and it coincidentally matches up with the book I'm currently writing.


SO YOU LIKE...


YOU'VE GOT MAIL
(as always book covers link to their Goodreads pages)

meg ryan animated GIF

tom hanks animated GIF


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If you know of any more YA books reminiscent of You've Got Mail, please let me know because I am dying to read them.

November 21, 2016

Review: A Tyranny of Petticoats

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A Tyranny of Petticoats by various authors (edited by Jessica Spotswood)
Grade: B
Summary: From an impressive sisterhood of YA writers comes an edge-of-your-seat anthology of historical fiction and fantasy featuring a diverse array of daring heroines.

Criss-cross America — on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches and trains — from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They're making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Short story anthologies, ever since My True Love Gave to Me, are rising to the spotlight in YA lately. I, for one, like this trend as long as it produces anthologies like A Tyranny of Petticoats. There's an abundance of anthologies coming in 2017 and some of the sound pretty good, so I might have to do a general discussion post about them. 
I liked that there were author notes after each story to give additional historical background or tell why the story was what the author felt compelled to tell. I would've liked a story or two during the colonial and Revolutionary War periods. As always, many of the short stories could've used a little more development. But, per usual, I'm going to do this review story by story.


"Mother Carey's Table" by J. Anderson Coats
Interesting. I didn't really start to love it until the end. 3/5 stars
"The Journey" by Marie Lu
Fascinating, and I was engaged throughout. It lacked that extra connection for me, though. 4/5 stars.
"Madeleine's Choice" by Jessica Spotswood
I loved the atmosphere of this one and the imperfection of life that it depicted. 4.5/5 stars.
"El Destinos" by Leslye Walton
I liked this one less on my reread. It is rich in details and background, but it was missing something that I can't name. 3.5 stars.
"High Stakes" by Andrea Cremer
I don't really like paranormal fiction of any type, and the protagonist had no personality. 2 stars.
"The Red Raven Ball" by Caroline Tung Richmond
Good, but I didn't love it. Like many short stories, it lacked that personal connection, that depth, that a good story needs. 3/5 stars.
"Pearls" by Beth Revis
I loved Helen and got a good feel for the other characters, too. I would've loved for this to be a longer piece. 4.5/5 stars.
"Gold in the Roots of the Grass" by Marissa Meyer
Not my favorite of Marissa's work. The main character felt like a caricature, and the plot was shaky. 3 stars.
"The Legendary Garrett Girls" by Y.S. Lee
Loved that the story was led by sisters. I really enjoyed the spirit in this one, and it fit the short story genre well. 4.5 stars.
"The Color of the Sky" by Elizabeth Wein
Bessie Coleman, YAS. I did like this story, but I think I'm tired of Elizabeth Wein writing about pilots. 4/5 stars.
"Bonnie and Clyde" by Saundra Mitchell
This story was fun and realistic and had a strong voice. 4.5 stars.
"Hard Times" by Katherine Longshore
I loved the hint of romance, and Rosie reminded me of Kit Kittredge in a few ways. Kit was always one of my favorite American Girls. 4 stars.
City of Angels by Lindsay Smith
I've never been able to get into Lindsay's writing. The prose in this story was too sparse for me, and the protagonist felt one-dimensional. 2/5 stars.
Pulse of the Panthers by Kekla Magoon
Good, interesting, but it was missing just a little something. 4.5 stars.
The Whole World Is Watching by Robin Talley
I had just learned about this protest in my history class when I read this anthology for the first time, which I think made this story a bit more exciting than it actually is. The protagonist isn't bad, but the secondary characters needed more depth. 3.5 stars.

The Verdict: Anthologies can be very hit-or-miss, but AToP generally impressed. (Also, can I just say I'm so glad Mackenzi Lee is going to be part of the second anthology? It's about time, after her weekly Bygone Badass Broads tweets.)


Will I be adding this book to my library?: Already did, courtesy of one of my Secret Sisters.

November 20, 2016

Stars: a Creative Nonfiction Piece

I said a while back that I wanted to share more of my writing. I've used writing prompts to do this, and now I'm going to share my first CNF piece. This is actually the very first one I wrote for my class this fall. We had to write about a moment where we felt intense joy or intense fear. I hope you like it. :)

Stars
I wouldn’t necessarily call what I felt in the car that night joy. It was more a moment of contentment and peace. But when you struggle with anxiety, stress, and insecurities, contentment can seem a lot like joy.
On the evening of the last day in March, I was done with my homework and felt antsy. There was nothing happening on social media, and I’d exhausted my Netflix queue and bookshelves a few days before. Earlier that week, I’d been alone on campus for Easter break. All of my friends had gone home, but a four-day weekend was too short to justify the sixteen-hour round trip to Virginia. I’d been at Asbury for almost two full years, but I still wasn’t used to living so far from home.
Regardless, I was also suffering from residual loneliness and a sense of exclusion. I decided I needed a short adventure—nothing big, but enough to stave off my worst insecurities.
I mentally ran through the list of my closest friends at Asbury. I thought about texting Mary-Courtney, but I figured she was hanging out with her boyfriend or the freshman she’d befriended that year. Elise would be with her boyfriend, too, and I assumed Sarah had too much homework. Besides, my friendship with her was still new and I didn’t want to scare her off with an adventure proposition. That left Julia.
I wandered through my maze-like dorm and down the stairs to her room. I fiddled with the ring on my right hand. I’ve known Julia since orientation week at Asbury; we’d become good friends, bonding over our love for all things Taylor Swift and French. She was usually up for a late night drive, something I was hoping to take advantage of with my proposition. Julia had a snug red CRV lovingly dubbed Margaret, and she was the perfect vehicle for adventures.
I knocked on her door and entered at her soft, “Come in.”
Her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. Her face was washed clean of makeup, and she’d already changed into pajamas and tossed her blonde hair up into a messy bun. She had a lot of homework spread around her, and I almost didn’t present my proposition.
“Do you want to go to Sonic?” I asked. Julia opened her mouth but before she could reply, I cut in, “Please? I’m getting cabin fever since I didn’t leave campus at all this weekend, and I’ll pay for your drink.”
She studied her textbooks and notebooks before looking back up at me. “I don’t know, I have a lot of homework to catch up on...”
“Please?” I said again, placing my hands under my chin in an attempt to look all cute and innocent. “Come on, you need a break!”
She nodded, and her smile grew a little more genuine. “All right. Give me ten minutes to finish these problems.”
Fifteen minutes later, phones and wallets in hand, we strolled out of the dorm and across the parking lot to Margaret. It was a clear, warm night, probably in the upper sixties. As a former Illinois girl, I was used to blustery frigid Marches, so this was a nice change.
Julia focused on driving while I plugged in her phone so we could jam for the short drive to Sonic. I queued up my “Riding Shotgun” playlist, something that had become a staple any time we drove places together. Julia sang along to her favorites—namely Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” and OMI’s “Cheerleader”—and I danced a little in my seat. We talked about small things, like our homework load for that week and how crazy the semester felt as we got closer and closer to finals. I found myself chattering on, as I listed all the projects and papers due before the semester was over.
My heart tip-tapped faster and faster and sweat prickled on my hands. When I paused for breath, I wiped my hands on my pants and sighed. Giving into my anxiety was never a good idea. Thankfully, the yellow and red lights came into view. They were the distraction I needed. We went to the drive-through so we could get back to campus sooner. Julia asked for a blue raspberry slush, and I ordered tater tots for us to share, along with a chocolate strawberry shake.
Once we were back on the road, I stretched my legs and sighed softly. The car smelled like Sonic—salt and grease mingling until we scooped up the last tater tot from the box. This was exactly what I needed tonight, quality girl time and a chocolate strawberry shake.
As we drove further away from the bright lights into the Kentucky countryside, “Cecilia and the Satellite” started playing. The familiar beat of the indie rock song thrummed through my feet and up to my fingers. The chorus always reminded me of a song they’d use in a teen movie. If I had rolled my window down, I would’ve been tempted to stick my arm out and move my hand in a wave-like motion. Instead, I peered out the windshield as I mouthed the words. The stars were out and all felt right in my world.