June 17, 2019

So You Like... #83

When "ME!" released at the end of April, I realized I hadn't done So You Like... posts for all of Taylor's albums - just Speak Now, Red, and Reputation. I figured it was time to do them for Taylor Swift, Fearless, and 1989, so here's the first in the trilogy. Are you ready for it? (I'm never gonna get tired of that joke.) 

So you like...


TAYLOR SWIFT (the album)



You need to read...


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Next time, I'm recommending books for if you like Fearless, so stay tuned!

June 14, 2019

Random Friday: Meeting Authors


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  • Include the above image in your post and link back to my blog.
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One of the best things about my New York Year was how many authors I had the opportunity to meet. I went to a bunch of author events at Books of Wonder, a couple at McNally Jackson, one at Books Are Magic, and one at the Astoria Bookshop. And then I've also been lucky enough to meet several others elsewhere - Ally Carter on the United We Spy tour, Leigh Bardugo at the National Book Festival, Emery Lord at a couple events, Jasmine Warga in Lexington, Kentucky...

I always feel nervous when I meet them, though. I know they're just people, of course, but I always want to have something good to say to them. I don't want to be like everyone else and say, "I loved _" or "I'm so excited to read _; it sounds really good." When I was younger, I loved to ask questions at events, and I usually had some good ones, but now I feel like I can't think of any interesting ones.

Now that I'm back in Virginia, it's going to be harder to go to author events. Most never come to this area, and if they do, it's always northern Virginia. Driving up there from Richmond is a nightmare, so my family tries to do it as little as possible. So if any publicists are reading this, try to send more authors to Richmond, Virginia. We have several great indies in this area, as well as a handful of Barnes & Nobles stores, and a Books-a-Million. ;)

What are your favorite parts about meeting authors? Where do you usually meet them? Who's been your favorite to meet? Let's chat in the comments!

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June 12, 2019

Review: The Sound of Drowning

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The Sound of Drowning by Katherine Fleet
Grade: C-
An ARC was provided by Page Street Kids in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Meredith Hall has a secret. Every night she takes the ferry to meet Ben, her best friend and first love. Though their relationship must remain a secret, they’ve been given a second chance, and Mer's determined to make it work. She lost Ben once before and discovered the awful reality: she doesn't know how to be happy without him…

Until Wyatt washes ashore―a brash new guy with a Texas twang and a personality bigger than his home state. He makes her feel reckless, excited, and alive in ways that cut through her perpetual gloom. The deeper they delve into each other’s pasts, the more Wyatt’s charms become impossible to ignore.

But a storm is brewing in the Outer Banks. When it hits, Mer finds her heart tearing in half and her carefully constructed reality slipping back into the surf. As she discovers that even the most deeply buried secrets have a way of surfacing, she’ll have to learn that nothing is forever―especially second chances.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I am always game for trying YA books from smaller houses, especially in the case of Page Street. This is the first year I've noticed a big showing from them, and I hope it's a successful showing. However, The Sound of Drowning is the first title of theirs I'm trying, and I found myself a bit disappointed by it.
For the most part, the book felt like what an adult thinks YA is, and the tone was more fitting for YA from at least seven years ago.
I also felt frustrated with most of the beginning because something has happened to keep Mer from wind-surfing and to cause a rift between her mother and Ben's mom (and it's the reason she and Ben need to meet in secret), but it's kept from readers. Considering that the book is written in first-person narration, this felt forced and annoying. Most of all, I just didn't click with the characters. They felt like someone's idea of teenagers, rather than actual teens.

The Verdict: Disappointing.


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

June 10, 2019

Review: Waiting for Tom Hanks

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Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
Grade: C
Release date: June 11, 2019
An e-galley was provided by Penguin First to Read in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Annie is twenty-seven years old, single, and obsessed with romantic comedies (she and her mother watched them religiously, before her mom died). Her dating life is limited by the expectations she’s formed from these movies. She is not as open to new experiences as she might be, because she’s waiting for her Tom Hanks–i.e., a guy she’ll find in the perfect, meet-cute romantic comedy way. When Annie does finally meet her perfect match, it’s not quite in the way she expected, and she’s forced to reckon with the walls she’s built around herself over the years.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I am a huge fan of You've Got Mail. So when I heard there was a book coming out with a rom-com-loving, Tom-Hanks-devotee protagonist, I was immediately sold. Unfortunately, Waiting for Tom Hanks did not quite live up to my expectations.
The biggest problem is that Annie was just kinda...blah. She doesn't quite have the appeal of Lucy or Kathleen, two of the biggest rom-com heroines who have lost beloved parents. She wants to write movie scripts, which...cool. But her main one is literally about her best friend and the owner of the coffee shop. And Annie doesn't change the names at all, which feels icky. The next problem is more my fault. I didn't quite realize one of the big plot points was going to be about a rom-com filming in Annie's corner of Columbus, Ohio, and that her romance would be with the lead actor. I'm rarely a fan of celebrity romance stories, so that was another strike against Waiting for Tom Hanks. I know a lot of people enjoy that type of story, though, so that's more of "it's not you, it's me" thing. However, I do think the book leaned a little too hard into the rom-com tropes. If you're gonna make a solid rom-com, you can't choose the ones that are trite - like the heroine spraining her ankle and needing the love interest to carry her home, or spilling coffee on the love interest as the meet-cute. And then she confesses her love for the guy when he's on national TV, and it just feels a little...eh. (Picture that emoji that's grinning awkwardly.)
Annie's uncle was a bit of a highlight. And the book isn't terrible. It's just kinda meh.

Content warnings: foul language, sex (mostly fade-to-black), references to deceased parents

The Verdict: A bit of a let-down. I think the Golden Age of rom-coms is unfortunately past us. (Well, except for Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys I've Loved Before.)


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

June 9, 2019

Rewind & Review #136


~Why is Virginia so hot.
~At least I tried (and enjoyed) a new-to-me ice cream place here in RVA. It's called Scoop, for anyone who wants to check it out.
~I got a job! I'll be working at a clothing boutique part-time, and hopefully I'll be spending the rest of my time doing some freelance copy editing/proofreading and working on my novels.

Books I Received for Review
More to the Story by Hena Khan (from S&S via NetGalley)
Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon (from Random House via NetGalley)

Books I Won/Traded for/was Gifted
Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George
Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway
Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills [OwlCrate edition]
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth (all via separate trades)

Books I Bought
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley
A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Books I Read
Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (4 stars)
Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno (4 stars)
If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (5 stars)
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (reread)
The Sound of Drowning by Katherine Fleet
The Season of You and Me by Robin Constantine (reread)
Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash
Meet Me in Outer Space by Melinda Grace (3.5 stars)
Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard (3 stars)
Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali (4 stars)
Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian (4 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 5/27-6/1)
   (from 6/2-6/8)

June 8, 2019

Review: Hungry Hearts

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Hungry Hearts by various authors (edited by Caroline Tung Richmond and Elsie Chapman)
Grade: B-
Release date: June 18, 2019
An e-galley was provided by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.

A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.

Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.

Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.
 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: When I first heard about this book, I didn't know just how interconnected all the stories would be, and so, when I realized that, I was nervous. But it worked really well! It made each story feel longer, which is good because usually stories in anthologies feel under-developed. Also this must've taken so much cooperation from all of the authors, and I commend them for that. Now to talk about each story individually.


Rain by Sangu Mandanna - 3.5/5 stars
Good intro to the anthology. Really works with themes of healing and moving on but not necessarily getting over something. A little simple, though.

Kings and Queens by Elsie Chapman - 4/5 stars
A darker story but still deeply interesting. Love the contrast of the foods.

The Grand Ishq Adventure by Sandhya Menon - 5/5 stars
Sandhya writes magic. I wanted just a little bit more food though, but I loved the concept of trying different restaurants. This one has had the most involvement with the rest of the neighborhood so far.

Sugar and Spite by Rin Chupeco - 2.5/5 stars
Enjoyed the heart of the story, but really couldn't stand the second-person narration. There's always that one story in an anthology that has to be second-person, and it never works, imo.

Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid - 3/5 stars
Good food involvement, but it felt weird to have the narrator withholding information from readers (and not in an unreliable narrator way). I've also never really cared for Adi's writing style.

The Slender One by Caroline Tung Richmond - 4/5 stars
Charlie and Andie were great characters. I liked the cultural tie-ins, and how food became more important as the story went on, especially since I was skeptical at first about if food was even going to be a big part of this story.

Gimme Some Sugar by Jay Coles - 5/5 stars
You can feel the love for food in this story, and it's a good length with a plot that wraps up nicely. A reader could also probably attempt to make Leo's chicken, which would be fun.
Tiny note though...I'm pretty sure Leo references home as being in Indiana, but then he mentions the subway, and I didn't think there were any subways in Indiana so I was pretty confused by that...

The Missing Ingredient by Rebecca Roanhorse - 2/5 stars
This was a 3-star story until the ending. The twist is just too out there for me and too dark for an anthology like this.

Hearts à la Carte by Karuna Riazi - 4/5 stars
The superpower angle was so much fun. I liked that Munira wanted to be a wedding planner, but overall I felt like the plot overwhelmed any food angle in this story, and the timeline skimmed and jumped in ways that didn't quite work. HOWEVER. I still really liked the story.

Bloom by Phoebe North - 3/5 stars
I really liked the idea of a Jewish deli in the neighborhood, and I appreciated how literature tied in with food, but overall, I was underwhelmed by "Bloom" and how it incorporated food.

A Bountiful Film by S.K. Ali - 3/5 stars
Ran a little long. I didn't quite love the ending, but I did love the idea of the Thursday Club, and the grandmothers, and their food.

Side Work by Sara Farizan - 5/5 stars
THIS is how you write a great short story. The romance was cute, the food-related plot was so, so good, and the character arcs are well done too.

Panadería ~ Pastelería by Anna-Marie McLemore - 4/5 stars
The prose was a little less flowery than Anna-Marie tends to normally write, which was good. I did wish the story was longer though. The pacing was a little too quick. Lila had popped up throughout the book, and I wanted just a little more time in her head and for her and Gael to get together.


The Verdict: Don't read this while you're hungry.


Will I be adding this book to my library?: Oh, most definitely!

June 6, 2019

Review: This Time Will Be Different

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This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura
Grade: C
An e-galley was provided by HarperCollins via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.

She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.

Then her mom decides to sell the shop — to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.
 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I am always big proponent of "the longer, the better" when it comes to books, but sometimes...longer isn't better. This Time Will Be Different clocks in at 400 pages and I felt that length throughout the whole book. While there are some good themes throughout, I think the plot needed to be condensed to something at least 50, if not 75 to 100, pages shorter.
I wanted to read TTWBD because I was interested in exploring how the internment of Japanese Americans has affected the present. Most of the history behind the present day is told in a super quick summary, though, which was a bit disappointing. I definitely felt that theme driving one of the main plots, which was great, but it felt kind of...weak? Like I had trouble seeing the connection in the present-day and why it was still such a big deal that the Katsuyamas were continuing to hold this grudge. When it began to tie into the community at large, that helped. There was plenty of good commentary all around about social activism and friendship and how people can grow.
There's kind of a love triangle in that CJ has had a crush on this one guy forever and he starts to express an interest in her, but at the same time everyone in her life thinks she'd be cute with Owen, the new guy at the flower shop. I definitely thought she and Owen had better chemistry, which was the point I guess. Besides getting the Katsuyama family history, we also get CJ's romantic history, which just felt kind of...unnecessary? Like I don't mind that she dated other guys before the book, but I didn't need a run-down of the relationships.

Content warnings: bigotry, racism, foul language, underage drinking and drug use, references to sleeping together and an abortion

The Verdict: Overall, I was just kind of disappointed. With such a pretty cover, I expected the inside to be just as good.


Will I be adding this book to my library?: Probably not.

June 5, 2019

Emma's Summer of Classics

I mentioned in my Random Friday post last week that I wanted to read a bunch of classics this summer, especially since I've bought a lot lately from a really pretty series. So I'm going to have polls in this post and on Twitter for y'all to help me narrow it down. I'll do four-option polls on Twitter, but the ones here are gonna have two books each to make it a little easier for y'all to choose. If you haven't read them, please pick the books you want to read or the ones that look the most interesting.


Which classic should I read first?

North and South
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall



Which should I read first?

A Tale of Two Cities
Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon



Choose a third book! :)

The Time Machine
Love and Friendship



Last one!

Middlemarch
Far from the Madding Crowd

Thanks for your help! :)

June 4, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Books From Each Genre


All things considered, I read a little bit from most genres, although I favor contemporary and historical fiction. But since I don't want to focus on just one genre today, I'm going to list five of my top favorites from each of the genres I read most. (I'm including middle grade as one category even though it's technically not a genre.) (And yes, I'll technically be cheating by counting series as one.)


Contemporary

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1. Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

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2. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

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3. Analee, in Real Life by Janelle Milanes

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4. Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

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5. Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills


Historical Fiction

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1. Under a Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
(I'm doing them as one since it's the same author.)

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2. The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

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3. Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen

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4. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

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5. Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn


Fantasy

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1. Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake

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2. The Young Elites trilogy by Marie Lu

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3. The Winner's Curse trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

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4. The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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5. The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo


Science Fiction

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1. Illusive and Deceptive by Emily Lloyd-Jones

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2. Pivot Point by Kasie West

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3. Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

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4. Renegades by Marissa Meyer

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5. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill


Mystery/thriller

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1. Truly Devious trilogy by Maureen Johnson

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2. This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston

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3. The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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4. Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

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5. The Archived and The Unbound by Victoria Schwab


Middle Grade

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1. All Four Stars trilogy by Tara Dairman

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2. Amina's Voice by Hena Khan

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3. Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

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4. All the Answers by Kate Messner

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5. The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman


Bonus pick: 

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Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson (It's not published yet, so that's why I didn't include it in the full list.)


What books did you list today?