December 9, 2016

Random Friday: Winter 2016/2017 Reads

Want to participate in Random Fridays? Just do the following: 
  • Include the above image in your post and link back to my post.
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Time for another season of books!

1. Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter (December 27th)

2. The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee (December 27th)

3. Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken (January 3rd)

4. RoseBlood by A.G. Howard (January 10th)

5. American Street by Ibi Zoboi (February 14th)

6. The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro (February 14th)

7. Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas (February 21st)

8. Saturdays at Sea by Jessica Day George (February 21st)

9. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller (February 28th)

10. Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton (March 7th)

What winter releases are you hoping to read?

December 7, 2016

So You Like... #39

Ready for another book recommendation post? This time it's all about if you like...


I'm doing this one a bit like my Belle recommendation post a few months ago in that I'm going to feature two categories of books that don't necessarily align with the movie, but rather the princess.

Hardworking protagonists

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Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern

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Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Protagonists thrown out of their element

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Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor
Nil by Lynne Matson

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Are you a Tiana fan? What other Disney princesses would you like to see me feature?

December 5, 2016

Why I Love A Thousand Pieces of You

I have a weird relationship with YA science fiction books. It's the one genre I'll read some of but not all of. I've never been interested in science, outer space, or aliens. However, some YA sci-fi draws me in and won't let me go. It's usually the time travel or parallel universe books. Or the books are set in the future, but aren't dystopic so I consider them science fiction. (Although isn't dystopia technically a sub-genre of sci-fi?) But I digress. There's one sci-fi trilogy that I love with every fiber of my being - the Firebird trilogy by Claudia Gray. I'm going to tell you why I love the trilogy - and why you should, too.

1. The covers
It's a very shallow reason, but the Firebird books have some of the loveliest covers I've ever seen in YA (and I'm so glad they haven't had to suffer a redesign). Just look at these beauties.

2. The romance
Truth be told, most of my sci-fi books have to have a solid romance, and this one is perhaps the best of them all. The couple raises questions of fate and destiny - are they meant to be because of all the universes they're together in, or is love just random chance? Also, they refute the idea of love at first sight.

3. The alternate universes
This book is basically about AUs, which, as a fangirl, I love. But seriously, the world-building is rich and imaginative. It's fun to imagine where I'd be in different worlds. There'd be one where I attend Geneva College instead of Asbury, one where my family didn't move back to Virginia (and another where we never left VA in the first place), one where I wasn't homeschooled...the possibilities are endless.

4. The vastness of the alternate universe spectrum
Bouncing off that last point, I love how creative Ms. Gray got with the various worlds. All of the worlds are happening at a concurrent time to ours, but they're further along or behind than we are in technological development. Book one features a world with tsarist Russia and a futuristic London. Book two has a world where the Middle Ages seem to be in full swing still and a war-torn world reminiscent of World War II technology. And those are only the tip of the iceberg.

5. Marguerite's determination
Marguerite is the only artist in a family of scientists, but she will do anything for those she loves - her parents, her sister, and even her love interest. She crosses worlds for her dad in A Thousand Pieces of You and (spoiler alert) jumps through worlds to save them in A Million Worlds with You. I love that she's creative, loyal, and determined. She may not understand a lot of scientific stuff, but she's still smart and loving.

So what are you waiting for? Read the Firebird trilogy ASAP.


December 4, 2016

Review: Alterations

Alterations by Stephanie Scott
Grade: C
Release date: December 6, 2016
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.
Summary: If anyone saw the prom boards Amelia Blanco makes on her favorite fashion app, they'd think Ethan Laurenti was her boyfriend. They wouldn't know that all the plans she's made for them are just dreams, and that she's the girl who watches him from the kitchen while her parents cook for his famous family. 

When Amelia's abuelita enrolls her in a month-long fashion internship in NYC, Amelia can't imagine leaving Miami--and Ethan--for that long. As soon as she gets to New York, however, she finds a bigger world and new possibilities. She meets people her own age who can actually carry on a conversation about stitching and design. Her pin boards become less about prom with Ethan and more about creating her own style. By the time she returns to Miami, Amelia feels like she can accomplish anything, and surprises herself by agreeing to help Ethan's awkward, Steve-Jobs-wannabe brother, Liam, create his own fashion app. 

As Liam and Amelia get closer, Ethan realizes that this newly confident, stylish girl may be the one for him after all . . . even though he has a reality TV star girlfriend he conveniently keeps forgetting about. The "new and improved" Amelia soon finds herself in between two brothers, a whole lot of drama, and choice she never dreamed she'd have to make.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: If you love cute, fluffy romances, Alterations is the book for you. Except...I tend to like those types of books, and Alterations was not a hit for me.
I think my biggest problems had to do with Ethan, the dialogue, and Amelia's fashion interests.
The plotline with Ethan felt unoriginal, and I was just ready for Amelia to warm up to Liam and really notice him and stop focusing on his obnoxious brother. He added so much unnecessary drama after the first half or so of the story. The dialogue felt very unrealistic at times. That's something I've been working on in my fiction writing class this fall, and so it's becoming glaringly apparent to me that, while some things might sound like a good thing to say, people wouldn't really say them (especially teenage boys). Amelia talked about fashion, and she seemed to back up her words with support of why she liked it, but I couldn't feel her passion. I didn't fully grasp why fashion was her "thing." 
Other small notes: Haylo was a weird character for me; her personality didn't seem well-formed because it seemed to flip-flop at times. I did like how Amelia had to own up to the lies she told her New York friends. And I really liked Liam and Amelia together.

The Verdict: This one might be a miss honestly.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Besides my e-galley, no.

December 3, 2016

The Harry Potter Books Are Not Evil

I never read a Harry Potter book until this year. My parents didn't allow me to read them, and I wanted to respect their wishes. However, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was required reading for my adolescent literature class this fall, and I decided I'd read the whole series after that one. (Plus one of my best friends kind of pressured me into reading them. She's such a bad influence.) Anyways, I wrote my second take-home essay on the topic shared in the post title. And now I'm going to share my essay with y'all.

Many Christian parents will not allow their children to read the Harry Potter series, simply because the books feature wizards, witches, and magic. They believe the series is in direct contradiction to the Bible, which in several instances in the Old and New Testaments, condemns witchcraft. For example, in Galatians 5:19-21, Paul says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” However, there are also many Christians who believe the Harry Potter books are acceptable to read and are not contrary to God’s Word. In fact, there are reasons why the books not only can be read but also should be read by preteens and teenagers.
Readers must acknowledge that the Bible lists witchcraft as a sin; however, the two kinds of witchcraft—that of the Bible and that of J.K. Rowling’s book series—seem to be quite different. The former is used only for evil, for contact with Satan and his demons and to carry out Satan’s orders; the latter, in the hands of the right people, is used for practical daily life as well as for good. Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley, among many of the wizards and witches in the series, use magic to protect the innocent, stop the forces of evil, and save the wizarding world. Of course there are wizards who use magic for evil, such as Lord Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange, but they are shown to be in the wrong time after time.
The Harry Potter books also teach many valuable moral lessons. First and foremost is the lesson of good prevailing over evil. Early in the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry learns about the existence of Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who murdered Harry’s mother and father. Voldemort tried to take over the wizarding world 11 years prior, but the powers of good prevailed. Harry learns why Voldemort is so bad—he hates Muggleborn students, uses the Unforgivable Curses (curses that control, torture, and kill) with reckless abandon, and craves power so he can dominate others. In contrast, Harry befriends anyone who is kind, no matter if he or she is a pureblood wizard or Muggleborn; only uses the Unforgivable Curses when he has no choice; and does not desire to be the Chosen One.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone also teaches the value of friendship. Harry, Hermione, and Ron learn to depend on each other, and each young wizard or witch has strengths that balance out his or her friends’ weaknesses. The three are considered one of literature’s golden trios because they are stronger together and so iconic. Later on in the series, Harry also befriends Luna Lovegood, a girl who is a bit of an outcast because she is eccentric and dreamy. Rowling uses all of her younger characters to prove that friendship can win wars, as so many wizards and witches stand beside Harry in the Battle of Hogwarts because of the kindness and courage he demonstrated.
Also important in the Harry Potter series are the Christian values of courage and sacrifice. Harry must be brave on several occasions, but it is Neville Longbottom, who stands up to his friends when they break the rules, who could be to said to be the bravest of them all. In fact, thanks to his courage, Professor Dumbledore awards Gryffindor ten extra points, thereby winning Gryffindor the House Cup. Throughout the series, Harry and others sacrifice themselves for the greater good. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Ron sacrifices himself in the game of chess so Hermione and Harry can go forward and stop Professor Quirrell and Voldemort. Later on, in the third book, Ron has broken his leg, and yet he tells Sirius Black that Sirius will have to go through him and Hermione to get to Harry. Throughout the series, many of the good wizards and witches exhibit courage and sacrifice much to save their world.
Finally, many Christian parents allow—and often encourage—their children to read The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings series. Both of these series feature witches, wizards, and magic. So what makes them different from the Harry Potter series? Perhaps it is the Christian intent with which C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote their books, but all three series teach the difference between good and evil, as well as the values of friendship, courage, and sacrifice, among many others.
Therefore, it is clear why the Harry Potter series not only acceptable but should be promoted for Christians to read. Most children, if properly communicated with during and after they read the books, will understand that Hogwarts and the wizards are part of a fictional world. They will understand why the witchcraft of our world is evil and contrary to God’s Word. Perhaps they will even learn important lessons from Harry Potter and his friends.

If you're a Christian, have you read Harry Potter? Why or why not?

December 2, 2016

Word Cloud Classics Editions Make My Heart Happy

I've never been much for classic books. It's not because I'm a snob who only thinks new books are good; it's just because most of them have never caught my interest. I do like Jane Austen's works, of course, as well as To Kill a Mockingbird and some of the classics I had abridged versions of when I was young (The Secret Garden, Little Women, Black Beauty...). 

Well, last fall, at Joseph-Beth's VIP night, I discovered the delightful thing that is a Word Cloud Classics edition. They look a little something like this:

They're called "Word Cloud" editions because of the words printed into the soft leathery covers. These words are characters, places, and quotes from the book.

I picked one up and promptly fell in love with the look. The end papers, the soft feel of the cover, the colors, the little symbols stamped on the spines...

I knew I had to start collecting these editions. Of course, this dream took a good eight months to come to fruition. My parents gifted me The Secret Garden for my birthday, but then I was hooked. Since then, I've acquired five more - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Emma, Black Beauty, Sense and Sensibility, and Hans Christian Andersen Tales.

There's a Goodreads list that has all of them (I think) organized in one place. I encourage you to collect these gorgeous books as well! They're releasing at least two more in the spring - Mansfield Park (in the most beautiful shade of mint green) and Shakespeare's Sonnets.

So which Word Cloud Classics editions do you like best? If you could add any books to the collection, what would it be?
I'd personally want to see Wuthering Heights, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Phantom of the Opera.

November 30, 2016

Review: Map to the Stars

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

The Book

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 Córdova’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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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:
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)