October 25, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Songs for Autumn

Today's post is supposed to be more Halloween-themed, but I've run out of Halloween ideas since it's not my favorite holiday. Therefore, I decided to do something more autumn-themed. Some of these recommendations have specific references to the season; others just fit the feel of fall to me.

1. "All Too Well" by Taylor Swift
"Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place,
And I can picture it after all these days."

2. "Photograph" by Ed Sheeran

3. "Begin Again" by Taylor Swift

4. "Dreams" by The Cranberries
(a.k.a. the You've Got Mail song)

5. "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons
I heard the Glee version of this song about four years ago in September in Door County, with the trees just starting to change, so it's always going to be associated with autumn for me.

6. "Riptide" by Vance Joy

7. "Splitting Wood" by Claire Guerreso

8. "Meanwhile Back at Mama's" by Tim McGraw

9. "Gone, Gone, Gone" by Phillip Phillips

10. "Emmeline" by Bruno Merz
"When I think of love and autumn It's your face I see, my Emmeline"

What was your post topic today?

October 22, 2016

Learning to Appreciate Creative Nonfiction

This fall, I'm taking one of the required classes for my major, Creative Nonfiction. I was tentative going into it, mainly because I was like, "What the heck is CNF?" 

Apparently it's memoirs, personal essays, and lyric essays. It's anything that is true but is written creatively instead of like journalism. I still struggle with the class sometimes, because my prof really wants us to dig up lots of details about an event in our lives, but I sometimes don't remember every minute detail (especially when it comes to dialogue). 

We have to do a report/presentation on a memoir later this semester. I wasn't sure what I was going to do at first because none of the suggestions my prof presented us with sounded good. I went searching for good food and travel memoirs, though, because those sound like they could be up my alley.

And, not gonna lie, I think food memoirs might be my new favorite thing. A lot of them have recipes. I love to bake, y'all (if you didn't already know), and I'm getting into cooking a bit too. Plus the travel memoirs are like me living vicariously through people who have the means to travel or go live in another country. I've only read two memoirs so far this semester (both in the quest to find which one would be for my presentation), but I can't wait to read more in the future. I'd love to go browse the memoir section at Joseph-Beth or Barnes & Noble someday and see which ones catch my eye.

Do you have any memoir recommendations? How do you feel about creative nonfiction?

October 18, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Names for Future Pets

I would absolutely love to give a future dog or cat a literary-inspired name. Here are my top eight picks!

1. Dorian (from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas)
Can you just imagine Dorian as a fluffy puppy?

2. Miri (from Princess Academy by Shannon Hale)
This one would work better for a cat in my opinion, but I also really want to have Corgis one day, so I could see naming one of them Miri.

3. Kestrel (from The Winner's Curse trilogy by Marie Rutkoski)
I just really like the name, but I would never burden a future child with the name so guess it'll have to be for a pet.

4. Nix (from The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig)
Definitely a cat.

5. Ophelia (from Hamlet)
Ophelia is one of my favorite characters, so of course I have to honor her and name a future pet (probably a Corgi or Sheltie) after her.

6. Finch (a.k.a. Matt Finch from Open Road Summer by Emery Lord)
I like the surname so much I gave it to one of my characters.

7. Sloane (from Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson...and Ferris Bueller's Day Off)
It's just a great name, but I can't see myself giving it to a kid.

8. Hale (from Heist Society by Ally Carter)
And no, I won't burden that pet with the name W.W. Hale the Fifth.

So what literary-inspired names would you give your pets or children? (Or which ones have you given your pets/children?)

October 17, 2016

So You Like... #36

And now, finally, it's time for the Gryffindor So You Like post. I left this one til last on purpose partly because it's the house that gets the most attention and partly because it's the house I identify least with.

The books I chose have daring, determined characters, many of whom will fight for their friends. (And as always, book covers link to Goodreads.)







If you're a Gryffindor, do you agree with my choices? What other books would you recommend?

October 16, 2016

Rewind & Review #71

~I'm now a contributing editor for my university's chapter of The Odyssey.
~I was nominated for my class's homecoming court female rep! As a former homeschooler, this in itself was a great achievement, even though I didn't win.
~My mom came for fall break. She brought me cupcakes and a cold. We went to Keeneland on Friday, which was very fun, and shopped and took it easy on Saturday. She took me to Starbucks three times this weekend, which was a dream.

Books I Won/Traded for/was Gifted
Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira
Map to the Stars by Jen Malone (both gifted by my Secret Sister)

Books I Bought
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The Icing on the Cake by Deborah A. Levine and JillEllyn Riley
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Hans Christian Andersen Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Books I Read
Perfect Liars by Kimberly Reid (DNF)
Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat (3.5 stars)
Pivot Point by Kasie West (reread)
The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle (3.5 stars)
Timekeeper by Tara Sim (DNF)
Holes by Louis Sachar (4 stars)
The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond (3 stars)
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin (reread)
Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy (3 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 10/3-10/8)
   (from 10/9-10/15)

October 14, 2016

Random Friday: Bookish Pet Peeves

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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  • Add the link to your Random Friday at the bottom of this post.
We all have pet peeves. They're unavoidable. Here are my book-related ones!

1. When people dog-ear pages.
I detest it so much that I wrote a whole Odyssey post about it.

2. When a bookstore only has later books in a series.
Confused book-buyers may not realize those are part of a series and they won't be able to obtain the first book!

3. When the dust jacket/cover is messed up before the book even reaches my hands.
Amazon is a big perpetrator when it comes to this. I got my preorder of The Fill-In Boyfriend and one of its corners was already bent. Often, the top and bottom of the spine are squished in a bit and the dust jacket along the spine is crinkled. I realize that's minor, but I like my books to look pristine. They'll last longer if they aren't damaged.

4. When publishers print long books on thinner paper.
I know they're trying to avoid selling behemoth books, but it's so inconvenient that my copy of Empire of Storms looks shorter than Crown of Midnight. Not to mention, this makes the book flimsier. I'm scared of tearing pages. What will happen if I drop the book? Finally, I love the aesthetic appearance of fat books. If they can print the Harry Potter series on normal paper (Order of the Phoenix is 870 pages, don't forget), why couldn't Winter and Empire of Storms be printed on normal paper, too?

5. When they change a series cover design mid-series.
I know it's all about marketing, but at the very least, they could wait until all of the series is published OR the publisher could keep all the hardcover editions with the original design and only make the paperback editions with the new cover. 
This issue causes an uproar often in the blogging community. Just ask any of us about The Winner's Curse trilogy incident.

6. When people don't take care of library books.
I know it's not your book, but that means you should take better care of it because you aren't the only person who will be reading it! I hate when I get library books with questionable stains (is it food? is it blood?) or when the pages are creased.

So what are some of your bookish pet peeves? Share them in your own post or in the comments below.

October 12, 2016

Interview with Lily Anderson + a Giveaway

The Author

Lily Anderson is a school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California, far from her mortal enemy: the snow.

The Book

Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books--well, maybe not comic books--but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie's best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they're on--and they might not pick the same side.

The Interview

Emma: Did you always plan for The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You (TOTWTMIY) to be a Much Ado About Nothing retelling?
Lily: Yes! Much Ado About Nothing is my favorite play and I kept scouring bookstores and libraries for retellings of it. When I couldn't find anything, I started whining to Twitter (like you do) and then the idea for a YA retelling started percolating in my head. First, I thought of the scene in act three where Benedick shaves off his beard to impress Beatrice and I thought, "Huh. What if he had a hipster mustache?" Then I opened up a word document and wrote the first sentence, exactly as it appears in the book: Ben West spent summer vacation growing a handlebar mustache. Seriously. 

E: Which of the TOTWTMIY characters was your favorite to write? 
L: Probably Ben. His jokes and insults always had a tinge of bizarre to them that was too much fun to write. Although I do miss spending time in Trixie's brain. Writing in first person, I get used to having a character's voice around and miss them when they're gone. 

E: I love all the comic book references and that Trixie loves Veronica Mars. Were there any fan culture references you had to cut from the final draft that you would've loved to keep?
L: Actually, you'd be surprised to read the first draft of the book where there were far fewer references! There were certain references that I was afraid were too niche when I was first writing that, later, my agent and editor encouraged me to use. So, all the mentions to Red Dwarf, Douglas Adams, Deathlok, and Shan-Yu were all added in my last draft as I let my nerd flag fly a little higher. 

E: What's your secret to writing such a bantery, swoonworthy romance?
L: Oh my goodness. Thank you. My secret is twofold. First, in real life, I have basically no idea how to flirt. Can't do it. Never have. I basically just banter men into submission (this is also my method for befriending people). So, my characters tend to do the same thing. They talk until someone loves them. 
Secondly, I make my characters listen to each other as much as possible. I think that's where true swoon is born, in that moment where someone looks and truly sees. With Ben and Trixie, they've known each other for most of their lives but never stopped to get to know one another. The second they do, they both swoon hard and can't stop learning more about each other, absorbing all the new information as though it's precious material. 

E: Do you plan to write more Shakespeare retellings?
L: I don't currently have any plans to do more Shakespeare retellings. That doesn't mean I won't! But every now and then I think through the Shakespeare canon, waiting for something to leap out at me. So far, nothing has. But I might have something related to Oscar Wilde in the works... 

E: If you could have dinner with three TV show characters, who would you choose?
L: Can I choose Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars three times? No? Okay. Um. 
1. Miss Patty from Gilmore Girls because she'd never let the conversation drop. 
2. The 10th Doctor from Doctor Who because it's always good to have someone smarter than you at dinner. 
3. Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation because she'd definitely plan some kind of awesome surprise.

E: I saw on your website that you have musical theater tattoos. What are your favorite musicals and/or songs from musicals?
L: My tattoos are from pretty obscure musicals. My right hip says "Make a joyful noise my soul" which is from Bat Boy and my left shoulder says "Why we tell the story" which is the finale of Once On This Island. Both are songs that helped me get through dark times, both are from composers that went on to much more mainstream successes. 
My favorite show of all time is Sondheim's Into The Woods (no, I didn't see the movie; I'm wayyyy to obsessed with the original cast). I love kid focused musicals (like A Year With Frog and Toad and You're A Good Man Charlie Brown) and movies turned into musicals (like The Wedding Singer and Shrek) and classic blockbusters (like Annie and Fiddler on the Roof) and quirky off-Broadway successes (like Little Shop of Horrors and Evil Dead) and big spectacle shows that no one else cared about (like Ragtime and Aida). I've never found a jukebox musical that works for me and I really, really dislike everything touched by Stephen Schwartz (except for Prince Of Egypt). 
Aren't you sorry you asked? 

E: I like to ask authors what recent YA releases they'd recommend. Care to share a few?
L: Yes! I'd love to. Books that recently blew me away, alphabetical by author because you can't stop librarians from alphabetizing: 

OUTRUN THE MOON by Stacey Lee (San Francisco before, during, and after the 1906 earthquake! No one does female friendships like Stacey Lee!)
STALKING JACK THE RIPPER by Kerri Maniscalco (Victorian mystery! Swoony as all get out!) 
SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN by Jenny Manzer (One of my favorite YA reads ever! Angsty and raw and real!)
WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS by Anna-Marie McLemore (Magical realism with a transgender lead! Prose so lush you can taste it!) 
AS I DESCENDED by Robin Talley (Macbeth retelling! Gave me nightmares!) 

The Giveaway

Lily has generously offered a finished copy of The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You for one reader. Usual rules apply: No cheating; U.S. readers only; you must respond to my email within 24 hours, or I will choose another winner. 

October 11, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read Because of Other Bloggers

This was a hard topic to do, just because a lot of books I've read have been entirely by my own choice. Earlier on in my blogging career, though, a lot of what I read was based mostly on other bloggers raving about them. So shoutout to the wonderful bloggers in this community who have pushed me to read some of their favorite titles.

1. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Way back in 2013, I saw Summer's review of this one and decided that, even though it was sci-fi, I'd give it a try.

2. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Shae nudged me towards this one.

3. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
This one is thanks to Shae, as well, and I think a couple of other bloggers, too (although I can't recall whom).

4. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
So many bloggers raved about this one that I finally gave in last fall.

5. All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
This middle grade novel wasn't even on my radar until I saw a blogger's review of it.

6. 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen
I knew about this book, but it was Jamie's review that really got me interested (even though I couldn't read it until almost a year later).

7. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
Another Shae rec. 

8. Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas
A couple bloggers reviewed this one, and their thoughts were positive enough that I wanted to give it a try.

9. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
I never thought I'd read Morgan Matson's books until I saw Jamie's review and giveaway. I checked SYBG out of the library, and ended up winning it and Morgan's first two novels.

I saw Gillian's review, went to Half Price Books later that day (or week, don't remember which), and promptly bought it.

So who's been the best recommender of books in your life?

October 10, 2016

Review: My Unscripted Life

My Unscripted Life by Lauren Morrill
Grade: C
Release date: October 11, 2016
An e-galley was provided by the publisher in exchange for review consideration.
Summary: Sometimes love stories go off script.

Another sultry Georgia summer is about to get a lot hotter. Dee Wilkie is still licking her wounds after getting rejected by the precollege fine arts program of her dreams. But if she'd gone away, she wouldn't have been around to say yes to an unbelievable opportunity: working on the set of a movie filming in her small Southern town that just happens to be starring Milo Ritter, the famous pop star Dee (along with the rest of the world) has had a crush since eighth grade.

It's not like Dee will be sharing any screen time with Milo—she's just a lowly PA. And Milo is so disappointingly rude that Dee is eager to stay far away from him. Except after a few chance meetings, she begins to wonder if just maybe there's a reason for his offensive attitude, and if there's more to Milo than his good looks and above-it-all Hollywood pedigree. Can a relationship with a guy like Milo ever work out for a girl like Dee? Never say never. . .

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Dee Wilkie is one of the luckiest characters in the world. She stumbles into a job on a movie set, and then a pop star falls in love with her. The unlikelihood of that happening to any real girl is enormous. However, as someone who's never seen a movie set, I felt like Lauren described that extremely well. I could picture where the characters were and it seemed realistic.
However, there was so much unnecessary drama with Milo's ex, and the book was a big cliche about small town life being boring. (If anyone's seen Gilmore Girls, you know that's not always the case.) I never fully connected with Dee, and she and Milo seemed to be the only characters important to the narrative. 
Language was pretty mild; I caught half a dozen s-words at most.

The Verdict: I think this is going to be my last Lauren Morrill book. There's nothing special about them anymore, and nothing can surpass Being Sloane Jacobs.

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

October 9, 2016

Sunday Street Team: Becky Allen Guest Post

The Book
Bound by Blood and Sand by Becky Allen
Release date: October 11, 2016

Jae is a slave in a dying desert world. 

Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free. 

Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well. 

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn. 

Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the realm’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.

The Author

Becky Allen grew up in a tiny town outside Ithaca, New York, and graduated from Brandeis University with a major in American studies and a minor in journalism. She is the website director of TheBody.com, an online HIV resource, and loves New York, brunch, and feminism. Becky lives in New York City.

The Guest Post: The World-Building of Bound by Blood and Sand

Way back in middle school, one of my favorite fantasy series was David and Leigh Eddings’ THE BELGARIAD. Think: farmboy turns out to be a lost king, epic clash of nations, the villain is a full-fledged dark god. This, my middle school brain said, is fantasy. So I was absolutely thrilled to death when, a few years later, the writers released all of their worldbuilding notes in a giant tome -- almost 500 pages! It was full of histories (thousands of years worth), religious texts, notes on the economies, government, etc, of dozens of countries. It was amazing. I was utterly overwhelmed.

This, my high school brain said, is how you build a world. I proceeded to spend the next few years trying to do exactly that for a few fantasy projects I was noodling around with -- writing out histories, making up holidays, creating an index of important historical characters. But it never really worked. Sure, I came up with a lot of stuff, but none of it felt very organic -- none of it had much of anything to do with my actual characters or the stories I was trying to tell. I just thought that was what you were supposed to do when you wanted to write fantasy.

That is not what I did for BBB&S.

The very first thing I knew about BBB&S was that it was going to take place in a desert that was losing its water -- the conflict, and thus the whole story, hinged on that. So yes, I started with some pragmatic stuff, like what the temperature would be, what plants and animals there would be. I made a couple of quick lists as I wrote, and in my draft I noted places where I wanted to come back and fill in more details… once I knew what the details were.

One thing about BBB&S is that it hinges a lot on the backstory, events that happened generations before my characters. That wasn’t something I knew going in, though, so when I realized it as I wrote… well, I just kept writing. The first version didn’t make a lot of sense, but it gave me a beginning. I knew that the Well (the magic that keeps the desert’s water in place) and the Curse (the horrible magic placed over my protagonist) were somehow tangled up together, but not how. So after that draft, I spent some time figuring that out. I may have jotted that down in a document somewhere, but the most important place it lived was on the page, in the next draft.

The thing that worked for me about building up world that way, inside out instead of outside in, is that it gave everything I built context within the story. There wasn’t history for the sake of history; there was history that directly affected the characters.

The same thing carried through in other ways. One thing my editor asked me about in revisions was art and culture -- there are four castes in the book, though really only the Closest (bottom caste) and Highest (guess which one they are) were all that important. She asked if I could differentiate the two by showing more of their differing cultures, such as their art and music. So I thought about it -- what kind of art would the Closest have?

The Closest are slaves, who don’t have much in the way of possessions, or free time. So I gave them art that was subtle -- simple drawings in the dirt or done with ashes on a wall. They are easy to overlook, and easy to erase and start again. Nothing permanent, because these characters have nothing. Once I knew that, it was easy to build up a contrast among the Highest: since the Closest worked only with muted, dark colors, everything the Highest do is bright and flashy. Brilliant colors all over the place! So what had been a sort of generically beige-y stone house where most of the story takes place was suddenly covered in brightly colored mosaics all over the place.

Once again, the worldbuilding details were all things that came from what the story needed. Pieces I discovered as I wrote, that wove themselves into the story I was creating. And I’ve realized, this is the method that works for me. Building up too much ahead of time makes me feel like I need to to shape a story to fit a world -- when the truth is that the worldbuilding should serve the story.

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