October 16, 2019

So You Like... #89

Sometimes you want to read a book that fits the mood of the current season. That's what today's recommendation post is all about - books that I think are perfect for autumn.


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What books make you think of autumn?

October 13, 2019

Rewind & Review #145

~I finally got to go to brunch here in RVA. We went to the aptly-named Brunch... I had pancakes, and my mom had one of the specials, a French toast casserole.
~I went to a book fair I've gone to before, but they didn't have a lot I wanted. I found three books to buy, listed below.

Books I Bought
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

Books I Read
Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore (3 stars)
Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz (4 stars)
Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills (reread)
A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai (5 stars)
Frankly in Love by David Yoon (3.5 stars)
The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood (reread)
The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith (reread)
Going Off Script by Jen Wilde (3 stars)
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (reread)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 9/30-10/5)
   (from 10/6-10/12)

October 12, 2019

Another Edition of Books I Recently Removed from My TBR

Occasionally I go through and cull books from my TBR based on Goodreads reviews or if I'm really not feeling them anymore. I removed a good handful in August and September, so I thought I'd share the titles here and explain why.

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The Arrival of Someday by Jen Malone
I've generally liked Jen's past book, but the voice just wasn't here for this one. It didn't engage me from the start, and roller derby isn't my thing anyways.

House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin A. Craig
I know this one hit the NYT Bestseller List, but everyone said it was so boring?

Who Put This Song On? by Morgan Parker
I was supposed to review an e-galley of this one, but the voice was all wrong from the get-go.

Nope, not here for books that are disrespectful of Christianity.

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Nocturna by Maya Motayne
I kept seeing reviews saying this was super weak for fantasy.

Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein
Too many pop culture name drops, and the protagonist wasn't careful about her whole scheme at all.

Maybe a Mermaid by Josephine Cameron
I'm so picky about middle grade, so it wasn't personal.

Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen
I LOVE fake dating stories, but the parents were really getting on my nerves in this one.

When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry
Too hardcore sci-fi for me.

Do you remove a lot of books from your TBR? What books have you removed recently and why?

October 11, 2019

My Seven Favorite Broadway Musicals

I was fortunate enough to see a BUNCH of musicals when I lived in New York, and while I mentioned all of them, I realized I never did a round-up of my favorites. So that's what this post is all about. In no particular order, here are my seven favorite Broadway musicals...plus four I wish I could've seen.

1. Wicked
I kind of knew I'd like Wicked, but I got literal chills the first time I saw it. When $50 tickets were available again, I jumped at the chance to see it a second time. And I would've seen it half a dozen more times if I could've. It's on my bucket list to see this show from orchestra seats someday, although at this point, I'd also take front mezzanine because I've always been in the rear.

2. Once on This Island
I think a lot of my love for this show stems from the fact that I got blessed with a front row seat, and for a show that was done in a theater in the round...that's pretty incredible. My feet rested on sand the whole night.

3. Come From Away
Cried like a baby for a good chunk of the show, oops. I love how much they do with such a small cast.

4. Waitress
I mean...I saw it three times. I'm a sucker for pie and good vocals and vaguely pop songs. Plus, I got to see some incredible talent each time: Katharine McPhee and Erich Bergen, Nicolette Robinson, and Shoshanna Bean and Jeremy Jordan. 
Also, get the souvenir mini pies, even though they cost more than a slice of pie at your average bakery.

5. Hello, Dolly!
Probably partly influenced by our orchestra seats, but seeing Hello, Dolly! a few weeks before its revival run ended was incredible. Donna Murphy killed it.

6. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
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I saw this one twice - once when my parents and I visited the city, and then a second time when Melissa Benoist did a stint as Carole. The music is great, but it's definitely a show geared towards teens and older just because it's a little slower.

7. Cinderella
Technically, I saw this when it toured here in Virginia, but it still counts! I've loved the latest Cinderella revival since I learned of it. Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes were all I could talk about for years, and I love that Keke Palmer got to play Cinderella for awhile, too. Also, the costume changes are magical.

Honorable mention: Phantom of the Opera
GREAT music, but the story confused me a bit and felt rushed in places.

Honorable mention: The Lion King
The staging of this is incredible, but most of the music wasn't quite memorable enough for me.

The Ones I Didn't See

I entered the lottery every single day I knew I could go, but I never won. :(

Les Miserables
The latest Broadway run closed two years before I even moved to New York, but I still regret that I've never seen it, even on tour.

Mamma Mia
This one falls under the same category as Les Mis, in that it closed years before I moved to the city. I also didn't know how much I loved the movie version until last summer. Alas.

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Theater fans raved about this one, but it also closed before I moved to NYC...although it was only five months before I visited (and nine before my internship started). I'm having to content myself with the cast recording and short video snippets.

Have you seen any musicals on Broadway? What were your favorites? Or which ones are you dying to see?

October 9, 2019

Review: A Match Made in Mehendi

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai
Grade: A
Summary: Fifteen-year-old Simran "Simi" Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the "gift."

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn't want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah's social status. Armed with her family's ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys' soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: If you've been missing the younger YA books with the recent burst of 17 and 18 year old protagonists, then you need to pick up A Match Made in Mehendi. With a 15-year-old sophomore as the protagonist, this book shines with earnestness and teenagery feels that never border on angsty. The main character, Simi, doesn't have dramatic blowups with her family or best friend. She's just navigating her insular world, and sure, there's a mean girl character, but proper repercussions are put in place for every one of that girl's actions. Most of the important characters aren't blind to the mean girl's flaws, and thankfully, Simi isn't interested in stealing the mean girl's (ex) boyfriend.
What she is interested in is finding an activity to set her place in her high school. She's also not sure she wants to join her family's matchmaking business. But when Simi finds a way to combine generational traditions with modern day technology...well, she really gets into the idea.
Simi is also passionate about art in the best way. She gets a little romance of her own (though that's hardly the focus), and she cares about her best friend, Noah. And like I said, there's no family drama. When Simi messes up, her mother and grandmother are disappointed, but they also want Simi to be the best version of her. And Mr. and Mrs. Sangha are never overbearing parents like you see too often in YA literature. A Match Made in Mehendi also celebrates Indian (and Indian-American) culture. The characters eat plenty of Indian food and describe it. Simi sometimes talks about the nuances of matchmaking across specific Indian ethnicities. And I really loved how the book was never about Simi fighting her family's traditions and trying to be more "American," or the opposite. The one thing I'm uncertain about is how willing Simi was to give white classmates mehendi tattoos (henna, as you might know it). Obviously there is the side of wanting to share culture, but I also wondered if the line into cultural appropriation might be crossed by the white girls wearing mehendi? That's not something I can answer, though, and obviously this is an #ownvoices book, so the author probably knows best!

Content warnings: a little foul language (not much), bullying

The Verdict: So, so, so cute and sweet.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Yes!

October 7, 2019

Review: Our Wayward Fate

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Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
Grade: C-
Release date: October 15, 2019
An e-galley was provided by Simon Pulse via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Ali Chu knows that as the only Asian person at her school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana, she must be bland as white toast to survive. This means swapping her congee lunch for PB&Js, ignoring the clueless racism from her classmates and teachers, and keeping her mouth shut when people wrongly call her Allie instead of her actual name, Ah-lee, after the mountain in Taiwan.

Her autopilot existence is disrupted when she finds out that Chase Yu, the new kid in school, is also Taiwanese. Despite some initial resistance due to the they belong together whispers, Ali and Chase soon spark a chemistry rooted in competitive martial arts, joking in two languages, and, most importantly, pushing back against the discrimination they face.

But when Ali’s mom finds out about the relationship, she forces Ali to end it. As Ali covertly digs into the why behind her mother’s disapproval, she uncovers secrets about her family and Chase that force her to question everything she thought she knew about life, love, and her unknowable future.

Snippets of a love story from nineteenth-century China (a retelling of the Chinese folktale The Butterfly Lovers) are interspersed with Ali’s narrative and intertwined with her fate.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Listen, I love the idea of exploring what it's like to be the only minority in your tiny town. But I think Our Wayward Fate went wrong in a bunch of ways.
First of all, while I adore a good romance, this one is SUPER insta-lovey. At first Ali wants to resist dating Chase since they're only two Chinese-American students in their school. But, by the very next day, she's aggressively kissing him, and they start dating and seeing each other in secret super fast. There was no believable chemistry. If you're going to make your romance one stemming from insta-love/insta-lust, then readers have to buy into it. All Ali and Chase did was argue a little, and then they were making out and sneaking out to see each other.
My next quibble is a little nebulous, just because I'm concerned my white privilege colors how I view the incidents. However, I felt a lot of the racism and microaggressions were TOO stereotypical and exaggerated. I would've liked to see some new ones, ones that you don't hear about on Twitter/social media a lot, or at least a more nuanced approach to them. I grew up in the Midwest, and it's pretty white but there are also a fair number of minorities spread across the prairies, and so I felt like the microaggressions needed to be more subtle but still there (because they definitely exist). I also felt that the mom came across as too much of a stereotypical tiger mom (which, after Chao's last book, felt repetitive) and the dad reminded me too much of the kind of absentee dad in It's Not Like It's a Secret.

Content warnings: foul language (a lot of it), microaggressions and some more overt racism

The Verdict: I am the epitome of a sad emoji.

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

October 6, 2019

From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen: Serious Moonlight and Pie #1

I love pie. Like, really love it. I wish my area had more pie shops. The one we have is super good, but I miss the ones I could regularly go to in New York. Anyways. When I heard about Jenn Bennett's latest, Serious Moonlight, and how it incorporated pie, I was 100% on board. And I knew it would inspire many a From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen post. So here we are with the first one, which is probably the easiest pie of the bunch.

"[He] glanced at the Pie of the Day board: STRAWBERRY'S BABY, featuring glazed bloodred strawberries scented with rosemary and piled into a devilishly dark chocolate-cookie crust." ~ pg. 422 of Serious Moonlight (Words in brackets mine.)

This kind of ended up being a blend of the pie recipe I shared a few months ago, plus my imagination. But it turned out really well. The main suggestion I have is either that y'all make sure to use in-season strawberries (so they're flavorful and sweet) or add extra sugar (and then extra cornstarch to compensate for the extra juice).

Also I forgot to take pictures at all the various stages, so I suck.

Strawberry's Baby Pie

1.5 lbs strawberries, sliced
2.5 T. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1 T. lemon juice
6 basil leaves, chopped
1/2 t. dried rosemary (or less)
1 chocolate cookie crust (can be store-bought)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Once your strawberries and basil are prepped, let strawberries macerate in sugar for about 10 minutes. Add cornstarch, lemon juice, basil and rosemary and stir until combined.
3. Spread filling into pie crust, making sure it's level. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until filling is fairly set. 
4. Let cool on counter for about 40 minutes, then put in refrigerator and serve chilled, with a dollop of whipped cream if desired. Should make about 6-8 servings (depending on size of slices).

**Using a store-bought crust: Ours said it could be baked at 375 for 5 minutes, but we found it stayed soft throughout the entire baking process and hadn't burned by the time we took the pie out, which had been my big worry.**

Have a book or recipe suggestion? Leave it in the comments below, and hopefully I'll get around to making it soon.

October 4, 2019

Random Friday: Favorite Harry Potter Characters

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I like to do Harry Potter-themed posts in October in honor of my friend who rereads the entire series every October. So this time, it's all about my (and your) favorite Harry Potter characters.

1. Neville Longbottom
Poor Neville has the worst luck but the biggest heart. 

2. Professor McGonagall
She expects the best from her students, but she truly cares for them (especially Harry), and she even defends Neville against his grandmother.

3. Ginny Weasley
Funny, spunky, and way more than the movies let her be.

4. Sirius Black
5. Remus Lupin
The two best Marauders, let's be real.

6. Oliver Wood
(This opinion is colored by the movies for sure, oops.)

Who are your favorite Harry Potter characters?

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October 3, 2019

Review: In the Hall with the Knife

In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund
Grade: C
Release date: October 8, 2019
An e-galley was provided by Amulet Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: When a storm strikes at Blackbrook Academy, an elite prep school nestled in the woods of Maine, a motley crew of students—including Beth “Peacock” Picach, Orchid McKee, Vaughn Green, Sam “Mustard” Maestor, Finn Plum, and Scarlet Mistry—are left stranded on campus with their headmaster. Hours later, his body is found in the conservatory and it’s very clear his death was no accident. With this group of students who are all hiding something, nothing is as it seems, and everyone has a motive for murder. Fans of the CLUE board game and cult classic film will delight in Diana Peterfreund’s modern reimagining of the brand, its characters, and the dark, magnificent old mansion with secrets hidden within its walls.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I love a good mystery, but this YA Clue never quite pulled me in like a good board game session does. The book is told in third-person multiple POV, jumping between all six of the characters named in the synopsis (and yes, Mrs. White is in the book, too). The problem is, with a book as opposed to a movie or board game, you want to get invested in characters, and I never did. Also there were some weird plot choices that were just kind of left hanging or never fully explained when they happened. For example (this isn't a big spoiler or anything), we find out at one point that Beth and Finn dated, and it seems out of the blue and doesn't seem to fit their characters. But we barely know the characters, so honestly, what do I know?
Also, obviously it's hard to pull off twists when readers know a murder is coming, but in that case, you've got to have the readers worried for the characters' safety and get us truly invested in a whodunit. And I don't think Diana Peterfreund succeeded here.

Content warnings: murder, violence, foul language

The Verdict: There are better YA mysteries out there. It might be interesting to see how this series continues, though.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Nah.

October 1, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Numbers in Their Titles

This was surprisingly hard to do at first, and then I remembered Goodreads's handy little sorting-by-title setting...and also the whole search feature for specific numbers lol. I didn't love all these books, but I wanted some varied choices. :)

1. The 100 Most Jewish Foods by Alana Newhouse

2. 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen

3. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

4. 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody

5. 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

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6. Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

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7. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

8. 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

9. All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

10. Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray

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11. The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

 Do y'all have any more recommendations for books with numbers in their titles??