October 30, 2017

Review: Retribution Rails

Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman
Grade: B-
Release date: November 7, 2017
An e-galley was provided by HMH BFYR via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: When Reece Murphy is forcibly dragged into the Rose Riders gang because of a mysterious gold coin in his possession, he vows to find the man who gave him the piece and turn him over to the gang in exchange for freedom. Never does he expect a lead to come from an aspiring female journalist. But when Reece's path crosses with Charlotte Vaughn after a botched train robbery and she mentions a promising rumor about a gunslinger from Prescott, it becomes apparent that she will be his ticket to freedom—or a noose. As the two manipulate each other for their own ends, past secrets are unearthed, reviving a decade-old quest for revenge that may be impossible to settle.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I never expected Vengeance Road to get a companion novel, but when Retribution Rails was announced, I was excited. RR is set about ten years after the events of VR, and although I remembered little of VR, bits and pieces came back to me throughout RR, by nature of the plot and background details of the story.
Charlotte Vaughn is much different from Kate Thompson; she's a little less rough-and-tumble, although she has gumption and strength all the same. She admires Nellie Bly and considers her pen to be mightier than the sword (or perhaps gun) on several occasions. I really appreciated that she and her mother got along and cared for each other, even though her mom didn't quite support Charlotte's journalist dreams.
Reece had a good voice, but he wasn't very interesting. His narrative didn't feel unique to me, and I think it needed something special to really stand out.
I really looked forward to how Charlotte and Reece would work together, but I was frustrated by how much Kate and Jesse dominated the book. Yes, RR is a companion, but usually the new point-of-view characters, not the old ones, hold center stage. Although Charlotte and Reece narrated, too often they seemed to focus on Kate and Jesse instead of each other or other plot points. I actually kind of liked the ending, though? Erin Bowman nailed that.
Mild swearing. Some violence (including a suicide).

The Verdict: Good, but it could've gone so much further and been so much better.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: It's likely.

October 29, 2017

Rewind & Review #96

~Got my October OwlCrate. Overall, I'm more satisfied with this one than the July box. I'm gonna continue to decide if I want OwlCrate on a month-to-month basis, though, just because I don't always want the books they choose.
~Practicum is causing more issues, but hopefully it's going to be resolved and not stress me out much longer.
~My dorm hosted its annual Halloween event for the community, and it was a great success. I dressed up as a Slytherin student. :)

Books I Received for Review
Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke (from HMH via NetGalley)

Books I Bought
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (OwlCrate edition)

Books I Read
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson (4 stars)
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (4 stars)
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (3 stars)
As You Wish by Cary Elwes (4 stars)
The Radical Element by various authors
Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz (3 stars)
You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith (reread)
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson (4 stars)
The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (reread)
Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (reread)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 10/16-10/21)
   (from 10/22-10/28)

October 27, 2017

Random Friday: Favorite Book Covers with People

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.
Most of my favorite book covers don't have people (or at least models) on them. But today I'm going to show y'all my seven favorite covers with people (specifically girls) on them.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland


To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han (Honestly, I think the whole trilogy got great covers.)

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Dissonance by Erica O'Rourke

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Do you like book covers that have people on them? What are your favorites?

October 25, 2017

Books I Read in Less Than 24 Hours

Sometimes I read a book ridiculously fast. Usually, it's just that good (and I didn't have the strength to make the book last). Sometimes, it's just a really fast read. Today I'm going to share 16 of the books I've read in less than 24 hours in the last year.

1. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

2. In a Perfect World by Trish Doller

3. The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

4. Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

5. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

6. Amina's Voice by Hena Khan

7. Wish by Barbara O'Connor

8. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

9. Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

10. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

11. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

12. Wait for Me by Caroline Leech

13. Rebel Magisters by Shanna Swendson

14. A Million Worlds with You by Claudia Gray

15. Holes by Louis Sachar


Are you ever able to read a book in less than a day? Which ones have you read recently?

October 24, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Book Titles

I'm not sure if I'm the best judge of what's unique and what's not, but each of these ten book titles had something that made them sound a little bit unique to me and definitely peaked my interest about the story.

1. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
A lot of book titles do the ____ & _____ thing, but what I like about this one is that they're not obviously character names, and they peak my interest in the story.


3. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson


5. In Search Of by Ava Dellaira

6. The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

7. Murder Is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

8. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

9. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
No cover yet, since it doesn't release til next year, but this book's synopsis sounds as great as its title.

10. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

What book titles did you put in your Top Ten Tuesday post today?

October 23, 2017

Review: Second Chance Summer

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Grade: A+
Summary: Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: If I'm willing to let a book make me cry in public, you know it's a good book. I only teared up the first time I read Second Chance Summer, but it's made me cry every time I've reread it.
Besides the plot about Taylor's father, this is Morgan Matson's weakest book, plot-wise. Character-wise, it is one of her strongest. This is definitely a book about relationships and growing and realizing how short time can be. Taylor's relationship with her father is beautiful but also bittersweet because you know what's coming the entire time you read (especially during rereads). I also appreciated Taylor and Lucy's friendship. And while Henry Crosby is great and there are strong moments with him, this isn't Morgan's best ship (that honor belongs to Frank and Emily from Since You've Been Gone). I do appreciate that Taylor's voice sounds distinct from Morgan's other protagonists; while the writing style is still the same, Taylor simultaneously sounds older and younger than Amy, Emily, and Andie, which is very hard to do. Second Chance Summer is very introspective, which I appreciate now and again in my books, especially if it never feels like the prose drags.
There's a smattering of foul language and some making out. And if you're sensitive to family deaths and grief, I'm definitely giving Second Chance Summer a trigger warning for that.

The Verdict: So very good. Make sure to have tissues with you while reading this one, if you're prone to crying when reading.

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

October 21, 2017

Interview with Francesca Zappia, Author of Eliza and Her Monsters

I am so honored to welcome Francesca Zappia, the author of one of my top five books of 2017, to the blog today. I bought Eliza and Her Monsters on a whim and loved it with every fiber of my being. If you haven't read it yet, maybe this post will persuade you to.

The Book


Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

The Author

Francesca Zappia lives in central Indiana. When she's not writing, she's drawing her characters, reading, or playing video games. She is also the author of Made You Up and Eliza Mirk's favorite, The Children of Hypnos, a biweekly serial novel posted on Tumblr and Wattpad.

The Interview

Emma: How did your writing process for Eliza and Her Monsters differ from when you wrote Made You Up?
Francesca: Made You Up was written over many years, with many many drafts. It was a lot of a mess, then a bit of a mess, then kind of okay, then published. It had a LOT of time to go from bad to okay. Eliza and Her Monsters had…a couple of months. Basically, I had to be really on my game while I was writing it. It was also a lot harder to write because it was so much more personal, so instead of trying to hurry to get to the next scene I wanted to write, a lot of it was convincing myself that someone would want to read about all my different anxieties.

E: To some extent, there are three different stories in Eliza and Her Monsters. There's Eliza's life, Monstrous Sea, and Children of Hypnos. How did you balance creating all three?
F: Luckily, I had Monstrous Sea and Children of Hypnos already drafted, so it was largely a question of how to place them inside Eliza’s story. I knew she was going to have one story as inspiration and one story that she created. Monstrous Sea is my favorite story and much of Eliza’s feelings for it are actually my feelings for it, so that made it a natural choice for the story she created. The idea for Children of Hypnos came from a lot of things I’m inspired by (mostly anime), so that became the story Eliza was inspired by. I knew CoH wasn’t going to have any pieces in the book but was still going to be a big part of it, but Monstrous Sea would have pictures, panels, and Wallace’s fanfiction. For that, the big question was, “Where can I put these things that it’s going to enhance Eliza’s story and not interrupt it?"

E: How did the idea for Monstrous Sea come about?
F: I’m going to be real with you, I don’t know. I started working on that story when I was eight years old, so the best answer I have is that it came out of some cesspool of my eight-year-old mind, some combination of anime and video games. Over the years it has changed A LOT. You wouldn’t recognize some of my early ideas for it at all. 

E: If you could introduce Eliza to any other book character, who would it be?
F: Hmmm probably Cath from Fangirl. A lot of Eliza and Her Monsters came about because of my love of Fangirl and wanting to do my own take on it, and I think Eliza and Cath would have a lot in common.

E: When it comes to writing, are you a plotter, pantser, or a combination of both?
F: Combo. Plot out that main plot so I know where I’m going, then wing all the details in between. Fix it later in edits.

E: What advice do you have for writers who are still in college?
F: I promise that if your major is not English or Creative Writing, you will still be able to get published. If you’re worried that you’re wasting your time with another major, or you won’t be able to be a “real” writer/author because you’re pursuing a major that will get you a more secure job, don’t. You don’t need any particular degree to be a writer or author. You’ll still have the exact same amount of free time to write what you want to write, and doing that is the important part.

E: Conversely, what's the weirdest writing advice you've ever received?
F: Hm… I’m not sure! I’ve gotten good advice and cliched advice and bad advice, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten weird advice. I can say one of the worst pieces of writing advice I’ve ever gotten is to never use the word “said.” Apparently, you should ONLY use more expressive dialogue tags! “Laughed,” “barked,” “growled,” etc. (The truth: This is TERRIBLE advice. “Said” is an amazing dialogue tag because it’s invisible. It lets the dialogue speak for itself. Typically I only use other dialogue tags when I can’t make it clear from the character’s actions or words exactly how they’re saying something. Or if it would make the situation funnier.)

E: I like to ask authors what recent YA releases they'd recommend. Are there any you've loved?
F: Oh man, this is where I’m gonna flail. I haven’t been able to read many recent releases, but I know there are so many good ones. I did love The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, but let’s be real, if you haven’t read that one yet, what are you doing with your life?? I’m also in the middle of reading Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer, which I’m loving, but I kind of expected that because I also dearly love the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. 

E: Cake or pie, and what kind?
F: For the record, this is a vicious question. Normally, I’d say pie. But I just made a Swedish princess cake a couple weeks ago and it was amazing. And I love cake pops. BUT sweet potato pie with whipped cream is maybe the greatest confection on earth. Okay—for Wallace, I’m going to say sweet potato pie.

E: Thanks, Francesca!

October 19, 2017

So You Like... #59

What do you look for in books? Is it, perhaps, excellent world-building? Well I have some book recommendations if you do! Most are series and the last one is part of a companion duology. So you like...






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What's most important to you in a book - characters, plot, world-building, or something else? Or maybe a combination of these elements?

October 18, 2017

DNF Review: Meant to Be

Meant to Be by Julie Halpern
Grade: DNF
Release date: October 24, 2017
An ARC was provided by Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: In a world where the names of MTBs—"meant to be" mates—appear on the body at age eighteen, a girl must decide whether to believe the phenomenon or follow her heart in this YA novel.
It started happening a few years ago: the names of MTBs—"meant to be" mates—appeared emblazoned on the skin at age eighteen. Agatha's best friend has embraced the phenomenon and is head over heels in love with her MTB. But Ag isn't so sure. As she searches the interwebs for her MTB (who has a common name, no less) she finds herself falling for a co-worker at the local amusement park. Is he a better match? What does Agatha really want in a mate, and moreover, what does she want for herself?

When did I stop reading?: 28%, or 88 pages, in.
The Review: I thought Meant to Be sounded trope-y and fun, but it ended up being ridiculously cringeworthy. Agatha, the main character, thinks she's so much better than everyone else just because she's not into the whole MTB idea. I would've much preferred her to not care so much but respect those who do. Also pretty much everyone in this book has a weird or unusual name - Lish, Hendrix Cutter, Scarlett, Agatha. And by almost 1/3 of the way through the book, nothing felt more than surface deep. Even for lighter romance novels, I like a little more depth to the characters and the plot.
This final point is more personal taste than anything else. I don't like particularly crude books with lots of foul language, and there was just too much of all of that for me to try to keep reading.

October 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Food Mentioned in Books

Since I do my From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen series, today's topic is perfect! I tried to go with recipes that were directly drawn from the story rather than just inspired by the book, but there are a few that don't quite line up. Also, while I haven't made the final recipe yet, it's definitely in my plans for upcoming posts.

1. Cowgirl cookies (from To All the Boys I've Loved Before)
They're so good, y'all.

2. Chai sugar cookies (from P.S. I Still Love You)
Originally Taylor Swift's recipe, I was delighted to find out that Lara Jean baked them too. They taste like winter in a cookie.

3. Cornbread (from The Game of Love and Death)
I'm mildly famous for my cornbread now, since I used this recipe.

4. Black cherry cobbler (from When We Collided)
I made a Jonah-approved recipe for Father's Day in 2016.

5. Waffles (from Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom)
Nina loves waffles, which firmly establishes her as one of my favorite characters in Leigh Bardugo's duology. I made two different types of waffles that I hope she would love.

6. Moon muffins (from Alex, Approximately)
After checking with the author to find out how she envisioned moon muffins, I made this sweet treat that Porter and Bailey devour.

7. Cinnamon quick bread (from Stray)
I did a variation, so I didn't have to make a yeast-based bread, but it tasted so yummy and I really want to try making it again...with a few seasoning variations.

8 and 9. Croissants and macarons (from Paris, My Sweet)
This book revolved around New York and Paris desserts, pastries, etc., and it definitely made me crave some croissants and macarons.

10. First-Week Cookies (from The Names They Gave Us)
Cookies that sound a bit interesting but nonetheless look like they'll be fun to make.

What foods in books do you crave?