August 21, 2019

Review: More to the Story

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More to the Story by Hena Khan
Grade: B-
Release date: September 3, 2019
An e-galley was provided by Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: From the critically acclaimed author of Amina’s Voice comes a new story inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic, Little Women, featuring four sisters from a modern American Muslim family living in Georgia.

When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest.

Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all...

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: After loving Khan's Amina's Voice, I was super excited to hear she was remixing Little Women. There haven't been enough retellings of LW (although there have been plenty of film adaptations lately). The Mirza girls are all a bit younger than their LW counterparts, but they all clearly correspond to certain sisters, and then Ali arrives to be their Laurie. I liked how Meg became Maryam, and how she still seemed the same but translated to a modern setting. Jameela (Jo) was a great protagonist, and I thought it was a great idea to have her want to be a journalist - still a writer but a slightly different medium that connected her to her grandfather and family history, though perhaps that could've been emphasized a bit better. If More to the Story had been YA, I think it would've been explored further. Aleeza (Amy) seemed a bit younger than the age she was supposed to be (nine, I think?). Granted, I haven't been around any nine-year-olds lately but she read more like a six-year-old. I think MttS is definitely a character-centric book, but I think the different plots could've been stronger at times. I really liked Jameela's plot with Travis and the newspaper, though. She learned how to compromise but also how her vision could still be accomplished.

Content warnings: cancer, Islamophobia

The Verdict: Great for a middle grade audience.


Will I be adding this book to my library?: I don't think so.

August 20, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes


Tropes: you can't live with them. You can't live without them. But here are some of the ones I don't mind so much.


1. Hate-to-love
(Or more typically, dislike-to-love.) When those two bantery characters suddenly realize, "Oh shoot I'm in love with them," or "Oh no I'm so obsessed with them because I actually like them." It's so dang good that I've written it into one of my WIPs.


2. Fake dating
This, like, never happens in real life, but it's so satisfying in books.


3. The soft cinnamon roll love interest
Looking at you, Gideon Prewitt.


4. Lack of communication, not miscommunication
Like, you've got both characters pining for each other because they didn't communicate their feelings properly and then THEY DO IT PROPERLY AND THE PAY OFF IS SO GOOD.


5. Friendship stories
Idk if that's really a trope, but I'm always here for books that center friendship, alongside good family relationships and romances.


6. The mom friend
I am one, so I love to find them in my books.


7. The love interest has a secret identity
So like, any superhero story OR. Y'all should read the Rebel Mechanics trilogy. Just saying.


8. One character revealing their love for another when they think said other character is asleep (but not, like, telling the unconscious character cause that's a dumb cliche; I mean them telling a third character)
(I have a variation of this in the previously referenced WIP...)


9. The "hands go down" trope
i.e., when someone asks "any questions?" and everyone raises their hands, and then the aforementioned person is like "....that are NOT about such-and-such" and all the hands go down


10. Spin the bottle or Truth or Dare forcing two characters to kiss
*stares at The Start of Me and You


What are y'all's favorite tropes?

August 18, 2019

Rewind & Review #141


~I've been working on a massive Taylor Swift song data project. It's been time-consuming and a little frustrating when charts won't cooperate how I want them to, but it's also been very cool.
~"Lover" (the song) is very good. 
~My wisdom teeth surgery has been scheduled, blech.

Books I Received for Review
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez (from Page Street Kids)
Finding Mr-Better-Than-You by Shani Petroff (from Macmillan via Edelweiss)
Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz (from Entangled: Teen via Edelweiss)

Books I Bought
Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Voracious by Cara Nicoletti

Books I Read
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (reread)
The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg (3 stars)
More to the Story by Hena Khan
The Undoing of Thistle Tate by Katelyn Detweiler (2 stars)
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (4 stars)
If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (reread)
A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth
The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell (3 stars)
Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett (reread)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 8/5-8/10)
   (from 8/11-8/17)

August 17, 2019

So You Like... #86

I've discovered I quite like doing music-inspired So You Like posts. I'll get right to the point this time, though. So you like...


KACEY MUSGRAVES.

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You might like these books:


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What album should I recommend books for next?

August 15, 2019

Review: The Silence Between Us

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The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais
Grade: B
An e-galley was provided by Blink via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Moving halfway across the country to Colorado right before senior year isn’t Maya’s idea of a good time. Leaving behind Pratt School for the Deaf where she’s been a student for years only to attend a hearing school is even worse. Maya has dreams of breaking into the medical field and is determined to get the grades and a college degree to match, and she’s never considered being Deaf a disability. But her teachers and classmates at Engelmann High don’t seem to share her optimism.

And then there’s Beau Watson, Engelmann’s student body president and overachiever. Maya suspects Beau’s got a hidden agenda when he starts learning ASL to converse with her, but she also can’t deny it’s nice to sign with someone amongst all the lip reading she has to do with her hearing teachers and classmates. Maya has always been told that Deaf/hearing relationships never work, and yet she can’t help but be drawn to Beau as they spend more and more time together.

But as much Maya and Beau genuinely start to feel for one another, there are unmistakable differences in their worlds. When Maya passes up a chance to receive a cochlear implant, Beau doesn’t understand why Maya wouldn’t want to hear again. Maya is hurt Beau would want her to be anything but who she is—she’s always been proud to be Deaf, something Beau won’t ever be able to understand. Maya has to figure out whether bridging that gap between the Deaf and hearing worlds will be worth it, or if staying true to herself matters more.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: As writers, readers, and publishing professionals continue to push for more diverse YA books, I always yearn for more stories with Deaf characters. I watched Switched at Birth for years, which really ignited my passion for sign language and Deaf culture. I appreciated that the author didn't try to "Anglicize" American Sign Language and how it's spoken. It was eye-opening, and although it took me a little to get used to, the way it was written felt second nature by the end of the book.
Maya is a character who has a lot of walls up, and it was interesting to see how little by little she let a few people in. Beau's plot line, though, was your typical "love interest doesn't want to follow his dad's dreams for him" fare. I appreciated how much effort he put into learning ASL, but beyond that, he wasn't my favorite character. And then the whole blow-up over his birthday present for Maya felt cliched and predictable and overdone.
I did like Maya's growing friendship with Nina! And Maya's family and learning about her struggle to find a job. So this wasn't a terrible book. I don't regret reading it. But it wasn't the best thing ever.

Content warnings: ableism

The Verdict: Good, but the ending was bleh.


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

August 14, 2019

Review: American Royals

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American Royals by Katharine McGee
Grade: B-
Release date: September 3, 2019
An e-galley was provided by Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren't just any royals. They're American. And their country was born of rebellion.

As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America's first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she's breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn't care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there's Samantha's twin, Prince Jefferson. If he'd been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

The duty. The intrigue. The Crown. New York Times bestselling author Katharine McGee imagines an alternate version of the modern world, one where the glittering age of monarchies has not yet faded--and where love is still powerful enough to change the course of history.
 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I'm super into royal families. I have been for years. And I'm not just talking about the British Royal Family. I also follow the Scandinavian houses, other European families, and even some of the East/South Asian ones. So I was cautiously excited for American Royals. Of course the premise takes a little suspension of disbelief since we all know Washington didn't want to be king, and a bunch of colonists didn't want a king anymore.
But it's still fun to think about.
First and foremost, there were too many POVs. I really could've done without Daphne's because there was nothing redeeming about that girl. Her arc is weak and boring. I think limiting it to just Beatrice, Samantha, and Nina would've been fine. Beyond that, though, all of the three other girls felt a bit stiff. They felt like characters, not real people; relatedly, the plot sometimes felt a bit too much like what someone thinks a monarchy is. Also the whole pressure of Beatrice to marry, even though she's a girl, is a bit outdated. She's only 21, and it's 2019. I think the author could've done something revolutionary and created a country where that wasn't an issue, since she completely rewrote history.
There were a few historical anachronisms and issues that I don't think the author considered. She name-dropped teddy bears early on and didn't explain how they got their names in her fictional world til way too late (since they were named for Teddy Roosevelt in ours). Also I kept wondering about slavery and all the racial issues America has faced; they all seemed to be brushed under the rug, and I really would've liked to see how an America with a monarchy, one that likely didn't go through a Civil War, would've handled those. 
There are three/four romances in the book (two are love triangles of sorts). Nina and Daphne are both interested in Prince Jefferson, and I found him and Nina much more compelling, although they're the typical "commoner dates a prince" fare. Beatrice has a little "princess falls for a member of her security team" plotline, and I definitely shipped that, so the ending was super disappointing (and abrupt). Samantha's romance started on a too familiar foot, and then most of the book is her pining for the guy and pouting that she can't have him, so I felt kinda meh about that.
I really wanted more political stuff, as well as just showing what royal life can be like. There was a lot of repetition about paparazzi, so it felt more like the royals were celebrities than true royalty.

Content warnings: sexism, underage drinking, characters sleeping together

The Verdict: What the heck was that ending.


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

August 12, 2019

Emma's Favorite Styles ATM

Since I'm working at a fashion boutique right now, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of my favorite styles and trends at the moment.


COLORS

Mustard keeps fading in and out of style, but it's a nice earthy tone to match with blacks, browns, navy blues, and even some olive greens.

Rose pink is having a hey-day, as is rose gold. I got the prettiest rosy velvet skirt from Modcloth earlier this summer:

That's another thing - velvet - especially crushed velvet - is in again, and I am HERE FOR IT. I tried to get this gorgeous velvet midi-skirt romper for junior-senior over a year ago, but my mom said no, haha. But at least I got this skirt. There's just something so elegant and antique about velvet. But we're talking about colors.

I seem to favor navy blue, like, a lot. Blue is always in style, and if you go for navy, it's technically a neutral, so it's great for a work wardrobe.


STYLES

Rompers and jumpsuits are sticking around. Which is fine and all, but most do not look good on me. And the two rompers I do own shrunk in the wash even though I line-dried them. :( I just don't have the torso length for most rompers/jumpsuits. But props to those who can rock them.

I've really noticed that tie-front shirts are in this season, which isn't quite my thing. I like my shirts to be a little longer, or I like to tuck them into my skirts so a tie-front prevents that.

While cold-shoulder tops/dresses have started to fade from the scene, off-the-shoulder pieces are sticking around. I have a turquoise off-the-shoulder dress from Francesca's that I LOVE. (Mainly because I wore it to walk around the Met one day, and one of the live musicians at the balcony cafe complimented it.)

The 90s are definitely back in vogue. Everyone wants stone-washed denim, chokers, and scrunchies. I was barely alive for the 90s, and I wish we hadn't brought back most of those trends. 

I've discovered the joy of jeggings; most skinny jeans just feel too tight to me so I often went for a straight-leg denim, but I decided to try on some jeggings at Kohls last fall, and now they're all I want to wear. They feel like denim, but they're more like a proper skinny jean, yet I can move around in them. These are the most similar style-wise to what I have, but mine are a dark-wash more similar to these (but mine aren't high-rise). If Kohls gets more like mine again this fall, I'm definitely snagging another pair. I also wouldn't say to some in a nice burgundy color, like ones Taylor Swift wore a few years ago.

One of the staple pieces in my wardrobe is this dress:

I have it in five different colors and patterns, lol, and it's such an easy thing to dress down or dress up a little for work. I'm still searching for it in an elusive dark gray cotton-y fabric because I borrowed a similar dress from a friend in college on a couple occasions, but she didn't know where she'd gotten it, and she liked it enough that she wouldn't let me buy it from her, lol.


SHOES

So I tend to only get new shoes if I see something that really strikes my fancy, OR if one of my other pairs is falling apart. And even then, I favor sandals/flip-flops and boots. I hate the in-between seasons where it's too warm or cold for my preferred shoes and I have to wear flats or sneakers. So if I had my choice, I'd pretty much only ever wear ankle booties and sandals. I did get a couple new pairs over the last year. I got gladiator-esque sandals to go with a new romper, and I got a sleeker silhouette sandal that has a little bit of a block heel, just so I'd have another option to wear to work that hopefully wouldn't kill my feet. (I was gonna share those, but alas, Aldo seems to be sold out of them already.)

I will share these ankle booties from DSW that are super similar to a pair I own.

I actually might have to get a pair because I've worn mine so much that the heels are starting to wear. 


So what are your favorite styles at the moment? Do you have any staple pieces you've worn for years? How would you describe your style? Let's talk clothes! :)

August 9, 2019

Random Friday: Songs of the Summer


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There are some songs that fit with specific seasons. And there are some that are so summery that they bring a little warmth in winter or are perfect for summer road trips. My choices are...


"Me!" by Taylor Swift
"Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus
"Lost" by Blake Rose
"Live While We're Young" by One Direction
"Waiting for Superman" by Daughtry
"Try Everything" by Shakira
"Shotgun Rider" by Tim McGraw
"Finally Free" by Niall Horan
"Africa" by Toto
"Run Away With Me" by Carly Rae Jepsen
"Rollercoaster" by the Jonas Brothers
"Dancing Queen" by ABBA
"Kokomo" by The Beach Boys
"Love Is a Wild Thing" by Kacey Musgraves


What are your perfect summer songs?


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August 7, 2019

Eleven Retellings to Read After the Classics

Sometimes the classics we have to read for school are boring, or perhaps the language is too complicated to understand. That's why I'm a big fan of retellings; they get to the heart of the story and rework it in a great way. Here are some of my favorites.

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1. Pride by Ibi Zoboi
(After Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

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2. Not Now Not, Ever by Lily Anderson
(After The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde)

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3. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George
OR
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4. The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson
(After Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare)

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5. My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
(After Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)

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6. I, Claudia by Mary McCoy
(After I, Claudius by Robert Graves)

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7. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings by various authors
(After a variety of Asian folklore)

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8. Hunted by Meagan Spooner
(After Beauty and the Beast)

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9. If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
(After The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare)

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10 and 11. For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
(After Persuasion by Jane Austen and The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emma Orczy)


What are some of your favorite retellings?

August 6, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Cover Redesigns I Liked or Disliked

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Redesigns I Liked

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1. The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner
I like them because all my copies can look the same, and they're artistic and have plot Easter eggs hidden. :)

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2. His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers
Although I still like the original covers, the redesigns are nice and fit with the new companion duology.

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3. Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale
Such pretty colors that just update the feel of the original covers.

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4. Anna and the French Kiss/Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
The originals were just too...basic YA.

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5. The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
The metallics and colors are just so preeeetttyyy. (Although I miss the typography of the original covers.)


Redesigns I Disliked

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1. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
All those pretty colors are gone from the paperback cover.

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2. The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
I was there on Twitter during the redesign drama. It wasn't pretty.

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3. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
I'm really attached to the sunset-esque colors of the original. I do like the re-redesign, but I'm unsure if it truly fits the book. Still gonna buy it anyways, 'cause Emery Lord.

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4. The Owlcrate edition of Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
I was super attached to the original green cover, y'all.

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5. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
The colors of the original were just so much more dynamic and eye-catching.


What's your opinion of these cover redesigns? Which cover redesigns in general are your favorites or least favorites?