November 30, 2019

Emma's Favorite NYC Restaurants

Like I said in my round-up of favorite New York spots, I needed separate posts just to list all the food places I loved. I've decided to split it into restaurants where I would (usually) get full meals and then bakeries and coffee shops. And I'm doing a section for desserts at the end of this post because, while I've talked about my favorite pie shops before (and they're going in the bakery post, too) three places aren't what I'd call bakeries and two of them are distinctly sweets only. ANYWAYS. Here's a rundown of some of my favorite New York and Brooklyn restaurants.

Dinner (or Lunch)

1. Petit Poulet (Herald Square/NoMad)
2. Le Grainne Cafe (Chelsea)
This pick and the last one I listed are French restaurants with yummy food. I had coq au vin at Petit Poulet, and chicken risotto at Le Grainne Cafe.

3. S'Mac (East Village)
Customizable macaroni and cheese? Yes, please.

4. Hill Country Chicken (Flatiron)
Some of the best fried chicken north of the Mason-Dixon line.

5. Empanada Mama (Hell's Kitchen, Lower East Side)
I can't rave about these empanadas enough, and the plantain chips and guacamole are AMAZING too. (My favorite empanada is the shredded chicken [in a wheat flour pastry].)

6. River Deli (Brooklyn Heights)
**They are a cash-only place, fyi.**
This is a little neighborhood Italian restaurant that I went to a few times. It's best in the spring/summer because the lighting is a bit dim in the winter, so it can be hard to see your dinner and companions.

7. Bareburger (Theater District; Columbus Circle; Cobble Hill, Brooklyn; and more)
My go-to burger place, especially when I was getting dinner before going to a show. The Columbus Circle location is also where I discovered my favorite rosé cider.

8. Mile End Deli (downtown Brooklyn)
A little taste of Montréal in Brooklyn. It's got a lot of classic Jewish food, plus some of the best poutine I've had outside Québec.

9. Watty & Meg (Cobble Hill, Brooklyn)
Another neighborhood place that puts a lot of emphasis on farm-to-table and seasonal ingredients. They're a teeny bit sophisticated and eclectic, and I loved it.

10. The Bao (East Village)
So I never got an answer from anyone about where I should get my Chinese takeout while in New York, but a friend and I went to this spot this fall, and I really enjoyed it. They have great soup dumplings, and I liked the braised pork belly too. It's a super popular place though, so be prepared to wait and don't bring large bags with you if you can help it.


1. Maman (NoMad, SoHo, Tribeca, Greenpoint)
I'll talk more about Maman in my other restaurant post, but I loved getting brunch here. The waffles they did for most of my time in NY were to die for.

2. Friend of a Farmer (Gramercy Park)
I so wanted to try dinner here sometime, but brunch was all we ever did - because it was that good. I had every kind of pancakes possible. It's my mom's favorite spot too.

3. Bubby's (Tribeca, Highline)
A super popular place on weekends, but their pancakes, too, are to die for. I went on a weekday, which meant we had no wait whatsoever. Definitely something to consider. Plus - they have pie. ;)

4. Buttermilk Channel (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn)
Quite a hike from Manhattan and most of Brooklyn, and it often has a long wait. But the food is super yummy (and it's located not too far from IKEA so if you're heading out that way to get some major home shopping done...).

5. Sarabeth's (Central Park South, Tribeca, UWS, UES, Park Avenue South)
Another popular brunch spot. But their muffins are amazing, and their omelettes are nothing to sneeze at either.


1. Spot Dessert Bar (East Village, plus a few other locations)
If you're a dessert fiend, surely you've heard of Spot. They do funky treats, and one of my best NY friends and I went there soooo many times. My recommendations: the Harvest, the matcha lava cake, and the golden toast. They also have seasonal offerings, and I loved a coconut monkey bread and a pumpkin cake last fall (and a pear cake this fall).

2. The Chocolate Room (Cobble Hill, Brooklyn)
You walk in and are immediately enthralled by the scent of chocolate. You can order things to-go, but there's also seating in the back where you can spend some time indulging in chocolate and beverages (including tea, coffee, and alcohol).

3. AYZA Wine & Chocolate Bar (NoMad/K-Town)
They have dinner offerings, too, since they're part of a hotel, but their big selling point are their alcoholic beverages and their spread of chocolate desserts. You can even get Jacques Torres truffles.

4. Kaylee's Creamery (NoMad/Flatiron)
It's a cute little ice cream parlor not too far from Madison Square Park. They do traditional flavors with twists, some more unique offerings, and seasonal flavors.

Have you been to any of these places? Or have you added them to your list now? I'm also all ears for recommendations that y'all have. :)

November 29, 2019

Random Friday: Favorite #QuietYA of 2019

Want to participate in Random Fridays? Just do the following:
  • Include the above image in your post and link back to my blog.
  • Blog about this week's topic (or a variant of it).
  • Add the link to your Random Friday post at the bottom of this one.

As y'all know, I'm a big supporter of #quietYA books. I did a round-up earlier this year of my favorites from the first half of 2019, but now it's time for ALL my favorites.

1. Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

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2. The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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3. A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan
(Technically middle grade, but it's my blog so I do what I want.)

4. A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

5. Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

6. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

7. Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
(Another MG title.)

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8. Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson

9. The Beholder by Anna Bright

What are your choices for favorite underrated, not-as-well-known YA titles in 2019?

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November 27, 2019

Review: Dangerous Alliance

Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen
Grade: C
Release date: December 7, 2019
An e-galley was provided by HarperCollins via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older sister happily wed, the future of her family estate secure, and ample opportunity to while her time away in the fields around her home.

But now Vicky must marry—or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with the wisdom she has gained from her beloved novels by Jane Austen, she enters society’s treacherous season.

Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky’s exact circumstances: whether the roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend, Tom Sherborne, is out for her dowry or for her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the unfortunate fashion sensibility.

Most unfortunately of all, Vicky’s books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her…ones that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I love a good historical fiction story, particularly when it's young adult. However, this one didn't quite meet my expectations. 
Dangerous Alliance is half romance, half intrigue/adventure. Both those genres can make for excellent stories, but most everything about this book fell short. From the get-go, Vicky is an atypical Regency heroine because she's very modern for the time period. She traipses around in trousers and does work on her father's estate, though once the characters go to London for the season, those behaviors disappear. She had a childhood friendship with Tom Sherborne, but I never really bought into their relationship. I just couldn't see the connection. Furthermore, Tom's relationships with his brother and his half-sister also didn't read as authentic.
The plot grows a little more interesting once the characters get to London. Most of it revolves around Vicky finding a husband (and fast), and the family's fight to get their elder daughter, Althea, legally separated from her abusive husband. There is also a threat to Vicky (and the rest of her family), as it seems someone does not want her to be alive. Parts of that plot seemed very contrived and too much like The Gentlemen's Guide to Vice and Virtue. Vicky relies a lot on "What would [insert Jane Austen character] do?" and it grows a bit old, and seems a bit too childish. As much as I wish real life were like fiction, I very much know that it is not. Additionally, it means Vicky doesn't seem as fully-formed of a character.

Content warnings: references to and descriptions of domestic abuse and an abusive marriage, violence, attempted sexual assault

The Verdict: Disappointing, for a YA historical fiction novel.

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

November 24, 2019

Rewind & Review #148

~I've been offered a part-time job that I'll be starting in a couple weeks. :)
~"Beautiful Ghosts" is, well, beautiful.

Books I Received for Review
What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter (from the ARC Adoption Program)
Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas (from HarperCollins via Edelweiss)

Books I Bought
Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner
Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Books I Read
Lending a Paw by Laurie Cass (3.5 stars)
Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen
Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway (4 stars)
Hummus and Homicide by Tina Kashian (3 stars)
Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater (3 stars)
Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams (3.5 stars)
Brooklyn in Love by Amy Thomas (reread)
The Last Word by Samantha Hastings (3 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 11/11-11/16)
   (from 11/17-11/23)

November 23, 2019

The Pie Book Tag

Surprise! I've created another book tag! This one is fueled by my love for something I can't shut up about - pie. And since we're about to enter the holiday season, which is often filled with pie, I thought this was an apt time to do it.

Caramel apple
A book that reminds you of fall.

If the caramel apple pie you eat is anything like the one I get at Proper Pie or Four & Twenty Blackbirds, then it is a quintessentially autumnal dessert.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

A book with a great family (biological or found).

Pumpkin pie brings back memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and so, since those are times spent traditionally with family, I thought this was a good pairing.

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The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

French silk
A book that's easy to read or rich with descriptions.

A good French silk pie melts in your mouth and is oh-so chocolate-y and sweet.

One of my favorite compulsively readable books is 
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Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Key lime
A summery sweet book.

Key lime pie is forever one of my favorites (I constantly want a slice from Daly Pie up in Brooklyn), and it's definitely a summer flavor.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

A book with a perfect pairing (romantic, friendship, mentor-student).

One of my other pie loves is a blueberry-peach lattice pie. Blueberry and peach are two fruits that pair together so effortlessly, which makes me think of...

Max and Paige in one of my favorite books:
The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

A book that reminds you of your childhood.

Oreo pie always makes me think of Bakers Square restaurants (most of which are closed now). I loved their Oreo pie as a kid. So, for this category, I had to pick...

The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith
(Because my dad has always been very invested in the Cubs, and I was, to an extent, when I was younger.)

Lemon chess
A book with a very Southern setting.

Chess pie is a super Southern thing, but I had a lemon variation once that was the perfect blend of tart and sweet.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Dark chocolate orange
A book with a bittersweet ending.

Much like this book tag, every book has to come to an end. Although I love a good happy ending, sometimes conclusions have to be a little more bittersweet (like the delicious dark chocolate orange pie I got at Daly Pie once). One of my favorites in this category is...

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Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake

So that's the pie book tag! I'm tagging ANYONE who wants to do it, as long as you link back to my original post. Feel free to tag me if you share it on social media (@AwkwordlyEmma on Twitter, @awkwordly_emma on Instagram) because I'd love to see what books you pick!

November 21, 2019

So You Like... #90

If you're anything like me, you're constantly torn between binge-reading and binge-watching. There are so many shows I love to watch (and rewatch), yet I constantly want to read new books too. Today's So You Like... post is a little bit of a compromise. It's all about book recs for current TV shows.

If you like...

then you should read


If you can't get enough of...

then you NEED to read

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If Riverdale is your guilty pleasure, you should give this book a try:

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If you've just finished the latest season of...

it's time to read


If you like...

would be right up your alley.

If you love all the Arrow-verse shows, you should read...


If you love...

(I know I do!)

then you'd probably like...



(Or really, any of Emma Mills's books, and the rest of Brigid's contemporary YA!)

Which current TV shows do you like right now?

November 19, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Changes in My Reading Life

It's weird to think about how my reading life has evolved over the years. Like, I still sometimes think of myself as the same reader I was in 2013 when I started reviewing books, but that's so not true. Here's how I think I've changed as a reader.

1. I make an effort to read more diversely.
I pay attention to publishing deal announcements for authors of color so I can purposefully add them to my TBR. (Especially when the books are historical fiction or cute contemporary romances!)

2. I'm a more critical reader.
I definitely read fewer new favorites every year and I feel like my overall rating hovers quite low. That might be a side effect of reading so many books, but I'm skeptical.

3. I read more adult fiction and nonfiction.
This is a fairly recent development! It started with reading more memoir-type books, but especially this year I've read a few more adult romance books. Then since last fall, I've read a ton more adult historical fiction, and this fall I've started adding cozy mysteries to my TBR lists.

4. I read fewer books every year.
Becoming an adult sucks, if the side effects include having less time for reading. 2015 was a peak year - I read 281 books. In the three years since, though, I've read 223 books, 229 books, and 202 books. If I continue at my current pace for 2019, I'll be at 212 (based on average through October). Still a really good number, I know, but I can feel when I'm reading fewer books. (The middle of September was rough this year, honestly. A bunch of DNFs or books I read ten pages of, then stopped.)

5. I DNF, or even straight up remove books from my TBR, more.
I've gotten more comfortable with DNFing books over the years. Even more so these last few years, if I get a couple chapters into a book and I'm not feeling it, I'll just remove it from my TBR (so it doesn't count as a DNF and affect my overall reading stats lol), or I'll do occasional purges where I remove anything from my TBR where the bad reviews have opinions I'd likely share.

6. I reread less.
I love to reread favorites, and I tend to not buy books unless I think I'll reread them. But trying to juggle all the new books that publish each year with rereads has become harder.

7. I'm more aware of new picture books.
Although this is partially due to my internship, I definitely pay attention to upcoming picture books, and recent releases too. (Ruby Finds a Worry is one of my favorites!)

8. I'm buying more classics...but not reading them.
The Canterbury Classics collection continues to be my favorite classics set, but I discovered the Evergreens collection during my internship, and they have some gorgeous covers too. (And books that CC hasn't done yet, such as North and South and Anne Bronte's works.) But I definitely need to sit down and read more of the classics on my shelves.

What changes have you noticed in your reading life?

November 18, 2019

Best Places to Visit in New York City

In all my posts last year, I mentioned all the fun things I did and cool places I visited, but I decided it was time to do an official guide. Of course there are a bunch of places I can't include because even in the year I lived there, I didn't have the time to go. But here's hoping I can go to them someday soon and then tell you all about them. 

This post is going to be specifically about museums and shops and tourist-y (but not too tourist-y) things to do because I'm gonna need, like, five other posts for the restaurants alone.

Central Park and the North Half of the Island

At the Met during a Members-Only Early Hours access event.
1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Met Cloisters
Don't get me started on the Met because I will wax poetic for hours. I love art museums, and everyone knows this is the cream of the crop. You could spend hours here and still not see everything. And that's only at the main museum. The Cloisters are up in Fort Tryon Park (definitely a hike from the rest of the city), and there's also the Met Breuer closer to the main museum. If you like art and/or museums, I'd definitely devote some time to going here.

The Cloisters

2. Riverside Park
If you love You've Got Mail like I do, this is the park from the famous final scene. It's also such a lovely park right along the Hudson River. While it can get crowded on event days and weekends, it's pretty quiet on weekdays.

3. New York Historical Society
History museum! They also do special exhibitions often, like the Harry Potter History of Magic one.

4. Albertine Books
French bookstore!!! They have some books in English but also a lot in French (although not enough YA books in French to satisfy me).

5. Museum of Natural History
Especially if you love Night at the Museum or science, this is a great spot to visit. I love the animal halls.

6. Central Park
There's a LOT to do in Central Park, and it doesn't always have to be the touristy areas like Bethesda Terrace, or the Castle, or the Zoo.

7. Lincoln Center
Even if you're not catching a performance here, it's worth it to visit the plaza. If you're going to a performance, try to see one in the Koch Theater. It's magnificent.

8. Frick Collection
I've seen this on a free Friday, which meant it was ridiculously crowded, but it also meant they were doing live music in the courtyard. I think I'd have rather seen it on a weekday though, even if it meant paying. It's a small art collection along Museum Mile in the Frick House. There's also plenty of interior design to look at.

Other Things I Wanted to Do: Hamilton Grange National Memorial, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, La Librairie des Enfants, Central Park Conservatory Gardens, New York Botanical Garden (actually up in the Bronx), walk around more of the Upper West Side

Midtown/Chelsea/Union Square

1. Morgan Library and Museum
I've gone to the Morgan Library twice: once for a Free Friday and then once on a weekend, mainly to see the Tolkien exhibition. If you're going for the library itself, it's definitely worth the price of admission so you can avoid the mobs of people. I got much better pictures the second time around. The Tolkien exhibition was packed, too, of course, but that was to be expected.

2. Madison Square Park
You can take in the Flatiron Building and relax in one of the city's small parks. This one has a dog run, which can be fun to look in on, if you're an animal-lover. Also, there's a Shake Shack and it's close to Eataly and other cute cafés.

3. Bryant Park
Abutting the New York Public Library is another great park, though it's definitely getting more visitors these days. I had trouble finding seats several times on my lunch break. But they do lots of fun activities, like Movies in the Park and a winter market with ice skating.

4. New York Public Library
If you love books and libraries, the NYPL is not to be missed.

5. Books of Wonder
My favorite children's bookstore of all time.

6. The Strand
Everyone will tell you to go here, and it can be worth it.

7. Gramercy Square
Obviously you can't go in the park (unless you're a resident or staying in the hotel), but the neighborhood is lovely and very historic-feeling.

8. Chelsea Market
One of the best indoor food markets. My big recommendation: go early in the morning, as soon as everything starts to open. It gets crowded FAST. You can also try going when the weather outside is really good because people won't be trying to find indoor activities.

Other Things I Wanted to Do: Scandinavia House, Roosevelt Island

The Villages and South End of the Island

1. 9/11 Memorial
It's very sobering to walk around the memorials and by the Oculus. You don't even have to do the museum (which isn't free). Or if you're me, you can go the wrong way leaving the subway station and get lost in the new World Trade Center for 10+ minutes.

2. Irish Hunger Memorial
Hardly anyone talks about this memorial, but it's in a quiet part of Battery Park and was utterly empty when my mom and I went. They utilized vegetation and stones from Ireland while building it.

3. McNally Jackson
Another bookstore for y'all - this one a neighborhood favorite in the SoHo/Nolita area. AND! They have a new location in the South Street Seaport, too that I went to last month. I like that one even better, I think. It feels a little less cramped.

4. shopping in SoHo
Everyone tells you Madison and Fifth Avenue are best for shopping, but if you're more of a hipster or a millennial, SoHo is absolutely the area for you. Obviously I'm not hipster enough because my favorite spot was the first IRL Modcloth shop.

5. High Line
It's super overrun with tourists now...unless you go semi-early in the morning. (I think I went at, like, 8:30 or 9 one Sunday morning, and there were other people, but it wasn't crowded.) You can walk the whole thing, or start halfway like I did. I started at 23rd St and walked only to the Chelsea Market, but its true ends are at Gansevoort Street by the Whitney Museum and on 34th St by Hudson Yards.

6. Trinity Church
Where they filmed scenes from National Treasure, but also where famous people are buried, such as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton and Alexander himself.

7. the Friends apartment
Obviously they didn't actually film in that building or on the street for Friends, but the famous exterior still looks pretty much the same. It's at the corner of Bedford and Grove in the West Village. My mom and I were walked by there on our food tour, but you can also go by yourself. There's a super cute restaurant below it!

Other Things I Wanted to Do: South Street Seaport (well, see more of it), Tenement Museum, Koneko Cat Cafe

Brooklyn and Elsewhere

1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden
It is so, so pretty in springtime, and especially now that they've finished constructing a bunch of areas that weren't finished when I visited last fall.

2. Brooklyn Heights
This was my neighborhood, and it's so homey and lovely, and I miss it all the time. It's a great place to walk around, and there's a bunch of restaurants and shops, too, especially as you get closer to Borough Hall and the Cobble Hill neighborhood.

Right past the Brooklyn Bridge is the DUMBO neighborhood. It's super trendy with lots of restaurants, bakeries, and artsy shops.

4. Books Are Magic
This one needs its own mention. It's one of the cutest bookstores in New York, and it feels super local. Plus it has a fun mural outside, AND it's not far from one of my favorite bakeries (One Girl Cookies - more about them in a later post).

5. Brooklyn Bridge Park
I've tried to keep this list from being too tourist-y, but I can't pass up the BB Park. It's got a unique flavor since each pier has been repurposed for something else. It's also a great place to get pictures of Manhattan, the river, and even the Statue of Liberty (from a distance).

Dumplings at Smorgasburg
6. Smorgasburg
This is definitely a group (or duo) activity, but I so wish I could've gone more than once because it's a foodie's paradise. They've also expanded so that they're in Prospect Park on Sundays and at the World Trade Center on Fridays!

7. Sofar Sounds
If you're super into music, going to a secret indie concert should definitely be on your bucket list. They have shows all over the city, and you never know who you're going to end up seeing.

Other Things I Wanted to Do: Brooklyn Historical Society, Ellis Island, Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island

So that's my (incomplete) list of New York suggestions.