Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught YA Fantasy 101

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

School is in session and we are talking YA fantasy!

Daisy's Picks

1. Graceling by Kristin Cashore: I LOVED this book! If I was ever to teach a class on YA fantasy, this would definitely be on it. It's got all the thing I love: a strong heroine who falls in love with a boy, but doesn't let this define her, like in so many novels, AMAZING worldbuilding and just characters to root for and an evil to destroy. If you haven't read it, you really should.

2. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende: I'm not entirely sure if this falls into YA or MG, but I feel like this is such a classic and also one of my favourite books ever and everyone should read it. It's got so much heart and one of my favourite quotes about being a reader.

3. Crown Duel & Court Duel by Sherwood Smith: I feel like this duology is somewhat lesser known, but it's a beauty. I LOVE Meliara, how she fights for what she believes in and I also totally shipped the lovestory.

4. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab: because this is so much different from the others I've added to this list, it's got that fairytale feeling that I love! I feel like this is fantasy at its purest and The Near Witch has some of the most beautiful writing I've ever come across.

Julia's Picks

5. The Lion, the Witch, and the Waredrobe by C.S Lewis: For my first pick, I think I would have to take my students down a more classic YA fantasy path, coincidentally where it all began for me. I think C.S Lewis creates a vivid world where we could explore some common themes in YA fantasy, and since it is a classic it would work as a good gateway book.

6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman or Stardust by Neil Gaiman: I can't decide which book I would want them to read, but I think it would be super important to look at Gaiman's work. Again it is pretty accessible to the non YA or Fantasy reader, and his words just weave of the page and into imaginations.

7.  Across the Universe by Beth Revis: Finally I think I would want to bring Beth Revis' work into the fold to get to sort of the current trends in YA. Not only do I think this is a good work exemplifying the modern YA fantasy genre, but it also is a good pick for a mixed gendered class as each chapter has a POV of either the main female or main male character. This is a fantasy/sci-fi mix too so we can go into "what is the difference between the two". So fun!

Lauren's Picks

8. Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci: I really loved this book. It's fantasy and science fiction and has a main character that embodies every characteristic that the plot calls for. I think this book would show readers how to really branch out into the fantasy genre.

9. A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston: This is a new book, but dang. DANG. I loved every aspect of this book. There are so many fantasy elements that the author seamlessly wove together to make the perfect storm of a book. 

Jamie's Pick 

10. The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas -- It just gets better and better and just gets more epic!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Eating While Reading: The Ultimate Pasttime

Or at least it is for me. It combines my two favorite things—the only way it could be better would be if I could somehow sleep at the same time. (Yes, I’m a grown-ass adult and sleep is still one of my favorite things. Don’t you be messing with my sleep.)

Anyway, I’ve started thinking about what makes reading and eating at the same time so enjoyable, other than the straight facts of FOOD and BOOKS. Combining two of life’s greatest pleasures certainly is a factor, but for me personally, I think there’s something else there as well.

A lot of it for me is the comfort aspect, I think. Both food and books have always been my top sources of comfort (one of the many reasons it’s so hard for me to ever lose weight—I love food and I’d rather read than exercise) and the combination of the two is just utterly heavenly. I’ve gotten away a little bit from rereading as much as I used to, thanks to blogging and wanting to have a good amount of new content for reviews (and BEA, can’t forget BEA), but back in the day I would read the same books pretty much over and over.

This constant rereading was due to a few factors: first, I had no money of my own to purchase new books (or the means to get to the bookstore on my own), and when I did (i.e., college), I had very limited space to store them; second, I’ve always been a pretty quick reader, so even when my parents or grandparents did treat me to half a dozen books at Borders, I’d finish them within two weeks and then feel too guilty to ask to go back again; and third, I know what I like and I like what I know, and I’ve always been that way—so I never really had any problem rereading my books, and in some cases preferred rereading old favorites to trying anything new. In fact, I remember finding it quite shocking that some of my friends never reread books. How do you know which book is your favorite, then, if it’s not the one you’ve read the most??? Honestly, some people.

Food, too, has always been a comfort thing for me. This frustrates my husband to no end—he’s all about the variety in foods, and I’m all about consistency. I could eat the same thing for dinner all week and be perfectly content (as long as it’s delicious, of course) whereas he would rather eat something mediocre all week as long as it was different each time. I’m pretty picky, and nothing devastates me like ordering something that sounds amazing at a restaurant and finding that I don’t like it. To me, food disappointment is the absolute worst kind of disappointment, because food is so important to me. It sounds silly, but it’s true!

So really, combining food and books is a no-brainer for me! But what I’m wondering is: is it the same for you all? Do you have a favorite reading snack (or perhaps a drink)? I took to Facebook and Reddit while writing this post to see what my friends and some internet strangers would say. Here are some preliminary answers:

Anonymous Facebook friend: Tea. For everything there is a season, and there is also a tea. Mystery book? Jasmine tea. Sad book? Green tea. Comedy? Light black tea.

Anonymous Reddit commenter: I enjoy tea or coffee while I read. Though not fully snack, in the fall and winter I enjoy a pipe and mulled wine by the fireplace while I read, it's quite a relaxing thing to do.

Anonymous Facebook friend: Fruit juice is good. Like those bolthouse juices. Then you feel healthy and well-read.

Anonymous Reddit commenter: Always tea. Made with organic tea leaves and a dash of milk. And always in a matching teapot and teacup.

What’s your answer? I’ll update this post as I get more answers from friends and strangers alike, but tea seems to be a big one! I’ve never been a tea person so I don’t really get this, but to each their own!

Edit, 6:35pm

Based on the comments I've gotten here and elsewhere, tea is the number one reading accompaniment. I'm not all that surprised, honestly. Coffee, wine, and cocoa are also popular, particularly on rainy/snowy/cold days. Popcorn has also been making much more of an appearance than I would have expected. 

Anonymous Facebook friend: English tea with the Brontë sisters; cocoa or a chai latte and pumpkin cookies (fall only) with Harry Potter.

Anonymous Reddit commenter: Popcorn, made in a big pot on the stove, is my favorite reading snack. I'll have water and either coffee or yerba mate nearby when reading during the day, substitute wine for the caffeine in the evenings.

Anonymous Facebook friend: Lately I've been eating popcorn while reading a book. I also often eat lunch while reading a book, so that is a variety of things. Coffee goes with everything. Wine is a favorite too.

Anonymous Reddit commenter: Coffee and either nuts (almost any easy kind) or dried cranberries. Mmmm.

Anonymous Facebook friend: It depends more on the weather than the book, coffee or tea if it's cold/winter/raining, iced tea or soda if its warm/summer. As for food - sweets or basically any munchies.

Tell me in the comments what your favorite reading snack or drink is! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Top Ten Of Our Auto-Buy Authors

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

Lauren's Picks

1. Margaret Atwood

 I already own all of her books, but there are some I've bought again.. just because I lose books after I shove them in my friends' faces for them to read.

 I just discovered Ahlborn this year and I've already read all of her books except her latest, which is on my Amazon wish list!

Jamie's Picks

3. Gayle Forman:

 I will read anything this woman writes no matter the subject and her books are always ones that I buy. ALWAYS. Even when I was unemployed I would ALWAYS spring for the latest Gayle book or the new paperback. She's just so brilliant that I know her books will demand to be reread.

4. Sarah J. Maas:

 I love the Throne of Glass series but when the first book in her new series came out I was excited yet nervous because the fae are not my thing. But I read it anyways because I felt that strongly about anything Sarah writes and OF COURSE SHE WOULD MAKE ME FALL IN LOVE WITH A FAE STORY. Everything of hers is insta pre-order
Seconded by Daisy!!
Thirded by Jana!!

5. Stephanie Perkins:

 Point in case --she's the writer of my FAVORITE contemporary companion novels and she's coming out with a horror novel, a genre I don't LOVE, and I WILL be buying it.
Also seconded by Daisy!
Also thirded by Jana! We girls have awesome taste!

Daisy's Picks

6. Sarah MacLean:

I LOVE Sarah MacLean's historical romance and basically whenever I hear she's got another book coming out I'll go and pre-order it, I don't even really need to know what it's about, this lady is brilliant and knows how to bring the funny and the swoons! Highly recommended if you're looking to branch out into historical romance and not sure where to start.

7. Jill Mansell:

Jill Mansell is my queen of adult contemporary romance, I think I own pretty much all her books. She always leaves me with lovely fuzzy feelings and a smile on my face at the end of a book and I love that.

8. J.K. Rowling:

BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY. Harry Potter defined my teen-hood, I mean, I probably wouldn't even be blogging if it wasn't for Harry Potter and my discovery of fanfiction and starting to read EVERYTHING in English and finding Goodreads and just a huge snowball effect. I also would probably never have picked up The Casual Vacancy if it hadn't had her name on it, because it really didn't sound like my kind of thing, but it was actually really great! But I secretly (or not so secretly) wish that she would write another fantasy novel, though I'm happy with anything that comes from her brilliant mind.

Jana's Picks

9. Tracey Garvis-Graves

I've loved every book Tracey has ever written, but my favorite one will always be On the Island. This book is absolutely the most profitable gamble I've ever made, and I've gotten a great friend out of it!

10. Veronica Rossi/half of "Noelle August"

I LOVED Under the Never Sky so much. And I have also been loving the Boomerang books (can't wait to read Bounce!). It takes a great author to write YA swoon and NA swoon, so I basically love Ms. Veronica.

Who are your auto-buy authors??

Monday, August 17, 2015

Tahleen reviews: "William Shakespeare's Star Wars Collection" by Ian Doescher

Title: William Shakespeare's Star Wars Collection
Author: Ian Doescher
Publisher: Random House Audio, and Books on Tape, 2014
Narrator: Full Cast

Rating: 5 stars. No question.

Do you like Shakespeare? What about Star Wars? Would you ever think to combine the two? Ian Doescher did, and he is a genius. What a brilliant production this was! If you have any inclination to listen to an audiobook at all, this should be next on your list.

We start with Verily, a New Hope. Of course, most of us already know the story of young Luke Skywalker, strong with the force but naive, thrust into a rebellion he had not initially intended on joining. Doescher has thought out every detail in how to translate George Lucas's creation into Shakespearean drama and language, not to mention form. Blank verse, prose, iambic pentameter; all are in here, and all work exceedingly well. Nice afterwords describe why Doescher chose to write certain things in certain ways.

As for the actual production? Absolutely fantastic. We have a full cast, complete with actors I assume were chosen because they sound so much like the movie actors (I mean, Han Solo might as well as been voiced by Harrison Ford; it's so good. With the exception that he can't seem to pronounce Millenium Falcon?). In addition, there are sound effects, MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES, alien languages, AND some of the characters get their own SONGS. That they actually SING. It's amazing.

If you haven't experienced the beauty of this audiobook trilogy, get thee to a library and partake! I promise you won't regret it.

Disclosure: After a long awaited release for an audio CD, I was finally able to check these out from my local library.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Lauren Reviews Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

Sweet by Emmy Laybourne
PublishedJune 2015 by Macmillan
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 Stars

People would kill to be thin. Solu’s luxurious celebrity-filled “Cruise to Lose” is billed as “the biggest cruise since the Titanic,” and if the new diet sweetener works as promised - dropping five percent of a person’s body weight in just days - it really could be the answer to the world’s obesity problem. But Laurel is starting to regret accepting her friend Viv’s invitation. She’s already completely embarrassed herself in front of celebrity host, Tom Forelli (otherwise known as the hottest guy ever!) and she’s too seasick to even try the sweetener. And that’s before Viv and all the other passengers start acting really strange.

But will they die for it, too? Tom Forelli knows that he should be grateful for this job and the opportunity to shed his childhood “Baby Tom-Tom” image. His publicists have even set up a ‘romance’ with a sexy reality star. But as things on the ship start to get a bit wild, he finds himself drawn to a different girl. And when his celebrity hosting gig turns into an expose on the shocking side effects of Solu, it’s Laurel that he’s determined to save.

I honestly didn't think I'd like this book when I picked it up. I thought I was getting into a story about rich kids on a cruise boat trying the latest fad diet (a sweetener in this case), and just acting like idiots. 

But... I was pleasantly surprised. Not everyone was a kid, or an idiot. Laurel is a normal young adult just trailing along with her friend, Viv, on the cruise ship for Solu's launch of it's sweetener that makes you drop the pounds. Fortunately, Laurel gets seasick immediately and doesn't eat anything with the sweetener. Now let's throw in Tom, an adult that is still seen as a child actor. He's on the cruise ship to turn his professional image around and get back in the acting game. Tom is a fitness fanatic and watches what he eats so of course, he doesn't try the sweetener either.

Everyone on the cruise ship starts dropping weight. They're happy and stuffing their faces with pastries, desserts... anything that Solu puts the sweetener in. A few days later, and the shit hits the fan. People are losing too much weight, are showing clear signs of addiction, and are starting to become violent. Solu ends up giving a set amount of sweetener packets to each passenger. One passenger during an act of defiance, grabs a few sweetener packets and pops them in her mouth.. eating the paper container and all. 

Eventually Laurel and Tom realize something weird is going on and they try to get help while all hell breaks loose on the cruise ship. Passengers aren't just acting like strung-out addicts, they are extremely violent and completely insane. Laurel and Tom have nothing less than an impossible task of getting help while staying alive. 

I won't spoil anything for you, but the ending was what really made me enjoy the book. Many authors sugar-coat (pun intended) their endings, and this author did not. It was refreshing and honestly... I felt trapped and a little claustrophobic while reading this book. Which only upped the creep factor, which is exactly what I need from a horror book. 

Cross-posted at The Tattooed Biblio

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Top Ten Authors We've Read The Most Books From

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

This week is all about the authors we have read the most books from. 

Jana's Picks

Going through my books, I realized I tend to read from a TON of different authors. I've got so many I love, but most of them are new authors within the last few years so they only have 2-3 books out. I also host the Debut Author Challenge, so I have found myself reading more debuts lately. I need to re-visit some of my favorite authors, apparently!

1. Tracey Garvis-Graves (4 books)
On the Island is my favorite by her, but I've pretty much read and loved everything she's written!

2. Marissa Meyer (4 books)
The Lunar Chronicles are AMAZING. Can't wait for Winter!

3. Veronica Rossi (5 books - if you count her Boomerang books) 
Under the Never Sky is one of my favorite trilogies, and her Boomerang books collaboration as Noelle August are so swoony. 

4. Maggie Stiefvater (5 books)
I loved the Wolves of Mercy Falls and I enjoyed her two Books of Faerie as well. I DNF'd The Raven Boys. *hides*

5. Mary Higgins-Clark (A ton. I don't even know how many.)
I enjoy Mary's mysteries in the summer because they are so creepy and summer had more daylight hours! Haha. Sadly, her books are not as good as they used to be.

Lauren's Picks

I was lucky for this week's TTT. I didn't even have to look at my bookcases or my Goodreads shelves. My boyfriend likes to pick on me by saying that all authors are my favorite, but.. I simply have several favorite authors. Just to be fair, I only listed three today, but I assure you.. the list goes on.

6. Margaret Atwood (all of them)
You know how people have spirit animals? Let's just say that Atwood is my spirit person. 

7. Michelle Moran (all of them)
Most of you know that historical fiction was my first love, and Moran does historical fiction right. She focuses on the facts and branches out from there. All of her novels feature women who have had strong personalities/vital roles in their society, which is a definite plus for me.

8. Ania Ahlborn (all except the newest one)
This author. She just does it for me. All of her novels are horror and somehow she can weave a classic horror theme into a completely new and creative plot that literally keeps you from blinking while reading.

Daisy's Picks

9. Jill Mansell (16 books)
So I have a lot of love for Jill Mansell and her contemporary romances! They're my kind of comfort read and I've basically devoured her whole backlist when I 'discovered' her when I was about 17 or so.

10. Maria V. Snyder (11 books)
I LOVE Maria V. Snyder's writing style! I've read all her books except for the latest one, but it's sitting on my shelf, so SOON!

Tell us your most read authors!! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Daisy Talks About Food and Cook Books

So I'm a bit of a foodie. I LOVE going out to dinner with friends, trying new things (this is also always part of vacations), and cooking/baking myself. I'm not one of those people who will just throw stuff together and have it come out awesome though, I'm more of a always searching for that next great recipee kinda girl. Which also explains my addiction to a network called 24Kitchen, I can watch the chefs there cook ALL DAY LONG.

Mostly, I love cooking for the boyfriend, friends, family... I just need to not be eating by myself and I'll happily be in the kitchen for a while, usually with a nice dinner or baked goods as a result. The boyfriend doesn't really mind this hobby of mine so much ;)

Things that I made and actually remembered to take pictures of: double chocolate chip cookies, Pavlova with strawberries and raspberries, creme caramel

I have talked about my tendency to hoard books before, but I don't think I ever mentioned this is also starting to extend to cook books (though I am much more picky about them than I am about my fiction, mostly because I can't justify having the same amount of cook books). I LOVE cook books. I can just look at all the yummy food for ages and start planning when I'm going to make said yummy food myself and who I will subject to be the first to actually taste it. Two cook books that are quickly becoming my favourites, are published by a supermarket chain here in Holland, they're awesome, they have a step by step explanation for the recipees with pictures. Which I've never seen before in any cook book.

Another that I've gotten recently is Jamie's 15 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver.

So it does take me a bit longer than 15 minutes (more like 25) usually, but that's mostly because I need to check back and see what I should be doing next and I just don't have his skills. But I do really like the attitude that you can actually cook a not-so-standard meal in a short amount of time and it's ok to take shortcuts sometimes, but you're still making a homecooked meal and nothing comes out of a ready-made baggie. It feels healthier and the ones I've tried so far turned out really well.

One of my friends lent me one of Martha Stewart's cook books recently and I made these awesome Oreo-Cheesecake cupcakes from it, but sadly forgot to take a picture. They were the best thing ever. And how could they not be: cheesecake GOOD, Oreo's GOOD, together = BLISS.
But I must confess that I do like my cook books to be in Dutch, I'm more comfortable with reading fiction in English, but for cook books, it's easier to not have to constantly look up how much a pound is or how much a stick of butter is in grams, because that just kills my flow.

So, do any of you guys like cooking/baking? What's your specialty? I make a mean cheesecake and chocolate pie :) Let me know if you know of any good cook books, especially Mexican or Thai food!

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Last 3 Books Jamie Read

Hey everyone! What have you been reading? Tell me, tell me!

I just got back from vacation and want to share what I've been reading!

The first book is one I read on vacation:

This was such a fun, fast paced book! I devoured it on vacation because it hooked me right away and had twists and turns that just kept me reading. The political conspiracy aspect was super compelling and I kept guessing what the heck was going on. It was pitched as Scandal meets Veronica Mars and I definitely think that's actually pretty accurate. It's like if Scandal's Olivia Pope had a little sister who came to live with her!

The next book I read on vacation was Dumplin' by Julie Murphy:

Oh man, Dumplin was SOOOO good. It was funny and heartwarming and badass. Willowdean is one of my favorite characters I've read in a while. I loved that it dealt with being comfortable in your own skin, body positivity, grief, friendships. I totally shipped the romance and YAYY lots of Dolly Parton goodness in it. I cannot say enough good things about this one!!

And the most recent book I just finished yesterday was Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon:

This one had a unique premise when it came to what I've read in contemporary YA and really delivered! The main character has a super rare disease that has her essentially living in a bubble in her house and never being able to go outside because she's allergic to things but they don't know what. And then the boy next door moves in and they see each other from the window and begin communicating. And suddenly the main character, who never even thought she could have any of that, is in love and she's finding it hard to exist as she had. It was equally cute and heartwarming as it is heart-wrenching at times. I can't imagine being cut off from the world but then getting a taste of something different in life and yearning for more but it's not safe for her to have it. I REALLY enjoyed the romance in this one and I don't want to say too much about how it ends up but HIGHLY recommend.

PS. Want to see what I'm reading and what books I'm talking about in real time? Follow me on Instagram!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What I've Been Doing While I Haven't Been Reading

Confession--I haven't been reading much lately at all.  Since May, I've finished two books that I can remember, but I highly doubt I've read more.  The two books I did read were ones I really enjoyed--Go Set a Watchman and All the Light We Cannot See.  I usually spend my free time reading, but I just haven't done that.  I haven't even been reading magazines.  This has left me wondering what the sam holy hill I HAVE been doing this summer...

image from dogonews.com


Making lots of eye contact with him.  This was a lot of fun...


Playing shuffleboard.  I've actually gotten quite good.

Sitting by the pool.  A lot.  A whole lot.

Making several new friends.

Making periodic attempts to start running and/or doing yoga regularly.

Getting addicted to mai tais and Fireball whiskey.

Learning how to spell whiskey.  General rule of thumb--If the country has an "e," whiskey has an e; if it doesn't, it's whisky.  Ireland--whiskey; Canada--whisky.

Studying for the LSAT.

Taking the LSAT.

Letting him pull me around the pool on a floatie.  Seriously--best way to travel!.

A fun weekend at the lake.

Getting him to fall in love with me while I fell in love with him.  Not as difficult as I thought it would be.

A couple of baseball games.

A great Midsummer's Night party.  Champagne, lovely romantic toasts, shuffleboard, dancing with the one you love.

Waiting impatiently on my LSAT score, but also being kinda glad I didn't know yet.

An amazing trip to Indianapolis.

Working on my law school application.

Avoiding working on my law school application.  This was pretty easy...

Thinking maybe I'll just put off law school for a semester or a year.


Wishing I wasn't working.

Wishing I could just quit my job.  Seriously.

Scrambling to get my law school application in on time.

Horseback riding.

Playing the dutiful daughter and granddaughter.  Sometimes easier said than done.

And somewhere in there I did read those two books.  I've started several.  I have made some progress on Moby Dick, which I've decided I'm going to finish by the time I start law school and fun reading time as I know it becomes even more scarce than it already has been.

What have you been doing this summer when you haven't been reading?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fairytales & Fairytale Retellings -- Top Ten Tuesday

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!

This week we are breaking up Top Ten Tuesday into our favorite fairytale retellings and fairytale retellings that are on our TBR!

Favorite Fairytale Retellings

Jamie's Picks

1. A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas: A Beauty & the Beast retelling but also integrates dashes of other fairytales and fairy lore. SO GOOD.
2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer: I've read Cinder and Scarlet in this series of fairytale retellings and OH MY GOODNESS. THEY ARE RIDICULOUSLY GOOD. I love how it plays with the fairytales but feels so different also because it is sci-fi.
3. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson: OH MY HEART.  This is one of my favorite YA books ever. It's just...WOAH. I sobbed through the ending.

Lauren's Pick

Fairytale Retellings On Our TBR List

Jamie's Picks

1. Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas: This one hasn't been released yet but it's a Cinderella retelling (with a pretty cover) that I'm excited to read soon!

2. The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh: Inspired by One Thousand and One Nights and I've heard it's INCREDIBLE.
3. Splintered by A.G. Howard: An Alice in Wonderland retelling but not Alice...further down her family tree.

4. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge: Beauty and the Beast retelling!

Lauren's Pick

5. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Let's talk fairytales and retellings!!!

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