Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Spring Book Tag (or Kate is Super Behind on Her TBR)

*laughs forever because when am I not behind on my TBR?*


Engie from "Musings From Neville's Navel" tagged me for the Spring Book Tag! And what better time to do a book tag all about spring than when it doesn't really feel like spring because the weather in Pennsylvania is all over the place right now?

What’s your spring TBR?

*glances nervously toward bowing bookshelves* *continues manic laughter*

So many books . . . so many.

But seriously I'm not sure I have any specific spring TBR books. I'm in a lot of book clubs, so those usually end up taking precedence over everything else, but I'd love to finish reading Les Misérables before summer gets here.

If someone asked you for a spring release recommendation, what book would it be?

Generally I'm not great with remembering what books are coming out when exactly in the year, but Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum was a spring release, and it was fantastic. It was fun and fluffy, but also had a lot of depth to it. Addictive is probably the one word I'd use to describe it.

Which two books are you eagerly awaiting that release within the next two months?


Because with a July 31st release date, it's still technically coming out within the next two months. And OH MY GOD.

I can't think of any other books that are coming out in the next two months. Of course as soon as I hit publish, I'll probably come up with one, because brains are annoying like that.

Which character would make a great Easter Bunny?

Winter from Winter by Marissa Meyer because she would just get sooo into it. I can see her dressing up and painting eggs and everything.

What book makes you think of spring?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. First of all, it has the word flower in it. Second of all, the cover is a bright freaking yellow. Third of all, I read it a couple of years ago in the car while driving to Washington D.C. to see the cherry blossoms in bloom. So yeah, lots of spring all around.

Name a cover with flowers on it.

Whatever my mixed feelings on this book are, that cover is gorgeous and absolutely whimsical. That's what initially caught my eye when I was digging through a box of ARCs. Well job, cover designers.

Which two characters would you want to go on an Easter egg hunt with?

Calvin and Hobbes! Who else to go on an Easter egg hunt with than two of the most playful, imaginative people in the fictional universe?

What is your favorite bookish spring activity to do?

Is it cheating if I say read? Reading outside is pretty nice, too, because spring is (usually) great weather. Not too hot, not too cold, just a slight breeze, and enough shade to make the whole experience pleasant. Although I don't know what the heck is happening with spring this year. It went from being 70 degrees and sunny to cold and rainy and miserable in two days.

Which book did you enjoy that had a spring-ish cover?

This book was fantastic. All of the colors and simple design are spring-ish to me. This book is just spring-ish in general when you consider the protagonists' names are Violet and Finch.

Who is your favorite contemporary author?

Like Engie said, I'm not really sure how this relates to spring, but I do know that there's no competing with Rainbow Rowell. Although I guess a lot of her books aren't strictly contemporary since they're sometimes set in the 80s or 90s. So I'll also name Stephanie Morrill as a favorite.

Tag, you're it! Feel free to "steal" this tag for your blog or post your answers in the comments.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Stages of Reading a Really Good Book

Or at least my stages of reading a really good book. Of course these won't apply to everyone, but all of us bookworms tend to have tons of things in common, including our reading habits. I'm sure many of you can relate to this.

Me with a new book . . . or an old one . . . or any of them, really.
Page 1: *reading somewhere normal, like in bed or on the couch* I can't wait to finally read this! I wonder if it's as good as everyone is saying. Recommendations from three different friends on Goodreads must mean it's great, right?

Page 10: All right, I'm starting to see what all the fuss was about. I'm hooked already. I'll finish the chapter, maybe read a couple more and then go to bed--ooh, a plot twist already?!

Page 50: *having already read past midnight* Holy cow, I can't take my eyes away! Is that the love interest? Okay, I should really go to bed soon though. I can always read tomorrow.

Page 100: An early morning while running on little sleep is nothing compared to what this character is going through. So what if I have to be up in six hours? I have to see what happens next.

Page 150: *has fallen asleep with her face in the book*

Page 200: *reading in the car while being driven to whatever event is happening that morning* No. Way. Oh my God, did anyone else see that? Am I the only one who sees how insane this is?

Page 250: *explains every last detail to little brother while walking the dog because she needs to talk to someone ASAP*

Page 300: Everything's going to be okay, no one's dying, the author wouldn't do that, writers aren't that mean, hahahahahaha . . . Yeah, I'm definitely going to cry by the end of this.

Page 350: *goes through an entire box of tissues from gross sobbing*

Last page: That. Was. AMAZING!!!

Acknowledgements: *frantically texts/tweets/instant messages every single bookish person she knows urging them to read the book*

Phew, even writing about the process has me on an emotional roller coaster all over again. What was the last book you read that you feeling like this?

Friday, May 6, 2016

"Look Around, Look Around at How Lucky We Are to Be Alive Right Now!"

I'm shamelessly stealing the "Hamilton book tag" from Emma at "Kittens on Bookshelves." Although I guess technically she said to consider myself tagged, so it doesn't count as stealing anymore. I DIGRESS.

I've been obsessed with the soundtrack for about a month now. It's all I've listened to for weeks. And it's fantastic. I may or may not have even had dreams about somehow miraculously winning tickets to see it on Broadway, even though it's sold out for months. If you haven't heard any of the music, DO SO NOW. It's all on YouTube and Spotify! I've never heard anything like it, but it's amazing. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius and has a serious fanbase behind him for this. I recently got my whole family into it, too, so now we'll randomly shout things like, "What time is it? SHOWTIIIIME." after walking into a room.
And now because of listening to the entire album approximately 90871284 times over, memorizing half of the songs, making plans to do a lip sync battle to "Farmer Refuted" with a friend at a talent show (she's the Samuel Seabury to my Alexander Hamilton), and scrolling through dozens of Tumblr posts of "Hamilton" fanart, I'm taking on the challenge of reading a 750 page biography all about Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Now I just need to get my hands on the Hamiltome . . .

Me upon watching it for a second--*coughs*--seventeenth time.
So this is all a preamble (see what I did there?) to say of course I had to snatch up a "Hamilton" book tag as soon as I saw it, plus add a few more songs myself because I couldn't resist. Here we go!

(Note: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson spoilers toward the middle of the post!)

"Alexander Hamilton" - A Character With a Rich and Complicated Backstory

There are so many characters I could go with here, but for this one I'll say Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. It's hard to explain just how much crap she's gone through without giving anything away, so you'll have to read the series yourself to find out. Let's just say she's crazy awesome but also haunted by her painful past, just like the best characters are.

"Aaron Burr, Sir" - Two Characters Who Constantly Butt Heads 

Oh my gosh, totally Simon and Baz from Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. I've never seen two characters bicker more than they do, and yet it works. It kept me entertained the entire time, made me giggle, and didn't stop me from shipping them in the slightest.

"My Shot" - A Protagonist That Goes After What They Want and Doesn't Let Anything Stop Them

Alanna from the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce. Disguising yourself as a boy to train to become a knight in a medieval fantasy story is pretty dang gutsy. Obstacles are constantly hurled at her throughout the series, and yet she keeps fighting.

"The Story of Tonight" - Your Favorite Historical Fiction or Non-Fiction Book

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, as of recently. It's an excellent audiobook, too, probably the best one I've listened to since Harry Potter. If you decide to pick it up, I highly recommend going that route, at least for some of it. The whole story is so realistic, you have a hard time believing it didn't actually happen.
"The Schuyler Sisters" - An Underrated Female Character

Nimona from Nimona by Noelle Stevenson! And I say she's underrated only because hardly any of my other bookish friends have read the book (so fix that and find a copy!). She's an impulsive, hilarious, eager-to-please, "villainous," shapeshifter, and she's one of the best characters I've read in a long time. I love her.

"You'll Be Back" - The Sassiest Villain 

Sadly, I've read very few books with sassy villains in them, but I want to remedy this, so recommend all your favorites in the comments! But every character in the Order of the Stick Series by Rich Burlew is pretty sassy and/or sarcastic, so there's that. If you like playing Dungeons & Dragons, it's the book for you.

"Right Hand Man" - Favorite Bookish Friendship 

Blue and her raven boys from the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater are pretty much the definition of #SquadGoals. But Clary and Simon from the Mortal Instruments and the Golden Trio from Harry Potter all deserve mentions, too. Oh, and the Marauders, also from Harry Potter! (Can you tell I'm a sucker for friendship stories?)

"Helpless" - A Relationship You Were Pulling For From the Very Start

How am I supposed to pick favorites with this one?!?! Gah. I guess instead of mention all bazillion of my ships, I'll go ahead and say Simon and Blue from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Their mutual love and respect for Oreos, flirtatious e-mails, and general adorableness made for a happy, fluffy read that made my fangirl heart go "sqeeeeeee."
"Satisfied" - Favorite Book with Multiple POVs

I could pick a ton, because multiple POV books tend to be my favorites (they're usually the kind I write), but I'm trying to be diverse with my selections so I won't mention another certain Rainbow Rowell book that starts with Eleanor and ends with & Park. (And I do realize I just mentioned it even though I said I wouldn't, but shh, the devil's in the details.) I'm gonna go with These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, because yes. That just about sums it up. 
"Wait For It" - A Book Worth Waiting For

CAN WE ALL SAY The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling?!?! I know it's a script, but it's in book form, so it still counts!!! July 31st can't come fast enough. But like Aaron Burr, I'm willing to wait for it.

"Stay Alive" - A Character You Wish Were Still Alive

It's probably been like five years, but I still don't think I've recovered from the childhood trauma that was (highlight for Bridge to Terabithia spoilers!) Leslie's death. So did not see that coming.
"Ten Duel Commandments" - Favorite Fight Scene

It's hard for me to pick out a single fight scene, but any of the craziness that happens in Tamora Pierce's books and the Divergent series comes to mind as great action. Medieval fantasy and dystopian tend to bring that side of stories out.
"What Comes Next?" - A Series You Wish Had More Books

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill. I could've read so much more of that story had it existed. I'm a sucker for time travel. That book basically had me reading for three straight days, breaking only to eat and sleep (a little).
"Dear Theodosia" - A Book With Great Parent-Child Relationships

Three books come to mind immediately: August's parents with August and his sister in Wonder by R.J. Palacio, the Finch family in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and the March family in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Two of these books came out a really long time ago, so clearly family dynamics is something I'm longing for in modern YA stories especially. Feel free to share your favorite family-centric books in the comments! I'm always looking for suggestions.

"Non-Stop" - A Series You Marathoned

The amount of sass in this coat flip is perfect.
The W.I.T.C.H. graphic novels by Parke Godwin were a favorite of mine when I was younger. Heck, they're still fantastic! I'm pretty sure I read all eight of them in a day or two and became obsessed enough to write terrible, terrible stories about characters similar to all five of the main girls. It was my sad attempt at fan-fiction. But hey, imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?

"What'd I Miss" - A Book or Series You Were Late to Reading

I'm dreadfully behind on the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, which I embarrassingly only started a couple years ago. And also the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I'm horrible, I know. But they're both amazing and I will finish them one day.

"Take a Break" - A Good Beach/Vacation Read

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum! Much like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, it's involves anonymous e-mails from someone at the same school. The whole time I was reading it I was trying to guess who it was while also thinking, "please don't be him, please don't be him, for the love of everything don't be him." It reads really fast and it's not one that involves a lot of brain power, perfect for lounging by the ocean.

"Say No To This" - A Guilty Pleasure Read

The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I know, I know, it's not the greatest writing in the world, but I absolutely adore the characters and the stories. I didn't think I'd be able to stomach it after not even getting past the first couple of chapters of Twilight, but I was pleasantly surprised.

"The Room Where It Happens" - A Book World In Which You Want to Live

Hogwarts, plain and simple. I've never met a single person who didn't want to go to Hogwarts. I don't even understand Harry and Ron when they're complaining about their homework. Um, you're LEARNING FREAKING MAGIC. Sign me up, please and thank you.

"The Reynolds Pamphlet" - A Plot Twist You Didn't See Coming

Why yes, yes that is King George throwing the Reynolds Pamphlet in Hamilton's face and then prancing away.
Look at all their faces!!
That, ladies and gentleman, is Thomas Jefferson making it rain while chanting a taunting, "Never gon' be president now."
(I had to include more than one gif because I couldn't decide between the three!)

How about everything that happens in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn? Talk about insanity. That and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Oh, and Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas! Gah, so many "*GASP*" moments.

"Burn" - Most Tragic Ending to a Relationship

That moment when your ship goes down in flames.
Ugh, even people who haven't read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green knows it's tragic. During rereads I still sometimes trick myself into thinking it'll end differently, but it hasn't worked so far.

"Blow Us All Away" - A Character Who Changed the World

Katniss Everdeen! She's the original dystopian "face of the rebellion." The reluctant hero, inspiration to society, willing to stand up to tyrants, she's got it all. And half of it she wasn't even trying to do!

"It's Quiet Uptown" - A Book That Made You Cry Ugly Tears

There are about a dozen I could pull out for you right now, but basically any book with a dog on the cover is destined to be something that makes me cry into my pillow before bed. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare had me bawling over Simon feels, too.

"The Election of 1800" - A Book or Series That Made the Fandoms Take Sides (i.e. Team Edward vs. Team Jacob)

I have to mention Hunger Games and Throne of Glass again. The Katniss-Peeta-Gale and Celaena-Chaol-Dorian love triangles make the fans go nuts. (*coughs* Not that I would ever get into shipping wars, nosiree, Bob . . .)

"Best of Wives and Best of Women" - A Favorite Heroine

The protagonists of the Lunar Chronicles are all just so amazing for different reasons, but they work well as a team, too! So many feels in that series, I tell you. So many.

"Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story" - A Book Series That Will Be Remembered Throughout History

Like Emma said in her tag, how can this go to anything but Harry Potter? A lot of stories can seem outdated, but I don't think that'll be the case here. It'll stand the test of time because it's so unique and complex and rich with emotion. The characters are all as complicated as the plot, but it's not at the expense of the story. I can't find a single negative thing to say about it.

Tag, you're it! What are some of your favorite "Hamilton" songs? Feel free to steal this for your blog or answer a few questions in the comments. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MA Trip

Last week my family went on vacation to Massachusetts to visit friends and relatives and see some things in Concord and Boston. We'd just finished reading Little Women together and learning about the transcendentalists, so it was perfect timing! Being homeschooled really helps us to go places off season when there aren't any school crowds, too. ;)

The drive was a good 7+ hours, but it mostly passed quickly for me thanks to a combination of listening to the "Hamilton" soundtrack over and over (and over and over and over . . .) again (you'll be getting a blog post about the music soon enough) and writing in my notebook.

We were greeted by my grandma and plenty of delicious Portuguese food. The next day we traveled all over Concord. We saw so many things: Orchard House (the old home of the Alcott family), the Old Manse (the home to many transcendentalists over the years), Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Walden Pond, Old North Bridge, and the Minute Man Statue.

Orchard House
Obviously it was all really cool to see just because of the history, but we also heard a lot of interesting stories. For example, Little Women is almost entirely autobiographical. Louisa patterned Jo after herself, and all of the other March women after her sisters. The oldest, Anna, was Meg; the youngest, May, was Amy (notice her name is just rearranged); and the second youngest, Elizabeth, was Beth. But there were a few key differences, including that Louisa's father never went to help in the war (but Louisa did as a nurse!), Louisa never married, and there was never one true Laurie in her life. Instead, she created Laurie using bits of different boys she was friends with when she was younger. (Spoilers for Little Women ahead!) Louisa never intended to have Jo married, but after the first part of Little Women was published, she got so many fans from letters begging to have her married (specifically to Laurie) that she decided to compromise. She would have Jo get married, just to somebody else, Bhaer.

Louisa's sister May was really an artist, just like Amy. As a kid she would draw all over the walls to practice her sketching since paper was expensive and usually Louisa or her father would get to it first. You can still see the drawings on the walls if you visit the house! And the Alcott parents were totally okay with her doing this. Another fun fact, May went on to be the first art teacher of a boy, Daniel Chester French. who later became a famous sculptor. He's the one who sculpted the Minute Man Statue and the Lincoln Memorial.

So yeah, Orchard House was a favorite as far as that day went.

The next day we went to Boston to see the Harvard campus, Harvard Bookstore (an indie bookstore!), Boston Commons, the public gardens (where we got to take a ride on the swan boats), and the Isabella Steward Gardner Art Museum. The museum was gigantic, with three different floors filled with sculptures and paintings and tapestries. The second floor was closed for renovations and restorations when we went, but they still had the most famous pieces out in another exhibit for everyone to see. In the nineties, a bunch of famous paintings were stolen from the museum and to this day are still lost, so they have some spots talking about that on empty spaces on the wall.

"Isabella Stewart Gardner" by John Singer Sargent
Isabella also had a lot of John Singer Sargent pieces, which made my mom spin a whole tale where she wondered if Isabella had a thing for John, especially after we realized she posed for one of his portraits. For a large portion of their friendship (or was it just?), Isabella was married. My mom kept saying it'd make a great historical romance, but we didn't know that there was actually a lot of gossip about the two of them back when they were alive! Apparently after Isabella received the portrait John painted of her, she loved it, but her husband did not . . . hmm . . .
We went to the Boston Museum of Science on our last day there. We spent the whole afternoon there exploring it and we didn't even see it all! It's that huge. My favorite parts were easily the optical illusions gallery and the Hall of Human Life. There were a lot of social science surveys and interactive stations you could use, which were fun. After we were done there, we went to the planetarium attached to it to see a Michael Jackson laser show. It was kinda cheesy, but still cool to have done. The more abstract patterns were really awesome, but there were a few songs were they displayed these terrible laser cartoons that told the story along with the music that had both my brother Max and me giggling in our seats. At one point after the first of the songs in this style ("ABC"), Max was laughing and said loud enough for everyone to hear, "What the heck are we watching?" I'm pretty sure our parents lost it.

So after walking close to fifteen miles in three days, eating tons of seafood, riding the T all over, and seeing as much as we possibly could during our stay, we got to come home and get our little dog back. Scout was very happy to see us after being apart for so long, and vice versa.

Have you ever been to Boston or Concord? What was your favorite thing you saw? Leave a comment!