Love-A-Thon 2017 Sign-Ups!

Today is the day! I’m so excited to be able to announce that the 2017 Love-a-Thon is happening – and official sign-ups are open today!  The Love-A-Thon has been my favorite bookish event of the year since I first discovered it.  It’t the event that got me to break out of my shell and befriend a bunch of book bloggers who I had been admiring from afar and it also helped me discover a whole slew of new book bloggers who hadn’t previously been on my radar but I’ve since taken to reading every single one of their posts!  And now this year, I’m getting to join the Love-A-Thon as a co-host!!!  This year Love-A-Thon will be hosted by Alexa of Alexa Loves Books, Cee of The Novel Hermit, Mel of The Daily Prophecy and yours truly!  We’ve brainstormed some really fun ideas to challenge you creatively, and to encourage you to develop and strengthen the positive friendships you’ve formed in our online book community!  And this is why the Love-A-Thon has always been my favorite book event.  It’s not about spending as much as time possible reading over a two day period, it’s about connecting with other avid readers in the bookternet-verse! Whether it’s a blog, a Twitter account, an Instagram account or a YouTube channel, we’re so excited to invite you to help spread the love again this year!

The Love-a-Thon is an event dedicated to spreading positivity and love. It’s time dedicated to visiting other bloggers/Instagrammers/BookTubers, leaving a comment or two, making new friends and fostering positivity among the members of our amazing community. As in the previous years, the event will include mini challenges, Twitter chats and giveaways galore! The full schedule will be sent to you when you’ve signed up, so you can start preparing your posts in advance.

We’re really looking forward to seeing everyone participate in sharing love, encouragement and inspiration all over the bookish communities on the blogosphere, Instagram and YouTube! And, of course, we hope everyone will have fun. If you’re interested in participating, please fill in the sign-up form below. Once that’s done, you can consider yourself an official #LoveAThon participant!

FAQ

Who can participate in the Love-a-Thon? All book bloggers, Bookstagrammers, BookTubers, and authors are welcome to jump in! We have challenges spanning three different platforms (blogs, YouTube & Instagram), and you can participate as much or as little as you’d like. (Everyone is invited to join in on the Twitter chats though!)

When is the Love-a-Thon happening? We’re going to be maintaining the two day schedule, with the event taking place from February 18, 12:00AM EST to February 20, 12:00AM EST.

How can I sign up? All you need to do is fill out the form below! You can grab the banner up top to share on your sidebar or your social media platform of choice. Sign-ups will be open up until February 18, though it’s recommended that you sign up early so that you receive the schedule and can plan out what you want to participate in!

How can I help? There are two ways you can choose to help. First, you can help us spread the word! Last year’s number of participants was above and beyond anything I could have imagined. I’m hoping thereare even more of us this time! Second, you can donate to the giveaways! If you want to donate ANYTHING – books, swag, services – towards the mini-challenge giveaways or the big giveaway at the end, please email bbloveathon@gmail.com with details.

Twitter? Use the official hashtag (#LoveAThon) when tweeting about the event. I’ll be checking on it every now and then, so use it if you want me to see your tweets!

Questions, comments, concerns or suggestions? If you have any other concerns that were not answered here, feel free to send an email to bbloveathon@gmail.com or to tweet any of us (@alexalovesbooks • @tnhcee • @superspacechick • @dailyprophecy).

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up to participate in the 2017 Love-a-Thon today! If you do sign up, please know that we are so grateful and so excited to have you joining us this year. This community is really wonderful, and constantly growing, and is made up of such unique individuals. It’s truly awesome to be able to celebrate it, and to celebrate each other too!

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Kristin

How to Get Up Early + My Ideal Morning Routine

I always have a more difficult time getting out of bed early when the temperature reaches below the freezing point but I’ve found that this year has been even more challenging than years past.  I still wake up at 5AM. Once my alarm goes off, I’m up and even if I lay in bed with my eyes closed cuddled under covers, there’s no falling back to sleep for me (especially since my husband’s alarm tends to go off a lot during the morning- he’s my little night owl).  But after spending that extra time in bed, no matter how cozy I may feel, I always HATE feeling like I wasted such precious morning hours.  I inevitably end up getting upset that I didn’t get up early and I spend my day at work thinking about all the things I could’ve gotten done if I had just gotten out of bed.

I’ve been trying to think of ways to motivate myself to actually get out of my bed and I think I came up with a good one.  When I was feeling fully awake (aka I had at least one cup of chai tea flowing through my system), I decided to write out all of the events that would occur during my ideal morning.  Now that I can visualize what I can realistically accomplish and imagine the feeling of productivity that comes along with it, I’ve been having a much easier time ditching my covers before sunrise.  I originally wrote this out just for me, but I decided to share it in case it helps others as well!

1) Up at 5 AM – I am blessed by the fact that I don’t have trouble falling asleep at night.  Since high school, I have always been an early riser.  I look forward to those quiet morning moments where no one else is awake to bother me.  Since I had started getting up later, I noticed a change in my attitude.  I felt like I wasn’t getting anything done and it killed me.  I missed having that jump on the day!

Tip: This has helped me in the past- If I know I’m going to be extra tired, I’ll put my phone on my desk which is across the room before I fall asleep the night before.  Then I HAVE to get out of bed to turn it off (I don’t know about you but there is no sound I like less than my alarm- I need to turn it off within SECONDS of it going off or I lose my mind.  My husband on the other hand, hits snooze multiple times and I’m always just like nooooo how could you possibly want to hear that noise again soon?!)

2) Make a cup of tea – Tea is one of my favorite elements of any given day.  I look forward to the moment that the warm deliciousness that is caffeine infused tea hits my taste-buds.  (I usually opt for chai or earl grey for my first cup).  Sometimes if I wake up early without having a cup of caffeine, I can feel my eyes drooping while I read on my hour+ commute no matter how invested I am in the story.  When I start my morning with a cup of tea, that never happens!

3) Do a 5-10 minute workout – I used to catch up on social media while my tea brewed (Twitter, Instagram and the like) but in all honesty I’m struggling to think of a time when I found something useful on Twitter that was posted while I was asleep.  Instead of getting sucked into my phone, I’ve been doing a quick 1-10 minute YouTube video workout.  Once I’ve gotten some of the techniques memorized, I think I’ll probably just do the exercises on my own and watch a BookTube video while I wait for my tea to be ready.

4) Decide what I want to work on the night before – I also find it easier to wake up when I have a clear plan in my mind of what I want to accomplish.  I’ve been using Trello to organize blog post ideas, to do lists, and MANY other aspects of my life since I first heard about the service from Alice at The Geeky Burrow.  Before I go to sleep I like to consult my spreadsheets & Trello boards to determine what I want to work on when I wake up.

5) Work on blog / YouTube at my desk – For a while, I didn’t have a desk at home when we moved into our apartment.  And then once I did bring my desk over, I used it purely for Bookstagram photos and literally never sat at it.  But, I cleaned it all off (in the week I KonMari’d) and I find that I am so much more productive when I’m sitting there than I am when laying in bed and trying to work.  While it’s obviously a bit less comfortable, I find it keeps me more focused on what I’m doing and less prone to distractions. And if I get cold, I just layer on the sweaters and use a throw blanket!

6) Update Bullet Journal – I LOVE my bullet journal. It’s like my little creative baby! I keep track of a bunch of things amongst its pages, blog & YouTube posts included and I like to update it in a timely manner as soon as I’ve accomplished something I’ve tracked.  I’ve tried bringing it to work and trying to update when I have a quiet moment during a break, but it’s kind of a pain to carry all of my markers or to draw everything first in pencil, only to redo it in marker at night.  I also find that I’m better at bullet journaling at a desk too. Much straighter lines!

7) Get ready (Makeup / Hair) & Pick out outfit – Finally, the thing I spend the least amount of time on each morning >.< I find that the way I dress and whether I take the time to do my makeup often has a huge impact on the rest of my day.  I’m one of those people that just *feels* better when I’m confident in my outward appearance.  Once I’ve accomplished something for the day, spending my remaining time getting ready turns into an actual fun thing instead of a mad dash to throw on something clean and bound out the door to make my train.  It’s way less stressful and to make the getting ready experience even more enjoyable and transform it into a way to unwind after “working” I usually perch my laptop on my bathroom sink counter while I do my hair and makeup. Then I feel ready to take on the world!

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Kristin

2017 Reading Challenges

New year, new reading challenges! This post a bit belated seeing as how 2017 started almost two weeks ago at this point but as I’ve said, things have been kind of crazy around here lately so I’m behind on some things.  I didn’t even finish my first book of the year until a couple of days ago.  But, I’m slowly getting back on track so here we go!  First of all, this is the first year ever in my reading history that I decided to lower my Goodreads goal.  I want to invest more time in longer books and read more adult fantasy and non-fiction without the added pressure of reaching a higher goal.  Once I make my goal, I will re-evaluate and raise it but for now I’ve set it at 75 books.

The Challenge: Flights of Fantasy

Hosts: Alexa Loves Books & Hello Chelly

The Goal: There’s no minimum, and the reader is encouraged to set their own goal for how many fantasy novels they want to read in 2017.

Official hashtag: #flightsoffantasy

Additional Info: This year, Alexa and Rachel are continuing the Flights of Fantasy book club but they’re modifying it to occur quarterly.  The full schedule for the year has already been posted on both of their blogs.  In addition, there will be monthly link-ups and two giveaways!

MY GOAL: 40 books (last year I read 38!)

Some Fantasy Books I Plan to Read:  

1) A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab

2) Calamity by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners #3)

3) The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (Lightbringer #1)

4) The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

5) The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (The Magicians #3)

The Challenge: Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge 2017

HostsAndi’s ABCs

The Goal: There are different levels the reader can chose from for their 2016 goal, both of which can be found on the hosts sites.

Official hashtag: #ContRom2017

Additional Info: There will be monthly link-ups and giveaways!

MY GOAL: Grand Slam – 21+ books

Some Contemporary Romance Books I Plan to Read:  

1) Magnolia by Kristi Cook

2) I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

3) The Goal by Elle Kennedy

4) By Your Side by Kasie West

5) Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash

The Challenge: 2017 New Release Challenge

HostsUnconventional Book Reviews & Books, Movies, Reviews, Oh My!

The Goal: There are different levels the reader can chose from for their 2016 goal, both of which can be found on the hosts sites.

Official hashtag: #2017NewReleaseChallenge

Additional Info: There will be monthly link-ups and giveaways!

MY GOAL: 1-30 books per year – New Release Newbie

Some Contemporary Romance Books I Plan to Read:  

1) Windwitch by Susan Dennard (The Witchlands #2)

2) A Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab (Shades of Magic #3)

3) The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey

4) By Your Side by Kasie West

5) Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han

The Challenge: 2017 Diverse Reads Book Challenge

Hosts:  Chasing Faerytales & Read Sleep Repeat

The Goal:  Set your own goal & follow the monthly mini challenges (1 category per month for a total of 12 books)

Official hashtag: #DiverseReads2017

MY GOAL:  20 Books

Some Diverse Books I Plan to Read:  

1) Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

2) Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Chirapotra & Dhonielle Clayton

3) When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

4) The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue Side by Mackenzi Lee

5) Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han

The Challenge: Rock My TBR 2017 Reading Challenge

Hosts:  The YA Book Traveler

The Goal:  Read a minimum of 1 book per month that was previously published.

Official hashtag: #RockMyTBR

MY GOAL:  30 Books

Some Backlist Books I Plan to Read:  

1) A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab

2) Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Chirapotra & Dhonielle Clayton

3) Scythe by Neal Shusterman

4) Lady Midnight by Casandra Clare

5) P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

The Challenge: 2017 Prequel & Sequel Challenge

Hosts:  Novel Heartbeat & Writer Grrl Reads

The Goal:  Read prequels, sequels & novellas to catch up on series

MY GOAL:  51-75 points (visit their sites to see how points work!)

Some Prequels / Sequels I Plan to Read:  

1) A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab

2) Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Chirapotra & Dhonielle Clayton

3) Scythe by Neal Shusterman

4) Lady Midnight by Casandra Clare

5) Throne of Glass #6 by Sarah J. Maas

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Kristin

January Small Goals

I’ve seen a bunch of people post small monthly goals and I really like the idea of re-centering and re-evaluating everything more frequently.  It’s awesome to make yearly goals but it’s also easy to lose focus or forget about them entirely over the 365 day period we’re aiming to accomplish them in.  Having small monthly goals to help get to those bigger picture yearly ones is something I’m eager to try out!

DECEMBER CHECK-IN

I have to be honest here.  December was a major fail on the monthly goals front. My mom was in the hospital for the last two weeks of the year and I was just to stressed before her operation and then too busy visiting her every night afterward to complete anything.  I did make the blogging goal but my other two goals were a no go, so I’m going to start 2017 with a fresh slate.

1) Clean our kitchen & hall closets – I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before my aforementioned vacation and let me tell you, it was life-changing.  I spent almost all of my days off cleaning out my closet, my drawers, my comic book collection, collectibles and other random things that I’m not even sure how I acquired.  I set up a filing system for our important paperwork (#adulting) and I’ve felt so much better ever since.  More on this process to come!

2) Blog 2-3 times per week – While I wish I would’ve had the time to fall back into my blogging routine in November, I realize that with the amount of commitments I had, it was unreasonable to believe I could make time for writing (this is why I’ve also failed NaNoWriMo 2x – November is just not a good month for me).  Now that my room is completely clean and organized, I’m feeling an overwhelming sense of clarity and that I’m in the right mental state to sit down and be creative instead of stepping over piles of books, feeling guilty about blogging instead of tidying and then giving up and binge-watching YouTube videos instead. Plus Christmas so I’m SUPER excited.

3) Re-read a favorite book – I’ve often talked about how I grapple with re-reading things because there are so many things I haven’t read (a bunch of them are currently mocking me from my shelves) but December is such a comfort month that I want to make the conscious choice to re-read.  I know I’ll enjoy it, I just have to do it.  I’m thinking of picking up Fangirl or The Raven Boys since I’ve re-read Harry Potter so many times I can’t count anymore and I feel like some of my other favorites deserve some love<3

JANUARY GOALS

1) Reorganize Bookshelves / Buy a new bookshelf (or two…) – I rearranged my shelves a little while ago and while there are some shelves I love, there are others that just aren’t working for me.  Plus, it’s been very confusing to find certain books since I moved them around because I don’t think my new system is organized enough.  And if you’re someone who watches my book hauls… you know very well that I could always expand my Potter shelves!

2) Clean out kitchen & hall closet – I’m going to carry this goal over since our weekend in January seem pretty free which is the most exciting! We’ve been talking about possible getting a shelving until for our hall closet so I can organize what we have in there better too.

3) Read The Black Prism by Brent Weeks – I’ve been dying to get to this book, I’m in full-blown fantasy mode which tends to strike me as soon as the holidays are over.  So far, I’ve read the first chapter but I had to put it aside momentarily so I could read The Amateurs by Sara Shepard for book club on Sunday.  That’s going to be quite the ridiculous discussion.  Cassie and I have already started a list of all the awful elements so far!

4) Cook better meals at home – I’m adding a fourth goal this month! Once I finish writing this post, I’m going to head over to pinterest and look for some simple healthy recipes.  Because of our long commute, I really don’t have the time to be spending an hour or more cooking on weeknights which is why Trader Joe’s frozen foods have been such a godsend in the past.  But I really want to start making some more homemade meals, even if I only devote 1-2 nights per week to cooking for a longer period of time.  Some things I want to try out are more Asian meals (ramen, pho, etc.) and those delicious looking smoothie bowls (although that will be more of a weekend breakfast food)! I have to remind myself that watching YouTube while cooking is pretty much the same as watching it in my bed or desk and I’ll be happier with the end result.

What are your goals?

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1

Alexandra Bracken Interview!!!

It’s no secret that I’ve been obsessed with Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger since I first read it last Christmas.  In fact, it sits prominently displayed on my favorites shelf facing outward so I can admire the gorgeous cover every time I look over at my bookshelves.  What initially piqued my interest about the story was the prospect of time travel and pirates but what truly hooked me were the characters I fell so deeply in love with, Nicholas and Etta.  Alex’s newest book, Wayfarer, continues their adventure as they search for an ancient artifact needed to keep the timeline in tact.  Wayfarer is the conclusion to the Passenger duology and to celebrate its release, I was somehow lucky enough to get to chat with Alexandra about the story!  (Just a warning that there will be mild spoilers below for Passenger – if you haven’t read the first book yet, you can read my review here)

Alex started the call with a synopsis of Wayfarer and gave me some information on her writing process saying “I‘ve been calling this book my problem child in the sense that it was the book that came out kicking and screaming whereas some books just sort of rain down on you from the heavens and explode out of you, and those stories are amazing.  But I am really proud of this book.  I think I managed to accomplish everything that I was going for in it.” And as someone who has read Wayfarer, I can attest that accomplish it, she did!  Stories involving time travel are always some of the most difficult to write because of all of the paradoxes that you can fall into if you’re not careful.  On top of that, Alex had to do in depth research of each location and time period the characters visit in order to ensure her story is accurate.  Luckily, Alex is a history nerd!  According to Alex, “Originally Passenger was just going to be set in 1776 in New York.  I studied Revolutionary War history and 18th century America in college, so I felt very comfortable writing in that time period.  I had a really good grip on what the different concerns were, what the economy was like, what the atmosphere was like.  That’s why I felt weirdly comfortable writing in Nicholas’ voice, then I decided I’ve got to push myself and expand the story so I could make it more inclusiveFor the places that I’d never visited, I never expected this to actually be the case, but tourists, when they walk through places, will actually record themselves walking through the entire site.  It made it very easy to write about the layout of all of those different places.

One of my favorite things about Wayfarer is that we get to know Sophia and Julian a lot better than we did in the first book.  While it did mean the separation of Nicholas and Etta, Sophia and Julian were such fascinating characters that it made it easier to cope with.  Alex said “I really like writing group dynamics, and that was one of the challenges of Passenger, that there wasn’t a big group.  It was only Etta and Nicholas for most of the book.  And so with this one, I had a blast writing different groups and managing everyone’s personalities.”  Speaking of those other characters, I asked Alex which character she would write about if she had another opportunity to write a full length novel in the Passenger world (because she’s already written a Rose Linden short story which is available in the Target edition of Wayfarer) and what she would do with them.  Alex said “I always thought if I wrote another book set in this world, it would probably be about Julian because he doesn’t get as much page time as Sophia and Li Min do.  I sort of have a concept – and sorry, this is a spoiler for the end. At the end of the book, their way of life has sort of been dissolved, and they’re starting to reestablish rules and reestablish a way of life.  And, so Julian I think, would be at sea – not literally, but figuratively – in terms of what to do with himself. I had this image that he would go and work for the Belladonna and go do an errand for her, and kind of have a love story of his own.  I hope I get to write it one day, and rope Sophia and Li Min in as well.

And I obviously had to ask Alex about her plotting process and if she ever considered having any of the characters go into the future or to have anyone from the future come back to visit the characters since Passenger and Wayfarer only cover traveling into the past.  Alex said “Yeah, I thought about it. So Rose ultimately goes on this single-minded path, I guess you could say, to try to prevent the astrolabe from falling into the Ironwood’s hands.  Originally, in my mind when I was plotting out Passenger, it was going to be someone from the future that actually warned Rose about it, and it was probably going to be Nicholas and Etta’s kid, or their grandchild, or something to that effect. But you sort of get into grandfather paradox, where you can’t travel back in time to kill a grandparent or do something that affects a grandparent because it could affect your birth.  So the action cancels itself out.  I tried to avoid that the best I could, and avoid having to explain that over several dozen pages. So I was like, you know what?  I’m just going to keep it a little bit simpler and go the direction I went in Wayfarer.”  And as for what Alex would bring with her if she were to travel through time, “Well, it totally depends on if you’re going into the future or if you’re going into the past… Going into the future, I feel like I would bring a notebook so I could keep notes.  If I was going into the past, I think I would probably bring matches with me.”  Such a writerly answer!

Wayfarer Synopsis

I’ve been orphaned by my time.

The timeline has changed.

My future is gone.

 Etta Spencer didn’t know she was a traveler until the day she emerged both miles and years from her home. Now, robbed of the powerful object that was her only hope of saving her mother, Etta finds herself stranded once more, cut off from Nicholas—the eighteenth century privateer she loves—and her natural time.

When Etta inadvertently stumbles into the heart of the Thorns, the renegade travelers who stole the astrolabe from her, she vows to finish what she started and destroy the astrolabe once and for all. Instead, she’s blindsided by a bombshell revelation from their leader, Henry Hemlock: he is her father. Suddenly questioning everything she’s been fighting for, Etta must choose a path, one that could transform her future.

Still devastated by Etta’s disappearance, Nicholas has enlisted the unlikely help of Sophia Ironwood and a cheeky mercenary-for-hire to track both her and the missing astrolabe down. But as the tremors of change to the timeline grow stronger and the stakes for recovering the astrolabe mount, they discover an ancient power far more frightening than the rival travelers currently locked in a battle for control. . . a power that threatens to eradicate the timeline altogether.

From colonial Nassau to New York City, San Francisco to Roman Carthage, imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, New York Times #1 best-selling author Alexandra Bracken charts a gorgeously detailed, thrilling course through time in this stunning conclusion to the Passenger series.

Alexandra Bracken Bio

Alexandra Bracken is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Passenger series and The Darkest Minds series. Born and raised in Arizona, she moved East to study history and English at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. After working in publishing for several years, Alex now writes full-time and can be found hard at work on her next novel in a charming little apartment that’s perpetually overflowing with books.

Official Links

Find out more on UnrequiredReading

Visit the author at her Website

Social Media

@alexbracken on Twitter and Instagram

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Kristin

Kristin’s Annual End of Year Survey – 2016 Edition

This is the third year that I’m participating in Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner’s annual end of year survey (and the 7th year that Jamie is hosting it!).  I love having another excuse to write about books and my reading habits throughout 2016!  I really enjoyed my time completing the survey the last two years and it’s a great way to reflect on what I’ve consumed.  If you’re interested, you can read my 2014 survey answers here, and my 2015 answers here!

Number Of Books You Read: 143 books
Number of Re-Reads: 4 (3 graphic novels + Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix)
Genre You Read The Most From: WOW I’m not sure that this has ever happened before but I’ve read exactly 39 fantasy novels and 39 contemporary novels this year so it’s a tie!

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?

Fantasy / Sci-Fi – A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Contemporary / Thriller – The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Manga series – Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches 

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

 The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken – I LOVE Passenger with a deep fiery passion but TDM took me forever to get through and just didn’t do anything for me

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – I came so close to passing this one over because the cover is so hideous but fortunately Monica & Jane raved about it and gave me an actual synopsis and I loved it so much.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

 This is Our Story by Ashley Elston! I read this toward the end of the year so I’m going to be pushing it for years to come but I really really loved this one!  Every time someone comments on one of my YouTube videos that they read it and loved it, it makes me so happy!

 5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

Series Started – An Ember in the Ashes / A Torch Against the Night

Best Sequel – A Court of Mist and Fury, duh

Best Series Ender – Ha! You really think I can choose between The Raven King and Crooked Kingdom? Good one.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?

This is probably a tie between Mindy McGinnis and Ashley Elston.  I’ve read one book of each of theirs and added the rest of their backlists to my physical TBR! I also really love Becky Albertalli and Kasie West.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  I normally don’t read non-fiction but this book, while it had some ridiculous ways to explain things, really is life-changing.  I feel so good about my apartment and how tidy everything is after I took her advice and donated so much of the things that I was holding on to for the wrong reasons.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Thriller – This is Our Story by Ashley Elston! I just loved this one so much!

Fantasy – Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

 9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Caraval by Stephanie Garber. WOW this book was pure magic.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

Ah because this must be a book I read in 2016, my answer will be different than the one I gave in my Top 10 covers of 2016 video since I was going by pub date.  Cover of a book I read would have to go to The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater<333

11. Most memorable character of 2016?

The first three characters that immediately popped into my mind are 1) Kaz Brekker, 2) Rhysand and 3) Victor Vale.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?

I really enjoyed the way The Love that Split the World was written.  While I took some issue with the story, I think the prose was quite lovely.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?

This would also have to go to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It was a game changer!

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 

Congratulations entire Infernal Devices trilogy, this category goes to you.  What an addicting series.  I love those characters so very much and I can’t believe I had let my lukewarm TMI feelings deter me from Will, Tessa and Jem<3!

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?

I’m never good at writing down passages from books but I’m going to try to have an answer in 2017!

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?

Shortest: Not counting comics, it’s Short Stories from Hogwarts of  Heroisom, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (70 pages)

Longest: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (870 pages)

Oh hey, they’re both Harry Potter!

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  I was losing my mind midway through the story!

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
Feysand of course.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

The Raven Boys and Blue collectively

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

A Court of Mist and Fury

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

I read The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak after MUCH peer pressure and all I have to say is THANK YOU.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?

Oliver from Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein.  He’s such an amazing guy!

23. Best 2016 debut you read?

Contemporary: Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider

Fantasy / Sci-Fi: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

 The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash.  I loved feeling like I was back at NYCC a couple of months before the actual event.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?

City of Heavenly Fire OMG the feels.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?

Pivot Point by Kasie West

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016?

Read at Midnight and Twirling Pages

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016?

Video: My favorite Spines With Wines liveshow that we hosted this year is for The Graces by Laure Eve.

Written: ‘Tis the Season: We’re All Decorated for Christmas (because Christmas!)

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

My Summer of Sailor Scouts posts and Potter Month posts!

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Virtual: Always the Love-A-Thon. It’s my favorite bookish event of the year!!!

IRL: Either the PassTruth Tour because that was just AMAZING but obviously I also loved BEA! It was fun to travel to Chicago despite it being chaotic since I was getting married two weeks after. I literally landed and went straight to my florist.  Talk about hectic!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?

Alexa and I started hanging out IRL this year and I just adore her! I’m so happy to have made such a good friend<3

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

I was a bad blogger mid-year.  I posted about it on my blog LOL but I really spent much more time focusing on YouTube.  I finally feel like I’m in a good blogging place now that I’ve revamped some things and I honestly swear the The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is also responsible for the boost in my creativity and motivation.  I feel so clear-headed now that I’m not looking at piles of books and clothes and camera equipment.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My Peter Pan Reading Challenge post – it randomly got popular on Pinterest!

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Eep! I’m not sure!

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Bookish candles! Now that my room is completely clean, I’m also no longer worried that I will set a fire by burning a candle while I read.  It’s seriously SO enjoyable and I’m so thankful for nights I get to spend reading next to one. Some favorite shops are Novelly Yours, The Melting Library and In the Wick of Time!

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Yes, ALL THE CHALLENGES (except re-reading. I still suck at re-reading >.<) I successfully completed:

1) My Goodreads goal

2) Flights of Fantasy

3) Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge

4) Finishing the Series Challenge

5) TBR Pile Reading Challenge

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?

 Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake.  It was one of my most anticipated and I let mixed reviews scare me off.  Not that I read solely based on reviews, but they do influence what I pick up and I was mostly scared of being disappointed about a book I was really looking forward to.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?

 A Court of Wings and Ruin! #ACOWAR

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Contemporary: Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Fantasy: Caraval by Stephanie Garber even though I already read it.  I just want both of my physical copy preorders in my hands!

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?

Fantasy Enders: Throne of Glass #6 and ACOWAR- I am so not ready to say goodbye to Aelin and crew OR Feyre and crew!

Fantasy Sequel: Would’ve been the next An Ember in the Ashes but it got pushed back so TEARS

Contemporary Ender: Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han<333
5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?

Be happy with the content I’m posting! That’s really what it’s all about :-)6. A 2017 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

Caraval by Stephanie Garber.

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2017: POWER

(All photos in this post were taken by me during 2016 – and I’m linking up my post with Writes Like a Girl, a fashion blogger I’ve grown very fond of in the past year!)

First things first, you may want to grab a cup of tea because this post turned out to be longer than I was expecting!  My 2017 word of the year is POWER (which I’ve felt the need to type in all caps or flex an arm muscle and use a deeper voice when saying out loud).  Now, hear me out before you write me off as a super-villain who’s attempting world domination.  Of all the millions of words I read in 2016, I was struggling to find to the one to describe my focus in 2017 until that AHA epiphany moment struck.

My word last year was risk and I felt like I only half lived up to the potential there.  I took major “risks” in certain areas of my life and by risks, I mostly mean that I openly embraced change.  In January, I left my stable job at one of the best law firms in NYC to join a new company and that was one of the hardest decisions ever.  I couldn’t be more happy to have taken that chance because after the past year of working with the incredible team of people at my company I know that I’m in the place where I belong career-wise and it’s where I see myself for the long run.  I also married my best friend Andrew and we moved into our own apartment together.  This transition was one of the happiest and most seamless of my life.  I’m thanking the stars for aligning and letting me cross paths with the most amazing man in the galaxy.  People often say that the first year of marriage is the hardest but having hit the 6 month mark, if this is the hardest we should expect, we are blessed beyond belief.  So while I did take those bigger risks, I still let fear and anxiety control the majority of my everyday choices until the end of 2016.  That’s where my 2017 word comes in.

When I started thinking about 2017 and the things I wanted to focus on (saving money, reverting back to my healthy diet, etc), the first word that came to mind was responsible.  While I do want to be responsible in these senses, I couldn’t help but feel like that was such a BORING word choice when there are so many others out there.  Plus, it didn’t totally capture everything I wanted to aim for.  One of the major goals I’ve set for myself (which I’ve already started being better about) is to go out more.  To see the friends I love so much, to explore my city that I’ve been having warmer feelings for again, to pay more attention to my blog, and to put more effort into writing and creating YouTube content that I’m happy with.  Then I realized that all of these things I want to do are things that I’ve been choosing to neglect. And I have the POWER to change that.  So simple as that.  I’ve really put a lot more thought into evaluating things this New Year which I suppose is a product of getting older (and hopefully wiser).

A phrase I’ve been hearing a lot of people say lately is “new year, new me.”  This couldn’t be further from what I want.  I’ve spent the past 29 years molding myself into the me I am today and I’m happy with that person.  While there are choices I’m planning on making to push myself out of my comfort zone and minor routine adjustments that I want to make to better my quality of life, I’m not looking to start fresh as a completely new me.  Just a better version of the me that already exists.

I can honestly say that this is one of the first years that I didn’t start with the mindset of “2017 will be the year of me!”  I feel like I’ve undergone more personal growth in the past couple of years and achieved major milestones far beyond where I ever saw myself at this age.  I’m happy.  For me, 2017 is the year of my husband, my family, and my friends. I want to do everything in my POWER this year to help them along the way to finding their own happiness in whichever form they’re seeking.  I’m not at all saying that I have zero goals and I’m striving for nothing, I’m just saying that I’ve been able to identify the things that make me feel the most satisfied and the things that I want to do going forward.  I’m past the figuring out stage which has made me feel as though my path is more clear.  I don’t need to exert energy to drowning out the noise and that has made me feel free to be more creative, more apt to relax in the ways this introvert knows will effectively recharge her and like I have more time to give to others.  I decluttered both physically and mentally in the latter half of 2016.  I don’t feel like I need to be the center of things because I have a firm grasp on where my center is.  I’m more interested in investing my time into the people I love and being able to celebrate their successes with them, knowing that I’ve been there for them when they needed a push.  I’ve always been a quieter person.  I’m a listener who truly hears and my power of observation has always allowed me to see things that others aren’t able to at first glance.  This year, I want to make the most of that skill.

TL;DR – 2017 is about me having the POWER to change the things I want to change, utilize my strengths to the best of my ability, continue to focus on self care, and most importantly, to invest my time and energy into the relationships I hold closest to my heart.

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My Personal Best Nine of 2016 (& a Wedding Photo Collage)!

I wanted to make a personal best nine of 2016 from my iPhone camera roll without relying on the instagram algorithm website everyone has been using in addition to the one I did post on my instagram as well.  I spent about 20 minutes writing this out as a Facebook post, only to have Facebook say “oops! we can’t post this right now” without saving it as a draft or anything.  This served as a clear reminder that this is one of the many reasons I don’t ever use what I consider to be the worst social networking site in existence.  But, it also resulted in me capturing my thoughts in a blog post instead so that’s the silver lining.  Anyway, here are some of my favorite moments with explanations of why! Thanks to all of the people who made my year so wonderful<3

  1. Reunited with Melissa<3 I miss Mel so much since she’s moved to Texas but I’m thankful that I get to “see” her at least once a month when we host our Spines with Wines book club with Cassie.  We honestly have even more fun afterwards just sipping our wine and catching up on life stuff :-D I really hope we get to see each other in person much more this year but I’m thankful that the distance between us hasn’t impacted our friendship at all.  We’re both here for each other no matter what happens and neither of us ever doubt the strength of our friendship.
  2. This photo was taken when Andrew and I went to Baltimore Comic Con.  It was such a lovely trip and we had even more fun exploring Baltimore than we did at the convention!  I’ve always wanted to go to the aquarium there and viewing the jellyfish was a dream come true since Princess Jellyfish has turned me into a little bit of a jellyfish otaku.
  3. This is one of my favorite photos ever taken of my mom and I! Even better that it’s on my wedding day! It’s such a lovely candid because it perfectly captures the immense amount of happiness we were all feeling that day.  My mom is the strongest, most amazing woman I have ever met and I cannot even describe all the ways she inspires me.  We talk every single day and my relationship with her (and my dad!) has been one of the most important in my life.  I am so thankful for our bond and I’m praying for a healthier 2017 for my mom<3
  4. This photo was taken after my birthday brunch on the Lower East Side.  I don’t usually plan anything but I was so excited to get together with all of the incredible people in my life!  My brother Bob, his amazing girlfriend Amanda, my bestie Cassie and my loving new family- Brittany, Molly, Kristin and Joe<3- all made my day into one of the best of the year!
  5. My first experience ever at the Renaissance Faire was even more magical than I ever could’ve imagined.  Stepping into the faire is like being transported to another time period.  I had so much fun drinking mead, watching acrobats and trying on floral crowns with Andrew, Kelly and Gil! I’m so thankful to have gotten much closer to Kelly and Gil this year.  They’re wonderful people who share my love of Harry Potter<3  Kelly took this photo of Andrew and I on the kissing bridge!
  6. This photo was taken at Andrew and I’s combined bachelor / bachelorette party weekend.  Amanda, Melissa, Greg and Joe worked so hard to give us the best weekend ever and I love that our bridal parties were able to meet and get to know each other before the big day.  Some people have even remained friends and it’s so much fun to see the mini-reunions at different events that we’ve gone to since our wedding!
  7. Cassie and I always have so much fun at the book launches for Melissa’s Girl at Midnight series at Books of Wonder in NYC (and not just because there’s always cupcakes and champagne!).  It’s been amazing to see such a wonderful person share her work with the world and I cannot wait to read / celebrate The Savage Dawn in 2017!
  8. This photo was also taken at my birthday brunch but I just had to include ice cream on here somewhere.  It’s from 10Below which is a place that was on my NYC bucket list so I’m thrilled we were able to try it out!
  9. And lastly (in this list, even though I struggled because there were SO many moments I wanted to include) is a photo of me in front of my pride and joy.  Now that Andrew and I are settled in our space, there’s nothing that makes me happier than being able to admire my bookshelves in a wide open space.  And in this photo I’m reading one of my favorite books of the year and wearing my favorite sweater ever because foxes are the best.

And here’s a little wedding collage to commemorate the most important day of my 2016<3 Do I win the award for most bridesmaids ever?

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Tea & Book Chat: Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson & Robin Wasserman

I realize I will have to format this review a bit differently, otherwise it would go on forever! I’m not going to be giving a synopsis for each of the short stories but I will give you a brief glimpse of my feelings for each.  Overall, I didn’t love this as much as I was hoping to.  Everyone on the internet seems to the think that it is extremely important to read these stories before starting Lady Midnight and while there were a couple of plot points that are definitely important, I didn’t really think it added much to the story overall.  Although I am curious if my opinion will change after I read Lady Midnight so stay tuned!  I like the overall story arc (SPOILERS FOR THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES AHEAD SO BEWARE): and that it follows Simon during his time at the Shadowhunter Academy leading up to his Ascension.  Like most short story collections, there were some that were great and others that were okay.  If I can give you one piece of advice, it’s to avoid the Goodreads synopses for each story because they basically tell you exactly what you’ll be reading.  Here’s my breakdown:

Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #1) by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

This story serves as an introduction to the Academy and Simon’s new life training to be a Shadowhunter.  I was a bit disappointed with this first story because while I felt that there was some foundation laid, it was a bit boring overall.  Upon finishing, I found myself hoping that the next 600 pages in this book would be more action-packed.

The Lost Herondale (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #2) by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

This second tale held a lot of promise for me because of the title alone (I love those Herondales)!  This one ended up being a bit heartbreaking. It’s a prime example of the Shadowhunter motto of “the law is hard, but it is the law.”  I liked this one overall, especially Catarina Loss’s portion but it was not my favorite of the bunch.

The Whitechapel Fiend (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #3) Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson

I definitely liked the stories that Maureen Johnson co-wrote more than any of the other co-author’s works.  This story actually is my favorite for several reasons.  1) We get another Infernal Devices tale which just warms my heart and 2) it involved Jack the Ripper! I’ve read the first two books in Maureen Johnson’s Jack the Ripper series as well and I love that she got to revisit the famous murderer and come up with yet another outcome of the story.  I’m assuming this was fun for her to co-write since she already had done so much research on the backstory.

Nothing But Shadows (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #4) by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

Again, this story was okay.  I didn’t feel that it added much to the Shadowhunter mythos despite the Will Herondale cameo.  It focused primarily on Will’s son and how he met his parabati.  I imagine this was included since Cassandra Clare seems to be exploring parabati more in depth than she did in the original series.  I do love the concept and I’m glad this relationship will play a bigger part in Lady Midnight but I didn’t really need this story.  I also enjoyed Simon’s character development as he decides what type of Shadowhunter he wants to be.

The Evil We Love (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #5) by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

This story also seemed unnecessary to me.  I enjoyed the present day antics between Isabelle and Simon but the history of Valentine’s circle was something I enjoyed reading about less than I had expected.  I suppose I wouldn’t mind reading Jocelyn’s take on everything since her perspective changed much earlier than other Circle members, but I didn’t find that Robert’s tale made me feel any type of sympathy toward him for the way he treated Alec.

Pale Kings and Princes (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #6) by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

This one didn’t do much for me.  I liked the twist at the end and the look into the lives of Helen Blackthorn’s parents, but I didn’t think it was enough to warrant an entire story.

Bitter of Tongue (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #7) by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

My favorite part of this story was getting to see more about Andrew Blackthorn.  He played a small but majorly significant role in City of Heavenly Fire and I’ve definitely been curious about his fate.  My heart hurts for him and I really hope that Lady Midnight could offer some type of resolution for his situation.  He is truly awesome.  Again, didn’t add much overall, but I did enjoy this one at least!

The Fiery Trial (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #8) by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson

This one is another favorite of the bunch which I’m sure you can guess judging by the co-writer!  I think this is the most important story within the whole novella collection because it addresses the ending of City of Heavenly Fire and it sets up the Lady Midnight protagonists (Emma and Julian) as parabati.  I think Simon’s revelations during the ceremony are going to play a huge role in the Dark Artifices series and I love the outcome of his and Clary’s meeting with Magnus Bane.  This story made me so happy!

Born to Endless Night (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #9) by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

This story is completely outlandish.  Obviously I love seeing more Magnus and Alec and oh the feels because they are perfect but nope, this just came out of left field. Why? WHY?!

Angels Twice Descending (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #10) by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

This is the only story that I read the Goodreads synopsis for and boy am I upset that I made that choice!  Once I knew the premise and exactly what was going to happen minus the actual character names I knew exactly what would be happening to who.  It was still sad and it broke my heart but I found this to be quite predictable.

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Tea & Book Chat: Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein

Personal Thoughts:  After reading Caraval and Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy, I was really craving a solid contemporary read.  I tend to like switching up genres often so after so much time in other worlds, I felt ready to revisit our own.  I had remembered that Alexa and Rachel both enjoyed reading Shuffle, Repeat and so I plucked it from my shelf and settled in for a cute fluffy romance.  Shuffle, Repeat delivered exactly what I was craving and it has since become one of my favorite contemporary YA novels in existence.  Fun fact: Jen Klein is a writer for Grey’s Anatomy– which is a show many people love but I could only handle watching the first episode of because medical procedures do not sit well with me.  It makes no sense because give me a gory show like Dexter where people are murdered and I’m fine but start operating on someone in my television and my body will begin to involuntarily shake with aversion.

Plot Summary: June is a senior in high school with no license and no plan to learn to drive.  Her mother and she move into a new house, close to her mom’s best friend who just so happens to be the mother of Oliver, your typical all-American high school football playing jock.  The mom’s arrange a carpool for Oliver to pick June up and drive her each morning only they quickly realize they have opposite outlooks on likes, completely different tastes in music and they clash on just about everything imaginable.  The pair decide to make their mornings more bearable by entering into a bet; each time one of them is able to provide sufficient evidence that high school doesn’t matter (June) or is a pivotal time in your life (Oliver), they’re able to add a song to the morning playlist.  Then they shuffle and repeat.

Critique: Shuffle, Repeat is a wonderfully crafted slow burn romance.  The pitch accurately compares it to When Harry Met Sally because of the opposites attract factor.  In the beginning of the novel, both June and Oliver are dating other people and neither feels jealousy toward the other which I absolutely adore.  Love rooted in friendship is a recipe for success in my opinion so to watch these two characters with such opposing viewpoints find common ground and form a bond of friendship before any romance is on the table is so satisfying and believable.  Another aspect of the book that I really appreciated is that (for the most part) people aren’t confined to a single social group.  Sure, everyone has their immediate group of friends but it’s not unusual for some people to bounce between groups.  Everything about all of the characters (both main and side) felt very organic and real.  One of June’s best friends is gay and another is bisexual and it’s never treated as out of the ordinary or as a coming out story.  They just are who they are, no questions asked.  Klein also explores both June and Oliver’s relationships with their parents which I love to read about because family is such a focal point of youth that can often be overlooked in YA.  Lastly, the polar viewpoints on the importance of high school were so interesting to read about.  It really got me to think about my own experience compared to where I am now, how the past has shaped me and my own mindset throughout it all.

Do I Recommend?: Yes indeed! If you enjoy contemporary romances like Anna and the French Kiss or To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before I would definitely suggest checking this one out!

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