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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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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Waiting on Wednesday: The Ends of the World (The Conspiracy of Us #3) by Maggie Hall

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly awaiting.  This week I’m choosing The Ends of the World by Maggie Hall which is the third and final book in The Conspiracy of Us trilogy.  The series is often referred to as The Da Vinci Code for teens… except it’s really good!  The first book wasn’t my favorite but the second definitely upped the stakes and I love the turn the the story took.  If you’ve read the first two books, you’ll also know that the title of the third is very appropriate.  Previously, each book debuted in January but the finale has been pushed back to mid-July of 2017.  I’m kind of excited to have this to look forward to mid-year since January is usually a pretty big month for book releases.  And I love the new cover.  The purple dress is so pretty!

The Circle is hers.

But Avery West has lost everything else: her mother, the family she’d just found, and the one boy she trusted. In their place are unfathomable power, a staged relationship that makes her question every real feeling she’s ever had, and a mission to find the cure to the virus that’s made her own blood a weapon.

Then disaster strikes, turning Avery, Stellan, Jack, and Elodie into the most wanted people in the world. To clear their names and the growing rift between the families of the Circle before the world dissolves into World War Three, they’ll have to make a desperate, dangerous final race for Alexander the Great’s tomb. What they will find inside will mean the world’s salvation—or destruction.

Avery will have to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice—for the world, for family, and for love—in this thrilling conclusion to the Conspiracy of Us series. (via Goodreads)

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Little Loves #8: Holiday Edition

Hi everyone! I’m back with my next installment of Little Loves.  Little Loves is a post series I created as a way to acknowledge and appreciate more of the little things that are making me happy every day.

💖 the Empire Magazine Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them special edition magazine which plays two videos! Thanks to my friend Dan for bringing it to me from the UK 💖 flannel Christmas tree sheets from Target- they’re so cozy that I never want to leave my bed in the morning! 💖 all the candles- bookish candles, Christmas candles, you name it, I love it 💖 burning my gingerbread Anthropologie candle on my night table while reading and admiring the reflection of our fairy lights! 💖 Caraval by Stephanie Garber- this book is pure ~magic~ 💖 peppermint everything but especially peppermint Ghiradelli products 💖 the hot chocolate bar at Erika and Alex’s Ugly Christmas Sweater party 💖 Maureen visiting NYC and finally getting to meet her IRL 💖 everything plaid and rustic and cozy and copper 💖 Moscow Mule mugs because they’re rose gold and beautiful and I even drink water out of them at this point 💖 snow! 💖 Christmas decorations 💖 spending a day in a recording studio helping our brother-in-law and sis-in-law record music 💖 mulled wine 💖 mini vacations and all the family time 💖 not being in the middle of any tv shows- I feel so free to be productive and do other things when I get home 💖 Harry X-Mas to You- Andrew did all the art for my Funko video and I’m so thankful I was able to participate this year! 💖 the KonMari method – my apartment looks like a whole new place and I’ve loved every outfit I’ve worn and night I’ve spent reading in my decluttered room since I employed her principles 💖

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Tea & Book Chat: Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Untitled #1)

Personal Thoughts: It’s been so long since I’ve written a book review since I’ve been giving all of my recaps on my BookTube channel at the end of the month but I really wanted to get back into them and it seemed perfect to do so with Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  Caraval is without a doubt, a new favorite of mine.  I love it so much that I preordered an additional copy once I was less than five chapters in.  I’ve been talking about this book on my channel for quite some time- it was my most anticipated read from BEA but I somehow put it off until recently and I’m so happy that I did! While I would’ve loved to welcome this story in my heart earlier than I did, it was quite nice to read it with all of the lights, scents and general coziness that the magic of Christmastime provided as a backdrop.

Plot SummaryCaraval is the the story of Scarlet and her sister Tella who live on a conquered island with an abusive father.  Having heard tales of the magic of Caraval, a traveling immersive performance that occurs annually, from their Grandmother, the girls both write to Legend, the mastermind behind the game.  After years of unanswered letters, Scarlett finally receives a response along with three tickets to this year’s game- one for Scarlett, one for Tella and one for Scarlett’s fiance.  When Scarlett arrives on the island, she discovers that this year’s game hits very close to home as her sister Tella has been kidnapped and the object of the game is to find her before the other participants she’s competing with.  Participants are reminded two times before the games begin that everything occurring in Caraval is just a game and to not get swept away no matter how real things feel.  But really, is it?

CritiqueCaraval is one of the most sensory reads I’ve ever had the pleasure of diving into.  I’m basically obsessed with the descriptive language Stephanie Garber used and I’m still amazed that she was able to so perfectly capture and relay the experience of Caraval to the reader.  There was not a single drop of magic lost in translation.  Each of our three main characters (Scarlett, Julian and Tella) were so well developed that they felt like actual people.  The story is told from Scarlett’s perspective and the amount of character growth she underwent throughout the game is overwhelming.  I love reading about characters who live within a set of boundaries, often self inflicted, who then break out and challenge their norms and Scarlett fit this description to a T.  Despite Tella being kidnapped and therefore absent from the majority of the novel, I still had no trouble knowing her character.  She is just as developed as her sister who graces every page.  And then there’s Julian, to trust him or not to trust him?  Either side you fall on, you will inevitably fall victim to his charm.  As for side characters, everyone is important and I especially love the air of mystery surrounding Legend.  I became so intrigued with the story and so addicted to Scarlett solving the cryptic clues and finding her sister that I can honestly say I let Caraval sweep me away (I even had to text Alexa at the climax of the story since she had finished earlier for moral support because I was laying in bed screaming WHAT IS REAL LIFE?!?!).  Another incredible selling point of Caraval is that despite it being labeled as the first book in a series (THANK GOD BECAUSE I NEED MORE) the story wraps up very nicely.  There’s no cliffhanger ending that leaves you dying for answers BUT there is an intriguing piece of information that you’ll be eager to explore.

Do I Recommend?: A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

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Coming Soon: Revamped Book Reviews!

Okay, so, I’m just going to come out and say it… it’s been FOREVER since I’ve written a book review.  I’ve still been recapping all of my thoughts for BookTube and I did several video reviews for the first time since I started my channel but I’ve been feeling like something is missing.  I realized that I truly miss writing down all of my feelings about the books I read.  I love the process of reflecting upon the story and carefully choosing the correct words to convey those feelings I have to everyone who reads my blog.  I enjoy reading other book blogger’s reviews and I’m excited to get back into the game with a new revamped strategy for posting reviews.  Since this is MY blog (no offense, I love you but I do this for me ultimately!) I love adding a bit of personal commentary but I also struggle with doing so in a written review because a lot of the time, readers are looking for fact based opinion to help them determine if they want to read the book or not and I also want to provide that.  So, going forward I think I was able to find a good balance!

I’m going to be breaking down my reviews into sections for “Personal Thoughts:” – these will be a mish-mosh of thoughts, opinions, feelings and outside factors that influenced my choice in reading the book, any background info I feel like sharing about how I acquired it (don’t worry, it will always clearly state if I’ve received an ARC), whether there’s a specific cover that speaks to me more than others and just the general ambiance of my reading experience.  Next I’ll delve into a “Plot Summary” – while I did include the Goodreads plot summary in my previous reviews, I’m going to try my hand at summarizing on my own (unless I’m feeling super lazy for some reason or if I feel like Goodreads really does say it better than I can in my own words).  After I will provide my “Critique” – this will be the actual review portion where I’ll talk about all the elements I use to rate books which include plot, characters, pacing, enjoyment and writing style.  Then finally, I’ll end with “Do I Recommend?” which seems pretty self explanatory.  I hope you enjoy this new format!

I’m still planning on infusing my channel with some more video reviews but I may just review certain books both ways which is what I’ve done in the past.  Oh and best of all (IMO), I’m going to start using images I’ve taken as opposed to a boring graphic of the cover.  I seem to take lots of photos of the books I’m currently reading (especially if I’m loving them) since they’re the most easily accessible and it’s almost like a book photo diary of sorts.  I’ll also still be using the rating system that Andrew created for me because it’s beautiful and I love it and how could I not?  I hope you like my new system!

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‘Tis the Season: Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

This past weekend Andrew and I attended an ugly Christmas sweater party at our friend’s Erika and Alex’s apartment and it was so much fun! I’ve always wanted to attend one of these for as long as I can remember and the fact that it took place on SantaCon weekend as an anti-SantaCon Christmas gathering made it even better! There were so many festive treats (Erika made the most amazing sangria I have ever tasted- it was literally Christmas in a cup), there were ugly Christmas sweater cookies that were bigger than my head, and a plethora of other Christmas cookies! We also had a contest and Andrew ended up winning for ugliest Christmas sweater! I voted for our friend Gil because I love Christmas sweaters and I thought her’s was the cutest!  We also took a bunch of group photos and it was just so nice to relax near a gorgeous Christmas tree with good company ^.^

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‘Tis the Season: We’re All Decorated for Christmas!

This Christmas is a really special one because it’s Andrew and I’s first married Christmas in our very own apartment with no roommates.  As you’re all probably aware, Christmas is a ~big deal~ to me so I’ve been extra looking forward to this one.  It was honestly even more exciting than I imagined it would be to decide upon on Christmas decor and pick out the decorations that spoke to my heart the most!  Since this is our first Christmas, we aren’t bogged down with sentimental ornaments from years past and while I expect that we will inevitably add some of those to our collection as the years pass, I’m so excited to have a fresh start and a tree that I completely love every ornament on.  I always enjoyed my parent’s decorations but I could definitely do without the sports, cars and Elvis ornaments.  I was adamant about putting our tree up as soon as possible because I want to enjoy the season to the fullest.  Before my mini vacation, I took to reading before work in our living room while sipping a cup of hot chai and now I’ll be able to do that beside a twinkling tree and it’s just delightful!  Plus, I’ve fallen in love with my apartment after using the KonMari method (post about that coming next week!).  Anyway, here’s our tree, our table and our stockings! Have you decorated for Christmas yet?

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