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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December Disney Dare – #DisneyDare

Two blog posts in one week, crazy right?! My friend Chris (who happens to be the amazing designer behind my blog!) and I decided to team up to host a Disney movie challenge for December. We’re both avid Disney fans and we’ve both been to Disney World in the past couple of months and we wanted to make an effort to watch as many Disney films as possible in the next month.  Then we decided it would be fun to open up our challenge to anyone who wants to participate along with us!  I’m so excited to immerse myself in some of my favorite classics (particularly Beauty and the Beast’s Enchanted Christmas because December) in the upcoming weeks and I hope you’ll join us as well.  You can read all the rules below and see Chris’s magical graphic!

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The Dates: Runs from December 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016 (Movies watched prior to December 1st do not count for the challenge).  You’re able to join anytime throughout the month and the link-up will be open through December 31st.

The Dare: To watch as many Disney / Pixar animated films as possible!  Maybe you’ve missed out on a recent film or two? Well, this is the perfect opportunity to play some catch up!  Maybe you’ve always wanted to watch the films in chronological order? (if so, here’s a handy list of all of Disney’s animated theatrical films in order of release date)  Or perhaps you want to spend your holiday season reliving your favorite magical Disney moments?  If any (or all) of these challenges peak your interest, then we dare you!

The Details: This is a low-key challenge for all the Disney lovers out there so you can feel free to set your own goal or aim for one of our tiers:

1 – 4 films – Moana (Newbie Disney Fan)

5 – 8 films – Aurora (Rather be Sleeping Disney Fan)

9 – 12 films – Stitch (Crazy for Disney Fan)

13 – 16 – Ariel (Disney Film Hoarding Fan)

17 – 20 films – Rapunzel (Diligent Disney Fan)

21+ films – Snow White (Ultimate Disney Fan)

The Deal: Films that qualify for this challenge encompass all of the animated Disney and Pixar films.  Live action films and Marvel films do not count for this challenge.

You can join in the challenge by entering the link-up below!  If you don’t have a blog, you can also declare your intent to participate on Twitter and enter the link up that way.

And don’t forget to use the hashtag #DisneyDare when tweeting about your progress or while reviewing any films to connect with other Disney fans!

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December 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!

November Check-In

1) Keep up with November Bookstagram challenges – Check! I pulled the info for a total of 5 challenges and while I didn’t post a photo for each challenge every single day (that honestly would’ve been way to overwhelming for everyone) I did manage to consistently post photos at least 5-6 times per week so I am pleased!

2) Blog 2-3 times per week – FAIL! But I feel confident that I’ll be back on track in December because nothing motivates me like Christmas.

3) Try to reduce stress – Check! I had a 9 day long vacation so I’m sure that also factored into my calmness but I’ve been pretty even keeled this past month and I’m hoping I’ll maintain this feeling through the holiday season (despite anticipating fighting through tourists daily on my walk to work).

P.S. this is my favorite sweater ever

December Goals

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

TL;DR – Two out of three ain’t bad.

What are your goals?

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‘Tis the Season: Christmas Aesthetic

As you probably remember, Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  I basically spend every day after my birthday counting down for Halloween to be over because once November 1st hits, people start accepting my Christmas spirit (except for a couple of Thanksgiving enthusiasts who I will fight *I’m looking at you Kelly*).  This year is extra special because it’s Andrew and I’s first Christmas together in our own apartment so we get to start building our very own decor.  We’re planning on going to Target next weekend, picking up our choices and D E C O R A T I N G !  Obviously this meant that I spent about 4 hours looking at ever single Christmas item in every single Christmas category on the Target website.  Since I wanted so much (shocking, I know), I created a Christmas registry so I could easily reference it while we’re in the store and I was able to narrow down the things I think we need a bit.  I put together a Polyvore set of some of my favorite items because nothing makes me happier than publishing Christmas themed blog posts or YouTube videos.  Last year I did 25 days of Christmas blogging which I don’t *think* I’ll be able to manage this year but I am sure as heck going to try.  Enjoy and be merry!

Christmas Decor

 

Christmas Decor by superspacechick

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