‘Tis the Season: Not-So-Secret Santa Mini Challenge

I was so excited when I saw Alexa Loves Books’s Christmas mini challenge! It’s called the Not-So-Secret Santa Mini Challenge and if you win, you get $25 worth of books from either Amazon or Book Depository!  The challenge is to pick a book character (or several book characters) and tell what you would give them for Christmas!

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Alexa already came up with some great ideas in her post so I’m going to try my best to pick different characters but there is one repeat I couldn’t resist (cough Lara Jean cough).  Here are the top 5 characters I would love to buy Christmas presents for!  Which book characters would you love to shop for if you could?

Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han)

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Lara Jean loves baking just as much as I do so shopping for her would be so much fun.  I think she would adore this pastel pink KitchenAid mixer because it would make her life easier and it completely matches her aesthetic.  Plus, a KitchenAid mixer is the ultimate baker’s dream tool.  I think Peter K. would appreciate this gift too because it would mean more sweets for him!

Cath (Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell)

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Cath is a writer through and through and if there’s one thing a writer always needs (besides a pen), it’s a place to write down their ideas.  I think Cath would really like these flowery Rifle Paper Co. notebooks.  She could keep them with her when she’s traveling back home to visit her dad or when she’s sitting in class so if a Simon and Baz idea comes to her she can jot it down without having to fear it being lost.

Anna (Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins)

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Anna is obsessed with film and writing movie reviews.  It would be easy to get her a notebook as well, or something banana to add to her collection, but I think she would really enjoy this film projector necklace by Betsey Johnson.  It seems like something she wouldn’t think to buy for herself but it would allow her to incorporate her favorite hobby into her everyday wardrobe.

Echo (The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey)

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Echo is a girl after my own heart because she shares an affinity for good food.  We already know she loves macarons and I think it would brighten her holiday to get a giant custom box full of her favorite flavors.  Echo is really busy trying to figure out how to stop the war between the Avicen and the Drakhar so she doesn’t have the most time to be stopping to think about food and she can eat these macarons on the go.

Hermione (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling)

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Hermione is everyone’s favorite bookworm and what’s better to gift a bookworm than a set of collectible books?  I think Hermione would appreciate this gorgeous collectible set of the Penguin Drop Caps editions and they would look lovely arranged in a central area on her bookshelf to brighten up the area where her neutral colored magic books are displayed.

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Kristin

5 Fandom Friday: Holiday Recommendations

For this week’s 5 Fandom Friday I decided to throw together a little hodgepodge of my favorite holiday recommendations in 5 different categories.  I’m going to be doing a book specific holiday recommendations post next week so I thought it would be nice to compile my top favorite favorites here today.

5 Fandom Friday

1) Book – My True Love Gave To Me – This book is full of short stories set during the holidays.  It’s perfect to read during the season when you can’t devote as much time to reading a full blown novel.  I read it last year and really enjoyed it and I’m planning on re-reading it this year and writing a full review of each tale!

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2) Cookie – Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies – My mom makes these every year and I have never been able to resist them when they’re just sitting there on our table basically begging to be eaten.  It’s essentially a shortbread cookie with a scoop of raspberry jam in the middle.  I’m a sucker for raspberry anything so these have always been my holiday favorite!

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3) Drink – Gluhwein – It’s been a tradition in my family since long before I was born for my grandfather to make a huge batch of gluhwein.  It’s a mulled wine (full of tons of liquor) and can be garnished with a cinnamon stick or orange slices. It’s so delightful to warm up a cup on a freezing cold winter night and sip it while reading or watching tv.  Luckily, my grandfather has been teaching my dad and brother to brew his version for the past few years so the recipe will continue to be passed down throughout our family.

Two glasses of  mulled wine on german christkindl markt

 4) Song – Baby It’s Cold Outside – I just adore this song.  Paticularly, the She & Him version.  I play this on repeat without ever feeling the slightest bit sick of it and I love singing along and switching parts or singing both by myself if I’m alone.  Zooey’s vocals are so beautiful<3

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5) Movie – Elf – Elf is one holiday movie that I watch year round.  I love everything about it! The humor, the positive Christmas spirit message it sends and obviously Buddy’s enthusiasm and eating habits.  Andrew and I have been quoting Elf to each other since we met (a sure sign of true love if you ask me).

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BONUS

Decorations – Rolf’s – Andrew and I went to Rolf’s for the first time last year.  We spent at least 1.5 hours (it honestly could’ve been more) waiting outside in the freezing cold December weather just for the opportunity to get inside.  Rolf’s takes Christmas decorations to a whole other level.  It’s like Christmas exploded inside.  Plus, there’s gluhwein!  We’re definitely planning on going back this year because despite the wait, the experience was just perfect.

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss #3)

**Warning! If you haven’t read Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door which are the first and second book in the Anna and the French Kiss companion trilogy by Stephanie Perkins, there will be spoilers ahead.  You can read my review of the first book, and the second book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins is the third and final book in the Anna and the French Kiss companion series.  I was hesitant going into the book because of the mixed reviews I had read but I feel awful for ever having doubted Stephanie Perkins because I really loved everything about Isla and Josh!  In fact, my final ranking of the series in order of favorite to least favorite is 1. Anna, 2. Isla and 3. Lola.  I’m honestly devastated that this series is over and I’m really hoping Stephanie Perkins will revist the world she created whether it be as short stories or further books following other secondary characters (particularly Meredith).

I went into Isla and the Happily Ever After expecting a formulaic third couple with the romance following the suit of Anna and Lola but this was the first of the pleasant surprises I encountered while reading.  Isla and Josh become a couple very quickly.  Instead of spending the majority of the book chasing each other, they’re clear on their feelings from the beginning and the reader is able to enjoy many more of the awww moments between them.  I really enjoyed spending less pages on the build up and more on the actual relationship.  Of course there are doubts and angst as with any high school romance, but I thought each character’s concerns were valid.  I also really loved that while the book is about the love between Isla and Josh, it’s also largely a story about each of the characters figuring out what they want in life.  Josh is certain of his future and Isla is anything but.  Also notable are the secondary characters, particularly Isla’s best friend Kurt.  Kurt is mildly autistic and since he hasn’t perfected social cues, he’s Isla’s complete voice of reason and truth, even when it’s not what she wants to hear.

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The second surprise I encountered is that I had expected the majority of the book to take place in New York City because of the cover which depicts the NYC skyline and the fact that Anna focused on Pairs and Lola on San Francisco (with their covers each depicting the correlating skyline).  However, Isla and Josh largely took place in Paris as well.  And at the same high school Anna and Etienne attended.  You may remember their artistic friend Josh would dated Rashmi?  Well, that’s the same Josh who woos Isla.  Isla is briefly mentioned in Anna as well but I honestly never would’ve put those pieces together if it hadn’t been spelled out for me.  Part of my love for this book is because of all of the interconnectivity between past characters. While there is less physical involvement of past characters (until one part which just melted my heart and made me sob in public), their spiritual presence is of the upmost significance.

Final Thoughts: I am so sad this series is over and I absolutely forsee myself re-reading all three companion novels by Stephanie Perkins.  Isla and the Happily Ever After is exactly that.  I adored the romance between Isla and Josh and I was immediately drawn to each of their characters as individuals.  It’s exciting to revisit the school in Paris that started it all and experience the interconnectedness between each tale.  Overall, I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After and I would urge anyone who has heard negative reviews to ignore those!

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Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series. (via Goodreads)

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Kristin

Bout of Books: Wanderlust – Day 1 Challenge

This is my first time participating in Bout of Books and I’m going to make an effort to post the daily challenges throughout the week! This morning I posted my TBR – I’m aiming for 4 books in total but I’ll be happy with 3 as well.  The first day challenge is hosted by Leann @ Between Library Shelves and the topic is Fictional World Travel.  Participants are supposed to choose 3 to 6 books that are set in countries other than your own, display your choices in a creative way and share them on Leann’s blog.  Below are some of my favorite books that have given me a case of wanderlust!

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Paris Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
London A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Venice – The Magician King by Lev Grossman
PragueDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Japan Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa
London – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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Kristin

#LoveAThon Mini-challenge #3: One Can Only Quote

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 I love this challenge that Alexa came up with for the Book Blogger Love-A-Thon!  It’s the third mini challenge of the day (I didn’t participate in the book spine poetry challenge because I’m apparently awful at that or the second challenge, bookish Valentine’s because I’ve been filming BookTube videos all afternoon with Melissa Grey), but I’m back for the One Can Only Quote challenge!  In this post I’ll be sharing some of my favorite love quotes from some of my favorite books.  Leave some of your favorites in the comments below!

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellairia

“When we are in love, we are both completely in danger and completely saved.”

“There are a lot of human experiences that challenge the limits of our language,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons that we have poetry.”

2Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

 

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The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

“… if you’re someone who knows the worst thing can happen at any time, aren’t you also someone who knows the best thing can happen at any time too?”

“I know the expression love bloomed is metaphorical, but in my heart in this moment, there is one badass flower, captured in time-lapse photography, going from bud to wild radiant blossom in ten seconds flat.”

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Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

“For the two of us, home isn’t a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.”

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Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

“When it’s right, it’s simple.”

“And if I’m the stars, Cricket Bell is entire galaxies.”

Lola and the boy next door

Looking for Alaska

“So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”

“When I look at my room, I see a girl who loves books.”

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Tea & Book Chat: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss #1)

I’ve been reading these books in order (I still have to read Isla and the Happily Ever After but I also have to wait for the paperback because I’m OCD about my book buying), but I’m reviewing them out of order.  Anna and the French Kiss is the first book by Stephanie Perkins in her companion trilogy but I’ve already written about the second book, Lola and the Boy Next Door.  Both stories are contemporary young adult and if you’re in the mood for a great slow burn romance, prepare to swoon.  I actually preferred Anna to Lola, but only ever so slightly.  And I think it’s because of the setting.  Anna’s story takes place in Paris which is the city of love and a place I’ve always dreamed of visiting.  She gets sent to boarding school and throughout the novel she explores the city while gradually falling for Etienne St. Clair.  And oh my goodness, the feels I have for this boy. *fans self*

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 A big reason of why I fell in love with St. Clair is because he’s such a real teenage boy.  There are things he does which make me want to shake him and scream “NO! STOP!” in his face until he handles some of his emotions better.  I also really appreciated how long it took for the Anna and St. Clair to acknowledge their feelings towards one another.  They connected deeply and formed a strong friendship because they bonded over a mutual love of the arts (Anna for films and St. Clair for art).  Anna was also authentically teenage and I appreciated her quirks (like her OCD neatness which I can relate to).  She’s very shy but she’s also sarcastic so her internal monologue is really pleasing to be part of.  I love that Anna is so passionate about films and I can relate to her wanting to see as many as possible and continue to improve the way she writes reviews.

Anna and the French Kiss is packed with swoonworthy moments and a healthy dose of drama.  It didn’t feel like the drama was overly dramatic or too romantic-comedy like.  It’s a very natural progression for the story to flow into.  I was absolutely rooting for Anna and Etienne since the moment they became friends and Stephanie Perkins’ story left me feeling oh so satisfied.  I am even considering re-reading the book soon.

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Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming,beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? (via Goodreads)

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Top 10 Books

I decided to split my top books of 2014 into two categories as well.  I think it would be a shame to leave out some of my favorite things this year just because they hadn’t been published in 2014.  For a more in depth look into my reading habits and tastes this year, you can view my end of year book survey!  And Don’t forget to check out the Top 10 Comics, and Top 10 TV Shows, Top 7 Movies, & Top 5 Broadway/Off Broadway Shows of 2014! What were your favorite books this year?  Is there anything your particularly looking forward to reading in 2015, new or otherwise?

Top 5 Books Published in 2014

1) Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

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2) The Unbound (An Archived Novel) by Victoria Scwab
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3) Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
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4) We Were Liars by E. Lockheart
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5) Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

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Top 5 Books (I Read) in 2014

1) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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2) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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3) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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4) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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5) The Diviners by Libba Bray

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Tea & Book Chat: Lola and the Boy Next Door By Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss #2)

Stephanie Perkins has mastered the modern YA love story.  I read Perkins’ first book in the series, Anna and the French Kiss and I LOVED it to pieces which is why it took me a few months until I felt ready to pick up Lola and the Boy Next Door.  After falling in love with Etienne and Anna, I didn’t think I could feel anywhere near as emotional toward a new pair of characters but boy was I wrong on all accounts!  (And, a MAJOR added bonus for Anna fans is that Perkins incorporated them into the story in a way that totally works!)  The story takes place in San Francisco which is a place I’ve never been but have had an intense desire to visit ever since I started reading the book.

Lola is a fashionably ostentatious teenager with overprotective parents who disapprove of her much-older-and-in-a-rock-band boyfriend who decided not to go to college.  Part of the reason Lola and the Boy Next Door is different than other YA novels is because Lola’s parents play such a huge role in the story.  They make her check in hourly when she’s with Max and they have invoked a standing Sunday brunch date with the pair to keep closer parental watch over them.  I’ll admit, it’s difficult not to like Max initially when learning about his character traits through Lola’s eyes but the feeling QUICKLY fades.  Within the first few pages we find out that her previous neighbors who she’s always DREADED seeing again are moving back into their old house right next door to her.  It doesn’t take long to fall in love with the boy next door despite Lola fighting the feeling for the majority of the book.

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And now, the boy.  Cricket Bell is the teenage heartthrob that girls should be swooning over instead of the stereotypical bad boy.  Cricket is kind.  He genuinely cares about Lola, he would never pressure her into anything, and he’s even willing to talk to her about her issues with Max despite how difficult it is for him to hear.  Cricket gets along with Lindsay (Lola’s Nancy Drew obsessed BFF), AND her parents, and he’s a super intelligent guy that’s passionate about inventing things.

I’ve always geared away from stories that felt purely romantic but Stephanie Perkins has completely changed my mind with her first two books.  Recently, Isla and the Happily Ever After debuted and I’m going to pick it up a lot sooner than I did with Lola.  If you’re looking for a book to devour with a very realistic story and a romance that’ll really pull at your heartstrings, Lola and the Boy Next Door is definitely the way to go.

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5 Fandom Friday: Authors I Would Love To Invite To My Thanksgiving Feast

My how I’ve grown to love Fridays!  First things first: For the past few weeks Megan and I have been working hard to figure out a better system for linking all the 5 Fandom Friday bloggers in one place.  At first I was adding links as they were sent to me but it ended up being really challenging because everyone posts at different times throughout the day and some people don’t even publish their post on Fridays at all (which is totally fine!).  I tend to publish my posts between 6 and 7 am because I have a full time job and it’s not blogging.  So, not being able to update my post with links until Friday evening or the next morning while the links kept building was becoming overwhelming pretty quickly.  The entire purpose of 5 Fandom Friday is to meet other bloggers, make new friends and find some new sites to read in the process which I’m so happy to have done so far!  I’ve added SO many new blogs to my Feedly and made so many new Twitter friends in the process that I’m totally satisfied with the experience so far and I hope you are too!  So enter, ~the new system~.  At the bottom of this post you’ll find a little blue button which allows you to enter the link to your post if you want to share it here (and I certainly hope you do!).  I think this is going to be great and work better for everyone involved.  Also, I just want to thank everyone who reached out to Megan and I with kind and supportive words last week when we were being harassed online.  We both can’t thank everyone enough for your support<3

Now, to my post intro!  This is the first week of 5 Fandom Friday that I’m choosing to use a variation on the topic Megan and I decided upon.  The original topic is Characters I Would Invite To My Thanksgiving Feast but I decided to write about the authors I would love to invite.  I’ve been on such a huge reading kick for the past 4 years (which I suppose classifies as more of a lifestyle choice now?) and there are so many fascinating authors that I would kill a turkey for a chance to dine with.  Plus, I’m really truly thankful for each of the people in this list because each has written something that’s affected me in its own unique way.  So, here they are!

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 7.48.24 AM1.  JK Rowling – If I wouldn’t immediately burst into tears the moment I would be within personal bubble range of JK Rowling, I would have SO many things to tell her I’m thankful for.  Harry Potter has and always will be my number one fandom as I’ve stated repeated online and IRL.  I have formed strong opinions on every single character in the series whether I want to kiss them or send them infinite death glares but no matter what they each make me FEEL something which is so important for writing to do.  Maybe these feelings have stuck with me for so long because I grew up with the characters and my impressions began forming at a young age, but OMG I would be fangirling uncontrollably if JK were sitting at my table.

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2.  Neil Gaiman – The first time I met Neil Gaiman I babbled incoherently until he interrupted me and asked if I needed a hug.  When I met Neil yesterday I immediately went in for a hug and told him how excited I am to see him again and I like to think that the third time is a charm and should I cross paths with him again I would be able to interact like a semi-normal human being.  I find it confounding that Neil Gaiman has the exact same words to work with as everyone else does yet he manages to arrange them in such a captivating manner.  My only tattoo is a symbol from one of his works, my boyfriend and I began our relationship conversing about our mutual love of him, and I have more copies of the same titles of his books than any other author.  Plus, THAT VOICE!  So so so many thanks to Neil for existing and creating a better existence for all of us bibliophiles.

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3.  Victoria Schwab – I started reading Victoria’s Archived series when it debuted and I immediately fell in love with the characters and the world she created.  I still firmly believe that The Unbound is the best sequel I have ever read.  Victoria manages to continue the story in a believable way because the main character is justifiably TRAUMATIZED by the events in the first book and it’s one of the only books I’ve read where the character admits that she’s not okay and realizes that it’s okay to not be okay.  Also, I am in LOVE with Guyliner (read it, you’ll get it!).  Victoria is by far my favorite person to follow on Twitter.  I love her general enthusiasm, the star stickers she places on her calendar for writing and the fact that she’s the same age as me and has written SO MANY BOOKS.  She is a super-human and I would love a chance to interact with her in real life.
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4.  Rainbow Rowell – Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl really tugged at my heartstrings.  Cath was one of the most relatable characters I’ve ever read about and it’s because she is the ultimate Fangirl.  She feels so intensely passionate about a book series similar to Harry Potter (you may catch the relatability here) that she begins writing fan fiction at a young age and establishes herself online as one of the most prominent fanfic writers.  The story takes place when Cath is dealing with a lot of change in her life and I just wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be okay.  And read more of her fanfiction!  I’m thankful to Rainbow for writing such a compelling story about a fan and for crafting a story about fanfiction because it’s interesting to see an author justify it.
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5.  Stephanie Perkins – I recently just finished reading Lola and the Boy Next Door and I read Anna and the French Kiss a few months ago and holy cow I experienced all the feelings from both of these stories.  Anna and Etienne and Lola and Cricket are matches made in heaven and I cannot even describe how enthusiastically I jumped up and down when Anna and Etienne appeared in Lola and Cricket’s story.  Stephanie Perkins seriously knows how to write a love story.  There were even times where I thought I was going to burst into tears because of how much I was rooting for certain characters to get together.  If you haven’t read them yet, DO IT!
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PAST & UPCOMING TOPICS

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November 21st: Characters I Would Invite To My Thanksgiving Feast
November 28th: Black Friday Purchases I Would Sacrifice A Night Of Sleep For
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December 5th – My Favorite Holiday Songs To Spread Cheer
December 12th – Presents I Want Santa To Bring Me
December 19th – My Must See List of Christmas Movies
December 26th – New Years Blogging Resolutions
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January 2nd – New Years Fandom Resolutions
January 9th – My Favorite Things About Winter
January 16th – Conventions I’ve Been To Or Wish To Attend
January 23rd – Songs That Changed My Life
January 30th – Favorite Fandom Accessories I Own
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