Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Marauders: Trip to Salem

The Marauders is a feature where Book Yabber, Marci from The Plot Bunny and I will showcase our bookish adventures around New England. Whether it is a bookstore or a library, we wanted to discover new places to share with the bookish community. We each took an Animagus form. Can you guess who is who and what animal is each person's Animagus?

On Saturday, April 16th, Marci, Elizabeth and I met up in Salem, MA. Salem is known for the Salem Witch Trials but is also know for other things. Salem is rich in history and has some of the best shops and restaurants around. Red's Sandwich Shop, which is one of the best places for breakfast in Salem. Seriously, this is where the locals go. I ended up getting a delicious Eggs Florentine.

After a delicious brunch, the Marauders decided to venture to The Trolley Depot, which is a good place to check out fandom mugs, Salem related souvenirs and more. Wicked Good Books is the local bookstore in Salem. They have new and used books and once in awhile, they host author events. Elizabeth, Marci and I were fortunate to attend the Halloween Teen Scream event back in October at the Hawthorne Hotel. If you can't find a title that you're looking for, Wicked Good Books will be happy to place an order for you.

The Coven's Cottage is the place to go for your apothecary needs. From Nettle to Mandrake root, you can pretty much find anything you need for a spell or potions. The Marble Faun Books & Gifts is a cute little store full of books and gifts. We definitely found a lot of bunnies around the town. Marci has been counting how many bunnies are in Salem and this is definitely a place to find a bunch of bunnies. However, we did find a place that has a room full of bunnies but more about that later.

Afterwards, we ended up taking photos of Stickwork which is a Peabody Essex Museum stick installation created by Patrick Dougherty, which located across the street from the Hawthorne Hotel. This is a fabulous piece of artwork and also great area in Salem to take photos. Marci's black and white photos are amazing and it have the right amount of eeriness to them. Stickwork in black and white definitely reminds all three of us of Kim Ligett's Blood and Salt. If only Stickwork was made out of corn stalks.

Remember Salem and Wynott's Wands are the places to go for your Harry Potter needs. Remember Salem has everything Harry Potter related from books to T-shirts to aprons.You can even get Butterbeer here. Okay, it's Butterscotch soda but it's the closest thing you can get to the Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Remember Salem also a small selection of Doctor Who and Game of Thrones fandom items. There's even a Crown & Shield Hall in the back of the store for those who want to host an event such as a birthday party. Complete with a Great hall decor, the Crown & Shield Hall has a potion room attached.

Wynott's Wands is the like walking into Ollivanders. Not only are there wands at Wynott's, but other trinkets such as wax seals and candles are sold here. The lady working at Wynott's definitely is super nice and was very mystical. We even saw two birds named Bill and Fred. This is a good place to take dueling pictures too.

Photo Credit: Random person using Elizabeth's phone

Dueling | Photo Credit: Marci

Our next stop was at the Jolie Tea Company. This new tea store/cafe is the best place for tea in Salem. Not only can you buy loose leaf tea by the ounce but you can have afternoon tea or Le Petite Tea. The ladies and I opted for Le Petite which includes a pot of tea of your choice, one scone, one madeleine and one macaron. I chose Gyokuro Jade Dew tea, a lemon scone, a plain madeleine and an Earl Grey macaron. Remember those bunnies I was mentioning earlier? Well, Jolie's bathroom has decked out with bunny wallpaper. I think we lost count of how many bunnies we found in the city of Salem.

Photo Credit for Top and Right Photos: Marci

I felt bad because I drank so much tea. Pretty much I was scouting out for a bathroom after popping into Five Hands Curiosity Shoppe. Sorry Elizabeth and Marci. I have a bladder the size of a pea. Five Hands is part museum and as the site mentioned, "a menagerie of dark, macabre antique, vintage, oddities and unusual items from all over the world." It hard a very eerie vibe and the punk/metal music there definitely reminded me of my high school days.

After Five Hands, we headed to the Old Burying Point Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in Salem (1637) and contains the graves of witchcraft trial judge John Hathorne and a Mayflower Pilgrim. Most of the gravestones are weathered, are hard to read or are cracked but there are still some intact. Marci was super sad that her favorite tree is now part stump :(.

During our trip into Salem, the ladies and I visited Silver Moon Comics and Harrison's Comics & Pop Culture. I love looking at all the latest comics, graphic novels, manga and pop culture items such as Funko Pops and figurines. Elizabeth fell in love with all the Star Wars items and Marci was eying a Snow White poster. I definitely need to complete my collection of Sailor Moon manga soon. Elizabeth found a Jules, the miniature mechanical horse from the book, Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell. Let's say that we always find things that remind us of books.

Overall, the Salem trip was very relaxing and the Marauders and I walked over 4.5 miles. There were a lot of places that we didn't end up going to but I am pretty sure we will visit Salem again in the near future.

If you want to follow The Marauders on social media, please check out the hashtag, #TheMarauders3, for pictures about our bookish adventures. We solemnly swear we are up to no good. Mischief Managed.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

Title: The Crown's Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication date: May 17, 2016
Pages: 416
Source/format: ARC borrowed from Ana from Owl Always Be Reading

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

M Y  T H O U G H T S
Vika Andreyeva and Nikolai Karimov are the only Enchanters around in Russisa. However, it is rare for there to be two Enchanters at one given time. Yuliana suggested to her father, the Tsar, to hold The Crown's Game. This deadly game is not only a place to showcase the skills of each Enchanter but  the winner will earn the title of the Imperial Enchanter. Unfortunately, the defeated will die. In this intense game, Vika and Nikolai will have to battle each other. Each Enchanter is granted five turns, each alternating between each turn. However, only one survivor will remain. Who will it be?

Evelyn Skye wrote this historical fantasy set in the nineteenth century. Not only is magic woven into the history of Russia but Skye makes the magic come alive! With her writing in third person, readers discover many of the characters in the book. The Crown's Game is engaging and descriptive. The places she describes are vivid. The people we meet seem so real. The upbringings of Vika and Nikolai are fascinating. Their heritage shapes who they are today. However, everything they know to be true are tangled in a web of lies.

I am surprised when I found out Galina and Sergei are related and how they are both mentors to the only Enchanters in the country. Galina knew this fact and is secretive. She manipulates the situation. It is her way to prove to her brother that she is better than him by using Nikolai. If Nikolai wins, she would have the glory and Sergei and Vika would have to suffer. How conniving of her.

Pasha, the tsesarevich, and Nikolai have a healthy friendship between them. Nikolai feels torn since Pasha is enamored with Vika and Nikolai has some feelings for Vika as well. I am not too partial about the love triangle and about the instalove. The romance seemed unrealistic and I wish there was more relationship building between Vika and her male admirers. I found the friendship of Reneta and Nikolai to be quite endearing.

In terms of the actual Crown's Game, I expected more of a dual instead of a showcasing of what Vika and Nikolai can do with their talents. I feel it was more of a display of who can make the better masterpiece and who can wow the crowd. However, the game does include outwitting the opponent but in a way most people do not expect. It's clever and keeps the story interesting. You never know when Vika or Nikolai will strike. The story is multi-layered and I am sure the next book in the series will explain a lot of things that occurs in The Crown's Game.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Top Ten Bookworm Delights

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to share their top ten bookworm delights. The following delights are in no particular order.

1. The smell of books cannot not be replicated with e-books. Although I love both, the smell of new and old pages of books is amazing! I find the mixture of different types of papers and cover material fascinating. Whether the cover is paper, cloth or leather, I appreciate the plethora of textures and smells.

GIF from
2. Aesthetics of books including cover art, deckled edges, embossing, spot glossing, foiling, maps and gorgeous end papers. I absolutely love all the fine details of a book. I know we are not suppose to judge a book by its cover but there is something special about a book with the publishers add the little things.

3. Bonding with friends over books is fantastic! I love chatting with friends about a book we just read and I enjoy buddy reading books. Going to book events or doing other bookish things with friends is something I look forward to.

4. Meeting new friends over books is something I look forward to. I cannot count how many friends I met through books. See number 3 for what happens after I meet a new friend.

5. Fandoms are safe havens. Without books I wouldn't be a fan of Harry Potter. Without Harry Potter, I would not be immersed into this amazing fandom! I have made many friends through Harry Potter and I love how Harry Potter is being brought to the Muggle world through Wizarding World of Harry Potters, films, meetups, conventions, Quidditch and more. I enjoy bonding over a fandom with others. The memories that we make are priceless.

Image from
6. Collecting copies of a favorite book is a wonderful feeling. I love collecting versions of a beloved title whether it be collector's edition, an ARC or even a book with a different cover.

7. Meeting a favorite author is incredible. It's hard to stay calm without fangirling too much over a book that you love so much with the author. Sometimes I am lost for words but I appreciate the opportunity that I am given.

8. Connecting with a book is so important. Sometimes I feel like the authors know me when I read certain books. They hit me hard because I can relate.

9. Visiting bookstores and libraries is one of my favorite things to do. The feeling you get when you walk into a bookstore or a library is pure bliss. The quaint indie bookstores to the magnificent libraries pouring with thousands of books is a definitely a treat for my eyes and my soul.

GIF from
10. Discovering new book titles is fascinating. I enjoy browsing Goodreads and finding new titles I never heard about. What I love even more is when a friend recommends a title or when I find a title on a blog that I never heard of before but the synopsis intrigues me.

Do you share any of the same bookworm delights as me? What are your delights?

Monday, April 25, 2016

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Title: If I Was Your Girl
Author: Meredith Russo
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Pages: 272
Source/format: ARC from publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from

A big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. She's determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can't help but start to let him in. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself--including her past. But Amanda's terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda's been keeping? It's that she used to be Andrew.

Will the truth cost Amanda her new life--and her new love?

If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different--and a love story that everyone will root for.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Amanda Hardy moved to Lambertville, TN sometime after her parent's divorce. Grant Everett sat next to her at lunch asking her number for his friend Parker. From that day on, Amanda and Grant became inseparable.

Meredith Russo writes a honest story about Amanda. If I Was Your Girl is definitely the LGBTQIA novel of 2016. Not only does Russo educate readers, but she also evokes a multitude of emotions. The writing style flows fairly well despite the flashbacks which shed light on the history of Amanda's past without disrupting the present plot line.

Although Amanda has a hard time figuring out who she is, I am glad that she has a supportive group of friends. Layla, Anna and Chloe are unique in their own way and they helped Amanda break through her shell and they didn't force her to do something that she is not comfortable with. They were very open minded and they didn't shun her when they found out that she is trans.

Russo tackles a variety sociodemographic and family dynamics. Grant may seem like the perfect guy but he harbors some secrets too. He hides the fact that he works many hours to help support his family. His family is not well off and he wants to help out as much as possible. Bee has her own share of secrets too but what she did at the end of the book is ridiculous. At first she is a good friend but then she becomes jealous and maddened. What kind of friend back stabs someone like that?

If I Was Your Girl is an important and powerful book that everyone should read. It's a coming-of-age novel that tackles bullying, questioning your identity, making new friends, divorce, moving and finding love.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Looking Ahead: Cover Reveals #6

Lately cover art for Fall 2016 and Winter 2017 titles have been popping all over the internet. Last week Entertainment Weekly wowed us with cover art for Caraval and Wayfarer. This week there are four covers that were revealed. All four books are ones that I am looking forward to and the cover art  is absolutely gorgeous with the jewel tones and dark colors. I have to say that the following beauties look rather lovely next to each other.

On Wednesday, April 20th, Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover to Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco. All I can say is WOW! The cover definitely screams historical fiction and Gothic horror. The red and the green look stunning against the black background. Not only is the cover gorgeous but the excerpt is eerily satisfying and it's definitely not for the faint of heart. Stalking Jack the Ripper is the first YA title under James Patterson's JIMMY imprint. Also, Stalking Jack the Ripper's previous title was Of Blood and Shadow.

Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Publication date: September 20, 2016

On Thursday, April 21st, YA Interrobang revealed the cover art to Branded, which is the sequel to Inked by Eric Smith. The reds, oranges and purples are stunningly vibrant and they look fantastic next to Inked's sea of blues and greens. Graphic designer, Jenny Zemanek, did a fantastic job designing both covers. Click here to enter to win a e-book of Inked and some posters.

Title: Branded
Author: Eric Smith
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Publication date: September 6, 2016

On Thursday, April 21st, Mashable unveiled the cover to The Midnight Star which is the last book in The Young Elites trilogy by Marie Lu. Not only is this cover art my favorite out of all of the three in the series, but I cannot wait to see how the trilogy ends. The contrast of the coppery bronze lettering against the backdrop of blues is very pleasing to the eyes.  Check out what Lu has to say about The Midnight Star here.

Title: The Midnight Star
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young
Publication date: October 11, 2016

On Thursday, April 21st, YA Books Central wowed us with the cover art to Starfall which is the companion book in the Starflight duology by Melissa Landers. Not only is the cover art ravishing, but Starfall is one of my most anticipated book for 2017. The glowing pink and purple pop out of the page, highlighting the title text well. I love how the orb is a planet and the black background brings out the white, purple and pink. Also, I love the movement within space. It definitely screams sci-fi!

Title: Starfall
Author: Melissa Landers
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: February 7, 2017


What do you think of the cover art for the books listed above? Do you have a favorite?

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Title: The Unexpected Everything
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Pages: 496
Source/format: ARC from publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from

Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks)

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing - if everything's planned out, you can never find the unexpected.

And where’s the fun in that?
M Y  T H O U G H T S

Andie thought she had her whole life planned out. Andie never has a boyfriend for more than three weeks, she has amazing friends and she scores an internship. Well, that's before the scandal that involves her father, who is a representative and member of Congress. This is Andie's wake up call that everything doesn't always go as planned.

As a teen, everything doesn't go as planned even when one thinks they have everything planned out. Andie is able to adjust and is able to move forward despite everything that has happened. Sometimes things happen for a reason. Andie wouldn't have taken the dog walking job and she wouldn't have met Clark if she didn't lose her internship. This is a good message for teens. Even though things don't go the way you want it to, every cloud has a silver lining.

Morgan Matson realistically portrays teens. They are not perfect and Matson shows that people have flaws. That is what makes people real. The friendships Andie has with Bri, Toby, and Palmer is genuine. Matson has a knack for writing fantastic characters and a variety relationships. However, I felt like the book could have been shorten and certain parts of the novel seemed drawn out longer than it should be. The beginning was a bit slow for me but it did pick up.

Overall, The Unexpected Everything is a solid contemporary novel perfect for the summer.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why Do I Blog?

I haven't formally blogged until the last few years. Before Nicole's Novel Reads, I use to keep sort of an online journal on Xanga and on Livejournal during my high school years. I eventually switched over the Livejournal permanently due to the groups and my love for reading fan fiction. Being obsessed with Harry Potter during my high school years, it led me to read tons of Harry Potter fan fiction on a multitude of sites, one of them being Livejournal. I scoured through many groups and Livejournal accounts for fan fiction that would satisfy my hungry appetite. Lo and behold I encountered The Draco Trilogy by Cassandra Clare. At the time, I never knew Miss Clare was going to be popular but I loved devouring The Draco Trilogy. Although I love canon, I cannot deny that I love fanon as well!

Through Livejournal, I actually found a girl who eventually became my college roommate. Livejournal connected me to other people with the same interests. It wasn't until college where I found out about Wordpress and Blogger. Working with a group of other classmates, we created a Wordpress account and a twitter handle about the importance of college students voting when Obama was first running for office. Our instructors encouraged us to utilize twitter to spread the word. We made radio, TV and print ads. This gave me a taste of what it means to be passionate about something and how I can share my passion with the world.

It wasn't until a couple years out of college, I decided to create Nicole's Novel Reads. Although I love everything Harry Potter, I wanted a passion that I can regularly talk about and not bore people about.  So, I decided to make a book blog. During the first two years, I was juggling a lot of things and I was never constantly posted. I have been a book lover ever since I was a child and I wanted an outlet to express my thoughts about books I've read. It wasn't until late 2014 when I decided to reboot up Nicole's Novel Reads. After reengaging myself with social media and book events, I met a lot of bookish friends that motivated me even more to blog.


Primarily, I blog for myself. I blog about things that are important to me such as books I've read and Harry Potter. I will occasionally incorporate my love for tea and design into blog posts as well. I don't like comparing myself to others. I don't want blogging to turn into a competition of who has the most books, who obtains the most ARCs and who attends the most book events. People need to be grateful for what they have. Blogging is about creating something meaningful; it's not about possession and numbers.

My blog is sort of a creative journal for me. I don't include my day-to-day list of things I do or how my day went. Instead, it's a way for me to track my bookish interests. If people stumble upon my blog, that's great. If they don't, then that's fine too. I am not here to push my thoughts on other people.

What I love about the book community is the people who make up the community. I love interacting with people who share the same interests. Everyone is welcoming and there is so many things to participate in such as #OTSPSecretSister, guest posting on other bloggers' blogs and collaborating in group features.

By blogging, I am seeking new experiences by connecting with others through book events and discussions. Sometimes I like to take the blogging offline; meeting new people in real life is one way to still be immersed with everything bookish but it is a way to step away from the computer. It's often refreshing to connect without the use of technology.

So tell me why do you blog? What inspires you to blog? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle

Title: Wishing Day
Author: Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Pages: 336
Source/format: ARC from publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

On the third night of the third month after a girl’s thirteenth birthday, every girl in the town of Willow Hill makes three wishes.

The first wish is an impossible wish.
The second is a wish she can make come true herself.
And the third is the deepest wish of her secret heart.

Natasha is the oldest child in a family steeped in magic, though she’s not sure she believes in it. She’s full to bursting with wishes, however. She misses her mother, who disappeared nearly eight long years ago. She has a crush on one of the cutest boys in her class, and she thinks maybe it would be nice if her very first kiss came from him. And amid the chaos of a house full of sisters, aunts, and a father lost in grief, she aches to simply be...noticed.

So Natasha goes to the willow tree at the top of the hill on her Wishing Day, and she makes three wishes. What unfolds is beyond anything she could have imagined.

M Y  T H O U G H T S 

Natasha is 13. Every girl who lives in the town of Willow Hill will visit an ancient willow tree on the third night of the third month after a girl's thirteenth birthday for Wishing Day. On Wishing Day, a girl makes three wishes. One impossible wish, one wish the wisher could make come try herself and the deepest wish of her secret heart.

From the first page, I connected with Natasha. Her friendship with Molly and her sisterly bonding with Ava and Darya is something I enjoyed reading. The girls have different personalities but they are super close. Ava is 11 and she quirky, creative and a dreamer who loves math but hates Math Mate worksheets. Darya is 12 and is known for being popular and pretty but is always running late. Natasha, on the other hand, is dependable, sensible and loves to read and write.

Healthy relationships between females is sometimes hard to find. Natasha also has her aunts watching over her since her mother disappeared eight years ago. Natasha also has a good relationship with her Papa. I also enjoyed how the Russian culture is woven into this novel.

Lauren Myracle captures Natasha's voice perfectly. Natasha is humorous and doesn't mind speaking about what is on her mind. I am glad Myracle includes writings from Natasha's journal; it's a good change of pace to see what Natasha is thinking in first person since the novel is written in third person. Myracle also includes wishes of other characters when they were thirteen, which I thought was a nice touch. It is interesting to see what each person wished for.

Wishing Day is the first novel in the Wishing series. I highly recommend this Middle Grade novel for those who are looking for a novel full of life, laughter, first crushes and strong female relationships. Myracle also adds a sense of mystery within the novel. Who is Emily? Papa and Aunt Vera mention Emily. Also, who wrote the random secret notes? Pick up Wishing Day to find out.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Looking Ahead: Cover Reveals #5

So lately Entertainment Weekly has been wowing us with gorgeous cover art for early 2017 front list titles. Not only am I am excited about these books based on the synopsis but the eye-catching cover art definitely makes me wish that it's 2017 already.

On Thursday, April 14th, Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover to Wayfarer, which is the sequel to Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. Warfarer's cover art is just as gorgeous as Passenger's. The color palette is pleasing to the eye. I am intrigued by the tree enclosed in a glass dome. The watercolor effect softens the look and the yellow brown has a nice contrast with the purple. I also like the use of white space. Thank you to Marci Senders and the marketing team at Disney-Hyperion for this ravishing cover art. Definitely check out this link for an exclusive interview and an excerpt.

Title: Wayfarer
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: January 3, 2017

On Friday, April 15th, Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover to Caraval by Stephanie Garber. The colors are vibrant and the design is captivating! How stunning is the typography? I praise Erin Fitzsimmons and the marketing team for this exceptional cover! Also, Caraval has been chosen as a BEA buzz book and the rights for the film have been sold. Once titled Hearts Made of Black, Caraval is taking the YA community by a storm. This is definitely a fantasy novel to be on the lookout for by a debut author. Click here for an excerpt and more information about the novel.

Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: January 10, 2017

Are you looking forward to any of the books above? What other books are you looking forward to with fantastic cover designs?

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Great Book Purge

Sometimes decluttering is needed in your life. Spring is here and I figured what's a better time than to start decluttering. I am very fond of spring cleaning. There are several things I want to tackle but the main one is books. Let's face it, book lovers own too many books. We are running out of space for physical books because they take up too much room. And will we re-read all of these books that we own? Probably not. My boyfriend is actually trying to encourage me to use my Nook more often. I get it. I can still read my books but will be able to store so many in the palm of my hand. Because of limited space, I must go on with the book purge.


Books that I have re-read will be kept. Also, books by my favorite authors will be kept. These include Harry Potter, Rainbow Rowell and Emery Lord titles. I own some special editions of books I love and those will be kept as well. Five star books will be kept.

Newly acquired books I have not read in a year are most likely going to be purged. Although the word purge gives off a negative connotation, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad. Some purges are good in life. 

Books that have a three star rating or less will be donated unless a three star book is part of a series and the remaining books in the series have a four star rating or above. 

ARCs that I have read and plan not to read again will be donated. The only ARCs I plan to keep are ARCs of my favorite books.


I plan to donate my books to the library, children who are in need of books or to the thrift shop. I do pass some of my books to my students as well.

Depending when I decide to donate my books, I might donate some to The Harry Potter Alliance's Accio Books campaign. I am a big supporter of the Harry Potter Alliance and I am often donating books to this wonderful organization. 


I will be using the library more for books that I am unsure about or if I want to test the waters. I will only pre-order books by authors on my auto-buy list. If a library book becomes a new favorite, I might obtain it in the future but it must be with a gift card or it is gifted. I don't mine buying books used. I often find gems at used book stores and at thrift shops. 

Avoid discounted sales such as library sales, BookOutlet sales, etc. Heavily discounted books often means I am more inclined to purchase books. Unless it's a book that I have been searching for some quite some time and is on my must have list, I shouldn't be purchasing a book just because it's on sale. Often, these discounted books are purchased on a whim and then they end up sitting untouched for some quite while.

How often do you purge your books? Do you set rules for yourself when you clean your shelves?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner's Kiss
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date: March 29, 2016
Pages: 496
Source/format: Purchased/Hardcover

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised.

She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

M Y  T H O U G H T S

How do I react to the last book of a series especially when it is phenomenal? In previous installments, there wasn't too much information about Arin and the focus of the book is on Kestrel. In The Winner's Kiss, Arin and Kestrel share the stage. As Kestrel tries to gain her memories of her previous life, Kestrel and Arin rekindle their complex friendship and relationship. They are trying to build each other's trust once again. The interaction between Arin, Roshar and Kestrel is alluring. The three mesh well together and they rely in each other's strengths.

Throughout the three books, Marie Rutkoski does a fantastic job with the character development. Kestrel and Arin have grown since The Winner's Curse. Never underestimate Kestrel. She is a mastermind and always has tricks up her sleeves even though others do not approve of what she does and believes in. The transitions between Arin and Kestrel work seamlessly as well as the both battles at the end of the novel. Rutkoski has written a captivating trilogy that never wavered. The world building and the political dynamics are still on point and the writing is passionate and compelling.

The Winner's Kiss has a wonderful balance of swoon worthy moments and action. The ending is perfect for the trilogy! I wouldn't have it any other way because Rutkoski killed it! I have to admit that I was scared to finish this installment of The Winner's Trilogy because I was afraid of how the trilogy would end.

If you're looking for a for a stunning historical fantasy, definitely pick up The Winner's Kiss after reading The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Event Recap: Marie Rutkoski in Conversation with Kristin Cashore

I was fortunate enough to see Marie Rutkoski and Kristin Cashore again at an event on Friday, April 8th at the Harvard Book Store. Not only is Harvard Book Store one of my favorite indie book stores to visit for events, but Marie and Kristin always have some of the most insightful conversations. I focused more on what Marie mentioned due to the fact that I have not read any of Cashore's novels and because of that, I am unable to fully understand her answers regarding her books.

Marie Rutkoski talks about how she was influenced by the Roman empire and the conquering and enslavement of people in the past when writing The Winner's Trilogy. It's interesting how Kestrel is an atheist and Arin is very religious and is a Polytheist. The passage Marie ended up reading from The Winner's Kiss is one of my favorites. Arin tells Kestrel about Name Day and how important it is in his culture. The mother of the child determines when the Name Day occurs; it is more important than day of the child's birth.

The imagery that Marie constructs in her books describes the characters' feelings very well. One example is how Roshar offends Kestrel but many people don't know why. Kristin asks Marie, "When you're writing, is that what your first draft looks like?" Marie responds that when she writes, it's not just the words on the page that are important; the absences are equally crucial. What is beneath the surface and the subtext are reflected in the character. It's like two hands going at the same time, similar to how one plays the piano. One is conscious on the page and the other one is not.

Kristin mentioned how she took about two years to write her novel, Bitterblue, and it took one year or so to revise it. The writing process is so messy and it's an overwhelming experience that is hard to explain. It's a web pretty much.

One reader asked what inspired the authors to write the main characters in their novels. Marie responds that "Kestrel is not me and I am not her." Marie claims that both like games since they are a way to socialize. There are emotional connections and disconnections when playing games. It's clever and strategic. Kristin mentioned how she wanted to write about kick ass girls. Tamora Pierce is definitely a strong influence in her writing Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue.

In terms of games, there are two in The Winner's Trilogy. Bite and Sting is a tile like imperial game which is poker meets mahjong. Borderlands is an Eastern Dacra game that resembles chess. This is one of Marie's gestures to showcase different cultures.

How did Marie decide what instrument Kestrel should play? Marie had Kestrel play an instrument but not just any instrument. She wanted to choose an instrument that cannot be carried so easily. A piano is perfect because it is a strategic choice. The Valorian emperor wants to command the known world. In Valoria, females are often asked to either join the military or to get married to give birth to children who will later become part of the military. The piano symbolizes the road block between Kestrel and her father. An instrument that is not portable is essential. If the instrument is let's say a flute, it doesn't create that roadblock. Also, by having the piano, Kestrel can only play the instrument in one location. When Kestrel is in a moment of illness, Arin carries her to the piano.

Another reader asked Marie how she wrote the battles within The Winner's Trilogy. What was the thought process? Marie did extensive research about how battles were fought in the industrial times. What can canons and guns do around that time? Her husband was in the military and was required to be enlisted when he was in high school. Often, Marie would ask for her husband's advice about the battle scenes for her books.

Friendship is very important in The Winner's Trilogy. While Arin's friendship with Roshar grows, Kestrel's friendship with Jess wanes. In The Winner's Curse, Arin is eager for friendship. It is imperative for friendship to exist for him because of trust. However, the diminishing friendship between the ladies will not repair itself because in life, some friendships don't last.

One reader asked about what the authors thought about the whiteness of their books. With fantasy novels, it's the marketing or perception compared to how you perceive the character. Marie wrote about a tale of colonialism. There is a lack of diversity in the main character because there is a default to white ruling characters; white is the colonizing race. She hopes in the future, there will be more diverse characters in publishing. In order to promote diversity, there needs to be a representation of diversity in main characters, authors and publishers. The industry needs to change first.

Kristin talks about whitewashing and how it is the reader's default when reading. She talked about how she saw fan art of her characters depicted as white. Fire was seen as white in the fanart. Kristin explains how she blames it on herself for not being explicit enough in her books about the characters traits.

In fantasy, world building is necessary. A reader asked, "How do you create an interesting world to draw the reader in?" Kristin talks about how before Graceling, she never wrote a fantasy novel and she wrote a realistic fiction novel prior. She gives landscape a mood. Characters from Graceling came together with powers. She wanted to write character and emotionally drive novels.

Marie writes fantasy novels that feels real. The social dynamics and the politics need to be authentic. Her high fantasy trilogy bears no magic. Nature is highlighted and dreams are echoed with plausible deniability about the Gods. Arin often talks to the God of Death. Is it real or not real? Is there a God of Death or is Arin lonely and needs a voice?

The last question that was asked piqued everyone's interest. What are the authors writing next? Kristin is currently revising her next book which is on the fifth draft. It's a novel about growing up in grief and is about a young woman who is an orphan. She is at a house on an island and there is something weird going on in the house. The novel comprises of five stories of different genres. The genres that I remembered her mentioning includes mystery, fantasy and sci-fi.

Marie on the other hand mentioned how she doesn't know exactly what will come up in the future. Only time will tell. Maybe she will write a book about the future or past of The Winner's Trilogy. Maybe she will write a spin off about Roshar. I root for the Roshar spin off!

After the conversation, Kristin and Marie were happy to meet readers for the signing. I had a fabulous time and I am so glad I was able to see Marie again. It snowed last year, so unfortunately, I missed her at Harvard Book Store's The Winner's Crime event. However, I was able to meet her when The Winner's Curse was launched. How fierce are Marie's tights? Also, I love Kristin's dress!

I hope everyone enjoyed the recap of the event. I am always a big fan of attending author talks because I enjoy listening to the authors talk about their books and answering readers' questions. Their conversations are priceless. It adds more depth to the books they wrote when learning why they wrote certain things and learning about their thought process.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Tsar's Guard Parade: Zharkoe Recipe

I am so happy to be part of the Tsar's Guard Parade to celebrate The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye. Because I am a big food lover I decided to showcase a recipe for Zharkoe which is a Russian beef and potato stew. Don't forget to check out the rafflecopter giveaway at the end of the post!

Title: The Crown's Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Pages: 416
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

Zharkoe (adapted from recipe from Lorie's Place)
Servings: 6-8
3 lbs. beef, cut into cubes
4 small onions, sliced
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. salt
16 black peppercorns
5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters or sixths
3 carrots, cut into quarters crosswise
Olive oil
  1. Heat large saute pan or dutch oven with olive oil. Place beef and half the onions into pan. Brown beef in hot oil for 10-15 minutes or until light brown. While beef is browning, peel the potatoes, cut them, and saute them in a large pan with hot oil for 10 minutes.
  2. Put remaining of the sliced onions on top of beef.
  3. Pour water into the pan/dutch oven and add bay leaves. Bring to a boil on the stove top, then lower heat and simmer for 2 hours. Stir occasionally. Add water (little by little) as needed. The liquid should be mostly covering other ingredients.
  4. Add salt, peppercorns, potatoes, and carrots. Simmer for another 30 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are done. Take out bay leaves before serving.
Enjoy Zharkoe while reading The Crown's Game.


Evelyn Skye was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on "So You Think You Can Dance," and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When she isn't writing, Evelyn can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies. THE CROWN'S GAME is her first novel.

Evelyn can be found online at

Twitter |Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr | Instagram

Giveaway Details
1 winner will receive an ARC of The Crown's Game. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget to follow the rest of The Tsar's Guard Parade Tour! Find the complete Tsar’s Guard Parade Schedule at Evelyn Skye’s website!

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

Title: The Darkest Corners
Author: Kara Thomas
Publisher: Delacorte
Publication date: April 19, 2016
Pages: 336
Source/format: ARC from the publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.

There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

The Darkest Corners is an intense psychological thriller that doesn't seep in right away. From the beginning of the novel, the reader can tell there is a lot of loose ends. A mystery unfolds and Tessa is trying to pieces things together. She moved from Pennsylvania to Florida to live with her Grandmother years ago. Now she is back up in Fayette to deal with unfinished business. She cannot always run from her past and her past is starting to catch up with her.

Kara Thomas does an excellent job with background information to set the story. Her writing is suspenseful and I love her characters in this book. Although, Tessa doesn't live the perfect life, I enjoyed reading the friendship between Tessa and Callie. It is interesting how each person plays an important part of this novel.

The ending was so much to take in. I wish it wasn't so sudden and that we found out some of the information of this mystery ahead of time. I didn't know what to think after I finished this novel because it just took some time to process everything.

If you're looking for a gripping mystery thriller, pick up The Darkest Corners. It will blow your mind once you figure out the reveal.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Don't Stress, Relax

Lately I noticed that YA book blogging community has been stressing out a lot whether it be over ARCs, blogging or reading. Why? is the question I want to ask. Most people start a book blog because they want to share their love of books with everyone else. They want to voice their opinion about everything bookish whether it be a review of their favorite book, a bookish gift guide or a discussion about e-books vs. physical books. Why stress over something you love?


This is getting out of control. I understand everyone gets jealous that someone else received a review copy of a book that you are dying to get your hands on but remember that the book eventually comes out. If you're not able to obtain a certain book, it's okay. You can read it when the finished copy comes out. It will be sans free of typos and you will have a nice beautiful copy in your hands.

This is not a competition of trying to obtain all the ARCs. Are you really going to read all the ARCs you obtain? ARCs are marketing tools. Publishers want people to spread the word about upcoming titles to create buzz. ARCs have no monetary value. Remember, it is illegal to sell ARCs. If you can't obtain an ARC to keep, try borrowing one from a friend, join an ARC tour or just wait for the title to be published. Pinched for cash even after the book is published? Use the library. It's free and you get to support your local library. It's a win-win situation.

We are not required to market all the ARCs as bloggers but I believe that if you requested an ARC, you should read it and review it. If you can't read it in a decent amount of time near the release date, pass the title along to someone else who will read it. If the ARC is a DNF book, pass it to someone else who will read it. The point of an ARC is to promote the upcoming title. By not reading and reviewing the ARC, there is no point for the ARC to exist.

I know people are busy and people might not have the time to read every single ARC but bloggers can also reduce how many ARCs they request. Also, the book will come out on release day. Don't have the money? Again, get the book from the library or borrow from a friend.


Why stress out about blogging? Blogging is suppose to be fun. It's a way for you to get your thoughts out through a virtual medium. It should never cause anxiety. Don't force yourself to blog. You don't have to be on all channels of social media in order interact with your readers and followers. I understand that you want to boost your stats but that's not why you started a blog.

You started a blog because you want to share you love about books with others. Please don't make blogging a chore. You can blog whenever and how often you like. Pressed for time because you are super busy? Well, schedule out blogs in advance so you can enjoy your life outside of blogging. Tweetdeck is a lifesaver if you want to schedule out tweets. This way you can still reach followers on twitter to promote your blog without actually being online. It's great!

Lacking ideas for blog posts? Creativity will come to you, I promise. Anytime you have an idea, jot it down. This will come in handy in the future. I often will start up drafts for posts and will come back to the drafts at a later date. This way I am never running out of ideas for fresh content.

Please remember that blogging is not your life; blogging is part of your life. Please don't forget your friends, family, significant others, work, school and creating long lasting memories with people. Engage in other hobbies you enjoy. This will help you rejuvenate. If you need to take a short hiatus from you blog, then it's okay.


Enjoy every single moment you have to read. Don't make it a chore. Please don't rush read in order to make a deadline. The reason why people read isn't to get stressed out. People read to relax, to escape reality for a moment, to transport themselves in someone else's shoes and to improve literacy. Read because you want to. Read what you feel in the mood to read. Please don't force yourself to read a book that is boring you to tears or is not working for you. Just let it go. It's okay. We understand every book is not for you.

What are your thoughts about the stresses of ARCs, blogging and reading? How do you prevent yourself from being stressed out?

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication date: April 26, 2016
Pages: 352
Source/format: e-ARC from Publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆
Synopsis (from

Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets - thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran's magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar's plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk - it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.

The Star-Touched Queen is a lush, beautifully written and vividly imagined fantasy inspired by Indian mythology.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Ever since I heard about The Star-Touched Queen, I knew I wanted to read it. With it's gorgeous cover art and intriguing synopsis, it is definitely a must read on my TBR list. My friend Rachel kept telling everyone she knew to read this book! Although she is not a huge fantasy lover, she gave it 5 stars and kept pressing me to read The Star-Touched Queen. And boy, was she not wrong at all. The Star-Touched Queen blew me away! All the stars for The Star-Touched Queen

Princess Mayavati lives in Bharata. The people of Bharata do not believe in ghosts but they believe in horoscopes because the kingdom is choreographed based on the horoscopes. People talk about Mayavati and how she brings death and destruction. Everyone seeks out to get rid of her before she plagues the village. Many want her to leave Bharata in one way or another. And Mayavati eventually escapes her horoscope or so she believes. 

Indian folktales and Greek Mythology collide in The Star-Touched Queen, creating a unique story. Roshani Chokshi writes beautifully. Her words are lyrical and poetic; her descriptions are opulent. Chokshi writes with passion. Her prose is intricate and wonderfully well-executed. The imagery is vivid and atmospheric while the plot and characterization work well seamlessly. Although many compare Chokshi's writing to Laini Taylor, I wouldn't know since I haven't read Taylor's full works. 

Mayavati is a strong female. She knows what she wants and is resilient! Amar of Akaran is an interesting character. He is complex and multi-faceted. Chokshi incorporates reincarnation, the realm of the dead and an interesting mix of folklore in novel. I appreciate the chapter titles she has included in the book. Chokshi's description of how the threads of life in the tapestry are interconnected is fascinating. The fact that Dharma Raja needs to decide what is best for the people and for the greater good requires a lot of decision making. And Nritti! Oh my Nritti! 

The Star-Touched Queen is hard to put down and you definitely want to take your time reading it. With it's exquisite descriptions, take your time immersing yourself in this world. Savor it. Chokshi's writing is impeccable and you don't want the story to end. There is no book like The Star-Touched Queen. I would highly recommend this book to my students and to those who love beautifully written novels.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Title: Love & Gelato
Author: Jenna Evans Welch
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Pages: 400
Source/format: ARC from the publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept from Lina for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

M Y  T H O U G H T S
Carolina (Lina) Emerson ends up relocating from Seattle to Italy to live with her father, Howard Mercer, about six months after Lina's mother passes. Lina moves to a house located in the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial. Despite Lina not wanting to move to Florence, she meets an array of people such as Lorenzo (Ren) and Thomas. Will Lina stay in Florence just for the summer or will she permanently settle in the birthplace of the Renaissance? Will she fall in love in Ren or Thomas?

Jenna Evans Welch has captured my heart with the love of Florence. When I was reading Love & Gelato, it reminded me when I visited Florence, Italy back in 2009. The way Welch describes certain parts of Florence is perfect. I can vividly picture everything she describes from the Boboli Gardens to Ponte Vecchio. It brings back so many memories of all the things I saw and did in Firenze. Oh, how I miss it!

Welch includes journal entries within Love & Gelato which adds something extra to the book. Even though Lina's mother passed, Lina can experience Florence through her mother's eyes with the journal; It's like her personal guide to Florence. However, Lina discovers that the journal holds many secrets. And of course, Lina wants to figure out the mystery of why her mother wanted to her move to Florence. With the help of Ren, Lina unearths more than she bargained for.

Love & Gelato is the perfect heartfelt and romantic novel for those who enjoyed reading Anna and the French Kiss. Looking for the perfect book about self-discovery and love in a foreign country, then Love & Gelato is the book to pick up for your spring or summer read.