Sunday, December 31, 2017

Best Things About the Holiday Season

Happy end of December! I hope you are enjoying the wonderful holiday season with a lot of holiday cheer. December is one of my favorite times of the year because everyone gets into the holiday spirit. Some of my favorite things I look forward to in December includes the following:

1. Outdoor lights - How gorgeous are the houses are buildings decked out with whites lights, colorful lights and all the cool glowing blowups?

2. Hot Chocolate and Tea - I look forward to a nice steaming cup of hot cocoa with a candy cane in it. Don't forgot to use a favorite mug! However, I also love having a nice warm cup of tea during the colder months. I find tea very calming.

3. Snuggling under a blanket with a book - There is something comforting about snuggling with a soft blanket while reading. I love sitting next to the Christmas tree curled up reading while drinking hot chocolate or tea.

4. Fuzzy socks - Socks are the best to keep the feet warm while snuggling with that blanket with a book near the Christmas treat while drinking hot chocolate or tea. I love fuzzy, warm socks especially during the cold days and nights.

5. "Ugly" Christmas Sweaters - Yes! I have a Harry Potter sweater that has a Deathly Hallows symbol, Potter glasses and also a lighting bolt on it. Another sweater I have is a light up French Bulldog one. The dog has a cute santa hat. I find it fun to wear the sweaters to holiday gatherings or just because I want to get into the holiday cheer.

6. Cookies - You can't beat yummy cookies around the holidays! My favorite cookies to make are snickerdoodles but I love eating sugar cookies, Italian cookies and chocolate chip cookies. Don't forget the milk!

7. Decorations - You can't enjoy the holidays without the festive decorations in the house, outside of the house, at the mall, etc. It's fun to add some color and lights to room.

8. Chance of snow - Although I live in MA, it hardly snows on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I always hope for a white Christmas. It doesn't have to be a blizzard but a light coating of snow would be picture perfect and very fitting. I was super excited that we got a White Christmas this year.

9. Family and Friend Time - The holiday season isn't the same without spending time with loved ones. Enjoy this special time with people you cherish.

10. Holiday Cheer - Get into the spirit whether it's decorating the house, watching holiday films, listening to holiday music or even decorating gingerbread houses. Make those traditions and enjoy them with others.

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What are you favorite things to do in December for the holidays?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to blog about their top ten books they are looking forward to in 2018. There are so many novels that I am looking forward to reading but I picked a variety of different genres to showcase. The following books are in no particular order.

1. Heart of Ash by Kim Liggett is the second book in the Blood and Salt series and I cannot wait to read more about Ash and Dane. Will love vanquish Coronado for good?

2. Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco is the third novel in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. I cannot wait to see Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell in action traveling to America. With the Moonlight Carnival occurring and young privileged women go missing, the duo is back to solve the mystery!

3. Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare is a wonderful debut novel about a young lady who is talented in scriptology. With a mixture of fantasy and historical fiction, this novel sounds intriguing!

4. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli is a companion novel to Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Leah is first introduced as a good friend of Simon's in the first novel and now she comes back with a novel of her own! It's senior year and there is a lot on Leah's mind and even Simon doesn't know everything about Leah.

5. The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw is a paranormal novel that is Hocus Pocus meets Practical Magic. I am looking forward to this paranormal witchy book

6. Legendary by Stephanie Garber is the sequel to Caraval. Scarlett learns of the secrets Tella and Julian have been hiding from her. Can anyone be trusted?

7. The Forest Queen by Betsy Cornwell is a retelling of Robin Hood but it's more female centric. The retelling will explore topics like economic justice, love, gender, the healing power of nature and family.

8. Dear Miss Sweetie by Stacey Lee is a historical novel about a Chinese teenager living in the 1980's in Atlanta. This young lady is a pseudonymous author for a popular newspaper column and comes across a controversial incident that involves race.

9. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan is about a young woman who is half Asian and half white. She travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents after her mother's death. This novel is about love, grief, family, hope and so much more.

10. Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed is an important book to read. The main character is an Indian-American Muslim teen who confronts Islamophobia. A horrific crime occurred and the culprit shares the same last name as her. She realizes how people can turn against her just because of her name, her religion and because of her heritage.

What books are you looking forward to reading in 2018? Do we share any of the same titles?

Friday, December 22, 2017

Bookish Gift Guide 2017: Horror/Thriller Reads

This is the week where everyone is hustling and bustling trying to finish their holiday shopping. If you need a few quick gifts for family or a friend, check out my Bookish Gift Guide series. For those who love YA horror novels or thrillers, I have a few ecommendations below.

1. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco is definitely a mystery and thriller book in one. Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell investigate the White Chapel mysteries in the late 1800's. I highly recommend this novel for those who support females in the STEM field. Audrey takes interest in forensics despite her being a female during an age where it was look down upon for females to do more than look pretty and to stay at home.

2. Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco is the second book in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. After discovering the culprit in London, Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell travel to Romania to a forensics school only to find out that "Prince Dracula" is out for blood! The duo once again solves the gruesome mystery. Warning: this novel is more gory that the first.

3. Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett is a captivating and compelling horror romance. Ash and Rhys are twins and undercover their mother's deepest secret. Leaving NYC, the twins head to their mother's spiritual commune of Quivira, Kansas. If you are a big fan of the Vampire Diaires TV series story arc with Silas, Amara, and Qetsiyah and if you like the film The Village, you will love this novel!

4. The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett is set in Oklahoma where Clay had to give up football in order to take care of his mother and siblings after his father passed away. However, Clay never forgot the last words his father said. His father was trying to prevent something and Clay is trying to figure out what it is. This novel is terrifying yet gruesome and will permeate deep into your core!

5. How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather will capture those who love everything Salem. The novel is one part Mean Girls, one part Sleepy Hollow (the film) and one part Hocus Pocus. The eerieness, the mystery and the ambience makes this novel a wonderful read.

6. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman is not a YA novel but yet a fantastic sequential illustrated novel. The book intertwines Snow White and Sleeping Beauty into one enchanting contemporary tale. The dark thrilling twist to the mashup retelling is chilling and slightly morbid. Chris Riddell's illustrations are beautiful! The usage of gold and positive and negative space is superb. I highly recommend this novel for anyone who loves fairytales.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to blog about their top ten books they hope Santa will bring this year. The following books are in no particular order.

1. Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu is recommended by my friend Emma from Missprint. It sounds like a great read about female empowerment.

2. Half Baked Harvest Cookbook: Recipes from My Barn in the Mountains by Tieghan Gerard is a well put together cookbook. I am a huge fan of Teighan's food blog online and I would love to have many of her wonderful recipes in a bound book.

3. Harry Potter: the Character Vault by Jody Revenson is one of the Harry Potter visual books that has been on my list. Not only does this book include loads of information about each character, but there are many photos from the movies and also costume design sketches.

4. Harry Potter: the Artifact Vault by Jody Revenson is a Harry Potter visual book with everything about the objects within the Wizarding World from the sorting hat to the Marauder's map.

5. Iron Cast by Destiny Soria is another book that Emma from Missprint has recommended that I cannot wait to read. Set in 1919 in Boston, Ada and her sister have "afflicted blood" which allows them to have the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic.

6. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby was recommended by my friend Rachel. She always raves about this book and I cannot wait to read it. It recently won Printz award and it's a National Book Award finalist.

7. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is a middle grade novel that I have been wanting to read ever since I heard about this title. A baby girl who is fed moonlight instead of starlight becomes a girl with extraordinary magic. Not only have I heard great things about this book but it also won the Newbury Medal.

8. A Beautiful Mind, A Beautiful Life: The Bubz Guide to Being Unstoppable by Lindy Tsang sounds like a charming read! I have been a huge fan of Lindy aka Bubz on YouTube for many years. Unfortunately I missed out on meeting her when she had a book event and signing in NYC. However, I cannot wait to read more about her life and her inspirational words.

9. Far From the Tree by Robin Benway is a contemporary novel about three adopted siblings and the relationships they have. I haven't read too many books about adoption but this sounds like sincere book. Also, the novel is a National Book Award winner.

10. The Raven's Prophecy Tarot by Maggie Stiefvater is stunning beautiful. Not only is Miss Stiefavater an author but she is a Renaissance woman! Her artwork among the tarot cards are whimsical and mysterious while being colorful at the same time.

What books do you hope Santa will bring you this holiday season?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bookish Gift Guide 2017: Historical Fiction Reads

This is the week where everyone is hustling and bustling trying to finish their holiday shopping. If you need a few quick gifts for family or a friend, check out my Bookish Gift Guide series. Although I love historical fiction, I selected only a few of my top favorite historical fiction novels that I've read in the last few years.

1. Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal is a coming-of-age novel set in 1960's in New Orleans. Ibby moves in with grandmother, Fannie, at a young age. Over the course of four year intervals, readers learn more about Ibby, Fannie, Queenie and Doll. The four women bond over good and tough times regarding family and segregation.

2. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is a wonderful western historical fiction. Join two girls traveling out West on the Oregon Trail while they meet new friends and battle the rough terrain. What I love about this book is the diversity between the group of five friends. Their knowledge and acceptance of each other leads to their survival.

3. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley is set in 1959 in Virginia. Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend all-white Jefferson High School. There she meets Linda Hairston, daughter of town's most vocal opponents of school integration. In this novel, star-crossed lovers must hide their feelings for one another in order to protect each other.

4. Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee is set in 1906 in San Francisco. Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty of Chinatown and creates a new persona as a wealthy heiress who gains entry into a boarding school for wealthy white girls. But then a historic Earthquake strikes! Pick up this book to find what happens to Mercy.

5. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See focuses on mother and daughter relationships. Li-Yan lives in a village of the Akha people of Yunnan China until she is forced to abandon her daughter. Throughout the novel, Li-Yan separates from her mother and daughter but finally reconnects with them by the end of the book. Her mother stays in the village while Li-Yan seeks for a better education. Li-Yan's daughter is adopted by an American couple who live in California. This novel is a story about tradition, culture, family, love, loss, sacrifice, perseverance, new beginnings and origins.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to blog about their top ten favorite books of 2017. It was very hard to narrow down to only ten books since there are so many fantastic books I've read this year. The following books are in no particular order.

1. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See is definitely a book for those who like to read about adoption, assimilating to a new culture, mother and daughter bonding and for those who are tea aficionados! I have been a huge fan of Lisa See every since Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was released but this novel is definitely my favorite book written by her.

2. The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder is a cute and fluffy contemporary. Meg Leder writes a genuine book about first crushes, friendship and finding one self. Also, everything pictured on this book cover relates to the novel 100%.

3. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is a rom-com novel that is charming with just enough humor. Dimple and Rishi meet because of their parents' plan for an arranged marriage. Rishi is a hopeless romantic and is all aboard to please his parents while independent Dimple could care less about the match. However, tides turn when Dimple gets to know Rishi more. The novel also tackles the struggles of desires, passions and overriding gender stereotypes.

4. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia is a contemporary novel for those who love fandom and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Eliza is a creator of a well known web comic but no one knows that Eliza created it. Eliza's alter ego becomes a secret until she meets Wallace and she gets to know him a bit better. Eliza and Her Monsters is part geeky, part adorable and one hundred percent addictive.

5. Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han is the third book in the To All the Boys I've Loved Before trilogy. I was ecstatic when found out Miss Han was writing another Lara Jean book and this one is a pretty decent ending tying all the books together. Although, I am a JAM lover forever, I still enjoyed this book.

6. Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco is the second book in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. I absolutely adore this book with the banter between Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell. Readers meet new people while getting to know more about Wadsworth and Cresswell. The mystery of Dracula looms and the plot line is definitely more gorey than Stalking Jack the Ripper.

7. Little Elliot Fall Friends by Mike Curato is the fourth book in the Little Elliot series. Little Elliot and Mouse grow sick of the city and decide to visit the countryside. This is a delightful book to read during the autumn months. The illustrations are timeless as usual making this book, as well as the others in the series, a book to cherish for many years.

8. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman is a prequel to Practical Magic but focuses on the Franny's, Jet's and Vincent's lives. Readers learn more about the Owens curse and learns what heartaches the Owen siblings went through before Sally and Gillian came into the picture. Magical realism blends with contemporary in this entrancing novel.

9. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao is an East Asian dark retelling of the Evil Queen from Snow White. Xifeng will have to sacrifice a lot in order to gain power and influence. This twisted and deceitful story is downright wicked! This is the first installment in The Rise of the Empress series.

10. American Panda by Gloria Chao hit home with cultural expectations and values while trying to please your family but still pursing your passions. I also love how this book is set in Massachusetts! This is a novel that won't be released until Tuesday, February 2018, but it's a novel that definitely should be on your TBR list.

What are some of your favorite reads for 2017? Do we share any of the same titles?

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Novel Notes: Hello December

Novel Notes is a new feature where I will be discussing about my life. Some topics may include life events, travel and food. If you have suggestions about topics I should write about, please leave a comment at the end of the post.

Happy December everyone. Sorry for the decrease in posts lately. It's been a rough couple of months with life related events. Work as been taking a lot of my energy and time due to constant stress and the increases amount of time I need to put into my job. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving last month and I have been enjoying the weather lately. We're suppose to be getting snow this weekend in Massachusetts which is exciting yet daunting at the same time. Although I love flurries, I absolutely despise when too much snow accumulates. Walking on ice and through snow is rough and I walk pretty much everywhere. The only time I love a lot of snow is when it grants me a snow day or if I don't have plans to leave the house. However, I would love to see snow on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day! We haven't had a white Christmas in awhile.

I do have one exciting news for you. I recently got engaged! My fiancé popped the question on our 10th anniversary last month! It was so unexpected too! We hope to get married in 2018 or 2019 in October at a brewery somewhere in New Hampshire, Vermont or in Maine! My fiancé and I love visiting random breweries and vineyards in the New England states and would love to host a wedding with good beer, good food and good company. I am excited to get married but I am not really looking forward to the planning process.

I haven't read too much lately. I was able to read one book last month and I absolutely adored it! I read American Panda by Gloria Chao in one sitting the day I received the book. It's a heartfelt book about trying to live up to your family's expectations. You want to pursue your passion but at the same time you don't want to let down your parents. Part of the journey is finding the courage to speak up and to find out what makes you happy. If you enjoyed reading Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman and/or When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, check out American Panda.

I participated in The Broke and the Bookish's 8th Secret Santa Swap this year. By chance I received a package from Sara from Forever17Books. She nailed this year's package perfectly! The wrapping paper is lovely and that card!!! Look at all the puppies! I am excited to read Tales of from the Shadowhunter Academy and Made You Up. The Nightmare Before Christmas socks are too cute and how adorable is the Ravenclaw winter beanie ornament with the pom pom? Thank you so much Sara for getting the book colors too! Yay blue and bronze! Also, I can't wait to drink a mug of the mint hot chocolate while reading a book next to the Christmas tree with the cute ornament hanging from the tree. Thanks again Sara for the holiday cheer! I love everything you've gifted and I know you put a lot of time and thought into selecting everything.

What has been happening in your life recently? Read any good books lately? Any huge life events that happened? How was your Thanksgiving?