Thursday, December 27, 2018

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Title: Emergency Contract
Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: March 27, 2018
Pages: 394
Source/format: Hardcover // Library

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2

Synopsis (from

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Penny Lee just finished her senior year in high school and is off to college in Austin, TX to learn to become a writer. Her boyfriend Mark is just average and they don't know much about each other. Penny meets Sam Becker one day through her roommate at House, a coffee shop. However, there friendship didn't start until Penny ran into Sam on the side of the road when he was having a panic attack. After that incident, they become each other's emergency contacts.

Mary H.K. Choi writes a novel where the readers want to know more about the characters. Each character has their own unique history. I love how Penny is pensive and always give herself choices to act upon when she makes a decision. Choi even lists out the choices/reactions when Penny is trying to figure out what she wants to do. Her internal monologues are often comedic and are relatable. Although Penny's personality may be off-putting for some, she does have some difficulty making friends and being comfortable around people. Sam, on the other hand, is a social butterfly but harbors many demons that many don't know about. Penny is able to help pull him out of the darkness.

The formatting of the book include Penny's and Sam's POVs alternating every chapter. When Penny and Sam become emergency contacts, their text message between each other are formatted on the pages as if you are reading an electronic message back and forth. These flawed individuals end up relying on each other. Penny and Sam learn to trust one another. They become each other's life line and trusted advisor for difficult life decisions.

Choi delves into different socioeconomic and tough topics like addiction, unconventional parental upbringings, undocumentation, rape, etc. Sam is living on his own barely scrapping by to provide for himself. He doesn't have any close family to help him. Sam grew up with his mother in a trailer and his mother is an alcoholic who needed Sam to help get by each day. Sam is an inspiring documentary filmmaker who would love to go to college but due to his financial situation, he works at House as a manager and the owner lets him live there. Things get complicated when his ex-girlfriend claims she is pregnant.

Penny starts college at the University of Texas - Austin but her mother is more concerned about appearances and her mother dresses way younger than she is. Penny is unsure where she stands with her Mark since she doesn't really want to be with him because they don't truly know each other. I love how the romance between Penny and Sam starts off slow. Penny breaks it off with Mark because the relationship wasn't going anywhere and she was starting to have feelings for Sam. Penny finds that taking criticisms for her manuscripts is hard and she is learning how to hone her writing in order to please her professor but also to still stay true to herself. Penny is Korean-American and she discusses the many microaggressions she has to deal with everyday. I can definitely relate to the microagressions that Penny has to go through being an Asian American female.

Emergency Contact is a cute contemporary novel with just enough romance and a dash of comedy. If you love Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and/or Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, you will love this book!

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Nutcracker by New York City Ballet and illustrated by Valeria Docampo.

Title: The Nutcracker
Author: New York City Ballet
Illustrated by: Valeria Docampo
Publisher: Little Simon
Publication date: September 20, 2016
Pages: 40
Source/format: Hardcover // Purchased

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

The New York City Ballet presents a classic ballet tale for a modern ballet lover with George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, a holiday favorite.

The New York City Ballet is known for showcasing classic stories of the ballet with their trademark stylish and modern sensibility. For the first time, this beloved holiday story is told based on George Balanchine’s quintessential production. The storyline of this gorgeous picture book mimics the choreography of the famous ballet and the illustrations are inspired by the backdrops and scenery from the actual production.

The New York City Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker is considered to be “the” leading production in the world. A holiday tradition for many families, now readers who can’t travel to New York will be able to experience this colorful celebratory story. A must-have for every aspiring ballerina’s library and a holiday tradition for every family’s bookshelf.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

This wonderful picture book has stunning timeless illustrations depicting the famous The Nutcracker ballet. Not only is this story for all ages, but if you can't see the ballet live, reading this book is the perfect way to relive the magic of the Christmas holiday. This book is true to the The New York City Ballet George Balantine's version of The Nutcracker. I am hoping a book showcasing the Boston Ballet's version is written and illustrated soon because I am a huge fan of the Nutcracker bear! Everyone loves the Nutcracker bear!

Valeria Docampo's whimsy illustrations include delightful characters painted effortless and in beautiful dance positions. The main character is named Marie instead of Clara. She is gifted a nutcracker by her godfather but Fritz gets jealous and breaks the nutcracker. At night, the Christmas tree grows, the Nutcracker comes to life and a Mouse King starts a sword fight with the nutcracker. The nutcracker turns into a prince and takes Marie to the Land of Sweets. Of course, the Sugarplum Fairy makes an appearance along with the Spanish hot chocolate to the Chinese tea to the marzipan. In this version of The Nutcracker, Marie meets Herr Drosselmeier's nephew. The Prince in this version is closer to Marie's age and has an uncanny resemblance to Herr Drosselmeier's nephew.

I love the addition of fun facts in the back of the book. These facts include information from the actual ballet in New York City. Some facts include how Mother Ginger's skirt weighs 85 pounds and is 9 feet wide and how the Christmas tree grows to an ultimate height of 41 feet and weighs 1 ton.

The Nutcracker picture book conjures nostalgia. It brings back memories of my childhood and it sparks the true spirit of Christmas. Christmas is not about the presents. It's about the magical experience during the holidays that you spend with your loved ones. The traditions, the snow and the festivities is what Christmas is truly about. Relive the magic anytime of the year with this splendid book!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Title: The Love & Lies of Rukhsana
Author: Sabina Khan
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication date: January 29, 2019
Pages: 336
Source/format: ARC // Rachel at Rachelwrites007

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

M Y  T H O U G H T S

"We must be the masters of our own destinies. I did not learn that until it was too late. You have to fight to take back control of your life. Sometimes you will hurt the ones you love the most. But in the end, it will always have to be your choice."

Rukhsana Ali is struggling to live up to her conservative and traditional Bengali parents' expectations. She listens to most of their rules for the most part but she harbors secrets such as Rukhsana being in a relationship. And not any relationship. She has a girlfriend, a non-Bengali girlfriend. Rukhsana applies to Caltech even though her parents rather have her stay close by Seattle, where she resides. Her dream is to work for NASA. When her parents finally caved in to let her go to school in Seattle, they also find out about her secret relationship which causes her parents to send Rukhsana to Bangladesh.

I love how Sabina Khan showcases Rukhsana to be opinionated and knows where her passions lie. Rukhsana stands for what she believes when it comes to whom she loves. She also is fairly smart since she is accepted to Caltech with a scholarship. Not only is she accepted to a prestigious school but Rukhsana wants to study astronomy or physics. Yes for girls in the STEM field!

Also, when reading The Love & Lies of Rukhsana, I am glad a couple people in the Bangladeshi community are open-minded about Rukhsana liking females. Her brother Aamir is supportive and even their family friend's son, Irfan, has a similar situation in which he is in a relationship with a non-Bengali girl.

Rukhsana's parents trick her to visit her grandmother saying that Nani is sick but in reality, they are trying to marry her off in an arranged marriage. In Bangladesh, Rukhsana turns to Shaila, her cousin, for support and later her Nani for comfort. Sohail, a potential suitor, ends up being good friends with Rukhsana. I enjoyed reading about the friendship between Rukhsana and Sohail. They have similar values and beliefs although they are not romantically interested in each other.

When readers have a glance at Nani's diary, you can see how much she had to go through when she was younger getting married to a man she didn't want to marry. A man who was cruel and her parents married her off at such a young age. She only tells Rukhsana the ordeal she had to go through and how it was her secret for many years. The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali is a contemporary novel that incorporates pieces of historical fiction within the novel through Nani's diary entries. Nani tells Rukhsana that she must fight for her beliefs. She doesn't want Rukhsana to give into being unhappy.

And so Ruksana fights for what she believes for even though it seems like no one is on her side. Some of the actions depicted in the novel may be hard for some people to read about but some of the things do happen in the world. We need to understand why someone doesn't ask for help and how they stay strong through dark times. As a warning, the novel includes sexual assault, child marriage, hate crimes and cases of people doing things against others' will.

Khan takes readers on a roller coaster ride where you fall in love with the characters but then your heart breaks when you read about people being ridiculed for who they love. People get back together again but then tragedy happens. There is so much emotion in this novel!

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana not only talks about coming out but how friends and family view the LGBTQIA+ community, interracial relationships and keeping traditional religious and cultural beliefs. The Love & Lies of Rukhsana is emotionally charged and it's a book I recommend everyone to read.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter 2018 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and the meme moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their top ten winter 2018 TBR books. The following books are in no particular order. 

1. Comet Rising by MarcyKate Connolly is the sequel to Shadow Weaver. I am super excited to read this middle grade novel to find out more about Emmeline and Lucas. Some kids are blessed with special abilities due to the Cerelia Comet. Unfortunately, someone is out the exterminate all the children with these abilities. I don't want to spoil the plot of the first book but let's say I love the friendship between Emmeline and Lucas.

2. Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi is my current read and I heard that if you like Fangirl, you will like this book. Penny and Sam live different lifestyles but fate aligns and their paths meet. All I know is that Sam works at a café and is financially struggling. Penny is trying to figure out her life with a boyfriend who doesn't know anything about her and she has a desire to attend college in Austin,TX while being a writer. Sounds like the perfect book for me!

3. Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson is a searing poetic memoir and call to action during these #metoo and #timesup movements. It's the perfect companion to Anderson's novel, Speak. This memoir is inspired by fans and is written in free verse sharing reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from Anderson's life that she has never written about before. I am a huge fan of Laurie Halse Anderson and I cannot wait to read this memoir.

4. An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley is a historical fiction novel at it's finest. Mirabelle, an alchemist, helps her mother poison King Louis XIV in France where she finds out many secrets of the Shadow Society her mother belongs to. The royal bastard, Josse de Bourbon, becomes the prince he never meant to be when the Sun King and half the court are assassinated. A deadly poisoner joins a bastard prince in this adventurous story to battle against the Shadow Society.

5. Enchantée by Gita Trelease is a historical fantasy novel imbrued with magic and during French Revolution times. I am currently reading this novel and so far it's fantastic! Camille is an orphan along with her two siblings but she is trying her best to provide for herself and her sister after her brother spent all their savings. Camille ends up pretending to be a baroness in order to keep her and her sister off the streets.

6. Merry Christmas, Little Elliot by Mike Curato is the fifth book in the Little Elliot picture book series. I adore Elliot the elephant and I am a big fan of Curato's books. When I heard about the Christmas book coming up, I was overjoyed. I am hoping to read the book closer to Christmas.

7. Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu is a powerful story of feminism, girls supporting girls and standing up for yourself, your friends and those whose voices are hushed. This novel was recommended by my friend Emma and I recently received it as a #TBTBSanta gift last week. I am excited to dive into this book!

8. The Nutcracker based on the New York City Ballet's version of George Balantine's The Nutcracker and illustrated by Valeria Docampo is a book I purchased the other day at Park Street Books & Toys. Not only is the story timeless but the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. It's perfect for this time of year to read this traditional story for all ages.

9. A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall, is cursed by an enchantress. He repeats the autumn of his 18th year of life over and over again until he is saved by someone who falls in love with him. Harper Lucy lost her father and her mother is dying. Her brother is barely holding the family together and underestimates her due to her cerebral palsy. Can Harper break the curse and save the kingdom?

10. The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena is a contemporary novel about a girl named Susan and a guy named Malcolm. Susan is driven, meets her parents expectations and wants to be an artist. Malcolm is a bad boy who has a reputation and doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. Although they are opposites of each other, they fall for one another. This sounds like a cute read for sure and I am all for it!

What books are on your winter TBR? Do we share any of the same books?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Pages to Tea (7)

P A G E S  to  T E A

I'm not sure if you know but I am a big tea fanatic. I have so many bags and tins of tea I probably can create a great wall of tea. I love how different teas have different properties. Some teas can be energizing and some teas can be calming. My favorite time to enjoy a cuppa is when I am reading a book. Hence why I am showcasing some fantastic book and tea pairings.

[Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series + Capital Teas Herbal Chai]

Luna Lovegood is one of my favorite characters in the Harry Potter series. Not only is she a Ravenclaw but she is unique and walks to the beat of her own drum. That being said, Herbal Chai it a good match for Luna. This is tea is a spicy blend that is a universal favorite among tea drinkers worldwide. Herbal Chai contains cinnamon, lemongrass, coconut chips, candied pineapple pieces, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and pink peppercorns. The peppercorns remind me of the mistletoe berries. It reminds me how Luna always talks about Nargles in the mistletoe. Luna is a bit sweet, a bit eccentric and so is this wonderful blend. It's a bit fruity and sweet yet a bit spicy. Luna can be feisty when it comes to people endangering her dear loved ones.

Feng Lu in Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is based on the Silk Road and how fitting is Gold Silk for Feng Lu. With it's elegant and twisted black and gold leaves, this tea makes full-bodied, smooth, and rich. Overall there is a malty sweetness in taste with notes of chocolate and a hint of smokiness that lingers on the tongue. And if you're one for multiple infusions, you're in luck since you can get several cups from Gold Silk Black Tea. This tea is suitable for royalty.

Lei's fiery and confident personality is engulfing yet she is poised enough to be chosen to be a concubine for the Demon King. Adagio's Samurai Mate Tea blend includes yerba mate which is elegantly balanced with the spirit of chai spices and the essence of tropical fruit undertones. This mosaic of flavors delivers a graceful yet powerful kick fit for a warrior. The tea provides enough energy to power through even the toughest of days. This is just what Lei needs to gain confidence to plot her revenge against the Demon King and she gains enough courage to say enough is enough and no means no.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Cozy/Wintry Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and the meme moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their top ten cozy/wintry reads. I listed eight cozy/wintry reads. Harry Potter already counts as seven, right? The following books are in no particular order. 

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is the perfect series for the holidays and during the colder months. I always love reading the series during the holidays curled up with a blanket on the couch and a mug of hot cocoa or tea. Picturing the Yule Ball or the trio wandering in Hogsmeade in the snow will cheer you up. You can never go wrong with this classic series.

2. My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins is the perfect anthology for this time of year. There is a story for everyone! My favorites include "Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell, "Polaris is Where You Will Find Me" by Jenny Han, "It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins, "What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman and "Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White.

3. Winterspell by Claire Legrand is a Nutcracker retelling perfect for December! The novel is about Clara Stole living in New York. It's timeless story about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

4. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han is always a fun and cute book to read during the holidays. With decorating for Christmas and the cookie baking sessions, it definitely puts you in a festive mood to enjoy what the holidays is really about. Spend time with your loved ones and create memories just like Lara Jean does with her sisters and father.

5. American Panda by Gloria Chao has a wintery looking cover but don't let that fool you. This contemporary novel is about keeping true to yourself and finding your passion even if it means not following the path that is expected by your parents.

6. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a winter classic! With the colorful illustrations and the wonderful feeling of capturing the first snow, it's a book for all ages. Warm up nearby the fireplace while reading this!

7. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson is a novel where readers see how PTSD not only affects the individual but it affects a family as a whole. We see Hayley and her father support each other through the good and difficult times.

8. Landline by Rainbow Rowell is about Georgie who believes her marriage with Neal is trouble. Right before Christmas, this magical telephone literally saves everything!  This landline reminds Georgie why she married Neal and how important her family is compared to her crazy work life.

What are some of your favorite cozy/wintry reads? Do you have a TBR list for this winter?