Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books I Read In 2019

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 favorite books that they reads in 2019. I have to say 2019 had a lot of wonderful reads. I did not include some of my re-reads in the mix. Although I love To All the Boys I Loved Before trilogy and the Little Elliot books, I wanted other books to shine for my favorite reads of the year. I couldn't limit myself to ten books. I also decided to categorize my books by genre/format. The following titles are in no particular order. 

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
Frankly in Love by David Yoon

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley

Finale by Stephanie Garber, 3rd and last installment in the Caraval series.

Killing November by Adriana Mather

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell

AUDIO BOOKS (love the narrators)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander - Eddie Redmayne narrates this audio book and he is phenomenal, especially since he is Newt in the film adaptation. Just like in the films, he makes the character! No one else could have been casted as Newt overall.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan - I loved the narrator for this audio book. She definitely kept me entertained. 

What are your favorite books that you've read this year?

Friday, December 20, 2019

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Title: In Real Life
Author: Cory Doctorow
Illustrator: Jen Wang
Publisher: First Second
Publication date: October 14, 2014
Pages: 175
Source/format: Paperback//Library

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake.

From acclaimed teen author (Little Brother, For the Win) and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow and Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang, In Real Life is a perceptive and high-stakes look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture clash.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

In Real Life is so much more than video games and LARPing. It's about female empowerment, human rights and doing the right thing.

When Anda's class has a lady named Liza visit to introduce students to a multiplayer online game called Coarsegold Online, Anda jumps on the opportunity to connect with other girls online. She convinced her mother to let her sign up at a $12 monthly cost. Anda's avatar leveled up quickly and she joins Clan Fahrenheit that is lead by Lucy aka Sarge. Through one of the missions, Anda meets Raymond, a 16-year-old Chinese boy, who is a gold farmer. However, Anda finds out that Raymond's real job is to gold farm in order to make a living. He is exploited. Through Raymond's friends and Anda's Fahrenheit guild, she is able to start a movement to prevent bullying and for everyone to access equal human rights.

Jen Wang illustrated the cover perfectly. On the left, we have Anda in her real-life persona while on the right we have her Coarsegold Online alter ego, Kalidestroyer. With engaging illustrations and a diverse character cast, I am excited to see more from Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang. In Real Life is captivating and the plot and illustrations draw readers in.

In Real Life discusses video games, politics and economics through sequential art. This graphic novel would be a great addition to read class regarding injustices around the world economically. Online gaming isn't just for the rich who can afford to pay a monthly fee. In fact, online gaming can hide so much more. It really makes you think about what is underneath the surface. Everything isn't what appears to be.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter TBR 2019-2020

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 books on the winter TBR list. The following titles are in no particular order.

1. Don't Read the Comments by Eric Smith is about two teens who bond over video games. One streams and supports her family by playing a certain video game. The other spends his free time writing games for a local developer while his mothers wants him to pursue a career as a doctor. Of course their worlds collide because of their interest in videogames.

2. Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen is about Ever Wong who gets sent from Ohio to Taiwan to learn Mandarin during the summer. However, the program that Ever attends is infamously known as a teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat.

3. The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell is advertised as 'a queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red' in which teenage twins battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family." I always enjoy reading Cornwell's retellings of fairy tales and I cannot wait to read this novel.

4. The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski is a LGBTQIA+ fantasy about different castes. It's the first book in a series. Nirrim is of a low caste. Those low castes are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. Sid talks about a rumor where the High Caste possesses magic and Sid encourages Nirrim to seek magic.

5. Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare is the first book in The Last Hours, the sequel series to The Infernal Devices trilogy. Clare highlights the Edwardian London time period where James and Lucie Herondale are teens who associate with the Blackthorns and the Carstairs. Follow Will's and Tessa's children with their friends as they battle for what is right. For those who don't know, The Infernal Devices is one of my all-time favorite series. I cannot wait to read more about the children of TID.

6. Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman is about a trapeze artist whose parents run a circus in Las Vegas. After an argument with her parents, Harley joins rival traveling circus Maison du Mystère where she is thrown into a brutal yet beautiful world.

7. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo is Bardugo's first adult novel and is book one in a series. Alex Stern has a traumatic and complex history. At the hospital, she was given a second chance. A chance to attend prestigious Yale but at a cost. Alex is tasked to monitor the secret societies at Yale. I am intrigued to see what direction Bardugo takes.

8. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell. I am getting into a lot of graphic novels lately and many people recommended this one. Laura Dean is a popular girl in school and a total heartbreaker because she isn't a good girlfriend. Young love and relationships are explored in this graphic novel. It helps readers see how to embrace a healthy relationship and how to ditch the toxic ones.

9. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan is a book that has been on my TBR for a long time. I am actually currently listening to this title via audiobook. It's quite enjoyable via audiobook. I am very picky when it comes to audiobooks but the narrator does well with all character voices and points of view. For those who don't know, Nicholas Young invites his girlfriend, Rebecca Chu, to attend a wedding in his home country of Singapore. However, Rachel doesn't know that Nick is very well off and part of the elite social class. Here readers explore the gossiping, the high expectations to be met, old money vs new money and the glitz and glamour of the super-rich.

10. Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee is a biography and cookbook in one. Readers can dive in and be immersed in the history of food. Lee describes his experience traveling around the United States and sampling some of the best food. He talks about how food has a story behind the recipe and how immigrants built the melting-pot of American food. I am currently reading this book now and I am enjoying it a lot.

What books are on your Winter TBR list? There are so many awesome books to read but such little time. I am going to try to pick up all these books on this list to read. A couple I am currently reading and the rest are on my docket to read. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Merry Christmas, Little Elliot by Mike Curato

Title: Merry Christmas, Little Elliot
Author and Illustrator: Mike Curato
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Publication date: September 11, 2018
Pages: 40
Source/format: Hardcover//Library
Rating: 1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Best friends Little Elliot and Mouse are back for another adventure--and this time, they're looking for Christmas spirit!

Little Elliot the elephant isn't quite sure what Christmas spirit is, but he suspects he doesn't have it. Not even a visit to Santa Claus can put Elliot in the right mood. But when chance blows a letter for Santa into Elliot and Mouse's path, the two friends discover what Christmas is all about--and make a new friend, too. A heartfelt celebration of the season of giving! Perfect for sharing around the holidays.


Elliot and Mouse spend one December day visiting Santa in New York City. While Mouse asks Santa for a toy train, Little Elliot asks Santa for Christmas spirit. Unfortunately, Santa can't give him Christmas spirit and he tells Little Elliot that he can't give him Christmas spirit since he has to find that out for himself.

Mike Curato's heartfelt picture book celebrates the friendship between old and new friends. He depicts the true meaning of Christmas; it's not about the toys but it's about the experience and finding what is meaningful to you during this time of year. Little Elliot and Mouse try to find Christmas spirit through multiple avenues such as seeing the Nutcracker, visiting Rockefeller Center and even going sledding. When Little Elliot finds a red envelope addressed to Santa at the North Pole, he is one step closer to finding the Christmas spirit.

Merry Christmas, Little Elliot has a cheerful cover with a red background with wonderful typography fitting for the season and the plot of the story. Merry Christmas is written as if a child is addressing a letter to Santa. Little Elliot is illustrated to look like a looping ribbon with one i dotted with an ornament. Under the dust jacket, the book is designed to look like the red envelope that Little Elliot finds. Curato's illustrations are always delightful to look at. With the muted tones of color, the timelessness of the illustrations will last for years to come.

Merry Christmas, Little Elliot is a fun and merry book perfect for the Christmas season and during the colder winter months. If you need a bit of cheering up and some happy spirit, check out this book along with the rest of Curato's Little Elliot series.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Title: The Prince and the Dressmaker
Author and Illustrator: Jen Wang
Publisher: First Second
Publication date: February 13, 2018
Pages: 277
Source/format: Paperback//Library
Rating: 1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

The Prince and the Dressmaker starts off like any other fairytale but this fairytale is an unconventional one. Two young adults have high expectations to live up to but they delve into their passions with the support of one another. Frances is a seamstress who aspires to be a designer. Prince Sebastian is expected to betroth another on his 16th birthday and lead his family as a royal. However, Sebastian's passion is to wear the stunning pieces that Frances creates as the alter ego, Lady Crystallia. With Frances's stunning craftsmanship and Lady Crystallia's fantastic personality, the duo becomes a sensation in France.

Frances is accepting of Sebastian's desire to wear dresses, his self-expression and gender fluidity. Their friendship grows stronger every day as well as their character development. Although they had a minor falling out, they come to support each other during tough times. Sebastian becomes free while being Lady Crystallia while Frances enjoys designing pieces that are beyond the norm. The duo knows what each other needs in terms of what makes them happy.

Jen Wang's storytelling is alluring. This modern take on a fairytale is redefined. The sequential paneling with vibrant gorgeous dresses brings life to purposeful muted/monochromatic panels of daily life. The chapters breaks with the dress patterns is a nice detail and I adore the white space. Wang adds life to each character through their facial expressions and words.

With a mix of high fashion, living up to expectations, finding one's true self and friendship, The Prince and the Dressmaker is a charming stand-alone graphic novel to pick up and read.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Starless Sea Launch Recap

I am so fortunate to attend the launch of The Starless Sea tour hosted by Brookline Booksmith and the Coolidge Corner School on Tuesday, November 5th. I left work early and met up with Ellie to walk over to Oath pizza for an early dinner. We met up with Rachel, Janella and Amanda. Thank goodness we ate when we did because we didn't leave the school until fairly late to head back home after the launch talk and the signing.

Erin Morgenstern has not released a book since her debut, The Night Circus, which came out in 2011. Erin was in conversation with Liberty Hardy. Erin talked about how she is never going to be a book a year person and not to expect another book from her anytime soon. She talked about how last year she turned 40 and she received two gifts that she treasures. She received a cat and also a Nintendo Switch. The Switch became her research for the video game component for The Starless Sea.

When Erin writes, she brainstorms the space first. In The Starless Sea, she had the labyrinth library pictured in her head before she wrote about the character or the plot. In The Night Circus, she brainstormed the circus before all the wonderful characters. Erin mentioned about how she has to write something wrong before she can write it right. She explores space and narrative. She then chooses what will stay.

Erin graced us with a reading from her book. She had three tarot cards of the sword, bee and key. Liberty chose the Sword. It was nice to sit back and hear Erin read from her latest book. Erin even ordered a sword online so she can have one in her office. Liberty asked Erin what her favorite character is from The Starless Sea. Erin mentioned how “everyone is me.” Each character represents a part of Erin. However, she said that Zachary is the closest character that acts like her. She spends more time with Zachary compared to the others. In The Night Circus, it was more ensemble like. The Night Circus has a visual language and it’s a visual person. The black and white with the red are prominent as well as the Victorian era. The Starless Sea is dark, underground and dipped in gold. The book centers on the bee, key and sword along with the crown, heart and feather.

Erin talked about writing about what you want to read. That’s how she approaches writing her books. The Night Circus is what she wants to go to. The Starless Sea poses the questions “what do I want to write and why?” With The Starless Sea, she keeps going back to stories. The novel has a complex narrative. Fantasy is the genre that she gravitates toward because it’s interesting to travel to places. She has been curating ideal fantasy spaces and the ideal introvert space. Erin is a reader of sensory details.

Liberty asked Erin about Erin’s next book when she hears rumors that Erin has another book in the works. Erin said it’s “not fair to call it a book yet.” Things are in the works. She mentioned about cherry blossoms and mud. The Night Circus is an autumnal book, The Starless Sea is a winter book and she finds it fitting that her next novel is a spring book. She told the audience she has been rereading a lot of Shirley Jackson lately. Erin keeps a lot of information regarding her books in her head. She doesn’t use Post-Its. She sometimes uses Scribner to help organize her thoughts in her head.

Liberty and Erin talked about when a woman writes a book, people assume that they are going to write a fantasy novel. For children, fantasy is very whimsical. Eventually that whimsicalness ages out. Erin plays to the sweet spot for a book that is adult but has a crossover for teens. A book that falls under the Alex Awards category.

In terms of reading reviews, Erin does not read reviews of her books on social media. She stays far away from the reviews. She exclaimed, “It’s not for me. The book is done.” She mentioned how on social media, she doesn’t get treated as a person. And when she talked about that, she said how people forget that she is just a person that happens to write books.

Liberty asked about whether a sequel to The Night Circus will ever be written. Erin says no immediately. But then she takes it back and says “never say never.” She has no plans to revisit it. But then jokingly said maybe in 30 years ala the Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. Liberty asked if Erin abstains from fiction when she is writing. Erin talked about how it’s hard to read while writing. She tends to read more graphic novels and watches movies or even plays more video games. Erin immerses herself in stories in a different media/format. She talks about Dragon Age, shapeshifting and her cat named Vesper. And for those who don’t know, Vesper has an Instagram account you can follow. Her cat is named after a cocktail. Vesper's mom is named Mint Julep.

Liberty does a mini speed round with Erin. Liberty asked Erin which tent in The Night Circus Erin is most proud of creating. Erin responds with the Cloud Maze because it was inspired by the Boston Children’s Museum’s vertical maze. It’s an extraordinary version. She would love to visit the Ice Garden the most out of all the tents due to its exquisite detailing. This is how you feed creativity. How can you make the experience more and how to you elevate it? Erin discussed harvesting the details of something she sees and putting it away. "Then you pluck from them. It’s visual, tactile and it’s feeling you are there. You borrow things like I did with the Children’s Museum.”

When asked if Erin read The Night Circus since it came out. She said no. She won’t ever read The Starless Sea. She needs to let go. Erin used to be a theater major in college. She did things and took risks because she didn’t know what she was doing. Someone asked if she would want The Night Circus or The Starless Sea out in graphic novel format or she wants to write one. Erin said yes that she is interested in this idea. She would love it if there is a different illustrator for each tent.

The talk with Erin in conversation with Liberty was fantastic. Rachel and I ended up meeting someone from Australia who is studying abroad at Northeastern University. She is super nice and we had a great chat. We waited in the signing line for maybe a little over an hour. It was definitely worth the wait to meet and to chat with Erin. I ended up talking to Erin about tarot cards. Erin was super patient to meet all of her fans. She signed all their books and let everyone take posed photos with her. Overall, the event was wonderful.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Spur: A Wolf's Story by Eliza Robertson

Title: Spur: A Wolf's Story
Author: Eliza Robertson
Illustrator: Nora AoyogiPublisher: Greystone Kids
Publication date: September 17, 2019
Pages: 32
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

This captivating tale will inspire children across the world to build compassion for an iconic yet vulnerable animal.

In award-winning author Eliza Robertson’s stunning debut children’s book, a young, brave wolf named Spur is looking for food with her brother when, suddenly, a flying beast appears in the sky. What was that thing? And where did her brother go? The next time the helicopter appears, Spur knows just what to do to save her wolf pack and reunite with her brother.

Stirring, gorgeous illustrations of wolves, snow, and trees illuminate this uplifting and empowering story, which offers a gentle message for protecting wild wolves in North America and beyond. Just like us, wolves have brothers, sisters, parents, and friends—and they very much need our help.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Spur: A Wolf's Story is a story about wolves who move in a pack from place to place depending on where they can find food. Lichen used to grow in the area where the wolves called home a long time ago which brought other animals to the area. However, because the lichen was depleted by large mammals during the winter, less caribou, deer and moose roam the area. Spur and her pack heard a rumor about a grove high up in the mountains where lichen flourishes. Upon locating this grove, they are being attacked by thunderflies. These thunderfly attacks are actually humans in helicopters attacking the wolves. A "beetle" hits Spur and she is injured.

Spur gets separated from her family when she got injured. However, wolves from another pack find her and offer to share their food. She stays with the new pack as she heals and they help her look for her family. The thunderflies return and this time, Spur is not afraid. She howls to warn others. While the wolves hide during the attack, she reunites with her family when she hears a familiar howl of her brother. All the wolves approach the lichen abundant grove safe and sound.

Illustrator, Nora Aoyagi's depictions of flora and fauna are always wonderful to see. She utilizes white spaces as a frame on certain page spreads. However, she will have some of the forest, sky and wolf shapes bleed off the pages on page spreads. The color palette includes cool colors of greys, blues, greens, browns and white.

I highly recommend Spur: A Wolf's Story as an educational and visual way to prepare children about parts of life and society that may be a bit more complex to explain. This picture book teaches young readers about the impact of humans trying to control wildlife populations. Natural habitats are being destroyed and wildlife is dying off due to lack of food or because they are being culled. This book can be used to educate young readers about the environment, the food chain and how human interaction impacts wildlife. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker

Title: Mooncakes
Author: Suzanne Walker
Illustrator: Wendy Xu
Publisher: The Lion Forge
Publication date: October 22, 2019
Pages: 256
Source/format: Paperback//Library
Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers' bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Nova Huang is a witch and her friend, Tam Lang, is a werewolf. For many years, the two haven't seen each other until one day Nova sees Tam out in the forest at night. A demon is out loose and a cult is about trying to fulfill these rituals using werewolves and magic. Nova saves Tam along with the help of her grandmothers, friend Tatyana and a group of animal spirits.

The Mooncakes narrative flows very well. The colors and the illustration style work harmoniously with the story plotline. Readers obtain enough information regarding the characters and their identities. Not only is there racial diversity in the graphic novel but Suzanne Walker acknowledges the usage of pronouns. Tam goes by They. Suzanne also includes how Nova has hearing aids and Wendy Xu makes sure to illustrate the hearing aids in each panel with Nova in it. Wendy also illustrates how Nova uses her hearing aids every day with Nova taking them off at night and putting them back on when she wakes up.

Nova lives with her two Nanas since her parents passed but her parents make a couple of appearances. Nova has a very supportive family. Tam has a very complex family dynamic that the graphic novel doesn't go into detail about. I would love to read some kind of prequel graphic novel about when Nova and Tam are younger.

Mooncakes is a lovable and inclusive graphic novel. It's the perfect read for the fall season. If you enjoy reading a sequential story about witches and werewolves, check out Mooncakes.

Monday, November 11, 2019

LeakyCon 2019: Day 3 Recap

I attended my first LeakyCon this year. LeakyCon 2019 (aka LeakyCon 10) was hosted at the Seaport Hotel and the World Trade Center from Friday, October 11, 2019 to Sunday, October 13, 2019. The first LeakyCon was held in Boston’s Park Plaza in 2009 and it’s fitting how LeakyCon 10 returns back to Boston for the 10 year anniversary. For those who don’t know what LeakyCon is, LeakyCon is a Harry Potter fandom convention by Mischief Management. It is also one of the annual conventions Mischief Management hosts. Earlier this year, during the summer, LeakyCon 9 ¾ was hosted in Dallas, Texas. Occasionally two LeakyCons will occur in one year. There have been some international locations such as Dublin, Ireland and London, UK.


The last day of LeakyCon was probably my busiest day at LeakyCon in general due to all the programming I wanted to attend. Overall, I enjoyed my time at LeakyCon despite not knowing what I was going to get myself into. The programming was fabulous and there was always something to do. I love how there is something for everyone. Even though I am not used to going to Harry Potter cons at this level in terms of the number of people, I have to say that I didn't really have to worry about waiting in too many lines.

I met up with Jess in the morning and we finally got a photo of us together. Legit, we didn't get any photos of us two besides a few in the morning with the LeakyCon stained glass window backdrop. There was a cauldron backdrop near the escalators but unfortunately, we did not get photos with the huge cauldron.

I browsed the Marketplace with Jess for a little bit before attending the Spotlight: Luke Youngblood event at the Main Stage. Luke plays Lee Jordan in the films. He always lights up the stage and is entertaining making everyone laugh. I grabbed a quick bite to eat near the food café area and to also rest a bit.

I ended up going to the Let's Discuss Ravenclaws for about 15-20 minutes and then popped into the Potter Puppet Pals Performance which was hilarious! Potter Puppet Pals never disappoint. Neil and his crew always put on a good show. I got to meet Neil way back in 2013 or so at ConnectiCon. I also attended several Yule Balls in the Middle East in Cambridge, MA where the Potter Puppet Pals perform annually. Neil framed the time for more of a Q&A. Attendees can come up to the mic at the front and ask the Potter Puppet Pals questions. The Harry Potter Puppet acted as the host and would "find" a particular character depending if the question was directed toward them.

The Spotlight: Dan Fogler was right after the Potter Puppet Pals. I moved further up to get a good seat. Dan is hilarious. I've only seen him in Balls of Fury and the Fantastic Beasts films but he is genuinely a super nice guy. He is so funny too! After the Spotlight, I want to line up for the photography session with Dan. I have to say that the lines and process to take the photo and obtain the photo was very well thought out and organized. Earlier during the day, I picked up a Nagini the Octopod that my friend Lorrie made. I even was able to bring Nagini the Octopod to the photoshoot which I was very excited about. It was so nice to meet Dan. Even though I spent alike two minutes with him, he was genuinely curious about Nagini and he loves meeting his fans which is awesome.

Jess and I met for our last panel of the day. In Defense of Prisoner Azkaban, the Best Harry Potter Movie which was very intriguing. We heard from the presenter about her thoughts and we also heard the audience's thoughts. Everyone discussed what they liked and what they didn't like. It was a good panel to end the day.

I was able to catch the end of Closing Ceremonies. Hufflepuff won the House Cup when a Hufflepuff ran to the front to submit a donation of $300! Legit it was crazy how they went right to the top to beat the other houses!

Have you been to LeakyCon or a Harry Potter fan convention before? What is your favorite part of attending a con? Do you cosplay?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Give Off Autumn Vibes

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 books that give off autumn vibes. The following titles are in no particular order.

1. How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather is the perfect book to read during the month of October. With Salem, MA as the main location in the book, readers will enjoy being transported to the Witch City. Join Sam Mather while she encounters witches and ghosts in this eerie, mysterious and ambient novel.

2. Sweep series by Cate Tiernan is one of my favorite series when I was a teenager. The first installment, Book of Shadows, starts at the beginning of the academic year. Here, readers can experience Mabon and the introduction of the foundation of the series. If you are looking for a fast-paced series about witches, check this one out.

3. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is perfect for the fall. Instead of waiting for your Hogwarts letter, join Harry and co. while they explore Hogwarts, the Forbidden Forest and more! Discover the secrets of the castle and wander around Hogsmeade. Harry Potter is a good read for any time of the year but I love to read the series during the fall and the winter months. There is something magical about the end of the year.

4. Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco are wonderful historical fiction novels to read during autumn. While the air gets crisper and the days are shorter, the suspenseful novels will keep you guessing about who the murderer is in each novel.

5. The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett is an engrossing and horrific masterpiece. This novel is creepy and Liggett does not hold back with the kills in this horror novel. It's frightening and mesmerizing. Clay Tate will take you on an unforgettable journey through Midland, Oklahoma.

6. Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett is the first book in a duology. This is Hormance at it's finest. Beware walking through the corn in Kansas. If you enjoy the Qetisiyah and Silas arc in The Vampire Diaries, you will enjoy this novel. This novel is Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn.

7. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman is about the Owens women who are cursed for over 200 years. Join Sally, Gillian and the aunts for some magic this fall!

8. Little Elliot, Fall Friends by Mike Curato is a timeless picture book with Little Elliot the elephant and Mouse the mouse. The picture book is the fourth installment in the Little Elliot series. The best friends travel to the countryside, away from New York City, to enjoy what fall has to offer them. Discover the sights and smells of autumn in the country with Little Elliot and Mouse!

9. Killing November by Adriana Mather is about a girl named November who attends a boarding school to train assassins. November learns more about her heritage and learns the secrets of Knife-Throwing and Poisons to the Art of Deception and Historical Analysis. Can I say kick-ass? Yes!

10. As I Descended by Robin Talley is a Macbeth retelling and paranormal thriller centered around students at an elite boarding school located in Virginia. They all want to win the Cawdor Kingsley Prize Scholarship. With an Ouija board, premonitions and a haunted plantation, you bet this is a novel to read during the fall.

What books give you autumn vibes? Do you go for horror novels, thrillers or mysteries? Or do you prefer books about the start of school or about the wonderful fall activities like apple picking, hayrides, pumpkin carving, etc.? I am a huge sucker for boarding school books and mystery thrillers. Some horror isn't bad either. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Title: Winterwood
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: November 5, 2019
Pages: 320
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep comes a haunting romance set deep in the magical snow-covered forest, where the appearance of a mysterious boy unearths secrets that awakens the enchanted, but angry, woods.

Be careful of the dark, dark wood . . .

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Nora is descended from a long line of Walker women who bear magic and are consider daughters of The Wicker Woods. Two weeks ago, a storm blew four feet of snow over Jackjaw Lake and Fir Haven. Two weeks ago a boy went missing and one boy was found dead. The woods are rugged, unkind and should be untrusted but Nora still walks through them because she is drawn to the woods. She always finds lost things in the woods during a full moon. After finding the missing boy from Jackjaw Camp for Wayward Boys in the woods, Nora feels connected to him. Oliver is changed by the woods.

Nora is the girl that lives across the lake. The boys at the camp tell Oliver to beware of the Walkers because the Walkers are witches and they cannot be trusted. Winterwood invokes magic within you. It's the magic of believing yourself and honoring your own power and history. While Nora's mother tries to stamp out the Walker lineage, Nora embraces it.

Shea Ernshaw's writing is gorgeous and atmospheric. She breathes life even into inanimate objects like The Wicker Woods. Winterwood is written in alternating POVs. Readers experience what Nora and Oliver experience. Ernshaw's novel is spellbinding and the descriptions are vivid, suspenseful and mysterious.

There are some instances in the book where there is a lot of repetition such as how Oliver shouldn't trust Nora or how Nora shouldn't go into the woods. At first it was bothersome to read but then again, it could be part of the characters'' own internal monologue and how their thinking patterns look and sound like. 

I enjoyed reading the excerpts from the Spellbook of Moonlight & Forest Medicine. The excerpts included information about the Walker women like Florence and Willa. The Walker women remind of the Owens from Practical Magic. Both the Walkers and Owens are witches and the women who fall in love with men who come and go.

Winterwood is a well-written intriguing novel to read during a crisp autumn night with a mug of tea while curled with a blanket on the couch. Readers who enjoy Practical Magic, The Rules of Magic and Halloween Town will fall in love with Winterwood. It's the perfect October/November read.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

LeakyCon 2019: Day 2 Recap

I attended my first LeakyCon this year. LeakyCon 2019 (aka LeakyCon 10) was hosted at the Seaport Hotel and the World Trade Center from Friday, October 11, 2019 to Sunday, October 13, 2019. The first LeakyCon was held in Boston’s Park Plaza in 2009 and it’s fitting how LeakyCon 10 returns back to Boston for the 10 year anniversary. For those who don’t know what LeakyCon is, LeakyCon is a Harry Potter fandom convention by Mischief Management. It is also one of the annual conventions Mischief Management hosts. Earlier this year, during the summer, LeakyCon 9 ¾ was hosted in Dallas, Texas. Occasionally two LeakyCons will occur in one year. There have been some international locations such as Dublin, Ireland and London, UK.


The commute wasn't too bad in the morning but the rain was coming down and it was so windy. I met up with Jess outside of the World Trade Center to give her the LeakyCon badge. We ended up going to the Marketplace to look at the wonderful and creative Harry Potter masterpieces that were being sold there.

Afterward, we ended up attending the Spotlight: Wizarding World Actors panel with Stanislav Yanevski, Louis Cordice, Chris Rankin, Luke Youngblood and Dan Fogler. For those who don't know, these are the actors that played Viktor Krum, Blaise Zabini, Percy Weasely, Lee Jordan and Jacob Kowalski. It was definitely a well attended panel and it was interesting to hear what the actors have to say about what Harry Potter means to them. We also got to hear about their experience with filming for the movies. I might do a mini recap on some of the main stage events in a later post.

Jess and I went to An Excess of "Phlegm" and the Lack of Femme which was a very insightful panel regarding females within the Harry Potter wizarding world. The discussion was geared toward the personalities of different females with the series and how they are portrayed. Jess and I skipped the next panel slot to get some lunch at Shake Shack. Burgers and shakes always cheer me up. It was nice to get away from the con for a bit to refuel. I definitely noticed more people at the World Trade Center on Saturday compared to Friday. I know Saturdays are usually the busiest days for cons in the general. Not everyone can take off on Friday from work and school.

After lunch, walked around the Marketplace and around the venue before heading to the Potterheads of Color Meetup. Everyone at the meetup split up into pairs for 5-10 minutes to talk about how they got into Harry Potter and what they love about Harry Potter. We regrouped and then sorted ourselves according to our Hogwarts Houses. This was the first time where the Ravenclaws dominated! I have never seen so many Ravenclaws in one area. Also, we had the biggest house group compared to the other houses. Go Claws! At the end of the meetup, we took house photos and a group photo. It was definitely a fun meetup to meet new people.

I made a beeline to the Amphitheater to get a good seat for The Other Chosen One: A New Musical. I didn't take any videos of the musical since it's the first live read through but can I say that it was fabulous! I cannot wait to see a full version of this equipped with costumes, sets and a full cast. For those who don't know, this musical is in the eyes of Neville, aka the other Chosen One. We see what goes on at Hogwarts while the golden trio is hunting Horcruxes. Neville, Ginny and Luna, the silver trio, navigate Hogwarts, stand up to the Carrow siblings, and reunite Dumbledore's Army. It's an emotional tale of friendship, love and standing up for what is right - until the very end. I highly recommend seeing this if the musical moves forward.

Some of the panels I missed on day 2 of LeakyCon include Nowhere Safer than Hogwarts: Magical Security and its Faults, Credence: Human or Beast? and Time Travel in the Wizarding World: The When, the How, the Why, and the When. There was just way too many panels this day to attend to. I definitely needed a time turner.

After LeakyCon, I met up with my husband and a couple of friends to celebrate our friend, Mike's, 30th birthday. Look at this awesome photo I took when walking across the bridge near the Boston Children's Museum. I love the lights and the clouds look ominous. I wonder if a Dark Mark will appear.

Have you been to LeakyCon or a Harry Potter fan convention before? What is your favorite part of attending a con? Do you cosplay?

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

LeakyCon 2019: Day 1 Recap

I attended my first LeakyCon this year. LeakyCon 2019 (aka LeakyCon 10) was hosted at the Seaport Hotel and the World Trade Center from Friday, October 11, 2019 to Sunday, October 13, 2019. The first LeakyCon was held in Boston’s Park Plaza in 2009 and it’s fitting how LeakyCon 10 returns back to Boston for the 10 year anniversary. For those who don’t know what LeakyCon is, LeakyCon is a Harry Potter fandom convention by Mischief Management. It is also one of the annual conventions Mischief Management hosts. Earlier this year, during the summer, LeakyCon 9 ¾ was hosted in Dallas, Texas. Occasionally two LeakyCons will occur in one year. There has been some international locations such as Dublin, Ireland and London, UK.


I was fortunate enough to get two badges for LeakyCon through a transfer for a very good price. I gave one badge to my friend Jess, who attended LeakyCon on Saturday and Sunday. My commute into the city on Friday was a long one due to the morning work commute traffic. The Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center are located in the Seaport area of Boston, which is one of the most expensive parts of Boston. Since I live fairly local, I commuted every day to avoid the high costs for the hotel. Unfortunately, we were hit by a very nasty Nor’easter for a few days and Friday was pretty horrendous to walk around near the Seaport area. It was very windy and it rained off and on.

I left my place pretty early on Friday so I can get in line to pick up my badge. Will call opened at 8:30 am. Because I had a Marauder’s badge, I wanted to take advantage of the 9:00 – 10:00 am Marauder’s badge exclusive hour for the Marketplace (aka vendor/dealer’s room and artist alley). I visited my usual go to’s like The Colorful Geek, Elhoffer DesignJordandené and Fox Estacado Arts. However, I found some great artwork at PRL Creative and Alexandra Brodt Illustration. Kat Cave Studios showcased wonderful Harry Potter themed ceramics. I might have to consider Jayme Twins and Bright Threads Co. for future holiday gifts. Lapels and Spells/Laserbrain Patch Co. are the go to for amazing enamel pins and patches. They are located in NH! Speaking of enamel pins, check out BUNCEandBEAN. Lauren Fairweather is always wonderful to chat with. I love her music and her YouTube channel. Waxspurts Candle Co. had wonderful smelling candles and Pop Soap had delicious smelling soaps and bath and body products. Simona Sew Works displayed most Luna Lovegood items I have ever seen in one area. Tea & Absinthe carried an amazing array of tea and gifts. Unfortunately, Riddle’s Tea Shoppe couldn’t make it due to an unexpected emergency.

The Marketplace was fabulous! I love seeing how creative everyone is. The best part is the most things being sold at the Marketplace are Harry Potter themed. I love supporting independent artists and creators. After the Marketplace, I attended the Spotlight: Stanislav Yanesvski. For those who don’t know, Stanislav is the actor who was Viktor Krum in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This was an excellent panel. Great questions were asked by the moderator and the fans asked good questions as well. Afterwords, I attended Harry Potter in the Age of Activism: Why S.P.E.W. Failed and Dumbledore’s Army Thrived. The PowerPoint provided good information and it was visually pleasing. The two panelists work at Florida State University and handle a lot of student programming in a student development capacity. This was a very insightful panel and I hope to use some of this information I learned with students in the future.

I was already getting tired at LeakyCon so I skipped a panel slot or two so I can walk around and rest. I needed to refuel with food and water. The panel I was most exciting about for the day was Wait and See: Gatekeeping in the Wizarding World and Beyond. I love hearing about social justice issues within the Wizarding World since it hasn't been discussed in much detail until more recent years. Unfortunately, I had to miss the Ravenclaw Meetup during the same time slot, but at cons you really have to just stick with your gut instinct. It’s okay to miss some things and to talk care of yourself. Self-care is super important. Plus, some of the best memories at a con usually happen spontaneously. They are never planned. It’s all about being at the right place at the right time.

I ended the Day 1 of LeakyCon with a fabulous panel called Fantastic Scores and Who Conducts Them. The panelists discussed who their favorite HP soundtrack conductors are and also came up with a list of conductors who would have been a great fit to create music for the Wizarding World. We even got to hear some sound clips which was a nice addition to the panel.

I left the last panel a little early to walk back to the lobby of the Seaport ­Hotel in order to meet up with some friends who were heading to the Committee for Mediterranean tapas and for some drinks. We had about 20 people split between two tables. Although the price for the tapas were kind of high, draft beers were only $6.00 and I was with great company. It’s always nice to reunite with old friends and make new ones, especially within the Harry Potter fandom.

My first day at LeakyCon was pretty chill. It was low key, not stressful and enjoyable for the most part. I didn’t have to stand in lines besides waiting to use the restroom. I have heard horror stories of previous LeakyCons being Line Cons so I was happy to see that it was the complete opposite. I am not sure if it’s because the Boston location is smaller in number compared to the one in Dallas, but I am not complaining. It’s the perfect amount of people at that venue. Check out later this week for my LeakyCon 2019: Day 2 Recap.

Have you been to LeakyCon or a Harry Potter fan convention before? What is your favorite part of attending a con? Do you cosplay?