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Life, Law & Libros

Top 10 2015 Books So Far

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This was a hard topic for me because, unfortunately, most of my reads this year have just been okay. I'm hoping to have better luck with the rest of summer and fall, but I've had one 4-star read (ironically, the one book Riffle still doesn't have cover art for :P) and a number of 3-stars with a good mix of adult, YA and middle grade. :)

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Discussion: Subscription Reading Services

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I attended a panel at BEA about reading subscription services. It had reps from three different companies: one dealt primarily in foreign language literature, one had a small catalog geared toward early childhood development and education, and the third was Scribd, one of the sites working to become the Netflix of books. (I found it amazing how much the Scribd site has changed since its "document stash" days when I was in college.)


There are a handful of other subscription services out there--Entitled, Oyster and Kindle Unlimited come to mind. I've never looked too closely into any of them,  mainly because I prefer hard copies when given the choice and, depending on the month, can read 10 books or zero. But I would love to see "Netflix for books" turn into a huge thing. I would love to hear everyone talking about binge reading series and authors like we binge-watch shows.

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Art It Up! - Evil Queen

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Art It Up! is a weekly feature hosted by Tabitha @ Not Yet Read.

I've been thinking about fear recently--what things inspire it and how we react when faced with it. Which makes an art series on the Disney villains both fun and oddly deep and introspective. :)

This week is a quick sketch of Disney's first big baddie- the Evil Queen from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"!

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Random Amusement: Travel, Workshops, Layouts & More

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Travel:
I dream of one day traveling the world. Which means I occasionally spend hours perusing travel blogs and tips. >.> It's not really a possibility, at least not for a couple years or more, but here are a few articles I found that got me thinking future travel plans. Both are from World of Wanderlust, which I highly recommend checking out. :)







Home Depot Free Weekly Workshops:
I've never tried these before, but I signed up for two the weekend after I get back from Florida and will report back. Has anyone tried an HD workshop or something similar? If not, would you consider trying one, or are you already home-handy? Or perhaps you're like me and Google or YouTube everything? ;)

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On a Personal Note: SCOTUS 2015

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I generally steer clear of political topics here on the blog unless it directly relates to a story because...well, it's a book blog, not a political column. But this has been weighing heavily on my heart and, rather than shed useless tears, I've decided to write slightly less useless words. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled book programming tomorrow.

Image source
As I read articles on the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision, I was filled with disappointment and sorrow; but as I watched my Twitter feed explode with celebration and joy, I didn't feel like I could voice my opinion. Worse, I was afraid if I did, people would start attacking me for it. Should I be afraid to say something because there's an off-chance someone might call me a hateful name? No.

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Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson eARC (3 stars)

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Rebel Mechanics was a pleasant surprise. It could easily have turned into an alternate history romance but, despite not developing the characters as much as I'd like, it was a fun story and I liked it. :)


This eARC was provided through NetGalley for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson
Series: ?
Genres: YA, Alternate History, Fantasy, Steampunk
Published on July 14, 2015
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Final Rating: 3 stars
Synopsis:
A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.

It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.

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Updates: Closets and Genre Jumping

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Closet Clean-Out:
This weekend, I tackled a long overdue task: I cleaned out my closet. Surprisingly, it didn't take as long and wasn't as stressful as I'd imagined. I had three piles (keep, give away, and maybe) and got outside input to help me decide on the maybe's (95% of which then went to give away). I forgot to take a picture at the very start, but here's a look at the process/results.



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Favorite Top 10 Topics Ever Done

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In honor of five years of Top 10 Tuesday, this week's topic is "10 Favorite Top 10 Topics We've Ever Done In The Past Five Years." First of all, head on over to The Broke and the Bookish and congratulate them on FIVE years of Top 10 Tuesday topics. I don't know the math, but that's massive! And then check below for my favorite Top 10 topics:

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Art It Up! - Ursula

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Art It Up! is a weekly feature hosted by Tabitha @ Not Yet Read.

I'm back in Disney waters with my first non-patterned, freestyle doll attempt. It's still eyeless and the hair looks more than a little weird, but here's my first stab at a Disney villain--Ursula!


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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (4 stars)

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I was a little iffy on how to rate this, partly because I read the first third or so in a NetGalley sample a while back and then had a decent wait before my library got a copy and I could pick up where I left off. However, upon finishing, I was happy with the main characters, willing to buy the book, willing to reread the book and, most importantly, one of the main characters has my name. ;) Hence, the coveted 4 stars are yours!


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1
Genres: Adult/YA, Fantasy
Published on February 24, 2015
Published by Tor Books
Final Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis:
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

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Updates: Festivals and Online Lists

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Mullica Hill Book Festival:
Saturday I went to the Mullica Hill Book Festival, their first, and it was fun, but hot. Very, very hot. It was like July humidity and temperatures. My cell had a charging crisis, so I don't have any pictures. :( Essentially, there were small tents along Main Street hosting used book sales and local authors, as well as a small setup for the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society (which had a talented group of artists). Most of the authors were self-publishers (including two I knew from church), though I recognized at least one Big 5-er (Kit Grindstaff).

Besides selling books, the other goal of the day, I think, was to drive foot traffic in the small businesses along Main Street--lots of little antique and decor shops, which were cool to look at and had AC. ;) There was also a dinner theater musical fundraiser at the end, but I didn't stay. Maybe next year.


New Toy:
Trello - a visual organizer, note taker, index card organizer--thing. I'm bad at explaining it, but it's a website/app for keeping boards, which have lists, which have cards, which have pictures, activities, checklists, etc. It can be used for collaborative projects, too. Right now, I'm giving it a test run on story ideas, outlining strategies (authors kindly posted for our perusal), reading schedules and school stuff.



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Top 10 TBD for Summer 2015

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Technically, this week's topic is "Top 10 TBR for Summer 2015," but that's really similar to last week's topic (and these seasonal reading lists always result in a massive guilt trip). So, instead, I'm going with my top 10 things to be done this summer. It's not nearly as impressive as Phineas and Ferb's summer plans, but it'll do. ;)

School Stuff:
  • Get all my paperwork/insurance/bills in order for the fall.
  • Buy a laptop and backpack.

Sunny Stuff:
  • Go to the beach.
  • Visit my family in Florida.
  • Exercise. (This might involve hiding from the sun in a gym, but we'll see.)

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Discussion: A Lesson Learned Abroad

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Last Thursday, I reviewed Katie M. Stout's debut YA novel, Hello, I Love You. I didn't love it, but I was a little surprised by the number of DNF's I saw on Goodreads, many of which cited not being able to stand the "judgmental" main character who didn't learn anything about South Korea before moving there for school. To be fair, I thought Grace's character was hard to relate to, and for the majority of the book, she wasn't very likable. I also thought she was a bit of an idiot for not doing any research before the trip; but a few of the reviews kind of labeled Grace a horrible human being, which got me thinking (and made me glad I never blogged about my semester abroad because goodness knows how people would have reacted to some of my impressions).

Reading about Grace, and others' reactions to her, brought back memories of my semester in Spain and some of the stuff I learned there. The big thing I think we forget is that experiencing another culture doesn't mean you have to appreciate or like everything about it. You're allowed to prefer the comforts of home, to crave your usual food, and to come out of an experience not having acclimated, or even disagreeing with parts of it. Spain converted me to eating ham (which is BIG there), but I never became comfortable with the Spanish definition of "personal space." I need more than a few inches. ;) And while I'd say NYC moves at too fast a pace, Guatemala moved too slowly.

There's this idea that nothing can be right or wrong, good or bad, etc.--that everything has subjective value according to our context. An offshoot of this concept seems to have embedded the idea that you can't say anything about another culture is better, worse, good, bad, etc. because it's their culture and you just don't understand. I agree that we should seek to understand and respect other cultures and appreciate what they have to offer, but I think this is going too far. It's essentially saying you can't have a negative opinion about anything foreign. And that's just not true.

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Random Amusement: Musicals

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Summer is finally here with all its sun and humidity and heat. *hisses* But the skies are blue, the flowers are bloomed, and the birds are singing, which makes me think of...musicals! It seems like too long since I last sat down and watched one. I'll have to remedy that while I'm hiding from the sun. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite (live action) stage and film musicals:


The Sound of Music - Because the hills are alive, but don't worry: they don't have eyes.
Top Hat - Because you have to see at least one Rogers Astaire film to admire their dancing.

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Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout eARC (2 stars)

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I've seen a lot of, shall we say, less than thrilled reviews for this book, and I can see where those reviews come from. (They've even inspired this Monday's discussion post.)

So let's get this out of the way: Grace, the MC in whose head we are stuck, is a spoiled, rich, somewhat self-centered, flawed, music snob of a girl. She is not the typical study abroad student who can't wait to experience another culture and learn a new language. If you go into the story expecting her to be, or expecting her to fangirl about KPOP, you'll be disappointed. If you're willing to examine her motivations, she's still a seriously flawed, sometimes unlikable individual, but she's a teenager with issues and opinions. It may or may not be worth reading for you; I figured I'd offer the heads up. And now, despite the length of this opener, on to the actual review! :)


This eARC was provided through NetGalley for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout
Series: n/a
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Published on June 9, 2015
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Final Rating: 2 stars
Synopsis:
A teen escapes to a boarding school abroad and falls for a Korean pop star in this fun and fresh romantic novel in the vein of Anna and the French Kiss.

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can't stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can't deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she'll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.

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Updates: Bikes and Planes

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Two bits of news this week: first, I rode a bicycle! Which, no, doesn't sound very exciting, but it kind of is. I rode my bike everywhere as a kid, up until we moved to South Jersey. The bikes didn't come with us, and 2-3 years later, I was driving anyway. So I haven't really rode a bike in close to 10 years. *gasp* And this past week I rode it twice through my neighborhood. My balance still isn't what it once was, but I can officially say I exercised. Success!

The other news: I'm heading back to Florida! For a day, literally. Florida + day = Floriday! But yeah, my mom's dad is turning 90 this July, so I'll catch an early morning flight, my sister will pick me up on her drive to the party and drop me off for an evening flight on her way home. Super quick turnaround, and I'll have an hour drive when I get back (which means no Dramamine on either flight), but it'll be worth the trip I think, and I can sleep in the next morning. :)

Do any of you do quick travel day trips? I've done them before via car/bus/train, but only once or twice by plane.

Also, did anyone else see the news that Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles short stories are being collected into a book (yay!), but with a February 2016 release that's pushing Heartless back to November 2016? Again? Really? :/

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Top 10 Most Anticipated Releases

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For the rest of 2015, that is. Although, I feel like I don't pick up on a lot of upcoming titles until they're here, or else I later read reviews of previously dismissed or unknown titles and get excited for them, so this list could require a lot of editing down the road. But, based on current knowledge, expectations, here are 10 upcoming 2015 releases I'm anticipating. :)


Must Find Out How It Ends:


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Random Amusement: Local Book Festivals

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If any of you are in the New Jersey/Philadelphia and/or Delaware Valley or New York areas, you might be interested in these upcoming local book festivals:


Mullica Hill Book Fest (June 13)
Mullica Hill is hosting its first book festival. I'm not sure how organized/big it will be since it's the first, but it's supposed to be a main street filled with "authors, [] book readings, live music, food, crafts" and more.

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Powerless by Childs and Deeb eARC (2 stars)

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Despite still needing to see "Avengers: Age of Ultron," I'm a big superhero fan. And I'm still mostly excited to see superheroes carving out space in YA fiction--both well known transfers, like Lois Lane and Black Widow, and original creations you can connect with at their cores while still enjoying the explosions and super powers. Unfortunately, Powerless is all about the action and "romance" and glosses over the characters.


This eARC was provided through NetGalley for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Powerless by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deeb
Series: The Hero Agenda #1
Genres: YA, SFF, Romance
Published on June 2, 2015
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Final Rating: 2 stars
Synopsis:
Kenna is tired of being "normal". The only thing special about her is that she isn't special at all. Which is frustrating in a world of absolutes. Villains, like the one who killed her father, are bad. Heroes, like her mother and best friend, are good. And Kenna, unlike everyone else around her, is completely ordinary— which she hates.

She’s secretly working on an experiment that will land her a place among the Heroes, but when a Villain saves her life during a break-in at her lab, Kenna discovers there’s a whole lot of gray area when it comes to good and evil and who she can trust.. After all…not all strength comes from superpowers.

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Updates: Home Again, Work Again

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I survived--dare I say, thrived--at my first ever BEA! (Check out my recap post and click on all the collages to see all the pretty pictures!) Unfortunately, it may be my last for some time depending on scheduling, finances, etc. AKA, we'll see how dead and broke I am at the end of my first year of law school. But it would be wonderful to go again, especially since certain people couldn't make it this year.

I've found returning home after BEA is a double-edged sword. The good thing about returning from BEA is sleep, dog, full fridge and BOOKS!


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Top 10 Books I'd Like to See As Movies/TV Shows

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This is a tricky one because, although I love watching movies and TV, when it comes to book adaptations...so much can go wrong. Some books translate brilliantly from page to screen, others become good (though completely different from the source material), and others are just plain bad. I'm sure you can think of at least one really BAD book-to-movie/TV.

In that way, I'd almost rather see visual adaptations of books I don't plan on reading. That way, I can still experience those stories without tainting the reading experience of books I love. But part of me would really love to see my favorite stories brought to life, too...

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BEA 2015 Recap

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I officially survived my first ever BEA! BookExpo America was three days of crazy, but it was tons of fun, and I'm so glad I had the chance to experience it and meet so many book lovers. :)


With a few exceptions, everything was well organized, and all the publishers and BEA staff deserve a huge round of applause for managing the lines and mobs brilliantly. Send them cookies and smiles!


I met a lot of bloggers who kept me sane in those long lines but, being me, took almost zero pictures. Failure supreme. :P In those I did take, starting at the top left, we have Mara (Reading Hedgehog) and Hazel West, Summer (Blue Sky Shelf), the Friday blogger meet up at Bryant Park, and--drum roll, please--my absolutely AMAZING roomies, Asheley (Into the Hall of Books), Jess (Gone with the Words), Lauren (Love is Not a Triangle) and Danielle (Love at First Page)! These are seriously four of the sweetest, nicest, most entertaining ladies out there, and I completely lucked out getting to room with them. Thank you guys for making BEA rock!

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