Scribbles & Wanderlust

book reviews & publishing news


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Plowing Through the Piles

Since graduate school is at an end, I finally had a (rare) free afternoon to sit and stare at the piles and piles of books that I couldn’t fit on my bookshelves in the last few months. Not only did I need to do another rearrangement, but I hadn’t checked my inventory in several months and I didn’t know how many books I hadn’t read yet.

I went to the Container Store (side note: that place is HEAVEN) and bought a jar for all of my TBRs. Many readers have done this before, but I’d always relied on my Goodreads to-read list. Now that my bookshelves are out of control, having a jar to help choose a book at random would make things more efficient and convenient. I pulled all of my colorful notepads, cut them into strips, and prepared to pen all the titles and authors.

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My personal library inventory is all on an Excel spreadsheet, alphabetical by author and categorized by genre and readership (children’s, YA, adult). It helps me keep track of everything I own (books on display and books still in boxes under my bed or in the closet), and I put numbers next to them for the number of copies or editions (very important for my collections). Highlighted books are TBRs, and books in red I’d planned on selling. I penned all the highlighted books, folded the strips, and put them into the jar. I then went back through my spreadsheet, deleted rows of books I no longer own, added in books I’ve purchased and read, and books I’ve purchased and haven’t read (and then penned those for the jar, too).

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I’m absolutely astounded to say that, according to the spreadsheet (that does not include nonfiction titles like Chicago Manual of Style, home organization books, publishing/editing books, etc) I own 418 books. I’m scared to see the number if I add in the nonfiction titles…

After the initial shock, I tackled the bookshelves and rearranged them, forcing books to fit wherever they could. Stacks and stacks on several shelves, very few actually standing the way a book should. I’d buy another bookshelf, but I live in a 190-square-foot studio, so you can imagine the available space.

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A-F, with some ARCs stacked on the side that might already be published…

 

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G-W, with my Narnia, Picoult, and Shakespeare collections. And an assortment of stuffed animals. Hi, I’m 24.

TOP: Jane Austen collection, Jane Eyre editions, Wuthering Heights editions, Harry Potter collection, and DoSaB collection BOTTOM: W-Z, children's books, and Harry Potter-related books. The following shelves on this bookcase contain photo albums, nonfiction essentials, and pantry items. This bookcase acts more like a junk drawer than anything else.

TOP: Jane Austen collection, Jane Eyre editions, Wuthering Heights editions, Harry Potter collection, and DoSaB collection.
BOTTOM: W-Z, children’s books, and Harry Potter-related books. The following shelves on this bookcase contain photo albums, nonfiction essentials, and pantry items. This bookcase acts more like a junk drawer than anything else.

For the time being, my bookshelves are arranged alphabetical by author, unless they’re part of a collection. My collections (Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Harry Potter, Daughter of Smoke and Bone) belong on my desk shelves.

How do you arrange your shelves? Do you hoard books? Have you created a TBR jar?

 


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Book Review: “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han 15749186

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published: April 15
Genre: young adult
ISBN: 9781442426702
Goodreads: 4.22
Rating: 
★★★★★

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?

Lara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

Lara Jean Song Covey has found a way to get over her loves quickly and efficiently: write them a love letter, seal it in an envelope, and hide it in her mother’s hatbox. By writing to them, she can let out all her feelings without the embarrassment of admitting them. Except when somehow the letters are delivered, and the boys come forward with their questions…

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This book was hilarious, awkward, quirky, and touching. While the premise of the book suggests a love story, at the heart it’s about growing up, facing fears, and finding independence. Lara Jean is very close to her sisters Kitty and Margot — it’s just them and their father; their mother passed away several years ago. Margot’s going to college in Scotland, and since she’s been the surrogate mother to Lara Jean and Kitty, Lara Jean is concerned she’ll never live up to Margot’s image and standards. She has difficulty fulfilling the role of Big Sister to Kitty, she’s scared of doing things without Margot and her approval, and she’s always concerned with what Margot would think or say in a situation. As the novel progresses, Lara Jean becomes less concerned on the idea of Margot and simply misses her sister’s companionship. It’s so remarkable, how close and loving this family is, that it warmed my heart.

Another facet I liked about Lara Jean is her honest narration, her true-to-life insecurities, her racing thoughts, her pounding heart, her fight-or-flight rash decisions when Margot’s ex Josh and Lara Jean’s old friend Peter come forward with their letters. The whole situation with Josh and Peter heightens the hilarity and brings out Lara Jean’s quirks. The interactions they have with her family, their eagerness for her to share Korean food, the ways in which they want to protect her innocence or expose her to new experiences is beautiful to watch.

Thank goodness Han has a sequel planned! While the ending of this book would allow the reader decide what Lara Jean plans to do with her final letter, I felt her story with her family and the boys she’s loved just wasn’t over yet. I’m so excited to see what’s in store for her!


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Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Never Left Me

Top Ten Tuesday, a concept started by The Broke and the Bookish, is a themed post that connects bloggers to bloggers, bloggers to readers, and readers to readers. Every Tuesday has a special topic, and this Tuesday is Top Ten Characters Who ___. I’ve chosen “never left me.”

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Characters Who Never Left Me means they’ve made an impression on me, their stories connecting to mine in some way, leaving me with a book hangover and constant love.

Jane Eyre – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte — She sparked everything I am, everything I love, everything I study in academic culture. She awakened me.

Sirius Black – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling — The first character I distinctly remember crying over.

Hermione Granger – Harry Potter series — She made nerdy girls cool.

Lara Jean Song Covey – To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han — I’m over halfway finished with this, and I so desperately wish this came out when I was a teenager. Lara Jean is basically me in a nutshell, all quirks and awkwardness.

Lina Vilkas – Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys – Extreme book hangover. I want to read it again, but I have to do it knowing I won’t read another book for several weeks.

Celia and Marco – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Another extreme book hangover. These two — their love, their talent — just swept me away.

Catherine Morland – Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen — She is one of the silliest and most under-appreciated heroines in Austen literature, and she’s my absolute favorite. Her wild imagination is extremely entertaining.

Emma of Normandy — Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell – Damn. This woman’s made of steel.

Cassie Maddox – The Likeness by Tana French — Another book hangover. My absolute favorite murder mystery / psychological thriller. Except it’s not a thrilling book — it’s quite slow, Victorian even — but that creeping plot makes it all the more intense. And Cassie’s in the middle of it all.

Emma Morley – One Day by David Nicholls — EMMA, YOU ARE MY SPIRIT ANIMAL.

Who are the characters that never left you? Or, what did you fill in the blank for TTT?


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Book Review: “Prisoner of Night and Fog” by Anne Blankman (ARC)

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman 17668473

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publishing Date: April 22
Genre: young adult, historical fiction
ISBN: 9780062278814
Goodreads: —
Rating: ★★★★★ 

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

Gretchen Müller’s father is considered a martyr for the National Socialist Party; he darted in front of Hitler and took the bullets. Since then, the Müller family is Hitler’s favorite, and he’s especially fond of Gretchen. She stands by his beliefs and hopes for a better Germany. But when Jewish reporter Daniel suggests her father was murdered, Gretchen’s world is turned upside-down. She watches her brother beat others mercilessly, makes connections between his behavior and Hitler’s, discovers incongruities in her father’s history, and pieces together Hitler’s darkest intentions for the Jews. Gretchen must face her most difficult decision of all: side with the people she’s been molded to hate, or follow a man intent on genocide.

When I began Prisoner of Night and Fog, I thought I would encounter a I’m-supposed-to-hate-you-but-I-love-you-anyway YA historical love story. That the only interesting thing was that it was set before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. I was completely wrong. This book is intense, a major psychological page-turner, with mystery, terror, and violence. Yes, there’s a romance, and the way it blooms is stunning — but this is first and foremost a third-party observation and psychological study on Hitler.

It was oddly thrilling to be in the mind of a young Nazi girl. Gretchen is afraid of her brother, but is most frightened of him when he beats people without guilt. She watches him beat a Jewish man, and is torn between wanting to save this “monster” she’s been trained to dislike, and wanting to turn the other way. She is shocked to find humanity in the Jew. And she’s bothered even more when she meets Daniel and finds that he does not have any tricks in seducing her, does not transfer viruses, does not turn into a monstrous creature. Hitler’s brainwashing went so deep into her mind that when she realizes on her own that the Jews are innocent humans, she feels terrible for believing in such horrors and supporting the Fuhrer. She’s on edge, uncomfortable, tip-toeing around the whole Party. But most of all, she’s iron-willed and determined to find out the truth about her father’s death, even if it means putting her and Daniel on the line.

There is plenty of fiction available for victims of  WWII. We have the perspectives of the women at home, from the soldiers across the world, from the Jews in the camps and in Siberia. But there are very few perspectives from the Nazi side, and even fewer from before the war when Hitler’s party was one of many attempting to take control of Germany. Gretchen’s independent transformation, coupled with the trust and understanding with Daniel, makes for a fascinating, frightening, and exciting read.

Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Balzer + Bray for review!


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Book Review: “Deception’s Princess” by Esther M. Friesner (ARC)

Deception’s Princess by Esther M. Friesner 17866944

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: April 22
Genre: young adult, historical fiction
ISBN: 9780449818633
Goodreads:
Rating: ★★★★

Maeve, princess of Connacht, was born with her fists clenched. And it’s her spirit and courage that make Maeve her father’s favorite daughter. But once he becomes the High King, powerful men begin to circle–it’s easy to love the girl who brings her husband a kingdom.

Yet Maeve is more than a prize to be won, and she’s determined to win the right to decide her own fate. In the court’s deadly game of intrigue, she uses her wits to keep her father’s friends and enemies close–but not too close. When she strikes up an unlikely friendship with the son of a visiting druid, Maeve faces a brutal decision between her loyalty to her family and to her own heart.

Maeve’s life is over-exaggerated — for better or worse — in bards’ songs. Sure, she was a daring five-year-old when she chased after her father’s prized bull. Yes, she learned how to use weapons against threatening beasts. And it’s true she speaks her mind, in a witty, intelligent, and clever manner. But Maeve is a princess in first-century Ireland, and an independent, headstrong young woman is one to be feared or beaten down with a stick. She’s determined to find solid ground to stand up for herself and her beliefs without angering her father, upsetting the land’s most powerful druid, and crushing the druid’s son, a healer and master with creatures.

Maeve, like King Arthur, is based on threads of fact but mostly of mythical fiction. Her frustrations are understandable, and the men in her life are equally supportive as well as manipulative, protective, and controlling. She can see right through them, and plays their game by speaking only the truth and pointing out inaccuracies and falsehoods. She wants to help her father defend the land — thus her warrior skills — but also wants to be a compassionate healer — thus her lessons with the druid’s son Odran. Maeve is a force of nature, admirable and wonderful to behold, and it was a joy reading her mind.

What I loved most about this book was what Friesner was able to accomplish with so little recorded historical information at the time. Truly, the tales that lasted from Iron Age Ireland are the tales sung by bards and centuries later recorded in manuscripts. Like the game “telephone,” both in Maeve’s experience as well as in research, only a grain of truth can be found in the poems. Even with little research, Friesner managed to concoct a beautiful and rich tale of love, friendship, and compassion in this tumultuous age. I loved the feast scenes — so much laughter and joy — and the moments Odran and Maeve spent in the hut caring for the animals. Every moment circled back to a previous, an endless loop of past events impacting the present, and it was fun to make the connections. Even the dark moments of sexist frustration and political intrigue were scattered with light, sarcastic commentary in Maeve’s thoughts.

A fun read for anyone interested in ancient historical fiction, fierce young women, and awesome names you’ll need a pronunciation guide to get anywhere close to its actual sound.

Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Random House Books for Young Readers for review!


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Book Review: “The Geography of You and Me” by Jennifer E. Smith (ARC)

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith 18295852

Publisher: Poppy
Publishing Date: April 15
Genre: young adult, romance
ISBN: 9780316254779
Goodreads: —
Rating: 
★★★★★

Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.

Two strangers’ lives change forever after getting stuck in an elevator in sweltering New York City summer heat in the middle of a black-out. Lucy, the youngest in her traveling, absent family, and Owen, new to the apartment building and grieving with his father the sudden death of his mother, end up spending the rest of the powerless day and night together, learning everything and nothing about one another. But when power is restored, their lives immediately change: Lucy’s family moves to Edinburgh and London, and Owen travels across the country with his father in search of employment and college options. As months pass and the distance between them widens, Lucy and Owen soon find that “home” doesn’t always mean a specific place: it can be a person.

Smith has a unique way of creating love stories out of travels and chance encounters. I loved The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and was thrilled to receive this. It certainly makes you wonder what sort of lasting imprint you’ve left on a complete stranger, with a look or comment or action. Imagine an extreme situation where you and that stranger were forced to be together for an extended time — how would this happenstance grow into friendship? Would you keep in touch, and how?

Lucy and Owen have a bit of an inside joke with postcards, sending them to one another throughout the novel. It began as a snarky comment, that people only send postcards out of politeness, and say “Wish you were here” when really the sender is probably functioning just fine without the sendee. But for these two, a postcard with a few lines means so much more. The wish is genuine. The thought and effort speaks volumes. It’s amazing how, having only been in the other’s presence for roughly four times in the novel, the love can seem so real despite the minimal communication and the vast distance. They see the other in everything, there’s a constant desire to turn to the other and share the excitement or sadness over an event, followed by a disappointment over the constant fact the other is not there. You’d think this desire would be exaggerated passion, “insta-love,” or some other hokey term — but it’s not. It’s like a crush you didn’t realize you had till you found yourself disappointed at the reality of a situation, and then begin to hope once more when a small hint is tossed your way.

It was wonderful to read Lucy’s adventures in Europe, to watch her build a relationship with her parents for the first time; to root for Owen and his father (and their stow-away turtle) on their trek across the country for employment, to witness them slowly emerge from their grief. The ways in which Lucy and Owen’s lives intersect are remarkable, further solidifying such a beautiful basis for a relationship.

Definitely a read for fans of Smith’s previous work, as well as Gayle Forman’s Just One Day and Just One Year. Enjoyable and touching.

Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Poppy for review!


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Advance Excitement at a Glance IV

arc posts

This year, in an effort to blog more, to become more involved with the blogging community, and to keep up with the latest publications, I thought I’d create a monthly post about the ARCs I’ve received. These ARCs will be read and reviewed a month prior to the publishing date. The Advance Excitement at a Glance posts will feature one or two (or more, depending on what happens this year) books to look forward to, and it will motivate me to keep my to-read list on track.

Last month, I read several ARCs, including Always Emily and Solsbury Hill (many more reviews are on their way, too! March was a busy reading month). This month is another jam-packed reading session, but I’m really excited about these two books in particular. Note the “lost” theme!

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Royally Lost by Angie Stanton
(HarperCollins, May 6)

Dragged on a family trip to Europe’s ancient cities, Becca wants nothing more than to go home. Trapped with her emotionally distant father, over-eager stepmother, and a brother who only wants to hook up with European hotties, Becca is miserable. That is until she meets Nikolai, a guy as mysterious as he is handsome. And she unknowingly finds herself with a runaway prince.

Becca has a difficult time enjoying a family vacation in Europe until she meets Nikolai, a prince who has fled his kingdom and enjoys a personal European tour undercover. But Becca’s vacation is ending soon, and Nikolai’s guards are constantly searching for him — what will they do?

Cute, light, fluffy, and European — I’m down for that! It sounds fun and adventurous.

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The Lovely and the Lost by Page Morgan
(Delacorte Press, May 13)

Ingrid and Gabby survived the Underneath. They saved their brother, Grayson, from a future of dark servitude and exposed a plot to undermine the Alliance. But danger still lurks in the streets of Paris, and the Dispossessed, perched on the city’s bridges and rooftops, might not be able to save their human wards this time.

I’m not even going to give a summary, because I know I’m going to love this book just as much as I loved the first. Oh, Luc. Gimme gimme gimme.

What books are you looking forward to in May? Got any ARCs you’d like to share the excitement over?

 

 

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