Independence Day Book Tag

Happy Fourth of July to all of my American followers! Since today is Independence Day, I thought I would celebrate by completing the Independent Day Book Tag. Here are my answers (I am not sure who started this tag. If you know, please link to their social media down below so I can credit them!):

  • Show three books you have already read (one red, one white, and one blue)
Tweet Cute

How about one with all three? Tweet Cute was one of the first books that I read this year due to all the hype surrounding this 2020 contemporary release. While this book was only average for me, it has been one of the most buzzed about contemporary books this year.

Tweet Cute follows Pepper and Jack, the children of two rival food companies who start a Twitter war using their respective family’s business accounts.

  • A book with your favorite “rag-tag” band of revolutionaries
Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle #2)

A “rag tag” band of revolutionaries is one of my favorite tropes. This year, I’ve read the first two books in the Aurora Cycle which definitely features a cast of unlikely heroes who try to save the galaxy. While I loved the first book a lot more than the second book, I’m still interested to see the adventures that this group goes on in the next installment of this series.

Aurora Rising, the first book in this series, follows Aurora who wakes up 200 years after she was cryogenically frozen for a mission to space. However, when she wakes up, all the history of the colony that she was supposed to land on has been erased.

  • Show a book that takes place in one of the 13 original colonies
The Rest of the Story

All of Sarah Dessen’s books take place in fictional places in North Carolina, which is one of the 13 original colonies. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book after being disappointed by a couple of her other recent releases. This is the perfect book to read during Independence Day: it is set a lake during the summertime!

The Rest of the Story follows Emma Saylor, who visits the family on her mother’s side at the lake where the live, years after her mother passed away.

  • Show a book that takes place in England
Again, but Better

I bought this book several months ago… and still haven’t gotten around to reading it! I am always interested in picking up books by Booktubers, so I’m excited to give this one a try (eventually).

Again, But Better follows Shane, who lives a life that is way too predictable, so she decides to spend a semester abroad.

  • Time for fireworks! What book(s) end with a bang?
The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air, #2)

The Folk of the Air series has plenty of twists and turns, but the end of this book was the most shocking to me. I couldn’t believe that I had to wait to see how the series ended!

The Folk of the Air series, starting with The Cruel Prince, follows Jude, a human girl, who lives in a world of faeries. It angers Jude that the faeries see her as lesser than, so she will do whatever she can to get a place at court.

  • Show three books you would like to read (one red, one white, and one blue)
The Parker Inheritance

Once again, I have selected a book with all three colors! I’ve been starting to read more middle grade and I’ve heard a lot of positive reviews for The Parker Inheritance, so it definitely has a high spot on my middle grade TBR.

The Parker Inheritance follows Candice, who discovers a letter that leads to a fortune for whoever can solve the puzzle.

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Summer Book Tag

Summer is now in full swing, so it is the perfect time to complete the summer book tag! I could not find the creator of this tag, but if you know who created it, please leave their blog in the comments so I can credit them. Here are my answers:

  • What book cover makes you think of summer?
Beach Read

How could this book cover not make me think of summer? The title has beach in all capital letters with two people reading books on beach towels. The cover is also bright yellow which makes me think of the sun. While this cover isn’t exactly accurate with what lies in the book, it is definitely reminiscent of the summertime.

  • What book brightened your day?
Starry Eyes

I read through Starry Eyes in one day. If you are looking for a summer book that isn’t beach, then this one will be perfect for you! This book takes place in state parks of California and made me want to go camping this summer.

  • Find a book with yellow on the cover.
The Unhoneymooners

This book takes place in the wintertime, but also in Hawaii, so it still seems very summery to me. It also has a very yellow background with a lot of different flowers on the front which remind me of the summertime.

  • What is your favorite summer beach read?
Along for the Ride

Sarah Dessen’s books have been a summer staple of mine since high school. Colby Beach is mentioned throughout her books, but this is one of the few that primarily takes place there. I feel like this prompt was leaning towards what books do you read at the beach, but for me, it makes me think of books that take place on a beach. Reading this book makes me want to go to the beach, even if most of the book doesn’t take place directly on the water.

  • What action book had you running for the ice cream man?
Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1)

Aurora Rising was a slow-moving book for many people, but I was hooked the entire time. I don’t typically read books in this genre, but there were so many twists and turns that I couldn’t stop reading. The authors of this book definitely don’t do things just to please the audience and I was constantly surprised at what happened next.

  • Sunburn! What book has a bad/painful ending?
Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle #2)

This book has both a bad and painful ending. The characters in this book are in constant jeopardy and after the first book, you know these authors aren’t going to make it easy for them or the readers which I like. On the other hand, this book lands on a major cliff hanger which really annoyed me. Even though it is part of a series, this book didn’t really have much going on until the very end and it feels like I got cheated as a reader because I still think books in a series should have their own definite end.

  • What book gave you a happy feeling when it ended?
Tools of Engagement (Hot & Hammered, #3)

I think what made me happy about this book was the character growth in the main character, Bethany. She constantly felt pressure to be perfect and meet everyone else’s expectations, but in the end, she started to make choices based on what she wanted. I found myself very similar to Bethany in that regard, so relating to her story put a smile on m6 face.

  • What book cover reminds you of a sunset?
Four Days of You and Me

This book literally has every color of the perfect sunset. It also is about a relationship and how their high school years are winding down which makes me thinking of the sun setting on that chapter of their lives.

  • What book series do you hope to read this summer?
The Betrothed (The Betrothed, #1)

This is the first book in a new series by Kiera Cass. I bought this book when it was released, but haven’t read it yet. I am trying to get caught up on all the Kindle books that I have bought recently, so I hope to knock this one of the list this summer

What books do you hope to read by the end of the summer?

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Aurora Burning Review

Aurora Burning made me feel a little burned.

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff picks up where the first book in the Aurora Cycle left off. After uncovering the secrets of what’s really going on behind the GIA and being labeled intergalactic terrorists, the crew is racing against time, and Kal’s Syldrathi family who show up and want him back, no matter the cost.

When I read Aurora Rising, I was completely invested. Although Aurora Rising contained many similarities to other space books or movies, I really loved the characters and wanted more of their stories. While Aurora Burning started off strong for me, it started to fizzle out about halfway through and the problems. Many of the problems that other readers indicated that they had with the first story started to appear again, and this time, I found it not as easy to ignore them.

A lot happens in the first book and I enjoyed that the book gave a short recap of the events of the first novel in a fun way (a report by Magellan with colorful commentary). Like with Aurora Rising, I found the beginning the beginning to be interesting, especially as readers receive background on characters who aren’t as open, like Zila and Kal. In the first book, readers primarily look at the Aurora Legion, but in this book, we get to explore other groups in space and the complicated relationships that still exist even after a peace treaty was established. All of this information occurs within high-action situations or presented in a fun way (like Magellan’s report), so I didn’t feel like information was being dumped on me. However, at around the 50% mark, the story became more repetitive, and as a result, not as motivating or interesting to read.

In Aurora Burning, we are introduced to a few new characters, namely many people part of the Unbroken, the Syldrathi army who decimated its own people. However, these characters either weren’t well fleshed-out or echoed other characters that we’ve seen before in this series. In many reviews for the first book, many readers felt that many of the core characters too closely resembled each other and this remains true for other characters added to the novel. Saedii, Kal’s sister, is basically a blood-thirsty version of Cat. The Starslayer literally has a villain monologue where he practically spells out his ideology for readers. Maybe this characters will be fleshed out in the next book, similarly to how Zila and Kal’s story were expanded in this book. However, it does become frustrating when characters repeat the same lines over and over to reinforce their very one-dimensional personalities, which is particularly true of Saedii’s characters.

Another gripe that many readers had in the first book of this series is that scenes were too drawn out or very repetitive. This problem persists in Aurora Burning. I felt like some of the situations and conversations were repeated over and over again, just using slightly different words. By repeating this same scenes over and over again (especially the part where Aurora explores her powers), it made me extremely bored because it felt like the story line wasn’t progressing at all. Once I got to the halfway point, I had to put this book down for awhile (around two weeks) before I picked it up again because I just couldn’t get into the second half of this story.

There is another issue that I have complicated feelings towards in this book. One one hand, I appreciate how Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff do what is best for the story, even though it won’t appease readers. They will eliminate characters that maybe their audience loves, but it makes sense for where it occurs in the story. Characters that you may want to be in a romantic relationship won’t end up in that relationship because that’s not always realistic. At the same time, I think you need to give your audience something to root for in the story. For me personally, there wasn’t much for me to root for in this story. The good moments in this story were so few and far between that nothing was ever quite satisfying for me to read.

The final aspect of this book that irritated me was the ending. This book ends on a major cliff-hanger. Yes, this book is a part of a series and readers can expect another book. At the same time, Aurora Burning is its own book in the series and should have its own distinct beginning, middle, and end within the series. Like I mentioned earlier, the best way to describe this was simply unsatisfying.

Overall, this book was an average read for me. I really enjoyed the first half, but really struggled with the second half of this book. Although I do intend to continue this series, my expectations going into the next book will not be as high as my expectations for this one. I give Aurora Burning three stars.

What sequel has disappointed you recently?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Added to My TBR… and Forgotten Why

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is books I’ve added to my TBR… and forgotten why.

  • How to Speak Boy by by Tiana Smith
How to Speak Boy

I remember seeing the cover for this book, but I can’t remember anything about the description that made me add it to my TBR. According to Goodreads, this book follows Quinn and Grayson, rivals on the debate team who somehow end up exchanging note anonymously. Looking at this description, I can now see why I added to my TBR in the first place: it contains a lot of tropes that I typically enjoy. Now that I remember why this book is on my TBR, I might have to check it out in the future!

  • No Judgements by Meg Cabot
No Judgements (Little Bridge Island #1)

I know that this is an adult book by Meg Cabot, but since I am not a huge fan of her adult books, I am surprised to see this one on my list. No Judgements takes place on a small island after a huge storm who tries to rescue pet on the island and somehow falls in love. Meg Cabot’s adult books tend to be extremely overdramatic which isn’t my favorite and I can just tell from the description that this character seems like many of the other characters that I didn’t enjoy from other adult novels that I’ve read by her.

  • Fan the Flame by Anna Priemaza
Fan the Fame

Once again, I remember the cover, but not what the book is about. Fan tells me this is probably about a fandom, which I don’t typically like to read in books, so I’m not sure why I would have added this to my TBR. After researching this book again, like I expected, it is about a fandom. This book follows Lainey who wants to expose someone’s hate rants that she caught on camera at a convention. This seems to have a lot of tropes that I probably wouldn’t enjoy, so I’m probably going to take it off of my TBR.

  • Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill
Within These Lines

With some of the titles above, at least the names sounded familiar. Nothing about this book sounds familiar to me, so I am unsure how it landed on my Goodreads TBR. This looks like it is a historical romance set in American after Pearl Harbor when a couple is split up after the boy, who is a Japanese immigrant, is forced into an internment camp. Reading the description, this book does sound a little bit familiar and a whole lot interesting. I rarely read historical fiction, but if I am in the mood to read historical fiction, then this sounds like a good one to pick up.

  • Comics Will Break You Heart by Faith Erin Hicks
Comics Will Break Your Heart

Just like with the fandom book above, books about comics aren’t particularly interesting to me, so I’m not sure why I added this one to my TBR. This book follows Miriam, a girl who is poor because her grandfather gave away the rights to a popular comic that he helped create. Tensions rise when the grandson of the man who took control of the comics comes to town and Miriam starts to like him. Even though I love a good enemies-to-lovers romance, I just get the vibes that this will be very overdramatic and and go towards younger YA, which tends not to be my favorite. While I am sure someone would enjoy this book if they picked it up, I can’t personally see myself picking it up in the future.

  • That’s Not What I Heard by Stephanie Kate Strohm
That's Not What I Heard

On this list, I can vaguely remember the plot of this book, which makes me question why I added it to my TBR. This book is all about rumors spiraling out of control after a couple allegedly breaks up. This definitely seems to lean towards younger YA with a lot of the ridiculous drama that goes on at that time combined with an overflow of misunderstandings. This is a book that I could see being appreciated by the target audience, but as someone who is much older, it might get really annoying. I just can’t see myself picking this book up in the future.

  • Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy
Now a Major Motion Picture

From the title, I can guess this has to do with a movie. Like with some other books on this list, I don’t typically like when something like this (in this case, movies) are the focus of a book, so it’s kind of on me to be confused why I put this on my TBR. This book follows a girl who goes to Ireland to see her grandmother’s books turn into a movie adaptation. Even though I’m not a fan of books about movies, I do really love books about Ireland and this does sound interesting to me. Maybe I will have to pick this up in the future!

  • Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre
Honor Among Thieves (The Honors, #1)

This sounds like it is in the fantasy or sci-fi realm, which I don’t typically read, so I’m excited to read the synopsis again to see what motivated me to add it to my TBR. This book follows Zara who joins a team created by aliens set to explore the universe. Out of all the books on this list, I literally have to no idea why I added this book to my TBR (at the time). This sounds nothing like I was reading when I added this to my TBR. Now that I’ve read Aurora Rising, which contains aliens and exploring the galaxy, and enjoyed it, this does sound a little more interesting. Still, I have no idea how this ended up on my TBR in the first place.

  • A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen
A Taxonomy of Love

I have read another book by this author, so that could be why I added this book to my TBR. However, I don’t remember anything about the synopsis. This book follows two friends who could potentially fall in love as they get older.

What books have you added to your TBR and forgotten why?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Summer Vibes

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is books that give off summer vibes. Summer books are my favorite books because, more often than not, they are my favorite genre: contemporary. Here are some books that I love that are set during the summer:

  • The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen
The Rest of the Story

I haven’t been the biggest fan of Sarah Dessen’s latest releases, however, I did enjoy her most recent release, The Rest of the Story. This book takes place on a lake during the summer which is divided into halves, one side where the locals live and the other side for the rich tourists who infiltrate the lake every year. I like how this book takes place on the lake, rather than the beach, like many other “summer” books.

The Rest of the Story follows Emma Saylor, who reconnects with the family connected to her mother, who died five years ago, at the lake where her mother grew up.

  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
The Unexpected Everything

This book is long, but if you are a fan of Morgan Matson, then you’ll like this book. This book has all the elements of summer fun: a job, friends, and a summer romance.

The Unexpected Everything follows Andi whose summer internship follows through after her politician father becomes involved in a scandal. As a result, Andi must walk dogs for the summer, but she just might meet a cute boy along the way.

  • Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West
Love, Life, and the List (Love, Life, and the List, #1)

Love, Life, and the List is one of my favorite Kasie West books. I wouldn’t say this book necessarily screams summer to me, but it does take place during the summer months. If you like art and motocross, then you might want to check out this one.

In Love, Life, and the List, Abby is denied for an art show after she is told that her art lacks experience and perspective. As a result, Abby makes a list of ten things to experience that will her improve her art along with her best friend, and long-time crush, Cooper.

  • Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian
Stay Sweet

Stay Sweet was an unexpected favorite for me last summer. This book primarily takes place at an ice cream stand that has for generations been run by women, but the status quo is shaken up when a boy comes in and tries to run the show.

Stay Sweet follows Amelia, who works at the ice cream stand, and tries to keep it afloat after the owner dies unexpectedly. However, she butts heads with Grady, the owner’s nephew, who comes in and tries to take over the stand.

  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
The Truth About Forever

Sarah Dessen loves to write about summer and I love to read and reread her books that take place during this time. The Truth About Forever is from the time period when Sarah Dessen’s books were my absolute favorites, and in my opinion, during her best writing period so far.

The Truth About Forever follows Macy after her father passes away and her boyfriends goes to summer camp, leaving her alone at a boring library desk job. Then, Macy meets Wish catering, a company full of lively and kids new friends who help break her out of her shell.

  • Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Along for the Ride

Another Sarah Dessen book! Along for the Ride is another one of my favorite Sarah Dessen books that takes place during the summer. While this isn’t in my top three books by this author, it is definitely in my top five. If you love close and realistic friend groups, this is a book you might want to check out.

Along for the Ride follows Auden, who spends the summer with her father, his new wife, and their new baby. Since Auden was always treated like a little adult, she never had the typical high school experience. As a result, her new friends try to introduce her to everything that she missed.

  • Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Since You've Been Gone

Since You’ve Been Gone was the second book by Morgan Matson that I read and it still remains one of my favorites. If you like summer bucket lists, this would be a great book for you to read.

Since You’ve Been Gone follows Emily, a shy high school student, who is sent a list of tasks to complete by her best friend who disappeared unexpectedly.

  • Thrill Ride by Rachel Hawthorne
Thrill Ride

I read and reread this book many times throughout high school. I’ve read a few books that take place at amusement parks, but this remains one of my favorites. If you want a different setting for summer besides the beach, this could be a book to add to your reading list.

Thrill Ride follows Megan who takes a job at a Cedar Point-like amusement park, much to her boyfriend’s disappointment.

  • The Boyfriend League by Rachel Hawthorne
The Boyfriend League

Another summer book by Rachel Hawthorne that is a fun and easy book to read is The Boyfriend League by Rachel Hawthorne. This book is all about baseball and would the perfect book for someone looking for a summer sports-themed read.

The Boyfriend League follows Dani after she convinces her parents to house one of the baseball players for the local baseball league during the summer in order to get a boyfriend.

  • The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids has beautiful writing and descriptions of the summer time, which makes it perfect to include on this list. I have read a few books by Sarah Ockler, but this one is by far my favorite.

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids follows Elyse, a former singer who lost her voice in a boating accident. To get some space from her musical sisters, she decides to spend the summer with a friend where she has the opportunity to compete in a sailing competition.

What are your favorite summer books?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Memorable Opening Lines

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is opening lines. I’m not someone who typically remembers first lines of a book, so I don’t have ten that really stick out to me. As a result, here are four opening lines from books that I remember, for better or worse:

Conrad Richter: The Light in the Forest (Paperback); 2004 Edition ...

The boy was fifteen.

Conrad Richter, A Light in the Forest

I remember this quote distinctly because it was the first line in a book that I didn’t enjoy that we read in eighth grade and somehow I knew that I wouldn’t like it from the first line. When someone asks me about a first line that I remember, I always think of this one because it takes me back to how I felt when I read this book in eighth grade.

Pride and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

This is a quote that I remember, with a much more positive association from the first one on my list. I read Pride in Prejudice (also in eighth grade for a classical book report) and since then have read numerous retellings of this story that always play on this quote in some way.

Romeo and Juliet

Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene…

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

In some schools, students memorize The Gettysburg Address. In my school, every ninth grader memorized the prologue of Romeo and Juliet and had to say it in front of the entire class. To this day, I can still quote the entire prologue to this play. As awful as reciting to the entire class sounds, I actually really enjoyed reading this play in school since I was chosen to read as Juliet in class.

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

There is one mirror in my house. It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.

Veronica Roth, Divergent

I couldn’t quote this line directly, but somehow years later, I still remember this opening scene from Divergent.

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The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen Review

The story is… I love this book!

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen follows Emma Saylor after her father remarries several years after her mother passed away and he goes on his honeymoon. When Emma’s plans fall through of where to stay for the summer, she ends up at the lake where her mother grew up with family she hasn’t seen since childhood.

The Rest of the Story

Even though I bought this book when it was released, I put off reading it. While I loved Sarah Dessen’s books in high school, I haven’t been impressed with her most recent releases, especially the one before this book, Once and For All. That being said, The Rest of the Story took me back to the classic Sarah Dessen writing that I knew and loved so long ago.

One aspect of a classic Sarah Dessen book is a well-rounded cast of characters and this book was no exception. Emma has a large family in this book, but each character has their own distinct personality, although these personalities may resemble other characters in past Sarah Dessen books. I especially loved getting to know the characters on the North Lake side of the lake because all of these characters were so realistic to the setting where they lived.

Another one of my favorite aspects of Sarah Dessen’s books are they may seem like they are about nothing because the plot is very reflective of someone’s everyday life, but really they are about everything with the metaphors that she creates. Every Sarah Dessen story has some sort of lesson, which may annoy some readers, but I actually enjoy. The message in this book, as well as some aspects of the plot, reminded me a lot of one of my favorite Dessen books, The Truth About Forever.

For me, one of the factors that really sells a book is the emotional connection. Without it, I rarely give a book five stars unless I find it technically well done. With The Rest of the Story, I really related to the main character, Emma Saylor. Young adult books are successful when they capture universal feelings at that time so you can relate to the story no matter when you read it, and for me, Saylor’s actions and feelings reminded me so much of myself, it was hard not to get invested in the story.

One aspect of the book that was a little out of place to me was the ending. Dessen often does a great job of foreshadowing some aspect of the ending and that certainly was there. At the same time, the last big part of the book, which takes place during a storm that comes out of nowhere, felt a little out of place in the novel. I get the purpose that it served in the novel, and I suppose it was briefly foreshadowed at the beginning of the book, but it just seemed so different than the rest of the book to me. However, this was incredibly minor to me and because of all the reasons I mentioned above, it didn’t greatly hinder my reading experience.

As I was reading this book, I didn’t want it to end because I just wanted to stay with these characters longer. I think this is one of those books that I read just at the right time for me. This is definitely one of my favorite books that I read this year so far, so it is no surprise that I am giving it five stars.

My #YALLSTAYHOME (Y’All West Online) Experience: Day Two

Earlier this week, I talked about my experience with #YALLSTAYHOME, which was Y’All West held online this year due to the current state of the world. On Saturday, the first day of Y’All Fest my schedule was jam-packed with different panels that featured my favorite authors on webinars through Zoom. For me, the second day of Y’All West was much more chill as I only visited four panels during the day.

Here’s what I watched:

Suckage is Part of Writing

The first panel that I watched on Sunday was Suckage is Part of Writing. This panel was moderated by Jay Kristoff (Aurora Rising) and featured Janella Angeles (Where Dreams Descend), Marisa Kanter (What I Like About You), Amie Kaufman (Aurora Rising), Alex London (Black Wings Beating), Tara Sim (Scavenge the Stars), and Maggie Tokuda-Hall (The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea).

This was one of my most anticipated panels of the event. I was interested in this panel because I love writing and I wanted to see if published authors faced similar struggles that I have had while writing. Plus, I read Aurora Rising this year and loved it so, it was cool to see Aimee Kaufman and Jay Kristoff as part of this panel.

This panel was very encouraging for me because the authors were very honest about how sometimes they love what they are writing, but other days they think that everything they write is awful. They also gave some great tips, like writing everything before editing, to help you finish a book.

Worldbuilding Beyond Wikipedia

The next panel that I watched was Worldbuilding Beyond Wikipedia. This panel was moderated by Roshani Chokshi (The Gilded Wolves) and featured Renee Ahdieh (The Beautiful), Gwenda Bond (Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds), Jennifer Donnelly (Poisoned), Marie Lu (Rebel), and Bethany C. Morrow (Song Below Water).

I’m not a huge historical fiction person, however, there were many authors in this panel who are great at worldbuilding which is something that I’ve been really interested in recently. It was interesting to hear how some of these authors build the worlds that their characters live in and how they build the world helps shape the characters that they write.

Remember High School?

After the worldbuilding panel, I stopped by the Remember High School? panel. This panel was moderated by Kami Garcia (Beast Boy), Julie Buxbaum (Admission), Leah Johnson (You Should See Me in a Crown), Samuel Miller (Redemption Prep), Rachel Lynn Solomon (You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone), Abigail Hing Wen (Loveboat, Taipei), and F.C. Yee (Iron Will).

In this panel, the authors talked about how their experiences in high school impact their books now. Viewers also got to learn some interesting facts about who these authors were in high school which I enjoyed. My biggest takeaway from this panel was that the authors said you might not remember specifics about your high school experience, like the table you sat at during lunch, but you remember the feelings, like looking for your table at lunch, which is very important to them when they are writing contemporary YA.

The American Experience 2.0

As I mentioned in my previous post, there was some controversy surrounding The American Experience panel on the first day because of the moderator’s insensitive comments towards members of the panel. In response, Y’All Fest held a second panel with a new moderator, Nic Stone (Dear Martin) which featured the same authors as the original panel, Angie Thomas (On the Come Up), George M. Johnson (Not All Boys are Blue), Natasha Diaz (Color Me In), Bill Konigsberg (The Bridge), and Jennifer de Leon (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From).

Nic Stone did a great job of moderating this panel. From her questions to the authors, you could really tell that she put time and effort into researching their books to ask them thought-provoking questions about their individual experiences and how this influencers their writing. The authors featured in this panel were also incredibly supportive of each other, even having a cake with a birthday candle to celebrate the book birthday of George Johnson’s book.

All-Star Juvenalia

The last panel that I watched on Sunday was All-Star Juvenalia. This panel was hosted by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments) and Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious) and featured several guests.

This was one of my favorite panels of Y’All Fest. It was hilarious to hear author’s read some of their works from their younger years and to see how the core of their writing is still present with their books, but how their style has greatly matured in their published books. It was also fun to see pictures from when they were younger.

Overall Thoughts

While it was disappointing to panelists and attendees who expected to see Y’All West in person, I appreciate that the founders of Y’All West, Melissa de la Cruz and Margaret Stohl, moved the event online. As someone who wouldn’t normally be able to attend Y’All West, I appreciate that I was able to participate in this unique experience and that the event was extended to other people like me all over the globe.

All of the panels during Y’All West were recorded and are planned to be posted online in the future. I would highly encourage you to check out some of these panels!

My #YallStayHome (Online Y’All West) Experience: Day One

On Twitter a couple of week ago, I saw that someone retweeted about how Y’All Fest would take place online this year due to the current state of the United States and coronavirus. Even though it is disappointing that the authors and attendees couldn’t gather in person, moving the event online opened up the panels to people who otherwise couldn’t go, including myself.

Whenever I see people go to book festivals or events with their favorite authors, I wish that I could be there too. However, my location doesn’t really have many book festivals or author visits in general. Especially with Y’All West, which is held in Santa Monica, this is an event that I probably wouldn’t be able to attend in-person.

After reading more about the event, I decided to register for the panels that most interested me online. For each panel, attendees were given a Zoom link, which I placed onto my Google calendar. While I was slightly worried about the Zoom calls, it ended up presented as a webinar with only the panelists abled to be viewed and their comments only to be seen in the chat feature. Each panel was about 40 minutes long. Here’s what I watched on the first day:

Opening Ceremony and Teanote AM Keynote

The event kicked off with an opening Keynote from the creators of Y’All West, Melissa de la Cruz (Descendents, Alex and Eliza) and Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures, Royce Rolls). I’ve read books by both of these authors, but I didn’t know that they created this event that I had heard about through book blogging. This opening keynote, moderated by Raphael Simon focused on the authors shared love of Little Women, which inspired them to write their own take on the story, the upcoming Jo & Laurie.

Melissa and Margaret upped the fun by donning bonnets and adding quaint houses onto the backgrounds of the screen. It made me smile when they said they felt like sisters while writing Jo & Laurie, like getting frustrated when the other would write over a line that they really enjoyed. I also enjoyed how they talked about their book and how different adaptations from the original story can make you feel different ways about the characters and their choices.

Modern Magic Worldbuilding

The next panel that I watched was the Modern Magic Worldbuilding panel. This panel was moderated by Ransom Riggs and was made up of Melissa Albert (The Hazelwood), Francesca Flores (Diamond City), Adalyn Grace (All the Stars and Teeth), Frances Hardinge (Deeplight), Margaret Rogerson (An Enchantment of Ravens), and Tracy Wolff (Crave).

The Modern Magic Worldbuilding focused a lot on how fantasy authors take inspiration from the real world and the implications of the world current state on how people view fantasy. My favorite part of this panel was when the authors discussed how they created their own fantasy worlds. I especially liked one comment by Tracy Wolff. She mentioned how when she’s writing, she always thinks that maybe she should use someone else’s process because it doesn’t seem like her process is good enough. However, you are stuck with your process, so no matter how different it may be from someone else’s, your process is what will work for you.

PJ Cosplay: Middle Grade Truth or Dare

This panel was moderated by Brendan Reichs and featured Elise Allen (Gabby Duran and the Unsittables), Ally Condie (The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe), Shannon Hale (Real Friends), Carlos Hernandez (Sal and Gabi Break the Universe), and Holly Goldberg Sloan (Counting by 7s). While this event usually only features dares because of the format of this year’s event, all of the questions were truth questions which I really enjoyed.

This was definitely one of my favorite panels of the day. Brendan Reichs was a hilarious moderator and it was fun that all of the authors dressed in their pajamas (I loved Shannon Hale’s Rainbow Dash onesie!). One of the aspects of this panel that I really liked was they took a lot of audience questions, which I didn’t necessarily see in my first two panels of the day. There were also a lot of authors that I have read and enjoyed like Shannon Hale, Ally Condie, and Holly Goldberg Sloan, so it was fun learning more about them as people than just reading their books.

Facing the Enemy: Hope, War, & Revolution

The next panel that I visited was full of authors with books that focus on characters who start revolutions. This panel was moderated by Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen) and included Danielle Paige (Stealing Snow), Victoria Lee (The Electric Heir), Hafsah Faizal (We Hunt the Flame), Isabel Ibanez (Woven in Moonlight), and Jordan Ifueko (Raybearer).

For me, the most interesting aspect of this panel was the authors explaining what they pulled from real life to inspire their books, but also how their books unintentionally ended up mirroring what was going on in real life.

This American Experience

After the Facing the Enemy panel, I stopped by The American Experience panel. This panel was moderated by Lauren Myracle (This Boy), Jennifer de Leon (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From), Angie Thomas (On the Come Up), George M. Johnson (Not All Boys are Blue), Natasha Diaz (Color Me In), and Bill Konigsberg (The Bridge). 

This panel was definitely the most controversial of the day, due to the panel’s moderator, Lauren Myracle. While I was extremely interested in hearing more about the experiences of the author’s on this panel and how their experiences inspired their books, it is a shame that the attention has been taken away from these authors due to the actions of the moderator. For example, during the panel, author Jennifer de Leon, author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, was literally asked where she was from. Y’All Fest has since apologized for this panel (although they didn’t name specifics in their apology) and rescheduled the panel with Nic Stone as the moderator for a later date and time.

PM Keynote with Brandon Sanderson

The next event that I visited was a PM Keynote with fantasy author Brandon Sanderson with an introduction by Melissa de la Cruz. Brandon Sanderson spoke about his experience with writing, from when he was in high school and up until his publication. Brandon Sanderson was completely honest about his writing journey and how his goals changed as he continued writing (13 books!) before he was eventually published. This keynote gave hope to aspiring writers, but also gave some hard truths about pursuing a creative career and having luck in the publishing industry. This keynote also included a guest appearance by his pet macaw, Magellan, who was absolutely adorable.

YALLSTAYHOME Smackdown

The final event of the night was the YALLSTAYHOME Smackdown hosted by Angie Thomas aka Dumbledope and Nic Stone aka Snape Dogg. Angie and Nic, as well as several authors from the panels throughout the day, competed in different activities like an interactive fill-in-the-blanks game where the audience could vote on the choices, Author Cribs (like the old MTV show), and pet roast (where they complimented other author’s pets).

I really liked this event because it really showed off the authors’ personalities and gave you a more personal look at their lives. It made me feel better to see other people have messy rooms and to see all of their cute pets. Angie Thomas and Nic Stone were great hosts together and even took the event an extra mile by dressing up and using British accents.

Stay tuned to hear about the panels I watched on Day Two!

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Kindle Haul: April 2020

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Over the past few months, I’ve collected a lot of books on my Kindle, especially during February when there were a lot of contemporary romance books on sale, which is my favorite genre. Here are a few books that I picked up recently:

  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
The Unhoneymooners

The Unhoneymooners is a fairly hyped book in the bookish community. While all of the books that I’ve read by Christina Lauren have only been average for me, the plot sounded really interesting to me, so I decided to buy it for my Kindle. Unfortunately, many aspects of this story fell flat for me and only ended up as an average read like Christina Lauren’s other books.

The Unhoneymooners follows Olive, whose sister recently got married. Olive goes on her sister’s honeymoon after she sister, as well as many of the guests, get food poisoning from food at the wedding. However, the trip isn’t as relaxing as Olive hopes because the annoying best man at the wedding joins her on the trip.

  • The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
The Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1)

I heard about The Right Swipe, but it didn’t sound like something I would be interested in reading. However, I saw a few reviews of this book online that were very positive, and since I’m always willing to be proved wrong about a book, I decided to download it. Since it was recently on sale, I couldn’t pass it up for such a good price.

In The Right Swipe, dating app creator Rhiannon matches with Samson, a professional football player. However, problems arise when Samson works with one of Rhiannon’s biggest rivals.

  • Truly, Madly, Royally by Debbie Rigaud
Truly Madly Royally

Truly, Madly, Royally is one of the books on my 20 books I want to read in 2020 list. I’ve wanted to read it for awhile now, so when I saw it on sale recently, I purchased it immediately. I’m typically not into contemporary royal romances, but this sounds like a cute, and fun contemporary, so hopefully it will change my mind!

In Truly, Madly, Royally, Zora meets Owen, a cute boy at her prestigious summer camp who invites her to his brother’s wedding. Since it is a royal wedding, Zora faces scrutiny in real life and online.

  • Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon
Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta's Academy, #1)

Sandhya Menon’s books are either hit or miss for me, but I couldn’t pass up reading something slightly out of her typical genre. I am a huge fan of fairytale tellings as well, and this one does its own play on Beauty and the Beast. Hopefully, I enjoy this book as much as I enjoy the synopsis!

Of Curses and Kisses follows Raya, a princess, who goes to a royal boarding school to get back at a rival clan of her family by targeting one of its members. However, Jaya struggles once she starts to fall for the enemy.

What books have you purchased recently?

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