2015 End of the Year Survey

Hi everyone, and happy Wednesday!

End of Year Book SurveyTo continue a week of end-of-the-year reflection, I’m taking part in Jamie’s annual book survey. I’ll keep my introduction short and sweet, since there’s much to discuss: my answers are from books I read this year {i.e. they are not limited to those only published in 2015}, I attempted to name a novel once and only once for greater variety, and it’s a lot of fun if you want to participate too.

Number Of Books You Read: 110
Number of Re-Reads: Only two! They were Robin Benway’s The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June and Caroline Kennedy’s A Family Christmas.
Genre You Read The Most From: Contemporary, no doubt.

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November 2015 Monthly Recap

Hi!Monthly RecapHappy Friday! December kicked off on an excellent note this week, with no shortage of warm sweaters {I recently added this festive pullover to my wardrobe}, Christmas specials {Rudolph and The Grinch will forever have my heart}, and cozy nights at home {with holiday songs playing on repeat as I plow through homework, of course!}. I typically post a Love List before the weekend begins, but I hope you will allow an exception today so that I can wrap up November in a monthly recap. How was your month, friends?

On Hayling Island, Young Lady Reading In The Sea In July 1936{I wouldn’t have checked out Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl were it not for my summer reading assignment, but I sure am happy that I did! I truly enjoyed it.}

Reads: With a tech week and finals week in the same month, posts were, unfortunately, not as frequent in November! Even so, I still found the time to share a few reviews for your reading pleasure. Find a book that matches your interests: an emotional and gritty debut, a feminist take on revenge and rape culture, or a memoir-like novel for the historical fiction fan. As always, I’ve linked to my Lit Up Review posts as well; to my delight, this month’s review was on one of my favorite books of the year.

  • The Boston Girl by Anita Diamond | “Addie’s narration leaps off the page, due to Diamant’s sharp eye for detail, and her vibrant personality is more than enough to keep me – or any reader! – engaged.”
  • More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera | “Though it sports a bright, smiling cover and an uplifting title, the book is just as effective in making you angry, hurt, and stunned as it is in leaving you relieved, hopeful, and yes, happy.”
  • The Revenge Playbook by Rachael Allen | “As its title suggests, acts of revenge meet a small town football team, shaping a conversation on female empowerment, slut-shaming, and rape culture through a relatable and, sadly, all too realistic narrative.”
  • Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan | “Carrie Ryan’s own take on revenge, Daughter of Deep Silence, is of the darker sort, bringing this year’s favorite literary trend, the unreliable narrator, to an extreme.”
  • Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert {a new review posted on Lit Up Review} | “You could market Conviction in just a few words, such as baseball, faith, and family, but to do so would be a discredit to Gilbert’s incredible story. The plot’s complexity is unprecedented.”

I read only four books in November, but the lower number is understandable; I simply had a busy month! Fortunately, I have an ideal combination to look forward to in December: a large pile of new library books and a week-long break from school. You can bet I’ll slip in a number of novels before the year’s end.

November 2015 BooksReviews will make an appearance sometime in the coming months!

GingersnapsEats: If you’re looking for a new holiday cookie to try – I myself am starting my Christmas baking this weekend! – may I suggest these tasty and flavorful gingersnaps? They are not only quick to whip up {a plus when there are presents to wrap and parties to attend}, but also fill your kitchen with the smells of seasonal spices. It’s a win-win all around in my book.

Picture Perfect 03{I could stare at Hannah’s portfolio all day; each of her photographs make use of her distinct artistic style and gorgeous lighting techniques.}

More: Reviews and recipes not enough reading material for you? No worries! I posted a new edition of Picture Perfect, a feature where I develop a collection of objects around a particular photography, just in time for the shorter and colder days that come with the change in Daylight Savings Time. I also shared another set of font downloads – no Comic Sans here – in November’s Font Freebies and participated in Top Ten Tuesday to highlight the debut authors I admire and love.

At Lit Up Review, I wrote about Laura Barcella’s Fight Like a Girl, a book on “fifty feminists who changed the world,” in a Waiting on Wednesdays post. It comes out in March, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it! Finally, in blogging news, I celebrated Ciao Bella’s fourth anniversary on Thanksgiving. Though I never wrote a post in celebration, I would still like to extend my love and thanks for your support! I’m constantly amazed at how much this little hobby of mine has grown, so here’s hoping for another wonderful year of blogging :)

Emily Jane{via Emily Jane}

Favorites: I’ve made it a habit to catch up on my Bloglovin’ feed after a long week; reading your terrific posts is a fine way to decompress! Here are a few of many that caught my eye throughout November.

  • I was delighted to see Emily return to blogging after a healthy and well-deserved hiatus! She looks absolutely stunning posing with her friends in her formal photos, and I adored the “behind-the-scenes” peek into her school life.
  • I mentioned #RealYA, a Twitter campaign launched by my fellow LUR writers Willa, Grace, and Emily, earlier in the week, but it’s so insightful and important of a trend, that I’ll happily share it again! If you missed it, Emily rounded up some of the best tweets of the night. Authors, aspiring or not, take note.
  • Dorothy’s advice posts are some of my favorites; she shares excellent tips and always seems to post them when I need the reminders myself! I bookmarked her “How to Get Out of a Funk” post to turn to when junior year is in full swing and I can’t seem to catch up.
  • I couldn’t be more excited for Hannah when she announced that a new member of her family would be arriving in May on Twitter! I wish her the best in her pregnancy, and, better yet, I was glad to see a book collection already in the works :)
  • Finally, I stumbled across Topaz’s site, Six Impossible Things, just last weekend, but I fell in love with my first read. Topaz writes so eloquently on a variety of topics that I’m sure this won’t be the last time I feature her work. I encourage you to give her posts a read as well!

december-month-christmas{via My Cute Graphics}

Looking Ahead: True to the song, December is the most wonderful time of year! I can’t wait to partake in the festivities of the season. To start? I’ll be seeing the Big Band Holidays concert with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra this weekend.

Have an amazing weekend! B

October 2015 Monthly Recap

Hello!Monthly RecapThanks for sticking with me through my hiatus! The short break was just what I needed going into this busy month, and I’m excited to post during the holiday season {Christmas, here we come!}. But of course, I can’t talk Turkey Day and stocking stuffers without first taking another look at October’s events, both on the blog and in real life. Start your week on a happy note, and skim through the monthly recap to find any of the reviews, recipes, or features you might have missed. How was your October?

The Walls Around Us{Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us was all sorts of impressive. I was so taken with Suma’s breath-taking prose that a library trip to pick up her other novels is most certainly in order!}

Reads: Schoolwork took first priority last month, but even with math assignments and English responses aplenty, I still managed to post a substantial set of new reviews. Whether you’re in need of a charming middle grade or searching for your next historical fiction kick, you can’t go wrong with the novels below; each and every one has my full approval. In addition, you’ll find links to my Lit Up Review posts – I’m honored to write with such a lovely group of bloggers!

  • Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson | “Perhaps it’s a form of nostalgia that I’m drawn to the modern predecessors of these classics, those stories with quirky characters, threads of whimsy, and bursts of charm and creativity.”
  • The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma | “Juvenile delinquents and prima ballerinas may seem like an unlikely pairing, but it only takes the talent of an expert YA author, such as Suma, to weave the two subjects together in a mesmerizing, supernatural tale.”
  • Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray | “In six hundred pages, Bray crafts a story that is equal parts compelling and chilling and, more importantly, one that matches the twisted magic of its predecessor.”
  • Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee | “Their disguise might have proven an obstacle to strong development for a less talented author, but Lee makes the job seem effortless, weaving their personal journeys with the growth in their friendship.”
  • The Notorious Pagan Jones by Nina Berry {a new review posted on Lit Up Review} | “Unlike other historical fiction novels I’ve read where cultural references have too large of a presence, Berry’s research is carefully woven throughout the narration, so it’s effective, not overdone.”
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han {a throwback review posted on Lit Up Review} | “Both of the books starring Lara Jean capture the messy ties of first love, the close bond between family members, the mistakes of the past and the promise of the future.”

Six seems to be the number of the fall, as, just like September, I read six novels last month! Though I only made a small dent in my library stack, I’m happy with my choices {variety, anyone?}, and I hope to continue the streak of good reads into November. Cozy reading weather has begun; I’m convinced books and blankets were made for one another.

October BooksAs if it needs to be said, reviews are on their way!

Pumpkin Chocolate BarsEats: Last week’s hiatus prevented me from sharing another recipe, but I think these pumpkin chocolate chip bars more than make up for the lack of two featured baked goods. Make them once or make them twice, but do remember that pumpkin season only comes once a year :) For the non-pumpkin enthusiasts, I highlighted Smitten Kitchen’s peanut butter cookies in a recent Love List. Those too are worth whipping up a double batch!

@abstractsunday{Social media and I have a love-hate relationship, but one thing I do like about it, Instagram in particular, is how it connects and showcases artists with ease.}

More: Ciao Bella has features galore in a typical month, and October was no different of a case! I kicked off the month with another round of Eye on Art, a series that developed out of my love of illustration and design. If you want to add art to your Instagram feed, I suggest you head on over. I talked fall fashion in a new Style Snapshot {sweaters, scarves, and booties are a winning combination}, and I discussed a day in my life in October’s Do Tell {it was inspired by my fascination with routine}.

Over at Lit Up Review, I offered three suggestions for fans of Adam Silvera’s YA debut, More Happy Than Not in my first “Story Gazing” post. Male narrators, city settings, LGBTQ+ characters were all in the spotlight, and I urge you to give each book a try! I also shared yet another novel I can’t wait to read in a new “Waiting on Wednesday,” this time choosing Paul Rudnick’s January release, It’s All Your Fault. Finally, in blog updates, I added a favorites page a few weeks ago – I’ve listed the books, blogs, and music I adore for your browsing pleasure.

Magic 8 Ball Predicts Design Love Fest{via DesignLoveFest}

Favorites: If the posts are any indication, October was an excellent month not only for me, but other bloggers as well! Here are a few select favorites; read and spread some comment love.

  • Grace has such excellent taste in books that it’s no wonder her good sense extends to other forms of media too! Her recent Tune In post was spot-on; I love a good podcast {On Being might be a new favorite}, and Brain Pickings has become a daily read of mine. Superb recommendations for the win.
  • From Sherlock marathons to Friday-night Elementary watching, it’s no secret that I am one of many Sherlock Holmes fans. I stumbled upon this well-written article on the “pros and cons” of society’s most famous detective and found myself drawn into the history of the character and his creator. Mystery lovers, take note.
  • October’s blog crush? Word Revel, written by fellow bookworm and talented photographer, Joséphine! I’ve become a dedicated reader of her posts, and while I’m shocked that it’s taken me so long to come across her site, I hope to make up for lost time by making you a follower as well.
  • Emily Henderson, whose wit, writing, and sense of style has kept me coming to her blog time and time again, had an adorable baby girl earlier in October. I couldn’t be happier for Emily on the newest addition to her family, and I love her daughter’s name, Elliot {too cute!}.
  • DesignLoveFest has been a longtime favorite of mine, and for good reason; Bri and her team write with humor and honesty, have an exceptional visual sense, and produce interesting columns. I’m intrigued by the new feature Magic 8 Ball Predicts – a series on upcoming trends – and how it will evolve!
  • Finally, Mondays call for cookies, something Sheena at The Little Red House clearly understands. She describes these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies as “not too crispy, not too cakey, just right.” They look delicious, and I’m sure I’ll be making a batch for my family soon.

Looking Forward to November{via My Cute Graphics}

Looking Ahead: I can’t wait for the coming few weeks! Though November is packed with a tech week {I’m stage managing my school’s fall play} and finals week {I’ll be making study guides if you need me}, it’s balanced by my sister’s own school musical, time spent with family at Thanksgiving, and a few outings with friends. What are your plans for this month?

Have a wonderful Monday!