Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best of 2015

Hey, lovelies! So I'm hoping to make this blog bigger and better in the new year. I feel like I always say that, but at least for now, I'm really motivated and excited. In addition, I'm hoping to really start up my personal blog, Infinite Golden Floors. At this point, I may still end up combining these two blogs, but I'd probably have to change my blog URL again, and I'd rather not. (Regardless, I'll be changing my Twitter handle.)

But let's talk about this past year! It's definitely been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, but overall, I would say I've had a good year, at least looking back now. I'll admit that I think more in school years/semesters than calendar years, so some of the beginning of the year is fuzzy, but I'm loving where I am now in college.

And here is my Best of 2015 list! Everything is listed in no particular order. (I've reviewed many of these, some won't be reviewed at all, and others will be reviewed in early 2016, by the way.)

Top 10 Reads of 2015

Honorable Mentions: I Crawl Through It by A.S. King, Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom, Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Top 2 Graphic Novels of 2015

I decided to just pick two despite having a read a few because most of the graphic novels I read were all within the same rating range and don't particularly stick out.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

(Though most of these were released in 2015, not all were. In addition, I didn't include albums for musicals.)

Honorable Mentions: Stand By You and Fight Song by Rachel Platten, Rabbits on the Run by Vanessa Carlton

Top 3 Movies of 2015

(I'm very bad at keeping track of movies I watch, so I've only looked at those released this past year. I didn't watch very many movies (probably around 5 in theaters), so.)

Honorable Mention: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Top 6 Shows of 2015

American Ballet Theater November 1st Performance (After You, Piano Concerto #1, The Brahms-Haydn Variations)

The Royal Ballet Junes 27th Performance

Happy New Year!

And that's a wrap! I hope you've all had a good year, and I hope the next year will bring even better things. Have a happy new year, lovelies! <3

What were your 2015 favorites? Do you make resolutions; what are some of yours?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Finals Hiatus

Hey loves! I suppose this shouldn't come to anyone's surprise, but I just wanted to announce officially that I will be on hiatus until after Christmas due to finishing up the semester and finals testing. My classes don't actually end until the 14th, when I'll have a few days off before I have 3 sit-in finals between the 21st and 22nd.

Obviously this means I won't be around much anywhere, as I really need to focus on my studies. I'll still try to post on Instagram every once in a while and will be in and out on Twitter.

Some things to look forward to after the hiatus:
Review of Finding Center by Katherine Locke
Review of Spring Awakening on Broadway
Review/Discussion/Post on Master of None (TV)
Discussion posts on blogger jealousy
Discussion on romance in books, particularly in YA
Possible discussion post on blogging friends/online friends

I also have a bunch of post ideas for Infinite Golden Floors, my personal blog, if you might be interested in that.

See you soon! I hope you all have a very happy holiday season, and I wish everyone with finals and college apps the best of luck! <3

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Beautiful Story About Friendship and "The Future" | Review: Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler (ARC)

Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release Date: November 17th, 2015
Reagan Forrester wants out—out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.

Victoria Reyes wants in—in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn't go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won't stand out for being Mexican.

One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective... only to learn she's set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria runs full-speed toward all the things she thinks she wants… only to realize everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they've sworn to leave.

As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don't know about each other's pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they'll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.
"Thank you, Dahlia, for writing this book. The world needs it; people who were like me in high school need it."

Disclaimer: This review is based of of the ARC, which I won from the author in a giveaway. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this.

Every time I read a book written by someone I know and love, I hope that I won't be disappointed because that might create awkward situations. But once again, I need not have worried. Dahlia and her books are forces to be reckoned with, and it's part of why I love them.

There is no doubt that the book's strength is its focus on a strong, positive friendship. Reagan and Victoria's relationship is so solid and so important. So often, books focus on romantic relationships or on friends that tear one another down. While those are certainly real experiences, so many of us hope to have or have the kind of friendship that Victoria and Reagan do. I love how they complement each other while also being completely different. I think my best friend Jess and I are like that in many ways. While we definitely have some things in common, we're both very different people. Yet, she's one of the people I'm closest to, and I can't imagine how much more horrible high school would have been without her. Just Visiting made me think about all of my own experiences with her in high school, and while it wasn't quite like that of Reagan and Victoria, their friendship reminded me of how much I treasure my own, both now in college and before in high school.

Another one of Dahlia's strengths is writing complex, intersectional characters who develop throughout the book. It's something that can become easy to expect from all books after you've read a book or two by Dahlia, but then you remember/realize that it doesn't carry across all books (which is sad and terrifying to think about and needs to be changed). But more than having these characters, I love how the different parts of them don't necessarily define who they are. Certainly, being Mexican is a huge part of her identity and shapes who she is, but there's more to her than being Mexican. It's a central theme but not the only one. Almost all of the bigger characters (Reagan, Victoria, Dev, "Freckles," all the parents, etc) in the book are intersectional in different ways, but they are not token characters hoping to give the author and the book diversity points. Instead, it's genuine and reflects how many people in real life are.

Dahlia also has a way of writing heartbreaking tensions and conflicts and excels at weaving a story in a way that makes you smile and laugh in one moment and cry in the next. There's just something I love about her writing and the way she tells stories. I hope she never loses that magic.

Speaking of magic, she also writes the most amazing, magical romances and romantic scenes. *swoons* And I love how while it is a big part of the story, it's not all that there is. In fact, there's so much more said about "the future," the uncertainness of it. I actually recently wrote a blog post on Infinite Golden Floors about my own doubts over my future. It's not something that goes away once you're in college. I've only just started, but so many of my upperclassmen friends have no idea either. But to be honest, do most people ever truly know? But it's especially daunting when you're on the cusp of entering a new part of your life, whether that's graduating high school or graduating college. With my younger sister and many of my friends applying to colleges now and having just gone through the process myself last year, I completely understand that feeling as a high school senior of having to get ready to leave everything behind--all the friends and people you've known most of your life, your home, etc. Of course, not everyone leaves home and some people do stay friends, but again, it's not something you can know for sure. And choosing a college is difficult too--it has to be affordable, be in a desirable location, have your intended major (if you're going in with one), etc. It's so much and can be so overwhelming, but it's also so much better when you have a friend to get through it with you. And to see struggle in book characters can make the feeling so much more validating, can make some feel so much less alone.

It's funny I rated this 4.5 because now that I'm writing this book, I'm not sure what criticism I had for this book. Maybe it was that I felt like something was missing, some missing piece. It may have had something to do with the parents or with wanting certain things to have been talked about a bit more (like how Reagan was forced to type up an assignment even though her teacher knew she wasn't able to at home and would have to go to the trouble of finding another way to get it done). But those are so minuscule when you look at everything else in this book.

If you haven't read any of Dahlia's books yet, I'm not sure what you're waiting for. She always writes the most amazing stories that never fail to make an impact. Thank you, Dahlia, for writing this book. The world needs it; people who were like me in high school need it. And to all the high school seniors out there, you are not alone. You can make it through.
Just Visiting: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Dahlia Adler: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Quiet, Raw, and Subtly Perfect | Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 6th, 2015
What if you aren't the Chosen One? The one who s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you're like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week's end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.
"The Rest of Us Just Live Here is just a beautiful book that I will treasure forever. It's quiet, raw, and subtly perfect."

This book has been on my radar for a while now, but I got even more excited after attending Ness' book signing at Books of Wonder and heard him speak about it and the different themes in the book. I was not disappointed; this book delivered and more.

This book won't be for everyone. It's about the "other" people, the ones who aren't off saving the world. It's about all the people that feel like they could never be the hero and probably wouldn't want to be. It's even about how being "the chosen one" (or in this case, the "indie kid") isn't all that great if you were actually to be one of them. Some people will find portions of this slow and boring, and maybe it is at times, but I liked the slow nature of some of the parts of this story. I love how this doesn't just forget about all the school stuff, about the "real life" stuff. I love how there was more of the mundane because it's what most of us go through every day in high school. It may come off as boring, but there's so much drama in that (but different from the drama in other contemporary novels). It's about showing how our every day lives are just as important as the lives of the "indie kids."

I loved the focus on friendship in The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Yes, there was a bit of romance, and I wasn't always the biggest fan of Mikey's obsession, but I could understand it, and I think it was handled well in the end. I didn't have the amazing group of friends in high school that they have in this book, but I loved every minute of their interactions because it felt real to me. 

The support they provided one another was also really important to me. The honest portrayal of friendship and of defining family for oneself and of mental illness was HUGE. This is the kind of book I wish had come out while I was still in high school. So many of Mikey's anxieties and doubts were/are similar to my own. His insecurities are so much like mine, so I think that what he learns from Mel and Jared and the rest of them are so impactful and could honestly help so many teens. A lot of my deeper connection with this aspect of the story also came from what Ness said during the signing, and it's something that will stay with me for a long time.

The conversation about being the one who belongs the least in the group, of being the least important, is very much something that has stuck with me in the time since I finished this book. The week or two after finishing the book were tough for me because I was feeling exactly this, but I'm not going to lie about how much the book helped me get through that time. To say I read this at exactly the right time would be an understatement. Overall, I just think he does such a great job of having a raw, open, real portrayal of mental illness and of how it affects a family.

But moving on, this book was also hilarious at times. The short inscriptions telling the reader about the indie kids' situations at that point in time were such a treat, showing not only a progression in time but also how those "hero" stories and their timelines would play out in real life. It's an added layer that adds just enough flavor. And there is enough action to keep the story moving but without overwhelming the characterization. The way it picks up and comes together at the end was just brilliant.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here is just a beautiful book that I will treasure forever. It's quiet, raw, and subtly perfect. It's not about being flashy and all out. It's about the little moments and how those little moments mean so much to us, something that can be forgotten about when we have action-packed books. I highly, highly recommend this read.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Patrick Ness: Website | Twitter | Tumblr
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