Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: A Hogwarts Feast

Confession: some of the most memorable scenes from movies and cartoons I watched as a kid revolve around food. The flower petal tea cup Willy Wonka crunches on in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The plate piled high with food that Ichabod Crane eats while listening to Brom's ghost stories in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The cabinet full of cookies and candy in Kevin's suite at the Plaza Hotel in Home Alone 2 ... I'm pretty much obsessed with food, you guys. So while I was trying to come up with ideas for this week's topic, I tried to think of books that had the most memorable descriptions of food, the ones I read and afterward thought, oh my god, I'm SO hungry now! And honestly, what kids' books have better descriptions of food than the Harry Potter books? I mean, who wouldn't want to attend a Hogwarts welcome feast or take a trip to Honeydukes at least once?

So, I did some browsing through the books and made a list of some of the tastiest food descriptions in the HP series. Interesting tidbit: it gets a lot harder to find these sorts of passages the further along you get in the series. I guess it's cause the trio's got "more important" things to worry about, like Voldemort's return or Umbridge's takeover of Hogwarts or finding out where the seven Horcruxes are and other things that keep them from feasting on delicious food. Go figure.

(Okay, so I had to cheat a little with this gif since we don't actually see Florean Fortescue in the movies.)

Finally, shout-out to whoever the awesome person is who made this post over on the HP Lexicon that lists literally every single mention of food in all the books. It would've taken me forever to find some of these quotes otherwise!Now if you'll excuse, I'm off to raid the pantry.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Team Ravenclaw Welcome Post + My House Cup Reading Challenge TBR List

Hey Team Ravenclaw! Welcome to the House Cup Reading Challenge! As the Head Girl for Team Ravenclaw, I'm here to answer any questions you all might have about the challenge. I'll also be the one all you Ravenclaws report your final points to at the end of the challenge on November 12.

A Little Bit About Me ... 

I'm Alex: bookworm, fantasy fanatic, drinker of tea, and lover of all things cute. If this is your first time to my blog (which for a lot of you I imagine it is), welcome! I'm so happy you've decided to join me, Lauren, Erica, and Kelsey for the reading challenge! This all started out as a silly little idea I had back in September, and with the help of my co-hosts, it's morphed into a full-blown challenge! It's my first time hosting a reading challenge, and I'm thrilled to see how many of you have already signed up to join us!

If I Were a Hogwarts Student ...

Name: Alex
Hogwarts House: Ravenclaw
Wand Type: Beech wood and unicorn hair
Pet: An orange tabby cat named Marmalade
Favorite Subject: Charms
Favorite Professor: Professor Lupin

My TBR List

As the head of Team Ravenclaw, I won't actually be participating for points in the challenge, but I'm still planning to read at least seven books (though how many of those I'll get through remains to be seen). I'm trying to pick shorter books off my TBR (with some exceptions) in the hope that I'll actually be able to complete the challenge. I'm a notorious mood reader so I always get a little nervous about setting a hard-and-fast reading list. So for now, here's my tentative reading list with some alternative picks.

Shadowfell by Juliet Marrillier
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Wicked Like a Wildfire by 
Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

The Queen and the Cure by Amy Harmon
Rhapsodic by Laura Thalassa
Heart of the Empire by Carrie Summers
A Million Junes by Emily Henry
Vengeance Born by Kylie Griffin

Need Recommendations?

Still not sure what you're going to read? Here's a list of some of my favorite books from the last few years:

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)
Heir of Fire, Queen of Shadows, and Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #3, 4, and 5)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1)
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (Strange the Dreamer #1)
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Hunted by Meagan Spooner
The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

Bustle also has a great list of books all Ravenclaws should read.

Remember, sign-ups close Saturday night, so be sure to add your sign-up post the widget here if you want to participate and be eligible for the prizes! And be sure to join us Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. EST for the kick-off Twitter chat! We look forward to seeing you there! :)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The House Cup Reading Challenge Sign Up

Welcome, welcome to the House Cup Reading Challenge! I along with my lovely co-hosts, Lauren of Live, Love, Read, Erica of Escape Under the  Cover, and Kelsey of Kelsey's Cluttered Bookshelf, invite you to join us for a month-long competition to tackle our TBR lists! As a total HP nerd, I am so excited to be hosting this challenge and hope that you all have as much fun participating as we've had planning it!

What Is the House Cup Reading Challenge?

The House Cup Reading Challenge runs from Sunday, October 15, to Sunday, November 12. During this challenge, you will progress from a first-year to seventh-year Hogwarts student by completing seven books on your TBR list. In addition to the main challenge, you will have opportunities to earn even more points by participating in the themed bonus challenges and tweeting with the challenge hashtag on Twitter. But more on that later! 

How It Works

First, you'll need to choose your Hogwarts house. During the challenge, you'll not only be earning points for yourself but for your Hogwarts house as well. At the end of the challenge, each reader should report their points to their house's Head Girl:

Gryffindor: Lauren @BetweenDPages
Hufflepuff: Kelsey @Kelsenator
Ravenclaw: Alex @booksydaisy
Slytherin: Erica @slychica08

Here's how we're determining the winners:

 4 Individual House Winners
One winner will be chosen from each of the four Hogwarts houses. The person who earns the most points for their house will receive:
$5 Starbucks gift card and some HP-themed goodies (stickers, bookmarks, etc.)

1 House Cup Grand Prize Winner
Here's where the House Cup challenge really comes into play! At the end of the challenge, we will randomly select one grand prize winner from the Hogwarts house with the most points overall. This lucky winner will receive:
A Harry Potter Funko Pop figure and a $25 giftcard to Barnes and Noble

**In the case of an international winner, that person will receive an e-gift card to The Book Depository.** 

**PLEASE NOTE: Because we will need winners to provide us with their addresses in order to send out the prizes, you must be 18 years or older to be eligible to win.**

Challenge Events

To kick off the challenge, we'll be hosting a Twitter chat starting at 8:00 p.m. EST to give everybody a chance to introduce themselves, talk about the competition, and answer some Harry Potter trivia questions. Be sure to follow along with the #housecupreadingchallenge hashtag.

At the end of the challenge, we'll also be hosting a watch-along of one of the Harry Potter movies (to be decided via Twitter poll). We'll have more details about this as we get closer to the end of the challenge.

Challenge Categories and Points Breakdown

Main Challenge (20 points each)
Not everyone likes to be confined to a specific category, so we've decided that all books for the main challenge are reader's choice. This means you can pick any book off your TBR list to count toward the main challenge!

First Year: reader’s choice
Second Year: reader’s choice
Third Year: reader’s choice
Fourth Year: reader’s choice
Fifth Year: reader’s choice
Sixth Year: reader’s choice
Seventh Year: reader’s choice

Bonus Challenges (10 points each)
For those who like categories to help narrow down their reading choices, here are thirteen bonus challenges to choose from. However, books you read for the bonus challenges cannot count toward the main challenge! For example,  if you pick The Hunger Games for the Slytherin bonus challenge (read a dystopian book), you cannot also count it toward your second-year challenge.

Gryffindor: Read a book with an epic hero/heroine
Hufflepuff: Read a book that contains a strong friendship 
Ravenclaw: Read a book that revolves around a mystery
Slytherin: Read a book set in a dystopian world 
Astronomy Class: Read a book set in outer space
Care of Magical Creatures: Read a book that features an animal or magical/mythical creature
Tri-Wizard Tournament: Read a book that includes a competition
Occlumency: Read a book about a character with magical abilities or superpowers
Death Eater: Read a book told from the POV of a villain
Platform 9 3/4: Read a book that features travel
Time Turner: Read a book set in the future or past
Fantastic Beasts: Read a spin-off to a beloved series
Dumbledore’s Army: Buddy-read a book with a friend or group

Social Media Bonus Points
Use the hashtag #housecupreadingchallenge on Twitter to earn 1 point per tweet (limited to 20 points total). 

How to Sign Up

Think you're ready to take on the House Cup Reading Challenge? Awesome! To sign up, grab your house badge below, create a sign-up post on your blog with your challenge TBR list and, if you want, your answers to the questionnaire below. Once you've made your post, be sure to link it back to us using the Inlinkz widget below (or on any of my fellow co-hosts' blogs). We await your owl no later than October 14! ;) Happy reading!

Hogwarts Student Questionnaire

Hogwarts House:
Wand Type:
Favorite Subject:
Favorite Professor:

We can't wait to see you on October 15 at 8:00 p.m. EST for the challenge kick-off Twitter chat!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Review: The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski

The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Pub. Date: August 1, 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Source/Format: Library/Hardcover

"Do not travel from the paths. Do not linger after dark. Do not ignore the calling." Winter Parish is a descendent of a long line of guardians, whose duty is to protect the mystical wood behind her family's home from wandering travelers––people who step through thresholds in time either by accident or with the intent to reach another time altogether. Without the guardians, these travelers are in danger of becoming lost in a time that is not their own, or worse, being consumed by the wood itself. Winter's father has been training her since she was ten to become the new guardian in the Parish family line, but when he mysteriously disappears, Winter is left alone to guard the wood, all the while agonizing over what could have happened to her father. Two years later, Henry, a young man from eighteenth-century England, appears in Winter's wood with one purpose: to travel through the time thresholds to uncover what happened to his own missing parents. When it becomes clear that the disappearance of Winter's father and Henry's parents may be connected, the two work together to find their loved ones and defeat the growing evil that plagues the wood.

The Wood is an interesting contemporary fantasy novel linking time travel with a fairy tale–esque magical forest. I did enjoy the characters, especially the relationship between Winter and Henry, although they definitely did not have the whirlwind, passion-fueled romance you see in most YA books of this sort. I especially liked and even laughed out loud at Henry's reactions to modern technology, clothing, lingo, etc. As far as plot goes, though, I was little ... bored. The story takes place over the course of only a few days––with some flashbacks to when Winter was a young guardian-in-training––and everything seems to wrap up a little too neatly, and the "villain" is defeated a little too easily. I would've also liked it if the book had gone deeper into the folklore and origin story of the wood and also the Old Ones, the fae-like creatures who help the guardians in their mission to keep the wood safe and prevent travelers from interfering with the space-time continuum. It felt like we were given just enough information to make that fantasy world plausible but not enough to really make it come alive. Maybe I'm just not used to the pace of standalone books anymore, considering the majority of the books I read now are part of longer series, which gives the author more time to expand the plot and drum up suspense. While I enjoyed parts The Wood, it's probably not a book I'll come back to or one that I'll be shoving in people's faces and demanding that they read.

I'm trying something a little different with my rating system this time around, so we'll see if it sticks! I got the idea from a book journal my mom got me for my birthday this year, which, in addition to giving you space to write down your thoughts about the book and favorite quotes, has a section where you can rank different aspects of the book. I've chosen the three that have the biggest influence over whether a book becomes an instant fave, is just okay, or doesn't click with me.

If you've read The Wood too, I'd love to hear what you thought of it!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My Fall TBR

There are so many awesome books I'm looking forward to reading this fall! 

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson – Eeep, this book comes out one week from today, and I am so excited, you guys! I have been absolutely dying to read AEOR ever since first seeing the gorgeous cover art by Charlie Bowater (who has done some equally fabulous art for the ACOTAR series, in case you didn't know). The premise sounds so magical, and I am totally ready to be swept up into another faerie fantasy world!

Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire – I've never read a Gregory Maguire book before, despite the popularity of Wicked, but I am really intrigued by Hiddensee, which promises to be an origin story of the toymaker Drosselmeier and the enchanted Nutcracker. I love The Nutcracker ballet––it's been one of my favorite Christmas traditions since I was a little girl––so I can't wait to read a new, perhaps more grown-up, version of that story.

Berserker by Emmy Laybourne – So many of the fall new releases this year have gorgeous covers, and Berserker is no exception. Even though this one sounds like it's a little outside my normally preferred genres (I'm not a huge fan of stories set in the Wild West), the mash-up of that world with Viking mythology certainly sounds original!

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston – I absolutely loved BBC's Victoria miniseries that was on TV earlier this year, so this alternative history novel about a descendant of Queen Victoria sounds pretty cool!

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli – I just added this book to my TBR today; up until now I'd avoided it because honestly ... I just really, really hate the cover. And for better or for worse, I am definitely a person for whom the cover plays a major factor in determining whether or not I pick up the book to read the summary. I know, I know, it's bad! But I'm old and set in my ways, haha. I probably wouldn't have looked into this book at all if I hadn't seen a giveaway for the ARC by chance on Twitter (they totally should've gone with the ARC cover; so much prettier!). Anyway, seeing the ARC was what finally made me decide to read the summary, and oh my gosh, this sounds so good!

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – I finally snagged a paperback copy of this while checking out Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh before the Tower of Dawn event a couple weeks ago. It's been on my TBR list for a while, and I'm excited to read it, especially since I've been on a fairy tale retelling kick lately.

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody – I got this book as part of the July Unicorn Crate, but of course I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. But maybe that's for the best, because a story about a dark traveling circus sounds like the perfect October read!

The Falconer by Elizabeth May – Yes, the majority of the books on this list are about faeries. Your point? :P

The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins – ... or they're fairy tale retellings. Oh well!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell – Picked this up over the weekend when I went out to grab a copy of Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor. It was an impulse buy, because this book really hadn't been on my radar, but after reading the summary and finding out it was about time-traveling magicians, I decided to give it a try.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: What I Read as a College Freshman

For this week's topic, I had to do some digging through my Goodreads shelves to find out just what I was reading back in 2009 and 2010. The topic title is a bit misleading, as this list really encompasses some of my most memorable reads from the end of my senior year of high school through the end of my freshman year of college.

Oh, the fall of 2009. The Vampire Diaries had just started its first season, New Moon had just come out in theaters, and my obsession with YA paranormal romance was in full swing. Maggie Stiefavater and Cassandra Clare ranked high on my favorites list at the time.

To be honest, if it hadn't been for Stephenie Meyer, I probably never would have picked up The Hunger Games. Even after reading her praise for it, I was still pretty skeptical about whether or not it would be my kind of book. Boy, was I proven wrong! I read it over summer vacation before leaving for school and was hooked. The Road was another book that ended up surprising me with how much I enjoyed it ... though I'm not really sure enjoy is the right word. Can you really say you enjoyed a book that scared the absolute hell out of you? It was one of the books I read for my freshman intro to fiction class, one of the first classes I took that counted toward my English major, and it's stuck with me (not to mention given me nightmares) ever since.

As you can see, my last three picks don't fit neatly into one category. In between all the crazy dystopian and mythical creature-ridden worlds I was reading about, there were occasionally some that were more familiar. Going into freshman year of college, it had been my plan to major in English with a concentration in creative writing. So, in my attempt to learn more about how other writers did it, one of the books I read was Stephen King's On Writing. It's an interesting look into not only his writing process but his life as well, and I recommend it even if, like me, you're not a Stephen King super fan. I'm still haunted by his description of the procedure his doctor performed on him as kid to try to rid him of ear infections. *shudders*

When I wasn't reading about vampires, werewolves, or demon hunters, you could usually find me reading a Jodi Picoult book. I loved the way she wove so many characters' stories together, and I read quite a few of her books the summer before I went off to college. Once of the last books I read and loved that summer was Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. I was looking for a beachy summer read to get me ready for our annual family vacation to Florida, and this was the perfect pick.

That's it for me! Are there any books from your freshman year of college, required reading or otherwise, that have stuck with you, or any favorites from that transitional summer leading up to your first time away from home?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Back to School - Elementary School Favorites

Being an elementary school kid in the '90s was pretty great. We had Lisa Frank, Harry Potter, Sailor Moon, and Pokemon, just to name a handful of pop culture phenomena of the day. And back-to-school shopping was the best because there was always a plethora of notebooks, folders, pencils, backpacks, lunch boxes, and pretty much everything else under the sun sporting your favorite characters so you could show off your obsessions to all your friends. It was like being involved in fandom life before any of us even knew what fandom was. My absolute favorite part of each new school year was going to registration and getting my school supplies list, which was always color coded by what grade you were going into. My dad would usually take me to Office Depot or Walmart afterward and let me go to town in the back-to-school aisles. (Does anyone else remember the school bus stickers they'd put on the floor to lead you to the school supplies section? Is that still a thing? Because it totally should be.)

Of course there were other great things to look forward to in elementary school, especially if you were a bookworm. Library day was the highlight of my week, and throughout the year there was always the  Scholastic Book Fairs and monthly catalogs. There was nothing like getting a brand spanking new Scholastic catalog to take home and mark up to my little heart's desire (only to have my parents tell me that no, I could not order the entire catalog).

Yup, being a '90s kid was pretty awesome. So in honor of the back-to-school topic this week, I'm giving a rundown of some of my favorite books from my elementary school days.

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Obviously Harry has to be at the top of the list! I will be forever grateful to my third grade teacher for reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to our class and introducing me to the one book series that's had the greatest impact on my life--even though she messed up one small detail. To this day, my mom teases me about how for a year I insisted Hermione's name was pronounced Her-mee-own, because that's how my teacher pronounced it, and obviously teachers are never wrong. Duh, Mom. (Judging by the running joke J.K. Rowling slipped into Goblet of Fire about Viktor Krum having difficulty pronouncing Her-my-oh-knee, I'd venture a guess that I wasn't the only one with this problem.)

2. The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner: Come to think of it, third grade was a pretty great year of reading for me because I was also introduced to The Boxcar Children series. We did a whole unit on it in school, and I went on to read the rest of the books on my own. I think I checked out every one my school library had.

3. Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson: I don't remember much about this series other than the fact that it was about a dog who worked as a "sheriff" on a ranch, and I breezed through the books because I thought they were totally hilarious.

4. The Jewel Kingdom series by Jahnna N. Malcolm: The Jewel Kingdom is a series about four sisters (all princesses) who are each given their own kingdoms represented by--you guessed it--different types of jewels. There's Demetra, the Diamond Princess; Emily, the Emerald Princess; Serena, the Sapphire Princess; and Roxanne, the Ruby Princess. Each book focused on a different princess and her animal friend and their adventures throughout the various kingdoms. These books hold a special place in my heart because of how I interacted with them. At the time, my best friend and I were so in love with these books that pretty much every time we went over to each other's house, we would "play Jewel Princesses." Basically, we'd get dressed up in old Halloween or dance recital costumes and just play pretend, each of us choosing one of the princesses to be. We would create new characters and storylines and spend hours playing in that make-believe world.

5. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech: Walk Two Moons is one of the first books I remember enjoying not so much for the story (though I did love the story) but for the writing itself. I remember reading it out loud in the car to my grandma because I just loved the way the words sounded. I ended up reading a lot more of Sharon Creech's books throughout elementary and middle school.

6. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar: The ridiculous situations in these books cracked me up as a kid, and honestly, they're still pretty funny today.

7. Holes by Louis Sachar: Pretty sure that this was a staple for all elementary school kids of the late '90s/early 2000s. A note to future generations of elementary and middle schoolers who will read this book: ignore the Shia LaBeouf movie. Just read the book.

8. The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey: The Bailey School Kids books were just as funny as the Wayside School books, but with a touch of spookiness. My love for these books probably explains my later obsession with YA paranormal romance. Clearly I had a thing for the supernatural even as a little kid.

9. The Royal Diaries/Dear America series (various authors): I went through a phase toward the end of elementary school and through middle school where I loved historical fiction. I devoured the Royal Diaries series (during one trip to the library, I checked out every copy they had available, which was probably around ten books!). The ones that really stuck with me were Marie Antoinette and Sondok. I think what I liked most about the series was getting to read about different cultures and time periods.

10. Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder: I think I was in first or second grade when my grandma got me the box set of the Little House books, and they're some of the first longer chapter books I remember reading on my own. Little House in the Big Woods was always my favorite because the way Laura Ingalls Wilder described life in the cabin in the woods sounded so cozy! It made me want to live in a log cabin too.

So, any of my fellow '90s kids remember these books? What were some of your own favorites?

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