Book Blogging Newbie Tag

I stole this tag from Breeny’s Books and it seems like a great way to introduce myself as I’m quite new to book blogging.

  • Why did you start this blog?

I started this blog as a way to get my thoughts out there on all of the books I read and see what other people are thinking as well. It’s also a great way for me to keep track of and organize all the books I’ve read, and to get recommendations from people who read more (or just as much) as I do.

  • What are some fun and unique things that you can bring to book blogging?

I think that can bring a more academic approach since I am currently majoring in English Literature so I am naturally critically analyzing everything I read at this point, but not so much that I don’t geek out when it gets good.

  • What are you most excited for about this new blog?

I’m most excited for the community of other bloggers and being able to discuss all the books I read with people who have already read them instead of trying to explain all my feelings to the closest living person when I finish a book. They inevitable a) haven’t read the book and b) don’t care.

  • Why do you love reading?

At my core I love stories. Reading is my favorite medium for stories because it allows for the most interpretation. In movies or TV so much of the interpretation is done for you, where in reading you decide the way each character looks and the way they fit into their surroundings. With reading you get to take part in the story, but with movies/TV you’re simply a bystander. (Not that there’s anything wrong with TV, I love TV. Game of Thrones is honestly a masterpiece.)

  • What book or series got you into reading?

I read every single Junie B. Jones book. Every. Single. One. I remember checking the book section in target every time I went with my mom to see if there was a new one for me to buy.

  • What questions would you ask your favorite authors?

I want to know where my favorite books/characters started. What was the original idea? Like, Were they always going to end up together? Was he always going to die? And if they’ve changed something in the final version, why change it? I think it would be interesting to see the evolution of my favorite stories.

  • What challenges do you think starting a blog will be the hardest to overcome?

I think finding the time and a unique voice will be the hardest. I’m studying abroad in London this semester so finding time will be at least semi-difficult. And as for finding my voice, all the blogs I like (so far, I’m always looking for more) seem to have really strong personal voices and that’s what makes me like them so much.

  • When did you start reading?

The first book I remember reading (having read to me) is the Hobbit when I was about 5 years old. We had a illustrated version and my Dad would read it to me. However, I would say that I started avidly reading in fifth grade. My school had a competition where all the books were assigned a point value (more pages= more points) and whoever had the most points at the end of the year was recognized. I came in second.

  • Where do you read?

Literally anywhere, but mostly my bed or various benches in between classes.

  • What kinds of books do you like to read?

I mostly read YA: fantasy, sci-fi, and contemporary. But I will read anything if the blurb sounds good and has a pretty cover. (Whoever said judging a book by their cover was wrong, covers were made to get people to pick up the book so I’m just letting them do their job.)

Hopefully that helped you to get to know me a little better! If you have any advice or questions feel free to leave them in the comments below.

I See London, I See France- Sarah Mlynowski

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Sydney is headed to Europe with her best friend, Leela for the next five weeks, but when Leela’s ex-boyfriend and his cute friend show up things get a little messy. The four travel across London, Paris, Switzerland, Amsterdam, Italy and Greece as they navigate their messy relationships. Sydney has her mind on home however, as her agoraphobic mother and wild younger sister are facing difficulty without her there to help them.

This book made me really feel like I was traipsing around Europe while actually dealing with real issues in friendship, family and relationships. Sydney balances doing what is best for her and still caring about her family, her childhood and new college friends, and a possible love with her best friends. The writing is great and keeps you engaged for their entire trip and the characters are relatable. This is a great read for college students hoping to study abroad ( or remembering their own trips) and features a lot of wild travel stories that could only happen in your twenties.

What’s your favorite travel novel? I’m always looking for another one!

Girl Online- Zoe Sugg

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Penny, a 15 year old girl living in Brighton, England is only really herself online. In reality, she’s clumsy and awkward (especially around boys), but on her blog she can truly be herself. While dealing with increasingly intermittent panic attacks, she and her best friend head to NYC to spend Christmas. She meets the perfect boy, well at least he seems perfect. As she takes in all her holiday romance has to offer, her separate on and offline lives start to blend.

I think this book does a good job of describing panic attacks and anxiety, as well as ways to combat them, without romanticizing mental illness. At its core this is a romance novel, that borders cliche and cheesy, but sometimes you just need a real feel-good read. Penny and the other characters are an accurate representation of early high school drama especially as she starts to navigate her (negative) online presence and the beginnings of a relationship. The overall plot is a little unrealistic, but what romance book isn’t. It’s a great book for early adolescence, but doesn’t cross over into more adult audiences. I think that if I had read it in middle school or my freshman year it would have really resonated with me.

What’s your favorite feel-good read? I need to accumulate a TBR list for when school starts again…

A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue- Mackenzi Lee

 

29283884Monty, an earl’s son in 18th century England, is about to set out on a year long Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend, Percy and younger sister. He is very much looking forward to drinking  and gambling his way through Europe’s greatest cities all the while spending as much time with Percy, who he’s madly in love with. His father has other plans sending along a bear-leader to show the boys the sights and keep them in line. However, they’re trip is not what they thought it would be as obstacles (highwaymen, pirates, a little bit of treasure hunting) keep appearing allowing them to learn more about themselves and their relationships than they would have at the bottom of a bottle.

I was skeptical at first because the book is pretty long (500 pages) and travel narratives tend to lag and get repetitive but this one doesn’t. It was so refreshing to see the great European cities in their prime by going to a grand party at Versailles rather than just touring it. The romance is the type of slow burn that makes you ache for them to just tell each other their feelings already ( and makes it so much better when they finally do). And Felicity is a strong female character that would make any feminist proud, even if she is one of the only two female characters. This is a light fun read that will have you dreaming of far away places and keep you entirely enthralled in romance and adventure.

 

 

Rome in Two Days

Day 1:

The Vatican

It is VERY important to get here early! The Vatican museums open at 9 am, but get there by 8. The line gets long fast and then you’ll be wasting your valuable Rome time looking at the wall. There will be two lines, one for people who already have tickets (bought online or groups) and one to buy tickets. You could buy your tickets online if you have access to a printer, but their is a 4 euro up-charge.  NOTE: There is a student discount if you have a valid student id and are 18-25 years old.

Also, make sure to be dressed modestly (knees and shoulders covered).

Once in the museums, take your time and see everything that interests you. The whole museum sort of funnels you toward the Sistine Chapel, main attraction of the museums. Make sure to end your tour here. The room will be super crowded, so make your way towards the middle. You’re not allowed to take pictures here and if the guards catch you they’ll come over and watch you delete it. But there are so many people in the room, so they can’t watch everyone at the same time. Be sneaky if you want a pic.

Towards the back of the room, there are two exits- one to the left and one to the right. The one on the left will take you back to the museum entrance and then you’ll have to walk around the outside to get in line to see St. Peter’s Basilica.  The one to the right, is reserved for groups, but as long as you don’t need to return an audioguide, you can sneak through. There’s probably no one even there to stop you. This exit will take you right into St. Peter’s Basilica and you won’t have to wait in any more lines!

While you’re waiting in line in the morning, lots of hawkers will try to sell you a “Skip-the-line” deal with the selling point of the Basilica exit, but now you know the secret and won’t need to spend the extra money.

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Historical Center Walking Tour

Head towards the Campo de’Fiori to start the tour. I’ve stolen this route from Rick Steve’s and he has an awesome audio tour to go along with it, which can be downloaded wherever you get podcasts.

His version includes more stops, but here are the highlights:

Piazza Navona: The famous piazza is a great place to grab some gelato and walk amongst the street artists. Make sure to take a look at the statue of Neptune at the end.

Pantheon: Old church with a hole in the center of the domed ceiling. NOTE: When looking at the Pantheon from the front, if you go to the right and walk along the side of the church, you’ll find a restaurant called Miscellenea.

Trevi Fountain: Make sure to throw a coin in to ensure a return visit to Rome, (The coins are collected every night to help Rome’s homeless.)

Spanish Steps: It’s a bit of a climb, but once you’re at the top, you can take a people watching break in the Borghese Gardens.

Day 2:

Colosseum/ Roman Forum/ Palantine Hill

Today is another early day, get to the Colosseum about 15 minutes before it opens to buy the combination ticket for the ancient ruins. Take your time while touring the Colosseum, right now they have an awesome exhibit about the time between the Gladiators and the tourists. IMG_1092

Then walk around the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill, try to see it all. There is another great Rick Steve’s tour for this.

Capitoline Hill Museum

Great museum full of Roman art. Make sure to go into the basement to get a great overlook of the Roman Forum.

Victor Emmanuel Monument

Finish out your day with some great views from the top of the military monument.

 

And of course treat yourself to gelato at every opportunity.

Salt Lake City, Utah

IMG_2285Last summer I attended  the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Salt Lake City. We were quite a large group and therefore stayed in a large house we found on airbnb. I would recommend a house to any one traveling in a group ever. It allowed for a common space to play board games and watch the NBA Finals(#Believeland), as well as drove down the price of food as we were able to cook for ourselves. However, if you are traveling with a smaller party it may not be fiscally wise. I loved the mountains, which were a nice breath of novelty compared to the ever flat Ohio.

Attractions

Temple Square

It was extremely beneficial to be traveling with a Mormon for this section of the trip, but if you don’t have your own personal Mormon, definitely stop in one of the visitor centers on either end of the square. They serve as de facto museums and insights into the Mormon Religion. Forewarning: if you are not a Mormon, you cannot gain access to the spectacular Temple, however the outside is worth a visit.

Bell Canyon Reservoir and Waterfall Hike

It was tough, but it was worth it. If you’re not looking for a major time commitment the hike up to the reservoir is about 20 minutes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult (this is coming from a girl who never exercises). The lake has great views of the mountains and of Salt Lake City. If you’re in for the long haul it’s another hour and a half up to the waterfall. It’s worth it. The hike down is just a difficult, maintaining balance and stepping down rocks, but you’re left feeling very accomplished.

East High

This is where they shot High School Musical. It looks just like it. Take a HSM jumping picture. (“Zac Efron was HERE!”). You might be able to find a way inside. The group that went the day before us saw the cafeteria and gym, but we were stuck on the outside. And of course you have to take that HSM jumping shot.

Olympic Park, Park City

A 40 minute drive outside of the city, but well worth it. Olympic park is host to a range of adventuresome activities, of which we opted for zip lining.  There is only one zip line for $20, which is less of a deal than other zip lining excursions I’ve done (Vermont and Mexico), but it was fun nonetheless. Perhaps the most interesting was watching the ski jump training into a pool. We stood and watched them do tricks into the pool for a significant amount of time before heading to downtown Park City for some lunch and shopping.

Food

The Red Iguana

Truly authentic early civilization Mexican food, and very good. They’re famous for their Mole, but don’t skip out on the guac!

Sapa Sushi

I’m not a huge fan of sushi, but the boys of our group were. I ordered one of the Lunch Special Bento Combo boxes and was very pleased. It included rice and a beef curry dish, salad and some California Rolls. The Cali Rolls made me feel like I was adventurously eating sushi when I really wasn’t ( and one of the boys ate most of them anyway). This place was near East High if you’re looking for lunch around there.

In-n-out

I don’t eat fast food ever. But In-n-out was good, especially at 1am fresh off an airplane. If you’re not from the West Coast, this is a must.

Books to Curb Your Wanderlust

Wanderlost- Jen Malone

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What could be wrong with a spontaneous trip through Europe, a caravan of the elderly, and a young hot cutie? Aubree acts as a stand-in tour guide for a small group of old people on their 22 day journey through Europe, although she does manage to lose her notes, phone and sanity on the first day.

Places visited: Amsterdam, Prague, Austria, Italy( Venice and Rome).

With Malice- Eileen Cook

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Jill wakes up in a hospital bed with a splitting migraine and no recollection of the last six weeks. That lost time includes the trip to Italy she took with her best friend, Simone,  and the car accident that killed her. Simone’s accidental death is tragic, but no one seems to believe it was an accident. Memories of Italy (and the hot Italian college guy) and an imminent arrest hover over Jill in recovery, but will she ever remember what really happened?

The Loose Ends List- Carrie Firestone

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Maddie’s final high school summer is swept out from under her when her eccentric Gram takes the family on an 8-week cruise around the world, only Gram is not returning at the end. The death-with-dignity cruise is designed to allow the terminally ill to go on their terms, and to tie up loose ends on the way. Maddie finds a tall, dark, handsome mystery guy to take her mind off the death surrounding the ship. This is the book that I’ve cried the most at in my entire life, and man is it worth it.

Places visited: Bermuda, Jamaica, Brazil, Iceland, Venice, Rome, Slovenia, Thailand

Anna and the French Kiss- Stephanie Perkins

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Anna’s life is uprooted from her beloved Atlanta when her father forces her to attend the School of America in Paris. She struggles to fit in and find her place among classmates that have known each other for years. As it is the most romantic city in the world Anna falls for the Parisenne/American with a British accent Etienne St. Clair (isn’t that the sexiest name). Navigating the waters of her new city and new relationships, Anna discovers the real meaning of home.

The Red Notebook- Antoine Laurain

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The Parisian bookseller Laurent feels the need to find the women connected to the handbag he finds in the street. There is no wallet or identification, just a few seemingly random items to lead him to her, one of which is a red notebook filled with the woman’s innermost thoughts. It’s a quick read with a very French feel.

The Heir and the Spare- Emily Albright

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Following a trail of letters from her mother, Evie jets off to finish her degree at Oxford. The letters outline a series of “quests”for Evie to complete, unearthing family secrets her mother never had the chance to tell her. There’s also stunningly attractive boy, who turns out to be the Prince: every girl’s dream. It’s a fabulously British, swoon worthy romance.

All the Light We Cannot See-Anthony Doerr

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Intertwining stories of a Parisian blind girl and a orphan German boy with a fondness for radios set during WWII. It shows how the war affected innocents on both sides with a dash of magical realism. If you’re into historical fiction it’s a must read.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue- Mackenzi Lee

29283884Monty, an debaucherous earl’s son, sets out on a grand tour of Europe with his best friend, Percy and sister Felicity. But all does not go as planned: highwaymen, pirates, a little bit of magic, and some treasure hunting. Also, a slow burning unrequited romance between Monty and Percy that is just so good.

I See London, I See France- Sarah Mlynowski

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Sydney, 19, sets out on a European journey after her first year of college with her best friend from High School, Leela. But Leela’s ex boyfriend shows up with his cute friend. Sydney’s plan fall to the whims of their tumultuous relationship allowing her and the cute friend to get to know each other a little better.