A Life Update: March Comes In Like a Lion…

Hey everyone!  I know I haven’t been posting much lately (story of my life, right?), but I’m about to enlighten you on what I’ve been doing:

Show Choir

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(Yes, show choir usually does look an awful lot like this, if you’ve never seen it before.)

As I’ve posted about before, I volunteered to be an assistant director for my school’s show choir.  I did it for 5 years when I was in school and it’s definitely something I know a lot about–I know how the shows work, what judges look for, staging, etc.  I had no hesitations about volunteering for this.

Aaaaand then the competitions started.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the competitions in themselves.  I love seeing other groups, watching my own group kill it on stage, and those excited butterflies you get just before a performance (even if I’m not on stage).  What I didn’t love was the stress of making sure everything was ready, making sure everything was running smoothly and on time, making sure every person was where they needed to be, making sure the kids were all doing what they should be doing…  The list goes on.  It was also a huge time commitment as well, where yesterday’s competition had me getting up at 4:20 AM to perform at 9:10 and not being able to leave until after 3:00 (the school scheduled awards 4 hours after the last middle school performance, which was really just a ploy to get people to stay and pay for food).

Anyway, my introverted (INFJ) self has sort of been spazzing out.  I’m a perfectionist anyway, so show choir just kept feeding into that anxiety.  I literally had dreams the week before a show about everything that could go wrong.  It’s been hard sometimes to not feel like a lost fish in a sea of hundreds upon hundreds of people at these things.

But my INFJ side is also eating up the fact that I’ve gotten super close to a lot of the kids.  I’ve picked out kids who are spectacular performers but don’t exactly believe in themselves.  I’ve made an impact on kids I don’t even have in class who now smile at me in the halls when they pass me.  I love that I’ve been able to see a number of these kids in a different light.

I’ve had competitions for the last five weekends straight.  We just finished out last competition yesterday, so now it’s just me doing what I want on weekends for a time (re: reading!)

Grading

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The last few weeks of the grading period arrived in the middle of all this show choir, forcing upon me a couple of the things I hate the most as a teacher:

  1. Late work that is literally 2 months old.  I’m not taking that.  I’m not grading it.  Stop wasting my time.  You had your chance two months ago.  That’s no longer an “oops, I forgot” thing.
  2. “Can I get extra credit?”  Like, no.  If you’d done your work on time and well in the first place, you wouldn’t need to be asking about extra credit two days before the end of the quarter.  This quarter has been really bad as 8th graders suddenly realized that high school starts for them in a few months and all those resolutions they made (“I’ll try harder/study more/get all my homework in on time”) aren’t going to happen if they don’t start applying themselves now.

I’ve just had so much grading and so little time to work on it.  It’s hard to want to read anything for fun after you’ve just spent all evening reading essays.

Seeing Someone Sweet…

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A couple of months ago I started dating a guy who is, in many ways, my exact opposite.  Where I’m more creative and imaginative, he’s more logical.  Where I’m a planner and have some anxiety if I do not have a plan, he wings everything.  Where I have more emotional reactions to things, he’s more…unemotional is definitely not the right word, but less emotionally invested than I am.  (We’re talking crying during movies vs. not crying.  nbd.)

But through all of those differences, we still have similarities.  If I’m feeling introverted after a long day of show choir, he’s fine with a night in with a Redbox movie.  If I make a comment about something I like, jokingly or otherwise, he tries to get it for me.  (Even if it’s just milk and Swiss Miss.)  And I try to return the favor where I can.  You guys, he is as sweet as the Girl Scout cookies he buys in bulk.  (He also usually reads these posts, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to hear about that one later…)

If you’ve been following my posts for the last few years, you know that some of my past relationships have been rocky to say the least.  But this one feels good.  I’m having fun.  I enjoy the time I get to spend with him and I always look forward to seeing him again.

(He’s going with me to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie this coming weekend, so that’ll be a new review that I will be hopefully getting out to you guys soon!)

Peace!

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Top Ten Books to Try If You Like Sarah J. Maas

Hey guys!  I know there’s not an official Top Ten Tuesday today (it’s on hiatus), so that inspired me to try a topic myself!  I love recommending books based on what other people like.  (For example, a student of mine loves Kasie West and so I keep introducing her to other contemporary YA romance writers like Sarah Dessen.)  I know a lot of us are HUGE Sarah J. Maas fans, so I thought I’d try finding a few other books/series that you may also like!  (You may see authors come up more than once.)

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Top Ten Books to Try If You Like Sarah J. Maas

1. The Gold Seer Trilogy by Rae Carson

This may seem like a weird choice, but I promise it works.  The series starts with Walk on Earth a Stranger, a tale about a girl who can sense gold in the era of the American Gold Rush.  Like many of Maas’s heroines, Lee has a horrible backstory and relies on her own wits and instincts to stay alive.  The series is historical with a hint of fantasy and romance of the slow-moving kind.  The story is about so much more than love and I found it delightful.

2. Ruined by Amy Tintera

The fantasy novel knocked me off my feet last year.  In Ruined, Em has watched her parents’ brutal murder and infiltrates the enemy kingdom under the guise of the prince’s betrothed.  Basically, Em is Celaena Sardothien (Throne of Glass) in a different form.  This fantasy promises bold action sequences, alliances between unlikely forces, and characters you will not forget.

3. The Remnant Chronicles series by Mary E. Pearson

One staple of Maas books is their detail and length.  The Remnant Chronicles can rival any Maas book in length.  The first book, Kiss of Deception, is nearly 500 pages and it just goes up from there.  This series involves rival kingdoms, assassins, princes and princesses, and major battles.  It’s also incredibly well-written, the kind where you feel like the characters are real people that you know in your daily life.  They are so vivid.

4. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

I feel like most people know about Outlander either because of its rise to fame in the last few years or because of me constantly talking about it, but I’m going to talk about it again.  Outlander is the story of a World War II army nurse who accidentally goes back in time to 1743 and has to rely on her wits to survive in a brutal and political world where a single misstep could get her killed.  The books are incredibly long, well-written, and delightful.  Claire and Jamie, at the point, are real people to me.  And even the minor characters are family.

5. The Splintered series by A.G. Howard

If you’re looking for a kooky, out-of-the-box fantasy, this is it.  A modern retelling of Alice in Wonderland, Splintered is the story of Alyssa, a girl whose ancestors have always been lured to Wonderland or to madness (sometimes both).  And the real Wonderland is much darker and dangerous than Lewis Carroll’s version.

6. The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa

One of the staples of Maas’s books is the fey, so I thought I’d include a fey story on the list.  The Iron King, the first book in the series, is about a normal girl who becomes a pawn in a fey fight for power.  While she may not be a strong fighter like Maas’s characters, there are still plenty of battle scenes, humor, plots, and brilliant characters.

7. The Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson

This is like, the crowning series that I think is remarkably like Maas’s writing.  The Girl of Fire and Thorns begins with Princess Elisa, a girl who doesn’t feel fit to rule the country she is now queen of thanks to an arranged marriage.  There are daring twists in this series, bold and dangerous enemies, magic, character development that goes through the roof, and shocking twists.  If you haven’t read this series yet, you totally should.

8. Penryn & the End of Days series by Susan Ee

I went in a slightly different direction with this pick.  Most of Maas’s books have to do with a dangerous and seemingly invincible enemy.  If powerful angels who literally destroyed the world doesn’t fit that bill, I don’t know what does.  Angelfall begins by introducing us to Penryn, a teenage girl determined to do whatever it is to recover her disabled sister from the angels who kidnapped her, even if that means befriending the enemy to do so.  Well-written and insightful, it takes a look at human nature as humanity falls apart, but it also creates a scarily realistic dystopian world.

9. The Pledge series by Kimberly Derting

Again, I went in a different direction here.  In The Pledge, we are introduced to a world of distinct class structures and oppressive rulers who kill for fun.  We see underground resistance groups, fights, magic, and a heroine who needs to outsmart some very dangerous foes.

10. Defy series by Sara B. Larson

This series is basically a more romantic version of the Throne of Glass series.  Defy is a tale where Alexa disguises herself as a boy (Alex) in order to flee the terror of being a woman in a man’s world.  An able fighter, she becomes an integral part of the King’s Guard and her secrets start to come unraveled.  Alexa is very similar to Celaena in many respects, but this book definitely has more of an emphasis on the romance than Maas books usually do.

GUESS WHAT?! GUESS WHAT?!

My blog has been going strong for…wait for it…

6 YEARS!

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Never ever did I imagine that I would be doing this for this long, and I just have to thank you guys for being loyal readers for so long.  Actually, I think I have to thank you for caring what I had to say about all these books and movies over the years.  Y’all are the best readers anyone could ask for and I’m delighted to say that these six years have been amazingly fun.  I couldn’t do it without you guys!

…Well, I could, but then I suppose this would be more like a diary than a blog…since I’d just be writing for myself…

Anyway, contrary to my posting habits thus far this year, Belle of the Library is still going to be going strong.  Here’s to another year!

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Hidden Figures

mv5bmjqxotkxoduyn15bml5banbnxkftztgwntu3ntm3ote-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_Meet the women you don’t know, behind the mission you do.

Hey guys!  So I saw this movie last night and I really wanted to let you guys know what I thought about it, since I haven’t been posting any book reviews lately.  (I’ve been reading a massive biography on Washington and while it’s excellent, it’s taking forever.)  So in case you were curious, let’s talk about Hidden Figures.

The year is 1961 and the United States has been beaten in the Space Race.  Sputnik has gone into orbit while America can’t even get a rocket off the ground without it burning up.  What NASA needs most comes in the form of three African American female geniuses.  These women are “human computers” who have to calculate the trajectory of flight patterns to ensure that the lives of the first astronauts are safe.  (Looking at you, John Glenn.)  Together, these three will change the nation, one step at a time.

A little background on the women: we mostly follow Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), a super computer of the highest caliber.  Her friend Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) acts something like a supervisor to the women of the West Computing Group (which is where these women worked, separated from the rest of NASA).  Finally, we have Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), who was determined to be an engineer, despite all of the legal hoops she had to jump through.  We good?  Because now I’m going to start breaking down their performances.

Henson, I thought, did a fabulous job as Katherine.  Katherine has this dichotomy of wanting to rise through the ranks at NASA because she enjoys her work and it’s worthwhile, but she’s also terrified that one wrong step is going to cost her her job.  I mean, they basically tell her right before she starts that her new boss Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) has a high turnover rate with “computers”.  Also, this is 1961 and the height of segregation and discrimination.  Which also plays a large role in this movie.  But Henson does a nice job of playing Katherine as an intelligent, hardworking single mom.

Spencer’s acting was, as always, fantastic as Dorothy Vaughan.  Vaughan has a bit of desperation to her character at the beginning, since she is more or less in charge of a group of 30 women who could be fired at any moment for no reason.  But she turns that desperation into determination and tenacity, which was fantastically done with Spencer’s trademark realism and tongue-in-cheek comeuppance for those who stand against her.  Trust me, you did not want to get on Dorothy’s bad side.  It was a delight to watch.

Perhaps the most interesting character, though, was Janelle Monae’s Mary.  Whereas Katherine and Dorothy were more reserved and more cautious when dealing with bosses and segregation, Mary was like a bull charging through the gate.  She was gutsy and funny, saying what was on her mind when the others wouldn’t.  I really like that character trait, and Monae’s performance was just so endearing.

The supporting cast also had a lot of offer.  I thought Costner’s performance was great as a demanding, exacting boss who didn’t care who did the work so long as it got done quickly and correctly.  He had little patience for segregation if it meant slowing down the numbers he needed to ensure that men stayed alive in space.  There were also minor roles by Jim Parsons and Kirsten Dunst, but I thought those felt a little flat.  I was hoping for more out of Parsons especially, but he’s basically been typecast because of his role as Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory.  He’s basically Sheldon but with no character growth.

I really enjoyed the plot as well.  It managed to weave together so many elements in a way that felt natural and interesting.  Not only were we looking at NASA and the Space Race to get men like John Glenn and Alan Shepard into space safely, but we follow elements of the Civil Rights movement, Katherine’s private life with her three daughters, Dorothy’s workplace ambition to make herself and her girls relevant, and Mary’s dream to become an engineer.  I mean, this is a lot to follow in a 2 hour movie, but the movie did a nice job with it.  Obviously, the NASA part is the crux of it all, but it was really nice to see the other elements as well.

This is basically a feel-good movie.  Obviously, though, not everything is happy and light, though.  There were moments in the theater where I was tense or sitting on the edge of my seat.  (There were even times when the audience did a collective “ooohhh”.)  But there are laugh-out-loud funny parts and parts that deserve a chuckle or a smirk.  It’s got drama with a bit of comedy, but it’s mostly uplifting.  And, being a PG rated movie, it’s great for all age levels.  (They only curse twice in the whole movie.)

I really enjoyed this.  This is definitely worth seeing if you get the chance.

Life in Fast-Forward: An Introvert’s Struggle

Hey guys!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted something a little more personal and I so feel like I need to share my introvert struggles.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as a kid, being an introvert in a world that praises extroverts set me up for a whole lot of mental stress.  No one understood me and my need to get away from crowds and high stimulation (parties, busy malls, etc.).  But for those of you who feel the same, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  I have been where you are, trying to pretend that I’m extroverted while dying a little inside every time it doesn’t quite work.  (My inner teacher/Care Bear is coming out.)  I’m an INFJ, which basically means I’m introverted, caring, and super sensitive.

And yes, I realize I’m a walking contradiction.  I’m an introvert who decided to become a teacher.  I spend day in and day out surrounded my kids constantly demanding my attention and focus.  I take home assignments all the time that give me little time to settle into my routines and read or watch a movie.  And for the last two years, I’ve made it work.

This year, I decided to tackle something more.  I’m an assistant for my school’s show choir.  I’m in charge of the crew, which means I have about a dozen girls who set up backdrops, assist in costume changes, and generally just make sure that all of the visual effects work so the singers don’t have to stress.  I grew up in show choir and I loved it.  (Again, walking contradiction.)  I wanted to give back to these kids and get to know them a little better than I do in the classroom.

And generally, I love it.  I’ve only been active these past few weeks, since that’s really only when my crew has been there.  But it is slowly starting to chip away at my introverted hermit shell, and the season hasn’t even started.  (It goes solidly from late January to mid-March.  Every. Weekend.)

I love when I can just be a quiet observer at practices.  Our director is an extrovert with a capital E.  He is loud, charismatic, and fun.  So when he takes charge of the group, I have no problem handing control over to him.  (It is his group, after all.)  But I also really love watching the group and offering critiques on what I observe.  (I don’t call anyone out, though, because that could possibly hurt someone’s feelings and that does not jive well with my personality.)

But when I have to pick up and be in charge?  Oh boy.  By the time I get home after those practices, I feel it.  I’m drained, emotional, and tired.  On the days where I’m more of an observer, I almost feel energized.

Another of my quirks is that I love my routines, and these practices are throwing me off big time.  By the time I get home, I’m hungry, tired, my routine is completely ruined for the night, and I just want the maximum amount of alone time I can possible get away from anyone with a set of vocal cords.

I’ve currently been separated from people for an hour and it’s still not enough to unwind me.  This is the problem with being an introvert: for every hour I spend with people, I need another hour alone just to feel like myself again.  It’s usually impossible to get all that time back, and many people (mostly extroverts but sometimes introverts as well) just do not understand that level of aloneness I crave.

It’s interesting to note as well that the other assistant in my show choir is an extrovert as well–and nearly the complete opposite of me in personality.  (This was our lunch conversation, of all things.)  Whereas when I critique, I’m careful not to name anyone specific, she will stop the song and confront the person face to face in a verbal smack down that would haunt me for days if I were on the receiving end.  I explained to her how that was not even an option for me because of how I couldn’t do that to hurt someone else’s feelings, she admitted that had never even occurred to her that it could hurt their feelings.  From her perspective, if she was doing something wrong, she’d want to know about it immediately.  And I get that…to a point.  I’m a worrier and a bleeding heart, so I can’t stand even the idea that I’ve upset someone else.  I have to make it better.

But through all of this, I’m still glad I stepped up and told the director that I would do it.  Even though it’s not easy for me emotionally, it’s getting me outside of my comfort zone.  I spent a lot of time in my hermit shell, reading books and pretending I live in another world.  While there is nothing wrong with this, there were moments when I craved a little more.  I missed the show choir world.  I missed the competitions and the shows and the sparkles and dresses.  It was something I’d been wanting to get involved in for a while and this year presented the perfect opportunity.  Besides, the season is 3 months of the year.  I can put up with 3 months when I get the other 9 months to crawl back into my shell.

Already, this is giving me new experiences and memories that I’m starting to treasure.  I’m happy to be doing this.  I just wish it was a little easier to balance this with my introversion.

Top Ten Tuesday: 2017 Debuts I’m Excited For

Hey everyone!  It’s Tuesday again (amazing how that keeps happening…) so it’s time for another list!  This week, we’re going to take a quick peek at some of my most anticipated debut releases of this year.  And trust me, we’ve got some really fantastic looking ones here.

toptentuesdayTop Ten 2017 Debuts I’m Looking Forward To

1. The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren (April 4, 2017)

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

You know what this sounds like to me?  Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer.  If those two books are anything like each other, then I’m going to devour this like Dean Winchester devours pie.  Oh yeah, I went there.

2. Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan (January 26, 2017)

Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left.
None of this was supposed to happen.
But perhaps this doesn’t need to be the end…

Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the well-ordered world they have left behind – at the rules they couldn’t reconcile themselves to, and a life to which they might now never return.
For in a world where love is banned, what happens when you find it?

I’m not entirely sure yet what to make of this book, but I know it sounds interesting.  I don’t normally read space books, but I think this one will get me to cross the bridge and try it out again.  I just want to know what happens!

3. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller (February 28, 2017)

When the ruthless pirate king learns of a legendary treasure map hidden on an enemy ship, his daughter, Alosa, knows there’s only one pirate for the job—herself. Leaving behind her beloved ship and crew, Alosa deliberately facilitates her own kidnapping to ensure her passage on the ship, confident in her ability to overcome any obstacle. After all, who’s going to suspect a seventeen-year-old girl locked in a cell? Then she meets the (surprisingly perceptive and unfairly attractive) first mate, Riden, who is charged with finding out all her secrets. Now it’s down to a battle of wits and will . . . . Can Alosa find the map and escape before Riden figures out her plan?

First of all, can I just say how awesome this is that it’s a pirate story WITH A GIRL IN CONTROL OF HER OWN DESTINY?!  (I went a little Brave there, didn’t I?)  I grew up in love with pirate stories, but they always seemed to be dominated by men.  But the fact that Alosa is playing into female stereotypes in order to outsmart her enemies?  LOVE IT.

4. Garden of Blood and Dust by K.K. Perez (2017)

A YA fantasy inspired by the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, the world’s first female serial killer, pitched as a cross between Maleficent and American Horror Story.

So much yes.  It’s going to be bloody and dark and disgusting (and probably not unlike Kiersten White’s And I Darken), and I’m totally on board.  We just don’t have a lot of details about it yet.  I’m going to bet this is going to be a late 2017 release.

5. Sea Witch by Sarah Henning (2017)

Pitched as the never-before-told origin story of the sea witch from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” told in the vein of Wicked – from the villainess’s point of view

I love origin fairy tale stories told from the villain’s point of view.  It’s a serious weakness of mine.  And the fact that they’re even mentioning Wicked has me sold.

6. Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields (January 10, 2017)

Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It s a miserable life, but being a visha kanya a poison maiden is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.

Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she s really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose.

This rich, surprising, and accessible debut is based in Indian folklore and delivers a story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Can we really let 2017 go by without an assassin story?  I think not.  And not only is it an assassin tale (which I already love), but the fact that it’s mixed with Indian folklore means DIVERSITY.  And I love me some diversity in my books.  I’m very excited to see how Indian culture is infused in this story.

7. The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz (October 16, 2017) [Also known as Strings]

When the music ends, the dance begins.

Penny is a dancer at the Grande Teatro, a finishing school where she and 11 other young women are training to become the finest ballerinas in Italy. Tucked deep into the woods, the school is overseen by the mysterious and handsome young Master who keeps the girls ensconced in the estate and in the only life Penny has ever known.

When new memories appear, showing a life very different from the one she thought she’d been leading, Penny begins to question the Grand Teatro and the motivations of the Master. With the sweet kitchen boy, Cricket, at her side, Penny vows to escape the confines of her school and the strict rules that dictate every step she takes. But at every turn, the Master finds a way to stop her, and Penny must find a way to escape the school and uncover the secrets of her past before it’s too late.

Know what book this reminds me of?  Adi Rule’s Strange Sweet Song.  This has the feel of being something like a dark fairy tale the way everyone’s forgotten their memories and there’s this devious Master watching over everything.  I love dance/music stories, so this is a must for this year.  Also, I never thought I’d read another book with a love interest named Cricket after Lola and the Boy Next Door.  Guess I have to eat those words.

8. Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock (August 1, 2017)

Jenny met Chance for the very first time when she was assigned as his partner in their Junior Communications class. But one clever lie to rescue a doomed assignment later, and the whole school was suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever.

It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow—especially when you really, really want it to be the truth. With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that television has always promised her. And through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are ‘just friends.’ But that might be the biggest lie of all.

Published by Swoon Reads, this is nearly guaranteed to be a cute romance.  Plus, how many of us have been in that “just friends but wanna be more” stage?  As much as it kind of sucks at the time, I very much enjoy reading about other people being in that spot.  (Think When Harry Met Sally)  Besides, I’m always looking for a cute romance.

9. Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn (July 18, 2017)

Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend—until he ruined her life, that is.

So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once—by getting him fired.

But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.

I don’t even know where to start with my love for this already.  A) It has background issues for the main character to deal with in line with Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson.  B) It has a love-hate relationship going on that I definitely want to know more about.  C) TUDOR TYMES.  My inner history buff is aflutter with feels at the mere mention of the Tudor dynasty.  I don’t even care that it’s a complete knock-off of Medieval Times.  D) Quinn has a mission to get Wesley fired that is sure to be creative and full of embarrassing mishaps.

10. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (May 30, 2017)

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

I’m completely swooning over here (though part of that might still be residual from TUDOR TYMES…and I’m actually not totally kidding about that…).  Since it worked for the last one, let’s once again list the reasons I’m totally on board with this book.  A) DIVERSITY FOR THE WIN.  B) It’s a comedic story that happens to have diversity in it while truly just being about two people who fall in love.  So many diverse stories out now are (rightly) pretty politically charged.  I love that this brings levity.  C) I am completely drawn to this idea of arranged marriages and whether or not they work.  The fact that Dimple and Rishi have the chance to get to know each other really makes me fangirl inside.  D) I know this is basically the same point as point A, but I’m truly excited to see how Indian culture comes through in this story.  It’s going to be fascinating.

Goodbye 2016, HELLO 2017!

Happy New Year, my friends!  I was going to post this yesterday, but I thought it might be better to post it today.  You’ll see.

So I’m about to say something that many people may find *slightly* controversial.

Contrary to popular belief, 2016 wasn’t a complete dumpster fire.

There, I said it.  Was it a horrific year?  Absolutely.  Between being an election year, the worst mass shooting in the US (Orlando), and everything horrific in between, yeah, it’s been a bad year.  But I physically cannot just kick 2016 out the door and not acknowledge a few things that went really well this year.  Because there were some good things.

And I’m here to remind you of them.  You may not agree with every one of them, but hopefully you can find something in this list to make you go, “Maybe 2016 really wasn’t Howard the Duck awful.”

e0ab6acd27b21d63e1e02c04712f05de1. While we lost a lot of truly amazing and inspiring celebrities, many more are still alive.

The two that hit me the hardest this year were Alan Rickman (for obvious reasons) and Gene Wilder, who was always just that crazy, slightly manic man with a heart of gold from movies like Willy Wonka, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Producers.  I think both of their deaths knocked me off my feet–I vividly remember my mom telling me about Rickman and I legit had to take a seat.  I kept saying, “No, no, no, no.”

And those hurt–they always will.  But remember, we still have a number of amazing celebrities who defined generations out there.  Betty White is still out there, as are Dame Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Patrick Stewart, Mel Brooks (who directed three of those aforementioned Gene Wilder movies), Billy Crystal, Cary Elwes (drool), Emma Watson, and so many others.  (I threw Emma on the list because of how she’s come to define our generation and you never know when something will happen.  RIP Anton Yelchin.)

So as long as 2017 doesn’t take them away from us, I’ll be happy.  So many of them have come to define my childhood, my adulthood, my humor (looking at you, Brooks), or just the woman I want to be (cheers to you, Smith and Watson, two of the greatest fighters I’ve had the pleasure to admire).

hamilton19f-4-web2. The Year of Hamilton

I know I came a little late to the party, not listening to the soundtrack for the first time until February 2016, but this has truly been the year that Lin-Manuel Miranda ruled.  (Forget about King George III, make way for King Lin-Manuel.)  I mean, when does that guy ever sleep?  Between all the shows he performed in every week, writing the Hamiltome, working on the Hamilton Remixes, and even doing songs for Moana, I’m not sure how he finds time to just sit down!

But perhaps the best Hamilton moment of the year, for me anyway, was watching the Tony Awards suddenly become the Hamilton Awards.  Watching James Corden use the Hamilton opener as the show opener, watching cast member after cast member come up to accept their awards, watching everyone just lose it when Lin-Manuel’s acceptance speech about “Love is love is love” went viral in the wake of the devastating Orlando shooting.

No one can ignore that this show gave us an imperfect hero to root for, an escape from the current ever-present politics (by giving us 200 year old politics to think about), and catchy yet heartfelt songs that we can’t stop singing.  I adore this show (even if I haven’t seen it yet).  It truly brings people together and its diversity makes it a brilliant message about America.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-poster-eddie-redmayne3. The Return of Harry Potter

Truly, after the last book came out almost 10 years ago (OH MY GOD, it’s been THAT LONG?!) I seriously thought Harry Potter’s popularity was waning, as much as I didn’t want it to.  But flash forward to 2016 and what do we have?

A play!  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!

A new movie!  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!

New illustrated versions of each of the books being reprinted and published!

Cynics will say that these are just marketing ploys to bring in more money (and they’re probably not entirely wrong, considering I believe Disney is doing the same thing with the Star Wars franchise), but it also feels like this huge part of my childhood hasn’t completely disappeared.

As Dumbledore famously says, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

4. The Return of Outlander

I’m a huge fan of the books and the show, so it was fantastic to see season 2 of this masterpiece come alive on the small screen.  I was so excited to see Bri and Roger that I about bounced myself out of my seat every week, waiting to see if they were there.  The episodes are raw and sometimes emotionally demanding (Faith), but it’s so so good.

And this was the year this show started to garner some critical praise in the form of a few awards.  I don’t think they’ve won as many as they deserve.  (Seriously, Catriona Balfe deserves something for that Faith episode.)

Now I’m dying in Droughtlander waiting for season 3.  Voyager was my favorite book in this series, so the hurt is real.

Outlander Season 2 Marketing Shoot

Alright, we’ve covered great things of 2016, so what can we look forward to in 2017?

emma-watson-belle-is-an-inventor1. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST STARRING EMMA WATSON

I CANNOT AND WILL NOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT FOR THIS ONE.  MY FAVORITE STORY EVER WITH MY FAVORITE ACTRESS AS THE HEROINE?  #IWillLoveYouForever  #Hyperventilating

237666342. Book 3 in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

Officially, it’s called A Court of Wings and Ruin and it’s set to release May 2, 2017.  If you’re not looking forward to this book, you’re crazy.  After book 2, I seriously have no idea what this could even possibly throw at us.  But it’s going to be a doozy.

3. SEASON 3 OF OUTLANDER

AGAIN, CANNOT AND WILL NOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT.  #FraserReunion

outlander-season-3

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See?  With these things to warm our hearts, there’s no way 2017 can be an even worse dumpster fire, right?  …Right?  ….RIGHT?!