Aug 16, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday: The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait to read!

Emily's Waiting on:

Title: The Midnight Dance
Author: Nikki Katz
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: Oct. 17th

Summary: When the music stops, the dance begins.
Seventeen-year-old Penny is a lead dancer at the Grande Teatro, a finishing school where she and eleven 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 never known.
But when flashes of memories, memories of a life very different from the one she thinks she’s been leading, start to appear, Penny begins to question the Grand Teatro and the motivations of the Master. With a kind and attractive 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.

I'm super excited about this new stand alone. It's Nikki Katz debut novel and I'm curious as to how the story will play out. I love books like this, ones that have a contemporary feel to it with some mystery mixed in to up the suspense. Be sure to look out for a review and let us know your thoughts on this debut novel!  

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your links so we can stop back! 

Aug 14, 2017

Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Title: Ramona Blue
Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 432 Pages
Published May 2017

Summary: Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever. The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem. 

I've been a big fan of Julie Murphy ever since I read her book Dumplin' a few years ago. Amber and I (back when Amber used to blog!) were super excited about it at the time, and it was one of the hottest ARCs going around at that year's Book Expo and BookCon. (Thanks to our awesome blogger friend Nori for giving us her copy!) So basically, when I read about Ramona Blue, I was itching for it from the get go. 

And then, a few months late to the game, I managed to pick up a copy at The Strand. I was excited to start the book, and I'm glad I did, because this story was unlike any other I had read in a long time. Julie Murphy has a way of writing stories that touch you and have you hooked from start to finish. I ended up flying through this book like it was nothing because the end of every chapter made me want to turn the next page. 

As the summary explains, Ramona is living in a beat-up trailer with her father and her pregnant older sister, Hattie, after Hurricane Katrina took their old lives from them a few years prior. With not much money and no real home, Ramona was constantly working and struggling to make ends meet while supporting her sister and her father that gave everything he could to them. And Ramona had her own struggles as well -- it wasn't easy being a lesbian teenage girl in Mississippi, but that never made her afraid to be who she was. It did, unfortunately, make people such as her own mother doubt the validity of her sexuality. So in addition to already having to face the challenge of overcoming the forces of Mother Nature and the life that was taken from them, Ramona also has to struggle with having to prove her true self to so many people around her -- because, according to people like her mother, homosexuality is nothing but a phase.

My favorite character in this book was definitely Freddie. He was always so sweet and kind to Ramona and her family, even when he didn't have to be. Even when things were tough, he was always going out of his way to make sure that he was being a good person to them. Freddie was just overall a good person. (And apparently a great, super cute chef.) The way he and his family showered Ramona what true unconditional love felt like all of the time, even when she didn't necessarily feel like she deserved it, was inspiring. And what was even better was that they met as children completely by chance. If the circumstances hadn't lined up just so all those years ago, Freddie may have never met Ramona at all. Which would have been tragic, because the two of them are totally adorable. He is such a genuinely good guy all of the time, even when he definitely had reasons not to be, and that just made me like him even more.

Another character that I really enjoyed in this book was Saul. I felt like he was absolutely hysterical, always adding quips and butting into scenarios at the perfect time. If I had a gay best friend, I'd definitely want it to be Saul. He seemed like a great guy to be around, that's for sure. Any scene where he was involved had me laughing out loud and sending Snapchats of his commentary to some of my good friends, because I wanted them to be able to laugh about it too. When it comes to character creation, Julie Murphy definitely got it right with this guy.

Something that I felt was really important in this book was the fact that Ramona was given the chance to explore her sexuality, and that she was in no rush to put on a label to define herself. She made several comments throughout the novel about not wanting to label herself and not finding it necessary. I feel like that was an important point for a character to acknowledge because of the fact that we live in a world that is so hell-bent on applying labels to everything from foods to races to sexualities, and it was just refreshing to see a story where it made a point of saying that people shouldn't be in any rush to define themselves in they don't want to be defined. (Reading Ramona Blue actually gave me the inspiration for one of my upcoming Odyssey articles -- which hasn't been published yet, otherwise I would link it here -- about how people are always so hell-bent on forcing others into categories and giving them certain boxes to check off, in all aspects of life. But Ramona is against that notion and realizes that she can be who she wants to be without having to stick a label on it, and that's an incredibly important notion.) 

Overall, I really enjoyed Ramona Blue. It was a story about love and loss, new life and old friends, and sticking together to ride out some of the worst moments of a person's life. The characters were all intricate and hilarious and loving and perfect, in my opinion. Julie Murphy had me hooked until the very end and I can't wait to see the next book that she comes up with! 

Aug 11, 2017

My Dream Reading/Writing Nook!

Today, I have a super interesting (and fun!) dream project that I've been working on: I used Havenly to help dream up my perfect reading/writing space! Havenly was super helpful because it's a website dedicated entirely to interior design, from the early stages of planning/mapping out what you want with some of their seasoned interior designers all the way down to actually shopping for the pieces you'd like to put in your space! And trust me, it seriously gets addicting. I've spent hours on their site already.

How does it work? It's super easy, and their website walks you through the entire thing. You can chat with an interior designer that will help you come up with some ideas for what you're visualizing, and then you can check out pieces from all sorts of categories! I'm going with a contemporary feel for my space today, because I'm super neat and organized and I'm a big fan of clean lines, the solid colors, and the overall feel of contemporary pieces. 

Paidge Chair

I'm a big fan of patterned chairs, especially again white or very light, simple walls -- I want my space to look clean and organized with just a few pops of colors and patterns!

Sand Timer with Compass

I'm a total sucker for small, pointless, adorable things that I'd never use. Which is why this adorable sand hourglass/timer is perfect to spend my imaginary money on, and hey -- I'll have a solid way to time myself while doing some writing or reading sprints!

I'm a big fan of rose gold -- everything down to my watch and my phone is already this color, so it'd make sense to have some baskets for office storage be that color, too!

Runway White Desk

Nothing like a plain white desk to have everything feeling nice and clean.

And a matching white chair!

I don't even know why I need this little adorable pen cup, but I just do.


And a white lamp to go along with it!

And a pretty rainbow rug to make things pop!

Can't forget the clock, or I'll get lost in my reading cave and never come out ever again.

And the most important -- tons of bookshelves just like this one to store all of my favorite reads!

So, those are all of the pieces and details I thought up for my perfect reading space -- what're your thoughts? Comment down below to let me know what you think about my design, and feel free to share some designs of your own as well!

If you guys haven't thought about your own bookish space yet, what are you waiting for?! I may be a broke college student just dreaming about my dream reading/writing space, but some of you guys are lucky enough to go out there and already make it happen. For now, I'll be chatting with some of Havenly's interior designers and planning my dream nook a little more!