5 Books & What They Taught Me About Writing

Since most readers tend to also be writers (or people who aspire to write a book someday), I think we all know that wonderful, indescribable feeling of finishing a book that makes you think: Wow. I wish I could write something like that. For me, those are my favorite kind of books. Every reader has different tastes. I find historical fiction the most powerful genre and the genre that most encapsulates the essence of storytelling (wow, dramatic/poetic enough there, Emily? 😉 ), so every book on this list is historical.

#1: THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett

Confession: I saw the movie before I read the book. (How very unbookworm of me, right?) I read The Help in January and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved it! Besides the fact that the main character is quirky and bookish and a writer (every character under that description is a kindred spirit to me), this book is a perfect example of how heavy emotion should meet comedy. A Joss Whedon quotes goes: “Make it dark. Make it grim. Make it tough. But then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” Kathryn Stockett wrote a story that makes you really feel everything. Real life is never one sole feeling or mood, so why should a story be? Even where there is tragedy, there is always some humor. For fiction to be as authentic as possible, it’s important to relay that in stories.

Can we take a moment to appreciate that type writer and those glasses? (Side note: have any of you seen “La La Land” yet? I adore Emma Stone.)


A Corner of the Universe broke my heart. I’d like to start out by saying that no Newbery Honor book has ever failed me before. If a book I ever wrote received such an award I would DIE on the spot. That’s it. You would never see or hear from me again. Bye-bye, Emily, you have written something marvelously beautiful for the world and NEWBERY HONOR gave you a shiny book medal for it and now you’re dead from the excitement.

So. Keeping that in mind, you can only imagine my undisputed love for this book. I think that having written a middle grade book that deals with mental disorders/illness is SO impressive. It deserves a million and one awards. Writing any genre that approaches those topics well is impressive, don’t get me wrong, BUT approaching them from the perspective of a child is even more so. A Corner of the Universe reminded me that characters with mental disorders should never become their disorder. (It also further reminded me how INCREDIBLE Ann M. Martin is, and if the only one of her books you’ve read is from The Babysitter’s Club, you’re missing out.)


When I first read Interrupted, I was in that awkward in-between age, where most middle grade books weren’t satisfying me, but finding an appropriate young adult book was a challenge. (Thankfully, this was the birth of for the bookish, so I could find other readers with the same struggle. That worked! 🙂 ) Anyway, I found myself in the Christian Family Bookstore (which is now CLOSING DOWN, how sad!) staring at an array of books with such titles as My Amish Boyfriend. I was beyond frustrated because nothing looked appealing anymore. Miraculously, I picked up Interrupted, and thank goodness for that.

What most amazes me about Rachel’s books is her ability to so seamlessly work in elements of the Christian faith in a book for young adults. And none of it comes off as cheesy, preachy, forced, or boring! I don’t know about you, but I am forever doubting myself when I try to merge my fiction with my faith (I’ve been giving it a lot of thought this week especially, having read Jonathan’s post about it), and Interrupted does just that so beautifully.

#4: SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea follows four teenagers of different backgrounds, pasts, cultures, and personalities. Ruta Sepetys is a superb historical fiction writer, but what wowed me about Salt to the Sea is how each individual was so different. You could read one or two sentences from each chapter and know right off the bat which character was talking – even if you hadn’t read their names at the top of the page. Their voices were distinctive. When I’m writing, I often slip into a pattern of every character being too similar. Salt to the Sea gives such succinct voices and dialogue to each character. I love that!

#5: CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein

I know I’ve mentioned this numerous times on the blog, but Code Name Verity is one book that is METICULOUSLY RESEARCHED! Honestly, I’ve never read such a detailed historical fiction book before. This book felt accurate right down to the brand of socks a character might wear in the 1940s. (That was an example; I don’t recall any brand name socks being named, of course. But if there was, it was specific to the era!) Reading Code Name feels like you’re reading an autobiography rather than fiction, and I think that’s the ultimate goal in telling any story.

Which genre/book most inspires you to write? What have certain ones taught you about writing?


P.S. I’m so proud of the bookish photography in this post! Do me a favorite and pin it or tweet it or share it?? 🙂 (no shame self promo, oops.)

Happy Third Birthday, Dear Blog!

Hi, bookworms! This is coming to you a day late because while I had this post all typed up and nicely edited, I forgot. to. post it. (Major face-palming moment, but better late than never, right?) 🙂

I can’t believe for the bookish has been a passion of mine for three whole years. I can’t think of anything besides reading itself that I’ve done for three years in a row. (Even with piano, I’ve quit lessons only to pick them back up every few years.) Occasionally I’ve gone a few months without checking in, but I’m so proud of my little corner of the internet. 318 posts later, I’ve built up a wonderful following, made so many friends, grown as a reader and writer, and read 136 books. (At least. I didn’t keep track of every book I read in 2014, but I did review most of them.)

I was bookish. I am bookish. If you look up “Emily” in the dictionary, bookish will be right next to my name. I am destined to be bookish for the rest of my long, bookish life.

my first blog post, april 3 2014. 

(unfortunately I couldn’t get my hands on a cupcake in time for this post, but a birthday candle will do. *no books were burned in the making of this photo.)

I’ve been MIA the past few months because I haven’t read many books… as in, at all. (Four since January! I know!) Unless you’d like me to post a review of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass or The Old Man and the Sea (school-required reading, which isn’t always dull, but not always my cup of tea), I haven’t had very much in the way of content for the blog. Blessedly, the school year is wrapping up, which means summer vacation is in sight! (And with it the biggest itch for stacks and stacks of good books. Leave recommendations below, please!)

Since I knew my “blogaversary” was coming up, I’ve been browsing through all of my old posts. I love that I’ve had For the Bookish to document all of my reading adventures and tastes. Through blogging, I’ve met so many readers all over the world, and because of them I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and found amazing books I never would have glanced at otherwise.

I’ve also learned that the phrase “birds of a feather flock together” is oh-so-true! I’ve found that if I and another girl four states or countries away share a favorite book, then we also share favorite TV shows or styles or we’re both home schooled or Christian or have the same personality type, etc. – it only confirms again how literature unites people everywhere, forever.

My Favorite Blog Posts Over The Years


– “happy birthday to me! // updates & more” (detailing my thirteenth birthday and also the day I began what was to be one of my FAVORITE books ever, to this day – Code Name Verity)

– interview with author heather vogel frederick!” (I remember being over the moon excited about this one. Heather has been a beloved author of mine for going on six years, and this interview, which she mentioned on her own blog in 2014, introduced me to my pen pal Brooke!)

– why books?” (throwback to my very short, four paragraph posts here. I’ve written posts of several variations on this same topic, but this was the first time I talked about why I love reading.)

– cats are good company” (I wouldn’t necessarily publish anything like this now… but this post is one that gives me a good laugh. An entire post dedicated to why cats are important to readers and books? And half a paragraph all about a “conversation” you had with your cat, Emily? Face palm. Needless to say, this received no comments… ha!)


– my bookshelf tour!” (Compare to my “2017 Bookshelf Tour.” Obviously book blogging has taught me a lot about the proper organization and aesthetics of bookshelves. I would also venture to say I’ve improved in my iPhone book photography/filter skills. 😉 )

– IT’S FOR THE BOOKISH’S BIRTHDAY!!! + MY FIRST GIVEAWAY” (You can hear the excitement straight through the title! I also love reading through the comments – a lot of you who followed me then are still around today. Trisha, Grace, Olivia, Izel, Abbey (then Audrey), and of course Brooke – you guys are the best.)

– my year in books: 2015 recap” (I’m so glad I wrote this post! I didn’t do anything like it for 2016, and now I really wish I had. I covered the funniest, most romantic, most anticipated, favorite books, etc. I read in 2015, and it’s perfect to look back on.)

– meeting kiera cass (!!!!!!!)” (The Selection series isn’t my biggest book obsession anymore, but in 2014/2015, you can bet your bottom dollar if you said one word about it, I’d jump at the opportunity to discuss it. I still think meeting Kiera was SO COOL. The event was very large, and I even remember the girls I talked to all night about other books while we waited for Kiera.)


– 25 Bookish Facts About Me” (I loved writing this, because what bookworm doesn’t like talking about all their bookish quirks? It was also fun to see what you guys shared in common with me, bookworm-wise, in the comments.)

– my favorite (rainy-day specific!) bookish movies” (Of course finishing a thick book is more satisfying than TV, but I’ll take any fictional world. In this post, I list four bookish movies – be it a book adaptation or movie about an author – perfect for rainy days. They’re my go-to’s.)

– Meeting Morgan Matson!” (Book signings are the MOST FUN. Of the two I’ve been to, I get giddy and nervous meeting the authors, as if they were celebrities. But of course, in my book – pun intended, oops – they are! Morgan Matson writes the best sweet, bittersweet, and downright depressing summer romances. In fact, I can’t wait to reread one this summer. Meeting her was a blast!)

– The Dream Factory Workshop: My Recap” (Another highlight of my bookish year, I spent a weekend at the home of my writing coach and favorite author Rachel Coker with four other storytellers. We learned so much about the art of storytelling, from Rachel, each other, and our several adventures. I can’t talk about it enough — it seems like a dream.) 

The past three years have been full of writing and reading adventures. (Not to mention my blog has inevitably documented my phases, book and non-book obsessions, and various haircuts throughout my middle and high school years so far – who knows what’s in store the next three years!) 😉

If you’ve followed my blog or commented or sent me an email at any given time, THANK YOU! My family can even vouch for the fact that whenever I get a sweet message, I talk about it to them because it makes my day. I hope to put up more posts soon, and talk to you guys below. 🙂




It’s been four months since I last did a “currently” post, so I thought the time had come to let you guys all know what I’m up to outside of reading again. 🙂


  • “Every It” // Caitlin Mahoney
  • “Don’t Be Shy” // Cat Stevens
  • “There She Goes” // The La’s
  • “Cheek to Cheek” // Ella Fitzgerald (Fred Astaire’s original version is fine, but Ella does it best.)
  • The 2005 Pride & Prejudice soundtrack (“Dawn” is my favorite. Wait, scratch that. Every song in this movie is my favorite. Just get me some tea and some Mr. Darcy and I could cry listening to it.)


  • My dad’s sweatshirt. I keep stealing it, and then he gets annoyed with me… but it’s SO SOFT. Now I have to go and buy a $30 sweatshirt just like my dad’s, and who has the money for that? That would buy three brand-new books!


  • Pizza. I honestly spent a good chunk of my Christmas money on two or three boxes of pizza. My cravings are just too strong to seperate us. I have no regrets in life.

(I’ve been dying for an excuse to use this GIF ^ and I did it. I finally got to use it and now my life is complete.)

  • Lots and lots of chai tea. I’m not much of a tea person, but chai is so addicting. (Oh coffee dear, you know you’re still #1.)


  • Puffy jackets in thirty degree weather one week, short sleeves literally three days later. It’s as if Georgia has these intense teenage girl mood swings and she’s like “you know guys, I’m HAPPY let’s make it SNOW” and then she gets ticked off the next day and makes it seventy degrees and rainy. Someone get Georgia some chocolate and make her happy again.


    • Timeless: a time travelling trio (a soldier, pilot, and historian) set off after a terrorist attempting to destroy America. aka an emotional plot twisting roller coaster featuring epic historical costumes.

  • This Is Us: awwww, too much cuteness. Though right now I’m mad at every character accept Toby and Jack. They can do no wrong.

  • Gilmore Girls: let’s be real though, when am I not. (Currently skipping all episodes that don’t include Milo Ventimiglia – who currently plays Jack on This Is Us – because again, he can do no wrong. No matter what show he’s on.)



  • Quit scrolling through apps and pick up a book again.
  • Delete cat photos to make storage space on my phone. (My cat is just way too photogenic. LOok at tHIS pReCIouSneS. I have a problem, I know.)

If anyone is wondering, his name is Thomas O’Malley (“O’Malley” for short), after the heroine of the Disney movie The Aristocats. He likes water (if the sink/shower is running or the toilet lid is up, he will be soaked) and pipe cleaners and cuddles. 


          “I flew six flights up, until breathlessly, I pushed myself through the door of Apartment 21B. The glass doors that led to our balcony at the end of the living room proved quite a view: raindrops running down the glass, the tiny balcony covered in potted plants and ivy, cars crawling in traffic below, our beautiful city skyline, and a grown man hunched in a black windbreaker on a thin iron bar. It was as if I were looking at a painting or photograph, colors bleeding in the rain.” 

– snippet from an admittedly melodramatic but exciting scene in my WIP that I had a blast writing.


  • This new skirt I ordered from thredup.com (which is an online thrift store that I spend way too much time browsing.)

  • Going to Disney World next month (!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • A new episode of Timeless on January 16. (The withdrawals are getting to be too much.)

That’s all the time I have for today (seriously – it’s 6 PM and I haven’t finished my science lesson… hehehe. *dies*) But before I go, the winner of the Salt to the Sea giveaway is… Jonathan! He’s great, and any one person who gets as excited over a Ruta Sepetys book as he does deserves a blog follow, so go check him out. (And then go get your hands on a copy of Salt to the Sea if you haven’t read it yet. That would be the obvious next life choice.)

So long for now (until I’ve finished reading my *sigh*ence lesson…)



4 Books You Should Be Reading This Winter

Georgia just got its first snow of the season. I’m laying in bed, under three blankets and cozy socks on, tea with milk and honey on my nightstand, Spotify playing in the background, candle burning nearby… *contented sigh* Honestly, does life get any better? No. No it does not. Except maybe if I was finishing the novel I’m pulling my hair out over, which I’m NOT going to mention because it’s driving me crazy. Then life MIGHT be better.

That being said, if you’re curled up by the fire with tea or coffee or hot chocolate or whatever floats your boat, still lacking something in life this year (and you already have Jesus ’cause he makes everything better, even more than chocolate I must admit)… then allow me to make your life better. I don’t know what you’re doing with your life and it’s not my place to judge, but if you haven’t read any of these four books, I’m totally judging you.


Absolutely Truly, in one word, it the “coziest” middle grade wintry book. Just look at that gorgeous cover. (Please take a moment to appreciate my mad iPhone photography skills. And the fact that, even having moved six months ago, wherever I live, my neighbors still probably know me as “that girl who takes pictures of books in her backyard.” That awkward moment when I made eye contact with a guy next door was WORTH IT. Now excuse my introverted self as she hurries back indoors.)

A tiny town named “Pumpkin Falls,” an endearing character named “Truly,” a rag-tag team of friends, a small bookstore with first edition books and a mystery surrounding it – what more could one contemporary middle grade need?! As an added bonus, anyone who knows me or has followed FTB for a while knows how much I adore Heather Vogel Frederick, and when the sequel to Absolutely comes out on January 30 (!!) I’ll be the first to snatch it up.


I read Always Emily last January. I’m always interested in the concept of writing fictional stories surrounding a main character who actually existed. It’s one thing to write about a fictional character who briefly runs into real people, but an entire book about Emily Bronte? Impressive! Michaela MacColl pulled off every detail beautifully. The mystery in the book kept me hooked – can you think of a better plot perfect for holding your breath, cozied up under blankets while it snows outside, than a murder mystery? There’s also something about nineteenth-century historical fiction that makes me think of winter. Besides, a main character with a name like “Emily” is bound to be phenomenal.


Is it the tender classic children’s story voice, or the graceful ballerinas, or the way my copy of the book smells vaguely of peppermint that makes me correlate Ballet Shoes with winter? I sat here thinking and thinking about why this one needed a place on this specific list, but I still can’t place my finger on it! Ballet Shoes is the first in the Shoes books, and the rest of the books are on my TBR for 2017 – maybe even this winter, because I would love to revisit Pauline, Petrova, and Posy again. Whatever the exact reason Shoes makes me think of winter, its cover does pop in the snow.


(When it snows in Georgia, you take your slim opportunity to take pictures of books in the snow and run with it.) Here’s a heads-up: Between Shades of Gray is bound to rip your innocently beating heart out and proceed to stomp all over the poor pitiful bodily organ with its vicious boots. Meet Lina, a fifteen-year-old Jewish girl in 1941 shipped off to a frozen wasteland described as “the coldest reaches” of Siberia. Through her art and gift of storytelling, she sets out to make sure her family’s story is not forgotten. If the setting alone isn’t enough to give you goosebumps, Ruta Sepetys (whom I rave about all. the. time. on For the Bookish) is amazing with words. The book is, as my March 2016 review puts it, “raw, realistic, and memorable.” Also: perfect for the winter months.

What are your favorite books to read during winter? Are you a cold weather person? DO YOU GET SNOW WHERE YOU LIVE? (The real question is whether you’re so done with snow, or get giddy over the first sign of flurries. Then I could probably guess what region of the country you live in. 😀 )


P.S. So far in 2017, I’m doing good with my Wednesday/Saturday blogging schedule. I’ll be back Wednesday with another rant, and the winner of the Salt to the Sea giveaway! Don’t forget to enter. 😉

2017 Bookshelf Tour

It’s crazy to me that For the Bookish has been around long enough for me to have a 2014, 2015, 2016, and now 2017 bookshelf tour! Feel free to visit my previous bookshelf tours I’ve linked, but do ignore the cringe-worthy photography and books aligned in uneven heights. (Whyyy, Emily. No. Match the height of those books, girl.) I would like to take this moment to point out that my bookshelf gets prettier and prettier every year. Much like its owner, right? (Plot twist: I’m actually my bookshelf. I’m snow white, am frequently holding books, half the time am a disaster, and always stay in my room… but we get prettier with age.)

Describe your shelf and where you got it from. I have a Billy bookcase from Ikea. I have just enough books (a little over 300) on the shelf for it to be tight to even fit one more book, but not enough to fill an entire second bookshelf. Maybe a second shorter bookshelf would do?

Voila! My bookshelf, in mint condition after I hauled out a duster and reorganized the shelves. (which takes waayyyy longer than you might think. honestly, where do bookworms find the time?)

How do your organize your books? By genre, and then height. The issue with this setup is that if I own two books by the same author, but one is taller than the other, I’m forced to seperate them. Separating an author’s books does bug me, but a too-tall book sticking out in the middle of a shelf is worse.

The top shelf: dystopian/high fantasy/fairy tale retellings.

What is the thickest/biggest book on your shelf? Jane Austen: Four Classic Novels. For obvious reasons, because it has four Jane Austen novels inside. The book that is in fact only one book and still the longest is Winter by Marissa Meyer, at a whopping 827 (Bible-thin) pages.

The classic shelf. That card stock leaning in front has an Abraham Lincoln quote on it: “My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.”

What is the thinnest book on your shelf? Still probably Clifford’s Graduation Day, but if we’re going by novels/chapter books here, it would be Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.

Is there a book you have received as a birthday gift? Many! The most recent would be the BEE-YOU-TIFUL tenth anniversary edition of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, given to me by my grandma. The bonus content is amazing, and THAT COVER. Pinch me.

Is there a book from a friend on your shelf? Challenger Deep from Brooke and Izel, the dearest online friends one could have (this one was a Christmas gift, too.) A friend of mine in the fifth grade also gave me a signed copy of Pies & Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick, which (understandably) is my favorite in the Mother/Daughter Book Club series. Oh, and Fairest by Marissa Meyer was given to me by a friend.

Most expensive book? That’s hard to say. I rarely pay more than $20 for a book, and most of the hardbacks are close to that price. (Though I buy most of my books used or on Amazon, which is a goldmine for cheaper books.) I try not to complain about pricey books though, because I understand the blood, sweat, and tears that writers put into writing novels. Authors definitely aren’t paid enough, and it’s important to buy new to support the authors you love. Books are worth every penny.

The last book you read on the shelf? Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman. The tears! The horror! The joy! The PLOT TWISTS!

The historical fiction shelf, made up of 90% WWII books. How cute is that hand painted sign? I bought it in a little art shop in Puerto Rico.

Do you have more than one copy of a book? I’m a book hoarder, so that’s a definite yes. Hold onto your hats, folks. Ahem. I have two copies of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, Charlotte’s Web by EB White, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Emma by Jane Austen, Persuasion by Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen, three copies of The Giver by Lois Lowry, and three copies of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I wish I had more duplicates, honestly, because different editions of books are so fun to compare.

Do you have a complete series? Of course! They are as follows: The Main Street series by Ann M. Martin, The Hagenheim series by Melanie Dickerson, The Selection series by Kiera Cass, The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry, The Family Tree series by Ann M. Martin, and The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen. (The latter three  all in hardback, I might add.)

This is a miscellaneous shelf. I have some Christian fiction on the left, and the rest are middle grade books – The Babysitter’s Club, Wendy Mass books, The Mysterious Benedict Society, and a Series of Unfortunate Events book up top.

What is the newest edition to your shelf? Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin. That ending though. I’m dying for the next book. (Quite literally dying… if I lived in the middle ages. Colds are the worst, but at least they give a valid excuse for laying in bed all day.)

What is the most recently published book on your shelf? I don’t know these things. I haven’t bought a recently published book (as in, released within a week or month or purchase) in a while. Maybe Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard? It was published in February 2016.

The oldest book on your shelf? Publishing-wise, the Bible. Copy-wise, an ancient copy of Macbeth my great-grandmother owned, dated 1927 in the front. (Her parents probably owned it before her, because she was only a few years old in 1927. That’s several generations of owners, how neat!)

A book you won? An advanced reader’s copy of Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes. I won it back in the summer through an Epic Reads giveaway.

This is the bottom shelf and the messiest. I stick bibles, devotionals, guides, biographies, general nonfiction, and the occasional library book down here.

A book you’d never let out of your sight? My signed copy of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Or any signed book, really.

Most beat-up book? Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards. I’ve owned it for seven or eight years, and the entire book is falling apart. The spine has been taped and bandaged up multiple read-throughs.

Most pristine book? Certainly my new signed copy of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys! It’s signed and my new shiny baby book. NO TOUCHING.

A book from your childhood? An abridged version of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It was the first classic I ever read and got me hooked on them, so I owe a lot to the March girls!

A book that doesn’t belong to you? My friend’s copy of While You Were Gone by Amy K. Nichols. I used this same answer for last year’s bookshelf tour, but I promise I haven’t borrowed a book for a whole year. 😉 My friend re-lent it to me recently. As soon as I’ve finished with some school-required reading, I’m diving right in!

A book with a special/different cover? (ex. leather bound, soft, fuzzy, etc.) I’m in looooove with this copy of Pride & Prejudice. It’s not hardcover, but not quite paperback either. But it’s not leather! It’s bendy but tough and ahhhhh it’s just perfect. Why aren’t all book covers made like this?

A book that is your favorite color? Main Street #1: Welcome to Camden Falls by Ann M. Martin. Pink is everything.

A book that’s been on your shelf the longest and you still haven’t read it? The longest a book has been on my shelf without my reading it is four years… oops. That would (still) be Dancing Through The Snow by Jean Little.

Any signed books? The Selection and The Heir by Kiera Cass, The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Pies & Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick, Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes & The Goodluck Circle by Frank McKinney, Countryside by J.T. Cope IV, Second Chance Summer, Since You’ve Been Gone, and The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys.

Those are all the questions for now! I’ll be back with them again in 2018. These questions are under the “bookshelf tag.” Since no one tagged me for them, I won’t be tagging any other bloggers, but feel free to use them on your blog.

Have you read any of the books you spotted on my shelf, or any mentioned in my answers? How many books do you own? And how do you organize your bookshelf? 




Stacking the Shelves #38 // Christmas Gifts & A Giveaway!

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a very merry Christmas. Since it’s been so long since I’ve posted, and even longer since I’ve posted a Stacking the Shelves (since July — whaaaaat?!), I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share the books I got as Christmas gifts. My friends and family know me well. 🙂 Bookworms are easy to buy for, after all.

SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys: Salt to the Sea ranks as my #1 favorite book I read this year. Ruta Sepetys books just get better and better. This book follows four European teenagers in 1945, as they all vie for passage aboard a ship that helps refugees escape. (I read the book through the first time while I was on a cruise. You could say the experience really came alive for me, haha!) Prepare to have your heart shredded to pieces and stomped all over. I already had a copy, but my mom got me a new *signed* copy. Be still my beating bookworm heart. Here’s hoping one day I can meet Ruta in person and have it personalized. 🙂 (Read my review here.)

PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG by Anne Blankman: AHHHHH this book. I read this last month, and can’t rave about it enough. This is a 1930’s murder mystery following Hitler’s “golden girl,” a fictional character named Gretchen who is one of Adolf Hitler (or as she calls him, “Uncle Dolf”)’s inner circle. Of course, once she falls in love with a Jewish reporter, her whole world flips upside down. The character development was flawless, plot twists were gut-wrenching, and character development was beautiful. READ IT. (Read my review here.)

THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE by Diane Ackerman: I first heard of this one when I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie. If you haven’t seen the previews, watch it and then go get your copy. I can’t wait to start reading it. The Zookeeper’s Wife is the true story of a woman who hid Jews in – you guessed it, a zoo – during WWII. Every time I re-watch the trailer I get more excited for it.

WOLF BY WOLF by Ryan Graudin: If you haven’t caught onto a pattern in these books yet, here’s a secret: this is another WWII book. Well, sort of. Wolf by Wolf begs the question: what if the Nazis had won the war? I read this last spring and was blown away. Yael is a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, part of a secret society in a 1950s alternate universe wherein Hitler still lives. This story (which is the first in a series) follows Yael as she uses her shape shifting abilities (thanks to Nazi experimentation) to get close enough to Adolf Hitler to kill him. Are you dying to read it yet? I’m itching to get the next book, which was just published last month, but went ahead and bought a paper back copy of the first one to look pretty on my shelf! (Read my review here.)

BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott: Okay, okay, this is not another WWII one. If you’re a writer and haven’t heard of Bird by Bird, you’re probably living under a large rock. I’ve been wanting to read it for years, but always wanted my own copy so I could make notes in the margins. (What’s a how-to/guide book if it doesn’t have notes? I’m addicted to my highlighters.) I’ve been reading the first few chapters, and I have mixed feelings about Lamott’s bluntness. Bird by Bird is different than other writing books I’ve read because it’s kind of dry and cynical about writing. I still want to write down every other sentence to remember though!

READER’S DIGEST CONDENSED BOOKS, VOLUME 4 (1981): My cousin bought me a gorgeous 1981 edition of Reader’s Digest stories. Mostly it’s just to look pretty on my shelf (I mean, LOOK AT IT, ahh), but hopefully I’ll get around to reading the short stories inside soon.

JANE AUSTEN: FOUR CLASSIC NOVELS: I asked my mom for this copy, not because I didn’t already have individual copies of the four Jane Austen books in this edition, but because… again, LOOK AT IT. I was pretty much drooling in Barnes & Noble when I saw it. My bookshelf looks ten times prettier now, honest.

CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman: To be honest, I really have no clue what this is about. But since Izel and Brooke picked it out for me, I’m positive it’s good. A few reviews I’ve read have told me that the book is about a boy with a mental illness, so half the book is the character’s real life and the other half is his imagination. The premise sounds extremely fascinating. The cover alone (which was designed by the author’s son – cool!) is enough to have my interest piqued.

Now, as I’m sure you’re all eagerly anticipating, it’s time for a GIVEAWAY! In celebration of the end of the year, and in thanks to all of you for sticking with my blog (seriously, talking to you readers makes my day. Even when I don’t post for weeks, I get messages from you guys all the time and appreciate every word you send me!), I’m giving away a hardback of my favorite book I read in 2016: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys.

1. You may enter the giveaway from December 27 2016 – January 10 2017.
2. I will email the winner to notify them that they have won. If they do not respond to the email within 48 hours, I will choose a different winner.
3. The giveaway is open to US residents only.
4. I reserve the right to disqualify any entry if I find that anyone is not following the rules accordingly or is cheating the system (rafflecopter.)
5. I am not responsible for stolen or lost packages.
6. I will require the winner’s address so I can ship the book.

Enter below! Go, go, go!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck in the giveaway! Love you guys,


Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

WWII fiction is my absolute favorite genre to read this time of year. Okay, okay – It’s my favorite genre to read any time of the year, but it’s even better in the chilly months of November and December. It’s so easy to get lost in blustery war-torn Germany when you can curl up by a fire. Prisoner of Night and Fog is the perfect book to read when it’s cold outside.

Anne Blankman completely transported me to 1930s Munich. The setting felt so authentic! From the very first page, Anne’s intense research really shone through. Prisoner of Night and Fog is different from other WWII fiction books I’ve read, because the main character is a close family friend of Adolf Hitler himself. 17-year-old Gretchen Muller’s father was a close comrade to “Uncle Dolf” and died protecting him in a riot Hitler led in the 1920’s. From then on out, Hitler claimed he owed a debt to Gretchen, her mother, and brother, and treated them as family.

When I saw that Elizabeth Wein (my favorite WWII writer), blurbed the book, I knew I could trust that this story would be amazing. In Elizabeth Wein’s two words, Prisoner of Night and Fog is “terrifying and incredible.” I could’t have said it better myself. I am stunned and in awe by how this story came to life. Anne Blankman truly dug deep. This book revealed terrifying truths beyond Hitler the ruthless Nazi leader and behind Hitler the person. Everything was so realistic and honest I had to put the book down at times.

Hitler wasn’t just a background political leader in this story; he was a character! It was frightening how realistic he was. You can see how much time Anne Blankman put into writing him, because at times there were quotes that Hitler had once said that made him seem likable. And at other times, she had his character say something in passing that was cold and ruthless and horrifying. Slowly, his true character and intentions were revealed in a manner of timing that was perfect for the length of the book and believable to Gretchen’s character. I was floored by how the author pulled off bringing Adolf Hitler to life.


Gretchen’s character development couldn’t have been more beautiful. Under the influence of her Nazi father and Uncle Hitler, she knows nothing other than Jews are “sub-human” and must be exterminated in order for Germany to grow stronger. As Gretchen investigates what Hitler is truly proposing, her change of heart is touching and realistic. Writing a character’s transformation from such beliefs can be no easy feat, but Anne Blankman pulled it believably well.

The romance was yet another thing I loved about the book. It played both a subtle and center part of the story. When Gretchen falls for a young Jewish reporter, it shakes everything she knows to be true. Yet the romance still didn’t take over the book. I appreciated that. In the young adult genres particularly, it’s easy for a romance to overshadow the main plot. In Prisoner of Night and Fog, it was well executed. The romance wasn’t meaningless; it moved the plot forward while staying in the background of the novel.

Every page of this book had me in its grip. I’m still enamored by the setting and time Anne Blankman drew me into – seemingly effortlessly. Plot twists on every page, stunning writing, and believable characters kept me reading and reading. I couldn’t put it down!

“So she sat, holding the cup of tea and listening to the talk swirl around her like a creek’s current, and she the stone breaking the water’s flow.”

“By the next morning, the attempted revolution was unraveling like a ripped tapestry.”

“Uncle Dolf had promised their enemies would vanish into the night and fog.”

I would be THROUGH THE ROOF if this book were to be turned into a movie. It’s intense and beautiful, and I can only imagine how wonderful the cast could be. (Fingers crossed. Maybe someday a movie producer will pick this up.) 😉 I can’t wait to pick up the next book – Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke – at my library tomorrow!

Note: I wouldn’t advise this book to younger readers. At times I had to set the book down due to rough content. Overall, it was clean (no sexual scenes or foul language) but in the true brutal realities of Nazi Germany, was in certain scenes violent and gut-wrenching. At the very least, if you’re sensitive to violence, don’t read Prisoner of Night and Fog late at night like I did!

five stars. ★★★★

Have you read Prisoner of Night and Fog? Or the sequel? What were your thoughts? Does it sound like something you might read? What are your favorite WWII fiction books?





P.S. My cousin Sydney just started her own “lifestyle blog.” 🙂 It would make her day if you left her a comment. You can visit her here.

Blogger Book Tag

Halee tagged me for the blogger book tag yesterday, and it looks like so much fun! 🙂 There are lots of questions, so without further adieu…

1. Name a book you’re embarrassed you haven’t read. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Pretty sure every bookworm who doesn’t live under a rock has heard of this one, but for those who haven’t, it’s a Pulitzer Prize winning WWII novel and I neeeed it. Now. I feel like it’s probably one of those heavy books that takes a bit to get into but is incredibly moving and gripping. I need a freezing cold Saturday in December (to sit by a fire with hot chocolate, obviously) to read it all day long, ya feel?

2. What is the strangest thing you’ve ever used as a bookmark? A dirty tissue? An empty chip package? There’s nothing I wouldn’t use as a bookmark.

3. Look at your bookshelf. What is the first yellow-spined book you see? Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary. 😉

4. If you could have one new book from a deceased author, who would it be? Jane Austen, without a doubt.

5. Name an author who deserves more readership. Rachel Coker. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how talented she is! My biggest writer crush for sure. 🙂

me (on the right) and Rachel (on the left.)
me (on the right) and Rachel (on the left.)

6. Bookmark or random piece of paper? Whatever is closest at hand! Though I’ve been keeping a tin full of bookmarks near my bed since I was ten, so I have quite the collection going. I’m never short of bookmarks.


7. Can you stop anywhere in a book or do you have to finish the chapter? It kind of drives me crazy to stop anywhere in a book, but if reality calls, I make do. Haha!

8. One book at a time OR Several? Several! School required (I’m finishing up Tom Sawyer for school), buddy reading (I’m reading Jane Eyre with Brooke at the minute), and leisure ones (I’m eating up Prisoner of Night and Fog!) I always have a tall stack of books by my bed.

9. Do you read ahead or skip pages? SKIP PAGES? READ AHEAD ?? NEVER. If I’m into a book, I make sure to thoroughly enjoy it. And think about how much work authors put into every single word of their novels! Never ever ever. Like, ever.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new? Like new! In elementary school I was notorious for spine bending, but I have since broken that horrid habit. I liked reading the pages one at a time, but the cracked spines drove me crazy. My books were practically falling apart! *hides face in shame*

11. What books do you regret reading? Off the top of my head, I can think of two books in the YA genre that were hyped up for months. So many people were raving over them so I picked them up but was sorely disappointed. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (hated the ending and disliked the main character, shockingly enough) and Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (way too many details, info-dumps, and insta-romance.) It’s a shame I didn’t like these, too, because their COVERS ARE SO PRETTY. (cover judger right here.)

12. On average, how many books do you read per year? 2015 was the first year I kept total track of the books I read; my goal was 50 and I read 70. This year I went crazy and decided to reach for 100! Heh heh… yeeahhh… this year has been much busier than the last, and I’ve only read 50 books thus far. *weeps* I started the first handful of months off spectacularly, though! 7-10 books a month! Now, it’s more like… 3.

13. What book can you read hundreds of times and never get tired of? Interrupted: a Life Beyond Words by Rachel Coker, The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, and Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. They’re all either childhood favorites or have worlds that are so enamoring it’s easy to get lost in them!

14. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from a book? What a question! I think this question deserves its own post! In a nutshell, books have taught me what living life to the fullest is. I think it’s why I’m so in love with reading people’s stories, because I’m fascinated by how humans live life. As an Albert Camus quote goes, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” I’ve always been a people-observer, and fiction has only encouraged me to want to understand humans better.

15. What is the most recent book you’ve read? Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse. It’s a shocking WWII mystery and I finished it in 24 hours! (The first book in many months that has kept me up at night.)

16. Name a book quote you’ll never forget. “Words are life.” – The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

*cries forever and ever over this freakin booook*
*cries forever and ever over this freakin booook*

17. How many books do you own? I’d say… 300-350? My parents have always encouraged me to buy books and even provided me with book baskets when I was little. My whole family has shelves full of books everywhere in our house. I take great pride in my beautiful books!

18. Of the past year, what is the greatest book you’ve read? Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin. The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. In that order. Too many to choose from!!

I tag everyone who is reading this post to feel free to participate on their blogs. What are the greatest books you’ve read in the past year? What have books taught you? And what are your opinions on spine-breaking? Dog-earing? What book did you last read? Tell all!



I Need Books Again. (Hello, Internet, I’m Still Here!)

Hello, internet! Long time no talk. I haven’t blogged since September because I’ve been positively swamped. I love all of the activity this fall has brought with it, but there hasn’t been much time to slow down and write about it. School, bonfires, lots of getting-together with friends, baking, vet visits, shopping, errands, more school, piano lessons and festivals, novel-writing… never a dull moment lately. 🙂

I can’t promise consistent blogging until life slows down a little, but I’ll try my best to post at least once a week. (And I still love chatting with you guys even if I’m not blogging, so email me through my contact page anytime.) If you have any blog topic suggestions, let me know! What do you want to read about?

I’ve been struggling to think of blog topics I could tackle when I finally had a minute to sit down and write this and finally decided to share the books I’ve been dying to read. I’ve gotten behind on my school reading so my leisure reading has been pushed to the side for now. (Hopefully over Christmas break I can get caught up!) But my TBR is always growing. Have you read any of these books or do you want to?

– Jane Austen, The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly

– Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

– Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

– The Bookshop On The Corner by Jenny Colgan

– A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

– The Sweetness by Sande Boritz Berger

– The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

– Miss Emily by Burleigh Muten

I look forward to talking to you guys below! Here’s well wishes for perfect fall weather wherever you are, and plenty of books to keep us busy. 🙂



5 Books That Make Me Feel Nostalgic (Or: “OMG It’s Almost Fall!”)

Officially, autumn is one day away. (I *thought* the first day was today but no, my dear friend corrected me… it is tomorrow. *sigh*) I cannot contain my excitement. My fall Pinterest board (enthusiastically titled “(Fall)ing In Love”) has been scrolled through twelve hundred times a day. I’m just a tad excited. (No one remind me that Georgia has remained a stubborn eight-six degrees. On the other hand, the trees are changing colors, leaf by leaf. POSITIVITY, people.)

Fall is my favorite season for about a billion reasons, but one of them is that I re-read a lot of my favorite childhood books this time of year. It’s something about the pumpkin-scented candles burning, the cozy feeling of sweaters and hot tea and the orange-tinged colors outside the window… I dunno. I just feel so nostalgic. 

Of course, I had to compile a list of books that fill the “Ache-For-Fall” Sized Hole In My Heart. They’re a few of my favorite childhood books that I re-read again and again… for good reason. So you should too. You’re welcome.


According to the nine-year-old scribblings in the front of my copy (including a “practice autograph” of one future author – keep on dreamin’ Maryanne, Emily – ha!) of the first book, I began this series in October 2010. So it’s a given for me to read this one again in the fall time. I’m a big Ann M. Martin fan (thus why you’ll see two of her series on this list) and her Main Street books will give you the warmest, most pure child-like tingles all over. The best part? There are ten books to keep you busy (be still my nine-year-old-bookworm heart.)



To be fair, I didn’t read this too long ago – only last year. I would hand it to my second or third grade self in a heartbeat, but I know I love it every bit as much as I would have then. The first chapter describes New York in all its fall glory (which does indeed sound glorious, even if I myself haven’t experienced New York in the fall. One can only glean so much from books and You’ve Got Mail.) 

Plus, the main character is a darling: a bookish eleven-year-old girl who “surrounds herself with dictionaries and other books to isolate herself from the outside world.” I think yes. As soon as you turn to page one, prepare to find yourself lost in the unimaginable escapades of the Somersets. 🙂

#3: WAITING FOR NORMAL by Leslie Connor

I can’t exactly put my finger on why Waiting for Normal has me thinking fall. Perhaps it’s the warm cover? Or the fact that the main character’s voice has such a sweet, homey sound to it? Or maybe because it’s an award-winning book, which usually equals bittersweet, which equals “curl up on the couch and cry” which equals fall. (?)

(You’ve been forewarned about the “curl up on the couch and cry” part. Waiting for Normal is one of the first books that I vividly remember gut-wrench sobbing over at ten.)


I CRY. These books are my absolute FAVORITEThey follow four generations of girls: Abby growing up in the 1930s, then her daughter Dana in the 50s, Dana’s daughter Francie in the 70s, and then finally Francie’s daughter Georgia in the 90s and early 2000s. Each book is so well-written and put together. Your heart hurts, grieves, laughs, and cries along with all four girls and their families throughout each season of their lives.


I think The Family Tree series (the second book, The Long Way Home, in particular – it’s my favorite one) reminds me of fall because fall is usually a season of change. People start new jobs, attend new schools, buy new shoes… the trees change and somehow it makes everyone feel like it’s a NEW start. This series is all about change. (Honestly, I could write an entire post about these books. They’re that good.)

#5: THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

Ah, a more widely-known novel! The Book Thief is a masterpiece. If you have anything against it, I refuse to hear it. (Yes, technically speaking, as a reader I understand every book has it flaws. BUT THE BOOK THIEF HAS NONE.) Surprisingly, I had never heard of this book three years ago. (Even though at the time it was to be released in film only a few months later.) My mom found this was on sale as an e-book and, it being a WWII historical fiction, bought it for me. I was completely lost in the writing at first – and not in the “sucked into the story right away” part I talked about earlier with Cornelia. I didn’t understand a single thing that was going on. It took some pushing through to get going, but once I understood the narrator’s writing style I was HOOKED.

At twelve years old I had never read anything so beautifully or artfully written. (Now I could say that Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity rivals The Book Thief for top WWII fiction, but we’re talking about The Book Thief.) I was sobbing by only the middle of book, practically DEAD by the end.

My favorite quote from the book, which they used in the movie. (!!)

I can’t say The Book Thief has any “fall-like” attributes, but I always think about reading it at the start of September, or beginning of the school year. It certainly is a brilliant book to challenge any school-age reader (or adult reader, for that matter. I’m still biased that my parents didn’t read the book before seeing the movie. The movie is gorgeous and well-done but you’ll far more appreciate and grasp the story by reading the book, OKAY.)

“She would remind him of what the sun felt like on his skin.” – The Book Thief

What books do you read in the fall? Any that remind you of past autumns, or is there just a certain type/genre you’re drawn to this time of year? And have you read any of the above books?? TELL ALL.


P.S. If you were wondering, I totally hid behind a bookshelf to get a photo of the little girl in the featured image. She’s just chillin’ in a bookstore in her precious dress, reading a book. 😀 (My future children will have so many photos of them in bookstores, ha!)