Sunday, October 13, 2019

Studying Abroad in London: Clubs & New Cities

Hello all! I know this post is coming a bit later than usual but, in my defense, I've had a busy week so far. Things are starting to slow down more into a routine and I'm having a really good time. In fact, it seems like each week just gets better than the last. I honestly never want to leave. Anyway, it was another jam packed week so let's just dive straight into it!

September 30, 2019

I woke up a bit earlier than usual to make pancakes. I was really craving them and decided to make them for the whole flat one morning. It was really fun to just all sit around eating pancakes in our PJs before splitting off for the day.

I had my next lecture in my Business of Writing class and spent some of it contemplating coming back to Roehampton after graduating from Lake Forest to do a Masters degree. They have an entire Masters program dedicated specifically to Publishing, and since I'd love to live in London post-graduation, it would be awesome to get into that one.

I ended up getting dinner with a couple of friends to catch up before heading back to my flat. We played various card games, including Uno (friendships were destroyed). It was a really fun time, if I'm being honest. I ended up going to bed at a reasonable time, too. 

October 1, 2019

I got up pretty early this day, which I kind of regretted later when I was tired, so that I could get working on my super long to-do list. I didn't actually get much of the list done, but I did feel accomplished anyway.

After doing some stuff for a bit I went to lunch with a friend and had a pretty good avocado wrap with some excellent book-themed conversation. Then I headed to the store with a couple friends--Henning and Isaac--and spent too much money.

The big event of the day was when I went to see The Lion King with one of my other friends, Sophie. We left a bit early so we could explore the area around the theatre before the show. I accidentally got us lost at first and it did start pouring rain but eventually we got to the theatre and had some good food for dinner.

The show itself was absolutely amazing--I definitely may have cried simply because of how beautiful it was. The dancing was fabulous and I loved the songs. Plus, just how well done it was got me right in the feels. Afterwards, we had some great conversation on the way back to campus (luckily we didn't get lost this time).

I ended up staying up late talking in the kitchen with two other flatmates--Isaac and Liberty--until about 3 am. It was honestly just so chill and fun and we had some really good conversations. Afterwards I realized I had homework to do for my 10am lecture. I ended up staying up until past 4:30 to Facetime friends back home while I did my homework. 

October 2, 2019

My lecture was okay. There was a lot of just hearing about pictures that people had taken, which was interesting except that I was so tired from staying up late to finish the homework. I had lunch and then knocked out for a good two hours.

I then just hung around the kitchen with various flatmates until it was time to start pre-gaming for that night's outing. We initially missed the bus and I almost peed myself because we had to wait for the next one (it was apparently really fun We went to Infernos in Clapham and it was so fun. The venue was really cool and the music was actually pretty great. I had my first ever Tequila shot...can't say it was that great but it did the job. We were only there for an hour and a half to dance or so but I definitely would want to go back.

We ended up getting an Uber back and regrouping in the kitchen where we all ordered pizza and food. It was pretty good for 3 am pizza and then we just stayed up talking and messing around until 6 am. It was so late by the time I got to my room that the sun was starting to come up and I was able to watch the sunrise while Snapchatting. 

October 3, 2019

I slept in, of course, and just had a chill day on Thursday. I rejoined my flatmates in the kitchen and we had more pizza for lunch and then Camembert for dinner. I'm pretty much just 75% cheese at this point.

After just chilling all day I went and watched The Office with Isaac, amongst other things. It was fun. Then I went to bed at a reasonable time so that I wasn't going to be dead tired for my Friday lecture. 

October 4, 2019

It didn't really matter that I went to bed at a reasonable time because the fire alarm woke me up over an hour before my alarm did. A bit before 7:30 it started going off and woke me from a dead sleep and I had to find clothes and shoes to wear outside where I still wasn't warm enough.

After that, I did some last-minute homework I'd forgotten about and made breakfast before the lecture. The lecture itself seemed to drag on forever but it finally ended and I was able to go get lunch with Isaac. While we were eating, there was a brief panic mode as I struggled to buy coach tickets for the weekend but it all got figured out eventually.

Carla and I left campus around 3 and took a 6.5 hour coach ride from London to Liverpool. It was quite long but I slept for most of it. We got into Liverpool pretty late and then ended up going to the wrong address for our AirBnB. We had to get an Uber to where we were actually supposed to be and it was almost midnight by the time we got there. However, it was a nice AirBnB with a comfy and warm bed, so no complaints here. 

October 5, 2019

We woke up early so that we could catch the public transport into Liverpool. It was nice because we were able to pay to leave our luggage at one of the stations so that we wouldn't have to carry them around when we were messing around in the city.

After that, we went to have breakfast at this cafe near the waterfront. It was a super cute place and the food was yummy. Then we went to the Beatles statue and took some pictures before jaunting over to the Beatles Museum. I've never really known anything about the Beatles so it was actually really interesting getting to go through the exhibition. 

Then we picked up our bags, got lunch at a common food chain, and hopped on the coach to Manchester. It was a nice little nap on the short drive and then we were in the next city. We started off by going to John Rylands library and my nerdy heart was so happy. It was a beautiful library.

Then we got dinner at a pub in town before walking a bit to get gelato at this dessert place. It was so freaking yummy and definitely worth the walk. Then we walked about half an hour or so to let our food settle before hopping a bus to our AirBnB. It was a place kind of out of the way and it was a bit sketch but in the end it was a warm and secure place to spend the night. I will say, it would have been nice to have warm running water and a comfier bed, but alls well that ends well.

We stayed up late talking and I have to say that those late night conversations with people are moments I absolutely love. We definitely regretted the lack of sleep in the morning, but it was still just a super fun time.

October 6, 2019

We woke up at 6 am to get ready and catch our bus into Manchester. It was quite a ways from the AirBnB to where we were going but it gave us some time to warm up and just figure out the details of our day.

We were dropped off near the Old Trafford stadium where Manchester United plays and walked a little ways to get breakfast at a cafe nearby. The food was yummy and I had a huge hot chocolate that almost put me to sleep. But it helped keep me warm on the walk through the rain back to the stadium.

We explored the museum section for a little bit before being taken on a behind the scenes tour which was pretty interesting. I've never actually been in a sports stadium like that before so it was quite cool for me to see.

Afterwards, we hopped a bus back into Manchester so that we could then catch our coach back to London. Once again, I spent most of it sleeping and listening to music before I couldn't sleep any longer and played dumb games on my phone. We then had to catch the Tube back to campus during a busy time but we finally made it.

I was able to eat some dinner with my flatmates before hanging out with Isaac and watching movies before bed.

Overall it was a really fun and busy week. I'd definitely say I'm settling more into London and having a blast with it all. I can't wait to see what the rest of the semester holds! Also, any pictures from this past week are going to be available on Facebook due to technical difficulties. 

Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Blog Tour: "Good Luck Girls" by Charlotte Nicole Davis

Hello all! Today I'm coming at you with another blog tour. This time it's for The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis, a new exciting release from this month. Since this post is a bit longer, I'll keep this intro short. Basically here's what you can expect in this post: a synopsis, my review, purchase links, info on the author, praise, and a giveaway.

Official Tour Schedule


Westworld meets The Handmaid's Tale in this stunning fantasy adventure from debut author Charlotte Nicole Davis.

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst


The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls--they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a "welcome house" as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta's most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It's going to take more than luck for them all to survive. 



To start off my review, I'd like to thank the publisher for sending me a free copy. I was super interested in reading this when I first heard about it and I'm so excited that I got to participate in this tour. The synopsis initially intrigued me, but I still wasn't sure what to expect going into this book. 

One of the great aspects of this book is that it has a very Western feel to it. I feel like I haven't really read any Western YA's, like, ever so this is definitely a breath of fresh air. The setting and overall idea of this story are also super unique. The best part of this book, though, is probably the strong bonds between the characters. I love familial-feeling bonds where characters would do anything for each other and this book definitely wasn't lacking on that aspect. The plot was also intriguing. I love books where characters are traveling or on the run from something. The tension always seems to be pretty high in books like that and this was no exception.

Overall, this was a pretty good book. I think a lot of people will enjoy it and I'm just grateful that I got to be a part of this tour. 


Charlotte Nicole Davis is the author of The Good Luck Girls, a young adult fantasy novel releasing in Fall 2019 with Tor Teen. A graduate of The New School’s Writing for Children MFA program, Charlotte loves comic book movies and books with maps in the front. She currently lives in Brooklyn with a cat with a crooked tail.


Amazon     |     Barnes & Noble     |     Book Depository


5 winners will receive a free copy of The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
ends October 21, 2019

a Rafflecopter giveaway
(if the link isn't working, enter here)


“Don't underestimate the girls in the Arkettan welcome houses because you might just lose your life. Davis' The Good Luck Girls is a dust-filled, bloody fairytale set in a menacing world haunted with the reminder―the price of freedom is high, but it's worth fighting for at all costs. Rise up, teen readers!” ―Dhonielle Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Belles

“This dystopian debut is deeply connected to today’s social issues, and readers will feel that impact.” ―Booklist

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

September 2019 Wrap-Up!

Admittedly, my reading month wasn't quite the best but my month overall was completely fantastic. I read 8 books and the majority of those were read before I left for studying abroad in London. I'm hoping to get into a better reading routine once I get into an actual schedule this upcoming month but overall I'm having a great time. If you wanna know what I've been up to these past few weeks, I've linked the first two wrap-up posts down below. Otherwise, here are the books I got to! 

Title: A Fallen Hero
Author: Sara A. Noë
Rating: 4.75 // 5 stars

Title: SWAT
Author: Lily Harlem
Rating: 2.75 // 5 stars
It was alright. Short, sweet, to the point. It was long enough to get me through a car ride but I've already forgotten half the characters names and it's only a day later. It was originally included in an anthology which is why it's so short, but I didn't feel connected to the characters or story very much. It was an enjoyable read but nothing spectacular. 

Title: The Girl the Sea Gave Back
Author: Adrienne Young
Rating: 4 // 5 stars

Title: Pumpkinheads
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Illustrator: Faith Erin Hicks
Rating: 4 // 5 stars

Title: A Pact Between the Forgotten
Author: Jessica Sorensen
Rating: 2.5 // 5 stars
It was alright but not my favorite. I enjoy the story and I'm interested in the characters, but for a RH ebook it's priced a little high for how short it is. It's pretty short and, while there are a few scenes with action in them, it's overall not a fast-paced book. I think it could have benefited from being longer. 

Title: The Ravens & The Mysterious Town
Author: Jessica Sorensen
Rating: 2.5 // 5 stars
This one was also alright. I enjoyed it but I think my main issue with these is that they're so short that they don't feel like a complete book. I feel like nothing really happened in this book. From where the stopping points are, I feel like book 1 and book 2 could have been one book altogether since they were pretty short individually. I probably won't continue these but I haven't decided yet. It all depends on when the third book releases and if I'm still interested in reading more.

Title: Becoming the Dark Prince
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Rating: 4.5 // 5 stars
This was such an amazing little bonus that I absolutely loved reading. I'm a big fan of Thomas Cresswell and getting to see inside his head during some of the most pivotal scenes of the series was just fantastic. I have to say, I love him even more after reading this. I also thought this was a great bridge between Escaping From Houdini and Capturing the Devil, which I'm about to start. I just--ugh all the feels after reading this one!

Title: Capturing the Devil
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Rating: 4.75


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Studying Abroad in London: Classes & A Cruise

Another blog post means another amazing week gone by! How am I already uploading my third post? It feels like I've been here for so long but also like time is flying by. Come Wednesday I'll have officially been here for three weeks and it's been probably the best three weeks of this entire year. 2019 has been a pretty good year overall but these past three weeks have been just amazing. 

This past week, while not as eventful as the week before in terms of bigger events, was just as fun and exciting! We got our first tastes of typical London weather as we've started getting clouds and rain everyday, but it's still been pretty sunny and the temperature is fantastic for me. I love chillier weather and the fact that it's supposed to be 90 degrees Fahrenheit back home makes this 60 degree weather feel so much better. 

I've also started getting more into a routine with when classes are, when eating is, when homework should be done, and when hanging out is a priority. I'm still struggling a bit to incorporate my reading schedule in so that I can get to all the books I need to review but I'm sure that it will all get figured out in the next couple of weeks when things continue to slow down a bit.

September 23, 2019

Monday was my first taste of rainy London weather and my first day of classes. I woke up to the fire alarm going off--apparently it goes off every Monday as a test. It's probably good, though, to not sleep in every Monday. I ended up getting lunch on campus--my first official time eating out--and it was super yummy. I didn't have class until 3 pm so I basically just chilled in the library until I needed to be there working on blog stuff and school stuff.

My first Business of Writing class was pretty interesting. I was a bit worried since my classes here are three hours long but we got a 20 minute break in the middle of it that helped split up the time. During that break, I ended up getting super inspired on writing and fixing my novel and have decided it's almost time to get back into writing that. Towards the end when we split into groups it was pretty fun just getting to know everyone in mine and swapping funny writing-related stories.

I had some pretty yummy dinner and ended up just hanging out with my flatmates for a bit before going to bed early (and by going to bed early, I mean sitting up until 1 am transferring all of my current novel progress to Scrivener).

September 24, 2019

This was admittedly my most chill day of the week. It was raining pretty heavily and I was still getting over my sickness from Fresher's Week so I decided not to go out and do anything. I basically just spent the day getting caught up on blog posts, cleaned my room, and worked on homework.

I did hang out with my flatmates for a bit while I was making dinner. I can't recall what exactly we were doing but it was no doubt super fun. Afterwards, I was doing--you guessed it--homework again before heading to bed pretty early.

September 25, 2019

I had my first Hidden London class on Wednesday. I woke up a bit early so that I could get ready since my lecture was at 10 am. The class itself seems like one that I will really enjoy--it's creative writing focused and we do a bunch of excursions into London based around different texts we read and then write about themes from those excursions.

Afterwards, I just got some lunch and chilled in my room. I watched some Netflix, worked on even more homework, and then stayed up super late talking and having a good time with my flatmates.

September 26, 2019

I spent most of Thursday chilling as well. I did even more homework (thank you literature class for making me read at least one classic novel a week), watching a new Netflix show, and worked on more blog stuff.

Later in the afternoon, I walked to a shop off-campus called Londis with a friend. It was my first alcohol purchase off-campus and it was a bit thrilling, if I'm being honest. The culture around drinking, while in many ways similar, is really different than in America.

I wasn't really planning on drinking when we got back but then we were playing drinking games and it's just not as fun playing them with a glass of water. I got tipsy for the first time ever and overall just had a good time. We moved from drinking games to card games to Never Have I Ever which was just hilarious.

By the time I went to bed it was 2:30 am--which was dumb since I had class at 10 am the next day...though I would do it all again because what are you going to remember more: a random class or a fun night with friends?

September 27, 2019

As expected, I was super tired in my lecture. I was actually doing pretty well when I woke up but when we had to actually sit down and listen to the lecture and just take notes I was almost falling asleep. It was an interesting class--Gothic Literature--but I'm still a bit apprehensive about reading an entire classic each week.

Afterwards, I went back and got lunch before taking a short nap. Then, predictably, I watched Netflix for a bit before going to Londis again with some other flatmates. That night, we just chilled for a bit in the kitchen before going to bed relatively early. I actually ended up reading some of a book for a bit so I was up later than I expected.

September 28, 2019

This was probably the earliest I've woken up since getting here, but I was up at 7 am to prepare for an outing. I left around 8 am to meet our group and we walked to the tube station towards Waterloo. It was a super fun day as I was able to hang out with some of my study abroad friends and explore a new area.

We took a river cruise on the Thames and got to see some cool parts of London (sadly, I didn't see Spider-Man at Tower Bridge but it was still a nice view). We got off at Greenwich and took a walking tour of the village. I love exploring places on my own pace but I also really liked hearing the histories and little eccentricities of the different areas we saw. We then hiked to the top of the observatory which just about killed me with how steep it was (seriously, I think walking up the entirety of the Eiffel Tower was easier than this). The view was so worth it though and we got to hear about some cool facts relating to how time zones were established and whatnot.

After the tour ended a small group of us walked to a pub on the Thames where we had lunch. I got this really amazing mac and cheese that was to die for. We then walked back towards the Greenwich Market and explored that for a bit. It was really fun and such a cool place.

I bought some artisan stuff, including a feta spinach pastry that was so good, macarons that were so good and such a good price, and a canoli that was to die for. Of course, I also had amazing company and we took a bunch of pictures and had a lot of laughs.

Our way back was a bit complicated but it was all in good fun since we were together and in London. We were all super sleepy on the way back, though, and I'm surprised that I didn't fall asleep on the any of the three trains like I thought I was going to.

When I got back, I Skyped with my dad which was fun. Of course I'm having a blast here and I'm not feeling very homesick, but I also always miss my family in some capacity. After logging off there, I went to get dinner and ended up hanging out, again, with my flatmates until a bit after midnight. We actually ordered late night food and there's just something that slaps differently about pizza when it's late and you're falling asleep but in such a good mood.

September 29, 2019

I allowed myself to sleep in which felt absolutely glorious. I mean, it wasn't that late sleeping in but I was able to wake up on my own time. I ate leftover pizza for breakfast just as a quick tide-me-over until Ben & Jerry's.

A small group of us met up to head over to find the Ben & Jerry's place at a mall. It took us an embarrassingly long time to actually find where it was in the mall as it ended up being a stand inside a cinema lobby. It was worth it as the ice cream was so good. I had three flavors I'd never tried before and they were just so yummy.

Afterwards, we wandered around the mall for a bit. I'm happy to report I went inside a bookstore and walked out without buying anything. We headed to a Nandos that was actually really close to campus. On our way there, we pulled up different maps of places to quiz each other on pronunciations--Wisconsin messed up a bunch of us though UK towns and cities are named weird things.

Nandos was super yummy--I tried the "extra extra hot sauce" and it wasn't that hot? I mean it wasn't mild but I was expecting more from it. I'm getting hungry just thinking about Nandos now. We headed back to the dorm after that and had some drinks for a while and played some more card games. Let me tell you, friendships are destroyed by Uno. We also tentatively planned out a trip to Paris and I'm so excited for that. Paris is one of the places on the top of my list to travel to and I really hope that a lot of us can go together.

I think something that is quickly becoming fun to debate is the pronunciation of different words. Like, they pronounce "aluminum" and "water" and "stop" differently than we do. One of my favorite things, though, is the swear words they have here. Swearing is actually really common and nobody even bats an eye so when I hear some of what is being said I'm laughing my ass off. I think a few of my favorites are: "you fucking wet wipe," "you absolute nonce," and "wanker." I also have a feeling I'm going to seriously have to watch my words when I get back from studying abroad because I already know I'm swearing more than back home.

This past week was amazing and the semester is just getting started. It's crazy because I have friends back home preparing for mid-terms and I've barely started classes, let alone started worrying about assignments and exams.

I also already have a bunch of amazing stuff planned coming up. Next week (I guess this week since I'm writing this after the fact?) I'm going to see a musical and then spending the weekend in Liverpool and Manchester. Then the next week I'm doing even more things. It's going to fly by which makes me really sad but I'm also so excited for everything that I'm going to be able to do.

Thanks for reading!

You can follow my bookstagram here. A brand new giveaway will be posted soon!

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Blog Tour: "Crier's War" by Nina Varela

Hey all! Today I'm excited to share with you my blog post for the Crier's War blog tour! This is one of my most anticipated releases and I was so fortunate to not only receive an advance review copy but to also participate in the blog tour for this amazing book! I'm not going to talk too much in this section just because there's a whole post exploring this awesome book, but if you are interested in this one it comes out on October 1st! 


From debut author Nina Varela comes the first book in an Own Voices, richly imagined epic fantasy about an impossible love between two girls—one human, one Made—whose romance could be the beginning of a revolution.

Perfect for fans of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse as well as Game of Thrones and Westworld.
After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will. Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.


Ok so the moment I heard about this book I knew that I absolutely needed it. Everything about it seemed amazing to me: fantasy, sapphic romance, hate-to-love romance, slow-burn, political upheaval...I was so excited. I have to say, I really enjoyed this book.

So in this book we follow two characters with alternating POVs: Ayla and Crier. Crier is an Automae, a member of the leading race, while Ayla is a human--a servant to the Automae. The two get thrown together in a twist of fate and it's beautiful. The slow-burn enemies-to-lovers was done so perfectly and I absolutely loved it. It was also super gay which I am dying over.

The world itself was so interesting and unique to me. It was easy to imagine it and the setting but I never felt like I was overloaded with information. If anything, it just sparked my curiosity and interest. I want to know everything about this world, about the histories, about how everything works together. I just want more!

Yet even with the romance and the interesting world, you're not distracted from the tension and plot. Things in this world haven't been the best in past years and the tensions just keep rising. The stakes keep getting higher and it was so addicting.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I can't wait for it to be out so that more people can read it! 


This was really fun to make. I think what made this one a bit different from book playlists that I've done before is that in the past I've focused on songs that fit certain events in a book but when I was curating this playlist, I found myself just gravitating towards songs that I thought embodied the characters. Either way, I hope you enjoy! I've included links and a list of the songs so hopefully nobody has too much trouble listening in! 

I Hate Everything About You -- Three Days Grace

Castle -- Halsey

Alive -- Sia

Finding You -- Kesha

The Night We Met -- Lord Huron

All That -- ZAYN

Praying -- Kesha

Bed Roses -- Bon Jovi 


Nina Varela is a nationally awarded writer of screenplays and short fiction. She was born in New Orleans and raised on a hippie commune in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent most of her childhood playing in the Eno River, building faerie houses from moss and bark, and running barefoot through the woods. These days, Nina lives in Los Angeles with her writing partner and their tiny, ill-behaved dog. She tends to write stories about hard-won love and young people toppling the monarchy/patriarchy/whatever-archy. On a related note, she’s queer. On a less related note, she has strong feelings about hushpuppies and loves a good jambalaya. CRIER’S WAR is her first novel.
You can find Nina at any given coffee shop in the greater Los Angeles area, or at


Amazon      |      Barnes & Noble


Click on the link to enter to win a free copy of Crier's War


Sept. 23 – Afire Pages | 21 Questions with Nina Varela
Sept. 24 – The Sparrow’s Perch | Fan Art
              F A N N A | Reasons for Game of Thrones and Westworld Fans to Read Crier’s War
Sept. 25 – Forever and Everly
              Your Tita Kate | Bookstagram Photos
              Pages Left Unread | Characters Aesthetics
Sept. 27 – Caitlin Althea 
              Pages Below the Vaulted Sky | Fan Art
              Reads Rainbow | Playlist

Sept. 30 – Boricua Reads | Sapphic Rebellious Women in YA
              Read With Ngoc 
              Read at Night | Favorite Quotes
Oct. 2 – Mel to the Any
              A Cat, A Book, and A Cup of Tea
Oct. 3 – Novel Nerd Faction | Playlist
             Shut Up, Shealea
Oct. 4 – Sage Shelves | F/F Fantasy Recommendation
              The Book Bratz

Thanks for reading!

You can follow my bookstagram here. A brand new giveaway will be posted soon!

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Friday, September 27, 2019

Book Review: "The (Other) F Word" edited by Angie Manfredi

Title: The (Other) F Word
Edited by: Angie Manfredi
Genre: Nonfiction Self-Help
Page Length: 224 pages
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Rating: 5 stars

*I was sent a free copy in exchange for an honest review*

This book is SO important! When I first got the email to participate in the release buzz for it I got so excited because this is exactly the kind of book I would have loved to have as a growing teenager. For years I’ve suffered from body dysmorphia and the plethora of self-love issues I’ve had ever since. That’s why this book is so important to me.

The big thing about this book is that it includes fat people from all genders, sexualities, and ethnicities. Everyone can see themselves in it and this book will truly be able to help everyone. There’s plenty of different pieces in this book as well. There’s art, essays, stories, and more. I love how inclusive this book is in all aspects.

Mostly, I’m just so happy that this book exists. I needed this when I was younger but I also think that it’s going to help me and other adults who are still struggling with accepting themselves.

Thanks for reading!

You can follow my bookstagram here. A brand new giveaway will be posted soon!

To get more awesome content like this post, click the follow button to the right!

I am a "BookishTextDesign" Influencer! Use my code LAUREN10 for a discount off your bookmark purchases! Check out the shop here

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Book Review: "Capturing the Devil" by Kerri Maniscalco

Title: Capturing the Devil
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: "Stalking Jack the Ripper" #4
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Mystery
Page Length: 448 pages
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Date Started: September 23, 2019
Date Finished: September 24, 2019
Rating: 4.75 // 5 stars

This is such a bittersweet moment for me. On one hand, I finally know how one of my favorite series ends. On the other hand, I don't have more books to look forward to with these characters. I read the first book in this series when it first came out and I can still remember the excitement when I found out that there were going to be more books. Despite not reading the second or third book until this year, I've been following this series' journey since day 1 and I'm sad that there won't be more to come.

Anyway, I thought this was a brilliant end. I can't decide if this one or the first book is my favorite in the series because while the first book was so fresh and new in its own way, this book really stepped it up. I was in awe a lot of the time, but I'll get more into the wide range of emotions I went through while reading this in a little bit.

Forget what you think you know. There are things throughout the entire series that we've been told are true. We've believed things that we've been told. This book turns a lot of those ideas upside down to the point where you're not sure what to believe. I loved that. I was wondering how Kerri was going to go about making this a great finale and, well, I can't say I saw any of that coming.

The book and plot itself was just a whirlwind for me. It felt like I was being pulled in so many directions because of everything our main characters are dealing with. I don't want to spoil anything so I'm just going to say that they have to deal with a lot more than just a murdering psychopath in this book. The layers of tension really made this book seem that much more intense.

In terms of the plot and pacing, I thought it was well done. During reading it, there were a few times I was questioning if this pacing was good for me. Looking back, I actually really like how it was done. After finishing it, I can see how the threads being weaved at the beginning really made the ending that much more powerful.

I love when authors tie a series together in the last book and you can finally see all the threads they've woven since book 1. Not only did Kerri make this entire book cohesive in itself but she really tied the series together well. Things from the first books that were merely said in passing or hardly referenced came to importance in this one. I love when authors do that.

This book was creepy. Yea, there were a lot of scenes that were fluffy and fun but there were also a lot of creepy scenes. I loved it. Despite these books being about murder and autopsies and solving crime, I've never been actually scared while reading these until Capturing the Devil. Maybe it was because there wasn't another book coming and I genuinely didn't know the outcome? Maybe it was because of how vivid Kerri can write? I was genuinely terrified while reading the end chapters. Like, to the point where I wanted to shut all my windows, lock my door, curl up under blankets with a kitchen knife, and watch videos of puppies to make me less scared. Bonus points to Kerri for making me feel that way.

Speaking of being terrified, I went through a huge range of emotions reading this book. There are ups and downs and my emotions were no different. In no particular order I experienced: absolute terror, happiness, anger, sadness, joy, anxiousness, and more. I was really being pulled in so many directions and it's great. I will also admit to crying multiple times throughout this book.

My absolute favorite part of this book continues to be the characters. Audrey Rose and Thomas are two of my absolute favorite protagonists in any novel I've read and that love only continued to grow in this one. It's truly been amazing seeing their character growth and journeys from the first book to this one. I especially liked the fact that Audrey Rose has her chronic pain and walks with a cane yet still continues to be a badass in all areas. And Thomas...oh Thomas...I don't think I'll ever stop loving Thomas Cresswell.

Overall, I just loved this book. I cannot wait to hold a physical copy in my hands when I get back from studying abroad and for when I can add it to my collection on my shelves. It's bittersweet knowing that this is the end but I've had a truly amazing time with this series and I can't wait to see what Kerri does next!

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Studying Abroad in London: Fresher's Week

Just like back another week has gone by! And what a busy week it was too! There's so much for me to discuss and recap about this past week, but first, I thought I'd give a little background on what exactly "Fresher's Week" is. 

Basically "Fresher's Week" is like a welcome week or orientation week in the states. My college back home doesn't do one for returning students, but I know a lot of my friends have weeks like these before they start classes. As a study abroad semester-only student, my experience wasn't quite the same as some of my classmates here. While they had enrollment meetings and introductions, I basically just had the parties and events of the week (more on that later). There were between 1 and 3 events everyday--ranging from carnival games and tag archery to epic nights out on the town--and it was both insanely fun and exhausting. More than that, it definitely felt like a  great bonding experience. After this week, a lot of my insecurities about the social side of life have disappeared for the most part as I have a bunch of amazing flatmates. 

But, without further ado, here's what I've been up to the past week! 

September 16, 2019

A few of my flatmates and I met up in the kitchen to go to Froebel Fun Day. Basically this was just a day out on Froebel Lawn where there were carnival games set up and other activities such as mini golf, rock climbing, inflatable horse races, and even a wipeout obstacle. It was fun and I ended up winning a prize from one of the carnival booths (after failing at literally every other game)!

We got lunch at one of the places on campus and I ended up with enough food to last me for two meals, which was great because it tasted wonderful. It was a pretty chill meal just hanging out before we went back to the flat. I kinda just meandered around my room (writing last week's blog post) and chilling before that night.

All of us met up in the kitchen for predrinks, Cards Against Humanity, and an intense game of Uno. It was such a funny bonding session and I can't help but laugh when I remember some of the card pairs for Cards Against Humanity. After that we all headed over to the Silent Disco on campus which, oddly, wasn't silent? There were three giant rooms that had raves going on in them and I wasn't actually able to find the Silent Disco one before I left. Even with just the regular rave it was the longest and hardest I've danced in a while and it was so fun. That's one of the things I've noticed from the couple times I've gone dancing here--back home going dancing at an ACP or party pretty much entailed just bouncing on your feed and nodding your head. Here, though, there's full on dance circles, spinning, dropping it low, etc and it's great--and a great workout. 

September 17, 2019

I woke up late, obviously, since I'd stayed up pretty late the night before. I stayed in a little bit before we all met up to go to the food market on campus. The market itself was really only three tables and there wasn't a whole lot to it BUT I had an AMAZING food bowl for lunch that had so many different things in it that I wasn't sure were going to go together but ended up being amazing. I also got a bunch of homemade bread and I ate it all in less than a day (of course).

We then went to the poster sale where I wish I could've gotten more. I got a small one that I really liked to help bring color to a room made of entirely white but I couldn't get anything big since I wasn't going to have a good way to get it home.

Then we ventured to the "Secret Shop" aka a Londis that is just hidden from the main road in the back of a neighborhood. I got some basic groceries like peanut butter (which the Brits do not know how to do correctly, I've discovered), pretzels, avocado, etc. I even got a rose and something flavored Kit Kat to try but it was disgusting. That's another thing that's different here--they have regular Kit Kats but they taste different than the ones in the US? And it's not a change I like? This is probably a good thing, though.

I accidentally took a 2.5 hour nap and it's a good thing I woke up when I did or else I wouldn't have been ready for the events that night. We all met in the kitchen and then we left to go bowling. We had to take a couple buses over to White City (it was a little less than an hour of travel) but it was a fun time. We got there and I swear it was the nicest bowling alley I've ever been to. Walking in, you would have thought it was a fancy restaurant or club but it was a bowling alley.

The others in my group got some drinks and we sat around talking for a bit while we waited for our time to be up. When it was that time, we went to go bowl and found out we'd have to wait more since we hadn't written our names down when we'd arrived. It was okay, though, because they gave us the karaoke room to chill in. It was so fun because we didn't really go up individually to sing but, rather, put on songs that the entire group sang to.

We bowled one game and it was fun--I got second place. I don't really know how since I suck at bowling but I'll take anything I can get! After we left, we messed around a bit on this stage in the middle of the courtyard before catching the bus back towards campus. We made a quick detour in Putney to get KFC since none of us had eaten dinner and it was almost midnight. It was only my second time eating KFC and it really hit the spot. I'm not saying it was amazing, but I am saying the leftover mashed potatoes with a bit of cheese and garlic were the perfect breakfast.

September 18, 2019

This day was beautiful weather. It had been sunny every day since arriving in London but I tend to get overheated if there's no breeze. Today it was sunny but cool out and I loved it since it was starting to feel like fall. I woke up at a reasonable time that day and headed off on my own to do some shopping in Putney for a bit.

I started at H&M where I ended up getting $100 worth of clothes for $13 (thank you to sales, student discounts, and Audra for the gift card!). There was also a Waterstones right across from it so, of course, I stopped in. I got Antoni Porowski's cookbook that I'd been eagerly anticipating and I can't wait to try some of the recipes in it!

When I got back to the flat I made myself some lunch and hung out with my flatmates for a while. They'd bought Nerf guns that morning so all day was filled with various levels of Nerf warfare. This was about when I started to feel sick so I went back to my room for a little bit to rest before that night.

I made myself dinner and hung out with the flatmates before getting ready for The Grand. I was actually feeling worse but I decided to suck it up and go out anyway because I'm never going to be in London for Fresher's Week again and I didn't want to miss out. I'm really glad that I didn't miss out!

We queued up for the buses and ended up having to stand and just hold on to the railing the whole way there, which wasn't too bad because the entire bus was singing and having a blast. We got there and the venue was super cool! It's an older victorian building that had been turned into a club so the interior was the coolest. Not only that, but there were a few DJs who cycled through and I thought they were all awesome!

I think we got there around 11:45 and we ended up staying until it ended at 2 am. We danced the whole time--except for a brief interlude to do the photobooth--and my feet were dying but the last 20 minutes alone were worth it! They played a whole plethora of my favorite songs including No Scrubs, Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen, Hey Ya, and more before finishing with Bohemian Rhapsody. Let me tell you, there's nothing quite like belting out Queen at 2 am in a nightclub in London. It was strangely peaceful? Overall, it was an absolute blast and I definitely took a look around at one point to just go “you’re in London having the time of your life.” I’ve only been here for a week and it’s already been amazing—I’m going to really miss my flatmates when I leave 😭

It took about 30 minutes to catch a bus and, even then, there was a lot of shoving involved. For a country of people who like to queue, I guess that goes out the window when the entire crowd is drunk at 2 am. It took another 30+ minutes for us to get back and, I kid you not, I fell asleep standing on the bus just holding on to two rails. By the time I got back it was past 3 am and it took me another 25 minutes or so to get ready for bed and write up my little notes for the day.

September 19, 2019

I let myself sleep in, which I'm grateful for since I woke up feeling more sick than the day before. I chilled in bed for the most part to kind of try and get rid of some of the bad feelings. I ended up having to take Dramamine, Airborne, Advil, and three supplements just to get to that day's event at Thorpe Park.

Thorpe Park is this amusement park right outside London that the school rented out for us. That's right--they rented out an ENTIRE theme park for us to play around in. The first ride we went on was almost the exact same as one they have at Adventureland and my shoes got absolutely soaked (it took 2 whole days for them to dry). One of my flatmates had been there a few times before so it was nice having someone who knew their way around after we split into smaller groups. We hit all of the big name rides and I enjoyed almost all of them--I can't say which was my favorite? Maybe Stealth (0-80 mph in under 1.8 seconds) or the Walking Dead themed one. I've never seen Walking Dead but it was more of an interactive ride where you're running from zombies and it was really fun.

We ate there since the buses weren't leaving until 9:30 pm and I got a great Kebob. I definitely want to search for more Mediterranean places in London because if that's what amusement park kebobs taste like then I want to see what a real place does. 

September 20, 2019

This day was the Fresher's Fair, which is kind of like an activities fair with more freebies. It was held the same place they did the Froebel Fun Day and it was a pretty good time. I went with my flatmates but ended up getting separated from them at one point (it was a donut's fault). A lot of the booths were for sports or clubs, but I don't think I'm going to join any. I may do the Writer's Club since that one sounded up my alley, but I want to travel and explore London as much as possible while I'm here. There's always going to be my great clubs and organizations back home but I don't have the same travel opportunities there as I do here.

I did get two different types of free pizza (thankfully, they have Dominos over here), and won a bunch of freebies. The library on campus had a booth where they were giving out free books so of course your girl got one (it was pretty much shoved into my hand). I found my flatmates again and we lined up for this nightclub's booth. Unfortunately, I can't get the free bottle of champagne on my birthday since that was last month but I did spin their wheel and win a onesie!

After that, I chilled a bit and unpacked all my info sheets and freebies before meeting back up in the kitchen to go out. We headed to the same mall the bowling was at and it took a bit to get there. I probably should have taken more Dramamine because I wasn't feeling too hot on the way there (if you haven't figured it out yet--I get severe motion sickness), but I made it there! We stopped by the Apple store and I played around with the new iPads. I'm considering getting one but, at the same time, it's a big financial investment that I don't think I need right now. If I didn't have a computer or phone, it'd be different, but I'd essentially just be getting one to have a digital notebook for class and watch Netflix with more ease and that's just not worth the money right now.

Then we went to Nandos. I've been to Nandos once before in Chicago but this one was far better! The one in Chicago tasted amazing and was a great experience but something about this one was just even better. Maybe it was the fact that I was actually in London and everyone was so excited to finally go there, maybe it was because I learned from my first time and ordered garlic bread as my side--who knows? I was still sick then so I didn't get anything super spicy so that it wouldn't hurt my throat but it was overall just a great time. There's one a lot closer to us within a couple miles so I'm definitely going to be going again sometime soon!

September 21, 2019

Most of the day was pretty chill. I ended up seeing some friends when I got lunch and it was fun just talking with them again! The food was pretty great, too--I had an avocado Mexican bean sandwich that was vegan but so tasty! I also did my laundry and figured out that situation, though I am a bit annoyed since one load of laundry here cost the same as two back at Lake Forest.

That night, most of us met up in the kitchen to just hang out a bit before three of us went to the final event of Fresher's Week: the Finale. I was a bit burnt out from the whole week and still feeling sick so I ended up heading back to the flat with one of my flatmates after we danced for a little bit and took advantage of the Dominos booth. Surprisingly, I stayed up pretty late on Tik Tok of all things--I'm not proud of it and I don't think it's as good as Vine but there are a few gems on there.  

September 22, 2019

I spent most of Sunday recovering from being sick. What had started as a sore throat turned into a stuffy nose and cough so I spent today with a lot of tissues and Netflix. It wasn't a totally empty day, though, since the entire flat met up that night to have a meeting and do some other stuff. I was able to have some really good pasta that night, too. I just chilled after that and went to bed at a reasonable time due to the first day of classes being the next day. 

So that was Fresher's Week. It was a whirlwind and overwhelming and fun and an all around amazing time. I definitely think studying abroad in the Fall was a great choice since they don't have a true Fresher's Week at the beginning of Spring semesters.

I'm definitely taking it a bit slow these next couple of as I don't want to burn out too fast in the first few weeks. I have all semester to see London--on nice days I can do more outdoor things and on rainy days I can hit all my indoor bucket list items--so I'm perfectly okay letting myself have chill days here and there. Besides, I do have to study at some point and considering I already have to read an entire novel for the first day of my Lit class I don't need to be out and about every second of every day. Plus, my first outings for my classes start at the beginning of October and I'll be getting to see a bunch of cool places with those!

It's Tuesday now and I'm still a bit sick with a cough but I'm pretty much back to normal. It'll be interesting to see what this next week holds with establishing a routine, getting into classes and a different academic learning system, and meeting even more new people. I also realized that it's been FOUR & A HALF MONTHS since I was last in class and I can only hope I haven't forgotten how to be a student.

Till next week!

(If you're not caught up, you can find my study abroad landing page with all my previous posts here)

Thanks for reading!

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