WWW Wednesday – 29 May 2019

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished reading my ARC of The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate, which surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. The main character does some stupid stuff and I guess the world-building is a bit flimsy but I enjoyed it regardless!

Only one review posted this week: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty.

What are you currently reading?

I am still going with The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale but I am within the final 100 pages. I really loved the first section where the characters were young but then the First World War hit and it’s all getting a bit sad. I sort of suspected it was going to be one of those books with a bittersweet ending but it’s going to be a different bittersweet to what I was expecting.

I have also started The Diviners by Libba Bray on audio. This has everything I want in a book: ghosts, serial killers, flappers, Prohibition, New York City. Though I’m doing a production of the musical Hello, Dolly! which opens this week, so every time it mentions something like the elevated train, my brain goes “Elevated trains, Barnaby! The lights of Broadway! The stuffed whale at Barnum’s museum!” and things like that. Fun times. 🤣

What do you think you will read next?

I picked up Get The Girls Out by Lucy Bloom from the library this week. I went to a talk Lucy gave a couple of years ago and that’s what ended up inspiring me to register to go on the UN Women Trek for Rights in Nepal last year. So I’m really excited to read her memoir because she is truly inspiring.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

#AWW2019 “I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates.” // Review of “The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: MG
Date Read: 13/05/19 – 21/05/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

I read this book at the end of a long streak of MG and YA reads, thanks to a self-imposted challenge, and I suspect that might be why I didn’t love it quite as much as I’d hoped. I was needing a change of pace and not quite ready to give it to myself.

But here we are.

Actually, when I started out, I was completely in love with the style of this book. It has vibes of Nevermoor by fellow Aussie writer Jessica Townsend. It’s whimsical and charming without being silly. Unfortunately, for me personally, the novelty wore thin after a while.

I did really love the world of the Kingdoms and Empires. It is some kind of fantastical early twentieth century mishmash. Some people seem to live in a world closer to that of our 1900, while otherse have contraptions closer to those of the 1950s (like refrigerators). It’s actually kind of hard to explain.

There are a lot of characters, which made it hard to keep track of sometimes. The plot relies on Bronte travelling to her ten aunts delivering them gifts from her dead parents, and after a while, I had trouble keeping the aunts and their families straight.  As an adult reader, I know I am not this book’s target audience, so when I say I thought things were solved a bit too easily, that is something that may well not apply to younger readers. Ditto the fact that I saw some of the twists coming. It is a charming adventure story that I think that younger age group will really enjoy .


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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WWW Wednesday – 22 May 2019

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished listening to Emily the Strange: the Lost Days by Rob Reger not long after Wednesday’s WWW. It was amusing, but very bizarre. I’m still not sure what it was actually about. Due to my confusion, I’m not planning to write a proper review of this one.

I finished The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty about an hour ago. It was sweet but sort of wore thin after a while… the cutesy, whimsical style didn’t really work when there were nearly 500 pages. I’ll  have a review up soon.

Two reviews this week: His Name Was Walter by Emily Rodda and Enchantee by Gita Trelease.

What are you currently reading?

I started The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale because That. Cover. Some of the reviews are comparing it to The Night Circus and I can see why. I actually started the audio book first but the narrator’s voice was annoying me so I switched to the ebook. But I really like the magical descriptions of Papa Jack’s Emporium so far.

What do you think you will read next?

I don’t really know what I’m in the mood for at the moment, but I just realised that The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate comes out on June 4, so I probably need to pick up the ARC pretty soon. Particularly considering I don’t know how much reading time I’m going to have over the next week or so.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

WWW Wednesday – 15 May 2019

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

First of all, sorry if I linked you to my writing blog rather than this one last week! I do blog hops on both blogs on a Wednesday and totally wasn’t paying attention to which link was on my clipboard!

What have you recently finished reading?

I finally finished Enchantee by Gita Trelease! My review will be up on Friday. I enjoyed it enough and I thought it tied up really well, but overall it was a three star read. Might have been partly because it took me so long to get through?

I also finished His Name Was Walter by Emily Rodda. I spent the whole book feeling a bit reading slumpy and thinking this would be a three-star read at most, and then things sort of all tied together in the last few chapters and got me right in the feels. To the point I teared up a little. So that was nice.

Only one review posted this week: The Things That Will Not Stand by Michael Gerard Bauer.

What are you currently reading?

I have started reading The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty (yes, sister of Liane for the curious). Jaclyn is an author I keep going back to, even though I don’t always enjoy her books. So far, this one is giving me Nevermoor vibes in that it’s quite lighthearted and whimsical and a bit nonsense (in the best way), but I suspect it will also get me in the feels at some point.

I also started listening to Emily the Strange: the Lost Days by Rob Reger on a whim. It’s rather bizarre, kind of a Lemony Snicket/Welcome to Night Vale mashup. Strange things happen but it’s all delivered with a completely straight face. I think Emily might be a clone or something?

What do you think you will read next?

Not sure what I’m in the mood for. Also Bronte Nettlestone is quite long so there’s a good chance I won’t finish it this week with everything else I’ve got going on. I’ll also finish Emily the Strange pretty soon but I have no idea what I fancy audio book-wise, either.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

#AWW2017 Book Review: “the Betrayal of Bindy MacKenzie” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Betrayal of Bindy MacKenzie
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: YA contemporary
Date Read: 08/06/2017 – 13/06/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

This is the fourth Jaclyn Moriarty book I’ve read this year, and it was definitely the strangest. While the writing was up to her usual standard, I am still not quite sure what to make of the convoluted plot and… interesting stylistic choices.

Bindy MacKenzie is the top of her class. She has been employee of the month at Kmart seventeen months running, she offers study groups for her fellow students, but she resents having to show up for a new class, Friendship and Development, which she feels takes away from valuable study time. But lately, she’s been feeling lethargic and sick, and doesn’t even care when other students are receiving higher marks than she. What could be causing this sudden change?

The first thing is, Bindy is not an easy character to warm to. She thinks herself far superior to her fellow students, and talks like the heroine of a Jane Austen novel (which is fine in a Jane Austen novel, but weird in a YA contemporary). Of course, getting over herself is a major part of her character arc, but it meant that I spent a good deal of the book being annoyed at her.

The second thing is the format. The novel is epistolary in nature, taking the form of Bindy’s diary entries, transcripts she makes of others’ conversations, memos and emails, amongst other things. It sometimes made it hard to get a real hand on the other characters as well, since we were seeing them all from Bindy’s judgey perspective and couldn’t really get a sense of them as themselves until towards the end.

The titular “betrayal” seemed quite far-fetched, though there were clues throughout the book. Still, it seemed unlikely that people would go to that much effort. Overall, when I reached the end of the book, I was left feeling non-plussed, and not quite sure what I had just witnessed, which isn’t a great sign.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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#aww2017 “I’m always watching around corners. I just keep watching for something special.” // Review of “A Tangle of Gold” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: A Tangle of Gold(Colours  of Madeleine #2)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 11/03/2017 – 14/03/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

Agggh, writing this review is causing me a lot of angst. Over the few days between finishing the book and beginning this review, I have tried to work out what to rate it. When I first rated it on GoodReads, I gave it four stars, stating in the text of the review that it was 3.5 but I was going to round it up because I loved the first two books so much. But then I thought about it and decided it was really only a three-star read for me, because while it had a few good moments, I didn’t love it as much as the other two. The next morning I was still thinking about what had bothered me overall, and realised there was really only one moment that I really loved, and I wasn’t entirely sure that it outweighed the stuff that frustrated me. So here we are, with a 2.5 star rating for the final book, after two solid four-star reads.

Yikes, that was a rambling paragraph.

Anyway.

In my review of book two of this series, I said that one thing I appreciated was the fact that it didn’t give more of the same, but instead built on the first book and took all the concepts further. The same could be said of this book, except that it didn’t have the same effect this time.

One of the issues (probably the main issue) was that Kiera, a secondary character in the second book, became a principle character in this one and I Did. Not. Like. Her. She looked down her nose at everybody, including my favourite characters, and even when she sort of addressed this, I didn’t feel like she stopped, just that she managed to hide her snobbery a bit better. I started flipping forward to see how many more chapters I would have to read from her point-of-view before we returned to Madeleine or Elliot.

Speaking of Elliot, I didn’t like his character arc either. He made a lot of decisions that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. He was using huge leaps of logic to come to the conclusions he based his decisions on, and he always seemed smarter than that.

I can’t say too much about Madeleine without delving into huge spoiler territory, but I will say that the large twist regarding her and her mother that took place was a big enough game changer that it changed the way the story worked, and it just wasn’t the story/premise/situation I fell in love with after that (having said that, the twist itself was the aforementioned one moment I really loved). Elliot and Madeleine had no way of corresponding like they always used to, and that was one of my favourite aspects of the series.

Plot-wise, everything also got quite convoluted. The theories behind the cracks between Cello and the World got very confusing and then there were secret organisations that kind of came out of nowhere playing their parts, and everything go tied up a bit too nicely at the end. I closed the book feeling unsatisfied, and there is little worse than that, particularly when it’s the conclusion of a series that started out so well.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 15 March, 2017

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Welcome to WIPpet Wednesday! This is a weekly blog hop hosted by yours truly. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

I was away over part of last week and briefly returned to With Memories and Magic but my main project at the moment is still my Wizard of Oz contemporary retelling. Today I’m sharing 15 lines for the 15th day of the month. Dora is chatting to one of her housemates, Sam Crowe, who if you couldn’t tell from the name, is the Scarecrow character. He’s only just started college and he’s already flunking out.

“I barely passed this paper,” he said. “If I don’t pick up my grades soon, I’m going to flunk this class.”

“What’s the class?”

“Twentieth century American literature.”

Dora stopped leaning on the door frame and took a seat on the couch next to him. “I did a few literature courses while I was getting my drama degree,” she said. “I did pretty well. Maybe I could take a look at it for you. I might be able to give you some advice.”

Sam didn’t look too thrilled at the suggestion, but he shrugged and handed the paper to Dora anyway. The topic of the paper was broad, asking for a discussion of themes in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. As Dora glanced over it, she began to see a few reasons for Sam’s lower marks. He didn’t really focus on a particular topic; instead he jumped from idea to idea. His examples were vague, too. She had a feeling he had only read parts of the book and was trying to shoehorn in the quotes he was familiar with, even if they didn’t quite fit the point he was trying to make.

“Listen, I’m not trying to be rude,” Dora said, “but did you actually read the book?”

“Yes,” Sam replied, too quickly. Dora just raised her eyebrows at him and he looked away, shrugging again. “Maybe half of it. I used CliffsNotes for the rest.”

Dora bit her lip, trying not to laugh. “Sam, do you really think CliffsNotes is going to get you through college?”

And now it’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday
So I had the majority of this post ready for last week, then I shut down my computer and went away for three days without finishing it and posting it, so here we are! As a result, and the fact that I had lots of reading time while I was away, this is sligthly longer than usual.

What have you recently finished reading?

These aren’t in order of when I read them, rather I’ve grouped like books together.


I have finished the entire Colours of Madeleine series by Jaclyn Moriarty, comprising of A Corner of White (which I listened to on audio and the narrators were completely awesome), the Cracks in the Kingdom and A Tangle of Gold (I read these two in paperback). The first two I absolutely loved, but I was let down by the third one sadly. My reviews of A Corner of White and Cracks in the Kingdom are here and here respectively. A Tangle of Gold’s review goes up on Friday.

On a related note, I was thinking about starting a “this series started so well, what happened?” shelf on GoodReads because this happens to me an awful lot! Or maybe I need to swear off series and concentrate on standalone books.

untoldcoverI also finished Untold, the second book in the Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Rees Brennan. The character arcs and the writing were really well done but the plot itself was a bit light on the ground. Review here.

I also finally got back to the Lemony Snicket books and read The Wide Window and The Miserable Mill, books three and four of A Series of Unfortuate Events. I haven’t been reviewing these because they work to a particular formula and I don’t think I would have enough to say about each of them individually, but they are rather addictive! Though I seem to be liking the odd-numbered books better than the even-numbered ones, so that’s a thing.

And last but not least, I’m going to put this here because I’m going to finish this tonight, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson on audio. This is an interesting book exploring the issue of public shaming in the age of the Internet, and how a person can have the virtual screaming hoards pile onto them and they can lose their jobs, etc, over one badly worded tweet. It’s fascinating stuff, though I think some of the things he talks about are a bit tangential, or at least the way he structures the book makes them seem that way.

I also posted my review of The Fearless Travelers’ Guide to Wicked Places by Peter Begler since my last post.

What are you currently reading?

After weeks of having this book as the answer to What do you think you’ll read next, I am finally actually reading Adverbs by Daniel Handler. It’s essentially a short story anthology, but the stories are all set in the same universe, and the main characters in some stories show up later in smaller roles in others. It’s interesting, but the writing style is a bit pretentious, but then I guess even his Lemony Snicket books are a bit pretentious.

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

So I thought my March TBR had gone right out the window, but I’m actually not doing too terribly with it, despite getting distracted by Jaclyn Moriarty. A Conjuring Of Light by V. E. Schwab is still waiting for me on Kindle, so that will probably be next. After that, I’m looking forward to returning to my Beat the Backlist and Australian Women Writers Challenge items for a while.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

#AWW2017 “How about we meet at midnight tomorrow and try this. I close my eyes, believe in you, and there you’ll be.” // Review of “The Cracks in the Kingdom” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Cracks in the Kingdom (Colours  of Madeleine #2)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 06/03/2017 – 11/03/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

(If you haven’t read my review for the first book in this series, A Corner of White, you can do so here.)

My instinct when I finished this book was to give it five stars, but on reflection I decided it was more of a four. I’ve said in previous reviews that my star ratings are often based on  a vibe rather than any objective ratings system, and that’s the case with this one. I actually had to make myself stop reading the third one and write this review because I was so intent on staying with these characters, but knew I’d forget details if I didn’t stop now.

I won’t go into the plot too much because I don’t want to spoil anything for the previous book. The plot picks up where the first one left off, but rather than giving us more of the same, which is often what happens with middle books, this one builds on what came before.

It did seem that Jaclyn Moriarty clearly delighted in teasing me with numerous moments of Elliot and Madeleine nearly meeting through the crack between their worlds.  And those moments brought them even closer together, relationship-wise. Their relationship isn’t romantic, at least not really (it has the potential to go that way), but they’ve got such a deep bond, even though they sometimes disagree and argue and sometimes their friendship gets messy and difficult. I haven’t been this invested in two characters in a long time. I have so many feelings!

The other great thing with this book is that we got to see the other provinces of the Kingdom of Cello, via Elliot’s meetings with Princess Ko and the other members of the Royal Youth Alliance. Jagged Edge is full of interesting technology while Olde Quainte is… well, old and quaint. And hilarious. It’s a serious breach of ettitquette in this province to not have a simile in at least every third sentence you speak, though it doesn’t matter if the simile doesn’t make any sense. I also really enjoyed the descriptions of the Magical North, where magic interferes with technology, but where the Royal Family makes its home.

As with the first book, the action really ramped up in the last third. There were a few times where I was torn between stopping to make an “OMG!” status update on GoodReads and continuing to read. Continuing to read kept winning out and in the end, I only made one update for the entire book (which is unusual; normally I like to squee a lot when I’m enjoying a book, so that shows you how hooked I was).

I think I will leave this here before I get even more gushy and decide that actually yes, I should be rating this five stars (I think I figured out while writing this review that the main reason it’s only four is because Madeleine doesn’t really do a lot for herself, not anything that’s plot related anyway, and mostly just does what she’s told re: the Royal Family). And I’m going to go keep reading the next book in the series and spend more time with these characters.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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“I don’t know where to start. She’s critiquing your existence!” // Review of “A Corner of White” by Jaclyn Moriarty #aww2017

Title: A Corner of White (Colours  of Madeleine #1)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Audio book narrator: Fiona Hardingham, Andrew Eiden, Kate Reinders, Peter McGowan
Date Read: 21/02/2017 – 03/03/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Well, if this book isn’t completely charming. Very character-driven, and as such, probably not for everyone, but I was emotionally invested enough by the end that seeing evidence of character growth made me smile tearfully.

A Corner of White is set paritally in Cambridge, England, home of Madeleine Tully, and partially in the province of The Farms in the Kingdom of Cello. In the past, people used to  travel between the two places via “cracks”, though these have since been closed. The World has forgotten about Cello, and the penalty for not reporting a crack in Cello is death. But when Madeleine Tully pulls a letter out of a parking metre in Cambridge and begins a correspondence with Elliot Buranski, they become each other’s confidant as they attempt to navigate teenage life and love, and try to understand why the people they love aren’t around any more.

Madeleine is a tricky character to understand. A lot of the time, the Madeleine that came across in her letters to Elliot felt quite separate from the Madeleine that we saw through the eyes of her friends. It was sometimes  a bit hard to reconcile the two. However, she started to make more sense as the story went on. Madeleine doesn’t believe in the Kingdom of Cello for most of the story, instead thinking that her mysetery correspondent is a lonely, geeky boy world-building a novel. She critiques him on his world-building and gives him suggestions for how to make the writing stronger. While this is frustrating for Elliot, it did make the writing very self-aware and entertaining.

Elliot is a bit easier to get a grasp on. His father went missing a year before the beginning of the story, and while everyone in the twon suspects he ran off with the local physics teacher (who disappeared at the same time), Elliot is convinced that there’s something more nefarious at work. He just has no idea how close he is to the truth.

The world-building for Cambridge is quite straightforward, with Madeleine’s quirky friends and acquaintances adding colour to the scenes. It’s in Cello where things are different. While they still drive trucks or take trains and have TV and that sort of thing, they are also vulnerable to Colour attacks: strange weather phenomena that can affect their minds or outright attack them. Colours are graded depending on their ferocity. These took a little while to figure out at first, but there is enough description for you to get the idea, and then it’s easy to imagine the effects of differnt Colours. There is also Butterfly Child, a small fairy-like creature that Elliot catches but does not know how to befriend.

The writing is beautiflu and  lyrical. As I said, the story is quite character-driven (though the plot picks up in the last third maybe? And has left a lot of room  for further adventures in the next book) but I really enjoyed watching the relationships between various characters develop as they learned more about themselves and each other. I feel like this is one of those books where the story and writing are enhanced by the audio narrators, all four of them do a fantastic job (Fiona Hardingham and Andrew Eiden do the bulk of it, with the other two taking on smaller character roles). I am disappointed that my library’s Overdrive does not have the next two books in the series, but I have already obtained print copies, so I’m not going to complain too much.

I’m reading back over what I’ve written here and feel like I haven’t quite done this book justice. I do recommend it, though!


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 01 March, 2017

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Welcome to WIPpet Wednesday! This is a weekly blog hop hosted by yours truly. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

I mentioned in my Sunday Summary post that I had decided to put With Memories and Magic aside for a while and focus on a new project. Some of you may remember a while back I mentioned a plot bunny for a contemporary Wizard of Oz retelling. I planned it out at the time and intended to start working on it in March. Well, I started a few days early.

I’m trying to remember to use American English, since it is set in America. I had to google “What do Americans call a dressing gown?” the other night because I was totally blanking on “bathrobe”. At the moment, it’s strict contemporary, no fantasy elements, though that may change if it takes my fancy.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from the opening scene (third month – first day). Dora has arrived at Linda North’s boarding house during inclement weather. Linda is awesome and had hot chocolate waiting for her at the door.

“Here, dear,” she said, placing the mug in Dora’s grateful hands. “This is terrible! I can’t believe you drove through that. I’m surprised you didn’t get blown away!”

Dora let the warmth of the mug flood through her before taking a sip of the hot chocolate. She swallowed and shrugged in response to Linda. “It was only the last twenty miles or so that were really bad,” she said, and then took a slightly bigger gulp of the drink.

You Americans and your miles. I had a rough distance in mind and had to convert it from kilometres. Because I’m pedantic like that and just picking a number out of the air just won’t do. 😛

And now it’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

fearlesstravelersguidecoverI finished The Fearless Traveler’s Guide to Wicked Places by Peter Begler and while I enjoyed aspects of it, I found myself skimming the last 100 pages or so. It was a bit too slow. My review will go up on Friday.

Just one review this week, of Neil Patrick Harris’ Choose Your Own Autobiography.

What are you currently reading?

cornerofwhitecoverI’m almost done with A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty on audio. I’m really enjoying it, though I can understand why the reviews are somewhat mixed. It’s one of those books where I think the charm of it is really enhanced by the narrators, though unfortunately, my library only has this one Overdrive, so I’ll have to read the print books if/when I continue the series.

untoldcoverI’ve also started Untold, the second book in the Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Rees Brennan . So far it’s a good follow-up to Unspoken. Jared’s being a jerk, though.

What do you think you’ll read next?

adverbscoverI think it will Adverbs by Daniel Handler and that will be the last of my library books. I’m also traveling to Sydney next Monday and to save space in my bag, I’m just going to take my Kindle and start A Conjuring Of Light by V. E. Schwab, so I can (hopefully) squee with the rest of you. I have about 7 hours of traveling all up, so I should be able to make a good dent in it.

I also posted a full March TBR here yesterday.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily