Top Ten Books With My Favorite Color On the Cover

5b4a8-toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. For a list of upcoming topics and more about this weekly feature, check out her site!

This Week’s Topic:
Books With My Favorite Color On the Cover

It was super clear to me from the start that there is a particular color that grabs me when it comes to covers: RED

Red is intense. Love. Fire. Blood. Red just brings intensity and passion. It was fun to see just how many of my favorite books feature red on their covers.

Red Covers.001

Twilight by Stephanie MeyerTwilight

As the only pop of color on this cover, red is prominent and a huge reason this cover was so iconic. I chose to feature this cover for two reasons. One, red is such an essential part of this cover’s design. Two, I watched this video essay on YouTube recently: Dear Stephenie Meyer–I’m Sorry. It’s worth watching, and helps me reflect on language and treatment surrounding chick flicks and romance. The shame, guilt, and bashing of things women enjoy or entertainment aimed at women is commonplace in our society. It’s definitely something I’ve done–called a movie I enjoyed a guilty pleasure rather than just admitting with confidence that I like it. It’s something I need to work on.

Cinder by Marissa MeyerCinder

I adore this series as well as this cover! All of the books in The Lunar Chronicles feature the color red, but this first book in the series is by far my favorite use of red. The sexy red heel is such a fun twist on the glass slipper. The hint of the cyborg leg hints that this book will have more unexpected twists to the classic tale. And the lettering/font choice for the title is excellent. By far my favorite font from the ten books I selected for this post. The cover designs for the US Lunar Chronicles are up there with my all-time favorite covers for an entire series.

Little Brother by Cory DoctorowLittle Brother
If you want to learn about cyber security, programming, and cryptography–this book is a fun way to do so! Cory Doctorow does a great job of explaining complicated subjects within fiction in a fun way. His books serve the dual purpose of being entertaining as well as educational. I think the red “X” on this cover helps to create a tone of rebellion that is the core of this story. If you look closely at the “X” you can see rows of code. A perfect subtle detail that hints that the type of rebellion will be cyber in nature. Highly recommend this book for people looking for a cyber-heavy, near-future dystopian read.

Enna Burning by Shannon HaleEnna Burning
This is the second book in Shannon Hale’s Books of Bayern series, and probably my favorite! Enna’s character has stuck with me years after turning the final page. What was it about her? The way Hale described Enna’s power with fire and the danger of wielding it is what most sticks with me. Drawing heat into her body fills her with power, but that heat can also burn her alive from within. She becomes addicted to the power, and what she can do with it. I’d love to see a fanfic that ships Enna and Avatar’s Zuko. That would be such an interesting crossover! A lot of books with red covers feature fire, but I love how this one shows the fire being on the brink of consuming Enna. So central to the story, and I love when covers reflect the contents of the book!

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffIlluminae
This is, by far, my favorite sci-fi book in a long time! The storytelling method is so unique, but perfectly suited to the story it is telling. The cover captures the content and themes of the story: censorship, cover-up, technology. But I think the color red, particularly this fiery orange-red, for the first book accurately captures the intensity and danger of this first book. I see this cover and I prepare myself for a wild rollercoaster ride. Whoever designed this cover did a magnificent job! (I’ve bought Obsidio… and am torn between jumping into it… and holding off… because I don’t want this series to be over!)

Fire by Kristin CashoreFire
It’s been ages since I read this book (2011? Goodreads doesn’t have a date logged.) But I’ve been meaning to re-read this book and Graceling so that I can read Bitterblue. I remember loving this book for its plot twists. And appreciating that author’s view of the world: That nothing is just black or white/right or wrong. That everything is circumstantial and kind of gray. I’ve read more books, particularly in the fantasy genre, like this since then. But Kristin Cashore was probably the first author to get me thinking morality in a more nuanced way. She definitely inspired me to craft heroes with a dark side and villains you could sympathize with. And because this post is about covers… can we just stop for a moment to say how gorgeous that bow and arrow is?

The Elite by Kiera CassThe Elite
This series was a pleasant surprise. I listened to them on audiobook last summer, and really enjoyed the female friendship, romance, and dystopian elements. However, I totally think the gorgeous dresses featured on each cover were a big factor in how this series became such a success. Before even knowing what the books were about, this series was the “books with pretty gowns” series. Admittedly, I think I like the dresses on the other covers better than this red one. But the red is certainly striking! And I love the eerie reflections in the background. I think this cover captures more than the others that there is danger lurking around America, as well as her growing strength.

Leviathan by Scott WesterfeldLeviathan
I LOVE THIS SERIES. SO MUCH. I think it’s so underrated and more people need to pick it up. This is the original hardback cover, and it captures the steampunk genre. I think it’s a really gorgeous, neutral cover. But I don’t know if it captures much of the story. The later paperback covers give you bigger hints what this book is about, but I still love the gorgeous design of this cover. This book is an alternate history of WWI where gender roles are flipped and battles are waged with steampunk machines and genetically modified beasties. This series is so clever that I was in awe of Westerfeld’s genius by the end of it. I wrote an entire paper on the gender roles in the book for an independent study in grad school. So good. Read it!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MaasACOTAR
I read this series this past winter to see what all the fuss was about. The fans of this series are intense! While I’m not a fangirl, I was pleasantly surprised with the series as a whole. This first book was not my favorite of the three, but this cover is certainly eye-catching. I love the variety of textures in inky black: lace, scales, feathers, bare tree branches. All of these on a backdrop of red makes for a really sexy and alluring book cover. I’d recommend this series to mature readers who can invest some time. The second book in the series makes the investment worth it with great twists, character growth, and world building.

Fablehaven (Book 5) by Brandon MullFablehaven 5
Another series that I absolutely LOVE!! This is the cover of the final book in the series, which was my favorite. This series is the first fantasy series that I truly enjoyed after Harry Potter. Technically, this series is middle grade, but I think readers of all ages can find something to enjoy. There is a huge cast of characters. A huge magical world that spans multiple continents (yes–you travel around the world in this series)! And tons of unexpected twists. The final book was so satisfying because you saw such growth in the characters, there were high stakes, and a thoughtful resolution. I don’t think this cover truly captures the essence of this series–two kids who strive to protect magical creatures and sanctuaries around the world. The cover looks like some sort of Greek hero story. But if this cover pulls in Percy Jackson readers, I think they’d be so happy with this series. Seriously, these books are underrated fantasy. Everyone should read them!

Some of my favorite books definitely have red covers! Which color covers do you connect with?

Top Two Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early

5b4a8-toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. For a list of upcoming topics and more about this weekly feature, check out her site!

This Week’s Topic:
Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early

Yup. Two books. Not ten. My to-read list is long enough. These are the two books that I’m most excited about in the coming months!

  1. A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa TahirA Reaper at the Gates

    This is one of the only series that I’m seriously invested in at the moment. The characters, world, and plot of Ember in the Ashes and Torch Against the Night are so gripping, fresh, and fascinating. It’s been a long wait for book three, and I am so, so eager to jump back into this world. Laia, Elias, and Helene are all in such perilous situations where there aren’t easy paths to take. I love each of them, but I fear that my heart won’t make it through this series without someone from this trio breaking it.

  2. My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton

    My Plain JaneMy Lady Jane was such a fun romp through an alternate history where Lady Jane Grey gets to keep her head. The voice, humor, and playful tone of this book makes me so gosh darn excited to see what they do with one of my all-time favorite Janes: Jane Eyre. The Goodreads summary:

    Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Which books would you kill for?

Top Ten Books on My To-Read List (Winter 2015)

5b4a8-toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

For more information about Top Ten Tuesday and a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics, click here.

This Week’s Topic:
Top Ten Books on My To-Read List (Winter 2015)

I fell short of my reading goals for 2014, so I have a lot of catching up to do!  These are the books at the top of my list.  All book titles link to Goodreads.


  1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart- I read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks this summer and loved it.  A hardback of We Were Liars is on my bookshelf, calling my name.
  2. The Unwind series by Neal Schusterman- My mom and brother are urging me to finish this series.  They LOVE it.  I really enjoyed the first book, but it’s been well over 5 years since I’ve read it.  I’ll need to do a re-read before tackling Unwholly, UnSouled, and Undivided.
  3. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier- I discovered this book at a new local indie bookstore called Greenrow Books.  If you’re in Maryland, you should totally check them out!  I’ll be teaching Poe soon, and this Victorian ghost story boasted a Poe-type vibe.winter4
  4. Maggie Stiefvater- There was a point where I had read everything Maggie had published.  I’ve since fallen way behind, despite my desire to devour everything she writes.  I’ve started Scorpio Races three times but have never finished.  SinnerDream Thieves, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue are all on my to-read list as well.winter2
  5. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen- This book has tons of buzz, and my mom read it already and passed it on to me after she really enjoyed it.
  6. Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins- Sometimes I need humor in my life, and I can trust Rachel Hawkins to make me laugh!  I loved her Hex Hall series, and I want to check out her latest novel, too!
  7. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas- I have heard nothing but wonderful things about this series, and I feel so late to the party!  Really, really want to read this one! winter3
  8. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate- I am normally so much better about reading the Newbery winners.  This one keeps escaping me, and I really must make time to read it.  I need to read more middle grade this year because I’m running out of books to recommend to my students!
  9. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo- Another series that I keep hearing wonderful things about!  I bought this ages ago and really must finally pick it up!
  10. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers- This series intimidates me because the books are sooooo long.  But it’s another series that people rave about, and I shouldn’t let the book’s weight deter me any longer!

What books are on your to-read list this winter?  Please share!

Top Ten Resolutions for 2015

5b4a8-toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

For more information about Top Ten Tuesday and a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics, click here.

This Week’s Topic:
Top Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2015 — bookish, blogging or otherwise!

Preface: In the past, I’ve set concrete/measurable goals for myself, like read 3-5 contemporary fiction books or write 1,000 words per day.  But I’m not feeling concrete today.  I’m feeling more like I have a vision for what I want 2015 to look like, and below are the parts of that vision.

  1. Guard my Time- Time is precious and limited. I want to use my time for the things most important to me. I want to use my time to write, to read, and to relax with those I love. Success will depend on being conscious of what is sucking time away as well as prioritizing what I spend time on.
  2. Be Kind- I want to be someone who spreads kind words. Someone who does kind deeds. And someone who thinks kind thoughts. The world needs more kindness.
  3. Be Supportive- I want to show support for the people around me. We don’t have to be in competition with each other.  We don’t have to compare our lives to other’s lives.  Let’s be happy for each person’s successes and build people up through their struggles.  That’s the world I want to live in.
  4. Unplug at 9pm- I want to get off social media and get away from shining screens every night by 9pm.  I need time to wind down at the end of the day.  I want to establish better sleep patterns.  Sleep is so important to both health and mood (article about sleep from Washington Post).
  5. Dedicate time to read EVERY DAY- Even if it’s just the twenty minutes before bed, I can make sure I have time to read every day.  I’m a happier person when I’m reading, and I want to be a happy person.
  6. Read Diverse Books- I teach in diverse schools, and I recognize the need for diverse books.  I want to support publishers and authors who are putting diverse books out there for readers.  And I want to have more diverse books to recommend to my students. (
  7. Type up Book Reviews within 3 Days of Finishing Reading- I struggle to compose a thoughtful review unless I do so before starting a new book.  There is that perfect period after finishing a book where you are spinning it around in your head, where the characters still feel real, where you’ve gotten over initial feelings and are becoming objective.  Did I like this?  What would I change?  What did the author do well?  What can they improve?  Once this time period passes or I start a new book, I feel like my reviews become lackluster and far less thoughtful.
  8. Write- I’m happier when I’m doing it.  It helps to turn off the TV in the evenings and disconnect from social media.  But ultimately, I have to make time and make my writing time a ritual.
  9. Cook Food- I’m doing better and better at using my microwave less and my oven more.  I plan menus. I have a growing supply of spices and ingredients in my cabinet.  I feel overall healthier after making my own food.
  10. Squats, Lunges, Leg Lifts- Because reading and writing both involve sitting on my butt.  So I need a strong butt.

What are your goals for 2015?  Please share!

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Reader

5b4a8-toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

For more information about Top Ten Tuesday and a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics, click here.

This Week’s Topic:
Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Reader

  1. Go Anywhere- Whether it be a country, time period, or a fantasy world, books allow you to travel anywhere.  Some of my favorite places I’ve traveled are: Hogwarts, a battle school in space, Prague, and a giant whale airship during WWI.
  2. Be Anything- At this point in my life, I know for the most part which careers I won’t ever pursue.  Writing is kind of my thing.  Working with teens is my thing.  Perhaps someday I’d like to make editing my thing.  But there are a thousand other occupations I can experience through the pages of a book: pilot, mad scientist, princess, detective, archeologist, astronaut, revolutionary… The list goes on.
  3. Using My Imagination- Who doesn’t want to be a kid again?  One part of what is so special about being a kid is not knowing life’s limitations.  Every door is wide open.  And part of that comes with the young’s unique imagination.  When I read, part of that essence of being a kid comes back to me.  When reading, I can suspend my disbelief and allow my imagination to open up possibilities that as an adult, I know now aren’t really possible.  Reading is still a place where anything is possible, with the help of a little imagination.
  4. Libraries are Free- As a reader, my entertainment can be 100% free–thanks to libraries!  I recently read this little anecdote in a speech by Lois Lowry (Arbuthnot Speech, 2011):

    Annika said something in German to my granddaughter, who translated for her. “She wants to know how much it costs to use the library.”
    I told them it was free.
    Yes. Free.
    “Do other towns have free libraries?” they asked.
    By now we were in the car. I sat there for a minute, thinking about the geography of the area, then said, “I’m going to show you something.”

    Lowry goes on to drive them by several public libraries all within a small radius of her home, and at the end of the tour, while eating ice cream, the visiting German girls proclaim that libraries are the best thing in the United States.  Reading this story made me truly appreciative of the fact that I not only have a free library, but a stunningly beautiful one just two miles from my home.  I have thousands of books at my fingertips, which would certainly be more than people in other parts of the world have access to.

  5. Reading Fiction is Good for the Brain- A recent study showed that reading fiction boosts brain activity, and not just while reading, but for up to five days after finishing a book.  Scientists are calling it a type of muscle memory.  I always feel more positive, clear-headed, and productive after finishing a good book, but I always just attributed it to being in a good mood.  But this study would suggest that after finishing a work of fiction, your brain actually gets a power boost that goes on for days.  Who’s going to be making more time for reading?  This girl!
  6. Reading Makes You a More Empathetic Person- Another recent scientific study found that reading literary fiction improves a reader’s ability to understand what another person is thinking and feeling.  Nonfiction, popular fiction, and genre fiction did not have the same results.  But literary fiction showed a significant increase in empathy and understanding.  Perhaps the expression, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes” should instead be “put yourself in someone else’s narrative.”
  7. Reading is Both Relaxing and Exciting- Reading is my form of relaxing in the evening.  Curling up under a blanket with tea and a book is idyllic.  But when I’m in the middle of a page-turner, I can tell you that my heart is literally racing.  The duality of a book being both relaxing and inciting racing heart-palpitations is a uniquely wonderful experience.
  8. Books are Better than Movies- Isn’t this a universal fact?  The book is always better than the movie.
  9. Never Ending Supply of Books- It is physically impossible to read every book ever written on this Earth.  How glorious is it that you will never run out of new, fresh stories to read?  While I sometimes feel daunted by my to-read pile, it is actually a wonderful thing to have so many great stories waiting for me to enjoy.
  10. Belief in the Power of Words- I believe that books have the power to change the world.  Whether it’s through spreading knowledge, creating empathy, inspiring the future, or simply providing pleasure, I sincerely believe in the power of words.

Whew!  What a Top Ten Tuesday!  I think this may be one of my favorites because writing the post has left me feeling so many warm, fuzzy feelings about reading.

Three cheers for being a reader!

Any great parts of being a reader I missed?  Please share!

Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. For more information about Top Ten Tuesday and a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics, click here.



J.K. Rowling
(Harry Potter series)

  • Does this need any explanation?
Shannon Hale
(Books of Bayern series, Princess Academy)
  • Every single book that I’ve read by Shannon Hale, I’ve loved. She writes beautifully, and I’m always enchanted.
Scott Westerfeld
(Leviathan series, Uglies series)
  • Westerfeld is a master at world-building. Period.
Lois Lowry
(The Giver, Number the Stars)
  • Lois Lowry is a children’s lit legend. I’ve bought many of her books, though these two are my favorites.
Marissa Meyer
(Lunar Chronicles series)
  • I’m thoroughly engrossed in this series, and I love what a huge scope the story has and such a wide cast of characters. Confident I will enjoy anything Marissa writes.
Laini Taylor
(Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight)
  • Laini Taylor’s writing is so beautiful and captivating. And her imagination is amazing.
Maggie Stiefvater
(Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Scorpio Races, Raven Boys)
  • I’ve enjoyed all of Maggie’s books for their originality and gorgeous writing.
Kristin Cashore
(Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue)
  • Cashore writes fresh, original fantasy with strong heroines.
Cynthia Hand
(Unearthly series)
  • I can’t wait to see what Hand does next because I loved her blend of contemporary and fantasy, as well as her emphasis on positive family relationships.
Stephanie Perkins
(Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door)
  • This is the first contemporary/realistic fiction author that I can honestly say I ADORE.
Who are your auto-buy authors?  Do we have any in common???

Top Ten Favorite Characters in Harry Potter

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. For more information about Top Ten Tuesday and a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics, click here.
Top Ten Favorite Characters in Harry Potter

Today’s Top Ten Topic is technically “Top Ten Favorite Characters in ______ Genre” but I decided I didn’t want to do a single genre, and instead would like to do Harry Potter.  Last year, at this time, I was in Harry Potter World down in Orlando, Florida.  And I’m feeling quite homesick.  I need some HP in my life right now…

These are in order.  With my number 1 being my MOST FAVORITE.

10. Hagrid
I was so worried that Hagrid might die in the last book, and was so relieved that he didn’t.  Hagrid loved Harry so much.  It was a genuine, total, complete kind of love.  Between his dialect and his distinctive appearance and quirks, Hagrid was such a memorable character from the series.

9. Mrs. Weasley
We all loved Mrs. Weasley’s shining moment against Bellatrix in the last book.  I both laughed and cheered.  But Mrs. Weasley was also that perfect mom.  Stern but loving.  Held the family together.  I have a super wonderful mom, but if I had to have a wizard mother… I’d want Molly Weasley.

8. Fred and George
This series wouldn’t have been as fun without the Weasley twins.  From their epic departure from Hogwarts in Order of the Phoenix to their “Holey” jokes, they provided comedic relief when we needed it most.  They showcased Rowling’s brilliant sense of humor, and I adore them.

7. Minerva McGonagall
Do I have a soft spot for McGonagall because she’s played by Maggie Smith in the movies?  Very likely.  But when she commands the knights and gargoyles to defend Hogwarts in the last book, I couldn’t help but cheer.  McGonagall was such an image of strength and loyalty throughout the series.

6. Severus Snape
The complex character.  The double agent.  I predicted early on that Snape was a good guy and connected to Harry’s mother.  Rowling did a lovely job of leaving us hints about Snape throughout the series, and his backstory was so beautifully revealed.

5. Albus Dumbledore
I loved everything about Dumbledore.  He is everything you want in a classic wizard: long beard, swirling robes, wise words, powerful magic.  But it was the twinkle in his eye, his love of lemon drops, and his wish for new socks that bumped him to near the top of my list.  I loved that he was a great and powerful wizard, but also so very human, too.

4. Dobby
I cried harder for Dobby than I did any other character in the series.  And he’s a house elf?!?!  Am I crazy?  No, I don’t think I am.  I loved Dobby for three reasons.  He had ambition.  He refused to aid evil.  He was loyal.  And as I’ve said before on my blog, sacrifice is one of those things that really gets to me.  Giving your life for another person is something that is sure to make me bawl.

3. Hermione Granger
I love Hermione, probably because I completely understand her.  I’ve had people get annoyed with me because I’ve come off as a know-it-all.  I love books and would be more than happy to spend all my time in the library.  And my solution to most problems would be to do research.  Bonus points for Hermione for also being brave, strong, loyal, and loving.

2. Luna Lovegood
I have Luna’s wand!  It’s shaped like a tulip!

Luna made me laugh and I loved her quirky personality.  Luna is another character who is exceptionally loyal.  She is a great example of someone who is brave by going against the crowd and believing in something even if it’s not popular.  I admire that.

1. Sirius Black
What wouldn’t I give for a seven book series about the Marauders, preferably from Sirius’ point-of-view?  J.K. Rowling, that would make me the happiest girl in the world.  I wrote some Sirius Black fanfiction back in the day because I was so fascinated by Sirius’ rebellious backstory.  Being put in Gryffindor when his entire family was Slytherin.  Him running away from home.  His flying motorbike.    Everything about Sirius fascinates me, and I loved visiting Grimmauld Place or his visits with Harry.  Was not a huge fan of Gary Oldman though… pictured Sirius as more devilishly handsome.  But I do think Gary Oldman had the godfather role down.  And Sirius was a great godfather.

And as a side note… Did you hear about the 15th Anniversary covers?  I heard Kazu Kibuishi speak at the 2011 National Book Festival (writer and illustrator of the Amulet graphic novels) and I think his covers are GORGEOUS.  I love the detail, and I think he picked such a iconic, memorable moment to feature on the cover of Sorcerer’s Stone.

Kazu at the 2011 National Book Festival

The 15th Anniversary Cover

I know I left out some lovely characters from Harry Potter… (Neville, Ginny, Lupin, Tonks, Mad-Eye, Arthur Weasley, Kreacher, Dudley)  It was so hard!  Who would have been your top picks?  What do you think of the 15th Anniversary cover for Sorcerer’s Stone?

Top Ten Best Bookish Memories

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. For more information about Top Ten Tuesday and a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics, click here.
Top Ten Bookish Memories

(And I promise not all of them are Harry Potter memories!  Just four of them…)

Persuading my Little Brother 
to Read Harry Potter
I’m beginning with my Harry Potter memories.  I wish I had more documentation of this part of my life in photographs, but I don’t think I realized at the time how much this period of my life would end up meaning to me.  I began reading Harry Potter in 8th and 9th grade.  And after plowing through the first three books, I wanted other people to read them.  Especially my younger brothers.

I’m pretty sure I got one younger brother to read them fairly easily.  But my other brother, who is four years younger than me and would have been in 5th or 6th grade was a much tougher audience to persuade.  I think Harry Potter might have been too challenging for him to read at the time because he was still reading mostly Magic Treehouse books.

But I was relentless.  I turned to bribery.

My brother is going to be a magnificent game designer someday, and even back then at age 11, he was creating made-up games for us to play.  His favorite made-up game at the time was called “Pokémon LIVE!”  Which pretty much involved him acting like Pokémon and me being the trainer and acting out the video game.  I hated playing this game because every time we played I had to start from the beginning again because we didn’t have a good method of recording our progress in Pokémon LIVE!

So my form of bribery was that I would play one whole hour of Pokémon LIVE! for every chapter of Harry Potter that he read.  I was such a good sister.  And it turns out… I converted him… As you can see from the evidence below…

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 
Book Release
I actually wasn’t allowed to go to the midnight release party for Goblet of Fire.  We were at my grandparents’ house at the beach, and my parents told us they would go and pick up the book at midnight so that it would be waiting for us in the morning.  

Well, we might not have been allowed to go to the release party, but we definitely didn’t go to sleep like we were told.  My brothers and I shared one bedroom at my grandparents’ house, and we spent the night talking.  It is one of my favorite childhood memories: staying up with my brothers, rebelling against our parents’ wishes, too excited to sleep over a Harry Potter book.  

When we heard our parents get back, we all pretended to be asleep.  They put the book on our bedside table, and as soon as they were out of earshot, we crowded together to read the first chapter.  We didn’t do more than the first chapter because I think we got frustrated that we all read at different speeds (and we couldn’t read aloud because our parents would hear us).  But that excitement and bonding moment with my brothers is definitely one of my favorite bookish memories.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 
Book Release
This is another memory that involves the beach, my brother, and Harry Potter.  Notice a trend?  This summer, I spent entirely at the beach with my youngest brother (the one pictured above).

And this time, we did attend the midnight release party at the same bookstore that my parents had purchased Goblet of Fire.  We made a whole evening of it.  First going out to dinner and then strolling the boardwalk and buying huge bags of Jelly Belly’s to eat while we waited in line (and pretend we were eating Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans).  We didn’t dress up, though I distinctly remember a Bellatrix being near us in line.

I accidentally drove North instead of South for several miles on the way home that night because I was so distracted by my excitement.  But I treasure that I got to spend this final book release with my brother at one of my favorite bookstores, munching on jelly beans.  Good times.

Harry Potter World
I made the trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter last year for my birthday.  My whole family went with me, and we experienced the magic together.  I chronicled my trip in a series of blog posts (with lots of pictures!) below:

Rereading these posts makes me want to go back!  Can you be homesick for a theme park?  Because I am… sigh.

National Book Festival 2009
I am a Washington D.C. native, which makes me one very lucky girl.  Why?  Because every year I’m able to go to the National Book Festival and hear amazing authors speak for free.

In 2009, it was freezing cold and rainy.  I was not a veteran Book Festival attendee back then, and silly me brought a whole backpack of books to be autographed.  Backpacks full of books are heavy.  My shoulders were sore by the end of the day, and most of my books had some sort of water damage from the rain soaking through my backpack.

Nevertheless, this was the year that I met Lois Lowry and Shannon Hale for the first time.  Lois Lowry was such a trooper signing for hours in such cold, damp weather.  Shannon Hale was so incredibly cheerful and adorable and delightful, that after this meeting I went on to read all of her books.  (I’d only read Princess Academy when I met her, but her Books of Bayern series is outstanding!)

Below is a picture of me (with wet hair and my heavy backpack of books) with the legendary Lois Lowry:

National Book Festival 2010
This year was probably my favorite in my National Book Festival experiences so far.  I learned my lesson about lugging around books, and this year I didn’t bring any.  Instead, I brought snacks and water, which was incredibly smart of me because this year it was hot.  And instead of standing around in lines all day, I parked myself in the Children’s/Teen Tent all day and heard so many fabulous authors speak.  (This is the way I recommend doing the National Book Festival: find a good seat and stay there all day.)  Some of my favorites of the day include Suzanne Collins, Phillip Hoose & Claudette Colvin, Rebecca Stead, M.T. Anderson, and Michael Buckley.

Below is a picture of the wonderful Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal winner for When You Reach Me.

National Book Festival 2011
This year I was really a pro at the Book Festival, and so was my mom, who is a fabulous photographer.  So for the 2011 National Book Festival, I actually did an entire blog post on the day with clear photographs (I didn’t really have many good photos from the previous years).  Authors include: Sarah Dessen, Katherine Paterson & John Rocco, Jack Gantos, Gordon Korman, Cassandra Clare, Brian Selznick, Rita Williams-Garcia, Kazu Kibuishi, and Rachel Renee Russell.  You can read my full post with details on each of the authors:

And here is a picture of Brian Selznick because he was my favorite of the weekend:

National Book Festival 2012
This year I didn’t see quite as many authors speak because my friend, Caroline, was visiting and she really wanted to get autographs, and I stood in line with her.  But I did hear John Green (and I had just finished The Fault in Our Stars), so that was especially amazing because I’d never had the pleasure of hearing John Green speak.  The crowd reacted to him as if he were a ROCK STAR.  Screaming and shrieking.  And it was 10am.  Pretty wild.

I also heard Lois Lowry speak about her new book, Son, which is a sequel to The Giver.  She was wonderful.  You could tell she really enjoyed writing this book, and she seemed so happy to be there and in a much better mood than the rainy day I first saw her on in 2009.

The last speaker I heard this year was Maggie Stiefvater, who I’ve seen before.  She was energetic and entertaining and brilliant as always.

Below is close-up of John Green that my mom took:

Meeting Kristin Cashore
I just met Kristin Cashore this past year when she was touring for Bitterblue, and it was extra special because she was in part responsible for how I managed to find my MFA program in Children’s Literature.  If you want to hear the whole story, you can check out my post on meeting her:

And here is a picture from the event:

Meeting Maggie Stiefvater (the first time)
Maggie is one of my favorite authors, and I first met her when she was on tour for Scorpio Races in 2011.  Maggie lives in Virginia, so she’s actually in my area quite often, but I kept missing her because I’d always have things going on when she’d have an event.  She is such a great speaker, and you should definitely hear her if you get a chance.  Not only was meeting her great, but I also won a doodled on copy of Scorpio Races at this event.  You can check out the whole post on meeting Maggie here:

And a picture from the event:

I’m so excited to read about other people’s best bookish memories!  Feel free to share in the comments or leave me a link to your post!

Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. For more information about Top Ten Tuesday and a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics, click here.
Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters

These are in the order that they occurred to me…

1. Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
She was the first person to pop into my mind, likely because she’s so evil… yet so pink… and a cat lady… She made all those rules and called Harry a liar.  And yet there was nothing we could do to stop her.  She wasn’t your traditional villain that you could fight back against, and so she was FRUSTRATING.  You wanted to fight back and couldn’t.

2. Rita Skeeter from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
This was another frustrating character because she was a liar.  I must not like characters who lie.  I understood Harry’s frustration as she kept publishing false articles about him.  And just the image of her sucking on her Quick Quotes Quill makes me want to seethe.  And who wears lime green all the time?  Really?

3. Bella Swan from the Twilight series
Oh, Bella.  You frustrate me in so many ways.  I’m sure she is going to be on a lot of people’s lists.  I wish she’d been a stronger character.  I wish she stood up to Edward when he was being a manipulative boyfriend.  I wish she hadn’t just moped for months when Edward left her.  I wish she hadn’t been so focused on having sex with Edward.  I wish she had some interests outside of becoming a vampire.  I wish she had a vampire power that was better than making protective bubbles.

4. Seth from the Fablehaven series
I seriously LOVE this middle grade fantasy series, but I don’t think I reviewed it here on the blog… Need to remedy that!  Seth is a GREAT character, but I found him frustrating because he was a rule breaker.  If you tell him not to do something, he’ll do it.  If you tell him “SERIOUSLY! DON’T DO THIS OR YOU’LL DIE!” Seth will still do it.  He was the perfect balance to his rule following sister, but he still drove me nuts with all his rule breaking.  Though he made for great conflict and tension.

I seriously LOVE this series.  The later books are so, so good!

5. Romeo from Romeo and Juliet
Gah!  Romeo!  You are so emo and mopey and moody.  And you jump from girl to girl.  And then you do stupid stuff like kill your wifey’s cousin.  And then even stupider things like buy the most deadly poison to kill yourself.  You pretty much ruined your own life as well as Juliet’s in my opinion.  Poor Juliet.  She was by far the stronger character.

6. Tris in Insurgent
I did not understand why Tris was making certain choices in Insurgent.  I don’t have my copy of the book because it is loaned out, and my memory isn’t good enough to cite specific examples.  But allow me to quote my review:

“Four keeps showing Tris that he stands by her and cares about her, and honestly, I don’t know if I would have put up with some of the things Tris did.  Granted she just lost her parents and killed someone she didn’t want to kill, but some decisions she made caused my brain to scream a little in frustration.”

 7. Miranda from This World We Live In
Miranda went through so much in book one, and grew so much as a person, and then in book three she seemed to revert to her self-centered, immature self.  I was incredibly frustrated by this, and it kind of ruined the book for me.  A book I’d really looked forward to.

8. Cassia in Matched and Crossed
Cassia frustrates me because I don’t understand what she sees in Ky.  I like Xander, who is handsome, clever, and loyal.  But for some reason Cassia likes Ky the martyr.  I still haven’t read Reached, and I am still debating whether I want to invest time in finishing this series because I had a hard time with book two.

9. St. John Rivers in Jane Eyre
St. John Rivers is such a cold and emotionless character.  He has the makings of a good man: how he wants to be a missionary and how he looks after his sisters and Jane.  But he is so strange and cold.  When he is asking Jane to be his wife and to go to India with him, I wanted to scream at Jane because she couldn’t possibly be happy with such a cold man.  So I was probably mostly frustrated by him because I didn’t want Jane to end up with him!

10. Miss Havisham from Great Expectations
On the one hand, she’s a very memorable character.  On the other hand… GET OUT OF YOUR FREAKING WEDDING DRESS ALREADY.  Don’t you want to shake her and tell her to live her life???  Being jilted at the alter is terrible, but wasting your whole life because of one event is an even bigger tragedy.

I’m so excited to see everyone’s lists this week!  What characters were you frustrated by?

Top Ten Settings I Want to See More Of

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. For more information about Top Ten Tuesday and a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics, click here.
Top Ten Settings I Want to See More Of…

These are in the order that they occurred to me…

1. Alternate History
After finishing Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series and being in total awe of how he created his own story within the context of history, I want more stories like this!  I love the idea of looking at how history could have turned out differently.

2. Time Travel
I love the idea of time travel and think there are so many possibilities to explore.  Not only could this encompass a variety of different settings, but I also love the idea of what you do in one setting impacting the future setting.  Butterfly effect.

3. Ancient Times
Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, Ancient China… I want to go back to these great empires.  No doubt these were exciting times.  I’m a fan of escapist fiction and any of these ancient times would make for a great escape from our technology driven reality.

4. Victorian Era
This somewhat translates into my desire for more steampunk.  This period fascinates me, from the style of dress, to the fascination with spiritualism and natural history, to industrialization.  It was such an exciting time of growth and discovery with so many possibilities.

5. World War I
This probably comes from my current love of Downton Abbey.  I see plenty of literature focused on World War II, but far less about World War I.  I can see strong tragic romance possibilities because so many young men died.

6. Futuristic, but not Dystopian/Apocalyptic
I’m a huge fan of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, but it might be fun to explore a less grim view of our future.  I still want conflict and challenges, but maybe something that isn’t “the government is out to get us” or “the world is ending.”  Perhaps something with awesome gadgets and mystery and adventure.

7. American Revolution
This is another time period that I think is really exciting and inspiring.  Felicity was my favorite American Girl, and I loved how exciting her stories were.  I’d love to see some spunky heroines, perhaps on both sides of the Revolution.

8. Wild West
Trains, cowboys, pioneers in the rough and expansive landscape of the Wild West are full of possibilities.  This is a unique setting that we see little of in YA.  And hot cowboys?  Yes, please.

9. During Travel (Trains, Planes, Zeppelins, Ships)
There’s something romantic about long trips because it’s just long enough to establish a connection, and then there’s the threat of what to do when you arrive at the destination.  Titanic is an obvious one, but I also read this book a long time ago called Hindenburg, 1937 that was a romance aboard a doomed zeppelin (with Nazis) and it was such an engaging setting!  I’d also love to see some stories aboard trains.  I really like trains.

10. Sports Arenas
I want more books featuring girl athletes.  One of my favorite movies is Bend It Like Beckham.  I played on travel volleyball teams and even though that movie was about a soccer team, it still resonated with me.  I can’t think of a single book I enjoyed about a girl athlete…  So clearly we need more!