READING & CHRISTMAS MOVIE-WATCHING: November 2019 Wrap Up

November has been what feels like both the longest and shortest month of my year. This month was even more filled with school assignments- four research papers due the first week in December- and related things. I fortunately had some really fun experiences with my friends and family this month. I plan on doing a If We Were Having Coffee: The Fall Semester edition in December, filling you on some in real-life happenings of mine over these past few months- and some very exciting things planned for the new year!

Returning to bookish and fangirl things, I’ve so far read 5 books this month while still completing Schitt’s Creek. Given how crazy school life was in November, I’m both content with the amount of books that I read and wish that I had read more. With my winter break approaching, I’m really excited to have more time to unwind and dedicate to reading and blogging next month.

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All-American Muslim Girlby Nadine Jolie Courtney | 4.5-/5 Stars

All-American Muslim Girlwas my surprise favorite and a new contemporary favorite for me this month. It took me some time to settle in, but I absolutely adored the character development and emphasis on family and faith.

 When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis | 3/5

When the Stars Lead to Youwas unfortunately my most disappointing read of the month. While I appreciated that it handled some heavy issues, I wasn’t a fan of its execution.


The Toll
(Arc of a Scythe #3)by Neal Shusterman | 5/5

I am here to admit that I definitely neglected those four school research projects for a few hours at a time this month to dive into the 625 page beast that was Neal Shusterman’s The Toll. And it was worth it!

Renegades by Marissa Meyer | 5/5 

I officially cannot believe that it took me over two years to pick up Marissa Meyer’s Renegades because I loved it so much!

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren | 4/5 

I finally read The Unhoneymooners! This was such a fun and flirty read and would make for the perfect one-sitting read over your holiday break.

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My Favorite Music in 2019

Wrap-up season is officially upon us! While I’ll be getting into the TV/film and bookish goodness very soon, today I’ll be focusing on my favorite albums of the year. I don’t talk about music too much on the blog, but I would love to incorporate it more. Music primarily gets discussed here on Fangirl Fury in music-inspired book reviews, music-inspired book tags, and in the life happenings sections of some of my monthly wrap ups. I am by no means a music connoisseur—I have no idea how to talk about music using music terminology/lingo – but like many, I absolutely love listening to it. In the future, I’d like to include occasional blog posts about what songs and artists I’m currently listening to.

My 2019 favorites are split in three categories: albums that came out in 2019, music that I discovered in 2019, and music I especially revisited in 2019. I’ve also tried to keep my favorite songs to a 5 song minimum.

2019 Releases

taylor-swift-lover-album-art-1560458980-640x640-1560529343Lover // Taylor Swift- While I enjoyed the single releases leading up to Lover, I was a bit nervous how the album would come together because “Me!,” “Lover,” “You Need to Calm Down,” and “The Archer” all sounded so different. However, this album completely delivered! As long as I don’t have anything too crazy going on in life by then, I am determined to go to Lover Fest. It of course has its own sounds, but if I had to describe it in T-Swift terms, Lover combines the sound of 1989 and Reputation but its messages and song lyric quality is very similar to Red.

Favorite Songs: “Lover,” “Soon You’ll Get Better,” “I Forgot That You Existed,” “I Think He Knows,” and “Cornelia Street”

Sing to Me Instead // Ben Platt- After devouring The Politician in September and October, I went on a Ben Platt kick and found myself head over heels in love with Sing to Me Instead. I love the music video so much for “Grow As We Go,” and “Run Away” is actually incorporated into The Politician– River and Payton play it together on the piano.

Favorite Songs: “Grow As We Go,” “Run Away,” “Better,” “Honest Man,” and “Share Your Address”

Music from The Politician // Ben Platt and Co. – Spoiler for my favorite 2019 TV and movies wrap-up, but The Politician is one of the many shows that stole my heart this year. One of the many reasons why is the show’s incorporation of music- while it wasn’t necessary to the plot, the covers were just so well done.

Songs/Covers: “River,” “Unworthy of Your Love,” “Vienna”

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READING MY MOST ANTICIPATED 2019 SERIES FINALE: The Toll Review

Ever since I devoured Neal Shusterman’s Scythe and Thunderhead back in February 2018, I had been waiting to eat up the final book in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, The Toll. Since the book came out in early November, aka finals prep and paper writing season in this English and Communications major’s world, I thought I would wait until Thanksgiving break to read it. That being said, I only waited one week after its release to pick it up and definitely avoided a research paper or four while reading this 625 page beast.

Although I will be an absolute paper writing machine during the last week of classes, I have no regret reading The Toll over 6 days- I honestly would’ve finished it sooner if it hadn’t been for school- because it was such a satisfying series finale!517PsnK17hL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

My review format is going to be different for The Toll. For the sake of spoilers, I will not be providing a summary of the book, and I will be splitting my thoughts into non-spoilers and spoilers sections. The first book, Scythe, follows teenagers Citra and Rowan who live in a world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery, no natural death. Scythes are the only individuals who can end life and must do so to control the size of the population. When Citra and Rowan are chosen as apprentices to the same scythe, neither wants the role, but they soon find themselves entangled in the politics and inner workings of the scythedom.

 

My Rating: 5/5

My Non-Spoiler Thoughts:

 I had such a great reading experience with The Toll. Even at its 625 pages, I ate it up so quickly. I really enjoyed being transported back into the world, finding that I had to read at least fifty pages per sitting. There are so many different narratives and perspectives in The Toll. While I admit that I preferred some over others, I still enjoyed them all and couldn’t get over the connections to one another. All 3 books in the series are definitely the type that call for having a notebook on hand to note plot happenings or details and see how they play out later. I’m 50-50 for my predictions coming out correctly for the series.

The main reason why I had been screaming for The Toll for almost two years was Thunderhead’s cliffhanger ending. Much of the theorizing and predicting about The Toll has to do with when the story would actually start, and when and even if we would be reunited with our original two main characters. There are even more characters and narratives involved in The Toll, which I ended up really enjoyed because it expanded the world even more.  I wasn’t expecting too much more of that with the finale, but there’s so much exploration with the Tonists and the founding scythes. I really liked the exploration of the former, especially since this followed Faraday and Munira. Along with being reunited with the first two book’s casts, we are also introduced to a variety of new characters within each plot thread. That being said, there was a lot less Citra/Anastasia and Rowan than I expected.

I admit that I have a love-hate relationship with how much the Thunderhead has to do with the main plot of the novel. Call me dark, but I really liked exploring the scythedom element more so than the Thunderhead and technology. Like my Thunderhead feels, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Thunderhead’s iterations or exceprts before some chapters. I definitely preferred excepts from the scythe journals and statements and interpretations about the Toll and the Tonists. I really wish the Thunderhead actually hadn’t been so involved in the main plot at all. I know some readers will argue that of course the Thunderhead helps the main characters against the scythedom out a lot.

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Highest Rated Goodreads Books I’ve Read

Let’s be honest, I’ve had the highest rated Goodreads book inspired-posts on my blogging-to write list from the start of Fangirl Fury. Flash forward July 2019, where I finally talked about the highest Goodreads books on my TBR (update: I’ve since only read 1 book on this list).

That being said, we are going to fulfill the second half of my Goodreads-blogging quest today by talking about some of the best rated books on my Goodreads ‘read’ shelf. Spoiler alert, but since I realized that the first ten books on my ‘read’ shelf were mostly composed of Sarah J. Mass and Harry Potter, I’ve decided to just mention the highest rated A Court of Thorns and RosesThrone of Glass, and HP books. As someone who mostly reads contemporary, I find it so interesting that the following books are mostly fantasy and other genres that are not contemporary.

How do I organize my Goodreads shelves by rating?

There are two ways to organize your Want to Read shelf by rating. You can first view your shelf by list and then click on avg. rating, or you can just select select avg. rating at the bottom of the screen. To organize from highest to lowest, make sure the triangle next to avg. rating is pointing down (click on the triangle to do so) or select the desc. bubble at the bottom.

 

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Avg Rating: 4.67

I am a firm believer that Chapter 55 alone is what makes this book the highest rated on my read shelf.

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Avg Rating: 4.61

I tend to love series sequels more than the first book, so it’s not really too much of a surprise that Crooked Kingdom is my favorite in the Six of Crows duology—Wylan’s chapters in this CK sealed the deal for me.

 

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #7)

Avg Rating: 4.61

Kingdom of Ash isn’t my absolute favorite book in the Throne of Glass series—hello Queen of Shadows (which happens to be the second highest rated ToG book with an average rating of 4.56)- but nonetheless, I have much love for this book. This epic finale deserves all the stars.

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MORE 2019 TBR PLANS: End of Year Book Tag 2019

Yearly wrap-up season is one of my favorite times of the year in the book blogging community. This time of the year allows us to reflect on what we’ve read this year—and what we still have yet to read! The End of Year Book Tag is such a nice blend of the two. This tag was created by Ariel of Ariel Bissett.

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

I’m currently not in the middle of any books that I’m worried about not being able to finish by the end of the year. I always attempt to not start a book in the previous year and continue it in the new year(aka starting a book in 2019 then finishing it 2020). It’s definitely a weird reading quirk of mine that happens to never work out— I remember one year I finished Lola and the Boy Next Door on New Year’s Eve only to start Isla and the Happily Ever After about two hours before the ball dropped!

Do you have a book or an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

We are basically past autumn where I live- we had snow in the forecast last week- so I’m looking for books that will bring me into winter. I’ve read a few atmospheric reads in October and November that have done so, like Shea Ernshaw’s Winterwood, but I think Josie Silver’s One Day in December will do the trick.

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My Disney+ Watchlist

When Disney+ was first announced, I wasn’t that excited.

The day before Disney+ came out I wasn’t that excited.

I am a Disney fan, and an even bigger Pixar fan, but I didn’t really want to subscribe to another streaming service. My family subscribes to Amazon Prime and Netflix. I’m either going to have to subscribe to Hulu or borrow my friend’s account info. when Little Fires Everywhere comes out and I finally check out Looking for Alaska. On Disney+’s launch day, my best friend and I scrolled through her account and I realized how much I really wanted Disney+.

Disney+ basically has EVERYTHING that is even the slightest bit related to Disney– and yes, that includes nearly, if not every, Disney Channel Original Movie. Fortunately, Santa decided to come early for my family this year and I am officially a Disney+ subscriber. I’m really looking forward to some of their original content, as well as ALL the Disney Channel Original Movies and TV show rewatching.

Originals & New To Me Movies

Noelle Before I had Disney+, Noelle was the one movie I knew I’d watch with my Disney+ subscribing friends. Everyone knows that I need to watch Christmas movie ever, especially this one starring Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader and Billy Eichner. Anna Kendrick and Billy Hader play Santa’s daughter and son, Noelle and Nick, as they prepare for their father’s retirement.

Encore! I didn’t watch Kristen Bell’s Encore! when it was on ABC in 2017, but I’m so excited to follow this weekly docuseries. The show reunites high school alumni to recreate the musicals they performed while in school.

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WINTER MOOD READ: Winterwood Review

Summary (from the publisher): Be careful of the dark, dark wood . . .

51kGgJIqgeL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago

 

 My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

 My Thoughts:

During the latter half of the fall season and beginning of winter, my bookish soul especially craves books whose atmosphere matches the weather – and makes for the perfect blanket and tea companion. Enter Shea Ernshaw’s recent release, Winterwood. The book follows Nora Walker, whose family is rumored to be composed of witches, when she finds Oliver stranded in the woods after a bad snow storm. Nora is set to determine what led to Oliver being lost and her feelings for this lost boy.

Ordinarily, I feel like Winterwood is the type of book that I wouldn’t like. I often have a love-hate relationship with spooky books set in the woods (it’s a trope, okay?) , but I fell in love with Winterwood. Told primarily from Nora’s perspective, with a few chapters from Oliver’s perspective, I really loved Shea Ernshaw’s writing style. There was such a nice balance between the plot and action, but also Nora’s looking back on her family’s past and the nature setting in general.

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My favorite part of the book was learning more about Nora’s family and their magical history. Nora is both comforted and haunted by memories of her grandmother, who encouraged Nora to understand her family history. On the other hand, Nora’s mother wishes that her daughter would leave their secrets behind. I could never put the book  down when I came to one of the many excerpts from the Walker family spell book. I found the spells to be so clever in how they connected to the described witch’s power, but I also wonder if Shea Ernshaw tested out any! Nora is the only witch in her family whose nightshade, or power, has not come to light just yet. I loved her connection to the woods, the Wicker Woods, and nature overall. I loved learning about the lost items that pop up in the woods.

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When the Stars Lead to You Review & Favorite Quotes

Summary (from the publisher):
Eighteen-year-old Devon longs for two things. starscov

The stars.
And the boy she fell in love with last summer.

When Ashton breaks Devon’s heart at the end of the most romantic and magical summer ever, she thinks her heart will never heal again. But over the course of the following year, Devon finds herself slowly putting the broken pieces back together.

Now it’s senior year, and she’s determined to enjoy every moment of it as she prepares for a future studying the galaxies. That is, until Ashton shows up on the first day of school. Can she forgive him and open her heart again? Or are they doomed to repeat history?

From debut author, Ronni Davis, comes a stunning novel about passion, loss, and the power of first love.

 

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Kobo | iBooks | IndieBound 

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My Rating: 3/5 Stars

My Thoughts:
I’m always up for contemporary romance, not to mention one where the romance begins at the beach. When the Stars Lead to You starts with Devon and Ashton’s summer romance at the shore. The two spend many summer nights under the stars- Devon is a budding astrophysicist after all. But when Ashton breaks Devon’s heart at the very end of the summer, it takes a long time for her heart to heal. After the next summer, Devon enters her senior year ready to enjoy every moment with her best friend and compete for a spot in her #1 college’s astrophysics program—until Ashton shows up on the first day of school.

When the Stars Lead to You starts off with a very sweet romance, as Ashton and Devon spend the summer together. As someone who is trying to brace herself for the upcoming winter weather, I loved being transported to warm summer days at the beach. I didn’t mind the insta-love too much because I knew based off the synopsis that Aston and Devon wouldn’t be starting the school year together. However, that’s where my love for the insta-love ended.

Between their summer romance and the development of their relationship during the school year, Ashton and Devon’s relationship moves very fast. While I don’t mind insta-love sometimes, their relationship moved too far too fast. While I’ll get into their relationship more, I also found some of their dialogue a bit cringe-worthy. Although I guess it was somewhat predictable, I didn’t even understand why Devon decided to rush into another relationship with Ashton. However, I do understand why Ashton decided to end things to the first place because of his struggles with depression.

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Top Five Wednesday: Favorite 2019 Book Covers

2019 has not only been filled with ALL the amazing books, but also ALL the amazing covers for said books. For today’s Top Five Wednesday, I’ll be sharing my top five favorite covers for 2019 releases.

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 Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo– Google Images does not do Ninth House‘s cover justice. I love the way the snake pops out on the physical copy.

Maybe This Time by Kasie West– For a while, I wasn’t in love with real people on book covers, but the 2019 cover game has changed this for me. Maybe This Time is definitely my favorite Kasie West book cover and overall captures the story’s aesthetic.

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 There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon – I firmly believe that Sandhya Menon has some of the best book covers in the YA world. Regarding There’s Something About Sweetie specifically, I love the contrast of those purple and primary splashes of color. I also love the back of the book featuring Dimple and Ashish on the track. As expected, since the Dimple and Rishi books are now considered a companion series, I really love how When Dimple Met Rishi, There’s Something About Sweetie, and now 10 Things I Hate About Pinky flow so well together. While not part of the series, From Twinkle, with Love also falls into their aesthetic. 

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ALL-FAVORITE READ: All-American Muslim Girl Review

Summary (from the publisher):Allie Abraham has it all going for her—she’s a 91AwIiYLSnL.jpgstraight-A student, with good friends and a close-knit family, and she’s dating cute, popular, and sweet Wells Henderson. One problem: Wells’s father is Jack Henderson, America’s most famous conservative shock jock…and Allie hasn’t told Wells that her family is Muslim. It’s not like Allie’s religion is a secret, exactly. It’s just that her parents don’t practice and raised her to keep her Islamic heritage to herself. But as Allie witnesses ever-growing Islamophobia in her small town and across the nation, she begins to embrace her faith—studying it, practicing it, and facing hatred and misunderstanding for it. Who is Allie, if she sheds the façade of the “perfect” all-American girl? What does it mean to be a “Good Muslim?” And can a Muslim girl in America ever truly fit in?

 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

 It’s safe to say that we’ve all read books that we’d know we love from the get-go. But I think what’s even better than that feeling sometimes is when you pick up a book and it transforms from something you think you’d enjoy to something that you absolutely love. Enter Nadine Jolie Courtney’s upcoming release All-American Muslim Girl, a book that I all of a sudden couldn’t part ways from. This book so would’ve been a binge read for me if my first full draft of my senior English research paper hadn’t been due the same week. Luckily for me, I was still able to eat it up over the course of three sittings.

All-American Muslim Girl follows high school sophomore Allie, who on the outside appears to be your average American girl. She has red hair and a white complexion, a great relationship with her parents, good grades, and a budding relationship with the cutest boy in the school. What most people don’t realize about Allie is that she is Muslim. Since her parents don’t practice and tend to keep Allie away from faith, Allie doesn’t think her secret is too big of a deal. However, as Allie witnesses Islamophobia more and more, including from her boyfriend’s dad, she wants to learn about her faith and finds herself practicing and studying it while trying to understand the hatred and misunderstanding.

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I admit that it took me the first seventy pages or so to fully get into All-American Muslim Girl. Allie talks to her mom about what it was like for her when she decided to convert to Islam when she married Allie’s dad and why the two don’t really practice religion. It was Allie’s interest in learning more about her faith that really gets the plot going on. Allie decides to practice and makes many discoveries about her religion, her family, the way people treat her, and most importantly, herself. It’s been a while since I read a book that involved religion so much. It was really refreshing to see Allie transform from someone who feared about outsiders learning about her background to someone who freely practices and has much reverence for her religion.

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