July 25, 2017

Quebec Travels, Part One

Hi, everyone! I got back from Quebec Saturday evening after twelve hours of travel. :P I've been slowly unpacking the last couple of days, but now I have pictures and stories to share with y'all. In this post, I'll cover Saturday the 15th through Tuesday the 18th, and then in a few weeks, I'll cover Wednesday through Friday.

July 15th
Woke up before 4 a.m. to catch our first flight. We had a layover in Chicago and then flew into Montreal. Our cab ride to our hotel took much longer than expected, so we had to adjust our plans for that evening. We ended up walking down to the river since it was only a few blocks from our hotel and then we had crepes for dinner and returned to the river once again because there were fireworks that night. It was a great welcome to Montreal.

Flying into Montreal!

Old Montreal had great Snapchat geofilters.

The Saint Lawrence River and the Old Port.

July 16th
My birthday! We got up, got breakfast at Starbucks (since we needed to get moving earlier than most cafes were open on a Sunday), and then took the metro up to the botanical gardens. Sidebar: the Montreal metro system was so easy to navigate. Loved it!
Anyways, we spent a couple hours at the botanical gardens, ate there, and then went to the Olympic Stadium. We went up in the observation tower, and my dad took a tour of the stadium, but my feet were really hurting by then (I was wearing shoes I'd had forever, but they were giving me blisters for some reason). Then we returned to the hotel and cleaned up for our fancy dinner that night.

The botanical gardens were so pretty! That top picture is probably one of my favorites that I took on this trip.

Views from the observation tower at the stadium.

If you can't read the sign, it says Le Chat Noir, which I only partially chose because of Miraculous: The Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir.

July 17th
We started the day with breakfast in a cafe (I ordered chocolat chaud, of course) and then took the metro over to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. They had several paintings I added to my Pinterest board of art I like, and they had a whole building devoted to Canadian artists. Then we took the metro to the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood where we walked through the rain to La Banquise. There we got our first try of poutine. After that, we found the bus that would take us up Mont Royal, although we missed our stop and had to ride the bus until it circled back around. The views were great from the mountain. Once we came back down, we stopped by a bookstore called Renaud Bray, and I got four YA books in French (although I had to leave Crooked Kingdom and Snow Like Ashes behind D: ). After that, we returned to Old Montreal and ended up going to the crepe place again, mainly so we could order dessert crepes.

Monet can be found even in Montreal. This piece is titled "Main Path at Giverny."

Plateau Mont-Royal was so artsy and lovely.

Look at those staircases!

The city from the mountain.

Oh look, that's my face.

Some - but not all - of the YA section.

The oldest street in Montreal.

July 18th
Our hotel was right next to the Notre-Dame Basilica, so we got up early and toured that to beat the crowds and lines. It was gorgeous inside, although it was dim enough that pictures didn't turn out super well. Then we took the metro down to Marche Atwater, a mostly-open air market. Oh man, if I lived in Montreal, I'd go there every other day. We got berries for lunch and to take back to our hotel, we ate sandwiches, and we got a bunch of pastries to take back to the hotel as well. I got a pear tart that was absolutely delicious (although it was probably only my second favorite pastry of the trip; you'll have to wait for part two of this post series to find out why). In the afternoon, we walked down to City Hall and Chateau Ramezay, a history museum. After that, we went to Pointe-a-Calliere, which is a history/archaeological museum. Finally, we finished the night with dinner at a Polish restaurant, which was wonderful. 

Look at that architecture!

I loved the staircase off to one side in the basilica.

Across the canal from the market.

City Hall. Oh, and that sign is celebrating the 375th anniversary of Montreal's founding. It's also Canada's 150th birthday this year.

I just really liked this dagger, okay.

That's Pointe-a-Calliere. The shape of the entrance building to the museum is so cool.

Part of the museum is in the old sewers, and I loved walking through there.

The Polish restaurant was so cute, and I got to try my first pierogi!

Have you been to Montreal? Or Quebec? What was your favorite part?

July 23, 2017

Some #QuietYA for Your Summer TBR List

Summer may be halfway over (or almost over for me, since I go back to school in three weeks D:), but that doesn't mean it's too late to add some more books to your summer reading list! Particularly some lesser-known titles that may not have gotten as much attention this year.

1. You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
If you love Switched at Birth or art and deaf characters in general, this is a book for you.

2. Hunted by Meagan Spooner
A bit of a slow, introspective read, this is a wonderful Beauty and the Beast retelling with lots of Russian influence.

3. Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
I can't talk about this book enough. It is clever and funny and lovely.

4. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
It's more than a pretty cover, with poetic language and plenty of uncomfortable questions.

5. The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
Sort-of historical fiction, it has an athletic, biracial protagonist and great family dynamics.

6. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
If you love swoony summer romances that aren't too fluffy, this is a book for you.

7. Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
A wonderful exploration of how poverty and gender stereotypes can affect things. It's basically a better version of Pitch Perfect.

8. Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond
You have to read the other Lois Lane books to fully appreciate this one, but I think there's still plenty to love in this installment.

9. And We're Off by Dana Schwartz
Europe travels and mother-daughter conflict.

10. The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson
More Europe travels with friendship thrown in. I really loved how the friendship wasn't perfect, but the girls didn't want it to die.

And as usual, I'm not really sorry most of the titles are contemporary. But I really hope you'll consider picking up a few of these books because they are so deserving of more love!

July 22, 2017

Review: The Winner's Crime

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Grade: A
Summary: Following your heart can be a crime

A royal wedding means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin's freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself?

Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. she's working as a spy in the court. If caught, she'll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can't help searching for a way to change her ruthless world...and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret.

This dazzling follow-up to The Winner's Curse reveals the high price of dangerous lies and untrustworthy alliances. The truth will come out, and when it does, Kestrel and Arin will learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: If you liked the romance bits of The Winner's Curse, you'll love The Winner's Crime. If you preferred the scheme-y bits, you'll love pieces of the trilogy's second book, but there's definitely more romantic tension. I did like parts of the romance in this book, but I was really hoping for a Kestrel-Verex ship (although that would've meant a love triangle, and I'm weary of those). Verex is one of my favorite characters in the series; he reminds me a teeny bit of Dorian from Throne of Glass, and I really like Dorian, so I was destined to like Verex.
The Winner's Crime starts off with a gory bit of violence, which was very startling because, while The Winner's Curse had its violent moments, nothing was as intense as that torture scene. Still, I love how throughout everything, readers are better able to piece together who Kestrel is. She makes hard choices that maybe aren't always the best, but she tries hard to minimize damages. I am mad with where the storyline with Jess went, especially because that eliminated the only solid female friendship in this series.
That ending killed me on my first read-through of this book and, while it's still devastating, it's less startling, of course, and not so murderous.

The Verdict: Doesn't suffer from second-book syndrome. (Also I'm pretty sure I caught the Much Ado About Nothing reference.)

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Already did.

July 21, 2017

Review: Lucky in Love

Lucky in Love by Kasie West
Grade: B
Summary: Maddie doesn't believe in luck. She's all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment --

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie's life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she's talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun... until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn't sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn't seem aware of Maddie's big news. And, for some reason, she doesn't want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Kasie West has been one of my go-to contemporary romance authors for a long time. I was a bit a concerned, after By Your Side, that she'd lost her touch; Lucky in Love was better than BYS, but it wasn't nearly as good as Kasie's previous books.
Maddie is touted as a responsible, thoughtful girl who doesn't give into her impulses, but a lot of Lucky in Love refutes that. After she wins the lottery, she starts spending money left and right without consulting a financial advisor or even her parents. I cringed at so many of the plot points involving her spending habits. (I'm also questioning the celebrity bit, and her being featured on a gossip site. The local news station and a local newspaper are believable, but I don't think a celebrity gossip site would care about a lottery winner.)
I'm really glad Trina turned out to not be a cliche, although Maddie's brother annoyed me. I also think just a little more time needed to be devoted to Maddie's family. Little problems are hinted at, and I wanted them to have more of an impact.
I adored Seth. He was a teeny bit bland, but I liked how the romance with him built. I also liked that he and Maddie met through work; I love when YA books give teens jobs.
Super clean in every area. There might've been some underage drinking, but I can't recall.

The Verdict: If you like Kasie West's books, you'll probably like this one, too.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: My preorder arrived yesterday.

July 19, 2017

Review: The Winner's Curse

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Grade: A
Summary: Winning what you want may cost you everything you love... 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I had an ARC of The Winner's Curse way back in 2014, but it had been messed up in the printing process (a section of approximately 30 pages was repeated instead of the pages it should've been), so I never got to review it. I finally decided it was time to share my thoughts on one of my favorite books.
Kestrel has long fascinated me. Her thoughts explored in a third-person POV are calculated and intelligent. She's a girl who has grown up around people who are constantly strategizing and looking to exploit weakness, so she's adapted to that. She was one of my favorite parts of The Winner's Curse when I first read it.
I also appreciate how the book is fantasy without magic. The various nations have their roots in ancient Greece and Rome (and later China, as well), and I love how Marie Rutkoski played with her influences and created a unique world. She also uses words masterfully. For example:

"After Enai's death, Kestrel sat in her rooms remembering how the woman had taught her how to paint a tree by blowing through a hollow quill at a pool of ink on paper. Kestrel saw the white page. She felt the ache in her lungs, saw the black branches spreading, and thought this was what her grief felt like, digging roots and twigs into her body.
She had had a mother, and that mother was gone. Then she had had another mother, and that one was gone, too." (page 128)

In my opinion, Marie Rutkoski writes grief as well as Emery Lord.
The romance felt weakest to me in this book; it always has, and I think that's because part of it develops in the 30 pages I was missing in my first read. I'm also a bit uneasy about any romance where there's a power imbalance (the book opens with Kestrel wandering into a slave auction and buying Arin). The Winner's Curse does verge on problematic, just because it deals with slavery and primarily presents the Valorians as good and the enslaved Herrani as bad (particularly when they rebel). I don't agree with a lot of the Herrani's actions in their rebellion, but I can see where they come from. However, I think the problematic elements are alleviated a bit, thanks to the dual narration from Kestrel and Arin. I also think the rest of the books in the trilogy help overcome these issues, and it doesn't hurt that several points in the narration point out how barbaric the Valorians were before they adapted some elements of Herrani culture.
Language is very tame. Violence is perhaps the iffiest element (although it gets worse in latter books).

The Verdict: I acknowledge that this book might be a problematic fave, but I love it. I need more "light" fantasy where there isn't magic.

Will I be adding this to my library?: Already did.

July 17, 2017

A Birthday and a Blogoversary

As of today, Awkwordly Emma has existed for six years - most of my high school years and all of my time in college thus far. And since yesterday was a Big Deal Birthday for me, I decided it was only fair to celebrate with a giveaway...or maybe two. :D

I'm currently in Canada with my parents, and we went to a Very Fancy Restaurant last night to celebrate. (More to come about that and hopefully the entire trip in a few weeks because I'd love to do a couple blog posts about the whole experience.) So while you're reading this post, I'm exploring another country! So we're gonna keep this post short and sweet. There's two giveaways with two different sets of rules, so make sure to read everything! You can enter both giveaways, if you're eligible!

Giveaway #1: ARCs
~U.S. only
~One winner, who will get to pick two ARCs from the stack below
~Must respond to my email within 48 hours; otherwise I'll pick another winner
~No cheating!

Giveaway #2: One of My Favorite Books
~Open internationally, as long as The Book Depository ships to you.
~One winner, who will get to choose a book from my favorites list, and I'll buy them a copy! (As long as it's under 20 U.S. dollars.)
~I'm making following my blog mandatory for this giveaway, just as a thank you to y'all. :)
~Must respond to my email within 48 hours; otherwise I'll pick another winner
~No cheating.

Image result for may the odds be ever in your favor gif

July 15, 2017

Review: Since You've Been Gone

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Grade: A+
Summary: It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um... 

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane's list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait...what?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: This was the first Morgan Matson book I read, shortly after it released in 2014, and I can't believe it's taken me this long to review it. I've talked a few times recently about "books of my heart," in reference to Tash Hearts Tolstoy and The Names They Gave Us. This is the third book on that list.
There's just something about Since You've Been Gone that pulls me in. The prose is surprisingly weighty, and the book is long, but it's all worth it. Emily is a relatable protagonist with flaws, and Frank is one of my top book boyfriends. I also love Sloane's presence, even though she really only appears in flashbacks. Speaking of flashbacks... Most of the time they feel clunky in contemporary fiction, but they are such an integral part of Since You've Been Gone, and they work well.
I love how Emily goes about conquering the list and how it led her both to new friends, and to Sloane in a way. Collins and Dawn were fun characters, too, and I really liked Gideon (the poor boy got totally screwed over by the book, though). And I really just love how this book feels like summer.

The Verdict: It's hard to put into words how wonderful this book is, so you'll need to read it for yourself to find out.

"It was like swimming under the stars, like sleeping outside, like climbing a tree in the dark and seeing the view. It was scary and safe and peaceful and exciting, all at the same time. It was the way I felt when I was with him. 'Like a well-ordered universe.'"

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Already have.

July 13, 2017

So You Like... #54

I'm happy to present another So You Like... centered around classic literature. Enjoy!

If you like...



(for the sort-of hate-to-love trope)

If you like...



(for the groups of people being attacked)

If you like...



(for the lead couples, doomed from the start)

If you like...



(for the girl thrown into a world she didn't want to join)

If you like...



(for the women; and trust me: A Madness So Discreet is much better than The Scarlet Letter)

If you like...



(there's six of them, not four, but INTRIGUE)

What's your favorite classic novel? What YA book would you recommend for fans of it?
Are there any topics you'd like me to use for a So You Like... post?