Annie Loves College! // Lessons from First Semester

The title says it all, my friends.  I’m one semester into my college education and could not love it more.  (I mean, if my professors stopped assigning homework that would be great, but other than that I’m doing swell!)  I love my roommate, I love my major, I love my classes, I love my school.  All is well on this side of the computer.

To commemorate my fruitful first semester, I’ve compiled a list of things I wish I’d known coming into college.  From the advice everyone seems to give to the stuff I had no idea I’d experience, here are my tips for your first semester.

1. Communicate with your roommate.  Sharing a living space can be difficult at first, especially if you’re like me and haven’t shared a room since you were eight.  To alleviate any tension and prevent any tension from forming, be honest with your roommate from the very beginning.  If you like the blinds open, tell them.  If you are comfortable sharing food, make that known.  It may seem awkward at first, but setting boundaries and establishing guidelines will prevent conflict and make both of your lives easier.

2. You can be confident and nervous at the same time.  There’s this strange dichotomy saying that you’re either a nervous wreck or completely confident on move-in day, and that’s not true.  Your first semester will be a roller coaster of emotion and, surprise surprise, that’s how it’s supposed to be.  There will be good days and bad days, but how you handle the bad days is really what counts.

3. It’s okay to say “no.”  If your friends want to go out on a Thursday and you’re slammed with homework, you have the right to stay in.  In college, you and your wellbeing are your priorities, so take care of yourself first.  A relaxing night spent with a good book and a bowl of microwave popcorn can do wonders.

4. It’s also okay to say “yes.”  If your friends have something ridiculously fun planned on that Thursday night, you can also set homework aside for a few hours and go have some fun.  I wouldn’t recommend skimping on sleep every night, but a five-hour night once in a while won’t kill you as long as you’re having a good time.  It’s all about balance.

5. If your dorm isn’t carpeted, buy a rug.  That tiled floor will start to feel like hospital flooring and you’ll get tired of hair accumulating on your socks.  Split the cost between you and your roommate; you’ll thank me later.

6. Going in undeclared is fine.  Knowing exactly what you want to do is also fine.  The vast majority of college students change their major multiple times before graduation; I did a few weeks ago.  You have the time to change your mind whether or not you know exactly what you want to do with your life.  Trust that you’ll end up on the right path.

7. Don’t get bogged down by the required credits.  Taking all the necessary courses to graduate in time is important, but so is taking some classes just for the hell of it.  Explore new interests.  Take something you’ve never taken before.  Your mind will thank you for going out of your comfort zone.

8. Walk to class if you can.  If the weather’s nice and you’ve got the time, skip the bus.  Fresh air is so restorative and you’ll get to appreciate all the beauty of your campus.  Plus, you’ll get some exercise in.

9. Call your dad.  The common college parable always reminds students to call their moms, but don’t forget about your other family members.  Call your dad and your grandparents and your sisters and brothers.  They miss you too and want to know you’re doing well.

10. Take what you’ll use.  Look around your room and identify everything you use on a daily basis.  If you use it at home, you’ll use it at college.  This goes for clothes, shoes, organizers, furniture.  If you use it every day, it’s worth the space

What did you learn your first semester of college?

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Blind Date With a Book // Annie Gives Book Recommendations

A few months ago, I was browsing my favorite local bookstore and stumbled upon this: a blind date with a book.  A paperback book was wrapped in brown butcher’s paper and covered with adjectives describing the book.  The wrapping told me about the book’s nature, but didn’t give me a glimpse at the title, author, or cover design.

The idea made me somewhat uncomfortable at first.  I, a self-proclaimed cover judger, like books with pretty covers and reputable authors.  My brand-name book snobbery can get in the way of reading good literature, as I try to remind myself, so I browsed the blind dates available and picked one out.

The book I chose was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafón.  I’d heard fabulous things about the book, but had passed it over for something else.  I wouldn’t have picked this book out myself, but am beyond excited to read it.  The premise seems absolutely enchanting in the figurative and literal senses.  Click here to check out The Shadow of the Wind on Goodreads.

I want to share the blind date book love, my friends!  I picked out eight books I think you’ll love and shared a few choice adjectives and phrases about each book.  If the premise sounds intriguing, click the link and you’ll be transported to the book’s Goodreads page, where you can get acquainted with your blind date.

Without further ado, let’s meet our contestants. 

 

Book #1:

  • Alien invasion
  • Survival
  • Romance
  • Brother-sister relationship
  • Science fiction

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #2:

  • Murder mystery
  • Political intrigue
  • Fictional country
  • Thriller
  • Misunderstood heroine

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #3:

  • Deep South
  • Magic and voodoo
  • Romance
  • Cursed protagonist
  • Good versus evil

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #4:

  • New York City
  • Fame and fortune
  • Prep school romance
  • Feel-good
  • Cute and quirky

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #5:

  • Witches
  • Switched at birth
  • Earthy magic
  • Love triangle
  • Ancient prophecy

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #6:

  • Girl-next-door
  • High school
  • Hate-to-love romance
  • Strong sibling relationship
  • Charming

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #7:

  • Futuristic
  • Forbidden love
  • Matchmaking society
  • Defiance
  • Strong family

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #8:

  • 1930’s
  • High society
  • Complicated love
  • New England beaches
  • Heartbreak

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

What did you think of your dates?  Find any new books to read?

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19 Facts About Annie

Hi y’all!  Since I’ve gained so many followers recently both on Twitter and on my blog (which I’m way grateful for!!!), I found it only fitting to reintroduce myself so we all can get to know each other.  I also write about myself in my Introducing Annie post many moons ago and you can read even more about me there.

Before we get going, I’m running an anonymous five-minute survey to get some information on how I can improve my blog.  I want to create a site that you enjoy just as much as I do and your feedback on Annie Likes Words is critical and appreciated more than you know!  Also, I will give everyone who fills out the survey a shoutout on Twitter and Instagram!

Click here to take the 5-minute reader survey.

And with that, let’s kick this thing off.

First off, hello.  I’m Annie.  I’m a freshman at Elon University, a semi-small liberal arts college in North Carolina.  I love to read, I love to write, I love to read about writing and write about reading.  My favorite book is The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan and I’m in love with dogs and fall-scented candles.

Here are 25 more facts about me:

  1. This post contains 19 facts because I turn 19 in less than a month!  My birthday is nine days before Christmas, which makes celebrating with friends a little challenging, but also makes for a solid two weeks of celebration.  I love having a Christmas(ish) birthday because I’m out of school for break by the time my birthday rolls around.  Also, Christmas makes it easy to pick a birthday theme (I’m partial to the ugly Christmas sweater party).
  2. I support the Oxford comma.  I know not using the Oxford comma is grammatically correct, but I still get kind of peeved when I read a sentence that doesn’t have it.
  3. I hate talking about my current writing project.  I’m currently writing a young adult thriller novel (which I’m almost finished writing!).  When people ask me what my book’s about, I never know how to describe it.  The plot is so nuanced and complex, I struggle to do it justice without reading the whole book.  Describing the story isn’t impossible, I just don’t like doing it.
  4. I collect stickers.  My collection started many years ago and I’ve since collected dozens (maybe hundreds?) of stickers, which I plaster everywhere.  This summer, I purchased a sticker every place I went and put them all on a water bottle to commemorate such a fun time in my life.  One of my favorite pastimes (read: procrastination methods) is scouring RedBubble for stickers, especially if they pertain to my favorite TV shows.  Speaking of which…
  5. My favorite TV shows are “Stranger Things,” “The Office,” and “Jane the Virgin.”  Quite a lineup.  A surefire way to get me talking is to ask about what I watch on Netflix.  These binge-worthy shows are my absolute go-to’s, but I also love “Once Upon a Time” (which I mentioned in my Fall Favorites post) and “The Great British Baking Show” for some marshmallowy reality TV.
  6. I still play the Kim Kardashian video game on my phone.  I know; how adolescent of me.
  7. I can speak French (kind of).  I’ve taken French for five years and know enough to understand my professor and the movies we watch in class, but I’m not sure how I would do if I were in a French community.  Hopefully I’ll get to travel soon and find out.
  8. I can tap dance in high heels.  As implied by my pursuit of a minor in Dance at university, I love to dance.  I started taking lessons at the age of 3 and have kept up with it ever since.  In middle school, I discovered a penchant for tap and was chosen to represent my studio as a soloist in the tap discipline in high school.  Because I’ve never shied away from a challenge, I learned how to tap in heels and the rest is history.
  9. I dressed up as Wednesday Addams for Halloween.  For this entirely DIY costume, my flatmate and I sewed a Peter Pan collar onto a three quarter-sleeve black dress that I paired with my beat-up Converse high tops.  I braided my hair (which was pretty difficult because my hair is somewhat short/layered), slapped on some dark lipstick, and brushed some black eye shadow around my eyes.  Instant Wednesday Addams!
  10. My favorite ice cream flavors are mint chocolate chip and moose tracks.  Enough said.
  11. I love watching How to Cake It on YouTube.  Yolanda Gampp makes the most amazing cake creations on this channel!  Every night before bed, I watch one (or seven) of her videos because I’ve seen them so many times, they put me right to sleep.  I recommend watching her pecan pie megacake; it’s my favorite and is perfect for fall.  Click here to check out Yolanda’s delicious channel.
  12. I have a younger brother and a younger sister.  Living away from my family this year has had its challenges.  I miss my family, but I inadvertently get to talk to them more because we call and FaceTime all the time.
  13. I’m majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing.  Is this one even a surprise?  My blog is centered around the reading and writing of literature, after all.
  14. I’m also minoring in Dance and Psychology.  I picked up a Dance minor for obvious reasons as aforementioned, but Psychology stems from my love of AP Psychology senior year.  Everything we studied made sense not that it was easy, but I understood the material and comprehended the topics we studied.  I’m not sure how these minors will translate to a career, but I’m having a great time studying for them.
  15. I start listening to Christmas music after Halloween.  In my opinion, Christmas is far too good a holiday to be confined to one month, so I decorate and listen to Christmas music the day after Halloween.  This is in part a product of my childhood because my mom decorates our house for Christmas before Thanksgiving.  My favorite Christmas albums are Amy Grant, Harry Connick Jr., Lady Antebellum, Colbie Caillat, Idina Menzel, and Pentatonix.  The Nutcracker score is also a classic.  Click here to check out my Christmas Spotify playlist.
  16. I don’t drink coffee.  Instead, I opt for a chai latte or good ole hot chocolate.  Sometimes I add a shot of peppermint if I’m feeling spicy.
  17. I love wearing jewelry.  I have a few select pieces I always wear when I leave the house: my pearl earrings, my high school class ring, a necklace with a pendant that looks like North Carolina, and my watch.  I’ll also layer on some Pura Vida Bracelets (they’re adorable bracelets and support a great cause–click here to check them out) and a scrunchie because my hair is unpredictable.
  18. My favorite emoji is the one of all the little stars.  It’s a good, versatile emoji.  It doesn’t take the spotlight, but supports other emojis and makes everything look aesthetically pleasing.
  19. The last artist I saw in concert was Jon Bellion.  Elon’s Student Union Board got Jon Bellion to come perform for the student body over Homecoming weekend and his concert was fantastic!  If you have the chance to see him live, I strongly recommend it.

That’s all, y’all!  Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to get to know me a little better.  I hope you stick around 🙂

Do we have anything in common?  Let me know in the comments!

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What Annie Read // Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

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Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
Published September 20th, 2016
Jimmy Patterson

Find On // Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads // Kerri Maniscalco

Goodreads Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

I rated Stalking Jack the Ripper 3/5 stars on Goodreads.

This review, like all my reviews, is spoiler-free.

I was largely underwhelmed by Stalking Jack the Ripper.  With all the rave reviews on Goodreads, I expected this book to be an impeccable historical fiction with a dark, gothic twist.  I couldn’t wait to dig into protagonist Audrey Rose’s story and read about a badass young woman performing postmortems and catching murderers in between luncheon and high tea.  I expected sheer awesome, but what I got was nothing more than average.

Audrey Rose was consistently inconsistent.  At the beginning of the book, she raved about her surgical pursuits and the awful way proper society has handcuffed her as a woman.  She wanted nothing but freedom to practice medicine with her uncle, but enter her cousin Liza and Audrey Rose is privy to experiment with makeup and appreciate the finer things in life she formerly detested.  It’s one thing to understand beauty and it’s another thing to hate femininity one day and love it the next.  If her perspective on life had been somewhat constant, I might have related to her better.

Maniscalco tries to portray Audrey Rose as a feminist: she’s a woman with modern ideals who takes what she wants and keeps no prisoners.  However, her vague attempts at feminist undertones were ill-placed and didn’t fit well in the culture of 1880’s London.  If Audrey Rose were raised properly, she would still not hold the contemporary view of feminist portrayed in the book.  Dissecting bodies is a believable type of rebellion, but her outbursts regarding the relative weakness of men were unconvincing.

The budding romance between Audrey Rose and the mysterious Thomas Cresswell was just as inconsistent as Audrey Rose herself.  One scene, they were all but professing their love and next, they were exchanging insults and holding grudges and keeping secrets.  Their relationship felt incredibly ingenuine and almost unhealthy.  They couldn’t be honest with each other.  Just because they both have a penchant for gore doesn’t mean they’re meant to be together.  As I read, I found myself wishing another romantic interest would show up just so I didn’t have to read about them anymore.

In the middle of the book, Audrey Rose mentioned her Indian heritage that she inherited from her late mother’s side of the family.  I enjoyed reading about this detail because it made Audrey Rose seem like a more complete character, but there wasn’t much description of Indian culture outside of this one scene.  I wish that this facet of Audrey Rose’s identity had been weaved throughout the story rather than plunked in one scene.

Throughout the book, Maniscalco tries to set the scene of 1880’s London by using flowery diction and complicated syntax, but her efforts had an opposite effect.  Rather than seeming antiquated and charming, Audrey Rose’s voice came across as wordy and confusing.  She repeated the same sentiment multiple ways before moving onto the next thought rather than elaborating on each thought.  For someone as bright as Audrey Rose, I was intrigued by her thought processes and wanted to know more about how she saw the world through her analytical eyes.

One thing I did enjoy about this book was the ending.  I thought I had it figured out, my friends.  Halfway through, I cast my bets on the Ripper’s identity, but I had it all wrong.  Maniscalco’s smoke and mirrors to hide the Ripper’s true identity were impeccably bulletproof; I totally didn’t see that coming.

Overall, Stalking Jack the Ripper was a mildly disappointing read that did not even approach its assumed level of greatness.  While I will give points for the surprising climax, this book left plenty to be desired.

Have you read Stalking Jack the Ripper?  What did you think?

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What Annie Read // The Hawkweed Prophecy Series by Irena Brignull

 

The Hawkweed Prophecy and The Hawkweed Legacy by Irena Brignull
Published June 16th, 2016 and August 15th, 2017
Hachette Books

I received copies of this series in exchange for an honest review.

Find The Hawkweed Prophecy On // Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads //

Find The Hawkweed Legacy On // Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads //

Click here to learn more about the author, Irena Brignull!

Goodreads synopsis of The Hawkweed Prophecy:

Poppy Hooper and Ember Hawkweed couldn’t lead more different lives. Poppy is a troubled teen: moving from school to school, causing chaos wherever she goes, never making friends or lasting connections. Ember is a young witch, struggling to find a place within her coven and prove her worth. Both are outsiders: feeling like they don’t belong and seeking escape.

Poppy and Ember soon become friends, and secretly share knowledge of their two worlds. Little do they know that destiny has brought them together: an ancient prophecy, and a life-changing betrayal. Growing closer, they begin to understand why they’ve never belonged and the reason they are now forever connected to each other.

Switched at birth by the scheming witch Raven Hawkweed, Poppy and Ember must come to terms with their true identities and fight for their own place in the world. Enter Leo, a homeless boy with a painful past who – befriending them both – tests their love and loyalty. Can Poppy and Ember’s friendship survive? And can it withstand the dark forces that are gathering?

Goodreads synopsis of The Hawkweed Legacy:

Poppy is discovering a purpose for her powers in Africa, but she is haunted by a vision of her own death. Taken in by a boy and his great-grandmother, a healer, they vow to keep her safe-even if that ultimately means holding her captive. But Poppy never stops longing for Leo and, when she feels his magic begin to spark, she will do anything to be reunited with him.

Desperate to regain Poppy’s trust and bring her home, Charlock embarks on a plan to reunite Leo with his mother. What Charlock doesn’t foresee are the string of consequences that she sets into motion that leave Ember all alone and prey to manipulation, the clan open to attack from other witches, Sorrel vulnerable to Raven’s ghost, Betony determined to protect her son from his father’s fate, and which leave both Leo and Poppy in terrible danger.

I rated both The Hawkweed Prophecy and The Hawkweed Legacy 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

This review, like all of my reviews, is spoiler-free.

The Hawkweed Prophecy and The Hawkweed Legacy tell the story of Poppy Hooper and Ember Hawkweed, two girls switched at birth by Poppy’s evil aunt because of her jealousy.  Why switch an innocent human girl and her unassuming niece at birth?  Well, Poppy is destined to become queen of the witches and Raven would much rather see her daughter, Sorrel, on the throne.  (Side note: these details are not spoilers.  They’re given in the description of the book.)

Poppy and Ember are drawn together by forces larger than themselves, causing their peaceful lives to collide and shatter.  They begin to wonder why they both feel out of place and alone in their respective worlds.  Poppy, prone to accidents that can’t be explained, and Ember, the witch with no abilities, inadvertently expose a conspiracy to keep Poppy from claiming her crown.  And then things get messy.

On top of trying to determine which life she wants to have, Poppy falls in love with a human boy named Leo.  As if her life weren’t complicated enough, Poppy learns that she and Leo cannot be together because witches are forbidden from having relationships.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a character who walked away from true love because it was “forbidden.”  You can guess what Poppy does next.

This modern fantasy duo was a lovely combination of the witchy magic we know and love with a handful of grit and a sprinkle of fate.  The earthy, gritty magic practiced by the witches in this series was unlike any I’d ever read before.  The witches confine themselves to their camp, living off of what nature provides and avoiding contact with any human life, especially men.  These women share a sisterly bond that’s tough to break and made me feel like a sister as well.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed the entire cast of characters not because they were perfect, but because none of them were truly likable.  They were all flawed beyond repair, but it made them unique and realistic.  Reading characters with whom I could identify so easily enhanced my reading experience and made me want to wrap up everyone in one giant hug.

Brignull switches perspectives often in these books, recounting both past and present while changing the central character in each chapter.  In The Hawkweed Prophecy, the chapters were not labeled, which wasn’t a terrible setback but did leave some detective work to the reader.  However, the chapter labels in The Hawkweed Legacy made reading a much easier experience and allowed Brignull to easily describe both past and present events.

The frequent change in perspective did leave some to be desired.  After investing so much time reading these books, I felt as if I were only reading half of each story rather than a cohesive work.

Brignull ameliorated this by making the writing style rather synonymous so we switched plot lines with each change in chapter, but not style.  Artistically, this definitely felt like the right choice for telling a story with so many facets.  This also created an abundance of dramatic irony, which had me gripped with anticipation as I approached the climax.  I knew what was coming, but I didn’t know when.

The development of Poppy and Leo’s romance was undoubtedly swoon-worthy.  Their personalities complemented each other beautifully because they brought out the best and the worst in each other.  Poppy and Leo exposed each other’s flaws, making them see even more human than before.  The speed at which they fell in love felt somewhat unrealistic for two teenagers, but the magic involved justified it.  If it’s true love, why not fall in love fast?

Similar to Poppy and Leo’s romance, the pacing of the book was definitely speedy.  This pace was entirely necessary because of the width of perspectives that Brignull had to cover.  We learned important snippets of information about each character and then learned another important snippet about another character.  This format made for an interesting complexity about the story and gave me as the reader a plethora of opportunities to fill in the blanks and personalize the reading experience.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Hawkweed Prophecy and The Hawkweed Legacy.  This duo was packed with interesting, complex characters and a story just as dynamic.  If you love a modern fantasy with an adorable romance and fantastically earthy magic, these are the books for you.

Have you read The Hawkweed Prophecy series?

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What Annie Read // When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Published May 30th, 2017
Simon Pulse

Find On // Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads // Sandhya Menon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

I rated When Dimple Met Rishi 4/5 stars.

This review, like all of my reviews, is spoiler-free.

When Dimple Met Rishi is about, well, Dimple and Rishi: two Indian teenagers growing up in America with vastly different perspectives on life.  Dimple is a strong feminist with a penchant for coding, annoying her traditional Indian mother, and paving her own path.  Rishi, on the other hand, takes great pride in his heritage and wants to please his family by being the perfect Indian son, which includes a quasi-arranged marriage to the fierce and fiery Dimple Shah.  Their parents arrange for them to meet at Insomnia Con, a summer camp for teenage coders, at which Rishi plans to woo his future wife.  The only problem?  Dimple had no idea that she and Rishi were betrothed.

This book absolutely oozes sticky, gooey, adorable teenage romance, but it doesn’t necessarily start out that way.  The balance of sass and sweetness is impeccable and so tastefully done.  Our two main characters, Dimple and Rishi, are such perfect compliments to each other whether they’re at each others’ throats or gazing into each others’ eyes.  They’re charming and quirky and really, really, really perfect.  Also, Rishi Patel may have shattered my boyfriend expectations, but that’s whatever.

I absolutely adored the juxtaposition of the geeky coder vibes and the traditional Indian influences.  These two aesthetics meshed so well together that they were practically seamless.  Menon dropped so many phrases in Hindu that I started to recognize what they meant regardless of their context, but there was enough context to not feel overwhelming.  I do wish that Menon had written a little more about the coding aspect, but the book was packed so full with romance, there was hardly any wiggle room.

Toward the end of the book, Menon added in a subplot involving Rishi’s younger brother, Ashish, that felt largely insignificant in terms of the entire plot.  Ashish was an entertaining character and I enjoyed reading about how his typical-jock personality contrasted so drastically with Rishi’s.  However, he didn’t serve much of a purpose other than to restate how different Rishi was from the average American teenage boy.

I think this book can be summed up by the image on the back: Dimple, wearing an orange kurta and big “geek” glasses, throws iced coffee on Rishi with a grimace on her face.  Dimple’s fire and sense of individuality, set in contrast with Rishi’s sense of tradition and propriety, makes for a delectable tale that’s sweet enough to give you cavities.

Have you read When Dimple Met Rishi?  What did you think?

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Annie’s August and September College-Themed Favorites

Have I mentioned that I started college recently?  Did you catch the sarcasm there?

As I’m writing this post, I’ve been in college for five (six?) weeks and am thriving.  I love the autonomy that comes with creating my own schedule and absolutely adore my flatmates, not to mention the dining hall food isn’t shabby at all.  Long story short, I love it here and am so glad to be attending such an amazing school and living on such a gorgeous campus.

The first week was a little rough because I was pretty homesick, but once I found a good group of friends and got settled in my dorm, I started to really enjoy myself and take advantage of all the opportunities my university offers.  I’ve gone to so many interesting cultural events, including seeing former Prime Minister David Cameron speak (which was amazing!) and getting my first henna tattoo.

In addition to trying so many new things, I truly feel like a new person.  Who I am at my core is unchanged, but I am surrounded by people who allow me to be my unabashedly true self and it is so freeing.  I have honestly loved and will honestly cherish every second.

With all of this lifestyle transition comes a transition of the stuff I use every day.  Without a commute to school and hours of time spent in the car between activities, not to mention a significantly smaller living space, my every day essentials have drastically changed.  I’ve found myself going for items that are more for function over fashion, but I love products that are both.  I’m also digging things that have multiple uses and take up as little space as possible because sharing a dorm room is definitely tight.

Here are a few products I’m loving this month:

Monaco Ankle Booties from Cleo Madison
Cleo Madison // Booties
What I love about these shoes is that they are the perfect mix of style and comfort.  I live in the back corner of campus, so I have to walk fifteen minutes each way to get to my classes.  Comfortable walking shoes are a must and these booties definitely do the trick!  They go so well with any outfit and are perfect to throw on before my 8 AM when I want to look put-together but just rolled out of bed.  I also love the boutique where these booties are from.  Cleo Madison is an online modest clothing boutique with adorable and affordable selections.
I received these booties in exchange for an honest review of the product.

DIY Gold Drip Mason Jars
Jars // Paints
I use these little jars to hold pens and pencils on my desk and they’re absolutely perfect and incredibly easy to make.  I bought some gold paint from Target, placed the jars upside down on a paper plate, and poured the paint over the jars.  Simple to make and absolutely adorable!

SafeTrek
Download the App
Even though my campus is incredibly safe and has fantastic campus police, you can never be too careful walking at night.  I avoid walking alone after dark if at all possible, but sometimes the situation requires it.  In these instances, I use SafeTrek to make sure I get home without a scratch.  All you have to do is open up the app and press the big purple button.  When you release the button by removing your finger, you have ten seconds to type in a predetermined password.  If you don’t type in your password within the ten seconds, the police are sent to your exact location.  SafeTrek is $3.00 per month and totally eases my mind walking around campus!

Plates and Bowls from IKEA
Large Plates // Small Plates // Bowls // Polka Dot Bowls
Eating from takeout containers and dining hall plates can get a little tiring, so I bought a few little plates and bowls to use when I feel inclined to eat like a normal human being.  This pieces all came separately, but they go so well together and are incredibly easy to clean (which I know because my flat has no dishwasher).  They’re the perfect reminder for when I forget how to use proper dishes and silverware.

St. Ives Radiant Skin Face Scrub
Amazon // Target
Walking to and from class in the North Carolina heat is definitely the culprit of this girl’s greasy skin, but this scrub is perfect for combating oil and keeping my face silky smooth.  I love the tiny exfoliants in this scrub: they’re not too harsh, but pack just enough punch to make a difference.  The scent is also fruity and light and gorgeous and if it smells good, what’s not to love?

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
You know I had to throw a book in!  This book has become my safety blanket; I never leave the dorm without it.  I am currently reading When Dimple Met Rishi and absolutely love it.  Whenever my BIO 101 homework or a looming paper has me down, I crack this book open for a dose of sunshine and adorableness.  There’s been so much hype surrounding this book and I’m happy to report that Menon’s adorkable romance passes muster.

“Once Upon A Time” on Netflix
IMDB // Netflix
What’s life at college without a Netflix break every now and then?  I’ve been rewatching “Once Upon A Time” on Netflix as a way to destress and relax after a long day of stress and nonrelaxation.  This show centers around the lives of fairytale characters who were sent to our world by the Evil Queen’s curse.  All the characters live in quaint Storybrooke, Maine, with no memory of their lives before arriving in Storybrooke.  The cheese factor is astronomical, but I love this show nonetheless.

In conclusion, here are some of my favorite blog posts from the past few months:
Annie Gives Book Recommendations Based on Hogwarts House, in which I geek out about Harry Potter and give book recommendations.
Annie’s Friends Give Book Recommendations, in which my bestest gal pals share what books they think you should read next.
[LET’S CHAT] How Do You Find The Time To Blog? in which Mikaela from The Well-Thumbed Reader talks about time management for bloggers.

What products have you been loving recently?

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Annie’s Fall TBR

Nothing makes my bibliophilic heart smile more than the drop in temperature.  The leaves fall, the cozy cable knit sweaters come out, the autumnal candles get lit after months of sitting and waiting for the air to turn cold.  Life turns into an autumn-themed Pinterest board (at least I wish it did) as the chill forces us to stay inside and cuddle up with our favorite literary friends.  What could be better?

It may still be warm in North Carolina, but what’s life without a little imagination?  This fall, I’ve got quite a few books to tackle and I’m totally ready for it.  Here’s what I’m planning on reading:

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
Something about fall makes me want to read tearjerkers like this book.  They Both Die at the End is a book about Rufus and Mateo, who learn from an organization called DeathCast that they are going to die.  Today.  Have you started crying yet?  Good thing I’ve got plenty of fuzzy blankets to snuggle and mop up tears while reading.

 

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Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
This novella bind-up features two prequels to Red Queen that I can’t wait to finally read!  The first two books in the series were fantastic (you can read my Red Queen review here and my Glass Sword review here) and I’m sure these novellas will shed a new kind of light on the literary world I already love.

 

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Sublime Karma by Peyton Garver
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
This young adult contemporary romance sounds perfect for a snuggly Saturday, a warm blanket, and some fuzzy socks.  I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review and can’t wait to read how protagonist Brie’s story unfolds.

 

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Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
Nothing like a good paranormal romance to make it feel like fall!  Beautiful Creatures is about Ethan Wate, a boy stuck in his South Carolina hometown and itching to get anywhere else.  And then comes Lena Duchannes, the mysterious girl with an even more mysterious past.  This will be a reread and I can’t wait to get started!

 

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Emma by Jane Austen
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
I purchased a copy of this Jane Austen classic when I was visiting New York in August, so this book in particular has a special place on my TBR.  For someone who loves to read, I haven’t found many classics that I loved and am hoping this book will be the one!

 

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Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
If you need me after October 10th, I’ll be fangirling over John Green’s newest release.  I normally wait until release day to purchase a new book, but I preordered a signed copy of this book and am anxiously waiting its release.  The story of Aza, a teenage girl with obsessive-compulsive disorder, sounds like the perfect autumn tale to tug on the heartstrings.

 

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Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
Ah yes, we’ll also be revisiting my middle school obsession this season.  I haven’t read Twilight since my vampire craze in seventh grade and am looking forward to rereading a book that meant so much to me once upon a time.

What books are you reading this fall?

Also, I’ll be hosting a giveaway once I reach 100 followers on Instagram, so don’t forget to follow and stay tuned for giveaway announcement!

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Annie DNF’ed a Book

Today’s been a day of new experiences.  I attended my first college football game (my school, Elon University, won in case anyone’s wondering!), bought my first pepper spray (college safety is important), and DNF’ed my first book.  Whew, what a day!

I’ve read a lot of discussion posts lately that address the great DNF debate: as readers, do we have the literary right to elect to not finish a book?  If we aren’t enjoying a book, should we push through and finish or just say “no thanks?”

In the past, I’ve been on the push-through-and-finish side.  As a writer, reading is fuel to the proverbial fire, so reading a wide variety of books helps writers write.  Even when I’ve read books I didn’t like in the past, I continued because reading “bad” books is productive too.  In truth, I love reading a book and thinking through how I would write it better.

However, I’ve never sought out bad books just to appease my ego.  I also love reading books that stretch me, books that make me think in ways I’ve never thought before.  Books that pose a challenge inspire me to write at a higher level and motivate me to improve my craft.

So why did I DNF a book today?

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The book in question is The Program by Suzanne Young.  I’ve had this book on my Goodreads TBR shelf for quite a long time and when I found a discounted version on ThriftBooks, I couldn’t resist.  The cover is striking and gorgeous.  The synopsis, which I’ve included below, was enticing.  This looked like the kind of book that would transport me to a world where my BIO 101 homework no longer existed.

Here is the Goodreads synopsis of The Program:

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

Sounds freaking awesome, right?  I couldn’t wait to start reading and practically jumped out of my skin when it came in the mail.  I was so excited that I actually stopped myself from ripping open the packaging so I could do an unboxing on my Instagram.  (Shameless plug: make sure you follow Annie Likes Words on Instagram so you can keep up with my day-to-day literary adventures!)

The first chapter or two were a nice transition into the world of Sloane, our protagonist.  Depression and teen suicide are an epidemic, so the government instituted The Program to “correct” teenagers who contract depression.  Thus far, it was all smooth sailing.  Well, the characters had it pretty rough, but it was smooth sailing for me as a reader.

And then we met James.  James was Sloane’s devoted boyfriend of two years and self-determined protector of Sloane and their mutual friend (and perpetual third-wheel) Miller.  James was a pretty-boy and knew it, which I’m not entirely opposed to if the trope is executed tastefully.  However, Sloane seemed to confuse his love for himself with his love for her.  I understand how the two could intermingle sometimes, but the relationship didn’t feel genuine.

Sloane was under the impression that James was the sun, moon, and stars.  He was her everything because she was his everythingI love a good sappy romance, but seriously?  The boy couldn’t hold a conversation without referencing his rock-hard abs.  I’m sure he loved Sloane, but his love for himself superseded everything.

About sixty pages in, the exposition stopped and we reached the first plot point.  Sloane and James are furiously racing to a friend’s house after receiving a call from him, during which he admitted to taking a drug known as QuikDeath.  Sadly, they were too late.  Sloane started to cry, which is all but forbidden in their world because it marks the onset of depression, but James isn’t having it.  So he slaps her.

And that’s when I slammed the book shut.

I understand the complexities of why James hit Sloane.  She was crying, risking exposure, and he didn’t wasn’t to lose his love to The Program.  But was physical violence really necessary to send a message?  Coupled with his rampant egocentrism and arrogant attitude, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I officially thew in the towel on The Program, turned off the lights and drew the curtain.  Time of DNF: 9:00 PM.

I might have enjoyed the book if I’d continued reading it.  I might come back to it later and give it another chance, but I’ve got plenty of other books to read at the moment and I don’t want to waste my time with a book that offends and confuses me.  I’ve got plenty of other books to keep me company.

Do you DNF books?  What’s the last book you didn’t finish?

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Annie’s Take on Outlining (and Why She Doesn’t Like It)

Let’s not beat around the bush: I don’t like outlining.  If you’ve been with me long enough, you’ve certainly read about my distaste for the practice.  If you’re just joining us on this little journey of mine and didn’t know my stance on outlining, now we’re all on the same page.

In real life, my tendencies lie on the organized side of the spectrum.  My daily routine is comprehensive and is, more often than not, pretty much the same.  I like routine and color-coded schedules and matching my socks.  Life is a little easier when everything has a time and a place.  At least it is to me.

All that flies out the window when I sit down to write.  When I open up my laptop and steep my tea and fasten my thinking cap, I rarely know what’s going to happen.  I had no plan for this very blog post, but I typed out a title about five minutes ago and look where we are.  There’s something freeing about writing with no expectations, no limitations on your creativity.  You just write and decide to see what happens.

I’ve outlined and I’ve foregone outlining in past projects.  I’ve tried my hand at both extremes and found that I operate on the extreme that requires as little planning as possible.  Writing should be organic and roll off the tongue, so why should stories follow a syllabus?  Why not develop the story as feels natural?  Create with no restrictions and sop up the mess later if need be.

The arguments in support of outlining are strong and almost convincing.  Almost.  Outlining drastically reduces the number of rewrites required.  It all but eliminates writer’s block (you can read about my approach writer’s block, and why I don’t believe in it, here) because you know what to write next.  You prevent the possibility of writing yourself into a corner or creating immense plot holes that you can’t quite seem to fill.  When you outline, you tell yourself a condensed version of the story and then flesh it out to perfection.

Outlining is a great tool to have in your writing toolbox.  Like all tools, its use is determined by the task at hand.  You use hammers for nails and screwdrivers for screws and saws for, I don’t know, cutting stuff.  A hammer does you no good if you’re trying to cut a two-by-four in half.

Outlining is the same.  For someone who likes to discover the story as I write it, outlining is tedious and restricting because I feel immense guilt when I stray from the path.  The ending scene of my current project is crystal clear in my head, but I have no earthly idea how I’m going to get there.  My plan is to figure it out as I go.  I’m fine with that.

As aforementioned, outlining can cut down editing time.  That’s true in most cases, but the time spent crafting a perfect outline could easily be transferred to the time spent editing without an outline.

Some of my favorite writing advice concerning the great outline debate is that stories are not plot-driven, but character-driven.  If your characters do their job, their choices dictate where you go.  Present them with options and follow where they tell you to go.  Characters should read like real people and real people don’t conform to outlines.  We may have our schedules and planners, but life is constantly throwing wrenches in our color-coded plans.  We have no idea what’s coming down the pike and this mortal cluelessness translates when you write sans outline.

However, I do find it useful if I’m in a rut and unsure of where to go next.  If I struggle with trusting my vision, coming up with something helps me regain my focus, even if that something definitely wouldn’t happen.  A crappy idea scribbled onto a napkin is easier to handle than an empty Word document.  Something is always better than nothing and if that something is an outline, so be it.

Despite my preferences, you should always do what works for you.  If you are religiously devoted to your outline, awesome.  If you’ve never made an outline in your life and don’t intend to start now, awesome.  If you’re like me and dabble in the practice when the occasion calls for it, awesome.  The important thing here is that you’re writing, whatever it takes.

What are your thoughts on outlining?

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