The College Diaries: Amber's *Kinda* Back!

Hey all! Long time no talk! A few months ago I decided to take a hiatus from blogging. I didn't announce it or tell anyone but Jessica and Emily, I was very silentl and just melted away from the blogosvere for a little while. Truth be told, I was struggling severely with my mental health to the point that getting out of bed was a fight for me. I finally got a proper diagnosis to my mental health issues after 12 years of this battle: Bipolar II. Knowing the diagnosis and the treatment for it I have been doing a lot better and slowly easing myself back into the things I love again. But this isn't a post to feel sorry about myself, this is a post to show what I been up to! 

What I've been up to: 

As I shared on twitter I was sadly laid off by Lush in August, but a few days later I got an interview at Bath and Body Works and I am now a sales associate there! I've loved every moment of it so far, even if I've spent to much money there! 

I went back to college in the summer! In the fall I decided that I wanted to be a psych major and help people my age with mental illnesses. I'd dropped out in 2018 so I have some catching up to do, but it isn't a race and I will get there eventually! Currently I am a part time student but in the spring semester I get to go back as a full time student and I am thrilled! 

I adopted a puppy! Introducing Blue, the Catahuola Leopard Dog that is chilling on Long Island. He is a cattle/hog herding dog who originates from Louisiana but my family rescued him from New Jersey! Look at those eyes! He's a mush but his past requires a lot of patience and love, which he gets tons of! 

I've been up to so much more but these are the three most important ones. I am so happy to be back and getting back into the swing of things! Happy Holidays all and I hope you all been well! 💗 

What have you been up to the past couple of months!? Anything important I should know? Let's chat in the comments! 

ARC Review: In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

Title: In a Holidaze
Author: Christina Lauren
Publisher: Gallery Books
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Paperback, 336 Pages
Published October 2020

Summary: It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but thirty-year-old Maelyn Jones is in the midst of a major crisis. She’s living with her mom, hates her boring job, and has yet to make any romantic progress with Andrew, the friend she’s been in love with for the last thirteen years. But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born. Devastated as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple wish to the universe: show me what will make me happy. The next thing she knows there’s a screech of tires and metal, followed by Mae gasping awake…on an airplane bound for Utah. Now Mae has the chance to live the holidays all over again but with one disaster after another sending her repeatedly back in time, she has to figure out how to end this strange holiday loop and get Andrew under the mistletoe. Otherwise, she’s going to need a miracle.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review, and as soon as the package arrived on my doorstep and I opened it, I could barely keep myself from happy-dancing all over the place. I've loved so many of Christina Lauren's novels in the past (especially THE UNHONEYMOONERS), so I couldn't wait to dive into this one. So without further ado, let's get into my review!

As the summary explains, Mae is devastated to find out that her family tradition of trekking to a cabin with her parents and all of their friends' families each Christmas was going to be coming to an end. On the drive home, she wishes for the universe to show her what would make her happy, and then they get into a car accident and she wakes up on the plane there again -- given a chance to relieve the trip all over again. And every time she seems to make a misstep that won't lead to where the universe wants her to go, she founds herself sent back into time again. And through having a Groundhog Day-situation over and over again, Mae eventually has to figure out what the universe is trying to show her will really make her happy.

You guys, I absolutely ADORED this book. I tore through it so quickly, and it was such a treat to finish while I was quarantining when my dad had COVID, because it really took my mind off of the situation and kept me distracted and happy and swooning from start to finish. Mae's antics were both hilarious and interesting, and I loved seeing them play out. I also recommended this book to a friend who read it at the same that I did, and she finished the whole thing even quicker than I did because she just loved it that much and couldn't get enough of it! This is really such a sweet, hilarious, touching, swoon-worthy holiday read that will keep you smiling from start to finish. I really recommend it to any rom-com reader out there!

My favorite character in this book was definitely Benny. Even though he was older than Mae, he really acted as such a great best friend, always being there for her and bestowing wisdom. It was clear that she could always count on him, no matter what situation she was in, or how chaotic the situation seemed. I had my own Benny once upon a time, so this book reminded me a lot of him and made me miss him lots. But regardless of that nostalgic feeling I got, I still loved seeing Mae's relationship with him, and how he seemed to be more of a fatherly figure to her than her own father at times. Every time Benny was on the page, he was so sweet and warm and hilarious and kind! 

(MAJOR SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH -- skip to the next paragraph to avoid them!) That epilogue...oh my gosh. I know that the proposal was kind of super fast, but my hopeless romantic heart immediately fell in love with it and was so happy and fulfilled. The actual proposal scene had me gasping out loud and a few tears definitely came to my eyes. It's safe to say that I really didn't see it coming. I suspected something was up, but since they hadn't even been dating for a full year at that point, I wasn't expecting it. And once it happened, I definitely pointed it out to my boyfriend, who I've been dating for much longer, asking where my proposal was, LOL! And even though we never really get an explanation on how Mae was forced to relive the same trip over and over until she got it right, I didn't really find myself upset that we don't find out. The universe showed her what would make her happy, and as a reader, I finished the book feeling fulfilled. 

Overall, I absolutely loved IN A HOLIDAZE. It was the perfect, sweet holiday read to kick off the season for me, and it made me wish that my family and our friends all had a cabin that we gathered at every year with each other for the holidays. If you're looking for a Christmas read to boost your spirits and leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy, then I'd definitely recommend adding this one to your TBR! 

Book Blitz & Giveaway: Ruinsong by Julia Em

Julia Ember
Published by: Farrar Straus and Giroux
Publication date: November 24th 2020
Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult

In Julia Ember’s dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.

Her voice was her prison…
Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence must choose between the two. For years, she has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play



I allow Lacerde to dress me without turning to examine myself in the mirror. I don’t want to see how I look, how they’ve fashioned me. In my mind, I already see stains of blood on the muslin fabric of my skirt, dotting the white leather of my gloves. Lacerde adjusts my skirt and smooths my hair. Then, with a grunt, she bends down and buffs my new shoes to a gleam.

She opens the door for me so I don’t get my gloves dirty and leads me down the dark corridor. My dressing room is the only one in use. All the others are boarded up, so that no one will use them to hide.

I imagine what the Opera Hall must have been like years ago, when so many singers performed here together for more willing audiences. The corridors would have been filled with the sounds of laughter, rustling taffeta costumes, and a chorus of warm-up scales. Above, the audience would be straining to get inside the house, clinking glasses together at the theatre bar, speculating on the wonders to come.

If I strain my ear, I can still hear the echo of their merriment in the walls, obscured by the more recent cacophony of despair and pain. The smell of thousands of spellsongs, layered atop one another for centuries, lingers in the musty air. It’s been eight years since this place functioned as a real theatre, but the Opera Hall remembers.

We climb the stairs up onto the stage. Elene and Lord Durand, her newly elevated pet footman, stand together on the edge, shouting instructions down to the conductor in the orchestra pit.

Elene glances up and nods to Lacerde, who positions me at center stage without releasing me. It’s as if they think I will run, even though there is no where to go.

No one has dimmed the gas lamps that line the theatre’s aisles yet, so I have a full view. The theatre is much grander than our replica at the academy. The ceiling bears a centuries-old mural of Adela gifting the first mage with magic. The singer kneels beside the sacred pool, and the goddess rises from the water, her mouth open with song and her arms spread wide. Musical notes surround them, each flecked with real gold leaf.

Portraits of the three other goddesses border the mural. Odetta, the goddess of spring and renewal, wearing a silver mask that covers her eyes and cheeks, and holding a sparrow’s skeleton in her cupped hands. Karina, goddess of justice and winter, thin and draped in a linen sheath, with her arms wide. Marena, the autumn goddess of war, chin lifted proudly, staring down with her hypnotic purple eyes, bejeweled with human teeth.

Beneath, row upon row of tightly packed red velvet seats stretch back to the imposing black doors at the rear of the theatre. They’re made from mageglass, a material designed by the elementals: sand spun, dyed and hardened so that not even diamond bullets could shatter it. Hundreds of people will fill the house tonight. Dame Ava, the queen’s former principal, told me that sometimes there are so many that folk have to stand along the walls.

My knees start to shake at the sight. My mouth goes dry.

All these seats. All these people. My unshed tears blur the rows of red seats together, like a smear of blood.

Author Bio:

Julia Ember is the author of The Seafarer's Kiss duology, a Norse myth inspired retelling of The Little Mermaid, published by Interlude Press (Duet Books), and Ruinsong, a standalone high fantasy reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera, forthcoming from Macmillan Kids (FSG) in November 2020. She lives with her wife and two fluffy cats in the Pacific Northwest.

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We'd like to thank the Xpresso team for allowing us to be a part of this book blitz! If RUINSONG sounds like something you'd be interested in, make sure to add it to your TBR!


Thanksgiving 2020: Books We're Thankful For This Year

Happy Thanksgiving! We hope that everyone who celebrates is enjoying the day with some delicious food, and maybe even curling up with a great book. This year, we decided to highlight some books that we are thankful for. They made us feel all the feels, broke us out of reading slumps, and in some cases, saved our lives. Without further ado, here they are:




So those are some books that we're thankful for this year -- what are yours? Comment down below and let us know! 

Enjoy the rest of your day, and be sure to eat lots of great food!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait to read! 


The Intimacy Experiment

Author: Rosie Danan
Publisher: Berkley Books
Paperback, 336 Pages  
Publication Date: April 6th, 2021

Summary: Naomi Grant has built her life around going against the grain. After the sex-positive start-up she cofounded becomes an international sensation, she wants to extend her educational platform to live lecturing. Unfortunately, despite her long list of qualifications, higher ed won't hire her. Ethan Cohen has recently received two honors: LA Mag named him one of the city's hottest bachelors and he became rabbi of his own synagogue. Taking a gamble in an effort to attract more millennials to the faith, the executive board hired Ethan because of his nontraditional background. Unfortunately, his shul is low on both funds and congregants. The board gives him three months to turn things around or else they'll close the doors of his synagogue for good. Naomi and Ethan join forces to host a buzzy seminar series on Modern Intimacy, the perfect solution to their problems--until they discover a new one--their growing attraction to each other. They've built the syllabus for love's latest experiment, but neither of them expected they'd be the ones putting it to the test. .

I read THE ROOMMATE earlier this year and loved it so much, so when I heard that there was a spin-off focused on Naomi, I immediately added it to my TBR. I've had a few friends read advanced copies of this already and love it, which makes me even more excited to pick it up myself. If you haven't read THE ROOMMATE already and you're looking for a super swoon-worthy read, I recommend picking it up and then checking this one out right after! I'm so excited!

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your link so I can stop back! 

Top Ten Tuesday: Things We're Thankful For This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl in which we create bookish lists about everything from our favorite characters to love triangles and everything in between! 

This Week's Theme: Things We're Thankful For This Year

This week, I'm highlighting ten things that I'm thankful for this year, in honor of Thanksgiving coming up in just a few days. So without further ado, let's get into it! Just for clarification, this is in no particular order:

1. My health. In a year as scary as this one, I'm really thankful for that.

2. My friends, family, and boyfriend. All of these people stick by my side and help me get through some of the hardest lows and the most amazing joys of my life, and I'd be lost without them.

3. Good books. You can never have too many! 

4. Pretty journals. Something you can also never have too many of, and I've kind of started collecting them.

5. Colorful pens. They make my notes so much brighter!
6. My MFA program. I'm so grateful that I get to study something I love and that I get to work on creative writing, which is my passion!

7. Swoon-worthy rom-com movies. There's no better way to spend a Saturday night!

8. The Sims. Something I love playing to pass the time! 

9. Animal Crossing. It has been such a blessed distraction this year, that's for sure! And I love being able to decorate my island. :-)

10. This incredible bookish community. Because without all of you, there would be no Book Bratz. Being able to interact with you all each and every day is such a wonderful joy. <3

So those are ten things that I'm thankful for this year!! What are yours? Comment down below and let me know -- and also leave links to your own posts so I can check them out as well! :-)

Review: Tools of Engagement (Hot and Hammered, #3) by Tessa Bailey

Title: Tools of Engagement (Hot and Hammered, #3)
Author: Tessa Bailey
Publisher: Avon
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Paperback, 368 Pages
Published September 2020

Summary: Hair, makeup, clothing, decor... everything in Bethany Castle's world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family's real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She's on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously. When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother's construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany's skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way. As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It's a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany's perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.

After I first picked up FIX HER UP earlier this year, I instantly fell in love. A swoon-worthy romantic comedy set on Long Island, where we're from? It was already super intriguing, and then I ended up loving it. I bought the second companion novel, LOVE HER OR LOSE HER, and devoured it immediately. Now, after excitedly waiting for my pre-order of TOOLS OF ENGAGEMENT, the final companion in the series, to come in, I couldn't wait to dive into Bethany and Wes's story. And let me tell you, it was definitely worth it!

As the summary explains, the story follows the last Castle sibling, Bethany, as she decides to charge out and manage her own flip, going against her home-improvement tycoon brother. What she isn't expecting is for it to turn into a televised competition, but that's exactly what happens, and Bethany is stressed out because it's her first time stepping out to head a flip on her own, and there's so much that she doesn't feel like she knows yet. She manages to get the help of Wes, her brother's former employee who is cocky and flirty and seven whole years younger than her. At first, they can barely stay in the same room as one another without fighting. But as time passes, their banter becomes less and less barbed, and something more may even be blossoming. If Bethany can manage to get out of her own way and let herself enjoy it, that is.

I really loved this book, and let me say, it will definitely make you swoon. Wes and Bethany's banter was nailed down perfectly, and this book gives the most perfect enemies-to-lovers vibes. And it isn't just a random switch from them hating each other to something's subtle yet swift, and as a reader you get the chance to watch it grow and change right before your eyes. It reminded me a lot of THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne, and the banter that goes on between the two characters there. And some of their quips really made me laugh out loud. And some other scenes definitely made me gasp out loud, that's for sure. This is definitely not the kind of book that you want to read while sitting on the subway! There are plenty of swoons to be had here.

My favorite character in this book was definitely Wes. Seeing the way that he so sweetly cared for his niece, Laura, when he was randomly thrown into the position as her caretaker really melted my heart. It was so sweet to see him step up and do right by her even when he wasn't quite sure how to handle himself. I think that the stress that Bethany puts on herself to always be perfect was also really addressed well. So many women -- myself included -- put this unnecessary stress on their shoulders to act like they're perfect, and that everything in their life is fine, and that they have it all together. When in reality, it's okay to not have it together sometimes! So seeing Bethany come to terms with her perfectionist tendencies and her desire to put on a mirage for everyone really was inspiring, and it made me think about how I often feel the same way, and how I can combat that myself. I felt really inspired once I saw her character arc.

There were only two things that felt a little bit off about me when reading this book, which is what made me hesitant to give it a 5-star rating. For starters, Wes's age. Maybe it's just because I'm almost 23 myself, but I felt like his behavior and actions and the way he talked definitely didn't feel like someone who was 23. I know that part of the point was that he was supposed to seem mature for his age, but it still felt a little too out of place to me, to the point that I spent half the book mulling over that in the back of my mind, and it was hard to forget and threw me off a little bit.

(Major spoilers in this paragraph, so skip to the next one to avoid them!) The other part of this book that I wasn't super keen on -- but still made my heart flutter -- was the ending. Listen, I know that the point of these rom-coms, especially the enemies-to-lovers story of Bethany and Wes, is supposed to be a fast romance. But in the span of two and a half weeks, they go from absolutely hating each other's guts, to tolerating each other, to messing around with each other, to being in LOVE with each other, to moving in with each other, and to getting engaged. And then sometime during the eight months after that, they get married. I don't mind when things happen somewhat fast in these books, since that's part of the enjoyment, but it just felt a little bit too fast for me. A couple of months is one thing. Not even three weeks is another. So as much as I thought it was sweet and adorable and I swooned over it, I still felt myself hesitating a little bit with how fast it all moved.

Overall, I really liked reading TOOLS OF ENGAGEMENT, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet, swoon-worthy romance that keeps them on the edge of their seat from start to finish. And if you like love stories that go by in a flash, then this is definitely one to put on your TBR. I'm sad that the series is over, and I hope that one day Tessa Bailey ends up writing another book so we can see more about what goes on in the Castle family's lives and the lives of their friends and family, because it's really been such a delight to read!

And if you liked my review, don't forget to check out my reviews for the first two books in the series, Fix Her Up and Love Her or Lose Her!

5 Tips for Blogging While You're Busy

Are you finding yourself in the same predicament that we are -- trying to juggle blogging with working, school, and other daily life tasks that you have to get done? You're definitely not alone -- we struggled with this a lot back in 2016 when we first started college, and then all over again once we started our graduate school programs this year. But you're in luck -- because after many years of balancing blogging with daily life, we have some tips to share. Bloggers and Bookstagrammers have asked us for these tips in the past, so we decided to share them with you now as well! So without further ado, here are 5 tips for blogging while you're busy:

1. Read in short snippets wherever you can catch the time. When your daily life is as chaotic as ours can be, it's hard to find time to read. But that's what fuels our book blogs, so what can we do about it? We read whenever we can find small snippets of time -- while waiting for our nail appointment, on the walk from class back to our dorm, etc. We also try to read for at least 15-30 minutes before going to sleep every night. It may not seem like a lot, but those small snippets of time where you trade scrolling on Twitter for picking up a book actually adds up, and you'll be finishing books faster than you'd expect!

2. Make it your routine to tap into the book world for at least a few minutes each day. When you're busy, it can be hard to stay in the loop with what's going on in the book community -- and as you all know, stuff is happening there all of the time. So we make it our goal to log on for at least 10 minutes each day, just to interact with our followers, reply to some other posts, etc. It's only ten minutes, but it can go a long way with keeping you in the loop!

3. Schedule a designated "Blog Work Day" each month. We started doing this when we started college, and it has been an absolute godsend. At the end of every month, we pick one day -- usually a weekend day -- to sit down and schedule all of the blog posts for the upcoming month. We buckle down for a few hours and schedule our Top Ten Tuesday posts, our Waiting on Wednesday posts, book tours, posts like this one, etc. That way, throughout the month, all we have to worry about is writing reviews as we finish reading books. It makes the workload a lot less stressful if we just take one afternoon to get all of that big stuff out of the way!

4. Book blitz events can be your best friend! When you're not reading as quickly as you'd like to, it can be hard to generate content. But book blogging doesn't have to just be about reviews -- we also love signing up for book blitz events and spotlight tours, and we also love to share excerpts, host interviews, and even do fun posts like these. So if you find that your reading is slowing down because you're busy, there are plenty of other fun ways to generate content for your site!

5. If it starts feeling like a chore more than it does fun, then there's no shame in taking a break. Sometimes life gets overwhelming and you just need to step away from the computer for a little while. You shouldn't feel a sense of shame or embarrassment if you need to take a little bit of hiatus. It happens at The Book Bratz all of the time! Emily and Amber are both currently on hiatus due to an influx of school work and nursing school clinicals that make it really hard to get blog work done. Your site (and this incredible community!) will always be here waiting for you when you're done taking a break, so there's nothing lost by hitting the pause button for a little bit!

So those are our 5 tips for managing blogging while you have a busy life. Do you have tips of your own to share? Agree or disagree with any of ours? Comment down below and let us know!

Waiting on Wednesday: Between You, Me, and the Honeybees by Amelia Diane Coombs

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait to read! 
Between You, Me, and the Honeybees

Author: Amelia Diane Coombs
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 368 Pages  
Publication Date: June 2nd, 2021

Summary: Josie Hazeldine has just graduated from high school, and she’s ready for a summer full of sunshine, beekeeping, and…lying to her mom. Josie’s mom couldn’t be more proud of her daughter going to college, something she never got to do. But Josie wants to stay in her California hometown and take over the family business, Hazeldine Honey. So that college acceptance her mom is thrilled about? Yeah, Josie turned it down. But she’s going to come clean—just not yet. The neighbor’s artsy, adorable grandson who’s in town for the summer makes Josie’s web of lies even more tangled. He’s into Josie and the feeling is very mutual, but he’s a Blumstein—the sworn enemy of the Hazeldines and their number one competition in the annual Honey Show at the end of July. As their secret fling goes on, Josie knows she’s getting in way too deep to leave him behind when summer’s over. Can Josie keep the boy she can’t stop thinking about without the secrets she’s juggling crashing down around her?

I read KEEP MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO this year and loved it, so when I found out that Amelia had a new book coming out, I immediately added it to my TBR. It sounds super sweet and, my aunt is a beekeeper who sells local honey, so this is an interesting topic that I'm excited to read about! And I know that they tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but isn't that one so gorgeous?? I *love* yellow covers!

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your link so I can stop back! 

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Name a Pet After

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl in which we create bookish lists about everything from our favorite characters to love triangles and everything in between! 

This Week's Theme: Characters I'd Name a Pet After

This week, I'm highlighting ten characters that I'd name a pet after. So without further ado, let's get into it! Just for clarification, this is in no particular order:

1. Lila from A CUBAN GIRL'S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW by Laura Taylor Namey

2. Lo from THE PROJECT by Courtney Summers (I actually have a little beagle named Lola, and that's her nickname!)

3. Isla from ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Stephanie Perkins


5. Jubilee from VERONA COMICS by Jennifer Dugan

6. Celia from INK IN THE BLOOD by Kim Smejkal

7. Lucky from CHASING LUCKY by Jenn Bennett

8. Hazel from JOSH AND HAZEL'S GUIDE TO NOT DATING by Christina Lauren

9. Bex from THE ROYAL WE by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

10. Yahaira from CLAP WHEN YOU LAND by Elizabeth Acevedo

So those are ten characters that I'd name a pet after! I think that some of these names are adorable and some are super pretty, and I'd love to name something after them. What are yours? Comment down below and let me know -- and also leave links to your own posts so I can check them out as well! :-)