April Monthly Recap

~*~On The Blog~*~
I'm in extreme denial that I am going home in 3 weeks. SOMEONE GET ME A TIME TURNER BECAUSE THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING. April was an amazing month. I did so much awesome stuff! I finished classes and then the month flew by because I visited 5 countries: Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal. I also managed a day trip to Bath and Stonehenge, bringing my travel total of the month to 18 days. I spent more days outside of England than I did in it! I also managed to turn in 3 essays due the first week of May, meaning I typed over 10,000 words in about 6 days? What?! I saw two shows: Les Miserables and A Midsummer Night's Dream. I announced my two summer internships at Nickelodeon and Tor. The list goes on and on. This month is a month to remember, even if I was so busy I barely got any reading done.

Books Reviewed:
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley - 5 stars
When We Collided by Emery Lord - 4.5 stars

Books Read These 2 Months:
I have challenged myself to read 75 books this year, let's see if I can! I'll be keeping track in this section.
15. The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury (ARC: 340 pages)
    DNF's of the month 
    1. None
    Total Pages Read This Month: 340 pages
    Total Pages Read This Year: 2,510 pages
    Total Books Read This Year: 15
    Total Books DNF'd This Year: 0
    • I was part of several blog tours featuring giveaways in this two month span, but unfortunately, none of them are still running.
    Lili's Travel Diary:
    • I kicked off the entire month with a travel diary! This travel diary recaps My Swiss Adventure to meet my friend, Jenn!
    • Then I created a Top Ten Tuesday post of my own chronicling my top ten British snacks, which led to a chocolate care package from Jim because apparently I have not had them all! 
    • I recapped my day trip to Cambridge where I got to hang out with Ashley.
    • An important post regarding my tips for dealing with homesickness went up too. I have had a blast here in London, but homesickness is definitely something I've dealt with on and off, so I wanted to share my thoughts about it.
    • I also managed to recap my day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon! All of the Shakespeare! YAAASSS!
    Discussion Posts:
    Guest Posts and Bonus Content:
    • None this month, but I have some lined up for next month!
    ~*~What I've Been Watching~*~

    West End Shows:
    • I saw Les Miserables with Hannah and it blew my freaking mind! They have the original spinning stage here in the UK and just, woah. WOAH WOAH WOAH. Such a good show!!! How is it that I adore theatre and went this long without seeing it?!
    • I am seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Globe tonight. I can't share thoughts just yet because I haven't seen it, but I've got my fingers crossed for at truly magical show. As I type out this post they are calling for rain, so keep me in your thoughts people!
    • I properly finished my Sherlock binge by watching the January 1, 2016 special! That was definitely a disorienting episode, but I am so excited for it to be Christmas for the next episode! AHHHH
    • I am also still keeping up with Survivor and this season is getting good! So many blindsides, so much betrayal, so much kicking out the people I really really hate. I approve so much of where the season is heading right now, and some key players are really surprising me in good ways. I can't wait to see what's to come. Anyone else surprised by how much they're beginning to like Aubry?!
    • The Amazing Race is in the home stretch with 5 teams left, and I am very curious to see where it'll go. Lots of drama now that Kurt can't do anymore road blocks. I hope Brody doesn't ruin it all for them, but I am still rooting for Tyler and Kory. If they don't take it home then I want Burnie and Ashley too just because they're such good racers or Cole and his mom because they're so fun to watch. Anyone but the dancers. I really like the male dancer, but the girl dancer is just so terrible I'd cry if she wins.
    • I started my binge of Orphan Black and I am 100% IN LOVE with this series! I have finished the first two seasons, so I just have one more season to go before I can catch up with the current season's episodes that are on Netflix. Tatiana Maslany is life. That's all I've got to say.
    • I haven't really watched any movies because I've barely had time to do so and have instead been dedicating my life to Orphan Black because I am an addict. Oops.
    ~*~Reading Challenges~*~

    Fairytale Retelling Challenge:
    1/10 Completed
    • The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
    Flights of Fantasy Challenge:
    4/30 Completed 
    • Remembrance by Meg Cabot
    • A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
    • Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery 
    • The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
    Contemporary Reading Challenge:
    2/16 Completed
    • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
    • When We Collided by Emery Lord
    Backlist Books Challenge:
    9/12 Completed
    • Edward II by Christopher Marlowe
    • King Henry IV Part 1 by William Shakespeare 
    • The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
    • A Woman Killed with Kindness by Thomas Heywood
    • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
    • 'Tis Pity She's A Whore by John Ford
    • As You Like It by William Shakespeare
    • The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont
    • Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
    Contemporary Romance Challenge:
    0/6 Completed
    • not yet
    Finishing The Series Challenge:
    1/7 Completed
      • The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot
      ~*~Around London~*~
      I am leaving you in 22 days. I CANNOT THINK ABOUT THIS WITHOUT BEGINNING TO CRY.

      I came to England with the goal of exploring 10 countries. Let's see if it happens.
      10/10 unlocked.
      • England- Though I have been here when I was 12, I am counting this because it is my home base and I plan on exploring the heck out of it.
      • Wales- I know this is not technically its own country, but I am considering it to be one for the sake of my travels. Lots of sheep, lots of rain, an interesting 24 hours.
      • Scotland- I spent the weekend leading into my birthday here and I had an absolute blast. I met some awesome people, saw some awesome sights, and got to ring in 21 in style.
      • France- Lots of drama this trip, but also a lot of learning about myself and falling in love with my new bestie, Eiffel. I am glad that I went on this trip, but I couldn't spend an extended period of time in this city. I didn't love it as much as I was hoping to.
      • Switzerland- I visited three different cities in a 4 day period in Switzerland and had an absolute blast being able to reconnect with an old co-blogger. Jenn made this trip so worth it, even if it was freezing and snowy at times.
      • Germany- Probably my second favorite trip of this entire adventure. I spent 2 days in Munich and 2 days in Berlin on a solo adventure to learn about myself and it was one of the most fun things I have ever done.
      • Denmark- I spent two days in Copenhagen and it was so fun! I am happy I went, but there's not a lot to do there. I couldn't imagine spending a very long period there.
      • The Netherlands- It was very rainy during my excursion there, but it was wonderful seeing Marieke and eating lots of yummy food <3 10/10 would recommend a weekend trip to Amsterdam for sure!
      • Spain- I spent a full six days in Spain, more days in any location except for London, and I already know that I need to go back in life one day. There is still so much left to see, but damn, did I love that country.
      • Portugal- I only spent two days in Portugal, but I know I have to go back one day. So much left to see of this beautiful culture.
      I want to explore England just as much as I want to explore Europe, so I am taking some day trips! My goal is to hit up at least 7 British cities because I believe that's an easily obtainable number.
      6/7 unlocked.
      • Cambridge- I got to see Ashley in Cambridge, which in and of itself is a highlight. This is a beautiful town, but we went on a Saturday where not many colleges were open, so it was a bit hard to properly tourist. Either way, I loved the environment and seeing a friend is so, so worth the trip.
      • Stratford-Upon-Avon- This was a beautiful little town, very nice for a day trip but nothing more. There's not a lot to do and it gets boring rather quickly, even for Shakespeare fans myself, but seeing a Royal Shakespeare Company production is definitely one of the highlights of this study abroad experience for me.
      • Windsor- We stopped in Windsor on our way to Oxford. I am counting this gem of a town because we spent about two hours there and nearly the entire time I stood there staring at the Castle in awe.
      • Oxford- I loved this literary city. Sure, some of the sights I wanted to see may have been closed. I got to see you Bodleian Library, but unfortunately I did not get to tour you :(. Either way, I had an absolute blast on this day trip. Plus, the Oxford Yik Yak game is on point!
      • Salisbury- An important name until you realize Stonehenge is located there! So cool! So happy I went, even if it's a place you can only spend about an hour of your time at.
      • Bath- Such a peaceful city! I loved exploring The Roman Baths which totally didn't smell as bad as I was expecting them to. And then I just did some exploring around the area, had some delicious ice cream, and even played a round of mini golf with a cute guy. All in all a great trip.
      Sights Seen
      • Museums: The British Museum, The Tate Modern, The Natural History Museum, The National Gallery, Sherlock Holmes Museum
      • British History: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, The Tower of London, Kensington Palace, The Globe Theatre, Stonehenge, Hampton Court Palace, Houses of Parliament
      • Parks: Hyde Park, Regent's Park, Green Park
      • Theater: The Master Builder, Matilda, In The Heights, Guys and Dolls, Miss Atomic Bomb, Hamlet, Billy Elliott, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, A Midsummer Night's Dream
      • Random Fun: The Shard, Borough Market, Camden Market, Oxford Street
      Do you have a monthly recap or thoughts on anything I'm reading/reviewing/watching? Share your thoughts below! Every comment is greatly appreciated! <3

      Waiting on Wednesday #71

      Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

      My pick of the week is...
      Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally

      Publication Date: July 5, 2016
      Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
      Reading Level: Young Adult
      Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

      Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

      Why I Am Waiting

      Miranda Kenneally always delivers on the feels. She takes badass female heroines, makes them even more awesome by kicking major butt at sports, and gives them swoony men that are unforgettable. This is the contemporary formula for the three s's: success, swoonyness, and sexiness. I am 100% down to read anything this women writes. Make my heart SQUEEE ten times over forever, Miranda! Forever a Miranda follower. <3 Plus, I need to know who makes cameos in this one!


      Are you equally as excited for this book as me? Is there another book you are even more excited about? Please share your thoughts with me below!

      Stacking the Shelves #112

      Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

      I know, I know. You are probably wondering how I am managing to post an STS post while in London when I swore I wouldn't accumulate anymore books unless I came here planning to buy them. Well, it just so happens that all but one of the below books were shipped to my home in the states, so I only have to carry one home. I am proud of the way I am cheating this system. ;)

      Gifted from Bekka (Thank you!)
      signed A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
      Special Edition Rhys card

      Gifted from my Mom (Thank you!)
       My Mom knows that my love for this book knows no bounds, so her contributions to my collection are something I am forever thankful for! <3 


      Have you read any of these? What are your thoughts? I can honestly say I love every book that got added to my shelves this week! What did you add to your shelves this week? Link below so I can discover some new books for myself!

      Lili's Travel Diary #22: Stratford-Upon-Avon

      A little over a month ago, on April 18th, I set out for a day trip that I planned on taking since I first decided to study abroad in the UK: Stratford-Upon-Avon. In case you don't know what this is, it is Shakespeare's birthplace. After taking a Shakespeare class last term that was my favorite class ever and taking a second Shakespeare class this term, making my love for him grow, I knew I needed to do this. When my friend Julia's sister visited from the states for a week and said she wanted to take a daytrip, I asked if I could join. I was beyond excited to head there.

      Shakespeare's birthplace.
      We bought a three house ticket to get into the family homes. This included entry to all Shakespeare attractions except for his wife, Anne's, cottage and his mother's cottage as well as an exhibit on the history of Shakespeare which we found to be super interesting. 10/10, highly recommend it. We didn't have the time to be able to get to Anne or his mother's cottage, nor did we have the funds. They're a bit farther out of the city center and we didn't arrive until around noon. If we arrived closer to 9 or 10 in the morning we may have had a chance, but that would require a 6AM wake up from London and we were not about that.

      First up, we went to Shakespeare's childhood home. He eventually sold it to become a hotel, but he was still born and raised in this house. It was a really cool thing to see.
      The original window in the room where he was birthed in was removed and put on display because so many wealthy guests of the past had carved their names into it in commemoration. You can see this depicted in the picture to the right.

      Throughout his house there are also actors that perform parts of his plays and volunteers to keep you well informed. Because it was a bit cold on the day we went there weren't many actors around, which was a total bummer because I really wanted to witness Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene occur in the backyard!

      The next stop on our ticket was Harvard House. It was the home of some of his family's childhood friends. It was not that grand, and there's not much to say about it. We were not in it long, but since it's part of the ticket we figured why not. It sure was beautiful to look at though! See picture to the left.

      The last item included in our ticket was Hall's Croft, which was Shakespeare's first daughter's home. This was the most magnificent of them all, and there was quite a bit of history in there on top of a beautiful garden that we spent some time relaxing it. We spent most of our time in this home, and would say it is an absolute must visit next to Shakespeare's actual home. While Harvard House is not as important, this one cannot be skipped if you ever find yourself in Stratford.

      One thing that the three of us really got a kick out of was all of the displays in the home. They have some donated furniture pieces and other pieces that were recreated to look like they did in the time period, but nearly everything had really fun and entertaining signs on them. The sign to the left reads "I am old and tired, please sit on something younger." haha

      Shakespeare's grave
      After we finished our tour of the homes, which only took a few hours, we decided to visit Shakespeare's grave. He is buried inside a church alongside his wife and several other important people in his life. What I found most fascinating about his grave is that his plaque refers to him as a poet and not a playwright. It just reminds you that even though he was a successful playwright in his time, he didn't grow to be the literary mega-man we know him as today until way after his death.

      At this point in time, we were getting a bit bored. Stratford-Upon-Avon--smartly named because it is one of many towns named Stratford but this one is located directly on the River Avon--is truly a small town that is meant to be done inn a day trip. I couldn't imagine spending a night there. I do not think there's enough to do! The
      best way to cure boredom is to eat, so we found a cute pub and I indulged in one of my favorite British pub fares: three bean chili with a side of well cooked chips. I am going to miss this stuff.

      By the time we finished eating, we decided to take a long walk along the River Avon to kill time before the main attraction: A Royal Shakespeare Company performance of Hamlet. This was an item on my bucket list after analyzing so many Royal Shakespeare Company performances in my past classes, and I am so happy to have had the ability to cross it off my bucket list! We bought really cheap tickets for opening week because no critic reviews have come out yet, and let me tell you, this is one of the best performances I have ever seen of this play! They took Hamlet and still set it in Denmark, but they completed brought it up to date in terms of costuming (Hamlet was a bit of a hipster and I adored every minute of it) and even introduced some African themes for the background music and anything relating to death (burials,
      ghosts, etc). You know the drill if you've read the play. It was so well done, and I am so thankful we did this.

      However, because Hamlet is nearly three hours long, we didn't get back to London until around 2AM because trains just don't run as often late at night. I was 100% exhausted the next day, but I stand by the fact that that person was so, so worth it.

      If you ever find yourself in England, a day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon is so worth it. You must see a Royal Shakespeare Company production because they are often quite grand and well done, and it makes it all the more cooler being in his hometown. With all of that in mind, it is a small town. The girls and I kept asking ourselves how people could live there without going crazy, so I wouldn't stay there for anything longer than two days at the most. It's nice and it has turned into quote the tourist attraction, but it is, in the end, still a very small town. Even if David Tennant lives there when performing in Royal Shakespeare Company productions.


      Have you ever been to Stratford-Upon-Avon? Do you think you'd like to go? Have you ever seen a Royal Shakespeare Company performance? Comment below with your thoughts!

      Waiting on Wednesday #70

      Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

      My pick of the week is...
      The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

      Publication Date: August 2, 2016
      Publisher: Henry Holt & Co (BYR)
      Reading Level: Young Adult
      Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous - what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.

      Bestselling author Mary E. Pearson's combination of intrigue, suspense, romance and action make this a riveting page turner for teens.

      Why I Am Waiting

      Did you read the ending of book two?! Did it make you ridiculously excited/anxious/nervous for book three?! Yeah, me too, hence why I need this book in my life, like, yesterday. Plus, look at the amazingly awesome cover. Bask in its glory. Prepare for the epic tale and probably battles within its pages. Mentally prepare yourself for the fact that this killer trilogy is unfortunately coming to an end. I never want it to end, BUT I NEED THIS BOOK NOW. Mary E. Pearson is ridiculously good at inspiring conflicting emotions, that's for sure.


      Are you equally as excited for this book as me? Is there another book you are even more excited about? Please share your thoughts with me below!

      Top Ten Books That Will Make You Laugh (or at least chuckle)

      Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

      I had so much fun making this list! So, without further ado...

      1. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton- This book literally had me laughing out loud. It's just so hilarious! The shenanigans, the modern quotes put into Tudor-era English, and the hilarity of it all. I just love this book to pieces.

      2. Croak Series by Gina Damico- This entire trilogy has me dying of laughter because it is so funny. Humor is Damico's specialty and she knows it. When you meet Uncle Mort and the gang, you can't help but smile just thinking about them. I mean, a group of horny teen grim reapers is a recipe for hilarity after all.

      3. Perijee and Me by Ross Montgomery- An adorably dark middle grade about a girl who befriends an alien that may or may not be trying to take over the world. Naturally, hilarity ensures.

      4. The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot- Meg Cabot knows how to bring the laughs. She constantly has me dying as I read through this seven book series. Major dedication because the characters are so worth it. Cabot must have been a comedian in a past life.

      5. Lick by Kylie Scott- A new adult romance about bands is guaranteed to be hot, but it is also ridiculously hilarious depending on which band member you're looking at. I'll give you the hint: this one has the really funny one it.

      6. Alienated by Melissa Landers- An alien comes to Earth on an exchange program and has to learn Earthen words and ways of life. There are some very entertaining mix up's in here for sure. Landers took a really interesting concept and turned it into entertainment goal.

      7. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan- It's Sarah Rees Brennan--one of the most entertaining authors I have ever seen at an event. Need I say more?

      8. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy- Willowdean's love of herself is contagious, though her love of Dolly Parton may not be. She's cracking relatable jokes left and right, making her all the more endearing to readers.

      9. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider- Robyn Schneider is the Queen of Puns. The original title of this book, Severed Heads and Broken Hearts, is a pun in and of itself when you think about the first chapter, after all.

      10. The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes- When you combine The Art of War with high school shenanigans, hilariousness is bound to ensue.

      Have you read any of these books recently? Did you enjoy them? Are you looking forward to them? Don't forget to share your lists with me in the comments below! <3

      Review: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

      Publication Date: May 10, 2016
      US Publisher: Dial Books
      UK Publisher: Faber and Faber
      Reading Level: Young Adult
      Pages: 249 (ARC)
      Source: From Faber & Faber For Review
      Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

      Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But how can she prove she deserves a spot there?

      Solomon is the answer.

      Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa thrusts herself into his life, introducing him to her charming boyfriend Clark and confiding her fears in him. Soon, all three teens are far closer than they thought they’d be, and when their facades fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse, as well.

      ~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

      When I was offered a UK ARC of this book, I had to stop myself from jumping for joy. I fell in love with the idea of it immediately after reading the synopsis months ago, and I am so happy to report that John Corey Whaley delivers an amazing tale full of raw emotions, powerful morals, killer friendships, and Star Trek references.

      To begin, it is worth noting that this is one of those stories about doing the right thing for the wrong reason. And, in this case, I think it works. Lisa decides to "fix" Solomon's agoraphobia so that she can get into her dream college's psychology program and write about how she's already on track to be an amazing psychologist. Naturally, it goes without saying, that this is her journey to discovering that people can't be fixed. I was a bit apprehensive because this idea has the potential to go horribly awry and get a bit offensive, but Whaley handles it with the finesse of a great, educated writer and uses this as a platform to help readers understand mental health more properly. Bravo.

      I was also a bit worried about Lisa's characterization. She's not an outright anti-hero, but she is certainly an unlikable protagonist. Eventually, you learn more about her past and why she is the way she is and you begin to understand her more, but Solomon is so extremely likable that it is hard to truly love anyone who may be using him. Solomon's characterization is off the freakin' charts. I adored him. He is content with where he finds himself in life, but also curious and realistic about his future. What is it going to mean when he can't go outside? He pushes himself on his own, taking baby steps, and I adore it. I also really like Clark, Lisa's handsome water polo-playing boyfriend who is also a huge nerd. He finds a dear friend in Solomon that I don't think could ever be replaced. To be honest, I love Clark more than Lisa, but at times his characterization seemed too convenient to progress certain plot points.  With all of this in mind, Solomon's grandmother clearly steals the show and I want to clone her to have her all to myself, please and thank you. Bonus points for killer family dynamics and showing how important it is to have a strong support system around you whether you're struggling or not.

      Told in alternating third person POV between Solomon and Lisa, I naturally found myself looking forward to Solomon's chapters because they explored agoraphobia and panic disorders--a topic I have witnessed but still have much to understand about. Whaley displays this beautifully and left the reader very satisfied. Lisa's chapters also had crucial plot points in them, even if they made you cringe at times, and helped round out the story as a whole. 

      I have absolutely no complaints about this book. I put it down after flying through it in a single sitting feeling extremely satisfied and craving a sequel. I want more. I want more of Solomon's exquisite mind and story, and I want more of this awesome family and network of geeky friends. I literally ached as I turned the last page because the overall tale was satisfying, but I was not ready to say goodbye. Months later, I still don't want to say goodbye. Emotional, heartwarming, nerdy, and informative, I think everyone needs to read this book.

      5 stars

      |Goodreads|Amazon|Book Depository|Author's Website|

      FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for my honest review.

      Waiting on Wednesday #69

      Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

      My pick of the week is...

      Publication Date: April 19, 2016
      Publisher: Razorbill
      Reading Level: Young Adult
      Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her pot-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.

      When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. Scarlett never considers what might happen if they were to find out what she truly thinks about them...until a dramatic series of events exposes a very different reality than Scarlett's stories, forever transforming her approach to relationships—both online and off.

      Why I Am Waiting

      I think this book has a super unique and intruiging premise, which is what makes me so excited for it! Furthermore, I feel like many book bloggers can relate to Scarlett somehow because we use our blogs and other online forums to talk about our interests and lives. Sure, I seem to have a slightly better off reality than Scarlett Epstein over here does, but that doesn't mean I don't love my ability to escape into the Internet every now and then. I know I won't be able to read this book until I get back to the states, but that doesn't mean I'm not ridiculously excited to do so!


      Are you equally as excited for this book as me? Is there another book you are even more excited about? Please share your thoughts with me below!

      Lili's Travel Diary #21: 8 Tips for Dealing with Homesickness

      Prior to coming abroad I was warned that I may experience some intense homesickness. It's part of the natural course of emotions while abroad. Shaped kind of like a W, your highs are super high and your lows are super low. For the last week of March and early April, I was in an extreme low. I couldn't tell you why, but I was. But with that in mind, I wasn't necessarily homesick. I missed my Dad A LOT because I had become so adjusted to living with him. I missed my feline companions, being able to wake up and have them there or to come home after a long day and just relax with some cuddles. I missed the comforts of home, and I missed New York City, but I didn't miss New Jersey at all. I was experiencing travel depression--something I didn't really think existed until I found myself in it.

      Now, that's not to say I am not grateful for this opportunity. Words cannot describe how thankful I am to be here, to be going on all these adventures that may not be once in a lifetime, but are sure as heck hard to come by. But negative emotions are still a plague here, trips and all, kind of lurking in the background and sometimes rearing their ugly heads.

      It happens to me most when I find myself upset by something or someone, which has thankfully only happened once this entire trip. If you've read my posts, you know I am referring to an incident in Paris. Otherwise, the moods hit me randomly. I could be making dinner and think, "wow, my mom would really like this" or I could be watching a show on  Netflix at night where an inside joke with my best friend pops up and I immediately have to text him. It's the little things. It's your desire for the familiar in a world where everything is still an adjustment, even 3 months later. It's your need for your support system who are still there, but are hours behind so it's a new journey to figure out how to keep in touch and keep going while fashioning a new support system here that you hope will hold up. And, you know, when a member of that support system isn't being supporting like you thought they'd be, the negative emotions overpower once again. It's not fun to deal with this.

      But I've realized that there are certain ways I am coping with this, and I thought I'd share them for future long-term travelers and study abroaders like myself. One thing to note is this is how I am dealing with homesickness, but it is different for everyone.

      1. Carve out a routine as quickly as possible.
      I found solace in my class schedule because it meant that at certain times of certain days, I was always busy. It was nice. On days where I woke up and I had no plans, I had no idea what to do with myself. It made the beginning of my time here a little hard. A routine means normalcy, and it's something nice to rely on in the moment. Learn about your area so you don't rely on maps, find your little cafes for homework, and your favorite spots to grab a bite that are your little secret. Build a life here and things can be so much easier. Find your small core group and stick with them. That's all you need.

      2. Establish contact with people at home, but don't rely on it.
      I have found on this trip that I have grown closer to my family, which I love, but I am not relying on them. Sure, I need my phone calls with them every now and then and I often text them just because we are talking about a show we both love or something, but I can put my phone away and just live in the moment too. I've had moments where I've sat down at night and texted them and they were thinking, "wow, I haven't heard from Lil in a while." I make sure that every trip I take, they're the last people I tell I am taking off and the first people I tell I land, and then I tend not to reach out again until I am home for the night unless I manage wifi during lunch breaks and see I have texts I missed from them. Relying on your support network at home can be distracting. You're going home eventually and can spend all your time with them.

      3. Do not feel guilty if you are not enjoying yourself.
      The worst thing that can ever happen is you feeling guilty for not enjoying yourself. At times, you build things up in your mind and they're just not what you want them to be--like the Mona Lisa. It's such a big deal, but it's underwhelming when you get there. If you are having Mona Lisa-esque feelings on a trip while abroad or wherever you are calling your temporary home, don't feel guilty about it. It's natural. You can't love everything. Feeling guilty makes things harder for you because it spirals you into other negative emotions. When you're at home, do you love every meal you eat? Do you love every show you see? Do you make all perfect decisions? The answer is no. So that doesn't need to happen while you are abroad either, even if it feels like it does.

      4. Do not compare yourself with others.
      In the age of social media, we are all constantly updating people with our lives. I am for sure guilty of this. I am making it a point to post at least one photo to Instagram every day here, after all, because I want to document my adventures. But the thing is, a photo doesn't show everything. It's a snapshot in time, sometimes posed and not as candid as it may seem, that we think depicts our trip. However, it's so easy to smile to a camera, and then go back to scowling the second after the flash goes off. These photos aren't a reality, and you shouldn't compare yourself to others with this in mind. Sure, that trip looks gorgeous, but there will be a chance in the future for you to go. Comparing yourself to others typically means you're only hurting yourself...you interpret photos as "better" or trips as "something I wish I could do" instead of just living in the moment. Everyone else looks back on their study abroad experiences mostly with nothing but positive feelings, forgetting that at times they were homesick too. It's just the way things are.

      5. Go out of your comfort zone.
      I did a solo trip to Germany for four days which was way out of my comfort zone, but a solo trip was something I promised myself I would do before leaving. I learned so much about myself it was ridiculous, and to date, this has been my favorite adventure. I will definitely go back to Germany one day because of this. But I wouldn't have experienced this if I didn't go out of my comfort zone. The other way I've pushed myself is by being extremely social. I am am ambivert, which means I take energy from those around me during the day, but at night I crash and just want to be alone to recover, like an introvert. I would say I am an extroverted introvert, really. But here I am constantly being social. Making friends in the beginning that fall apart a few weeks in just like at college, but coming out stronger with those few people who you know you can't live without. That's my life here. And it is exhausting. But I am cherishing every minute with these people who won't be easy to see again.

      6. It is okay to have down days.
      In the beginning, I felt like I constantly had to fill every day with some kind of adventure. I was driving myself into a deep exhaustion. It is okay to have down days where all you do is sit in the library and write that paper, or do laundry and watch Netflix. You need these for your mental health. There are times where people simply need to be alone, and you need to give yourself that time without feeling guilty about it. Sure, you have a limited amount of time here, but if you're driving yourself so extremely that you get sick and end up not being able to enjoy your time here for a week, doesn't that make things worse? Take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally.

      7. Talk about your feelings.
      It is so easy to feel alone, but the best thing is to just talk about your feelings with people, even if you have to cry it all out. Do what is best for you. Holding it in is just going to make them fester. Sure, some of my friends here don't understand what it is to be homesick, but they understand why I am homesick and let me get it all out. And they know I am here for them if they need me to be as well. Sometimes you need a good rant or vent session, maybe even a good cry here or there. It helps. Just give yourself that.

      8. If you're feeling down, don't try to drink away your problems.
      A lot of people study abroad because they can't legally drink in the United States. Europe is known for some really intense party destinations and that factors into decisions for sure. I chose to study abroad for the self-discovery and travel aspects, but everyone is different. And, to be honest, as someone who is of legal drinking age in the United States, drinking here where it is ridiculously expensive isn't that appealing to me. But the worst thing you can do is try to drink away your problems. Alcohol is a depressant, and if you're already feeling negative about your time here, it'll just get worse. Don't do that to yourself.


      Have you ever felt homesick? If so, how did you cope with it? Are any of the above tips helpful or did you have different experiences? Share your thoughts below!

      Lili's Travel Diary #20: Cambridge

      On March 12, I took a day trip up to Cambridge through my university. They offered us this thing called a social program where we can sign up for as many opportunities as we wanted to. I chose to sign up for this trip because I'd regret not exploring one of the premiere uni towns in England. I was doing so much exploring outside of England that I forgot that it's important to explore within it as well.

      As we took off in the bus, I crossed my fingers that this trip would turn out better than Wales--the only other social program trip I signed up for. Boy, was that a doozy of an experience. Thankfully this trip was so much better. A calmer day trip, but amazing all the same.

      Firstly, we had a tour guide that actually gave us a tour! Absolutely amazing! He took us on an hour walking tour of the city, pointing out all the famous branches of Cambridge University and giving us a bit of background to the famous university.

      I really liked learning about King's College. Remember, college is different from university here. It's like our last 2 years of high school in America where you go to a special school to do your A levels in order to go to uni. King's College is a constituent of Cambridge University that is very hard to get into because if you pass your A levels, you just move right on to Cambridge. I can only imagine how crazily competitive it is. I can, however, tell you that it is absolutely beautiful. See the pictures below for some of the views of its magnificent structure. Unfortunately, our tour ended around 11am and viewing for the university closed at noon this day, so I wasn't able to go inside like I initially wanted, but c'est la view. I still had an awesome time.

      After King's College, the other college that feeds into Cambridge University that I thought was most interesting was Trinity College. Again, it was closed to the public on this Saturday. Oh well. Again, it had beautiful architecture and I am forever wishing buildings in America can look this nice. As you can see in the picture below, there is a statue of Henry VIII welcoming you to the university because he founded it in 1546. This statue is the center of many epic pranks. In his hand he holds a small sword that is actually a chair leg because students climbed up there as a prank many years ago. Sometime in the 1980s, students climbed up again and replaced the chair leg that he is holding with a bicycle pump. College officials were not having it and then replaced the bicycle pump with a new chair leg that remains today instead of a sword because they had grown accustomed to it. I think this is absolutely hilarious!

      After completing our tour, our guide gave us a few hours to wander on our own and do what we pleased before indulging in a local tradition later. We were to meet at the famous round church when the clock struck 3:30. I went and grabbed a cheap lunch at Subway, and frantically started texting Ashley because I was a bit bored and not content with simply wandering around for four hours on a day where uni's weren't receiving visitors. Luckily, she was able to swing around her schedule to hang out for a few hours and I got to see a part of Cambridge most of the comrades on the trip did not venture to. Epic round trip is visible in the picture to the left.

      We walked Cambridge's Midsummer Common and enjoyed the beautiful views. She told me that when it is nice out, this green is often filled with people picnicking and sunbathing, perhaps reading a good book. And also cows. Since it's an open square of grass meant for the larger public, people bring out the cows and let them graze here for the day while they hang out. This made a lot of sense because there were a lot of grates in the sidewalks, making it difficult to walk at times, but they were obviously to keep the cows in the commons and not letting them get away! haha

      We ended up walking down the River Cam for hours, just talking about everything...business, blogging, life, books. It was so nice to just catch up with a blogger friend. I am seeing so many on this trip by mere coincidence, and I love it so much. I am forever jealous that she lives in this city because the River Cam is just so so beautiful. I do not ever want to live in a houseboat, but walking this river made my heart twinge with yearning for the briefest of moments.

      Eventually, we had to say our goodbyes. Ashley has a life in Cambridge while it is just a small vacation for me, and I had a little bit of exploring to do in my last hour of free time. I headed back into the heart of the city where I explored a few back alley's before stumbling onto the grounds of Clare College, free admission to visitors and surprisingly open despite being right next to King's.

      It is on these grounds that I explored Cambridge by crossing over a bridge and getting another gorgeous view of the River Cam.

      I will admit that this is one of my favorite pictures of me, ever, taken by a very kind Australian tourist who also took, like, 40 selfies of himself on my phone. haha

      Eventually, I wandered out into the back of the college, and found a footpath through Cambridge that gave me this most beautiful view of King's College. Look at the chapel next to one of their regular buildings. I bet living here and learning here is such an experience because everything is so beautiful. What an awesome privilege. 

      At this point it was time to head back to the round church because we had one last thing on our agenda: punting! Punting is done on the River Cam and if you visit you can grab a boat with a guide or you can rent out your own boat completely and punt yourself. We saw several people fall in the water attempting to do this, so I'd recommend going with a guide. They use a large stick that they force into the water to push you along the river for 45 minutes - an hour. It's funny when you watch them duck beneath bridges, and it helps if your guide is really cute like ours was. Photo credit of what punts look like to the left goes to my friend Monica, whose Instagram I took this off of because I was a bit of an idiot and forgot to even take a picture of a punt. Oops.

      Anyway, this punting trip was beautiful and relaxing, but most of my pictures didn't turn out that well because we had a twelve person punt, so there are random people in nearly all of them. With that in mind, this is an experience I really enjoyed and it is a beautiful way to see the city. If you ever end up there, I highly recommend taking advantage of this touristy opportunity because it is so awesome and you can learn a lot from the guide if you haven't already taken a walking tour.

      The best part about Cambridge for me was hanging out with Ashley. Though she was born in America, she has transplanted to England so it is very hard to see her. To be able to have some stolen time with her was awesome, and I am so thankful I wandered off on my own to do so instead of staying with this pack. Cambridge was good to me, but I do not think I could spend anything more than a weekend there, at most.

      Ashley of NoseGraze fame and myself <3

      Confessions of An Easily Distracted Reader: Character Names

      In late 2015, I found myself DMing Bekka of Pretty Deadly Reviews with a rant. What was that rant about, you may ask? Character names. I went on and on about character names until I decided to write a post about it because this easily distracted reader has some major issues with certain character names.

      1. Characters with Similar Names in Different Books

      This entire rant started because I inadvertently messed with my own head by reading the following 3 books back to back: Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke, The Imposter Queen by Sarah Fine, and Passenger by Alexandra Bracken.

      All very different books, but with similar character names. See, there is a character in Wink Poppy Midnight named Mim and Mim is actually Wink's Mom. A minor character, but important because of who she is. She's a fortune teller with a calm persona that just kind of sits back and lets things happen which bothers me a lot but whatever. I pick up The Imposter Queen and there are very early mentions of Mim. Mim, who is not a mom, but a handmaiden that dotes on our main character and also acts as her secret crush / best friend. So very different from a mom yes? I was thrown off!

      Then, later in The Imposter Queen I meet Oskar. Oskar is wow. He is a sexy hulking woodsman/hunter that is loyal to the core who eventually grows into the main character's love interest. I love this calm creature with deadly habits. Imagine my surprise when I meet Oskar (again with the exact same spelling!) in the book I pick up next, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, except this time he is an elderly and ailing man that served as a teacher to our violin prodigy main character.

      I put the book down and immediately messaged Bekka about how I still have old Oskar in my head so it is hard to reconcile him with this new Oskar and she laughs before proceeding to ask me what I think about the book so far. My response? "I've only read two pages, this Oskar thing is really throwing me."

      Really similar character names back to back just don't work out for easily distracted readers like myself.

      2. Characters With Ridiculous Names That Make You Stop

      I think all readers struggle from encountering really weird character names that make you scratch your head. As mentioned above, I hate encountering the same name over and over in a short time span, but I also hate it when authors dream up names so crazy that they are distracting in and of itself.

      A few examples that immediately come up? Just look at Modelland by Tyra Banks, The Immortals by Alyson Noel, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

      The main character's name in Modelland is Tookie...Tookie de la Creme. Yes. I am serious. No, I have not read this book. Why? Well, there's a multitude of reasons, but the first one is the fact that I would not be able to get past that terrible name! And Ever Bloom from The Immortals series. Are you serious? Ever Bloom? Let's get past the last name and realize that her first name is one of the most common exaggerations in the English language. Ever has the weirdest name ever! (Pun 100% intended). Every time I read it I had to pause and re-read to remind myself it is a name here and not an ordinary word.

      But the best example of this is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I really enjoyed this series and was able to move past it all, but when I first picked up the book I found myself laughing because some names are so ridiculous. I mean, Marvel, Glimmer, Clove? Do I even need to list off anymore? I can if you want me to because that's how many ridiculous names are in this world. It gives you pause, doesn't it?

      3. Characters With Names You Have to Figure Out How to Pronounce

      There is nothing worse than reading and enjoying a book and then you encounter a name and you have to figure out how to say it. Odds are if you have to ask this question and look it up, that this is a ridiculously distracting thing. This doesn't mean the book is bad, but it does mean that you aren't making things easy for readers!

      Some examples: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas, and Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.

      I love Throne of Glass, but when I first encountered Celaena's name it gave me serious pause because for the life of me I could not figure out how to say it! Aelin is so much easier, thank heavens. It's easier to figure out than Iolanthe, the main character of The Burning Sky. I haven't read this series yet, but every time I read the blurb I pause and just sit there like what? If anyone knows how to say this name, please tell me. I have absolutely no clue!

      George R. R. Martin is also the king of making up names that are hard to pronounce. It took me forever to figure out how to say Cersei's name. It looks pretty, but it isn't easy to guess right off the bat.

      The name you have to figure out how to pronounce trend is most common among fantasy novels. I am all for originality, but some names are just too distracting because they are impossible to figure out without a key. And, if you ask me, needing a key to understand a name is not that great of a sign to begin with.

      I understand that naming characters is an art and giving them a name that does them justice is a hard task, but dang, can names be distracting! Does anyone else find themselves easily distracted by names? Do you have any examples that fall into any of the above categories? Share below! I think this could be a lot of fun!