Review: Changeling by William Ritter

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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Changeling by William Ritter 

Publisher & Release Date: Algonquin Young Readers, July 2019 
Type: Middle Grade, Fantasy (272 pages) 
Series: Book One of The Oddmire 

Summary: Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart. Not knowing which to bring back, he leaves both babies behind.
Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. Then when they are twelve years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, crossing the perilous Oddmire swamp and journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and discover who they truly are.

My Review:

Earlier this year I was asked to review the first book in William Ritter's new series, The Oddmire called Changeling and I jumped on the opportunity. I have never agreed to a blog tour so fast! I absolutely love Ritter's writing. His first book, Jackaby remains one of my all time favorites. He has a way of adding charm and wit into every aspect of his work!

Changeling is an enchanting fairy tale set in the same world as Jackaby. That was all I needed to know before I dove headfirst into the mysterious Oddmire Forest. Once I started reading I couldn't put it down! It is perfect for all ages, but I can see little kids particularly falling into the world Ritter has created in The Oddmire and never wanting to leave. This book is easily on the level of storytelling that is set up in the Spiderwick Chronicles!

The idea of the changeling is one of the oldest folk tales of Europe, a fairy child that is swapped out with a human child. Changelings have fascinated people for centuries and are prevalent even in today's pop culture, having recently been featured in shows such as Supernatural and Outlander and even an episode of the podcast Lore. I, myself, have always been interested in the idea of them.

So, with a myth so beloved by many it is hard to believe that there can be an original take on it, and yet Ritter does just that! What if the switch in interrupted? What if the babies, human and fairy alike grow up together? Changeling answers just those questions!

My favorite part of this book is the mix of beautiful, eerie setting in the Oddmire that I would love to explore and the amazingly rich and detailed, full of life and motive characters that inhabit it! Hinkypunks, Goblins, Shapeshifters, and fantastic Humans all come together to solve the mystery of the changeling!

As soon as I finished it I wanted to read it again. It was heartwarming and funny, but also just as dark as a true fairy tale should be! I enjoyed Changeling and am eagerly awaiting the next book in what is sure to become a beloved series for young readers for many years to come!


(Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for sending me the advanced egalley in exchange for this honest review!)

~Laura!!

Cover Reveal: Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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It's here! It's here! The cover reveal for the much anticipated sequel to Nicki Pau Preto's amazing debut Crown of Feathers is here!! 

Yesterday Paste Magazine had the honor to reveal the Heart of Flames cover and shared with us an exclusive excerpt from the novel! Click here to read the amazing teaser!

As one of the First Riders Street Team I also have the privilege of revealing this absolutely gorgeous cover with all you fellow bookworms! 


Isn't it stunning? I absolutely cannot get over the level of detail Artist Kekai Kotaki put into this cover! I don't know about you but this cover and that excerpt is making me itch for 2020!!

Be sure to add both Crown of Feathers and Heart of Flames (and the final book in the trilogy) to your Goodreads by following this link
You can also read my review of it here
And be sure to keep an eye out of my First Riders Tag to keep up to date on all the Phoenix News!

~Laura!

First Riders Trilogy Announcement!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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Have you all seen the amazing news from this past weekend?!?

Nicki Pau Preto, with the help of her street team, has announced that her book Crown of Feathers is not only getting a 700+ page sequel that comes out next year called Heart of Flames, but that the duology is now a trilogy!

That's right!! In 2021, there will be a third book in the Crown of Feathers TRILOGY!

My fellow patrol members and I are beyond excited about this! We hope you are too!!

Make sure to add the series to your Goodreads shelves!!

~Laura!

On the Buffalo Reading Invasion!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

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You are probably wondering what a Reading Invasion even is, right? WELL LET ME ENLIGHTEN YOU! Reading Invasions are basically a flashmob of readers. Every summer here in Buffalo since 2012 local readers invade a park for an hour and we READ. It is really that simple, but it is a whole lot of fun! Last night was the first of the 2019 season! An hour of blissful reading with a crazy number of other book nerds!

I think my first Reading Invasion was in June of 2013 (at least according to the bookmark pictured above). I remember it vividly (besides the date). It took place at Bidwell Park, where the first Invasion of the year is always at. I remember looking around about a half hour in and seeing all these people absorbed in their books! It was a wonderful feeling! These were my kind of people.

I also noticed at my first invasion that passerbys giving us curious looks. Never before had they seen such a sight! What were we doing? Why were we all just sitting there? WERE WE ALL JUST READING? WHAT WAS GOING ON? It was lovely to see that confusion and find out later on that most of those people actually showed up and read themselves at the next Invasion! Spreading the love of books for the WIN! Last night I looked up again and saw no passerbys giving us looks because it has become such a Buffalo Summer thing that it is widely known, accepted, and cherished! How lucky are we to live in such a place?! I like that I see familiar faces from Invasions past and that every year it gets bigger and bigger!

One of my favorite aspect of the Buffalo Reading Invasion (other than the reading itself) is that besides the first one of the season, they are held in a different park every month! If I’m not mistaken the invasion very rarely goes to the same park twice and I can see why! Buffalo has something like 180 parks or something crazy number like that! Going to an Invasion brings you to a park of the City you may not have discovered before! I love that the first Invasion of the year is always at Bidwell though. There is a independent bookshop practically in Bidwell Park and every year when the Invasion is there I go in, look around, and always buy a new book. One year it was a Doctor Who book, last year it was the 3rd book in the Three Dark Crowns series! This year I bought A Curse So Dark and Lonely and ran into a coworker!

Here is a panoramic view of the Invasion last night! Look at all those readers!


The Buffalo Reading Invasions remains one of my all time favorite things to go to in the summer! 
If you'd like to learn more or find out when and where the next Invasion will be check out the website here or like the official Facebook page here
I hope to see you and your book next month!
~Laura!

Meet the Newest Member of the First Riders Street Team!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

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I am so excited to announce that I have been chosen to be a member of the First Riders Street Team!

What is that, you ask? WELL. It is a group of awesome people that are going to spread the word about the fantastic book that is Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto and its upcoming sequel Heart of Flames
I am honored to have been chosen and I can't wait to start my Ride!! 

You can read my review of Crown of Feathers here! And be sure to check back here for more exciting developments!!
~Laura!

Review: Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

Thursday, May 30, 2019

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Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto


Publisher & Release Date: Ink Road (Owlcrate Exclusive Edition), Feb. 2019
Type: YA Fantasy (486 pages)
Series: Book One of Crown of Feathers

Summary: I had a sister, once…
In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.
I promised her the throne would not come between us.
Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.
But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.
Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.
Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.




My Review:

Crown of Feathers is an absolutely wonderful fantasy debut that I am becoming rapidly obsessed with. I will be recommending this book for years to come! I really enjoyed it!

I'm not gonna lie it had a slow start. There was some action early on and then a lot of history and exposition. The history of the world is weaved in along with Veronyka's back story as she gets to where she needs to be. At first it seemed to bog down the action because even early on I was invested with the action that was occurring, but rest assured it is all necessary and fascinating! I promise that it does pick up and once it does you won't be putting this tome down!

One of the things I love most about Crown of Feathers is that it has multiple, third person point of view chapters from a few different characters. It was a great choice on Pau Preto's part to write the novel like this because it allows the reader to know more than any of the characters at any given time. The reader becomes so incredibly invested in Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev as we try to guess how and when they will interact if ever. Each of these characters are rich with detail and I want to know them all in real life! Especially Veronyka, who has so much to offer readers by teaching subtly about inner strength and being yourself.

And of course I can't forget about the true selling point of this novel, the phoenixes that are rode into battle! I got this book through Owlcrate. The only thing I knew about this book was these phoenixes which is why I ordered my first subscription box! If you're a long time follower of my blog you know that I love animals and work closely with wildlife. This book is close to my heart because of the idea of animages, people who can communicate with not just phoenixes, but all animals. I want this gift so badly it stings. It touches on so many important ethics surrounding animals that are completely relevant today!

If it isn't obvious, I can't get enough of this book. I cannot wait to dive into the sequel. Nicki Pau Preto is an incredible writer and I can't wait to see where she goes next!


~Laura!

Review: Hamilton in Buffalo!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

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To honor Austin Scott's last week playing Alexander Hamilton on the Angelica National Tour I thought that I would post my review of the production of Hamilton that I saw him in Buffalo at the beginning of December!

I, like seemingly the rest of world, have been a fan of Hamilton for a while. I think I first heard it in 2016 but I really have no idea. It was in the very top of it's hype, about 6 months or so before the Original cast retired. When Shea's announced that it was hosting Hamilton here in Buffalo it was kind of pandemonium. There was a run on the box office when tickets went on sale. I had signed up for the verified fan ticket process and I got through, but the tickets were just too overpriced. I passed and decided to try my luck at the lottery. Well, I lost. Twenty times. So I bought myself an overpriced ticket anyway the day before the last Friday performance. I don't at all regret it.

This isn't so much going to be a review of the play Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote but the performance itself that I was finally privy to see! This will solely be based on a hearing versus seeing it live comparison. I'll be writing about the experience itself (but there will be spoilers, of course)!

Since there are multiple tours going nationwide right now they are all named. I saw the Angelica Cast. Austin Scott was my Hamilton, Josh Tower was my Burr, and Hannah Cruz was my Eliza to give context. This cast was phenomenal! So many of them sounded so much like the original cast I was astounded! I was incredibly impressed with everyone, although some were still getting into the groove of the fast paced world they were inhabiting and no one can fault them for that!

Forgive me for this, but being in the 'Room Where it Happened' was worth every penny. I think if you love the soundtrack for what it is then actually seeing the action on stage is an odd, wonderful thing. Seeing what the actors are doing on stage as they sing the now famed songs was like nothing I could have imagined. For everything that goes on in the packed play I thought that the movement on stage would be at least as busy but it was minimal in comparison. The main company used their actions sparingly for maximum impact. The ensemble though, never seemed to cease. Their movements were so fluid and seamless that it was impossible not to admire them. The stage was minimal and used wonderfully as were the lights! The lighting of Hamilton was what surprised me most of all as it was a character in itself! I sat relatively high up so I was looking down upon the stage and I'm so glad that I was for I was able to see that during Hurricane the lights put Hamilton in the eye of the storm! Ugh, everything about this production of Hamilton was truly awe inspiring!
Me and A. Ham himself
(Austin Scott)

I am so glad that I went to see it. If it comes to your town and you are able, please go see it. I assure you all that hype really is worth it. I went by myself and I was sitting between two amazing older couples. On my right was a married couple who were fans of musicals and excited to see the play that got their grandkids into plays. They were prepared for how fast it was going to be and kept up well. On my left were a couple of friends. These women had no idea what they walked into and kindly asked if I'd give them a crash course on the history which I gladly supplied. All four of them afterward were so enthralled with what they had just seen! Hamilton can be enjoyed by all because it written to include everyone.

~Laura!
(Apparently, this is also my 300th post 
and I couldn't have chosen a better subject to have this honor!)

TEN YEARS!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

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Ten years ago today, 16 year old me started this blog for a purely selfish reason. The idea of reviewing books came to me when I won a contest for an Advanced Review Copy of one of Meg Cabot's books. On the back cover it said that it was an ARC and I had never heard of such a thing. When I realized that I could get books for free, before they were released I did everything in my 16 year old power to make that a reality. This blog was the place I would record the reviews I wrote in exchange for those advanced copies.

As I graduated High School and moved into College I had less time to devote to my reviews. I was reading less Young Adult novels, which was primarily all I had read and reviewed. As I evolved throughout College so did my blog. I started to review less ARCs and more library books of all genres. I've never been consistent with what I had read so why should my reviews be limited to the advanced copies? As I moved away from those, less got sent to me which was a relief as it had gotten out of hand.

I could never consistently post blogs either because life is busy! I never stopped reading, but I didn't always want to review the books I had read so I started writing more blogs that had nothing to do with books. I expanded my posts to what had become a minor obsession for me after I had graduated college and that was traveling. I became what I like to call a literary tourist. A lot of my trips involved places I had read about in books. I write about what caused me to go somewhere and what I saw when I got there.

If I had to pick a favorite type of post I love the ones like this, when I just write whatever it is I am thinking. Ten years ago a post like this never would have happened. This blog has always surprised me. I've had friends tell me about this local blog they had found, only to realize that it was mine (when I started this I used an assumed name as I had been a minor). I have also had some backlash over what I have written, both in reviews and about my adventures. This blog is almost a digital version of my life and it would be unrealistic if I didn't have problems here too.

Bookworm Extraordinaire is no longer strictly a book blog like it was when I started it 10 years ago. I originally envisioned that my reviews would one day become my profession. Now it is just a hobby, something for me to see how I have grown. People tell me they are impressed with my writing that they have seen sampled here, but like anyone I will always have doubts. Some consider me a writer because of what they've read here, but I don't think I will ever see myself that way. I'm not quite sure what will make me change my mind but rest assured if I figure it out I will probably write about it here!

I'm not sure what the future has to hold for me or for this blog, but looking back I can't believe how far this has taken me. I have had over 300 readers and when I reached that milestone I did a giant giveaway! My love of reading has sent me to two Book Cons in New York City, several wonderful Teen Book Festivals, and so many book signings! I have met so many other bloggers and readers at those events that no matter what I'm reading someone I know is reading it too so I always have someone to gush with! My travel bug sent me to two trips overseas including a 6 week solo backpacking trip. But most importantly it has allowed me to go on countless adventures, both real and read! Here's to the next ten years, bookworms and fellow adventurers! Thank you all so much for sticking with me!


~Laura!

Thoughts from Backpacking: Prague, Czech Republic

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

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This post is all about the amazing time I had in Prague back in May and June 2016

Oh Prague, how I loved thee so much more than Rome! Prague fit me very well. I loved my time spent there and I would go back in a heartbeat!

Out of all the places I went to in Europe during this trip Prague is the one place that I didn't actually know too much about and the one with the language I wasn't even going to try to attempt, but I wasn't worried. My heritage is Czechoslovakian (although when they split my family was on the Slovakian side by only a few miles) so I felt comfortable there and at least there I looked like all the locals. I found that out when tourists kept asking me for directions which helped no one at all because it was always when I was a bit lost too!
Charles Bridge from the Bank

My time in Prague was relaxed. I did not want to repeat of my time in Rome, where I seemed to be constantly walking but miserable. I chose to go to Prague because of Laini Taylor's book Daughter of Smoke and Bone which is set there. Taylor's words made Prague seem magical and it turned out to be true. It is a unique place that is hard to describe, but she managed it far better than I could ever hope to here.

Most of my time in Prague was spent wandering around with no real place in mind or sitting somewhere filled with history, people watching and just soaking up the atmosphere. I loved Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square the most. 

Charles Bridge is a large part of Taylor's novel and I spent hours there. It is more than just a bridge, it is a gathering place for the Artistic of Prague. The people on the Bridge were selling everything from CDs of their music to paintings, and weird musical instruments to handmade jewelery. I walked up and down two or three times. I stopped at every booth, at every peddler, at everything. I wanted to just remember what it felt like to be on that bridge. The coolest part of the Charles Bridge isn't actually all those people though. It isn't like any bridge I have ever seen. It is foot traffic only and to get onto it you pass under this magnificent arch. And the bridge is lined on its balustrade with 30 statues of Saints and other Christian Religious Figures. They loom over the crowd and despite having all those people there the Charles Bridge always feels a little creepy. At one point I looked down at one of the river banks and saw a group of people painting en plein aire the bridge so I made my way down there, too. I sat near them on the bank and sketched for a while. It is my favorite place in Prague.

The other place I spent a lot of time at was in Old Town Square where the Astronomical Clock is. The clock was pretty cool, but the square itself was better. I sat there for hours. When I was there there was some kind of music festival going on and people had flocked to it. There were children, tourists, the homeless, peddlers, dogs, couples, some odd individuals, a couple of teens giving out free hugs, and people like me taking everyone else in. In this square I started a photo project of taking candid shots of people enjoying themselves. I cherish those photos because they aren't of anything really touristy. They just feel like the Prague as I knew it.

Me with my finished Marionette!
The biggest, coolest, most amazing, and strange thing I did in Prague was making my own marionette at a Truhlář Marionety workshop! While researching in one of my travel books I saw this shop mentioned and I made it my mission to do it. Marionettes are a huge part of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and I wanted nothing more than to make a puppet of one of the characters while in Prague. Zdenka and Pavel helped me achieve just that. They welcomed me graciously into their studio and helped me make Zuzana, a character in the book who makes a giant marionette that is controlled when she pretends to be the puppet herself. The whole experience from painting her face, to choosing her clothes, and actually putting her together was one that will forever be one of the best things I have ever done. I actually told the Author when I met her what I had done and gave her the photo and she hopes to one day do the same!

On my last day in Prague I trekked to see the Petrin Tower, which is loosely based on the Eiffel Tower and has one of the best views of the city. Originally I was going to try to see the castle as well but after walking up hill for an hour and still not finding it I realized I didn't want to go IN the castle I just wanted to see it, which I could from the tower. It is in a park and the whole walk was beautiful. On my quest to find Petrin, I started another photo project. Prague has some seriously unique door knobs. I actually got yelled at by the US Embassy for taking a photo but when I showed the angry woman the photo of their door knob she was too confused to make me delete it and I scurried away!

I also went to see the National Marionette Theatre's production of Don Giovanni! I was stunned. It was in Italian so I didn't understand what they were saying but I followed to plot. However, the plot didn't even matter! The mastery of the crew had over the puppets was incredible! Never have I seen such skill! I spent the whole time watching the hands above do the work. The mannerism and body language of the puppets were surreal!
The view of the Castle through some haze from Petrin Tower

I loved Prague and I completely plan of going back one day. It fit my speed more than Rome did. It just had a different feeling to it. Probably because while it is a tourist destination it is not THE tourist destination. There still aren't too many people who go there and I think that made all the difference. I wish I had spent even more time there though. It was a lovely place and I still have so much more to see!


~Laura!

Thoughts From Backpacking: Vatican City

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

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This is the account of my day in the Vatican City in May 2016!

Are you saying you wouldn't have been curious as
to what he was looking at?
The very first thing I did when I got off the metro to the Vatican was to follow the crowd in the hopes that they lead me to the Vatican Museum. They did, of course, but before I got there I made a spontaneous pit stop. I was walking down a street I saw a statue of a Knight that was holding flyers, one of the flyers said Harry Potter. I stopped dead, scaring the people behind me, and didn't even think about it. I just went through the doors and down a passage that led me to a statue of a wizard announcing the Storia e Magia. Honesty, it is probably dangerous how I will just follow things randomly if they relate to Harry Potter. The store was great and dark and magical. It was expensive though because of how almost everything was from the Noble Collection! There was so much cool things, including HP and LOTR and fairies and journals! It was amazing! I want to go back one day!

I left before I could spend my entire budget and followed the crowd. At one point I did ask for directions and was informed that the line into the Museum was just stupidly long. Oh gosh it was at this point as I was walking that I was corralled by SEVERAL pushy Italian men trying to get me to go with them to “Skip the Line.” But then I found an actual shop that sold passes to skip the line and I googled up and down and realized it was in fact legit so I payed the 17 Euro, I skipped the line and it was so worth it.

My long lasting general impression of the Musei Vaticani is that it was a never ending rush of humanity following signs that promised that the Chappella Sistina was that way, but seemingly never actually getting to the promised Chapel. I was there for weeks following the people and the signs. I traveled an entire country trying to find that Chapel and while it was incredibly worth it, it was also slightly ridiculous to be lied to by signs for that long and still follow them.

Laocoön and His Sons!
The musei itself was huge and imposing, filled with so many people that you went with the crowd or you got trampled. But I managed to break away several times and found treasures when I did like a Van Gogh in a little chamber no one else was in and a room of animal statues and a mosaic floor! It was here that I found out that a lot of sarcophagus look like ancient tubs (for instance Priscus's was totally a tub, you can't tell me other wise)! Oh and somehow in my research I forgot that one of my favorite sculptures was in these museums, Laocoön and His Sons which was a delight to see in person! But mostly the Museums had a lot of statues and a lot of stunning ceiling paintings and after a while they all blend into one giant thing that makes my head spin.

The Sistine was, of course, stunning but a little disorienting as you have to crane your neck to look at Michelangelo’s ceiling, which looked a little 3D and that freaked me out because HOW!? From there I once again became just a small part of a sea of humanity following signs that said “Uscita” trying to for the love of goodness get the heck outta there.

I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to go back to Rome and back to my hostel but I couldn't very well leave the Vatican City without seeing St. Peter's Basilica! So I made my way over to the famous Church! Originally, my plan was to go to a Papal Audience that morning but I had trouble with faxing the invite request so that didn't end up happening. The Square was still set up from the Audience that morning but luckily the line into the Basilica was short as it was later in the day.

You thought I was joking about those skulls didn't you?
My first impression when I walked into St. Peter's Basilica was entirely inappropriate. Yes, upon walking into one of the most holiest place in the Christian World, I said aloud, “HOLY HELL!” Because I clearly have no class when startled. Luckily the Nuns behind me were very kind, and after laughing at me one whispered, “I thought the same thing the first time I walked in!” I quickly ran away to a basin of Holy Water and vaguely crossed myself because it seemed like the least I could do to make up for my mouth. I am completely uncomfortable in any type of Church and this was no exception. Mostly I was just confused and alarmed. Alarmed that there were actual dead Popes in caskets, confused by the strange lighting, alarmed at the random, graphic skulls and ugly baby angels, and once again confused by the sheer amount of different styles in Architecture. Seeing the Basilica was a bit of a roller coaster and there was so much to see that in my tired, near delirious from hunger state that it is mostly just a blur.

Overall, it is possible to do the entire country of the Vatican in one day, but I don't recommend it because it makes you weird by the end of the day. The Vatican Museums were extraordinary though! And the Basilica is everything I thought it was going to be and maybe even a bit more. I ended my day by hanging out it the Square, on the phone with my dad, watching little kids chase gulls that were almost as big as they were. It was there that I realized while I was very far from home some things, like kids chasing birds were universal.

~Laura!

Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Thursday, May 31, 2018

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Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer


Release Date: April 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Type: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Pages: 400
Other Titles in the Series: More Than We Can Tell (#2)

Summary: Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope. Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past. When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.










My Review:
Holy crap! This book blew my mind. I stayed up late to read the last two thirds of the book. I haven't done that in ages.

Let me back track. Brigid Kemmerer was at TBF, but somehow in all my research I didn't realize I wanted to read her books. I noticed her book at the Barnes and Noble they set up in the gym and I bought it. When I went up to meet her and get it signed I embarrassed myself. Because, of course I did. She thanked me for getting the book and I fumbled and said I hadn't read it yet, but wanted to because I like letters. She handled the situation way better than I did. But I am so sad that I hadn't read it beforehand because I would have loved to have told her in person how much I absolutely loved it!

This was a fantastic story. I normally don't like contemporary fiction but the premise of this drew me in. This was so real, I felt like I knew Juliet and Declan, like I went to school with them. It was convincing, it left me thinking, it was so normal, but extraordinary at the same time. I don't know, you could read the book and not be blown away. You will probably not cry buckets and buckets and swear at the characters for being idiots. But I did. I did those things because the depth of the writing demanded it of me. This is very character driven. The pain of these two kids pulls you in and the suspense of their letters holds you on the edge of your seat so you can't stop reading even if you tried. I loved them both so much and I can't wait to read the story of Declan's best friend Rev.


~Laura!

Thoughts From Backpacking: Rome, Italy

Sunday, May 27, 2018

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This is an account of the first leg of my huge backpacking trip!

I chose to start my backpacking trip to Europe in Rome for a lot of reasons but honestly the biggest reason is because I wanted to avoid going to Italy in June. Thus I spent 5 days there at the end of May and let me tell you it was still too freakin hot.

I only had 34 days in Europe so why did I spend 5 of them in Italy? In the words of Hillary Duff, “Why Not?” I felt like Rome was one of those quintessential places that one has to see when in Europe and I knew I would regret it if I didn't add it to my list.

My first day in Italy I actually left and went to the Vatican City, but that is a story for another post. As for my first day in Rome I did a lot of touristy things and tried not to melt in the never ceasing sun. Okay so I knew the line at the Colosseum and Palatine Hill were going to be stupidly long because I researched it. That research told me to go to the Forum first and buy tickets there, saved at least an hour of standing in line doing it that way.
A view of the Forum from above!
 I went to the Forum because of the Temple of the Vestal Virgins which plays a big part in my favorite book 13 Little Blue Envelopes. First thing you need to know is that all ruins look basically the same which is why I wandered endlessly back and forth for HOURS looking for something that I actually passed 8 times. I want to write a post about how I did as much as I could of Ginny's journey in 13 Little Blue Envelopes so instead of writing about the Virgins I'll tell you about what else I did at the Forum and on the Hill. Since I had spent hours looking at the ruins I figured I would rest and spend some time just soaking in my surroundings. I sat under an olive tree (I knew it was an olive tree only because some guide kept yelling about them) and watched the people around me. I also started to collect plants and tape them into my journal, like a poppy and a daisy.

I had to do it, I couldn't resist!
After getting completely lost trying to leave the ruins I was ready to call it a day and go back to my hostel because I do not to well in the sun and by that point I had had more sun than I had my entire life, but I couldn't because I hadn't been to the Colosseum. I couldn’t go to ROME and not see the COLOSSEUM. I took it extremely slowly and gained bits and pieces of its history by eavesdropping on several different tours. My dad loves the Colosseum so I made sure I got a ton of photos from the inside for him. You aren't allowed to go down to the floor but you can see it which is cool.

My second day in Rome was spent walking the city with Stefano from New Rome Free Tour and a nice group of people. The tour was wonderful, especially Stefano who was a great guide! His two stand out features were being incredibly knowledgeable and was a fan of SHADE! The tour started at the Spanish Steps (which were under construction at the time), went to some churches, to the Pantheon, and ended at the Trevi Fountain (which had a million people there). He took us on a winding path down a lot of tiny alleys and I loved that because it felt authentic. Stefano was great and took that theme of authenticity to heart and taught his tour how to be a proper Roman by showing us how to use one of the many fountains around the city. IT IS A SECRET THOUGH. I promised I wouldn't tell, but let me tell you that I was spoiled with those fountains. They are revolutionary and every city in the world needs to follow suit.
I really liked Trevi Fountain, but jeez the crowds!

Day three found me dying with a cold but with a MISSION to do some shopping! I had a few things that I wanted to get from each city: postcards, coins, Harry Potter books, smashed pennies, and patches! Success for all of them! I enjoyed having no real goal other than seeing what there was to see and of course that brought me into some odd situations. Like sketchy grocery shop owners and scammers trying to put bracelets on me and giving me random elephants. I will never understand street scammers. I loved the bracelet though it had a sea turtle and the elephant would have looked great on my shelf, but I know their game. They aren't being nice, they want your money and I did not have any to spare!

Picture it: Rome, my last day there, me in some random park CRYING because I was so lost. I just wanted to go to the art gallery but instead I got lost in a sea of trees. I am so bad at navigating parks. I was so tired and so hot that I gave up on Rome. I went back to my hostel, grabbed my pack, and headed to the main train station to rest for a while before my train to Vienna where I would catch another train to Prague!

My general memories of Rome are warm, both because I was always sweating and because of the colors of everything. Rome wasn't one of my favorite cities but I would go back again, but in the winter. I never want to feel the boiling hot sun of Rome again. I still want to see the Capitoline Museum, the Capuchin Bone Crypt, the Appian Way, the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Cimitero Acattolico! 

(I know, there should be a lot more to this account right? Like the food I ate, where I stayed, the amazing people I met, and how I got around! No worries those are all going to be rounded together in blog posts of their own!!)
~Laura!

Thoughts from Places: My Fourth Teen Book Festival in Rochester!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

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This was my fourth time going to Rochester's Teen Book Festival! This amazing event that brings authors and readers together from all over the country is pretty unique! First of all it is free, which is amazing. Teens all over fund raise to keep it that way all year long and it makes it so incredibly special. Another reason it is so special was Stephanie Squicciarini, the founder of TBF. She passed away earlier this year and is truly missed, but I think everyone could feel her there though. She put so much time and effort into making the festival as amazing as it is. She put everything she had into it and would do some really crazy things to raise funds (my favorites were dying her hair into a rainbow of colors and wearing a prom dress)! This year during the opening ceremony they did a wonderful 13 second cheer to honor her and the 13th TBF and I have got to be honest I was pretty much sobbing while I yelled my heart out. I had met her a couple times in passing throughout the years. I remember thanking her once for creating such fantastic event and she was so happy to hear that I enjoyed it. Stephanie was a truly remarkable woman and I hope TBF goes on in her memory for many, many years to come.


This year I was incredibly excited to go with two TBF newbies! I went with my friends, Allison and Katie. Rochester is a couple hours away from us so we had to leave pretty much at dawn to get there and had a great ride catching up (we've not seen each other in a while) and singing to Disney songs!
The Authors show off their fan made capes!

Most of the big events at TBF take place in the Nazareth College's Gym, including the opening ceremony with the annual game show hosted by Charles Benoit, most of the signings, the door prizes, TBF Shop, and the books that BN sells! This year all the authors had handmade TBF capes and played two facts and a fiction (which for some reason was really hard for them)! It's a great way to kick off the day!

One of the other great things that makes TBF special is that teens are 100% the focus. Teens volunteer during it, make the designs for the t-shirts and the program, have their own panel of teen authors, and most importantly they have priority seating at the panels! Usually every year there is at least one of my favorite Young Adult authors that I must meet. This year was different as it was Allison's favorite, Tamora Pierce, that we were determined to make seeing her panel with Bruce Coville a priority. So that was our first stop after the game show, but we couldn't get in as there were so many teens! Which is of course a great problem to have at a teen festival!

Roshani Chokshi and Claire Legrand during
their panel in the Chapel!
We decided that we would try again for Tammy and Bruce's next panel and went to see Roshani Chokshi and Claire Legrand! I am so glad we did because the two of them were hilarious! They were fantastic together and I truly believe that they should write a book together because it would be the funniest and creepiest thing I have ever read. Both authors talked about ideas for books that they have had that are horrible and honestly I think it made everyone feel better, because not every idea is good. They chatted about Hogwarts houses and their patronuses (Roshani is pure Slytherin with a shrew and Claire is a RavenPuff like me with an ocelot)! At one point, Roshani mentioned that her daemon would be a crow because she once almost fell off a cliff looking at a shiny shell! I also loved their advice about writing: finishing a story is the hardest thing so find the stamina to just see everything to the end and then decide how you feel about it!

By the end of that first session the three of us were starving so we headed out to see what food trucks had come! Katie and I had great poutine and Allison had some pretty good burgers! Once fed, we made our way back to see if we could get into the Tamora Pierce and Bruce Coville panel and this time we were lucky enough to be able to sit on the floor on the side of the room! Tamora and Bruce are best friends and critique partners and you can tell! They are amazing together! Allison has been telling me for years that I need to read one of Tammy's books and when I finally did in preparation for TBF I was so glad I did (I read Alanna, by the way)! Allison has every right to tell me “I told you so” because Tamora is beyond words. She is in her 60s and her health isn't the greatest but oh my gosh does that woman have spirit! She is hilarious and her friendship with Bruce is fabulous. At one point she warned a reader, “don't start with him. He will challenge you to a duel” over the proper color of a unicorn (white, obviously). They are both such characters themselves that it is no wonder that scores of people around the Globe absolutely adore them and their books! They, too, gave brilliant advice, such as always drawing a map of your setting no matter how big or small, get a partner that is honestly straight with you, and when you are stuck for an idea go back to those obsessions you had as a kid because your brain was obviously doing research when you didn't even realize it!
Bruce Coville and Tamora Pierce during their
talk! 

After experiencing Tamora and Bruce, the three of us headed to a different building to hear Jennifer Castle speak. All day I had been telling Katie and Allison about how much I enjoyed her book, Together at Midnight! After hearing her talk about it and how it is about random acts of kindness they both were sold on reading it which made me so happy! Jennifer told us about how she has a key word that sums up each of her novels and how she is always thinking about “What if” to think of plots.

Then it was the big moment! The time for meeting the authors and getting autographs. After 4 festivals I have mastered how to maximize the Authors I am able to meet and the key is having a friend with you. One of you stands in the longest line while the other goes into shorter lines and then you switch! I also do not own books for all the authors I want to meet as I read a lot of books from the library, but I always have something for them to sign! A little known fact of TBF is that their website has downloadable posters of the authors that can be printed! I always do this and all the authors are always so surprised and excited! Authors I met this year include (asterisk indicates book signed instead of poster) :

Margaret Peterson Haddix signs my copy of
The Palace of Mirrors!
Jennifer Castle*
Roshani Chokshi
Bruce Coville
Margaret Peterson Haddix*
Rachel Hartman
Justina Ireland
Brigid Kemmerer*
Brendan Kiely
Alisa Kwitney
Claire Legrand*
Taran Matharu
Dana Mele
Tamora Pierce*

A question I often get is what I talk to the authors about! Well, usually I start off my telling them that it is an honor to meet them. I never forget how lucky I am to be able to have such a cool and unique experience. Before they sign or sometimes during I tell them about bits and pieces of their books that I loved! I told Claire Legrand how much I loved her ghosts in The Year of Shadows and how original they were! I mentioned to Roshani Chokshi that I loved that she mixed Hindu Mythology with Hades and Persephone legends in The Star-Touched Queen! And to Jennifer Castle, I started to cry because of how much I loved how well she wrote about kindness in her novel, Together at Midnight!
Allison and Katie meeting Tamora Pierce!
I think my favorite part of the day though was seeing Allison interact with her heroine, Tamora Pierce! I was so excited and happy for her that I almost couldn't contain it! In fact I basically didn't, as I think I talked to Tammy more about how excited about Allison talking to her than I said how much I was glad to meet her!

Teen Book Festival in Rochester is without a doubt the best book event in the World. Everyone who has been agrees. I am fortunate that I live so close and am able to go so often! I completely recommend going! Keep an eye out on my Signings page for more in depth descriptions of meeting the authors listed above as well as more photos of me with them!! They will be posted shortly!


~Laura!

Coming Soon to BWE!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

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As you may of may not have noticed, I have been posting almost every week this year. I've taken a couple breaks, but mostly this has been my most productive year yet on Bookworm Extraordinaire! Why? I have no idea. Maybe because I am more organized? Maybe because I have no longer boxed myself in to just reviews? Maybe because it is fun again? Who knows! But what I do know is that within the next few months I have a lot of great posts planned!

Here's a sneak peek:


  • To celebrate two years (!!) since I went solo backpacking in Europe I figured I should probably finally write about my amazing and life changing experiences! 
  • I have plans to see a lot of musicals and plays this year and I would love to write about my experiences seeing those!
  • I have also enjoyed writing blog posts about various topics like penpaling and journaling and I hope to write more about things like that!
  • Including looks into my own journal, tips on how I continue to write every day, and what you can write about (a surprising number of people ask me about how I keep filling journal after journal)!
  • Next week I will be posting about my 4th Teen Book Festival!
  • I have a couple trips coming up this year that I can't wait to tell you about!
  • I am in the process of reorganizing my library which means I will have a couple posts on how I like to keep my books and a look on my shelves!
  • I want to continue my series of posts on Wanderlust Fuel and Book Hunting Adventures!
  • I have been to so many amazing museums and galleries around the world and I really want to put some spotlights on those!
  • And of course many more books I would like to review!

I hope you all are as excited about what's upcoming on BWE! I know I sure am! Do you have a topic you'd like me to write about? A book you'd like me to review? Or any questions about anything at all? Don't hesitate to contact me through BWE's Facebook Page!! 

~Laura!

Some Thoughts on National Geographic Live with Ami Vitale!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

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I'm not sure I can explain to you the overwhelming excitement I felt when I found out that one of my favorite photographers, Ami Vitale was coming to Buffalo! No one ever comes here so it was a huge surprise! There was no way I was missing it, especially since it was at Kleinhans!

Ami gave a talk on Rhinos, Rickshaws, and Revolutions. If you are a fan of National Geographic you may have seen her recent photos of the passing of Sudan. He was the last male of his species, the Northern White Rhino. Ami told us about how she had done a story on Sudan and his daughters were being moved from the Czech Republic to Kenya and that she had grown close to their keepers. Close enough that when Sudan became too old for him to have a good quality of life and his keepers made the hard decision to put him down they had Ami come to Kenya to say good bye. If that doesn't tell you how special a soul Ami is then I'm not sure what will.

Ami dropped everything secure in her life to become a photo journalist so that she could bring stories to the World. She spent a decade covering conflicts that most people have forgotten, such as Kosovo and Cashmir. She made such strong connections there and through her photos brought those connections to the rest of the World. She has the ability to empower and amplify voices of the individuals like no other photographer I have seen.

But at one point, enough was enough, Ami couldn't be around war anymore. She wanted to take a break from everything, but then she was offered to do story about trees. And that opened her up to nature and wildlife conservation photography, which is my favorite. She got to go to China and observe how scientists there choose which babies should stay in captivity and which should be trained to go into the wild! She even had to wear a panda suit. Ami, once again, showed how special she is because of how she photographed one of the Pandas going into the wild for the first time: she donned a special camouflage suit that made her look like a bush while no other journalist thought to take Hope's feelings into account. Ami did and was rewarded by Papa Panda! She got to hold not one but two baby pandas. A dream come true for most people. (Obama only got to hold one if that tells you anything!!)
Ami Vitale and I!

I could go on and on about Ami's talk, (I took a copious amount of notes) which will stay in my heart and mind for a very long time, but I don't want to spoil too much in case one day you are lucky enough to hear her speak as well! I wholly encourage you to try to! And she has a book on her experience with the pandas coming out next month! You can pre-order Panda Love: The Secret Lives of Pandas by Ami Vitale at any of your favorite booksellers!!

Oh and not only was I able to hear her speak about her long and amazing career I was lucky enough to meet her after! I was a bundle of nerves, but I didn't make a fool of myself! In fact, even she agreed that we were kind of sharing a wave length! I couldn't help but mention how my work mirrors hers in a way I didn't realize until hearing her speech! She is frequently in the company of people who live their lives in service of orphaned wildlife, which is what I do in my rehabilitation work. And she told a story about how while at the World's Largest Camel Fair people would take photos of locals without even asking their names or even for something as simple as permission! This hit home with me because of my own photography project on Instagram called The Name of Strangers, where I do just the opposite of those tourists, I purposely go up to strangers and ask them their names, ask them the stories behind their names and ask if I may take their portrait! I was honored that Ami loved the idea and took one of my business cards. Having a World renowned National Geographic Explorer and Photographer think my idea is a good one means so much I cannot even begin to tell you!

The takeaway for me from meeting Ami was about how empathy is the most important thing individuals can use to make the world they want to live in, remembering to see the whole picture and look past the doom and gloom headlines because inevitably there will be something or someone who warms your heart just behind it!  

~Laura!

The Phantom and the Victorian Tea!

Monday, May 7, 2018

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This weekend it was finally warm in Buffalo so my mom and I had some great stuff planned!  I love the first few warm spring like weekend because everyone comes out in droves! It's nice to finally see people again after a long, hard winter!

My mom and I have made it our new Mothers Day tradition to go to dinner and see a musical at Shea's every May. Last year we saw Wicked and this year it was the Phantom of the Opera. I remember my mom listening to the original cast soundtrack a lot when I was little, but I didn't remember anything about the musical except that when my Aunt saw it in Toronto the chandelier swung. It was VERY important to us that this lighting fixture moved. 

I always take a photo of my playbill in front
of the stage before it starts. 
And it did not disappoint! I think that the Phantom was the best production I have yet to see at Shea's! It had everything! Amazing sets, stunning costumes, brilliant actors, and astounding singing of course (and don't get me started on how cool the chandelier was)! I'm going to have the main theme in my head for weeks I'm sure. And just being at Shea's makes one feel *fancier* I think.  Shea's was opened in 1926 and the interior was designed by the famed Louis Comfort Tiffany (yeah, the lamp guy) and is based off of a combo of Rococo and European Baroque styles. It is truly gorgeous inside. No matter how many times I go I am always finding new details in the decor! And it always vaguely smells like those addicting cinnamon roasted nuts they sell which is just an awesome added bonus. 

Our table was definitely the prettiest! 
The next day we were also invited to a proper Ladies Victorian Tea as a fundraiser for my uncle's church! It was spectacular! It all seemed very old fashioned! My mom and I dressed in our very best with fancy hats included! I wore a lace light blue dress with a sun hat that's underside and brim had a pretty blue fabric with pink flowers on it! There were 400 diverse, amazing, beautiful women there all dressed to the nines. Each table (about 40, I think) had their own hostesses that decided on everything from the place settings, favors, tea sets, and most importantly their table's food. Every table was great but our table was obviously the best as my Aunt and cousin did a wonderful job! I have never had those tiny cucumber sandwiches before and they were surprisingly tasty. It was as if we were playing tea party for real, we even had a fancy waiter (also known as my uncle, haha)! It was a really special event that I am so glad I got to go to! 

The first weekend of May and of good weather was a whole hearted success! I'm so glad that it is nice out again! 

~Laura!

On Hostels

Monday, April 30, 2018

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Recently I was asked about hostels and I thought it would be a good blog topic!

The first time I stayed in a hostel was in Rome during my backpacking trip in 2016. I stayed in hostels the entire time I was in Europe because I was on a budget. Hostels are the only reason I could afford going abroad for 6 weeks.

Hostels are fabulous for solo travellers because they are cheap, you meet a lot of likeminded people, and they are a great resource for things to do while you are wherever you are! But how are you supposed to choose which one? I have become a pro at hostels.

The first thing I look for is which is the cheapest hostel in the area I would like to stay in. Now, the price depends on which kind of dorm you want to stay in. I do not mind mixed dorms because they are usually cheaper, but if the female only dorm isn't too much more I choose that (mostly because I have found that guys snore way louder than girls). Size of the dorm is also a factor on the price. The largest dorm I have stayed in was a mixed 36 bed dorm in Prague (the Czech Inn. Ha, get it?) and the smallest is usually 4 beds. I've stayed in a few of those and they are pretty nice. But that 36 bed wasn't awful! It was a huge room, but had wall dividers and had 4 to 6 beds in each so it seemed smaller. (An unimportant, but amusing side note on the Czech Inn: the guy that checked me in looked like a young Orlando Bloom so it has that going for it too). I also always try to find the right hostel in a centrally located area. It doesn't always work out though so I try to make sure I can access public transport easily as well.

While in Europe the second big thing I looked for was 24 hour reception, security, and luggage storage as my arrival and departure times were so wonky. I needed to be able to check in late and needed to leave my pack some place safe on my last day in whatever city before I left. (Oh be sure to bring a lock! Try to make it TSA approved so you can also use it on your luggage! I used it a lot on lockers. I also brought a bike chain cause I'm nuts. When my pack didn't fit I would lock it to my bed. Honestly, though no one wants your dirty underwear. Just don't keep important crap in there and you'll probably be fine!)

The third thing that I had no idea to look for when I first booked all those hostels for Europe, 8 in all, was a booklight under the listed facilities. I noticed that every hostel that had a booklight usually had plugs for each bed. Plugs are so important. But remember to look under the facilities listed for things you may prioritize, too, like towels or breakfast. I also email the hostel beforehand to ask them if they assign specific beds. I do this because I am horrible with top bunks because hostels always have bunk beds, it's like a rule and if they do I ask for a bottom one. I've never been denied if they are assignable. Sometimes they are first come first serve and then I just have to pray.

Finding hostels in major European cities is easy! Finding them here in the USA has been a little tricky. They just aren't as big here. I've stayed in only 2 here so far, one in Boston and one in NYC. Finding the NYC one particularly difficult because a lot of them do not allow New York State residents which is obnoxious. Before booking a hostel you should always look to see if they have restrictions such as residency or age. I don't know what I'm gonna do when I'm older and travel. Cry probably.

Oh and always read the reviews! They are always helpful. Although take some of them with a grain of salt as people complain about the silliest and most minor things. Sometimes a hostel can look fantastic and then you read the reviews and you run away. A lot of the time with those complaints listed the hostel will reply with an apology. I think that sometimes cancels out most of the bad review because obviously if they are really paying attention to their reviews logic says they probably would have tried to help if the complaint was lodged in person instead of in a passive aggressive review weeks later.  (Oh by the way, I always use hostelworld.com. I'm not like a paid sooner or anything I just like their site).

Told you my Scottish Hostel felt like
a castle! This is a mural painted in a
staircase! 
Only once have I felt unsafe in a hostel (here's looking at you Birmingham Central Backpackers and your creepy live in people), but on the whole they are pretty great! (No, I have not seen the movie Hostel. I am not going to either. Don't worry my brother gave me all the ridiculous gritty details). My favorite hostel was Castle Rock in Edinburgh, Scotland! It was literally next to the castle and it had a castle vibe inside and was beautiful and they did your laundry and sold amazing backpacking tours (hey shoutout to Macbackpackers whoo) and so much more. I want to stay there every time I go to Edinburgh. I would be one of those live in people, but not creepily so. I just really loved that hostel. I'm almost home sick for that hostel and Edinburgh and Scotland.

Anyway, my love of the Scots aside, what I'm getting at here is that hostels are the best. Hostels don't have to be scary. They are amazing and they make cheap travel so much easier and better!

~Laura!