01/5/17

Doing New York On A Budget

nyc-on-a-budget

New York is known for being expensive, and for a lot of people, it’s difficult to visit the city because of the price tag attached. However, it’s completely possible to see all of the incredible things New York has to offer without breaking the bank! After spending a semester in New York City on a college student’s budget (aka very small) I feel like I’ve gained a bit of an idea on how to live in the city on a budget, and here are my tips on how to do it.

plan ahead

One of the best things I learned about New York once I moved here is that this city is AMAZING with discounts. Most museums have free or discounted days, and all of the big ones have student discounts (SCORE!). If you can, try to schedule your trip around those days so you can take advantage of as many deals as possible! I’ve put together all of the “pay-what-you-wish” and free days at various popular New York museums, and I highly recommend you check them out. I’m still trying to get to all of them!

nyc-museum-times

go to the park(s)

New York is chalk full of parks, and I adore spending an afternoon in a park. Plus, they’re FREE! Head to a grocery store and grab some bits for a picnic, pick up a cheap book from The Strand, and head to one of the many parks in the city. Or, if you’re in the mood for a nice long walk, walk through Central Park. It’s a beautiful walk, and I highly recommend going off the main roads. You’ll find hills, massive rocks, beautiful trees, and quiet peaceful areas that make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere rather than in the middle of the city.

Check out the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation for a complete guide to fun activities happening in the parks around the city: https://www.nycgovparks.org/highlights/places-to-go

(Aneeqah and I got a slice of cake from Magnolia Bakery and spent the afternoon in Central Park and it was by far one of the highlights of my weekend with her.)

food

Eating in New York on a budget is no easy feat, let me tell you. My pro-tip: SHARE FOOD. Not only can you get a larger variety, but you also end up paying less! Also, don’t feel like you need to try every kind of food on the face of the earth. This is something I have to remind myself of on a daily basis. Also, food in touristy areas is always more expensive than food in less-popular areas of the city, so try to not get food right next-door to a museum or in the middle of Times Square.

I also recommend stalkingNew York foodie Instagram accounts prior to your trip and making a list of places you want to go. This way, you can look at menus and price out spots, and then you go into the trip with an idea of the restaurants you want to go to ahead of time! Planning your food can also help you figure out what other spots to hit up.

transportation

Don’t take a cab, my friends.

I repeat, do not take a cab. (Obviously, this is if you have the option not to.)

(Obviously, this is if you have the option not to.)

WALK. Seriously. Walk everywhere. Use your two legs and see the city as you walk around–it’s a great way to find places to eat, stop into, and to get a feel for the city. I adore walking around the city and do it when at all possible.

To get between areas, get a MetroCard and take the Subway! Not only will you see the people of the city, but it’s also such a New York experience. My personal rule is that I don’t take the Subway unless the distance I would be walking is farther than five subway stops. That’s somewhere around twenty blocks AKA nothing! Definitely doable. Using this rule also helps you save money!

For help getting around the city, I highly recommend the “NYC Subway” app, which shows you a map of the island and allows you to plan routes between stops to see the best way to get there. It’s free in the app store! (Also, don’t be afraid to ask New Yorkers for directions. I haven’t met a rude one yet.)

I recommend centralizing your activities around one thing. For example, if you want to go breakfast at a certain spot in the Flatiron district, spend as much time as you can down in the Flatiron district. Then, walk over to Chelsea for dinner, go to the High Line in the evening and then head to bed. Only TWO Subway rides total if you plan it right!

(Also, MetroCards work on NYC buses, which go crosstown. You can take a crosstown bus through Central Park! Make sure to pay for your ticket PRIOR to getting onto the bus.)

housing

Hotels in New York are SO expensive. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in one. I’ve been lucky enough to have family friends in the city who are willing to let my family and I stay with them, or I’ve stayed in Air-BNBs. I highly recommend one of these options if you can! Or, you can get a hotel in New Jersey and take the train into the city every day. (Trust me, it’s WAY cheaper to take the train in than spend an exorbitant amount of money on a hotel room in Manhattan.)


Let me know if you have other New York questions, or ideas for posts you’d like to see! I loved making this one and would love to make some more in the future.

12/31/16

Goodbye, 2016!

Hello everyone!

It’s been ages, I know. Like, two months kind of ages. Where did the time go?

I got it together enough to make my best of 2016 list though, which I’m super excited to share with you guys! I didn’t read as much this year as previous years, mainly due to college (I’ve read a total of four books from September until now) but I managed to squeeze in some great picks. If I reviewed the book, I’ve included a quote from my review along with a link, otherwise, I’ve shared my thoughts. So, without further adieu, here is my top 7 (for 2017)!

Top 7 Books of 2016:

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

I’m in love with Kids of Appetite. It’s a phenomenal story of growing up, friendship, and being unique,three of the most important things teens need to read about, in my opinion. So, thunderous applause for Kids of Appetite, and I’m already desperately awaiting David Arnold’s next book.

Review: Kids of Appetite

 

 The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Not only is Jeff Zentner one of my favorite people, he is also one heck of a writer. The Serpent King is touching, honest, and an incredible story about growing up and moving on. I read it shortly before leaving for college, and it hit home. The questions of: how do I leave home without leaving the people behind? what happens if I change? how am I going to pay for this? These are all addressed in the book and in such a wonderful way. I can’t recommend this one enough!

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

The First Time She Drowned is a heart-wrenching and beautiful story of healing. Cassie’s story of growing up and confronting her past is one that readers will fall as in love with as I did. Kletter’s writing is haunting and lyrical and will pull you in from the first line: “My mother wore the sun like a hat.”

Review: The First Time She Drowned

 

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Kathleen Glasgow has written a book that feels. It understands what it’s like to be human, to suffer, to want to heal, to struggle to keep it together. It understands what it’s like to start over, to find new friends, to find the good in people. It is real.

Girl in Pieces is a song I never wanted to end.

Review + extended thoughts: Girl in Pieces

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

I made a bullet-pointed list of the things I loved about AGOS and A Darker Shade of Magic that does a great job of explaining my feelings, so I’m going to link everyone to that.

But, the basic gist of the list is:

I LOVE THESE BOOKS A LOT OKAY

Review featuring all the feels possible: ADSOM + AGOS

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I wrote a love letter to this book, and here’s the ending (but I highly recommend reading the whole thing):

This book is a wonder. It’s utterly beautiful and made me feel every emotion I’ve ever known and I don’t know what to do with myself now. So I’m just rereading it because I don’t know how I will ever get over it. Thank you for writing this book and for writing these characters and for continuing this series…because if you left me with that ending I would smash YOUR arm into pieces just like Rhys.

A Court of Mist and Fury, you will be joining Jellicoe Road in my suitcase to college in the fall. You are that treasured.

All my love,

Willa.

The rest of the love-letter: A Court of Mist and Fury

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

…it wins for best quote from a book so far this year:

“Quinn, your life story is starting to turn into a documentary that people would walk out of because it’s both too sad and too slow.” -Geoff, being the realest friend ever.

Basically, Tim Federle, you win with this book. You. Win.

Review (a mini one): The Great American Whatever


My favorite posts of 2016:

“Why moving to New York is the best decision I’ve ever made”

“Change”

“I turned 18!” (i like this post mainly for the gif not going to lie)

“On growing up, fear, and the future”


Highlights of 2016:

1. Getting into & GOING TO Barnard (!!!)

I can’t believe I’m at Barnard. Every day it feels like I’m living in a dream, but it’s reality.

I love my school, you guys.

2. Spending TWO weekends with Aneeqah

I spent a weekend at Aneeqah’s school and she came to Barnard for a weekend, which is a record-breaking amount of time for us to spend together IRL. It was absolutely AMAZING and gosh I love Aneeqah. A lot.

3. Leigh Bardugo’s launch party

I went to Leigh’s launch in New York City and it was fantastic! I made friends, saw Leigh again (I LOVE THAT WOMAN) and had a great conversation with some publishing people. And, obviously, I got my copy of Crooked Kingdom signed.

4. Met Melina Marchetta

i don’t even have words guys how did this happen is life real ?????

5. Eating the most amazing food of my life

shoutout to all of the places I’ve eaten in New York because WOW have I had some good food. (Especially that donut Aneeqah and I had from Dough. No words for that donut.)


Goals for 2016:

I’m not one for resolutions (because I relate that word to doing something NEW and a lot of my resolutions are the same as they have been for years) so I do resolutions. Here’s what I’ve got for 2017!

1.  Blog AT LEAST once a month

But really I’d love to do three times a month. But, you know, trying to keep this manageable.

2. Do more NYC-related posts

I would love to do some food guides and recommendations on things to do in the city! Let me know if you’d be into that.

3. Read at least one YA book a month

Considering in October I didn’t read one, I think this is a pretty good goal. We’ll see how it goes.

4. Get an internship!

I’m hoping to get an internship at a publishing house this summer, so cross your fingers for me!

5. Finish my WIP

I’ve been wanting to write this book for eight months, and I’ve managed to put it off for a long, long time. So, IT’S TIME TO DO IT.


What are your favorite reads of 2016? What are some of your goals? I’d love to read them, so please share in comments!

LET’S DO THIS 2017!

09/24/16

Why moving to NYC is the best decision I’ve made

As most of you know, I moved to New York City a month ago for school. I’ve been living in the city since the end of August, and now I feel like I can do some early reflections on my time here.

My biggest reflection?

I’m so happy I came here.

Not only to Barnard, which is everything I could’ve dreamed of and more but to New York City as a whole. There’s something about living here that is so remarkably different from visiting and I don’t really know how to describe it.

I think it has something to do with the fact that when you visit a place, you’re in a rush to see everything, eat everything, do everything, and it’s impossible. But when you live in a place like New York City, there’s no rush. There’s always another weekend to go to a Broadway show, another evening to go out to dinner with friends, another afternoon to spend thrift-shopping in the Village. There’s enough time to do everything. And that takes the rush of MUST! DO! IT! ALL! off. For example, I’ve been here a month, and I haven’t even been to Central Park yet. Or a Broadway show. Or eaten at all the amazing places I want to go. Or spent any time on the East side.

But that doesn’t bother me. Instead, I think about it the way I did when I lived in Austin: oh, I have time to do that. There’s no rush. And that is such a refreshing feeling, especially when you’re in a city as wonderful as New York. It takes out the pressure of being in the city all day (exhausting) and lets you enjoy it at your own pace.

Which brings me back to why moving to New York is the best decision I’ve ever made.

There is no other time in my life I will be able to live on the Upper West Side for what I’m paying in Room & Board right now. There is no other time in my life I won’t have to cook OR go out for dinner (cafeterias y’all – they’re better than you think). There is no other time in my life when I am constantly surrounded by my friends and new people to talk to who WANT to talk. Living in New York City while you’re in college is such a valuable opportunity because you experience the city in a different way.

For me, I have a campus – a formal, gated campus. (If you go to NYU and most other schools in the city this isn’t the case.) This means that, usually, I spend about six out of the seven days of my week on campus. I stay in my little bubble of Morningside Heights and Columbia/Barnard. It’s quiet, there are students everywhere, and I spend zero money. But, on the days when I have less homework to do and feel like going downtown and getting lunch, or trying out a new bakery, or going to a coffee shop to study, I just hope on the subway and it takes me 15-30 minutes. And then I come home to my dorm room.

That is so unique. Having a respite in this busy, bustling city, and also not being bombarded with the city 24/7. Instead, you feel like you’re in your little college ecosystem, but you can venture into other ecosystems if you want, when you want, and on your own terms. And I love that part.

The other main reason I’m so happy to be here are the opportunities. I’ve already met amazing people (I met Adam Silvera at an event and died a bit) who can help me in my future career, and I can go to events I wouldn’t be able to go to if I was in Austin. (Ex: SIX OF CROWS LAUNCH PARTY ON MONDAY O M G.) Being connected to the book world is such an important part of my happiness, and so being here is just a dream come true.

So, in conclusion, I just want to reiterate how freaking happy I am to be here.

Like.

So happy.

And now I’m off to study some more because that’s all I do with my life. (And why I’ve read nothing since I’ve been here oooooops.)

09/19/16

An odyssey, a girl, and a greenhouse | KIDS OF APPETITE by David Arnold

20522640Novel: Kids of Appetite by David Arnold | Goodreads
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC
Source: BookPeople Teen Press Corps

The bestselling author of Mosquitoland brings us another batch of unforgettable characters in this tragicomedy about first love and devastating loss.

Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.
It begins with the death of Vic’s father.
It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle.
The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it.
But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.

This is a story about:

1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.
2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.
3. One dormant submarine.
4. Two songs about flowers.
5. Being cool in the traditional sense.
6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.
7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.
8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.
9. A story collector.
10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.
11. Falling in love with a painting.
12. Falling in love with a song.
13. Falling in love.

Somehow, I never got around to reading Mosquitoland, so I promised myself I would read Kids of Appetite. I already knew David Arnold was a fantastic writer, but I didn’t realize what a phenomenal writer he was until I started reading.

There was a moment early on in the book when I stopped reading and thought, “He is one heck of a writer.” (And just for context, I don’t usually do that – stop reading to have thoughts.) The thing that struck me about the writing style was its uniqueness. Not only did each character have a voice characteristic to them, but the book as a whole was beautiful, honest, and utterly raw – all things that arose primarily from the writing itself.

As far as the characters go, I adored them all. Their friendship, their easy banter, how loving and kind they were, how when one person needed help, they all showed up. I loved the little greenhouse where they lived, the journeys they went on to finish Vic’s dad’s list, and how despite their different backgrounds, they all meshed in a beautiful way.

One of my pet peeves in YA is when the parents and family are mysteriously absent, but despite the parents being absent for most of the book, it didn’t bother me. I think this was partly because family was such a strong element of the characters’ growth. For example, despite Vic’s parents not being physically present for the majority of the book, Vic’s relationship with his mother and father was a large part of not only his growth as a character, but also the overall story development. I loved the way Arnold wrapped up the book as well, because it resolved elements of the plot, but left others open to interpretation (my favorite endings do this!)

So, in conclusion, I’m in love with Kids of Appetite. It’s a phenomenal story of growing up, friendship, and being unique,three of the most important things teens need to read about, in my opinion. So, thunderous applause for Kids of Appetite, and I’m already desperately awaiting David Arnold’s next book.

 

09/12/16

High school drama, but in a futuristic NYC | THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR by Katharine McGee

20522640

Novel: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee | Goodreads
Release Date: August 30th, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: ARC
Source: Barnes & Noble (employee perk)

New York City as you’ve never seen it before. A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible—if you want it enough.

Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Debut author Katharine McGee has created a breathtakingly original series filled with high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, where the impossible feels just within reach. But in this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall….

I really wanted to like this book. I’d heard fantastic things from Margot at Epic Reads and from Grace over at Words Like Silver (her review here), and since I trust their opinions so much, I thought hey, I’ll like it too.

And although there definitely were elements of this story I enjoyed, the majority of it fell flat for me. Essentially, the book felt like high school drama but set in a tower. This book would’ve probably appealed to younger Willa, but after everything else I’ve read recently, this one just didn’t do it for me.

The main reason I had problems with the book was how it felt like a drama-filled contemporary. The story had five narrators, which I didn’t really have a big issue with, but all of their problems revolved around one of two things: their family or romantic problems. Each one of the characters was in a relationship, and honestly, I didn’t really like any of the people they were with (except Mariel – I loved Mariel). I didn’t really care about any of their relationships either – for me, if the book is going to revolve around a romance, it’s got be a romance I am DEEPLY invested in. But, I think the fact that there were five different relationships happening meant that I simply didn’t care enough about any of them.

The family issues I could get behind, but I wanted their familial problems to play a bigger role in the story than they did. They felt like a bit of an afterthought, honestly, and the reader only got to know a couple of the characters’s families. #missingparentsyndrome was in full swing for a few of the characters.

The other issue I had was that a lot of the drama somehow had to deal with class issues. In the tower, the higher up you are the more money and status you have. Two of the narrators, Watt and Rylin are from downTower, but they both become entwined in upTower drama, and it caused so many problems for them. I continually wanted to bang my head against a wall and tell them to just leave the upTower people behind because NONE OF THEM WERE GOOD ENOUGH TO CARE THIS MUCH ABOUT. The tension between up and downTower characters felt so cliche and just…uninteresting, and when it was combined with a relatively superficial relationship it just didn’t work for me.

Then we have the overall setting of the novel, which is Manhattan in a tower. The technology is incredibly advanced – phones in contacts (essentially), self-driving cars, hovercars, automated checks of someone’s vitals. Parts of the technology I loved, mainly because McGee did a fantastic job of immersing you in the setting without outright explaining each little detail of the technology. However, this isn’t my favorite kind of sci-fi. I prefer space sci-fi far more, so this kind just didn’t really do it for me. (Also, what was weird: the rest of the world didn’t seem to be so technologically advanced…? I wanted more on the whole WORLD not just New York, because, you know, The US isn’t the center of the world.)

So, sadly, I was not a fan of this book. The characters didn’t have a lot of growth over the course of the story, it felt like a high-school reality TV show in a futuristic setting, and there’s going to be an unnecessary sequel. (Seriously though. Not only was the book too long, but there’s going to be another one?! Kind of unnecessary, in my opinion, considering I don’t really care about any of the characters.) Also, there’s going to be a TV show apparently, and I kind of feel like it’s going to be a better show than book, considering how much drama the writers will have to work with.

I’m disappointed this one didn’t work out for me, since I had such high hopes, but let me know if you enjoy it! I’d love to hear your thoughts.