Bath Musings ep.04 || "Grief has no direction."

9/15/2020


Bath Products Used: Dr Teal's Pure Epsom Salt Soothe & Sleep Lavender Foaming Bath

Songs Listened To: Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi
Happier by Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Cast
Can't Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley 

Minutes Wasted: Over 60.

Grief is like trying to walk through a balloon filled paddling pool, each balloon blown up with a sudden blast of sadness. Each day brings forth another walk through the pool, and you will inevitably step on some of those filled suckers. It's painful, tiring, and results in exhausting your brain and heart. It has now been almost a year since my Grandma has passed away, and I'm so very tired. It seems silly as I'm not in the UK, her home, I had moved so far away from her and the rest of my family. But that's just growing up, right? Becoming an adult means making sacrifices for your happiness, and mine was the entirety of my past. Yet I feel so... guilty.

Everyone knows the five stages of grief because of how many times entertainment has brought it up to us:

  • Shock/denial
  • Bargaining 
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Acceptance 

What utter bullshit. As a planner I mentally felt prepared to go through all of these stages when I got told that she had passed away. Yet, nothing was or is in that order. Grief is messy, unmanageable, and something that you can't even comprehend as you go through it.

I sat there at her funeral and felt internally pissed off at all of the people that dared to sit there and mourn her after partly making her life miserable on occasion. I sat there and smiled during her wake, making chit-chat that was suited more at a celebrated event than a time of mourning. I smiled as people wanted a family photo, talked about memories of her with a little laugh-acting as though we weren't all breaking inside at the way we now spoke of her in past tense. I sat there and thought that I was in the anger phase, but hadn't I been crying myself to sleep every night? Wait, wasn't that depression? But that meant that I had foregone the bargaining phase. What was I bargaining? Was I meant to be on my knees each night wishing for her return? I didn't and don't believe in God, or heaven, or anything after you pass away. Should I of asked someone who was religious to pray for me?

This was what I felt during the day that my Grandma got cremated. I partly wanted to see her coffin get lowered to prove the loss as it truly didn't feel real. I say that, 4 months later, with it still not feeling real. I won't say it's harder for me, as I know being in a place that she once was everyday is much harder, but it's a different kind of mourning when you do it from so far away. It's easy for me to believe, and forget, that she's gone for good. I dream of her each night, some dreams are of us all realising that she isn't in fact dead and that we were all super dumb to even think that. I dream of waiting to bury her, as everyone around me tells me that she is gone. I can live in a life of make believe so easily, that it feels mighty tempting to do just that.

Grief is never easy, nor is it understandable.

If you're currently dealing with grief, I wish I had advice for you but I really don't. All I can say is this.. It isn't going to be easy, or something you can feel through a steady motion. It's going to be rocky, and you'll feel alone as everyone is either suffering through their own grief or people form the outside of it just won't be able to understand. Once the motions of the funeral and 'condolences' are done, they will forget that you're in a grieving process and that will be the hard part. You'll feel forgotten, you'll fear that they will forget the person that you lost. You, alone, will have to carry the memory. It will become a part of you, everything will feel a little heavy and there isn't a solution to help ease that.

I started this blog post with no point, and I'm ending it the same. This is literally the problem with my brain currently. It's muddled and not making any sense, it has no direction. Just a lot of words that mean nothing. If you've had any experience with grief and have any advice, I would be eternally grateful.


Recent Reads | Net Galley Edition #2

9/13/2020


It's time for a second Net Galley wrap-up. The ARC Gods have been with me lately, as I got approved for two of my most anticipated books of 2020 - Anxious People by Fredrik Backman and One by One by Ruth Ware. Read on to see what I thought of both of them! 

The Switch

by Beth O'Leary 

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen's house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She'd like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn't offer many eligible gentlemen. So they decide to swap lives for the duration of Leena's time-off. 

This novel is the most intimate look at the mother/daughter dynamic that I've ever read. I adored the audiobook, Daisy and Alison do a marvelous job at bringing both the characters to life (even if it was a little peculiar to here Marianne and Pam exist in the same world.. if you know, you know). I think Beth O'Leary did a wonderful job at writing two female protagonists with such depth and range, which is something that I've struggled with in the past when reading a female/female duel narrative - one character always seems to lack. In fact, all the female characters in this book were unique in their own ways. There was no 'blank wall' character - incredible! 

I also appreciated the various topics that this book covers - domestic abuse, grief, depression, loneliness, gay rights, cheating, etc. If you enjoyed Firefly Lane, In Five Years, or Maybe In Another Life read this. 

Format: Audiobook

Release Date: Out Now!

Goodreads: The Switch


Earthlings

by Sayaka Murata

This is what I expected from the author of Convience Store Woman, but so much weirder. I liked the first half of this book, it was quirky with a relatable main character who believes she is not human. Her and her Cousin make it a mission to be anything other than an "Earthling".

But the more this book went on, the more ridiculous it got. I get that some books are of an acquired taste but Earthlings just seemed to step into the bazaar category with no rhyme or reason. I would read another translated novel by Sayaka Murata but I wouldn't recommend this book to.. well.. most people. The writing was beautiful, but the story ended up being too weird for even me.

Format: Ebook

Release Date: October 6th, 2020

Goodreads: Earthlings


If I Tell You The Truth

by Jasmin Kaur

The mix of poetry, illustrations, and story telling in this novel is flawless. When I requested it, I didnt expect it to be so long, and yet I turned the final page hoping for more. The author beautifully seamed this collection of mixed media into a story that will rip your heart out repeatedly, and yet leave you feeling.. full. The mother/daughter dynamic of Sahaara and Kiran was truly authentic, I appreciated how similar they both were while not being a mirrored image of the other. They felt realistic. Mainly this book shed light on the experiences of sexual assault victims, and the many ways an assault can change the entire direction of your life. I can't speak for the representation of the cultural talk in this novel, but the conversations it brought up did make me think about how much power a woman's word can hold dependent on where she is from. If you enjoy modern poetry, strong female voices, and are mentally able to handle a lengthy book that doesn't shy away from the topic of sexual assault or deportation.. read this. It will stay with you.

Format: Ebook

Release Date: January 19th, 2021

Goodreads: If I Tell You The Truth


The Flip Side

by James Bailey

A sudden break-up leaves British lad Josh back to living with his parents, jobless, and broke. In a bid to counteract his bad luck, he decides to let the flip of a coin choose all of his important decisions for a year. Will it lead him to a new love?

I was excited to read this book as the premise seemed like a fun quirky spin on your traditional British romcom. Sadly, it just missed the mark. The protagonist Josh was such a dweeb, and his interactions with anyone of the opposite sex left me feeling annoyed and icked out. He had such a negative outlook on just about everything and it grew tiresome. My final straw was when he meets "the one" and decides to drop all his money (he's very poor) in a bid to track her down. 1) creepy. And 2) just a poor choice. Even the side characters in this grated on me, they were all so stereotypical British in the worst way possible. I would read more by this author as I think he had a great idea for a story, the characters and execution of The Flip Side just didn't work for me.

Format: Ebook

Release Date: November 17th, 2020

Goodreads: The Flip Side


Anxious People

by Fredrik Backman

A bank robbery goes wrong, leading the masked gunman into an apartment viewing and taking the people inside hostage. There, each individual begins opening up about their lives and problems.

There's something special that Backman manages to always achieve in his novels, and that's the way he writes about humanity. I never leave one of his stories without a warmed heart and an urge to hug somebody. Anxious People was no different. I've written a full review of this book which you can read HERE

Format: Ebook

Release Date: Out now!

Goodreads: Anxious People


One by One 

by Ruth Ware

Don't go outside. Don't go anywhere alone. A group of  co-workers venture to the snowy mountains for a retreat filled with wine, skiing, and cozy nights by the fire. But the vacation soon turns deadly when they all get snowed in by an avalanche, especially as one of them is a killer.

I have a hot/cold relationship with Ruth Ware books. I've read all her previous novels, and seem to either love them or feel quite indifferent about them. Sadly, One by One fell into the latter. This wasn't a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, but it didn't grip me like Turn Of The Key or The Death of Mrs. Westaway. The claustrophobic setting of the slopes definitely give this book an original ambiance, which I did enjoy. The characters were okay, and the twists were decent enough despite my guessing every plot twist that came about - I think any regular thriller reader will. All in all, this was your average 3 star book. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed as I know the author can do better. Meh.

Format: Ebook

Release Date: Out now!

Goodreads: One by One


Is there anything on this list that you've been wanting to pick up? Let me know!



One by One by Ruth Ware | Book Review [spoiler-free]

9/09/2020


A snowy vacation on the slopes with a warm chalet waiting for you at the end of each day? Heaven, right? That's what a group of savvy tech workers think when they all arrive in the French Alps for a weeklong company retreat. There to greet them are Danny and Erin, the cutesy chef and a girl who has more baggage on her shoulders than she can carry. The vacationers settle in, but tensions begin to arise when talk of selling the company becomes a a clash between the team. In the middle of all the arguing is Liz, a normal girl who ended up with shares in the company after investing the money her Grandmother left her. When a tragic avalanche leaves the group cut off from civilization, they start having to work together in a bid to survive the storm. But what they don't realize is, the most dangerous thing is inside with them.. a murderer. 

I have a complicated relationship with Ruth Ware books. I've read all of her works, and seem to give them a glowing 5 star rating or a 'meh' 3 stars. There's no middle-ground. Sadly, One by One fell short for me. But before we delve into why that is, let's start with the positives.


The atmosphere of this thriller was exquisite. I'm always a hoe for a closed-off setting in thrillers, and this gave me that tenfold. I felt the chill in the air, I ached for the warmth that the characters so desperately needed, and I felt closed-off from the world like them. I kept expecting my phone to have no reception. Ruth Ware always does this well in her books, whether it's the cinematic location of her books, or the creepy atmosphere, they always feel suffocating. This has probably been my favourite setting of hers.

Now, the negatives. The plot-twists in this book were idiotic. I guessed the big reveal way before the end, and that's just something you never ever want in a thriller. Erin and Liz are the two characters we mainly focus on during the story, and because of that I felt like some of the side characters were very one-note. I didn't really care when they were in danger as I wasn't sure.. well.. which one it was. I get that a big character list was needed as at heart this is a 'who done it' book, but I think Ware could've done a better job at introducing them. 

All in all, I think this would be a very forgettable thriller if it weren't for who wrote it. I hated how cleanly Ware wrapped everything up, as it felt too clean cut for a thriller. One by One wasn't necessarily bad, just.. disappointing. 

Is this one your TBR?



Anxious People by Fredrik Backman | Book Review [spoiler free]

9/08/2020

Fredrick Backman is tied for my favourite author with Taylor Jenkins Reid. I've read everything he's written (that's been translated) and constantly recommend his books to anyone who enjoys hard-hitting contemporaries. His writing will always make me cry. So naturally, I was excited to see that he had a new book getting released this year, Anxious People. I instantly put it on my TBR, but I was surprised when reading the premise for his newest release as it seemed so different in comparison to his usual plots.

Anxious People is about a group of people who get stuck together in a apartment viewing when they're taken hostage by a masked person with a pistol. The gun wielding hostage-taker has just failed to rob a moneyless bank and is hiding from the authorities. Over the course of the day, each individual in the apartment begins to open up about their lives and current problems. Outside of that, we're reading from the future POV's of the two police officers who were in charge of handling the situation. Father and son, Jack and Jim, are on a quest to find the robber as he's seemed to of.. vanished. 

I'm silly for thinking that this novel wouldn't be one of the most heartfelt books I've ever read. There's something special that Backman always achieves with his books, and that's the way he writes about humanity. I never leave one of his stories without a warmed heart and an urge to hug somebody. In Anxious People I'd definitely say that some of the characters mirrored characters from Backman's previous novels, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but something to be noted nonetheless. 

Each individual in the apartment has their time to shine, and that's quite an achievement for a book under 400 pages. The robber is driven by the prospect of losing their children, and is in desperate need of money to pay the rent, so, not your traditional criminal. There's a queer couple Julia and Ro, who are expecting their first child together, but are also faced with the fears of any first-time parents. Roger and Anne-Lena, a retired couple who go around flipping properties, but are having some marital problems. Estelle, an elderly woman who was just waiting for her husband to bring around the car when she got caught up in this hostage situation. There's a man in his boxers wearing a rabbit head. Yup, you read that correctly. There's a quirky real estate agent who is desperate to make a sale. And lastly, there's Zara. A rich lonely woman who goes to apartment viewing to feel something. 

Zara's story really sealed this book into a 5 star rating for me. I found her to be so complex, flawed, and yet inspiring. As this book plays a lot with time, we're lucky enough to read from Zara's POV quite a bit and her therapy sessions were the highlight of the book for me. I couldn't help but painfully relate to her voice, and isn't that what we always want out of a story like this? 

All in all, this is an original book that really takes you all over the place but lands you under what feels like a fluffy blanket. The writing plays you, the reader, but never seems to be purposely confusing. Instead it's like the softest touching mystery you will ever read. If you've read anything by Backman before, or enjoy contemporaries that tattoo themselves onto your heart, pick this book up immediately. 

Side-note: Anxious People often discusses suicide, so if that's something that is triggering to you, go in with absolute caution. 


Recent Reads #3

9/06/2020

I'm way behind on these posts, but life got in the way as always (so rude!). Because of this, expect a part 4 sooner than later. I read some great books in August, despite Midnight Sun taking me weeks. I also took part in a readathon with my husband @ReadingRainbill that consisted of reading tons of children's classics that we never got around to as children. I only included two on this list as they were the ones that I had the most to say about, but be sure to check out my story collection on @BranchingPages to see everything that I read.  

The Voting Booth

by Brandy Colbert

It's a big day for two teens, it's the day of their very first voting experience. Marva has been awaiting this day all year, she is a strong-willed woman who believes that every vote matters. Duke on the other hand is overwhelmed by his mother's nagging about voting - how much it matters.After losing his brother, a guy who always spoke up about politics to Duke, he knows that under no circumstance can he not vote. But at the polling station, he gets turned away for not being registered. Marva, overhearing this, takes it upon herself to make sure that this stranger gets his vote. 

Not only was this a book with such a great message to young adults, but it was bloody adorable! I listened to this via Libro.fm and really enjoyed myself. I'm new to America so am unfamiliar with the voting system, but I think this contemporary did a great job at exploring that while giving a great commentary on the black experience with politics. It was preachy, but in a way that matters. A great YA book that ought to be read by everybody. 


Midnight Sun

by Stephenie Meyer

A broody vampire meets a human girl. How can it ever work?

And here we have the book that took me most of August to read, for no other reason than that I was enjoying myself so much. I remember being around 13-years-old and reading the first chapter of Midnight Sun online and THRIVING. This is the book that teenage me has been waiting for. It was cheesy, but so good. I've always known Meyer has it in her to give us some great writing (I loved The Host), and I think this book really proved that. Is the story problematic? Yes, hell yes. But it was fun, and helped awaken the Twihard inside of me. It was also great fun to get the plot holes in Twilight filled by reading the story from Edward's POV. I also think this novel did a much better job at building up Edward and Bella's relationship. We had so many relationship building scenes, it made my heart soar. 


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou's Autobiography #1)

by Maya Angelou

This is the memoir of a young black girl growing up in a small Southern town with her grandmother. It's about acceptance, love, and what it's like growing up at a time where it wasn't necessarily okay to be yourself.

I can see why this book is beloved as a memoir. It's got incredible depth and I fully felt like I was reading it with the intention to write an essay about Maya's childhood. However, I found some chapters a tad pointless and as someone who has never really enjoyed the 'childhood' portion of a memoir, it fell a bit flat. I read this as an audiobook so perhaps that was my problem, and I fully intend to reread this physically as I feel as though I'm missing out on the 'wow' factor. I guess I was just a bit disappointed. Some chapters made me cry, while others bored me senseless. How to review something like that? Should you read this? Yes. Maya's voice is one that matters, I just think for me personally, I will prefer her second book 'Gather Together in My Name' that focuses more on her adulthood.


Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2)

by Talia Hibbert 

Danika Brown is a workaholic who practices witchy goodness on the side. She wishes for a fuck buddy, and boy, does the goddess delivery. When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But what happens when a viral video leads them to fake dating, and feelings begin to arise for both of them? 

I read Get A Life, Chloe Brown last year because the main character had Fibromyalgia but I was disappointed with the rep of chronic pain in the book, so I stupidly dismissed the next book in the series. But.. the hype forced me to read it. I buddy-read this with my friend Maria (be sure to follow her Bookstagram @m.is.reading) and it was a lot of fun. I really appreciated how Zafir was so supportive of Dani's career, but mostly I was awed by Talia Hibbert's way of writing such a smart, strong-willed woman without ever making her a cold work machine like so many other characters in books with these characteristics. Dani had a life, she had friends, was the perfect amount of snarky, and cared deeply about her family. Yeah, she let work consume her too much, but it never made her less.. human. Zafir was an absolute joy, and I think his struggle with anxiety and panic attacks was one of the more authentic accounts I've read in fiction. All in all, would definitely recommend. 


This Is How You Lose the Time War

by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone 

Red and Blue are two time travelling agents of different teams. They begin to leave letters to each other throughout time, and there starts one of the most sweet romances I've ever read.

This book was wacky, like, I'm still not sure what happened. But it was so beautiful. My favourite sections of the novel were definitely the letters, if anything I think this entire thing could've been a collection of their letters. The "regular" chapters made the book fall short for me, as I was too confused to enjoy it. One thing is for sure though, I'm never going to forget this reading experience. 


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

by L. Frank Baum

Dorothy and Toto find themselves in a magical world where witches matter, there's a yellow road, and scarecrows, lions, and tin men can talk. Oh, my!

I've watched the movie adaptation of this novel many, many times but never got around to reading the book. The differences between the two versions don't necessarily change the story, but they are jarring for a fan of the movie. Silver shoes!? Yuk. But saying that I really liked the overall message of this book, and enjoyed the banter between characters. The lion is my spirit animal. If this is on your TBR but you've been putting it off in the fear that it may be boring, don't. Pick it up. It's a fast read that feels like a comforting hug. Especially if you've been brought up with the movie. 


The Complete Winnie-The-Pooh

by A. A. Milne

Pooh is a yellow bear who absolutely loves honey. His friends consist of Christopher Robin, Piglet, Owl, Eeyore, Rabbit, Kanga & Roo, and Tigger. This is the complete collection of all his tales. 

This was a truly beautiful, sweet, adorable children's book that I will now forever keep in my collection. The stories were sometimes funny, sometimes sweet, and mostly melancholy which gave me, a 24-year-old, a great sense of nostalgia for something I've never even had. The writing holds up wonderfully. Was I crying at times? Yes, but you'll never prove it.


A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (The Carls #2)

by Hank Green 

April is back, but how? And where did the Carl's go? It's close to the one-year anniversary since the Carl's appeared, and all of our main characters are struggling in their lives. 

It's hard to write a synopsis to a sequel like this without giving away spoilers, so go and check out the Goodreads page for An Absolutely Unremarkable Thing to get all the "origin" details. I was really anticipating this book as 1) the first book ended on a cliff hanger and 2) I really enjoyed  An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. It was complete surprise to me as I don't usually enjoy sci-fi books. However, it's sequel really fell short. The story was fine, I guess, but felt so, so, so pointless. It ended up being such a preach feast on humanity and being a good person that I wanted to barf. Some aspects of the story didn't make sense, and the parts that did took away the mysteries of the first book. This wasn't needed, and though Hank Green has said that the series has finished, I wouldn't recommend reading this at all. It feels like fluff. Or a fanfiction. Harsh, I know, but true. I gave it a 2 star rating because the writing was still great, the story was just a different.. well, story. 


Heart Bones

by Colleen Hoover

Beyah Grim's mother overdoses, not knowing what else to do, the teenager lies her way into living with her father and his new family that she's never met. She just needs a home for the Summer before going away to university. The more days she spends in their home, the more Beyah starts to care for her 'sister' and, more notably, the boy living next door.

This was my first Colleen Hoover! This author has always been on my radar but I've never known where to start. This was Maria's pick for our next read (again, be sure to follow her on Bookstagram: @m.is.reading), and I enjoyed it. It wasn't my favourite romance book, but it was a good coming-of-age story. I really enjoyed the female friendship in this novel, and the commentary on body comparisons. I wish Beyah had more character development without the help of the love interest, but her growth throughout the novel was beautiful to read. 

So, these and my Net Galley books were everything that I read in August. Is anything on this list that is on your TBR? Have you read any of these? Let me know!

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