March Wrap-Up 2020

3/31/2021


March has been defined by a huge reading slump for me. I've read a fair few books, and yet I feel so discouraged about all of them. Send me prayers! But really, I am in a big ole' reading slump but a good few books made it onto my TBR this moneth which was partly due to participating in the Tis The Damn Readathon. Let's chat about them. 


Shadow & Bone
Leigh Bardugo 

Alina is a run-of-the-mill poor mapmaker, until her life changes in a literal flash of her eyes. Her inner power blossoms when she least expects it, resulting in her being face-to-face with the Darkling. With the weight of the people on her shoulders, can she make her life work in this high-society while keeping peace between herself and the most powerful man in the land?

Me reading a YA fantasy adventure? Who even am I? This book has been sitting on my shelf for years, I actually almost donated it a few times as I've been out of love with fantasy for a while now. However, the Netflix adaption that is coming out in April pushed me to give it a go and.. wow! I had so much fun reading this. I really liked Alina as a main character, she had great depth and didn't suffer under the "wet blanket" YA protagonist curse. She had a reason for her actions and decisions that went beyond trying to break away from a man. 


Moonrise
Sarah Crossan

Joe hasn't seen his brother Ed in 10 years, not since his brother was accused of manslaughter. Nobody believes he actually committed the crime, but each day is a countdown to his excursion date.

This is a novel told entirely in verse, which is a newly popular format of novel that I enjoy. I find it very poetic and usually fall headfirst into the novel with interest. I got this recommendation from Literary Diversions and, boy, it was a novel. This was a gripping story with some main characters that made me question their decisions. I liked how it wasn't black/white and made me think for myself when it came to my thoughts on the law case and the relationships that wove themselves throughout the book. I'm impressed at how eloquently the author handled such sensitive topics and layered characters. 


Still Alice
Lisa Genova 

Alice is a 50-year-old linguistics professor who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. While struggling to come to terms with her illness and the abundance of symptoms that come with it, she also has to juggle the emotions of her family.

This has been on my TBR ever since the movie adaption came out. It was one of those books that I kept on my shelves for when a reading slump hit. I really liked this novel, I chose to go the audiobook route which I think definitely helped with the writing as though it wasn't terrible, it wasn't the most well-written book I've read within the contemporary genre. What this book lacks in creative skill,  it definitely makes up with medical knowledge. I learnt a lot about Alzheimer's and though I wanted to tear my hair out from the reactions of Alice's family, I did appreciate the bluntness in which Lisa Genova wrote the family. It was frustrating but realistic. Overall, this is worth a read but I imagine just watching the movie would be equally as rewarding. 


The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm
Hilarie Burton Morgan

This is the memoir of One Tree Hill actress Hilarie Burton who with her husband, Jeffery Dean Morgan, decided to thrown in the LA towel, move to a small town, and buy a farm to renovate. This book talks about Hilarie's marital problems, the love of motherhood, what it means when you adopt alpacas, recipes, and her journey through infertility that led to depression. It is the perfect combination of real life pains and finding joy.

I adored this book so much. In the same vain as From Scratch by Tembi Locke, I really think you'd enjoy this book even if you have no interest or knowledge of the actress. Memoirs are always iffy as it can often feel like a money grab without them adding in any substance, this is the exact opposite. I cried, laughed, and instantly wanted to reread. 

TW: miscarriage, infertility 


Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters #3)
Talia Hibbert

Eve Brown is the youngest and most chaotic of the Brown sisters. She's always switching career paths and depends on the monthly allowance from her parents to keep her life afloat. But her parents are done. They refuse to give her any more money unless she proves she is capable of keeping a job for a year. This leads her to interviewing for a chef's job at a quaint B&B and hitting the owner with her car. Yup, you read that right.

I adore The Brown Sister trilogy by Talia Hibbert. Each book has the most perfect balance of fun romance and discussions on some more serious topics without it ever feeling like it takes away from the joy of reading. In Act Your Age, Eve Brown it has has some rep for Autism and though I can't speak for the rep itself, I will say that I learned more about the illness. Which, at the end of the day, is what you want from a book that is trying to raise awareness. I adored Eve as a protagonist, I liked how she was more chaotic than her sisters without being belittled. I enjoyed having more interactions with the rest of the Brown family, and yeah, fully recommend if you want a light-hearted read that isn't frivolous. Adore, will buy. 


The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis #1-4)
Marjane Satrapi 

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. Told through the format of graphic novel, this is a very original take on a story that we all should know. 

I didn't know what to expect going into this as the notion of a memoir in graphics struck me as odd, but you know, it really did help the tory flow. Satrapi's story was gut wrenching to read. As someone who wasn't all too familiar with the Islamic Revolution (and as someone who is pretty dumb when it comes to dates), this entire reading experience felt like a lesson on that period of history. I learnt so much and it led to me researching more about that time. My only quim with the collection was how I felt like the first quarter or so was very confusing, as we're seeing the war through the eyes of a child who is clueless about it. I felt quite muddled. And there were a few lines that made me 'eek'. Fat shaming was quite prevalent, as was the cold writing of some of the characters. It often felt quite black/white when Satrapi was having any sort of disagreement with.. anyone. It felt like the author couldn't look past her own views, even when she was clearly in the wrong. I dunno. I enjoyed this book for the history aspect, but I feel like the author would've benefited from a different editor. 


 The Refrigerator Monologues
Catherynne M. Valente

This is a tiny collection of short stories written about various women from the superhero universe.

And the biggest surprise of the month goes to... The Refrigerator Monologues! Never having read any superhero graphic novels, nor really keeping up to date with the humongous Marvel/DC movie stuff, I wasn't sure whether this book was for me. But, I really liked it! This is one of the few short story collections that I've enjoyed in it's entirety. There was one story that just baffled my brain in a non-fun way, but all the others held greatness. I was very impressed with how the author managed to write 6 different main females, and have them all be their own people. Not many authors can achieve that, especially when they only have 15-20 pages per character. I enjoyed how this delved into the "why are the female characters there just to create the origin story of a superhero?" and a commentary on how it's always the female love interest that gets kidnapped, or murdered, or takes the brunt of the pain for the hero and then gets dismissed. Yeah, it was very thought provoking and even if this isn't your usual jam, I'd recommend.


The One
John Marrs

If a test was created that could tell you exactly who your soulmate is in life, would you take it? That's the question that humanity is facing after the impossible was made possible by Rebecca Webb discovering that this is easily done with a simple DNA swab. Throughout this book we follow five different relationships that were connected through the test, but things quickly turn dark after a mass murderer is connected to a police officer, a man is matched to another man (despite him always thinking he was straight, and someone is out for revenge. 

This has been sitting on my TBR for a while now but the mixed reviews always put me off giving it a go. However, this was a lot of fun. I don't know whether it was that my expectations were so low going in, or that it helped me get through a reading slump, but I devoured this novel in 2 sittings. The writing wasn't the best, but the fast-paced nature and the too dramatic plot twists made for a very addictive read. I would pick up more by the author, and am looking forward to watching the Netflix adaption.


The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Gabrielle Zevin

A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a baby is abandoned at the bookstore, her unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over.

With this kind of novel, you know what to expect the moment you start reading the synopsis. It's a heart-warming cozy read with a little mystery on the side to keep you engaged. This didn't come close to the likes of A Man Called Ove, but it was still very cute. It got me to cry, which was to be expected. And I grew rather fond of the grouchy old man and the people who wove themselves into his life after his wife died. I'd recommend the audiobook for this.


Milk Fed
Melissa Broder

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. Her mother being the root cause of her problems, her therapist urges Rachel to take a detox from speaking to her family. During the detox she meets Miriam, a plus-sized woman who knows herself in ways that Rachel aches for. Miriam soon becomes Rachel's new obsession.

Having read The Pisces by Melissa Broder, I went into this book knowing to expect some questionable material. And I was very much correct in that assumption. What starts out as a young woman trying to find her place in the world without the dysfunction that her mother brings her, but quickly spins into a romance story with some very odd fantasies and shitty human behavior. Yet, I enjoyed this weird book. Broder's writing is incredibly compelling and I can't help but continue to want to read more by her. She has an ability to make my skin crawl in a way that thrillers/horrors have never done. It's incredibly eerie storytelling. I disliked all the characters, I hated the direction the plot took, and yet I want to give it 4 stars. Madness.

TW: Heavy fat phobia, distorted eating, homophobia. 


The Emperor's Soul (Elantris #1.7)
Brandon Sanderson

Shai has been condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter. She is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead.

This is a short story I picked up during Becca's 24-hour BookoplAthon. I enjoyed the reading experience, but I wouldn't say it's a favourite Sanderson. I found some sections a little too info dumpy which hurt my brain, and the entire story felt too rushed. I wanted more of the side characters, and though I liked the character of Shai she felt quite flat which made it difficult for me to root for her. 


Black Girl Unlimited
Echo Brown

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet each day is touched by magic. Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.

Echo Brown has become a auto-read author for me just from this book. Her writing has such a eloquence to it that it felt almost raw to read. So many times I had to put this book down for me to catch a breath as it felt like a weight was pressing onto my chest. The story never really strayed from the magical realism side or fantastical realism, but yet it was grounded within our reality. The sexual assault scenes were some of the hardest I've had to read, and I want to really make it clear that if that's something triggering for you, be sure to do your research before picking this up. 

TW: racism, sexual assault, drug addiction, poverty, depression


Solitaire
Alice Oseman

Tori Spring is a teenage blogger who is struggling with her mental health. After a tragic incident involving her brother changed her entire life, her friends have dwindled and Tori can't seem to find it in herself to care about their petty high school problems. But when Michael Holden shows up, and a group called Solitaire start terrorizing the school, Tori's life begins to once again unravel.

This is one of those books that I wish I had read when I was younger. Solitaire was on the younger side of YA, with characters who read much younger than their actual years. I liked the friendships that formed, but never really rooted for anyone to get what they wanted. Tori as a protagonist was pretty bland, and far too reminiscent of other books in this sub genre (All The Bright Places, Midnight Sun, Looking For Alaska, Leah on the Offbeat, Love & Other Carnivorous Plants, Everything, Everything). The "plot twist" was predictable, and the entire plot had too many loop holes that bothered me. Meh.


Love Sick
Cory Martin

Corry was 28-years-old when she got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. This is a memoir of her learning to come to terms with the news, and her processing whether she is worthy of love when sick.

I'm so torn. I enjoyed the writing of this book, Cory is a writer herself so it makes sense that she exceled in that element. It made me laugh, and it read like an enjoyable episode of TV. However, I really don't think she came across well. If this was fiction I would mark it as "unlikeable characters", but.. it's biographical... so, awkward. When I finished, I assumed this was written in the early 2000's as it has the 'Sex and the City' white woman being 'woe is me' theme. And I get it, I myself am chronically ill and it is very scary. But I hate that the author never even tried to educate on the subject. It was a constant stream of her getting pity from people in her life, and her commentary on how she feels unlovable. I wanted more depth. This read like a long-winded Cosmo column that is fun while reading, but then you instantly feel blegh afterward. 



So, yeah. That's March done! What did you read? Any there any books here that sit on your TBR shelf? Let me know! 

A letter to the Booktube community / I joined Booktube!

3/30/2021


Well, this is a blog post that I never thought I'd make. Is it the lockdown bleakness, sudden courage, or gin? We'll never know! I've been watching Booktube for years now, I first discovered the bookish side of the Interest through various YA readers like, and it was a breath of fresh air. 

As a teen, I sometimes purposely triggered myself into self hatred with the channels I subscribed to. Whether they were eating centered ones, or even the OG British vloggers (hell, I remember commenting on Zoella's first video and partaking in the live shows her and Louise used to do.). At the time, I was incredibly lonely. I didn't have a group of friends outside of the Internet and suddenly there were these people who I could watch everyday who just filmed themselves living. It should of fueled my desire for life, but it had the opposite effect. Which is terribly depressing, but true. I ached to have people in my real life who understood me the way that these friendship groups seemed to. Looking back as an adult, I get that it's so easy to fake this perfect happy life. 

As I got older, my Youtube subscription box expanded to the likes of EssieButton, Hazel Hayes, SimplyNailogical, etc. Women who owned their lives and catered to an older audience. This really helped me have some self reflection, and heck, Hazel Hayes 'Time Of The Month' series led me to volunteering, to skyping my online friends, to putting myself out there. It was remarkable. Then one day I fell down a Booktube rabbit hole and haven't really left. 

I adore the book community online, whether Booktube, Bookstagram, or Book Twitter. It's filled with people who don't shy away from discussing mental health, dislikes, life, happiness, sadness. I personally think it's easier to be honest about where you are spiritually when you can then divert into a different topic without it seeming unnatural. Books are beautiful things, and being able to connect to people from all around the world through the shared experience of reading? Indescribable. 

The longer I watched Booktube, the more curated my own tastes became. I discovered my love of literary fiction. I shy'd away from YA, but know that if I want something of that genre someone online will be there to give me a recommendation. I discovered that classics aren't always so daunting, and it's okay when you hate them (hello, Lord of the Flies). It helped me feel more comfortable in my own shoes. Me and my husband have bonded over the love of books, and it really helped to give us something to do together when we were initially apart. Words are beautiful, and books are a collection of that beauty. 

The act of recording was a TRAIL. I still don't know how to edit, so I'm currently going through the process of teaching myself. (Spoiler: It isn't going well) My first video is now live and the camera is shaky a few times which made me want to scrap the video all together, but ya know, sometimes you just have to post the mishaps and hope that it'll only get better from there.

So, if you feel like watching me be awkward for 13 minutes, or are simply interested in what I'm talking about, I will link my video below. 


VIDEO LINK - CURRENT READS | HELLO BOOKTUBE!


If that doesn't tickle your fancy, I urge you to fall down a Booktube rabbit hole of other Booktubers and find someone you relate to. I hope that I remain comfortable with the idea of putting myself in video form out into the World Wide Web, but even if I don't, I will still have a great love for this bookish community of worms. 

Wish me luck! 

The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton Morgan | Non-Fiction Book Review

3/18/2021

Hilarie Burton Morgan may be best known for her role as Peyton Sawyer in OTH, but after finishing her memoir she is now known to me as That Woman I Really Want To Befriend. This book has been on my TBR since the moment it got released but as with all books written by celebrities, I was dubious and asking myself: 

1) Is it ghost written? 

2) If it's not, can they even write?

3) Is this just a money grab?

I was an idiot. This memoir was incredibly inspiring, and vividly descriptive. I could smell the dandelions she plucked, would hear the sounds of coyotes, and felt bone-deep exhaustion with her. Burton's writing has such depth to it that I felt everything. The joys, the pains, and the lows. I've read fiction books by award winning authors that didn't come near to the experience of reading The Rural Diaries. There is a beauty woven into Burton's writing that transforms this memoir into a book that I instantly wanted to reread. 

Deciding to pack up their LA lifestyle and move somewhere more remote, Hilarie Burton Morgan and Jeffery Dean Morgan went against the norm for Hollywood couples and chose to live their married life away from the chaos that fame can bring. In this book, we follow their love story that came from a blind date that changed both their lives and resulted in them deciding to have a baby within months of meeting. Spending 50% of their time living in a tiny cabin in a remote town was enough for a few years, but they eventually decided to take the plunge and move there indefinitely. Buying a beat-up old farmhouse and learning the ways of farm life was the adventure they had both always wanted. Growing their own food, finding family in the locals, and watching their son grow up in a house where ducklings live in the bath felt like a distant dream until they made it their reality. 

I wasn't expecting The Rural Diaries to discuss heavy topics such as miscarriages, depression, and marital problems. I'm awed at how honest Burton continued to be throughout the 350 pages. This never felt like a money grab, there was hardly any discussion on her career, or "behind the scenes" gossip. It never strayed from being a book about, well, love - romantic love, family love, and finding things that'll make you love life.

In this, Burton mainly takes us through her adulthood, which I really liked. I'm always iffy on the childhood sections of memoirs as it's usually the most uninteresting part (Unless we're talking about Educated by Tara Westover in which, yeah, that'll keep you turning the pages). Burton wove her childhood stories throughout the sections about her marriage, becoming a mother, and farm life which made for a lovely reading experience as it felt more like reminiscing especially as by that point, we were already familiar with the people she spoke about. This entire book read more like showing rather than telling, which is no easy feat when it comes to non-fiction. I already knew from Burton's Instagram that her heart was as bright as freshly blossomed sunflowers, but I didn't know just how inspiring she was as a person. At multiple points throughout this book I had to take a second to just sit there and appreciate that there are still people like this in the world. 

In conclusion, I would recommend this book to you even if you're unfamiliar with the actresses work as she proved beyond a shadow of doubt that she is much more than the characters she portrays on screen. This is a wholesome novel about a couple deciding to live more remotely and learning all the tips and tricks to farm life, growing your own food, taking care of non-household pets, and most importantly, how to work together. You will learn, you will cry, you will smile. And I guarantee you'll turn the last face with a spark of joy in your heart. And you will most definitely debate whether to start gardening.


gifted | Lounging with Femme Luxe Uk

3/16/2021

 Since Lockdown I've been on the hunt for some affordable loungewear that doesn't make me feel like a literal blob. As someone with chronic pain, my main goals when buying new clothing (especially for around the house) is that they're soft and fit certain issues I have during bad pain days. When Femme Luxe contacted me and offered to send me a few pieces to test out and review, I jumped on it. I've seen this company featured so many times on Instagram and wanted to see whether they are as good as people make out. Some of the items I picked out did go out of stock, so this is just a little taster of what the company has to offer. Here's my review/mini haul. 



Firstly, I automatically ventured to the Loungewear section as that was my main goal. They had some great sets for very affordable prices. I chose their Navy Loungewear Tracksuit Set. First off, this is incredibly soft. It has a brushed cotton feel which is like satin to someone with sensitive skin. This set is cute but I have a slight issue with how sheer it is. I literally couldn't take a photo standing up as you would've seen what I had for dinner. Good for around the house, but not great if you live with anyone other than your significant partner. One thing I do like about the jumper is how versatile it can be. Here's just one idea of how else you could wear it. 



My only issue with some of their loungewear sets is the lack of sizing. They only go up to a L/XL which is marketed as a UK 12/14. I'm usually a 8/10 and the M is a little tight. I hope they eventually expand their sizing in that regard. (Some of their items are in regular sizing, but still only go up to a UK 14.) 


Secondly, I went a little scandalous with this Black Lace Bodysuit that is mutually risky while still very easily making for a comfortable wear. The site's range of Bodysuits and Going Out Tops is impressive, especially as most of them can very easily be worn as loungewear. My back has a lot of issues when it comes to painful skin, so anything backless while still giving my chest support is a winner in my book. I really like the fit of this (I purchased a M), and the inner lace is actually lined with a less itchy material which is pleasant. Would I wear this outside? Perhaps, with the right under tank and a cute jacket. It would also make for a great layering piece when wearing a wrap dress that dips low. For me, I'm mainly going to use it on sensitive skin days with some cute shorts and maybe a sports bra if I'm feeling especially fancy. Of course this is a piece that only a few people would be drawn to, but yeah. It's cute and makes me feel like I'm putting effort in while still being comfy.





Overall, I'm not entirely sold on this company as the quality is a little lacking - mainly with the Navy Loungewear Set. I wanted a little more substance, as though I like the Lace Bodysuit, I don't think it would last very long and I'm making an effort to buy more sustainably. Saying that, as only half of what I chose came through it could very well be a case of the lack of products I got to try. I'm very interested in their more casual day-to-day items such as cardigans or plain sweaters as I feel like they have the protentional to excel when it comes to more simplistic pieces.


The shipping for my items - keeping in mind that they're a UK site and I'm in California - was impressively speedy. The packaging was baby pink and adorable, which yes, not really a factor in ordering but still cute! Thank you to Femme Luxe for allowing me to try out some of their products. Have you bought from this company? What was your experience? 



EVERMORE BOOK TAG!

3/12/2021

Taylor Swift is a queen and I can only hope to get a little ray of her sunshine on my face by partaking in this book tag that was created by the lovely Enchanted Reader. Be sure to check out her video and consider yourself tagged if you're reading this post.


TAG QUESTIONS:

willow - a book that is a masterpiece

Know My Name by Chanel Miller. I will never not push this book on people. It's a truly painful read but incredible. Chanel Miller was the girl who got sexually assaulted behind a dumpster at a frat party in San Francisco and faced discrimination because of her race, gender, and age. But this book is much more. I'd argue that it's main focus is growth. Chanel Miller is an incredibly strong woman who had to rebuild her life after something so tragic and she managed to do it with grace. I cried at multiple parts throughout this book and felt empowered as a woman. I think about this book constantly.


champagne problems - a book that caught you off guard 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. This was the first true historical fiction that I read and it introduced me to what is now one of my favourite genres. This is the story of Vianne and Isabelle, two sisters who are trying to survive Nazi occupied France during WW11. Vianne is the more practical of the sisters, protecting her daughter being her main priority. Isabelle is reckless, driven by her youth, and wants to help the resistance defeat the Germans. I think the thing that The Nightingale has over similar books is how well written both the sisters are. They each had distinct voices and I was entertained by both their stories, which can be a rarity in a duel perspective novel. Don't let the size of this book put you off, I guarantee you'll fly through it.


gold rush - book with a gold cover 

The first one that comes to mind is one I don't yet own, Circe by Madeline Miller. I've heard an astounding amount of rave reviews about this book but I'm incredibly intimated by it. Circe is about, well... Circe, the the daughter of Helios, the sun god, and of the ocean nymph Perse. It's a fictional spin on her story and heavy on the Greek mythology. I'm terrified of being too dumb for this, which is such a silly reason to not read it but here we are. I don't know the first thing about Greek mythology so I feel like a lot of this would go over my head.


’tis the damn season - a winter/Christmas book

In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren was a huge surprise for me last year. I adored this festive read that plays on the trope of someone reliving their day over and over Groundhog Day style. Maelyn and her family spend every Christmas with another family at a festive cabin, in that family are two brothers who Maelyn has always been drawn to - one charming and one who is the definition of a playboy. (see where this is going?) An accident changes everything when it sends Maelyn back to the beginning of the vacation, forced to repeat it over and over. Will she manage to make one perfect? This is basically a Christmas romcom in a book. It was super fun. 


tolerate it - a problematic book

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is my current read and while I am enjoying reading about her travelling journey, some of the phrases she uses are extremely questionable and have not aged well in the slightest. Using words such as schizo, rape, OCD, and other terms when describing things that have nothing to do with what she's saying. I also find the entire thing a bit anti-feminist with the constant obsession with men and her making a big show and tell of gaining weight and not caring, despite her still being of average size. It feels very much like 'white rich woman' problems, which I don't know how I feel. 


no body, no crime - a mystery/murder investigation book

I can't think of one I've actually read and enjoyed, but I did DNF The 7½  Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton a few years ago and never mentioned it on here, so let's delve into that! I really wanted to love that book as the premise sounded so intriguing what with a murder mystery that has a supernatural twist with the protagonist reliving the same day over and over but in different bodies. I just found the writing way too try-hard and the moment I got to the very fatphobic chapter I decided to call it quits. 



happiness - a book about hope

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. This book may not be for everyone, but I truly think the author nailed a story that has the perfect balance between misery and hope. Queenie as a protagonist is incredibly complex, and you hope for her to find happiness within herself. I enjoyed being a woman by the time I finished this book, which is honestly an incredible thing. 


dorothea - a book to movie adaptation

For this I'm looking to the future! The Hating Game by Sally Thorne has been adapted into a rom-com starring Lucy Hale (which I'm questioning the casting of) and Austin Stowell. The release date is still unconfirmed due to Covid but I'm very excited to finally watch it. I adored this book, it sparked a new love of modern romance novels for me. Lucy and Josh are the ultimate OTP. 


coney island - a book that brings back memories 

Matilda by Roald Dahl. I had this book physically and on tape growing up (the OG audiobook) and read it constantly. It truly sparked my love for reading as I saw myself in Matilda to an uncomfortable level. Whenever I reread this children's classic I revert back to being a young girl obsessed with literature. 


ivy - a book you can’t help but love (guilty pleasure read)

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. I've said it before and I'll say it again, these books aren't exactly high tier reading but they're honestly so addictive. This was the first YA series after Twilight that had an actually strong-willed female cast of characters. Rose, Lissa, Mia, Sydney, and even Jill (or or hate her) are fleshed out complex characters who I fell hard for. I recently reread the entire series and had a wail of a time. 


cowboy like me - a book you didn’t expect to love but did 

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. I'd never even watched the movie before picking up this 500+ page TOME. Call it a moment of madness, or perhaps a wonderful case of fate. I adored this book and you can read all about that here: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann | Book Review [spoiler free]


long story short - a short book (under 300 pages)

The last short book I picked up was Often I Am Happy by Jens Christian Grondahl which I ended up DNFing at the 50% mark. This book just wasn't doing it for me. It was a mix of the over writing, the story itself seeming a little lost, and most notably, I didn't think the author was doing a good job at writing from a woman's POV. Life is too short to continue reading a book that you aren't enjoying.


marjorie - a biography 

Can you answer with anything other than Becoming by Michelle Obama? I read this via audiobook in 2020 and fell in love with a woman who has achieved greatness in so many ways. I already admired Michelle Obama but this really humanized her to me. If you've been putting it off because of the dreaded fear of a dry biography, lemme tell you, this is anything but that. I laughed, got choked up, and instantly made my husband read it. 


closure - favorite last book in a series 

It hasn't been announced yet as to whether there are going to be more books in the series, but as of right now, I have to go with The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Katie O'Neill. This is the third installment from their Tea Dragon series and I adored it. These graphic novels are incredibly wholesome while still openly discussing more serious issues. It will be an achievement if I ever get through a Katie O'Neill book without shedding a tear.


evermore - a book that was painful to get through 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I'm going for the more emotional side of painful, and oh boy, I still get a heavy heart when I think about this beautifully done novel. You will either love or hate this book, purely because of the intensity of the pain that it radiates. Jude, the protagonist, is a deeply wounded human being who has had a horrendous life and the constant relapses that he has throughout A Little Life is very hard to read. Whenever something vaguely happy happened, I wanted to put it down and pretend that it was the ending. 


Answer one of these questions in the comments! And remember, you're officially tagged if you're reading this. 

February Book Wrap-Up (Kinda)

3/10/2021


February was a successful reading month quantity wise, but quality..? Iffy at best. I only included some of the books on this as I didn't have strong feelings toward the other books I read and it's already March 10th, sooo.... Let's delve into all the books before I fully go on a tangent of disappointment and self hatred. 


Tangerine
Christine Morgan 

When a friend from the past comes back into Alice's newly married life, things seem to go from weird to weirder. Lucy Mason was always the wild girl in Alice's youth, but now as adults the familiar habits from the past seem to resurface making Alice question everything - even her own sanity. 

This was fun! The thing that really impressed me with Tangerine was how classically it read. If you told me that it was written in the same era as Rebecca or Jane Eyre, I'd believe you. The writing has such a great atmosphere around it, which truly makes for an immersive reading experience. I went with the audiobook, which was a lot of fun. The ending was predictable, but in a "oooh, ahhh" way, not in a frustrating way. 


Outlawed 
Anna North

Ada is a young girl who is accused of being a witch in 1894. In a bid to save her life, her mother sends her away to a convent and from there she ends up on a path to become an outlaw with a ragtag group of women who disguise themselves as men to survive.

A feminist take on a western? Yes! This had all the means to be a spectacular novel. Sadly, Outlawed fell a little flat. At under 300 pages, this should've been fast paced with a list of characters who had the means to have automatic chemistry (to help the reader care).. but it didn't. The middle of this novel drrraaaggggeeeddd. I felt like only two of the characters were complex enough to be memorable to me. Meh. As this is a debut, I'll definitely pick up anything else the author writes as this was a very cool idea for a story. 


You Should See Me In A Crown
Leah Johnson 

Liz Lightly has been denied a scholarship to her dream school. She's trying to find a solution when the wonder that is Prom Queen seems to materialize out of nowhere - the winner will receive enough tuition to really make a difference in the girl's life. But if she's willing to go through that journey she'll have to face the other female candidates, rekindle her friendship with the popular guy, and fight her feelings for the new girl.

I wanted to absolutely adore this book but I found it incredibly.. underwhelming? I don't know whether that's down to the fact that I was on a roll of reading some adult fiction that focused on some pretty dark topics so my mood was off, or whether it just isn't my cup of tea. I could see younger me absolutely loving the innocence that was laced throughout this novel, and completely shipping the two girls. But reading it through adult eyes just made me question whether the characters were written too young for their ages. The protagonist especially seemed pretty naïve when it came to honesty, and made some pretty silly mistakes. I wanted her to have a stronger head on her shoulders. Saying that, I think the book did a great job at making college her prime focus and not the relationships. More YA books should be like that. So to summarize, not my favourite YA contemporary but one that I'm glad exists for the younger generation. 


The Vanishing Half
Brit Bennett

As teenagers Desiree and Stella ran away from home, each twin wanting to get away from their small southern black community and venture into the big city. But pretty soon their torn into directions. One twin running away with a boy, and the other refusing to relinquish her hope to live a white life. Years later, the twins lives are beginning to come back together. 

This has so much hype online and it's so deserved. I'd previously read The Mothers by Brit Bennett and felt so-so about it as the commentary on abortion felt a little one sided (against Choice). I fully understand that it's hard to write two sides of an argument without favoring one. Some people had the same problem with Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. However. The Vanishing Half was a breath of fresh air. I adored the characters, the plot kept me captivated until the very last page, and I think it was immaculately written. The only thing stopping me from giving this a 5 star rating is that I felt the ending was a tad rushed.  


Home Body
Rupi Kaur

This is the third poetry collection by the glorious Rupi Kaur. Poetry is such a divisive genre, especially the more modern style that is often dismissed as "Instagram poetry" which is mildly infuriating as just, ya know, let people be. I personally enjoy any form of poetry, but the more modern style was definitely an easy introduction into the genre as a whole. Saying that, this wasn't my favourite of Rupi Kaur's collections. I felt like it was rather timid in comparison to Milk & Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers. It felt a little dragged out and the overall order of the sections felt off. I only tabbed 3 pages, which is pretty sad. I will read more by the author, but yeah, not my favourite and wouldn't necessarily recommend. 


Let's Pretend This Never Happened
Jenny Lawson

I adore Jenny Lawson. We should all bow down to this absolute blogger queen. I read her second novel Furiously Happy last year and absolutely loved it, it pulled me from an epic reading slump and took my down a nonfiction path which is still going strong. This is her first novel, and though I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Furiously Happy, I still devoured it with a huge smile on my face. If you're unfamiliar with Jenny, she's an online personality who started out as a blogger who wrote about mental health. She has very recently published a new book Broken (in the best possible way), which is on my March TBR.


In The Dream House
Carmen Maria Machado

 Carmen Maria Machado went through an abusive same-sex relationship, and this is her memoir accounting each step that led to the breakdown of their "love". Told through an array of vignettes, poetry, and essays, this is unlike anything you have read. The format of this novel is groundbreaking alone, but if you add Machado's unfiltered thoughts that read as pure beauty.. dayum. I have yet to see anyone who didn't admire this book for it's originality, smarts, and bravery. It takes guts to write anything like this, but especially non-fiction. The vulnerability that the author put into this novel is admirable. Of course, this is a book on 


Before the Coffee Gets Cold
Toshikazu Kawaguchi 

There's a café hidden within Tokyo, that offers some customers the ability to time travel. This power brings a group of could be strangers together.

This was a rather predictable book but in the most comforting way possible. In the same vein as Anxious People by Fredrik Backman this, at heart, is about humanity and the many ways that can impact the lives of people who are struggling. I devoured this book as fast as my eyes would let me. I teared up at multiple points and, surprisingly, laughed a fair few times. This is such a warming novel that I fully recommend you to read. The sequel is high on my TBR. Saying that, there's a cat on the cover but not in the book? HUH? False advertisement. 


Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn Ward

On a roadtrip to pick up his father from prison, Jojo and his dysfunctional mother are forced to try and rectify their broken relationship. We jump between two timelines, one told through the eyes of a ghost (..yeah..) and the other following Jojo as he comes to terms with his life and family relationships.

This is a very atmospheric novel. I didn't realize that this was the second book in a series, but alas, it read like a standalone. This gave me HEAVY Toni Morrison vibes. I found the writing lovely but yet sometimes too lyrical for my comprehension. This felt entirely like a book that ought to be studied at school as it had so many layers to each chapter that I guarantee most of it went right over my head. Because of this, it felt a little flat. 


What My Mother and I Don't Talk About : Fifteen Writers Break the Silence
edited by Michele Filgate 

This is a collection of essays written by various authors who discuss their relationships with their mothers - some bad, some good, some complicated.

I picked this up solely on the recommendation by Lianne and I'm so glad I did. This book touched my heart in such a way that I automatically bought it for my mum after turning the last page. This had such a rawness that it felt like a readable wound, and yet.. it felt hopeful. The strength that some of these authors showed through their words is remarkable. Everyone will take something from this novel, no matter the relationship you have with your parents. I wish more people were talking about it. 


Every Body Looking
Candice Iloh 

This is a semi autobiographical novel telling Ada's story. From her earliest memories as a child, including her abuse at the hands of a young cousin, her mother's rejection and descent into addiction, and her father's attempts to create a home for his American daughter more like the one he knew in Nigeria. 

I've read a lot of novels that are told through verse and for that reason alone, I think my expectations were just a little too high going into this. It needed more of a poetic element to feel powerful, which for me, it just.. lacked. I think the author would've been better to choose a period of her life and stick with it instead of trying to cover 19ish years. The cover is immaculate though. 


9 Self Love Things You Can Do This Valentine's Day

2/12/2021

This year Valentine's Day is landing on a Sunday, so a lot of us are going to have an empty day full of possibility. (And minor "blegh feeling" if we look on social media and see all the mushy posts that people dedicate to their partners.) It's an odd feeling as we all know that it's just a marketed holiday that means nothing but it can lead to a bit of a mental slump, especially if you're recently single or are alone in lockdown. In a bid to help your brain, I've put together a list of solo activities that have the potential to turn your Sunday around. 



Buy a Book

Is there a higher act of self love than purchasing yourself a book, getting all cozy in either your bed or on the couch, having a glass of wine or a cup of hot tea in your hand, and taking a few hours to escape from your brain? If money is tight, you could also use your library (online) and put a hold on a book that you've been wanting to read. If you're in the US, you can sign up for your library and instantly have Libby at your fingertips - a library app where you can borrow either ebooks or audiobooks. They have so many to choose from, so be sure to clear a few hours to decide on one. 


Educate Yourself

Self love can be making the decision to further your brain. There are heaps of free "classes" on Youtube, but you could take this a step further and actually sign up for some classes through your local educational system. If that's not an option for you, you can sign up for Skillshare which always offers some type of free trail. They have a huge catalogue of classes, from graphic design, to tarot readings, to taxes. Pick something and enthrall your brain.


Indulge In Your Hobby 

I don't know about you, but I find it hard to make time for hobbies as I feel like it's too.. indulgent? Yay for the automatic guilt of finding time for yourself. This v.day, whether it's reading, bullet journaling, puzzles, or whatever it is that makes you happy.. make time for it! Embrace something that you enjoy filling your time with. 


Embrace Teenage You

I think we all have a list of things that we really wanted to do as teenagers. Whether it's eating literal junk for dinner, rewatching our favourite movies for the thousandth time, or playing video games all day. Do the most scandalous thing you ached to do as a teen. For me, it'd be sitting in the garden with a good book and a questionable amount of redbull. 


Watch the Trashiest Movie You Love

We all have those movies that we can't help but love, despite the questionable plot or iffy writing. There's nothing quite like sitting down to some trashy entertainment. Personally, my vote would be for The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Get Over It, or 13 Going On 30. Enjoy a cringe fest, eat too many sugar, and bask in the silliness of it all.,


Find a New Recipe

Finding a new recipe to leisurely make as you sip on a chilled glass of wine is such an indulgence. Cooking for oneself can be a very intimate act and I think not enough of us partake in the simplicity. Find something easy to make (dinner or dessert), put on some good music or a podcast, and pretend to be the fanciest chef. 


Organize 

I know, I know, housework on a day that is marketed towards relaxation is odd. But, there is something so satisfying about finally tackling those areas of your home/room that are messy. We all have a super cluttered drawer, or maybe your bookcase is chaotic, or if you're like me, your closet is a literal bin where you dump clothes and close the door in a bid to ignore it. Do something for future you and create a space that helps soothe your mental health. Make it fun with good music, an audiobook, or some Youtube. 


Walk + Chill

Going for a walk at your own pace is quite the enjoyable experience. Now, this might be more of a niche suggestion as I know many of you are likely to just go for a walk without a second thought (though let's face it, Lockdown has probably made you hate the idea), but as someone who struggles with social anxiety I was always too nervous to take myself on a walk. The idiotic thoughts such as "what if I see someone I know?" always, literally, talked me out of it. But screw that. Going for a walk with music in your ears can be incredibly peaceful. 


Pleasure 

Am I pulling a Zoella and trying to get cancelled? Pssh, the Internet is mad. Anyhoo, there is nothing more literal for self love than purchasing a little something from yourself to yourself. I know Adam & Eve usually have some sort of discount code that allows you to get 50% one item, right now it seems to be "GET50NOW" but you have your Googlefu if it doesn't work. Treat yo parts, people. 


So, there we have 9 things that you can do this Valentine's Day to love yourself. But remember, it's literally a marketed day. No biggie. 

TBR | February 2021

2/01/2021


February is the shortest month of the year so am I keeping my TBR at a reasonable number? No. These are only a few of the books I'm hoping to get this month, yay for ambition. As it's Black History Month I'm aiming to get to the books by black authors that have been on my TBR for too long, as well as some of the newer releases that I'm excited for but am relying on my library for so to avoid my own disappointment, I'm not including them on this list. Enjoy!

 

Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters #3)
Talia Hibbert

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she's given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It's time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she's not entirely sure how... Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner's on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right. Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she's infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it's melting Jacob's frosty exterior.

I have an eARC of this waiting patiently on my Net Galley shelf and this is the month I'll read it! If you've been living under a book community rock and are unfamiliar with The Brown Sisters series, these are some extraordinarily cute yet smutty romance books that will make you ache in all the best ways. I wasn't smitten with Get A Life, Chloe Brown as I think my expectations for the Fibromyalgia rep was always going to let me down, however, Take A Hint, Dani Brown was perfection. I buddy read it with the gorgeous @m.is.reading and it was a whole heap of fun. Talia Hibbert does a great job at interweaving series topics such as chronic pain, depression, and anxiety within a romance book without making either take a backseat. I'm positive that the Autism rep in this will be no different, and I'll turn the last page with both more knowledge on the illness and a metaphorical tent. It's February, give me all the smut. 


Outlawed
Anna Todd

The day of her wedding, 17 year old Ada's life looks good; she loves her husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches, her survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows. She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known to all as the Kid. Charismatic, grandiose, and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she's willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.

It's no secret around here that I'm a sucker for a Reese's bookclub pick, I haven't had the best of luck as I tend to give them either a 3 or 4 stars, never in-between, but I can't seem to not be interested. Do I have the vaguest idea what this book is about? Nope! But that cover is glorious. And it seems like a feminist western..? Which, yes, please, always.


The Vanishing Half
Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?

I've been on my library's waiting list for this for over 6 months now so I finally sucked it up and just got a digital copy. I read The Mothers by Britt Bennet last year and fell in love with her writing. I was a tad iffy on the commentary on abortions in The Mothers as it felt quite anti-choice, however, I'm interested in what else she has to say and this premise sounds too good to pass up. Here's hoping the hype is justified..?


The Cactus
Sarah Haywood

For Susan Green, messy emotions don't fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She has a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic, and an "interpersonal arrangement" that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan's greatest fear is realized. She is losing control. Enter Rob, the dubious but well-meaning friend of her indolent brother. As Susan's due date draws near and her dismantled world falls further into a tailspin, Susan finds an unlikely ally in Rob. She might have a chance at finding real love and learning to love herself, if only she can figure out how to let go.

I was reading this when my Grandma passed away, so naturally, I put this book very far away from me. However, I'm now feeling strong enough to give it another whirl. Again, this is a Reese pick but it's also on my 21 Books I Want To Read In 2021 list. Can we take a moment to appreciate the cover?


Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn Ward

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Do you have a book on your shelves that is incredibly daunting for no good reason? This is that book for me. I think it's partly because of how heavy the synopsis sounds, it makes me expect very dry writing with a slow burning plot. I do want to read this though as everyone I know who has read it, has loved it. I'm torn as to whether I want to physically read it or go with an audiobook. Do you have a recommendation? 


The Book That Matters Most
Ann Hood

Ava’s twenty-five-year marriage has fallen apart, and her two grown children are pursuing their own lives outside of the country. Ava joins a book group, not only for her love of reading but also out of sheer desperation for companionship. The group’s goal throughout the year is for each member to present the book that matters most to them. Ava rediscovers a mysterious book from her childhood—one that helped her through the traumas of the untimely deaths of her sister and mother. Alternating with Ava’s story is that of her troubled daughter Maggie, who, living in Paris, descends into a destructive relationship with an older man. Ava’s mission to find that book and its enigmatic author takes her on a quest that unravels the secrets of her past and offers her and Maggie the chance to remake their lives.

All us bibliophiles love a book about books and I'm hoping this is going to fit that bill perfectly. This cover is extremely boring so I always forget why I want to read it until I reread that premise, so February will be the month! Mother/daughter dynamics in books tend to etch themselves onto my heart, as do books that have a subplot of a group of strangers coming together as a support system.


Homegoing
Yaa Gyasi

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia's descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

This has been compared to Girl, Woman, Other so many times which partly hurts my soul as we shouldn't constantly just compare books that have a similar theme BUT this sounds incredible. And intense. I struggle with books that span across generations as remembering characters is quite the challenge for me, alas, I want to read this. I'm amazed at how much depth people say this book has given the under 350 page count. I'm scared, but my expectations are high.


Difficult Women
Roxane Gay

The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the marriage of one of them. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.

Hunger by Roxane Gay was one of the many memoirs I read last year and I was awed at her ability to write beautifully while still being brutally honest about her experience with body image. I do have Bad Feminist on my shelves, but there's just something about Difficult Women that's appealing to me more. This'll be my non-fiction pick for February. 



What's topping your TBR for February?

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