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?

January Book Wrap-Up



Well, January is over and it felt like the longest and yet shortest month of my life. Make it make sense. I had a decent reading month with 19 books. This is Part 2 of my wrap-up so be sure to check that post out if you have not done so already: Mid-January Wrap-Up 2020. Let's get onto the remaining reviews!



Record of a Spaceborn Few
Becky Chambers

Told through five different narratives, this follows a group of humans who live at the Galactic Commons. A sprawling universe of superficial intelligence, aliens, wars, and yet.. this group of people live normally. I suppose this is the first book in the Wayfarers series that explores humanity through actual humans, but it just read so... boring. I'm devastated to say that as I adore this series, this third installment simply felt unnecessary and like a stepping stone for Chambers to expand the universe. It didn't seem to have an actual plot, the characters were explored individually and yet only two seemed to have growth. It felt like I spend the entire novel waiting for something to happen. The writing was still very assessable and I didn't want to DNF, so that's why I'm still giving it a solid 2.5 rating. 


The Diving Pool: Three Novellas
Yōko Ogawa

Novellas are always hard to review/rate without delving into each individual story. This collection seemed to have a commentary on womanhood, loneliness, and growth. They were so weird that I truly can't wrap my mind around them. I enjoyed two and was completely thrown by one. If you've read other novels by the author (I strongly recommend The Housekeeper and the Professor) then you might want to pick this up. Her writing is seamless with very odd yet likeable characters. I want to read more translated work in 2021 and this definitely fueled my interest. 


The Guest List
Lucy Foley 

A group of people come together to celebrate the wedding of their respected party. But this isn't just any wedding. On a secluded island on the Irish coast, a group of people come together to celebrate what they peg as "the wedding of the year". Upper class Jules and popular TV personality Will make for the most picturesque couple. But things soon turn deadly when pranks go array and a body shows up. I was hesitant to pick this up despite the many raving reviews it has as the plot seemed a tad similar to books such as One by One and An Unwanted Guest, two books that I read last year and didn't wholeheartedly enjoy. However, this was such a pleasant surprise! The writing truly made this book addicting. I didn't want to stop reading and though the ending felt a tad rushed and predictable, I was enthralled! It reminded me a bit of the mini series Harper's Island. If you want a super fast-paced thriller with complex characters (aka: they aren't all just assholes), pick this up! HUGE trigger warning for self harm.


This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl
Lori Earl, Wayne Earl, Esther Earl, John Green

Esther Earl was a teenager who was diagnosed with cancer when she was 12-years-old. While sick, she discovered the beauty of the Internet world and immersed herself in fandoms to escape reality right up until she sadly passed away in 2010. She was a vlogger, author, and Nerdfighter. This is a collection of her writing, journal entries, online conversations, and art. I had never seen any of Esther's vlogs before picking up this TOME of a collection, but I had heard of her story through John Green. I honestly wept multiple times as I read this. At one point I had to go in the shower to cry. Esther was a beautiful human being who had so much to give to the world. I really appreciated how the words of her family and friends were included in the book as it gave it so much depth. I get that these kind of books may not be for everyone as reading some random journal entry about going to buy a CD may seem odd, but it just worked for me. If this has been on your radar, give it a try! It's never too late to read about someone's life. 


Side-note: Going off track here, but hear me out. Harry Potter is a very large topic throughout This Star Won't Go Out, Esther is heavily involved in the online Potter community and it led her to make beautiful friendships. It really made me think of the quote "Don't cry that it's over, smile because it happened.". Harry Potter has been a lifeline for so many people and we shouldn't dismiss them for continuing to love the books or movies. Yes, if they're continuing to support new things that she-who-shan't-be-named releases, they need to have a word with themselves. But I've seen a fair few people publicly shamed for continuing to have the books on their shelves or whatnot. It's okay to fall out of love with a creator, but not the world. You can't change the past. The Potter community is a place of love, and that can outshine the ugliness of Rowling. Just a thought.


Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
Balli Kaur Jaswal

Nikki is the daughter of Indian immigrants, yet she's spent her life distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a "creative writing" course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community. Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected smutty variety. I adored this book. It was the perfect balance between educational and fun. It was wonderful to learn more about the traditional life and ways of a Punjabi wife. The entire character list was great, and it was so much fun reading the banter between the women. I laughed out loud multiple times, which I wasn't expecting. All in all, a great all-round book. (Would make for a great buddy read!)

The Prince and the Dressmaker
Jen Wang

A intense bond forms between a Prince and a Dressmaker when the Prince hires her to make him dresses. Knowing that the kingdom will never accept him, the Royal sneaks out at night in flawlessly designed dresses and makes the town envious of his beauty. Oh my God, this was freaking adorable! I wasn't sure what to expect from this as it could've very easily been frivolous given that it's Middlegrade and about something that you don't always see in Children's literature. However, what a wonderfully done story. I think it gave a very convincing story of what it's like to be different and the hurdles that you have to jump over to be accepted. I liked that it had a somewhat bleak middle but came back around. But most of all, I really enjoyed that the Prince was straight but wanted to wear dresses. I sometimes feel like in books or TV shows, it's one extreme or the other. I feel like you rarely see the middle ground where someone's sexuality isn't in question, just their desires. This was simply a very well done graphic novel that I urge anyone to read. The art is also flawless. 


Eat, Pray, Love
Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert was in an unhappy marriage when she decided to call it quits and travel. (Self love at it's finest...?) Off to Italy, India, and Bali she went with only a small case and an advance for a book that she aimed to write throughout her travels. In Italy she fell in love with food, language, and herself. In India she found her Zen, peace, and love of life. In Bali she learnt to find spirituality. Okay, this is a semi controversial book nowadays, right? A lot of people class it as "white woman with money who is unhappy", and I fully get that. Elizabeth Gilbert is insanely privileged. But I still enjoyed this book. Learning about the different cultures and people was interesting. However, I can't in good conscience give this book a higher rating than 2.5 stars. This has not aged well, at all. There are so many slurs, questionable word choices, and iffy descriptions in here. I get that it was published 15 years ago, but jeez. I also found that some of her stories were very black/white. She never seemed to own up to any mistakes that she did. Meh. Overall, I'm glad I read this as it's on so many lists, but if you're searching for a woman's journey of self love, pick up Wild by Cheryl Strayed


I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Austin Channing Brown

This is a non-fiction look at the prejudices that a black woman faces in school, life, and business. Austin Channing Brown's parents gave her a white man's name in a bid to help her in life, and it works, right up until she turns up for an interview and is met with questioning stares at the fact that she's not only black, but also a woman. This is just one of the hundreds of things she, and so many others, have to face on a daily bases. This was a difficult book to listen to but entirely worthwhile. As a white woman I want to learn what I can do to help lift others, and this opened my eyes to so many things that I might overlook. It's hard to hear someone's pain, look at yourself, and realize that you aren't doing enough. Austin Channing Brown's strength radiates in her words and it's beautiful. I wanted a little more from this as I mistakenly thought it was part memoir, but I'm still thankful that I picked it up. I recommend the audiobook because.. goosebumps. 


Limelight 
Amy Poeppel 

Allison Brinkley has just moved her entire family to the dazzling lights of New York city. Her husband already has a job lined up, but Allison is struggling to find something that fits her. Enter in Carter Reid - a beloved popstar who has just been cast in a Broadway play who offers Allison an amazing opportunity to work within the inner circle of the rich and famous. Before seeing this at a library sale, I'd never heard of the book or the author but was drawn to it solely because of the Valley of the Dolls style cover. Yup, I'm that easily swayed into buying a book. Limelight gave me exactly what I was hoping for - a fun female protagonist, a bratty teenage popstar who just needs a mothering figure, and a commentary on "never being too old for a fresh start." In so many ways this book resembled the likes of early Taylor Jenkins Reid, Liane Moriarty, and Jojo Moyes. I feel like Limelight is the type of book that you'll already know whether you're going to enjoy simply by reading the premise. One thing I did really appreciate was the never wavering relationship between Allison and her husband. This story could've easily fallen down a cheating trope or divorce, but didn't. They had a healthy relationship which can be unheard of in Women's fiction. Fun, easy to read, and a great palate cleanser.


Shanghai Girls
Lisa See

Pearl and May are sisters, living carefree lives in Shanghai, the Paris of Asia. But when Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, they set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. This book spans many years, from 1937 to the late 50's, and it's more of a look on the trails and obstacles Chinese immigrants had to face even in "the land of the free". I've never been more conflicted about a book. I wanted to really love this as I hadn't yet read a historical fiction from this narrative and a sisterly duo is one of my favourite things in books. However, this was a torturous read. And I mean that literally. There's a graphic rape scene in this that made me want to put the book down altogether as I felt physically sick. It didn't shy away from any brutality that May and Pearl faced and I don't know whether I needed that much pain in this story. May was an insufferable character that I ached to shake, both her and Joy (a character that comes later in the story) ruined the overall reading experience for me. I'm a little interested in picking up the sequel Dreams of Joy as the first novel did end on a cliffhanger, but, dayum. I may just read a spoiler review.


What was the best book you read this month? I'd love to know!

Faye, Faraway by Helen Fisher | Book Review [spoiler free]

1/26/2021


 

Faye, Faraway by Helen Fisher is a time travelling adventure novel with the bond between a mother and daughter at heart. Faye is a thirty-eight-year-old woman who is happily married with two beautiful daughters. Her life ought to be perfect. Only her life is dominated by the loss of her mother when she was seven-years-old. She aches to have her mum's advice, to hear her voice, to see her smiling face. One day after some decluttering, Faye's husband brings down a spacehopper box - the very one that Faye remembers playing in as a child. Overwhelmed by nostalgia, she feels a strange kind of connection to the cardboard. After a broken bulb leads her to standing inside of the four cardboard walls, she's suddenly transported back in time to 1977 where her mother is still alive. Torn between the past and the future, Faye has to navigate grief, expectation, and unravel the mystery that seems to surround her mothers death. 


I received this through Net Galley as an ARC and honestly adored it. I didn't know what to expect from Faye, Faraway as not only is it a debut by the author but the premise could've easily flopped. I saw on one site that it was marketed as a mix between Gilmore Girls and The Time Travelers Wife which really don't have anything in common. But it read beautifully. It was such a heartfelt story told through writing that was seamless. Faye as a protagonist was likeable and her problems truly felt like problems, which isn't always something easily accomplished when writing about a middleclass white woman who has the perfect family. 


The mother/daughter dynamics were written very realistically. I'm very close to my mother, so I always magnate towards books that have this as a central topic. I liked that Faye's expectations and memory of her mother were skewed by that daughtery love that so many of us are familiar with. It's so easy to see a parent through rose-tinted glasses. I liked learning about Faye's mother with her, and how different she actually was to the memories.


As with any book or entertainment that discusses time travel, this had the butterfly effect as a crucial storyline. I find this interesting, so although it didn't really bring anything new to the table to this conversation, it was fun reading about the characters discussing it. I'm glad the author brought up the consequences of changing time as she could've so easily skirted over it given that this book is more contemporary than fantasy. 



The one thing that surprised me was how heavily this book spoke about faith. I'm personally not a huge believer in the all mighty but can respect when someone is. However, I don't necessarily want to read about it in my fiction. I think Helen Fisher did a wonderful job at opening up a discussion on religion without ever seeming preachy, allowing it to take over the plot, or fully changing the main characters beliefs to make a "statement". It was handled with the utmost care, which I appreciate. 


Now for the problem.. Faye, Faraway wasn't diverse in the slightest. For a book that's being released in 2021, that's a foresight that can't be overlooked. There was a pretty huge list of characters in this book and, from my memory, not one wasn't white or straight. For that reason alone I had to knock one star from the rating. I hope Helen Fisher does anything to rectify this if she publishes another novel. (Please, please, please, correct me if I'm wrong as my memory isn't the best and I'm going solely from that and my reading notes here.)


All in all, this was a well rounded story that I devoured quickly. The writing reminded me of early Kristin Hannah and Liane Moriarty. It was easy to read while still keeping my interest. For a debut, I'm impressed. Again, thank you to Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to read this before it's release date. 



Books I Want To Reread in 2021

1/24/2021

 


I'm going to confess something embarrassing, most of the books on my 'favourites' shelf have only been read once. As a teenager, I was an avid rereader. I vividly remember finishing Shadow Kissed and instantly restarting the same book. (I didn't get out the house much) But as I've gotten older and my TBR list has become more hefty, I have a silly sense of guilt when I debate whether to reread something. It feels like a waste of time, but.. errr.. hello? Reading is meant to be fun! In 2021 I'm making a personal goal to reread some books that have been calling out to be for awhile now. Will they still be my favourites? Who knows! There's only one way to find out..


The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath

This is a 'descent into madness' story revolving around a young woman in the 60's. It's semi biographical with Plath taking heavy inspiration from her own experiences with mental health. There's something about Sylvia Plath's writing that speaks to my heart. It's dark, twisty, but painfully honest. I find myself in her words, which may be a truly awful thing to admit but, yes. This was her only novel ever released and I remember feeling so touched throughout it. It felt like a weighted hand over my heart and I'm both looking forward to giving it a reread and feeling truly darkened by the prospect of reading such a tragic book again.


Everything I Never Told You
Celeste Ng

After a young girl is found dead in a lake, the question arises as to whether she died of suicide. Told through two timelines, we read about the grief the family is experiencing from the loss and we go back to the events that led them to it. This was a truly beautiful book that shattered my heart and clumsily put it back together. Celeste Ng has such a talent for writing about family dynamics that are complicated but ring oh so true to real life. Some people much prefer her second novel Little Fires Everywhere, but for me, Everything I Never Told You is a much more harrowing story. Lydia, the main focus of the story, was a wonderfully written teenage girl who you just wanted to hug. The story is hers, and yet it's told through the other members of the family. It's a really fascinating look at how so many teenagers are almost blanketed by their families own issues. They can get lost in the pain of others. It was a different take on what could've otherwise been a regular 3 star book that focuses on mental health. 


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Taylor Jenkins Reid

Evelyn Hugo is a Hollywood starlet who's always been known for her messy love life - being married seven times does that to a woman. Reaching out a unknown journalist, Evelyn Hugo agrees to a "tell all". Will the world finally learn who her actual true love was? This is a book community darling. Everyone has read it and 99.8% of people love it. Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favourite authors and this is an epic novel with a great cast of characters, a compelling story, and is very worthy of a reread. I may go with the audiobook to switch it up, have you listened to this? Would you recommend?


The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky

Is anyone surprised that this coming-of-age novel is on this list? I tend to reread this book at least once a year. Charlie's story touches my soul in a way that no other book does. It helped me at a time where I really needed to not feel alone about the state of my mental stability. I recently bought the anniversary addition that has added a new letter at the end, so I'm eagerly anticipating this reread. I can't wait to cry all the tears. If you didn't already know, this book is told through a series of letters where Charlie, the protagonists, works through his trauma of losing his Auntie. In high school he meets a ragtag group of friends who welcome him with open arms. It's about identity, love, depression, abuse, and growth as a teenager. Truly wonderful.


Me Before You
Jojo Moyes

Louisa Clark is struggling to find her way as a 20-something girl who still lives at home. When she gets hired to take care of Will, a man who is confined to a motorized wheelchair after a car accident. Together they form a friendship that pushes both to step outside of their comfort-zones. This book got a lot of backlash because of it's disability rep, which I fully understand. I solely enjoyed it because of Lou's character. She inspired me at a time where my life was drastically changing and I needed some inspiration. For that reason, I want to give it a reread to see if it still holds up as a favourite. 


Love Letters to the Dead
Ava Dellaira 

Laurel is a teenage girl who is struggling with the death of her sister. An assignment in class starts a chain of letters that she obsessively writes to various famous people. This is a complete risk as a reread. I first read this when I was around 13-years-old and was seeking something similar to The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I remember being impressed with the writing and finding the inside not matching the outside as it read more adult than I was expecting. Was 13-year-old me smart enough to know that? Probably not, but there's only one way to find out. 

Are there any books that you're hoping to reread this year? Let me know! 

7 Items Of Clothing You Need To Remove From Your Closet Right Now

1/22/2021


Having a good closet clear-out can be the ultimate form of destressing. I am forever guilty of letting my wardrobe get out of control - we're talking clothes piled on the hamper, hangers all crazy, nothing in order - and it really puts my brain in a slump when getting read. In this post I'm going to be giving you 7 "clothing prompts" that I guarantee you can declutter right now. Clothes are beautiful and it's a true blessing to be able to have a full closet, but sometimes they can be the cause of some mental instability. I've said it before and I'll say it again.. sometimes your relationship with clothes can be like an actual unhealthy relationship. I sometimes purposefully trigger myself by trying on clothes that I wore as a literal teenager just to make myself feel awful about my eating habits/exercise routine. It's insanity. As people, we need to learn to let go of the things in our lives that repeatedly bring us unhappiness. I digress, get to your closet and let's do this together.


  1. Those jeans that haven't properly fit for years (if ever). Whether that's because of them being too small, too big, they are uncomfortable when you sit, or maybe you simply hate the way they make your butt or legs look. It's not worth it. Donate them to a thrift store or a charity shop. Even if they do one day fit, it's not worth the years that you will look at them in your closet and feel crap.
  2. The dress that you used to wear when you were younger so still hold onto despite it not being your style anymore, the fit no longer works, or it's looking a little tatty. Getting rid of the clothing item won't make the memories disappear. 
  3. The "special occasion" piece that you hold onto despite knowing that you wouldn't want to rewear it for a similar event. I've been guilty of holding onto a dress that I bought for a wedding or party, telling myself that I would reuse it but knowing in my heart that I'd want to purchase something new as I rarely have the opportunity to buy a new swanky dress. It's okay that a dress cost you a small bomb because you don't want to add to fast fashion, even if you aren't going to rewear it. You paid to feel beautiful that day. Self love, people. 
  4. The broken piece of clothing that you always say you'll get fixed or tailored but it's still been sitting in your closet for ages. If you didn't go ahead and do the alterations straight away, you don't like the piece enough to warrant keeping it. Make a pledge to yourself to get it fixed within the month, if it remains untouched, bye-bye. 
  5. That item of clothing that fits but makes you feel horrendous whenever you put it on. The stomach drop feeling that comes from putting something on and looking in the mirror only to hate your body is NOT worth it. Save your future self from heartbreak and donate, donate, donate.
  6. That pair of shoes that you bought because they're beautiful but they either rub you, you can't walk in them, or they are the wrong fit. How often do you actually pull them out to admire their beauty? Shoes take up so many space if you're limited with room, it's not worth it!
  7. That item of clothing that you always debate getting rid of every time you do a closet clear-out. Trust your instincts! I go back-and-forth so many times with various pieces because I'm an indecisive lady. But know in your heart that if you've debated it before, you'll debate it again. 

If this at all helped you to let go of a piece of clothing, tell me! I'd love to know. You're beautiful.

Mid-January Book Wrap-Up

1/17/2021

I recently took to Twitter to ask whether readers prefer a hefty end-of-the-month wrap-up with way too many books, or to split into two posts that each have 5-10 reviews. The latter won by a landslide, so here we are! It's officially mid-January and I've already read 11 books. I'm on a roll. Here are just some of the books I've read thus far. 


Punching The Air
Ibi Zoboi, Yusef Salaam

Amal is a 16-year-old Black teen who is wrongly incarcerated for throwing a punch towards a white boy. While in prison, he explores his love for art, poetry, and meets other black men who have faced similar injustices in the world. This is a brutal book to read (or listen to), the verse style of writing may make it seem beautiful but it's honestly gut-wrenching. The truth behind the injustice that Amal experiences broke my heart. Amal was a beautifully layered character, I felt his pain and ached to see the art he was creating. This is a phenomenally done coming-of-age novel that is a necessary read for the book community, especially now. I hope to reread this book one day and be gratified that our world has changed so drastically. What's your favourite coming-of-age novel?


In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4)
Seanan McGuire 

Lundy is a young girl who feels alone in life. There appears her door. Venturing into the magical world that's founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she finally feels like she's found her place. But everything comes at a cost in the Goblin Market, which Lundy soon learns. This was a reread for me as I'm participating in the Buzzword reading challenge. (The prompt for January was to read a book with "dream" in the title), and it holds up as my favourite of the Wayward Children series. It's incredibly fun with a great friendship taking center stage. Seanan McGuire has a knack for building these quirky worlds but I think this this fourth installment from the series is the most vivid. We have a goblin market, fair trade as currency, and a beautiful friendship between two girls. Adore! 


Love Story 
Erich Segal 

Oliver and Jenny are from two different paths of life. He is the popular Jock who comes from a rich family, and she, the wisecracking beauty that is underappreciated at their school, comes from nothing. When they form a romantic entanglement, it causes quite the stir. But at what cost? We've all read stories like this before. It's the classic popular/nerd trope that is more often seen in movies than books. Love story was written in the 1970's, and was initially a screenplay that Erich Segal then adapted into a book to help hype up the forthcoming movie. You can tell. This was a mere blimp of a novel, coming in at just over 100 pages. In many ways it reminded me of a Nicholas Sparks novel, where you read it already picturing the movie and not necessarily the book. This felt like an afterthought, which is essentially is. I'm glad I read it, as I can now watch the movie without that bookworm guilt. But I don't feel like it was necessary. For the time, I imagine this was a very original story, but it just doesn't hold up well.


The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness
Lori Schiller, Amanda Bennett

In her early 20's, Lori Schiller became suicidal and was plagued by terrifying voices in her head. She had undiagnosed schizophrenia. This is her memoir where she recounts the many times she was pulled into the world of psychiatric hospitals, drugs, therapy, and countless relapses. For the time, no one really knew of schizophrenia so it was truly difficult to read about Lori's experiences with getting a diagnosis. She had various doctors who just wanted to drug her up, lock her in a room, and forget about her. Reading something like this in the 2020's when we have come so far with our take on mental health was a journey. I do think the novel dragged on for a little too long, some of the sections could've been summarized in a paragraph. My only other problem was the blatant fat shaming that continuously happened throughout this book. I fully understand that it was meant to be a commentary on weight gain while on medication, but it felt very black&white. It continuously mentions Lori's height vs weight and it made me feel rather crap about my own body, despite not having a similar weight mass to her. I just want to mention that as if you're currently struggling with body image, I wouldn't recommend you pick this book up. Alas, all in all, this was really interesting and if you have any interest in learning more about illnesses that aren't often discussed in media, I recommend this. I especially liked how we have chapters from various people in Lori's life who were there during her hospitalization. It added a view point that we needed.


Binti (Binti #1)
Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. There she meets an array of people who may be the start of a new life for her. Chaos ensures. I'm not going into the full plot as it would ruin the book as it's so short. For a sci-fi novella, this felt like an entire journey. I was worried that it would be info dumpy and confusing, but alas, I was wrong. This was incredibly fast-paced with a main character who becomes instantly likeable. It was incredible what the author managed to do with so little pages. I'm interested in continuing with the series, which I wasn't expecting. I'd recommend this to people new to the sci-fi genre.


The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Claire North

When Harry August dies, he is reborn. His life restarts at the exact same time, to the exact same woman, in the exact same place. Nothing changes. As he ages in each life, his memory resurfaces of his past. There are other people like him who have created a "club" of sorts, and they all band together to try and better lives (their own included). But when a string of murders start happening in each timeline, they have to band together to figure out which one out of their group is responsible. I wanted to love this novel as the trope of reliving a day or life always intrigues me. But.. meh. I enjoyed Claire North's writing, it was beautiful as always. She manages to make the most simplistic of lines seem weighted with importance. I just think this book suffered from being way, way, way too long. There were many chapters that were unnecessary and made the overall story drag. I didn't particularly like any of the characters as they never felt layered - they weren't onions. This was still a fascinating story, the idea was brilliant, but the execution just lacked which lessened my enjoyment. It often seemed too heavy on the telling, rather than the showing. 


*Faye, Faraway 
Helen Fisher

Faye is a thirty-seven-year-old happily married mother of two young daughters, but she is still struggling with the childhood trauma of losing her mother at a young age. When a spacehopper box from her childhood resurfaces, the last thing she expects is to suddenly be transported back in time to 1977 where her mother is still alive. Torn between the past and the present, this is a story of the bond between a mother and daughter and how the intensity of that can tipple throughout someone's life. I adored this novel. It was everything that I was hoping it'd be. The story was incredibly heartfelt with some truly great female characters. It got a little cliché at the end, but in a Kristin Hannah way where it starts to feel like an early 2000's movie. The entire book read like a warm cup of tea. Definitely be on the lookout for this when it gets released later this month.


Naoki Urasawa's Monster #1
Naoki Urasawa

Tenma is a promising surgorn at an elite hospital in Germany. But when he refuses to prioritise operating on the rich instead of a young boy, he loses all credibility within the hospital walls. When a serial killer starts killing and it seems connected to Tenma himself, everything gets a little crazy. Me and my husband have recently created reading bingo boards for each other to complete throughout 2021. He put this manga on mine. I've never read a traditional manga before (As I don't think Chi's Sweet Home counts..?), and it was fun! The plot and style of art was very gripping, I just found the overall story a little predictable. I would be interested in continuing though as for a first volume, not bad at all!


Mooncakes
Wendy Xu, Suzanne Walker

A cute graphic novel about a witch who works at her grandmother's bookshop and the adventures that happen when she falls for white wolf Tam Lang. I was expecting this to just be a fluffy read that would make me smile for 30ish minutes. However, I was really inspired with how it wove more serious topics into the fantasy. My only quim was how the plot itself sometimes dragged and it felt like the artwork was doing more.


Any of these books interest you? Lemme know!

**Faye, Faraway was an ARC I read through Net Galley.

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