ARC Review | Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

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FTC DISCLOSURE

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆  a n d  a  h a l f  s t a r s

Hattie Hoffman is a senior in high school, and she’s admired by many – she has a stable boyfriend, lovely parents, and a dazzling personality that everyone is charmed by. But Hattie has a secret; she was involved in an online relationship with a man that was the only person Hattie related to in her small-town life, surrounded by people who have different ambitions. She’s an actor, and she’s spent her entire life playing parts, both on the stage and in her relationships, but with this one person, she can be herself. But before she can achieve her dream of moving to New York and becoming an actress, her body is found floating in the river, brutally stabbed. During the investigation, the town’s secrets begin to emerge in a story so twisty and turny that you never see what’s coming next.

Thrillers tend to go one of three ways for me; they’re either too predictable and fall flat, or they throw you curveball after curveball, leaving you disoriented, confused and so, indifferent. But then there are the thrillers that are perfectly balanced, where each tidbit of information is revealed at precisely the right moment, so that you’re never bored or left hanging for too long, but also can keep up with everything that’s going on. Everything You Want Me to Be fits into the third category. Mejia is extremely skilled at pacing her story. It’s not a simple tale; there are several subplots given the multiple perspectives: Hattie’s viewpoint showing flashbacks; Peter, the person she had an affair with, who is also her high school English teacher; and the detective who is on her case.  But despite these several intricacies, they are balanced precariously, yet delicately. As aforementioned, every little piece of information, every facet of the characters’ personalities and their darker secrets is released at just the right moment; as a result, you’re constantly curious, and constantly engaged (I read the book in a day!)

Many thrillers tend to rely on twists at the last moment, sudden changes in pacing and narrative that often fall flat and seem cheap; Mejia strays far from that trope. Everything You Want Me to Be is a dense psychological thriller driven by its characters. Each character is flawed and multi-faceted, forcing you to root for them, and sometimes wish for their downfall. Even Hattie; she’s unlikable, in many ways, given her penchant for manipulation and morphing her personality depending on who she is with (do you get the title now?) But despite this, you can’t help but feel for this also-relatable girl who feels stuck and unmotivated in a dreary, small-town life. There are two or three main suspects throughout the novel, but even they have both redeemable and damnable characteristics. The result is a complicated, interesting story that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

I touched upon the relationship in this novel before – Hattie’s having an affair with her English teacher, Peter. This is a disturbing trope that is often romanticized in books, but I would argue that this particular book doesn’t glamorize it, but rather shows you just how damaging and problematic these types of relationships are. You feel for Hattie; Peter is the only person she can relate to, but certain things she does raises questions. Peter is clearly more to blame in this scenario – he’s older, he’s in the position of authority, and he’s married, and you do despise him for this, but his inner push-and-pull and his otherwise deeply empathetic nature stops you from assigning him the villainous archetype. This is not a trope discussed a la Pretty Little Liars, where the relationship is long-lasting, romanticized and shown as hashtag-goals; Hattie and Peter are disturbing, and the controversy (if it can be called that) is dealt with sensitively, yet honestly.

I had initially given the book a 4-star rating, but a good month has passed since I read it, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I remember clearly each and everything that came to pass; I still feel for the characters, I still am disturbed by the psychological nature of it, so I’m bumping it up to a 4 and a half star rating. It’s truly fascinating,  and will keep you up late at night, immersed and unable to stop.

BUY IT

A M A Z O N  |  G O O D R E A D S

Bollywood Movies You Should Watch – Part I

Today, I thought I’d do something different on the blog, and give you recommendations, but not book recommendations. Movies. And Bollywood movies, at that! Bollywood’s been a big part of my life ever since I was a kid; Indian cinema has a huge market in Pakistani audiences because we speak the same language, have extremely similar cultures, similar music styles, similar values and basically the same history. For these reasons, I’ve been exposed to so much Bollywood throughout my life, and there are stellar movies in Indian cinema that aren’t given a chance to shine outside of South Asia.

I did a post a few months ago about “foreign literature,” and the implications of that phrase – that anything non-Western (or Anglo-centered, to be precise) is shunned as “too foreign.” And the literary and non-literary entertainment from non-Anglo regions that are given some attention are 99% those narratives that emphasize our Other-ness, or the negatives in our societies. Slumdog Millionaire was such a mediocre movie, but it’s about the slums, so it’s going to get all the praise, all the accolades and win an Oscar while we’re at it. The films from Pakistan that get recognition are the ones that highlight the negative stereotypes. These things exist – of course they do, but it’s uncomfortable for me to see that my culture (and cultures similar to mine) are only given exposure when a certain type of narrative is being discussed.

Because of this general trend, I really wanted to spotlight some Bollywood movies that are near and dear to my heart, that present South Asian culture as it is without sensationalism, without a harsh emphasis on negative stereotypes but still discusses them from an #OwnVoices gaze rather than the Western-Gaze. Bollywood is fun – it’s vibrant, it has fantastic soundtracks, it has so much talent in acting and music, and I definitely think there’s something in this list for everyone. So with that unnecessarily long introduction, let’s dive into the post!


K A P O O R  A N D  S O N S

Kapoor & Sons was released last year, and it’s an incredible tale encompassing so many important themes – mainly the importance of family. When two brothers’ grandfather is hospitalized, they fly out to India and come home to a dysfunctional system, where their parents are constantly at each others’ throats. The two brothers have beef among them too, and when they both find a friend in the same girl, things are worsened. The performances in this movie are magnificent, from the violent parents to the shy, quiet younger brother to the charming, brooding older one. The music is fun and upbeat, and the story keeps going places you least expect. I cannot recommend this movie enough. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

Available on YouTube (from $3.99) | DVD on Amazon | iTunes


K A L  H O  N A A  H O

(No subtitles in the trailer, sorry, but I’ll tell you what it’s about. The movie has subs though!)

Kal Ho Naa Ho was probably the first Bollywood movie that made me cry, and I was a child when I saw it. Ever since it came out in 2003, I’ve watched it every few months – never get tired of it. It’s a story about a girl named Naina, who lives in New York with her widowed mother, her grandmother, her younger brother, and her younger half-sister. Naina has a lot of pent-up anger in her life due to her always-quarrelling mother and grandma, and the trauma of her father having taken his life not so long ago. When a ridiculously bubbly, larger-than-life neighbor named Aman moves into the house next door, he teaches her a thing or two about herself. But Aman has a secret that could destroy lives.

I can’t explain to you how much I love this movie – it’s heartbreaking, it’s entertaining, it has incredibly hilarious moments. It has probably the best love triangle I’ve ever experienced, and you all probably know by now that I despise love triangles. If there’s one Indian movie that I can watch over and over again without getting tired, it’d be this one, hands down.

Available on Netflix | Watch it on YouTube from $2.99 | DVD on Amazon | iTunes


3  I D I O T S

In South Asia, we have an epidemic – parents want their children to go into STEM fields. You can either be a doctor or an engineer – everything else lowers your worth. It’s something I’ve personally never had to deal with, but so many people around me have gone through the pressure associated with these expectations. And even though my parents never forced me to go into a certain field, academics are given an unprecedented importance. If I got a 95%, they’d ask me why I missed one or two questions – not in a mean way, but it’s something that comes naturally in our culture. We’re stuck in a race. Our academic systems are structured like they’re one massive competition, and if you’re not near the top, you fall behind.

3 Idiots was the first movie I saw that tackled this subject head-on. It’s fun and entertaining, and the fact that it’s centered around three university friends gives it that extra umph and relateability, but underneath it all, it packs a strong punch. It emphasizes the importance of learning above grades, even within STEM fields. It centers a dynamic character who values creativity over mechanics, knowledge over academic achievement, learning over memorizing. And it struck a chord so deep within me that it forever changed the way I studied, and it changed many South Asian parents’ perspectives on studying too. So many student suicides in places like India and Pakistan go unnoticed – the pressure is real, and for many people, 3 Idiots told us that we’re not alone, that there’s another way. It’s just really fucking good.

DVD on Amazon | iTunes


Q U E E N

For much of our lives, South Asian women are given the impression that our ultimate purpose is to get married, lol. For upper classes residing in the cities, trends are changing little by little, but for those women in smaller cities or rural areas, dependence on the patriarchy is not a way of life, it’s THE way of life. In comes Queen, a story about a simple young girl from a small city with a traditionally conservative set of values whose fiancée dumps two days before their wedding. She’s heartbroken, and for a while, she thinks her life is over. But in a moment of sheer boldness, she decides she’ll go on their honeymoon… alone.

Now that might not seem like a big deal to a lot of you, but it’s such an unconventional idea in that culture – for a girl to go off alone in a country she’s never been in on a honeymoon where her husband isn’t present, lol. But Queen is all about one woman embracing life, learning to break away from a conservative life and embrace confidence, embrace who she is without ever losing her culture either. It’s a feminist powerhouse of a film with a brilliant main performance, an adventure through Europe, and a character you learn to love with all your heart. It’s so, so, so good.

Watch it on YouTube for $2.99 | Amazon | iTunes


C H A K  D E !  I N D I A

Similar to Queen, this is a movie that’s a feminist powerhouse. It explores patriarchal society and women doing unconventional things without spotlighting oppression, per se. Women’s sports barely gets funding in South Asian countries, because culture dictates that sports is a man’s profession. Chak De! India follows one women’s hockey team’s rise under the tutelage of a former-player-turned coach named Kabir Khan, who was shunned from the Indian hockey scene when he missed the winning shot during the World Cup. Kabir takes it upon himself – if he lost the match so many years ago, he’d do everything in his power to get India to win the World Cup. And he’d do it with a team of fierce, dedicated women – the best of the best.

This is another movie that speaks a lot to me as someone who always wanted to break free from the patriarchal nature of my society. Although I was never sporty, simply watching these fierce women do stuff that society deems unacceptable was inspirational. It’s a fun movie too – not just a typical sports movie because it focuses a lot on friendship and Indian culture on top of teamwork and sports. It’s one that I’d really recommend to everyone, and it’s easily available online for streaming and such.

Watch on YouTube for $1.49 | Amazon | iTunes

So those are all the recommendations I have for today – when I sat down and actually started to compile the list, I realized that I had a shit ton of movies that I really love and think non-Bollywood watchers would enjoy too, so I might make this a series, and divide lists by genre or topic. If you’d be interested in that, please let me know. And if you watch Bollywood movies, leave your recommendations in the comments below!

A Very Arc-ish Readathon: Announcement & TBR

a very arcish readathon

(Feel free to use this graphic in your posts!)

Hello, everyone! Today, I come to you with an announcement for a readathon that I’ll be hosting in April. Us bloggers have the privilege of getting our hands on ARCs – whether those are physical ARCs or digital ARCs through Netgalley and Edelweiss and such. And sometimes, we go overboard and request too many at the same time, or sometimes life gets in the way, throwing off our reading schedules and we fall behind on all those ARCs that we need to get to. I’m way behind on the review copies that I need to read – my ratio is falling behind, and I really need to get my shit together. I thought that I’d spend the month of April clearing out my shelf – and then I thought, why not get others to join in?

W H E N

The readathon runs from 12:01 AM (your time) on April 1st to April 30th, 11:59 PM (your time).

G O A L S  A N D  C H A L L E N G E S

This is a low-pressure, low-key readathon, and so it doesn’t really have any challenges. The only goal is to read as many ARCs as possible; if you’re feeling ambitious, and are trying to catch up on your 80% ratio goal on Netgalley, aim for that. If your goal (like mine) is to just read as many ARCs as possible, and hopefully read everything on your shelf, you can do that. Take it easy – I know reviewing and blogging can be stressful as it is; you don’t need to add more pressure on yourself by adding unnecessary challenges.

H A S H T A G

I’ll be tracking my progress on social media, specifically Twitter, using the hashtag #AVAReadathon. You can join the conversation by using that hashtag; it’ll be fun to engage with other users more readily!

G I V E A W A Y

At the end of the month, I will randomly pick two winners who will both win a pre-order of a book of their choice. This can be a pre-order of an ARC you read and really enjoyed, or it can be anything else – as long as it’s a pre-order. The giveaway is open internationally (as long as The Book Depository ships to you), and if you’re an international participant to whom TBD does not ship, you will be able to choose an eBook pre-order that will be gifted to you.

H O W  T O  E N T E R

You must put up a post on your blog (or Instagram, or Twitter, or Tumblr – literally just anywhere on the Internet) announcing the readathon, and if you’d like, make a TBR. You can link your posts in the linky at the end of this post. Please also link this post in your own posts so that other people who want to participate can easily find this information.

And that’s about it for what the readathon is and the prizes. If you’d like to know more, or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment on this post and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.


W H A T  I ‘ L L  B E  R E A D I N G

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A D D  Y O U R  L I N K S

Book Review | Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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Homegoing follows the generations of two half-sisters, separated by forces out of their control. One sister is sold into slavery, and the other is married off to a powerful British slaver, but each sister’s story lasts for only one chapter. The book follows their children, and their children’s children at various points in time, following their bloodline from Ghana to Alabama to Boston and New York.

Homegoing is not an easy book to read, despite being a short one. It’s not meant to be a comfortable book; it doesn’t exist for leisure, with the intention of making the reader lose herself in the story, or to find comfort in the characters like so much other fiction does. Homegoing is harsh and brutal; its punches land true to their mark, forcing you to look in the past and the present and analyze what’s happening around you. It’s honest, it’s dark, it’s bleak, and it’s infinitely important with its unflinching portrayal of history and the persistence of human cruelty. It holds nothing back, and in a time where minorities in the US – especially African Americans – are expected to maintain idle niceties in the face of severe oppression and persecution, Homegoing is a resonating voice. If I could be in charge of school reading, this would be a book that I would make required reading because it’s so much more than ink on paper. It’s a living, breathing narrative that exists just as much to convey stories as it does to show you the mirror.

It’s a book that covers so much ground – warring villages in Africa, honor, power and culture starting from eighteenth century Ghana, while also tackling race relations in the United States, from slavery to the Civil War to segregation to the struggles faced by the black community in modern day. It shows you that unlike what you may believe, persecution and oppression did not end when slavery did, or segregation did, but its ugliness continues to thrive like a slower, lethal poison.

Homegoing is so many stories within one, with each chapter following a different character. The book spans 300 pages in the hardcover edition, and each character gets 20 pages, give or take a couple, meaning that it follows 15 different characters. Fifteen characters, each at a different point in time, each with a different story – it sometimes reads like a short story collection, but also not really, because somehow Gyasi makes all the different stories connect. Whether it’s through the mention of another character halfway through the chapter, or a flashback to something that happened a couple chapters ago, the stories – despite being different – all flow together. That, in itself, is a triumph.

But what makes this novel so technically striking, apart from its narrative flow, is how well fleshed-out each and every character is. I’ve never been one for generational stories – granted, I haven’t read too many, but the few that I have suffer from one major flaw: the characters’ development is always sacrificed, never fully appreciated and explored. But Homegoing, somehow, manages to rectify that flaw, because each character has a distinct voice, a personality and a being. With each chapter-end, you feel a profound sense of loss because you know that chances are that you’re not seeing this character again in the story. But with that sense of loss comes the more powerful sense of hope with the knowledge that Gyasi’s going to surprise you more, and sweep you in with the tale of another character, a promise of another friend.

Perhaps the only flaw that the book has falls towards the end, which I felt was rushed – perhaps even unnecessary. I won’t say more at the risk of spoilers, but I felt that the very last chapter perhaps should’ve been longer than the others, to give the entire story the closure that it needed. The book spans two centuries, and I would’ve liked to see a longer end than just twenty pages, if you know what I’m saying.

But apart from that very minor flaw, Homegoing truly is an incredibly important read with characters that feel real, a writing style that keeps you captivated and above all, thinking, and stories that will stick with you for a long, long time. It doesn’t matter what your preferred genre is – be it young adult or fantasy or romance – you need to read this book. It’s a powerful debut, a force to be reckoned with, and will be remembered and revered as such for a long, long time – I’m sure of it.

BUY IT

G O O D R E A D S  |  A M A Z O N

Top Ten Tuesday | Books on My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish– you basically get a topic every week, and you comprise a list of ten, or however many you’re able, that pertains to the topic of the week. Today’s topic is Top Ten Books on Your Spring TBR.

Some incredible books are coming out this spring, which is new for me because I’m usually most drawn to fall releases (is it just me or do more fantasy novels come out in the fall time)? But even though I’ve been in a reading / blogging slump, I’ve been keeping up with releases on Twitter, and spring promises some really fantastic reads. Side note, can this weather even be called spring? It’s March, and there’s a snow blizzard happening right now outside my doors…

I thought I’d divide my list into two – the first part being the books on Netgalley that I need to get to now that I’m semi-out-of-my-slump, and the other half are new releases that I really want to get my hands on. So without further ado, let’s get started.

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T H E  I N E X P L I C A B L E  L O G I C  O F  M Y  L I F E  B Y  B E N J A M I N  A L I R É  

S A È N Z  

I read and adored Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and I read that so long ago that I’m interested to see where this one goes. I’ve actually read around half of it, and I did really enjoy what I read so far (despite there being some problematic issues, that I’ll talk more on when I do a review). I have, however, heard that the problems increase in the second half, which is really such a shame. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life follows the story of Sal, a boy whose mostly been comfortable with his story; he was adopted by a single dad in a Mexican-American family, and he’s white himself. But when tragedy hits his and his best friend, Samantha’s life, Sal begins to question the meaning of life, and is forced to confront grief, loss and the meaning of faith. Sal becomes irritable, angry, almost like he’s on a path to self-destruction.

BUY IT

A M A Z O N


T H E  T W E L V E  L I V E S  O F  S A M U E L  H A W L E Y  B Y  H A N N A H  T I N T I

Not gonna lie, I mainly requested this book because it has one stunning cover, but it sounds freaking amazing. It’s a father-daughter story, drawing on themes of loss and family to weave a part-thriller, and part-coming of age story. Samuel Hawley has a past as a criminal, chronicled on his body through twelve scars. He and his daughter move to a small town in Massachusetts to try and live their lives after the mysterious death of his wife, but Sam’s criminal past catches on to him, seeping into his daughter’s life too. It takes place in several different areas of the US, and I’m so drawn to the father-daughter aspect of it that I can’t wait to read it.

BUY IT

A M A Z O N


I T  S T A R T E D  W I T H  G O O D B Y E  B Y  C H R I S T I N A  J U N E

Again, another cover-request (I really need to stop doing that), but I got lucky because again, this sounds like something cute and light and entertaining. Tatum is falsely accused of a crime, so she’s stuck under house-arrest under the watchful eye of her stepmother all summer. She spends her time doing community service in the mornings, and working on her secret graphic design business at night – but when family secrets come out, things start to change. I’m guessing there’s a romance aspect to this otherwise family-centered drama, and I’m so excited to get to it.

BUY IT

A M A Z O N


M A D  M I S S  M I M I C  B Y  S A R A H  H E N S T R A

I haven’t read a ton of YA historical fiction, mainly because historical fiction rarely is my thing, but this sounds interesting. It follows the story of Leo, who lives in Victorian London as part of a privileged family. Leo has a speech impediment that makes it difficult for her to speak, but she can mimic others flawlessly. The only person who really takes an interest in her is Mr. Thornfax, but something’s off about him. Set in a backdrop of 1870s London terrorized and reeling from an opium epidemic, Leo must uncover the truth.

BUY IT

A M A Z O N


T H E  F A L L  O F  L I S A  B E L L O W  B Y  S U S A N  P E R A B O

This book is a unique sort of look into mystery and crime – when a middle school girl is abducted, another school girl is left behind, who witnessed the crime and now has to cope with what she experienced. It seems like it’ll be a psychological analysis of trauma in adolescents who are reeling from unthinkable experiences, and as someone who’s studied trauma in children in college, I’m interested to see how it’s employed in fiction.

BUY IT

A M A Z O N

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W H E N  D I M P L E  M E T  R I S H I  B Y  S A N D H Y A  M E N O N

When Dimple Met Rishi is, by far, my most anticipated contemporary of the year, mainly because it follows the story of an entirely-Indian cast in an arranged-marriage type of plot. As a Pakistani, I’ve been exposed to arranged marriage as the norm (despite my parents never encouraging it), and the portrayals of arranged marriage in Western society is like this ancient, barbaric tradition where the bride and groom are forced to marry. It’s not really like that at all in most cases – the parents set two people up, they consent, they marry, no force involved. This book seems to present it in a light manner, and I’m so excited to read it.

BUY IT

A M A Z O N


F L A M E  I N  T H E  M I S T  B Y  R E N É E  A H D I E H

With The Wrath and the Dawn, Renée Ahdieh climbed her way into my auto-buy authors’ list, and if Flame in the Mist is half as good as her previous duology, I’m sure I’ll love it. It’s basically a Mulan retelling, I believe, about an accomplished alchemist named Mariko who’s smart and cunning, but isn’t afforded the leisures that boys are. When she’s on her way to be married in a political alliance, her carriage is ambushed by bandits, and Mariko makes a narrow escape.

BUY IT

A M A Z O N


Q U E E N S  O F  G E E K  B Y  J E N  W I L D E

Queens of Geek sounds like such a wonderful, warm tale of love, friendship and just fun. Three friends – Charlie, Taylor and Jamie are going to SupaCon, and they’re sure it’ll be the time of their lives. Charlie’s ex-crush, Alyssa, shows up at the con, and they form a connection that Charlie had always thought was one-sided. Taylor’s the opposite of Charlie; she likes to blend in, and doesn’t like change – so much so that she’s not telling Jamie that her feelings transcend friendship. But SupaCon might be her chance to do something daring, to try something she otherwise would not.

BUY IT

A M A Z O N


R A M O N A  B L U E  B Y  J U L I E  M U R P H Y

Ramona Blue follows the story of Ramona Blue, who stands six-feet tall with flaming blue hair. Ramona’s been sure of three things in her life: she likes girls, she loves her family, and she’s destined for something bigger than her small-town life. But certain events don’t let her escape – she’s forced to be the adult in her family, but the return of Freddie, her childhood best friend offers her a distraction. As their connection rekindles, Ramona comes to realize that she might like girls and boys. I know this book got a lot of flack for potentially having problematic language in the past, but the author has come out and said that it’s a book about a girl coming to terms with her bisexuality – and Julie Murphy’s dealt with contemporaries so beautifully in the past, that I’m excited to see what she does.

BUY IT

A M A Z O N


A L W A Y S  A N D  F O R E V E R ,  L A R A  J E A N  B Y  J E N N Y  H A N

Next to When Dimple Met Rishi, this is perhaps my most anticipated contemporary of the year. I loved the first book in this series, and while I was iffy about the second one,  I think Jenny Han does such a wonderful job of writing wholesome contemporaries, with the perfect balance between family dynamics, friendships, personal development and romance that no way am I going to give up this trilogy just yet. I’m not going to read the synopsis, because I want to go into it oblivious, but I do hope that there’s no love triangle or turmoil – I would really, really like to see Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky’s story laid out to its full potential.

BUY IT

A M A Z O N


Well, that’s it for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. Let me know what books from the ones above you’re looking forward to, and which ones you’ve already read and enjoyed. As always, thanks for stopping by – and happy reading!

New Blog (Surprise!) and to New Beginnings

NEW BLOG

Surprise! So, I have a new website with a completely different look (including a new logo!), a nifty new domain name without the .wordpress tagged at the end of it. I have a website with a custom theme that I have full power over, because I’m now self-hosting! I know this kind of came out of nowhere, and I’ve never really spoken about wanting to self-host, but it’s something I’ve been considering for a few months now.

I’ve always been the type of person who likes to play around with code and themes, and WordPress.com (while being awesome and interactive and wonderful) just didn’t give me the opportunity to do what I wanted with my blog. I didn’t like their very limited arsenal of themes, and I would have to pay an ungodly sum of money to get my website a little closer to my aesthetic, and even then, I would’t get the full privilege of being able to customize everything on my own. I love design; I love playing around with colors and templates, and the lack of movement was putting me in a horrible blogging slump.

You know, I started blogging as a hobby, because reading was my passion, and I think that if blogging starts to feel like a chore, you’re not doing it right. As much as I liked my old website, I didn’t feel that push to post content regularly, to write reviews, and engage with the people in this community – and that was really beginning to take a toll on how I viewed reading and blogging, in general.

Unfortunately, this also means that I jumped into some decisions. Some of you may know that I introduced a co-blogger to the website recently – Erica was awesome and amazing, and just a genuinely lovely person who accommodated for everything, but as someone who’s always worked better alone, I had to backtrack. I think I was just so caught up in trying to feel some form of desire to keep blogging that I latched onto the possibility of having a co-blogger, without fully realizing that I work independently, and that it would just add more stress, and put me off blogging anyway. I feel so bad that I jumped into this, and Erica was so incredibly nice when I told her what was up, but I’m still super disappointed in myself.

Anyhoo, I’m not really sure how this works yet. I’m still trying to fix my links, trying to format my old posts to fit the aesthetic of the new website, and I’m a little concerned because it’s so photo-based (and I’m just a generally lazy person), but I’m excited to see where this goes. If you have any feedback, it’ll be greatly appreciated. As always, you can follow me on Bloglovin, and subscribe to my e-mail list.

Let me know in the comments below what you think of the website, and if you have any suggestions, or any feedback, please, please do not hesitate to let me know! ♡

Wrap Up | February ’17

P E R S O N A L

February wasn’t anything special for me in terms of life – I messed up supremely for something for my major. Applied Psychology majors are supposed to take fieldwork seminars for two consecutive semesters (and since I’m a junior, I have to take one next semester in order to graduate). I honest to God thought the deadline to apply was mid-March, but it was actually at the end of February. So now I have to meet with the head of the department so I can beg her to give me a chance, lmao, let’s hope it goes well.

I was also supposed to go to a Kevin Garrett concert and I had to skip out on it because of school. I have four midterms next week (fun!), so I’ve been stupidly busy with that. Speaking of school, I’m making baby-steps with my pre-med switch, meaning I just took my first ever pre-med class: Calculus. Guys, I haven’t done Math in almost four years now, and it’s taking me some time to get into the stride of numbers again, but I love, love the process of doing Math problems, so I’m having fun.

Other than that – February was so uneventful and uninteresting. Here’s hoping to a better March!

R E A D I N G  W R A P – U P

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A  L I S T  O F  C A G E S  B Y  R O B I N  R O E  | ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ | R E V I E W

Loved it. It’s a contemporary with two neurodivergent main characters; a story about the importance of friendship and kindness, and how having someone you can trust can save your life in more ways than one. Highlights problems in fostercare and childhood trauma.

T H E  E D U C A T I O N  O F  M A R G O T  S A N C H E Z  B Y  L I L L I A M  R I V E R A  |

♡ ♡ ♡ | R E V I E W

I enjoyed this, but the first half was lacking. Important read with a majority-Latinx cast, discussing themes of identity, socioeconomic status, privilege, majority-minority dynamics, and a nuanced portrayal of family issues.

H I S T O R Y  I S  A L L  Y O U  L E F T  M E  B Y  A D A M  S I L V E R A | ♡ ♡ ♡ a n d  a  h a l f

I quite liked this book – it’s a slow-burn contemporary that’s focused almost entirely on its characters rather than plot. Silvera does a wonderful job of his portrayal of loss and grief. But the lack of actual plot gave it a sluggish pace. Full review to come.

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T H E  R O S E  A N D  T H E  D A G G E R  B Y  R E N É E  A H D I E H  |  ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

The Wrath & the Dawn was one of my favorite books of 2015, and I can’t believe I put off reading the sequel for so long. I loved it – fast-paced with just the right balance of action, romance and character development. Knocked off a star because the ending felt rushed.

H O M E G O I N G  B Y  Y A A  G Y A S I  |  ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

I read this for a book club in celebration of Black History Month, and I really enjoyed it. I thought the structure was a gutsy move (each chapter follows a different POV), but Gyasi makes it work. Such an important read about race relations in the US, and how systematic racism did not end with slavery and segregation. Review to come.

E V E R Y T H I N G  Y O U  W A N T  M E  T O  B E  B Y  M I N D Y  M E J I A  |  ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡

As someone who’s steadily getting into the stride of mysteries and thrillers, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It was extremely fast-paced with right clusters of information revealed at the right time. It also tackles a sensitive issue with the utmost grace. Review to come.

1 0  T H I N G S  I  C A N  S E E  F R O M  H E R E  | ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ | R E V I E W

Perfect summer contemporary for fans of Morgan Matson and Rainbow Rowell; it offers a light, fast-paced perspective while also dealing with important themes. Its portrayal of anxiety is important, as well its focus on family relationships. Loved the romance too!

M U S I C ,  M O V I E S ,  A N D  T E L E V I S I O N

T H E  L O R D  O F  T H E  R I N G S  T R I L O G Y

I rewatched the entire The Lord of the Rings trilogy last month, and can I just say that much like rewatching/rereading Harry Potter, it felt great to fall back into something I love so much. I honestly think the trilogy is a freaking masterpiece – from the stellar acting to the cinematography to the themes and the story to the soundtrack; everything about it is so spot-on. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the smaller things; I used to freak out about the cool fight scenes and the magic (not that I don’t anymore because I absolutely do), but the finer details of the intricacies of Sam and Frodo’s relationship, the dynamics between the Trio, the love between Merry and Pippin, the strength of Aragorn and Arwen’s relationship. Ughhhhh, I just love it so much. The Hobbit movies are infinitely inferior to the original trilogy, period.

E N G L I S T A N  B Y  R I Z  M C

I’ve spoken about my love for Riz Ahmed and his rap duo (Swet Shop Boys) in the past, but I’ve been obsessed with his solo stuff this month. Obsessed. By far, my favorite is “Englistan.” It’s such a meaningful rap about anti-immigration sentiment in the UK, what makes England ENGLAND is the communities, the dynamic, the immigrants. Also, just because Riz is a fucking bad-ass, of course he’s going to rap wearing a shirt that’s a half-England cricket jersey, and the other half is Pakistan’s. Amazing.

Book Haul | February ’17

Hey, everyone! I hope you’re all well and that February was a good month for you and that you took advantage of all the great releases last month to buy everything (muahaha, I’m the devil on your shoulder.) I was doing so well with limiting my book-buying the past few months, and as soon as I increased my reading a bit, of course my buying went up. This is the biggest haul I’ve had in a while, I think, which led me to make the 5-book pact. Which basically means that I’m going to buy one book for every 5 books I read that I already own. I’ve never even attempted to do that, but ever since I signed up on Overdrive, I’ve gotten free access to so many titles. Which might really help me out!

So, enough rambling. Let’s get to the haul.

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T H E  S T R A N D  B O O K S T O R E

I was perusing through my favorite place in the entire world one day, trying to find some new-release steals (because they often have new hardcovers for $9), and I found three books.

Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond, which is a superhero type story with an interracial couple at its forefront. It has lots of illustrations, and despite not being an #OwnVoices tale, I read a few reviews by people of color, and decided to go for it. Helped that it was also only $5.

♡ Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson, which is about a young girl who’s put into juvy for six years, and then into a group home for allegedly killing an infant. I’ve heard great things about this, that it tackles important issues, and is a must-read. Found it for $10 the day of the release, so obviously, I couldn’t resist.

♡ The Secret of a Heartnote by Stacey Lee is a magical realism novel about a girl with supersensitive sense of smell. She mixes aromas to make potions that help people fall in love, but guards her own heart closely. I’ve heard such great things – also, I believe there’s a Muslim side character, which just made me very excited. Got it for $9.

A M A Z O N

♡ A List of Cages by Robin Roe. I read and reviewed this book (I was sent an ARC from the publisher), and I honestly loved it so much that I had to buy myself a finished copy. It’s about two former foster brothers – both neurodivergent – who meet four years after last having seen each other. I love it so much- you can read my review here.

♡ Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson. This is a book about a young black teen who’s living in a low-income neighborhood, who believes she needs to ‘escape’ to be successful. It explores themes of identity, privilege and race-relations, and I’m so excited to read it.

♡ American Street by Ibi Zoboi is a story about a young girl who’s migration to the US from Haiti. Her mother is detained during the process, and she’s left to navigate through American culture and the city of Detroit by herself. Considering today’s sociopolitical environment, this sounds like an important story, and I’m so excited to dive into it.

♡ Caraval by Stephanie Garber, which is probably one of the most hyped-up books of this year. Firstly, it’s freaking beautiful. Secondly, it sounds like it has some of my favorite tropes – two sisters escape their cruel father to participate in a legendary once-in-a-year show. Then, one sister disappears.

♡ A Conjuring of Light by Victoria Schwab- the third and final book in the A Darker Shade of Magic series. I’m over halfway through this, and I’m dying because it’s so good, and I really don’t want to part with this world or the characters. The series is being made into a movie (AHHHH). It’s incredible, so if you haven’t yet given it a chance, what are you doing?!

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F O R  R E V I E W

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven was sent to me for review via Blogging for Books. I haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, but I’m interested. It’s a romance between an overweight girl and a guy who has prosopagnosia. I’m hesitant, because it’s been called out for bad representation, but as someone who is overweight herself, I’d still like to read it.

B O O K  O F  T H E  M O N T H

This month, I opted for a mystery/thriller called, Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. I’ve come to have such a fondness for the thriller genre; I realized that some of the books that remained un-disappointing in 2016 were mysteries and thrillers. I’d really like to dive deeper into the genre. Reading them also allows me to take a break from YA, because most of the thrillers I read are adult- sometimes, taking a break from the same genre can do wonders for your reading experience.

If you’re interested in checking out the Book of the Month subscription box, you can use this link to get three months for $9.99 each, instead of the usual $16 per month. If you use my link, I’ll also get a free month, so it would mean a lot if you use my affiliate link IF you want to sign up. ♡ It’s a wonderful subscription service- each month, you are given a choice of 5 new, promising, acclaimed books from different genres, ranging from non-fiction to literary fiction to thrillers, and sometimes YA books too.

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Alright, those are all the books I purchased in the month of February. Have you read any of these books- and if so, what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments below – and as always, thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

Book Review | 10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac

10 THINGS I CAN SEE FROM HERE

FTC DISCLOSURE

Maeve has severe generalized anxiety disorder, which basically means that she worries excessively about everything. Her mother doesn’t believe in medication for her anxiety until Maeve hits eighteen, so Maeve can’t get the help that she knows she needs. She’s found a way to keep her panic attacks in check, but even then, her day-to-day life is affected by her anxiety. Things get worse when Maeve’s mom goes away to Haiti for six months, leaving Maeve to spend her summer with her father in Vancouver. Her dad’s a recovering alcoholic, and her relationship with him isn’t the best, but no way is her mom leaving Maeve alone at home for six months. While there, Maeve meets Salix, a carefree, laid-back girl who plays the violin and has big dreams- the two bond immediately, and maybe the summer won’t be as bad as Maeve had thought.

Contemporaries often bother me – not to generalize them or anything, but I tend to be more critical towards contemporaries, perhaps because it’s easier to see myself in them. If a contemporary is not well-rounded, meaning that if it focuses too much on one thing instead of several aspects of a person’s life, chances are that I won’t like it. The fact that I enjoyed 10 Things I Can See From Here is testament to the fact that it is extremely well-rounded and balanced, giving the right amount of weight to Maeve’s dynamic with her stepmother and her half-brothers, her mother and father, her budding romance with Salix, her relationship with her ex-bestfriend, and her dealing with her own anxiety. Each and every subplot was done justice, and that’s what makes this contemporary stand out.

Maeve’s relationship with her father is, in my opinion, the main focus of the story rather than the romance. She’s such a sensitive person, who feels everything twice as much as the people around her, something that often works against her – but she can’t help it. Her longing to connect with her father when she’s going through an exceptionally rough patch, her willingness to give him chance after chance because she loves him so much and just wants things to get better – the entire dynamic was realistic, and it was heartbreaking, and it was important because it sheds light on children of parents who abuse substances.

The second thing that struck me was the way Maeve’s anxiety was presented- almost like a character, in and of itself. Mac weaves the anxiety into the very narration, into her own writing style and technique. She spends careful time on getting the reader inside Maeve’s head, so much so that you begin to feel the worry pulsating inside your own body. Which is not to say that you can ever feel the experiences of people who have GAD, but you get some awareness. From negative reviews, I’ve seen that the colorful, often very graphic depictions of death and accidents, and the excessive worry became tiresome and dull for some people- I guess that’s a valid critique, but I can counter it by saying that repetition was the point. GAD is not comfortable. It’s not something you can switch off when you feel it getting repetitive and tiresome; it’s persistent, it’s debilitating, and I think the way it’s presented here is very important. Moreover, I saw some critique saying that Maeve was an unlikable protagonist. She does make some decisions that I doubt, some off-hand comments about her ex-bestfriend that made me flinch, but the critique I’ve seen relates to how she “annoys” other characters. Again, I think Mac did such a wonderful job of showing how anxiety doesn’t only affect the person who has it, but the people around said person too. It’s unfair to say that Maeve was unlikable just because she behaved in a way that anxiety made her behave.

The romance between Maeve and Salix was very cute; it was healthy, it developed well, and even though I had issues with how they kept bumping into each other (I dislike tropes that play on fate), I really enjoyed their dynamic. I loved that Salix understood Maeve’s anxiety and helped however she could, and the trope of “love-cured-my-illness” was banished out-of-sight.

I had a few issues too, mainly with the lack of closure surrounding some of the storylines. I wanted to see more of Maeve and her mother’s relationship, especially because she plays an incredibly important role in Maeve’s life. I wanted to see flashbacks, or some interaction outside of e-mails, texts and phone calls. I also felt that the story would have benefited had an epilogue been added to the end, something that showed us what Maeve’s life is like after she has to go back home. There could easily be a sequel to this, because I feel like I need to know more about Maeve and Salix, the resolution with the family issues, with the need to see Maeve get the help that she needs with her anxiety. A sequel would be great.

Ultimately, 10 Things I Can See From Here is a beautifully written summer-contemporary that is perfect for fans of Morgan Matson, Stephanie Perkins and Rainbow Rowell. If you’re looking for something well-rounded that’s not too heavy, but also focuses on important themes, pick this one up.

TRIGGER WARNING

material that can induce anxiety or panic attacks (such as chronic worrying about events out of someone’s control), graphic depictions of accidents and death, substance abuse, sexual assault.

BUY IT

G O O D R E A D S  |  A M A Z O N

Diversity Spotlight Thursday | #17

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme created by Aimal! Every week, you come up with one book in each of three different categories: a diverse book you have read and enjoyed, a diverse book on your TBR, and one that has not yet been released. You can check out the announcement post for more information.

Guys, I’m so excited to be taking part in my first Diversity Spotlight Thursday. I think this feature is a fantastic idea. It allows us to share our love for a book we’ve already read & then we also get to talk about books we want to get all grabby hands over. I’m just thrilled to share more diverse books! Let’s do this! 🙂

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READ DIVERSE BOOK
E M P R E S S  O F  A  T H O U S A N D  S K I E S  B Y  R H O D A  B E L L E Z A 

This was a semi recent read for me and oh my goodness, I absolutely loved it. I actually have a review of it on the other blog I co-blog at, Novel Ink, that you all can check out here. I’m in a huge reading slump and this book really helped me start to get out of it so heck yes to that. This is a SFF that will have you intrigued from beginning to end. The plot was somewhat predictable but I was still 100% into the story. Not only did I love the whole storyline, but I adored each character. The characters were so wonderful and I really connected with them which was fabulous. You really just feel apart of the world when your’e reading Empress of a Thousand Skies. 

G O O D R E A D S  |  A M A Z O N

TBR DIVERSE BOOK

I R O N  C A S T  B Y  D E S T I N Y  S O R I A 

This book. I don’t know why I haven’t picked it up yet because I have heard so many rave reviews. Okay, I lied, I know why I haven’t picked it up yet. I’m not into historical fiction that much, but I think this one will blow me away and put my dislike towards the genre in the dust. I just keep hearing about how every aspect of this book keeps you intrigued. The only thing that I have heard bad about this book is the first 50 pages are a bit slow, but then it just takes off and has blown it’s readers away. Really, guys, I’m super excited to read this book and I have it from the library right now so I’d say…keep an eye out for my review in the near future! 😉

G O O D R E A D S  |  A M A Z O N

COMING SOON DIVERSE BOOK

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Goodreads Summary:

Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?

This book sounds wonderful and I don’t know why it wasn’t on my TBR (*hint* it is now). I feel like the topic that it covers will reach out to many people, if done well, and I think that is much needed. Keep your eyes peeled for 10 Things I Can See From Here.

R E L E A S E  D A T E :  2 8 T H  F E B R U A R Y

G O O D R E A D S  |  A M A Z O N


P O S T S  F R O M  A R O U N D  T H E  B L O G O S P H E R E

Sanne @ Sanne in Bookland | Jo @ Once Upon a Bookcase

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