New Updates for Read Yourself Happy

Are y’all ready for a bunch of new content in 2021!! I know I am!

Since I didn’t get to do a lot of the things that I had planned in 2020, this new year is going to be chock-full of exciting things for Read Yourself Happy!

No need for a bunch of preamble. Let’s get right to what’s new!

  • An actual schedule, and preparing content in advance. This was probably my biggest downfall in 2020. I never once sit down and actually planned out my blog posts or Instagram photos. As a result, I rarely got around to posting anything. This year, however, I already have a content calendar going, as well as tons of content prepped.
  • Booktube is a priority. I enjoyed filming and posting the (very) few videos I uploaded to YouTube, but seemed to find a lot of excuses when it came time to actually filming stuff. This is a huge priority for me in 2021. My goal is three videos per week, but it might end up being more than that. One thing you probably won’t see too much of, however, are vlogs. I very rarely enjoy reading or lifestyle vlogs, and don’t feel that my life is exciting enough to warrant those types of videos. What can you expect? Lots of reviews, tags, hauls (and unhauls), mental health updates, and discussions about having a speech impediment, being bipolar, and stuff of that nature.
  • Read the world! If you’re one of the few who have been around since the very beginning (and if you are, THANK YOU!), you may remember that in 2018 I attempted to do a Read the World challenge wherein I would choose three countries every month and read books from there and talk about their literary traditions. As is very often the case, I bit off way more than I could chew and got burned out within the very first month. My goal in 2021 is far simpler: read a book from as many countries as possible. I’ve already gathered quite a few to get started. I love reading books in translation. It’s a way for me to travel the world while staying in place. I’ve always prioritized translated literature, so the only real difference is that now I’m trying to focus on hitting every nation at least once. I’m learning German at the moment as well, and I’m going to be reading a lot of German children’s books until I’m ready to graduate myself up to middle-grade and young adult literature. In December my goal is to read Der Kleine Hobbit.
  • A Facebook reading and discussion group. This is something that I’ve wanted to do since the start of this blog. I would love the opportunity to get to know you guys better and do monthly buddy reads. The group is very new and sparsely populated at the moment, but obviously, as it grows it’ll get more interesting.
  • Crushing my 250 Goodreads Reading Challenge. I will kill it this year. This past year I had an ongoing reading slump preventing me from reading as much as I usually do, plus this was the year that I discovered how fun Minecraft is. (Yes, I know I’m a decade late. What else is new?) My biggest goal this year is to get my physical TBR down to a manageable number. Right now it’s in the hundreds, primarily because I have absolutely no self-control.

That’s all I’ve got, but for me, it’s a lot to look forward to. I’m really eager to start blogging again in earnest, as well as to have plenty of content ready in case I have days where my mood swings a bit lower and I don’t feel like writing or filming.

All the usual stuff will still be around too, like weekly book and comic book releases, and daily Kindle deals.

If y’all have any recommendations for things you’d like to see on the blog, Instagram account, or YouTube channel, let me know! I’m always open to new suggestions!

I hope every single one of you have a great 2021! Here’s to a brand new year!

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A Look Back At 2020

A look back at 2020, a year that most of us are ready to leave behind.

2020. It’s been one hell of a year.

Plague. Explosions. A tumultuous presidential election. Isolation. Protests. Violence. Etc, etc. I think everyone is breathing a collective sigh of relief that this year has come to an end.

My blogging suffered a lot in 2020. I don’t think I even need to make excuses about why that was. We all know how rough this year has been.

I’m adamant that 2021 is going to be better, at least in terms of Read Yourself Happy. I’ve got so much fun stuff planned out!

For now, however, let’s look back at 2020.

This was the year that I took the leap and switched from a site to a completely self-hosted one. Talk about a learning curve! I’m not the most tech-savvy person in the world, so even though the transition happened months ago, I’m still getting everything straightened out.

I failed miserably at my Goodreads challenge. My boyfriend and I have a bet every year based on that reading goal. If I win, he buys me a super-fancy book or book collection; if he wins (and I don’t meet the goal), he gets a fancy cologne (something that he collects). I lost by a bit last year, but this year…

Yeah…… Not hitting 250 this year. That screenshot is from December 30th.

I’m still super happy with the amount I read, however. Any amount of reading I consider a victory.

My best and worst books of 2020 lists will be coming early next week, so keep an eye out for that. I read mostly backlist titles this year, although I did make space for a few new releases, like V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

Like many companies, my employer switched to work-from-home back in March (March 19th actually – it was a nice birthday surprise for me!), and I’m obsessed. I hope I never have to go back to the office! Working from home has improved my mental health by an incredible amount. Obviously, WFH isn’t for everyone, especially extroverts. However, as an introvert who needs silence to be productive, I’m absolutely thriving.

My overall mental health has held up surprisingly well, all things considered. A few medication changes, but nothing major. I’m still learning to deal with bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression, but these are conditions I’ll be living with for the rest of my life.

While I’m wary of what 2021 will bring, I’m confident that at least in the book and blogging portions of my life, things are looking up. I’m so excited to be sharing more regular content with y’all!

Let’s kick 2021 off with a bang! Get your reading lists ready!

What was your 2020 like? Are you happy or sad that it’s over? Tell me about the best thing that happened to you this year down in the comments!

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Top Ten Tuesday – My Favorite Non-Fiction Books of 2020

For Top Ten Tuesday, here are my ten favorite non-fiction books of 2020.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly tag run by That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out her blog for the rules and weekly prompts.

This week’s topic is Favorite Books of 2020. Since I already have that particular list coming out soon, I decided I’d instead share my Favorite Non-Fiction Books of 2020.

Let’s get started!

Less Than Crazy Bipolar II Karla Dougherty

Less Than Crazy: Living Fully with Bipolar II by Karla Dougherty

Goodreads | Amazon

I’ve discussed before on this blog about my bipolar II diagnosis, and this was the first book that I picked up on the topic. It’s full of great information, from how to manage and recognize mania and depression, facts about common medications, and more. It’s become one of my go-to books when I need to look up something related to my condition.

When You're Not Ok - Jill Stark

When You’re Not OK: A Toolkit for Tough Times by Jill Stark

Goodreads | Amazon

This pocket-sized book is full of great advice for dealing with tough situations. I keep it next to my bed for those times when I’m panicking or feeling anxious and need a reminder that everything is going to be okay. When You’re Not Ok would make a great gift for just about anyone.

The Hidden World of the Fox

The Hidden World of the Fox by Adele Brand

Goodreads | Amazon

It should come as no surprise to anyone that reads this blog that I’m obsessed with foxes. I’ve grown up watching these elusive creatures and love their personalities and ability to thrive anywhere. Adele Brand does a great job of introducing the reader to everything you could ever want to know about foxes.

Death is but a dream christopher kerr

Death is But a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life’s End by Dr. Christopher Kerr

Goodreads | Amazon

I very recently reviewed this book. It was a fascinating look at the end-of-life experience of hospice patients. I think it’s important to read books confronting death, as it’s the only thing certain in life.

The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America by Langdon Cook

Goodreads | Amazon

Taking place mostly along the Pacific Northwest, Langdon Cook joins up with mushroom hunters and writes about his experiences. It’s an endlessly entertaining book. Not only is the information about mushrooms fascinating, but the mushroom hunters themselves are very interesting people.

Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft

Goodreads | Amazon

No one will ever change my mind that this book should be required reading for everyone. While it’s primarily written towards women, everyone can benefit from Bancroft’s examples of abusive relationships. From how to spot an abuser to what to do if you find yourself in a dangerous relationship, this book contains everything you need to protect yourself from all forms of abuse.

For the Love of Books: Stories of Literary Lives, Banned Books, Author Feuds, Extraordinary Characters, and More by Graham Tarrant

Goodreads | Amazon

This book was so much fun to read! Covering all types of literature, Tarrant finds the most fascinating stories and authors to talk about. This book would make a perfect gift for any bibliophiles in your life.

An Environmental History of the Civil War by Judkin Browning & Timothy Silver

Goodreads | Amazon

I love history, but an environmental history of a single war is something that I’ve never had the pleasure of reading. I greedily consumed it, finishing it in just a couple of days. The authors discussed how the elements, illnesses, and animals impacted the outcome of individual battles and the overall war. I would love to find similar books about other conflicts. It was such a fascinating way to look at a historical event.

Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee

Goodreads | Amazon

One of my strongest beliefs is that, as a society, we put far too much stock in our jobs and not enough in our free time. That’s exactly what this book is about, and Celeste Headlee does a great job of convincing the reader of this. I wish books like this didn’t have to be written, but our culture pushes so many people to devote their entire lives to work. I know far too many people who don’t have a single hobby. If you’re one of these people, please read this book.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

Goodreads | Amazon

This no-nonsense self-help book won’t be for everyone, but it spoke to me in a way that few other self-help books have. Two of my least favorite aspects of the entire self-help genre are the pandering and calls to “manifest your desires.” Manson doesn’t do that. His approach is to call you out on not taking responsibility for your actions and persuading you to take control of your own life. It was exactly the motivation I needed in my life.

What were your favorite non-fiction books of 2020? Let me know down in the comments!

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The Illustrated Book of Mindful Meditations for Mindless Moments by Courtney E Ackerman – A Review

Courtney E. Ackerman’s The Illustrated Book of Mindful Meditations for Mindless Moments is a short book with advice on how to use mindfulness in your everyday life.

The Illustrated Book of Mindful Meditations for Mindless Moments by Courtney E. Ackerman
Non-Fiction | Meditation & Mindfulness | Self-Help
Published by Adams Media
Released December 29th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Mindfulness and meditation have both been huge influences on my quality of life since I discovered books about the subjects at my local library back in 2006. As a result of that and of wanting to constantly expand my knowledge, I’m ready to pick up any book about these topics.

When I requested The Illustrated Book of Mindful Meditations for Mindless Moments from Adams Media, I was expecting an adorable, illustrated guide to mindfulness. And that’s exactly what it was… sort of. Unfortunately, the advice contained within these 190 pages felt shallow. As someone who’s been reading and studying up on the subject for years, I learned absolutely nothing. I can’t be sure, but I feel that someone completely new to the subject would also struggle to learn anything useful.

Courtney E Ackerman

I hate having to give this small book such a low star rating, but I was very disappointed. I’ve seen plenty of small, easy-to-digest meditation books done so much better.

Here are a few examples of the “advice” contained in this book:

  • “Look out the window and take note of what you see. Count the birds or the telephone poles. Look at the trees or hanging flags and decide whether it’s windy or not.”
  • “Whether you sign in online or write out a check, notice the movements your hands and arms make as you pay your bills. Feel the smoothness of the pen in your hand or the keys on your keyboard.”
  • “As your coworkers chat nearby, take a minute to listen. Don’t eavesdrop, but take note of the tone of the conversation. Hear the rise and fall of their voices as the discussion continues.”

These are the only words written on each page. There’s no real introduction to what mindfulness meditation is. The advice goes no deeper than what you just read.

The illustrations on every other page are sort of cute, but this book seems like a waste of printing material. I feel horrible saying it, but there are a thousand better books about mindfulness meditation, including on how to use it in your day to day life.

My recommendation is to skip The Illustrated Book of Mindful Meditations for Mindless Moments. It’s not worth the $15.99 US price tag. Instead, pick up Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are or Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness.

What’s the best book on mindfulness meditation that you’ve read? Let me know in the comments!

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Weekend Update – Dec 26 2020

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!

I’m so excited about getting closer to the beginning of 2021! I’ve got so many things planned for this blog, my Instagram page, and my YouTube channel. 2020 was crazy for everyone, and I sort of fell off from blogging frequently. My goal is to stay far more motivated in 2021!

As we near the end of the year, there are a ton of book lists and reward lists being releases. Here are a few:

My own best and worst of lists will be coming early January, so keep an eye out!

Rachel Kadish, author of The Weight of Ink, a novel set during the plague years of 1665-66 in London, discusses the question “Do you feel like your living in your own novel?” [Slate]

34-year-old Shannon Hennig was stressed and busy and failed to notice signs of congestive heart failure. This is a great reminder to pay attention to your body even when life is crazy. [Business Insider]

Everyone knows by now that social media can be detrimental to your mental health. Here are a few great tips to make your time on Facebook less stressful. [Make Use Of]

Cult-classic Firefly is coming back in 2021 as a comic book series from Boom! Studios! I will 100% be reading, but as it takes place after the events in Serenity, I suppose it means I’ll have to acknowledge that a certain death definitely took place, which I like to pretend otherwise. [Boing Boing]

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First, Wear a Mask by Dr. Philip M. Tierno, Jr – A Review

First, Wear a Face Mask: A Doctor’s Guide to Reducing Risk of Infection During the Pandemic and Beyond by Dr. Philip M. Tierno, Jr.
Non-fiction | Health | Current Events | Medical
Published by Rodale Publishing
Released 1 September 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When Rodale Publishing reached out to me for a review of First, Wear a Mask, I immediately said yes. It felt like an important book to read and discuss during this world-wide COVID-19 pandemic. As it’s a very straight-forward book, this won’t be a very long review.

Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr

It’s a short book at just 125 pages. It literally covers everything – how to clean every surface and item you can imagine, the best homemade cleaning supplies, how to travel safely, how to sanitize your mail, how to keep germs to a minimum in your home – again, just about everything. The information contained within First, Wear a Mask left me feeling confident in my ability to protect myself and my family.

I appreciated all of the information, but there were a few times where it may have gotten a little too over the top. For example, his suggestion that you take your own cleaning supplies to hotels to clean the room before staying there. If you want to do that, great – do it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making sure you’re in a clean environment. Personally, however, I’m choosing not to go to those lengths. (As an aside, I worked in hotels for most of my twenties. One of them was a very upscale resort hotel and the other a pretty cheap beach hotel. Most of my friends also work in hospitality, some of them specifically in housekeeping. In all cases, I never came across situations where the rooms weren’t being properly cleaned. I’m sure it happens, but in my experience, it isn’t common.)

I’d really recommend this short, informative book to everyone. From people just getting out on their own to older people who have been cleaning up after themselves for decades, there is bound to be some bit of information within these pages that will teach you something new. `

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Death is But a Dream by Christopher Kerr – A Review

Death is But a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life’s End by Christopher Kerr, MD, PhD
Nonfiction | Memoir | Medical
Published by Avery Publishing Group
Released 11 February 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Most of the non-fiction I read tends to have self-help or historical themes. Lately, however, I’ve been more and more interested in the more spiritual side of things. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but who knows.

When I was approached by a publicist to review Dr. Christopher Kerr’s Death is But a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life’s End, I was hesitant but interested. I’m glad I agreed to read and review it, however, because it taught me a lot about the end of life process.

Dr. Christopher Kerr

Dr. Kerr is a hospice doctor, and this book is a collection of his observations about what patients experience on their death beds. He takes a strikingly non-spiritual and non-religious view of the dying process, which made the book even more interesting to me. His views on the experiences of his dying patients were based on science and his own observations.

With tons of patient stories and anecdotes, Dr. Kerr recounts the plethora of patients who have experienced seeing their loved ones, who have passed on before them, in their last few days of life. Likewise, he discusses the overwhelming sense of peace that many people experience in their last days or hours.

While many people might chalk these experiences up to hallucinations, senility, or the side effects of heavy doses of medications, Dr. Kerr makes the point that it doesn’t necessarily matter what is causing these visions – the only thing that matters is how they make the patients feel, which is overwhelmingly more peaceful and happier during an otherwise stressful time.

My only complaint about this book is that I wished Dr. Kerr had used more statistics and stories from other types of doctors – possibly trauma surgeons or ICU nurses – to get a different perspective on other types of patients. It’s a very small gripe though because overall, reading this book was an enlightening experience.

I’d recommend Death is But a Dream to anyone interested in death, the experiences of terminally ill patients, and those who want a non-religious look at the end of life. Death is But a Dream is a beautifully written account of the experiences of dying patients of all ages, their families and loved ones, and the doctors and nurses who care for them in hospice.

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My Life in Books 2020

I saw this fun challenge over on Fictionophile’s blog and wanted to give it a shot. It was created by Annabel at Annabookbel. The goal is to answer the prompts using only titles you’ve read in 2020. If I have a review for the selected books, I’ll link to it for y’all.

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Abridged vs Unabridged – What’s the Difference?

joao-silas-51725-unsplash (1)

I’ve been trying to get into audiobooks lately. I have a subscription to Scribd and have also been using Audible and Hoopla to listen to them.

psst: if you aren’t already subscribed to Audible, click here to sign up for a free trial and get two free audiobooks!

Something I’ve begun to notice is that many of the audiobooks I come across, particularly long fantasy and self-help books, are that they are abridged. I avoid abridged books at all times.

A few days ago I was talking to a friend about being frustrated that one of the books I was trying to find an audiobook for I could only find an abridged version, and she asked me what the difference between abridged and unabridged was. So, I thought it’d explain it here on the blog as well.

When a book is abridged, it’s a shortened, more concise version of the book. Someone reading or listening to an abridged version of a book will still understand the plot and themes of the book, but might miss out on the smaller scenes.

An abridged book is sometimes a great choice for students who don’t have enough time to listen to the much-longer original version of a book or to people who want to understand a book in a short period of time.

Unabridged, however, is the original, full-length version of the book. This is the route I always go, and for people reading for fun, it’s probably the best option.

It’s pretty simple, but knowing the difference between abridged and unabridged is important when seeking out literature.

Do you prefer abridged or unabridged books? Let me know in the comments!

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Earth A.D. by Michael Lee Nirenberg – A Review

Earth A.D.: The Poisoning of the American Landscape and the Communities That Fought Back by Michael Lee Nirenberg
Non-fiction | Environmental
Published by Process
Released 28 July 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Michael Lee Niremberg

In Earth A.D.: The Poisoning of the American Landscape and the Communities That Faught Back, Michael Lee Nirenberg takes a microscope to two American environmental disasters: Tar Creek in Oklahoma and Greenpoint in Brooklyn, NY.

They are very different places. Tar Creek is isolated and remote in northeast Oklahoma, while Greenpoint is right in the middle of New York City. Tar Creek was once a bustling mining town and Greenpoint has had a variety of people make the area their home.

The book is written in an interview format, which bothered me. It distracted me from the conversation. I wished Nirenberg would have taken all of his interviews and compiled them into a more approachable narrative. Nirenberg is better known as a documentary filmmaker, which might explain his use of this format, but again, it would have been more linear and understandable as a narrative.

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint, Brooklyn NYC

I very much appreciated that Nirenberg didn’t just speak to people that were promoting environmental stewardship – he also spoke to the politicians and people responsible for making the mess in the first place or failing to clean it up properly. While I’m very much on the side of the environmentalists, non-fiction books, especially books about current events, are significantly better when they contain information from both sides.

Tar Creek Superfund Site

Earth A.D. teaches the reader that it is very possible to pursue environmental justice within your community. It’s the type of inspiration that a lot of people living in polluted areas need. At the same time, however, Nirenberg’s interviewees don’t hide the fact that it’s immensely difficult to do. There’s so much red tape, bureaucracy, and cover-ups that citizens have to really fight to get what they want.

I’d recommend this book to anyone interesting in environmental stewardship or that have a connection to either Tar Creek or Greenpoint. Overall, however, for the casual reader, this might be a book worth skipping. I’m sure there are other options for more readable books on the topic.

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Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline – A Review

Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
Horror | Thriller
Published by William Morrow
Released (in the US) 28 July 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m usually wary of contemporary horror. I’m sure there are some amazing examples of the genre out there, but thus far I haven’t been a particularly huge fan of what I’ve read. Cherie Dimaline’s Empire of Wild changed that track record for me. It’s an enticing monster story full of culture and personality.

Set in rural Canada among an indigenous family, our main character, Joan, searches for her missing husband. Everyone else has told her to give up as it’s been a year, but she’s not ready to let go. One night, she gets a shock when she sees her husband in a religious revival tent. Despite this man insisting that he is not Victor, her husband, Joan is determined to prove to herself and this man that he is in fact her husband.

Cherie Dimaline

Woven throughout the story is the folklore of the rogarou – a werewolf-like creature that takes people when they’re not expecting it. I know very little about indigenous Canadian folklore and legend, but this novel drew me in from the very first page. The ominous monster hides in the backdrop of the whole story, but at the same time, I found myself questioning Joan’s sanity and wondering if this monster was real or not.

Joan is a very relentless character who is repeatedly told that she’s wrong, but refuses to give up. To her, this is her last chance to get her husband back, and she’ll do anything to wake him up from the new life he’s living.

The novel is fast-paced, and I flew through it in a couple of days. I love novels where the protagonist has to question their sanity, and this was a great example of that sort of book. The characters are well-rounded and work well together, although I would have loved more of Ajean, the oldest (and wisest) person in Joan’s village.

Cherie Dimaline’s writing was beautiful and she deftly wove realism and horror together. It’s a wonderful addition to the speculative fiction genre.

The ending was wonderful, and I would love for there to be a sequel. I would read it the very second I got my hands on it. It’s not an ending that is wrapped up neatly, however, so if you’re the type of reader who needs a solid, wrapped-up ending, you may find yourself disappointed.

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Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson – A Review

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Magical Realism | Contemporary
Published by Ecco
Released October 29, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here is a short novel about found family and children that catch on fire.

Yes, you read that right.

I chose Nothing to See Here as one of my Book of the Month picks several months ago (or maybe a year ago, I can’t remember) because the idea of spontaneous human combustion in a non-fantasy or science fiction novel intrigued me.

The story takes place in modern time and follows Lillian, a woman who pretty much has no life and nothing going for her. One day, out of the blue, her old school friend Madison contacts her with a mysterious job opportunity that has to be discussed face to face.

Lillian arrives at Madison’s mansion after years of not speaking. Madison has married a senator and is rich beyond belief. Madison offers Lillian the position of governess to her husband’s two children from a previous marriage. Once Lillian accepts, Madison tells her about the children’s “condition” – they catch on fire when they’re upset.

Agreeing to take care of the two children, Lillian moves into a guesthouse on the property and starts caring for twins Bessie and Roland. After a few incidents involving fire, Lillian helps them grow and learn how to manage their mysterious affliction.

While Nothing To See Here was an entertaining novel, it wasn’t anything particularly great. It was perfectly average. Sort of like a kinda fun movie you see once and enjoy but never watch again. This isn’t to say it’s bad, because it’s not, but for me it was just average.

I did enjoy the surrealism of spontaneous human combustion juxtaposed over our modern world. It added a unique element to the story. I also liked the characters of Bessie and Roland, but especially Bessie. Very no-nonsense and smart for a child her age, she ended up being my favorite character in the book (although there weren’t many others to choose from – so many of the characters are boring or unlikeable).

What I didn’t like was Lillian. She was such a boring character. The only thing she seems to enjoy in life or even think about is basketball. She takes the job because she’s pretty much a dead-beat that doesn’t do anything else. I in no way sympathized with her.

There’s also an awkward romance situation between Lillian and Madison that seemed a bit out of place. Perhaps if it had been explained further in the novel it would have meant more to me as a reader.

I won’t be reading this book again, and there’s nothing I can particularly recommend about it. If it sounds intriguing to you, however, definitely pick it up. It took me less than a day to finish.

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New Book Releases for 10 November 2020

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The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey – A Review

The Book of Koli (Rampart Trilogy #1) by M.R. Carey
Science Fiction | Post-Apocalyptic
Published by Orbit
Released 14 April 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As someone whose favorite genre is post-apocalyptic, I have very high standards for it. Few books reach the god-tier of the genre, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Stephen King’s The Stand. So many new post-apocalyptic books fall into the trap of cliches and over-used scenarios. To my absolute delight, M. R. Carey’s The Book of Koli, exceeding my expectations. While not in the god-tier category, it’s a contribution to the genre and a book that I can’t stop recommending.

The Book of Koli follows a teenage boy named Koli who lives in Mythen Rood, a small, walled city in Britain. The outside world is hostile: humanity has destroyed itself in the Unfinished War, and genetically-engineered trees have become violent. While there are other villages, they are too far apart for easy communication and trade, so to the people of Mythen Rood, they are essentially alone.

In Mythen Rood, the community is controlled by Ramparts, people who have been able to speak to ancient technology. Technology is seen as sacred due to both its rareness and the lack of knowledge about it. Everyone in the village has an opportunity to test their ability to “wake” a piece of technology to become a Rampart, but almost everyone walks away disappointed.

Koli wants more than anything to be a Rampart, but his dreams are dashed when he fails to wake any technology. However, he doesn’t give up and makes a series of questionable and brave choices to try again. As a consequence, he finds himself exiled from Mythen Rood. People in the village rarely leave the safety of the walls, so everything is new to Koli. He’s forced to use his own wits and abilities to survive in a very dangerous world.

Technology versus humanity is an old trope in post-apocalyptic and science fiction literature, but M.R. Carey puts a unique spin on it, making it feel fresh. More than anything, The Book of Koli is about constructs of society, blind faith, and corruptibility.

One aspect of this book that I wasn’t crazy over was that the trees had been bred to walk and consume flesh. It was too outlandish for me, but not out of bounds for science fiction. It’s a personal preference that I didn’t enjoy this element, so for many of you, it might not be an issue. Fortunately, that part of the book is a background element that provides life to the setting but doesn’t influence much else.

I was fascinated by the societies made by the remnants of humanity. While Mythen Rood is the focus of much of this first book of the Rampart Trilogy, we also meet a large group of people living in a tunnel and worshiping their messiah, Senlas. In both instances, the communities have almost blind faith in their leadership, whether that’s a group of technology-baring politicians and a religious prophet.

The people in the world are very isolated from one another, and as a result, there’s very little genetic diversity. Koli comes to realize the dangers of this with the help of his friend Ursula, a traveling doctor who he unexpectedly runs into outside of Mythen Rood’s gates. As a result of both a dwindling population and reduced gene pool, people are no longer successfully having children. Communities are at constant risk of dying off, and Koli wants to do something about it. From the ending of The Book of Koli, the second book in this trilogy will focus more on Koli’s efforts to do just that.

The first several chapters of this book were difficult to read due to Koli’s vernacular. People in his world are poorly educated in reading and writing, and it shows in the book, which is in the format of a diary written by Koli. One of the first examples I found in the book was in the first chapter: “Judging is what them that listen does for them that tell.” Sentence structure, misspellings, and bizarre wording can make parts of this book hard to read. There were a few moments early on when I considered DNF-ing it due to this element. I’m very happy that I stuck with it, however, because eventually you stop noticing it as much and the story takes off.

Despite Koli being 15 at the start of the book, I would not call this a young adult novel, although I have seen it classified as such. It reads as adult science fiction and deals with mature ideas. While there’s no explicit or graphic scenes, this is a pretty dark novel that I would definitely catalogue as adult fiction.

The Book of Koli is meant to be read as a trilogy, not as individual books. While there is an “end” to this first book, it’s really just setting up the next two novels in the series. Usually, I like each book in a series being their own self-contained story, but it didn’t bother me so much in this instance. I was incredibly intrigued and do want to read the rest of the story, and readers won’t have to wait for the next books. The publisher’s plan for the trilogy is to release all three books within 10 months. As someone who has absolutely no patience, I’m thrilled that they’re publishing the books as quickly as they are.

If you like post-apocalyptic stories or stories that involve nature trying to tear down humanity, then I very much recommend The Book of Koli. I’m eagerly waiting to read the second installation, The Trials of Koli, which is already out, along with the forthcoming final book in the trilogy, The Fall of Koli. M. R. Carey has created a unique world that asks us hard questions about society, and it’s very much worth the read.

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The Hidden World of the Fox by Adele Brand – A Review

The Hidden World of the Fox by Adele Brand
Non-Fiction | Environment
Published by William Morrow
Released 22 October 2019
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s no mystery to readers of Read Yourself Happy that I love foxes. The logo has a fox in it, a lot of images I make for the blog involve foxes. I make heavy use of the fox emoji on Twitter. I find foxes to be beautiful and intriguing creatures and have long been drawn to them.

Therefore it would shock nobody that I eagerly bought Adele Brand’s The Hidden World of the Fox. A short book at just 193 pages, Adele Brand uses years of research and her own observations to unlock the secrets of these elusive creatures. As Brand lives in the United Kingdom, the book focuses a bit on British foxes, but most of the information is universal.

I couldn’t have asked for more from this book. I wanted fox facts and stories, and I got exactly that. Her anecdotes about her neighborhood foxes and the urban foxes she tracked down in the middle of London were delightful.

Aside from personal anecdotes, there are also plenty of hard facts and information for fox lovers and wildlife lovers more generally. With chapters focusing on the evolution and dispersal of foxes, what they eat, how humans have changed their behavior, and more, I walked away from The Hidden World of the Fox more informed and even more in love with these beautiful creatures.

I know this is a short review, but there’s really not much else that I can say about it. If you love foxes like I do, or if you want to know more about these creatures that live all over the world (literally), then I 100% recommend Adele Brand’s The Hidden World of the Fox.

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