On The Beach by Nevil Shute – A Review

Nevil Shute’s classic post-apocalyptic novel On The Beach is an unemotional look at the aftermath of a worldwide nuclear war.

On the Beach by Nevil Shute
Released July 1, 1957
Published by Vintage International
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Nevil Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel On the Beach officially wins the award for the most disappointing book that I’ve ever read.

I’ve said a million times that post-apocalyptic fiction is my favorite genre. Books like The Road, Station Eleven, and The Stand always give me chills.

On the Beach is a well-known classic of the genre. I’m honestly shocked that it took me so long to finally read it.

The novel was written after Nevil Shute, both an author and aeronautical engineer, moved from the U.K. to Australia. Set a year after a devastating worldwide nuclear war, a group of survivors in Melbourne, Australia live out their final days as a cloud of fatal radiation spreads across the Earth.

The characters deal with their impending demise in quite different ways. A young couple, Lieutenant Peter Holmes and his wife Mary, make plans for a garden; US Commander Dwight Towers attends to his naval duties, despite the US Navy no longer existing; Moria Davidson spends much of her time drinking; Professor John Osborne fulfills his lifelong desire to drive a racecar.

Shute’s book is very much a character-driven novel as opposed to a plot-driven one. There’s actually very little plot. We follow these characters as they attempt to live their lives as much as they are able to in what little time they have left. Meanwhile, the nuclear apocalypse that has taken place and destroyed the world is little more than an afterthought and plot device.

Nevil Shute
Author Nevil Shute

I found the novel dreadfully boring, and the characters had so little emotion that I was unable to care about them. The entire book felt detached to me. I had gotten my hopes up based on seeing how much praise the book had received. Here’s a paragraph from the book’s Wikipedia page, just to give you an idea:

Historian David McCullough, writing for The New York Times, called On the Beach “the most haunting evocation we have of a world dying of radiation after an atomic war.” The San Francisco Chronicle called it “the most shocking fiction I have read in years. What is shocking about it is both the idea and the sheer imaginative brilliance with which Mr. Shute brings it off.” Daily Telegraph called it “Shute’s most considerable achievement”, and The Times stated that it is “the most evocative novel on the aftermath of a nuclear war.” The Guardian commented that “fictions such as On the Beach played an important role in raising awareness about the threat of nuclear war. We stared into the abyss and then stepped back from the brink.” The Los Angeles Times described the novel as “timely and ironic… an indelibly sad ending that leaves you tearful and disturbed”, and The Economist called it “still incredibly moving after nearly half a century.”

My frustration grew as I read further into the novel. The main reason for this was Shute’s habit of building up an event that’s about to happen and then skipping over it entirely. For example, Commander Towers leads his submarine on a tour of the western coast of the U.S. up to Seattle, where strange radio signals have been detected. No one should have been able to survive in North America. Shute writes about the preparations for the journey, but then literally skips most of the trip until they get to Seattle. We get a brief look at one building in the city, where the radio tower is, and then they’re back in Australia. There’s more time spent on the characters drinking and fixing a race car than on the journey to America or on anything having to do with the apocalypse.

As I already mentioned, this is a character-driven story, so in a way I understand it. However, the characters are so flat that there needed to be some sort of plot to make up for it, and there wasn’t.

One aspect of the characters that I found hard to fathom was their unnatural calmness. They’re the last people in the world, and no one seems all that upset. There’s no rioting in the streets, hardly any crying, and people seem to just not care. I found it extremely unrealistic.

The science in this book is far from realistic, but I can’t hold that against it. Nuclear science and radiation weren’t fully understood in the 1950s when this book was written.

There are so many better post-apocalyptic novels out there, so I can’t recommend this one. I was so sad to discover how plain this novel was and how unemotional the writing felt. There have been two films made based on On the Beach, and I might give those a try, but as for the novel, save your time and read something else.

New Book Releases for January 12th, 2021

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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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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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This Little Light by Lori Lansens – Book Review

Lori Lansen’s “This Little Light” is a young adult, light dystopian story about two teenage girls on the run from Christian fundamentalist bounty hunters.

This Little Light by Lori Lansens

Contemporary | Dystopian | Young Adult
Published by The Overlook Press (Abrams)
Released 11 August 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I kept seeing Lori Lansens’ This Little Light described as a dystopian novel, so I was excited to give it a shot. Dystopia, especially young adult dystopia, is a genre that has been done to death. Starting with The Hunger Games, there were years of YA dystopian novels being pushed by publishers, most of them not worth your time.

I would love the genre to make a comeback, however, so I’m always on the lookout for something new. This Little Light is a very light dystopia, where Christian fundamentalists have gained power and abortion has become illegal.

Two teenage girls, Rory and Fee, are forced to flee after an explosion at the American Virtue Ball they’re attending. The novel is told from Rory’s perspective, as she live-blogs the entire situation.

The first thing I want to mention is that events like the American Virtue Ball actually happen. The point of these “Purity balls” is to promote abstinence and to promise your fathers and god that you’ll abstain from sex until marriage. Just like in This Little Light, fathers present their daughters with some kind of gift (ring, necklace, etc.) in exchange for their daughters promising a vow of chastity to their fathers. I’m not going to get really deep into this, except to say that it creeps me out, women are not possessions of men, and that abstinence doesn’t work.

The blog format was interesting. On the one hand, it propels the narrative forward and portrays a sense of panic to the reader. At the same time, however, I found it irritating. Rory would write things like:

“Holy shit.

Just heard something, and it wasn’t the wind. There’s a truck on the road, and it’s coming this way.”

I find it to be unrealistic that someone would type that instead of just jumping up to investigate, especially when they’re literally being hunted by bounty hunters. I understand why Lori Lansens went with this format because, again, it does add a sense of urgency to the story, but it would have worked just as well as a more typical first-person narrative.

The biggest issue I had with this novel is that the reaction to the book’s inciting event is excessive and it requires a suspension of disbelief. There’s a small explosion at the American Virtue Ball (where no one is killed) and the person running the show (whose name is Jagger Jonze, by the way) puts up a million-dollar bounty to track Rory and Fee down. There’s no real evidence that they’re responsible for the explosion, and I found it hard to believe that the entire nation would rally behind this and start tracking down two teenage girls. For this level of reaction, something much bigger and more important should have occurred.

I don’t know if this is because I’m getting old, but I struggled with Rory’s vernacular. The author is 58 years old but is writing from the perspective of a 16-year-old. Lansens uses a particular sentence structure over and over again that really annoyed me:

“We live in Calabass, California, which is famous because Kardashians.”

Maybe young people today do talk like that, but it bothers the crap out of me. Obviously, this is a personal preference, so it might not bother you at all, but “a because b” is not proper English.

All of the characters in This Little Light are incredibly rich and privileged, which usually turns me off of a book. So I really appreciated that Lori Lansens wrote Rory to be hyper-aware of her privilege and how lucky she is compared to the majority of the world. It made her character a little easier to stomach.

This isn’t a book that I can recommend. Much better options would be Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, both novels that are highly deserving of your attention. I appreciate what Lori Lansens was attempting to with This Little Light, but it ultimately fell flat.

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The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell – Book Review

Richard Farrell’s debut novel, The Falling Woman, is a unique mystery story. A woman survives falling out of a plane, and an investigator is tasked with finding out why.

The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell
Mystery | Literary Fiction
Published by Algonquin Books
Released 23 June 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Here’s a morbid fact about me that you might not know: I’m slightly obsessed with plane crashes and their subsequent investigations. I mean, generally, I’m just absolutely in love with planes because we use them to freaking fly. Sometimes I even enjoy the flight more than the destination! For this review, though, let’s just focus on the plane crash part.

When I first saw the synopsis of Richard Farrell’s The Falling Woman, I was immediately hooked. The novel is about a woman who falls out of an exploding plane and survives, and the investigator tasked with finding her and learning her story. I’m super thankful for Algonquin for sending me a review copy.

The novel is told is two perspectives, which are woven together perfectly. First, we meet Erin, aka “The Falling Woman.” Dying from advanced pancreatic cancer, she decides to book a flight to a retreat for cancer victims on the west coast in order to get away from everything, including her family, for a bit of time. Then we meet the National Transportation Safety Board Investigator Charlie, who is on his first big assignment. He’s tasked with IDing the victims of the plane crash, and ultimately with discovering the truth of Erin’s survival.

Aside from their parts in the primary plot of the novel, each character has a trial in their own lives that they’re trying to deal with at the same time. For Erin, it’s the cancer that’s killing her, the stoic husband who seems to have no passion in life, and the affair she had. When it comes to Charlie, he’s struggling with his wife’s desire to have children, something that Charlie doesn’t want.

Erin’s story line was intriguing, and it was interesting to learn her motivations for the actions she took and the way she feels about the world and her family. I certainly didn’t agree with everything she did and at times found it difficult to sympathize with her, but I sort of liked that. It can be boring to read about a character who does “all the right things.” We learn why she had the affair, why she’s gone missing after surviving a catastrophic event, and about her outlook on the world, her impending death, and her responsibility to her family. Her story arc fit in nicely with the overall plot of the novel and made her character far more complex.

Charlie’s story arc, however, didn’t add much to the overall book. I suppose the author had to give him some kind of inner conflict because otherwise he would be boring, but I think it could have been more interesting. Whereas Erin’s arc ties directly into the overall plot, Charlie’s didn’t, and I found myself wanting to push through those parts to get to the meatier bits of the story.

Keeping in mind what I said about being mildly obsessed with all things plane related, I was fascinated by the investigation into the crash. A fair bit of time was spent on the ground with the investigators, and is one of the biggest reasons that I enjoyed the novel as much as I did. It makes sense, since author Richard Farrell is a former pilot. One tiny gripe I had was that I wanted more of Lucy’s story. She’s one of Charlie’s fellow investigators and I was intrigued by her from the start.

The overall theme of the story is about how we control our own narrative and life. Erin’s decision to disappear after falling from the plane is something that has heavy impacts on the people around her – her husband, her two daughters, the public who is enthralled with her miraculous story, and the investigators trying to uncover the truth about what happened on the flight. Throughout the story, I found myself thinking about our rights as individuals to determine how we live and what people know, despite what kind of repercussions that could have.

Despite a few minuscule issues with the story, I ended up really enjoying it. The Falling Woman is Richard Farrell’s debut novel, and I will be eager to read anything he comes out with in the future. I’d recommend this novel to anyone wanting a unique mystery to unravel.

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Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew – Book Review

Told in verse, Lucy Cuthew’s Blood Moon tackles public shaming, sexuality, friendship, and more. A must-read for young adults.

Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew
Young Adult | Contemporary
Published by Walker Books US
Released 1 September 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Public shaming has always existed, but it seems far more prevalent and far-reaching in our age of internet and social media. Lucy Cuthew’s Blood Moon is a young adult contemporary novel told in verse that takes a look at the impact of public shaming, as well as the importance of friendship.

Frankie, our main character, is a high school girl who has her first sexual experience, during which her period starts. She and the guy, Benjamin, both agree that it’s not a big deal. (Which is a great thing to be included in a young adult novel – let’s nip that taboo in the bud.) The same week at school, however, Frankie starts to realize that something is up as rumors start flying that Benjamin fingered a girl on her period. On top of that, there are memes about the situation that start making their rounds, horrifying Frankie.

While all of this is happening, Frankie is also dealing with the fallout of a huge fight with her best friend Harriet. At the time when Frankie needs Harriet the most, she’s not there, causing Frankie to navigate the whole sphere of public shaming by herself.

I have a tendency to really enjoy novels told in verse. It sometimes adds a touch of whimsy, other times it is just an interesting way to tell a story. For Blood Moon, I don’t think that it added to the story in any way. I would have felt the same way about the novel if it had been written in prose. The writing style wasn’t bad, I just felt incredibly neutral about it.

More than how Frankie managed the public shaming debacle, I’m glad that Lucy Cuthew focused so much on her troubled friendship with Harriet. I love books that feature healthy friendships, especially young adult books. All friendships have their rough patches, especially in our turbulent teenage years, and realistic portrayals of this is always a healthy aspect to include in a story such as this one.

Frankie’s relationship with her parents and how they react to learning of her sexual exploit and everything that followed was another incredibly strong aspect of this story. Sex isn’t a big deal, and everyone does it. Her parents’ reaction mirrors this perspective, and is a much better way of dealing with teenage sexuality than universally punishing it.

The reason I can’t give this book a full four stars was due to the way the ending was wrapped up too quickly and perfectly. Without giving away too much of the ending, it has to do with Frankie and Harriet’s friendship. I just feel that everything was resolved much too easily.

Overall, Blood Moon is a wholesome and positive novel perfect for pre-teens and teenagers. It reads young, so if you’re an adult fan of YA keep in mind that it’s written for the lower end of the age group. I’d love to see this sort of taboo-tackling, feminist, positive narrative become a new trend for the young adult audience. I know that I would have loved to have access to a book like this when I was a teenager.

A big thank you to Walker Books for the advanced review copy.

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11 Cookbooks for Book Lovers

cookbooks for book lovers

I’m absolutely obsessed with cookbooks, which is why I have over 100. Many of them I inherited from my grandmother, which makes them even more special.

I also love books. Big surprise, right?

As I was browsing Amazon recently, I came across a Game of Thrones cookbook, which is what inspired this article.

Here are the eleven best literary-themed cookbooks that I could find!

A Feast of Ice & Fire by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel & Sariann Lehrer

An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery by Chris-Rachael OseLand

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook edited by Kate White

The Book Lover’s Cookbook by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger & Janet Kay Jensen

Outlander Kitchen by Theresa Carle-Sanders

Kafka’s Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes by Mark Crick

The Necronomnomnom by Mike Slater

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: The Classic Novel with Recipes for Modern Teatime Treats by Jane Austen & Martha Stewart

A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh

Revolting Recipes by Roald Dahl

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz

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The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark – A Review

the black god's drums p djeli clark

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
Science Fiction | Steampunk | Alternate History | Novella
Published by Tor.com
Released August 21st, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I can’t remember the last time I read a really great steampunk story, so I’m thrilled that I finally picked up P. Djèlí Clark’s The Black God’s Drums. At just 112 pages, it’s a short and quick story, but one that is packed with an interesting world, intriguing characters, and a solid plot.

P Djeli Clark
P. Djeli Clark

The Black God’s Drums is a steampunk-fantasy story set during an alternate history where the Civil War agreed to an armistice and New Orleans became a free city. Creeper, our main character, is a teenage girl who lives on the streets and pickpockets newcomers to the city in order to survive. One day, after hearing a group of men plotting over a Haitian scientist coming to town, Creeper tries to sell the information, instead getting tangled up in a race to keep a dangerous weapon out of the hands of the wrong people.

I read the whole thing in a single sitting and wanted more as soon as I finished it. It’s a world that would warrant a full-length novel. I want to know more about The Free Isles, which, in the story, became free after the Haitian Slave Rebellion in 1794 and comprises Haiti and the Caribbean. Using the mysterious weapon known as The Black God’s Drums, won their freedom against the French naval fleet that was on their shores.

I want to know more about the gods and goddesses who live inside of people and can unleash their power through them. I need to know more about Ann-Marie, captain of the airship Midnight Robber.

Clark did an amazing job of weaving history with fantasy and creating a “what if” scenario, and made it even better by adding airships. There’s so much happening in the story, but it never feels overwhelming. I’ve read some novellas where the authors tried to stuff the pages with way too much information that it becomes confusing, and P. Djeli Clark certainly didn’t do that.

One of the things I most appreciated about the novella is that the author didn’t make the female characters (which, by the way, they’re almost all female characters) sexualized or have them fall in love. They simply were awesome and kicked all the ass. I wish more authors would just let their female characters be themselves without forcing awkward romances on them.

The only gripe I have about The Black God’s Drums is that the politics of the world, and of New Orleans specifically, felt a little jumbled. There’s limited space for explanation in a novella, so I get it, but I needed more information on that front.

This was the first piece of literature by P. Djeli Clark that I’ve ever read, and it certainly won’t be the last. I want to read everything by him now because of how impressed I was by The Black God’s Drums. 

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The Great Gatsby: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by K. Woodman-Maynard: A Review

The Great Gatsby K Woodman Maynard

The Great Gatsby: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by K. Woodman-Maynard
Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Graphic Novel | Classics | Literary Fiction
Published by Candlewick Press
Publication Date: January 5th, 2021
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

Adapting a classic and beloved novel into a graphic novel is no easy task, but K. Woodman-Maynard has done a fantastic job of adapting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. 

K Woodman-Maynard
K. Woodman-Maynard

The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books of all time, so I went into this adaptation a little skeptical but wanting to love it. I needn’t have worried though – K. Woodman-Maynard stuck to the roots of the story while making it accessible to a new (and old) audience.

The ARC I received from the publisher was in black and white, but the finished version, set to be released in early January 2021, will be in full color. I actually loved the black and white artwork, but I am eager to see the full-color version! The art is simple and fits this medium perfectly, and also manages to grasp the feelings of extravagance and yearning of the original story.

Great Gastby
Colored preview courtesy of Amazon and the publisher

While it’s impossible to adapt a novel such as The Great Gatsby without leaving some elements of the original story out, Woodman-Maynard kept all the important bits and everything needed to create the same atmosphere and themes of the original. I wouldn’t call The Great Gatsby a difficult classic novel by any means, but I remember not really “getting it” in high school – this may have been a much better medium for me to be introduced to the story.

There’s no substitute for the original F. Scott Fitzgerald novel – there never will be. It’s one of the Great American Novels for a reason and I encourage you to read it if you never have. If it’s a story that you love, however, or if you find the original novel uninteresting (a concept I can’t understand!), picking up K. Woodman-Maynard’s adaptation is an absolute must.

You can tell when a writer and artist loves the story that they’re working on, and Woodman-Maynard’s love of The Great Gatsby shines through clearly in her work.

Thank you Candlewick Press for the free advanced copy for review.

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Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee – A Review


Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee
Nonfiction | Self-Help | Psychology
Published by Harmony
Released March 10th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

If there’s one book that I’ve read this year that I would encourage everyone to read, it would be Celeste Headlee’s Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving. Even though we’re only halfway through the year, I’m confident that this book will still be my top non-fiction recommendation of the year come December.

No one can deny that Americans, and citizens of numerous other nations, are extremely overworked. Most of us rarely stop moving, even after we punch out. We’re always busy and we rarely take time to relax. I’ve talked on the blog before about job-related burnout, and I’ve experienced it for years (especially back when I was working two jobs!).

In Do Nothing, Celeste Headlee makes the case that Americans are too focused on productivity and efficiency, to the detriment of our happiness and health. Rather than working 40+ hours a week and constantly striving to be the best member of your team, she suggests that we slow down and set aside time to relax, have hobbies, and truly rest.

celeste headlee
Celeste Headlee

Before I talk about all the reasons that I love this book and its purpose, I do want to mention that the idea of voluntarily taking time off from work or just simply working less comes from a place of privilege. Obviously, if you’re struggling to put food on the table and pay bills, you’re not going to be able to do it. The reason I rated this book 4.5 stars rather than 5 is due to this book not being practical for everyone.

There are several points that Headlee discusses in her book that are important. First, the tradition of a 40-hour workweek is outdated. This isn’t anything new – there have been plenty of studies that show that workers who work fewer hours are just as productive and are happier at work. The “standard” work week, as we know it, was invented during the Industrial Revolution to maximize the profits of business owners and milk as much productivity out of their workers as they possibly could.

Second, we as a culture are constantly working to improve our productivity and efficiency, even when those things actually make more work for us. Think about it – how many of us use a plethora of apps every single day to track our food, water intake, moods, steps, to-do list, etc? All of this takes time, and while there are benefits to these things, it’s taking away from our precious leisure time. We also take our work home with us through email on our phones and having to be available whenever our bosses need us. We’re not really relaxing if we’re on call 24/7.

Third, and possibly most importantly, Headlee discusses in length the effect that social isolation has on the human psyche. More and more people prefer texting or email over real life social interactions, and that is linked to growing rates of depression and loneliness. No one talks to their neighbors or have backyard barbecues or game nights.

These, along with several other incredibly important issues, are all addressed in length by Headlee. She argues her points succinctly, with plenty of evidence to back up her claims. Everything in the book is easy to understand and is something that most of us likely already know subconsciously, but that desperately needs to be said.

The one thing that I took away from this book that I think will have a lasting impact on me is the suggestion that we can work enough to provide the lifestyle we want, rather than constantly striving for more. I’ll admit it’s not something that has ever crossed my mind consciously but make so much sense. When I picture my future, I don’t see being a manager of a huge company and having an embarrassingly large house (although it’s okay if that’s what you want!); I simply want a modest home with enough land to grow food, be able to take trips occasionally, and not worry about paying my bills or putting food on the table. I’m okay with not being at the top, I just want to be comfortable enough to enjoy life. It’s such a simple concept, but one that’s also easy to forget.

If I haven’t made it clear yet, read this book! I rarely call a book life-changing, but changing our lifestyles to become healthier, happier people is something that we should all be striving for. Work consumes our lives, and few people are actually fulfilled by their jobs – let’s work instead towards the goal of learning to enjoy our leisure time.

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The Guest List by Lucy Foley – A Review

The Guest List Lucy Foley

The Guest List by Lucy Foley
Mystery | Thriller
Published by William Morrow
Released March 19, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

One of the things that I love about Book of the Month is that the service prompts me to read outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been surprised several times in the past, but with Lisa Foley’s The Guest List, it was the biggest surprise of all.

lucy foley.jpg
Lucy Foley

I don’t care for murder mysteries. I never have. In high school and college I tried several times to read Agatha Christie novels, and always DNF’ed them. Over the years I’ve lost count of how many murder mystery novels I’ve put down unfinished. I like dark, morbid stories, so it would make sense for me to love books like these, but it is what it is.

I went into The Guest List skeptically for just that reason, but within the first fifty pages I was hooked. The dark, moody, Irish atmosphere, the multi-perspective narrative, and the flow of the story pulled me quickly in and kept me engaged until the very last page.

The story takes place on a small island off the coast of Ireland during a high-profile wedding:

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

This is a multi-perspective narrative, which works well for this type of whodunnit story. At the same time though, the number of narratives and characters we follow can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re the type of person who dislikes multiple-perspective novels. We hear from the bride, the bride’s best friend and his wife, and multiple wedding guests. For me personally it worked really well and kept me intrigued, but keep that in mind if you prefer single or dual narrative stories.

I loved the complex relationships between the characters which, aside from being entertaining, also served to heighten the suspense of the story and to keep the pace moving quickly. The groom and his best men have a tight relationship after attending the same school together in their youth, and they’re incredibly caught up in their teenage days. The bride’s best-friend’s wife is suspicious of her husband’s friendship with the bride. The bride’s little sister seems a little off, although no one actually knows why. There are plenty of secrets that come out slowly as we meet and get to know each character, and that’s a large part of why I found the story so intriguing.

I want to say again that I’m not typically a big thriller/murder mystery reader. Lucy Foley’s The Guest List genuinely surprised me. If you like atmospheric mystery novels, and if you want to read a book where the author masterly tells the tale from almost too many perspectives, I 100% recommend this book to you.

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Q-in-Law: Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Review

q-in-law peter david

Q-in-Law (Star Trek: The Next Generation #18) by Peter David
Science Fiction
Published by Pocket Books
Released October 1991
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

There’s one side character in the Star Trek universe who I’m always excited to see: Lwaxana Troi. She’s delightfully difficult, frivolous yet wise, and brings a rogue joy to any episode or story she’s involved in. Some of my favorite Deep Space Nine episodes are the ones where Lwaxana makes an appearance. I’ve always wanted more Lwaxana, and seeing as the actress who played her, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s spouse, Majel Barrett, died in 2008, there’s a limited amount of her stories to enjoy.

lwaxana troi
Lwaxana Troi & Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Not too long ago I had traded in some books at my local used bookstore and walked over to their large section of Star Trek paperback novels. I already own a bunch, so I always limit myself to one per trip. I nearly jumped for joy when I noticed Peter David’s Q-in-Law, featuring a trio of wonderful characters on the cover: Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Q, and Lwaxana Troi. I didn’t need to read the synopsis to know this was the book I’d be buying.

peter david
Author Peter David

Like most of the Star Trek novels that I’ve read, the story reads like a single episode. In Q-in-Law, two rival families of an alien race called the Tizarin are gathering aboard the USS Enterprise for the wedding of two young lovers. It’s a great opportunity for Star Fleet to extend diplomacy, get to know a new species, and act as a neutral ground for two families that have been fighting for generations, even though they don’t completely remember why.

As Betazoid’s ambassador, it’s only fitting that Lwaxana Troi would show up, much to the chagrin of the captain. However, no one is expecting the omnipotent being known only as Q to show up, and the crew of the Enterprise is understandably distressed at his arrival. Lwaxana, however, is incredibly intrigued and drawn to Q, and pursues a romantic relationship with him, even as her daughter, Counselor Deanna Troi, does everything in her power to stop her mother from committing what she sees as a devastating mistake.

q star trek

Q-in-Law was definitely an enjoyable story and one that would have been fun to watch on screen. Unfortunately, my expectations may have been set too high, and I was overall disappointed by the story.

Author Peter David did a wonderful job of capturing the personality and charm of all of the characters we’re familiar with and creating new intriguing characters in the members of the Tizarin. As I had expected, Lwaxana was easily my favorite part of the story, and she exhibited a feisty-ness not even rivaled by her character’s televised stories.

My biggest disappointment in the novel was the entire side story involving Wesley Crusher, who is one of only two Star Trek: The Next Generation characters who I could easily do without (the other being Tasha Yar and every other character she played). I was so annoyed by Wesley’s side story about receiving what was essentially a sex slave to please him that it definitely took away a great deal of my enjoyment.

Am I happy that I read it? Absolutely. Getting even a little bit more Lwaxana was worth dealing with a far too drawn out Wesley story. Will I read it again? Probably not.

Does Q-in-Law sound like something you’d enjoy? Let me know why or why not in the comments!

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15 Books I’d Like to Re-read

15 Books I'd Love to Reread

I love rereading books that I previously enjoyed. It’s not something that I do often because there are so many new books coming out every week, and it’s hard to prioritize rereading a book when I’ve got ten brand new ones that I want to get to.

There are certain books that I make sure to reread frequently: I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road every single year; I’ll reread my favorite self-help books (Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass and Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck) whenever I need a pick-me-up; anytime a new book is released in a series that I love, I’ll reread the entire thing prior to the release date of the newest book.

There are several books, however, that I’d love to reread, but that I haven’t made time for yet. I’d like to try to reread these all in 2020. It wasn’t until I put the list together that I noticed that there are definitely a few themes! Here are the fifteen books that I’d love to reread!


15. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

the lion the witch and the wardrobe chronicles of narnia cs lewis

Goodreads | Amazon

My mother had a complete set of these books and I read them a few times while I was growing up. It’s been nearly fifteen years since I last read them, however, so I’m curious to see if I’d love them as much as I used to now that I’m in my thirties. As a child, I saw the books only as fun fantasy adventure novels with interesting characters; now that I’m older, I’m worried that the Christian undertones that I’ve learned about over the years will either distract me from the story or even ruin the story for me. I’d still like to give it a shot one day if only to feel some nostalgia.

14. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

wild cheryl strayed

Goodreads | Amazon

You’re about to see a lot of nature-oriented books on this list. I thoroughly enjoyed Cheryl Strayed’s account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile trail from Mexico to Canada. I love the idea of long-distance backpacking trips, but this is a bit much for me in real life. However, I love reading about other people having these types of hardcore adventures, so this easily became a favorite of mine. I’ll probably reread this next time I’m in the mountains.

13. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

animal vegetable mineral barbara kingsolver

Goodreads | Amazon

An ex-boyfriend recommended this book to me years and years ago, and it’s really stuck with me (one of two books on this list recommended by him, by the way). I’ve always dreamed of having my own homestead, where I could grow and raise my own food, live off of sustainable energy, and create a self-sufficient life. The older that I get, the stronger that desire becomes, to the point where I’m trying to plan out buying a house on a decent amount of land in the North Carolina mountains within the next several years. I’ve been wanting to reread this for years, but I’ve been putting it off because I know it’ll make me crave that sort of life even more, and I’m not financially able to jump right into it. Once I get closer to my goals, however, you better believe that I’ll be rereading this!

12. Blindness by José Saramago

Blindness Jose Saramago

Goodreads | Amazon

I had never heard of this book before grabbing it second-hand at a thrift store. I briefly read through the synopsis and liked the cover, so I took it home. This dystopian, science fiction novel blindsided (hehe) me; I loved it so much, and it was absolutely horrifying. The story is about an epidemic of blindness that affects everyone. Can you imagine how hard the world would become if everyone lost sight? José Saramago will walk you through how rough it will become while enchanting you with his writing style. I desperately want to relive this book, so hopefully, I’ll be able to get to it very soon.

11. A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess: Goodreads | Amazon
The Secret Garden: Goodreads | Amazon

Obviously, this is technically two books, but I’m combining them since they’re both written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and because I read them at the same point in my life – early childhood. These two books have been my favorites since I was very young, and they’re actually the earliest books I can remember reading (aside from some Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss perhaps). I’ve watched the film adaptations of both, I own fancy copies of both, and I will read both to my future children. I’ve been planning on rereading these for a while, but there’s a tiny part of me who is afraid I won’t feel the same way about them. We’ll see soon enough.

10. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

breakfast of champions kurt vonnegut

Goodreads | Amazon

While Slaughterhouse Five might be Vonnegut’s most famous book, Breakfast of Champions has always been my personal favorite. It’s a novel that’s hard to explain, but the story follows author Kilgore Trout as he discovers that a midwestern car dealer believes his stories to be true. If you’ve never read Vonnegut, I’d recommend it – it’s a truly unique experience.

9. The Dharma Bums and On the Road by Jack Kerouac

The Dharma Bums: Goodreads | Amazon
On the Road: Goodreads | Amazon

As of now, these are the only two Jack Kerouac novels I’ve read (despite owning many more), and when I first read them back in the early 2010s, they left a huge impression on me. I’d love to reread both of them, but particularly On the Road. One of the editions that I have of this novel is the original scroll, which is formatted in the way that Kerouac originally wrote the novel. It’s one long, continuous narrative with no paragraphs or chapters. It definitely won’t be easy to read, but I want to experience the story as Kerouac wrote it originally.

8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

station eleven emily st john mandel

Goodreads | Amazon

Many of you who have been reading this blog for a while already know that I’m obsessed with post-apocalyptic fiction, and this is one of the best that I’ve ever read (third only to The Road and The Stand). I feel like it’s a little on-the-nose to read right now due to the book being about a deadly worldwide plague, so I’m going to wait until this plague dies out a bit. It’s a unique post-apocalyptic book in that it’s told from the point of view of a group of Shakespearian actors in Canada.

7. The Stand by Stephen King

the stand stephen king

Goodreads | Amazon

Speaking of The Stand, this is another novel that I would love to reread. I’ve almost done so multiple times, but the novel’s 1,153 pages have held me back a bit. I don’t hate reading big books, and in fact, a lot of my favorite books are long, but I haven’t been ready for the time commitment anytime recently. It’s also another book that deals with a deadly plague, so I’d like to do my hypochondriac self a favor and wait until COVID-19 calms down a bit before sitting down with it again.

6. The Outlaws of the Marsh by Shi Nai’an & Luo Guanzhong

outlaws of the marsh shi nai'an luo guanzhong

Goodreads | Amazon

I read volume one of this classic Chinese novel in 2019 and really enjoyed it. I held back on reading volumes two and three however because each volume is massive, written in a non-Western style that I wasn’t familiar with, and was extremely confusing when it came to the 100+ characters. Having enjoyed the story, however, I am determined to reread volume one and give two and three a shot.

5. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

Goodreads | Amazon

I was that kid in high school who spent a lot of their lunch breaks browsing the library. I remember in tenth grade randomly checking out this book. I don’t remember what prompted me to, but I’ve always been thankful that something pushed me to read it. It’s been one of my favorite books since 2003, and it’s about time that I reread it. A Fine Balance is a historical fiction novel set in India which follows several people with extremely tragic stories. It’s not the happiest novel to read, but a powerful and moving one. It’s realness and honesty are the elements of the story that have always drawn me in.

4. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

A Sand County Almanac Aldo Leopold

Goodreads | Amazon

A Sand County Almanac was recommended to me by the same ex-boyfriend who introduced both Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, and The Road to me. Aldo Leopold writes in such a way that you really feel as though you’re sitting next to him observing the landscape and wildlife. It’s a beautiful, non-fiction book that I’d recommend to everyone who gets homesick for the great outdoors. I’m planning a vacation to the North Carolina mountains once this plague is over, and this is one of the books that I’ll be packing with me to finally reread.

3. Haroun and the Sea of Stories and The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie

 Haroun and the Sea of Stories: Goodreads | Amazon
The Ground Beneath Her Feet: Goodreads | Amazon

The first Salman Rushdie book that I ever read was The Ground Beneath Her Feet at the request of my brother, and I was instantly (and pleasantly) surprised by Rushdie’s poetic and moving writing style. There are plenty of authors who have unique styles, but I’ve never read any as beautiful as Rushdie’s. Haroun and the Sea of Stories isn’t one of his most-famous novels, but it’s always been my favorite. I would love to reread both, and read his other novels that I haven’t had the pleasure to pick up yet.

2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia

where the crawdads sing delia owens

Goodreads | Amazon

I buddy-read this book with my friend Tawni, and I fell in love with it quickly. I grew up on North Carolina’s coast, where the story takes place, and the familiarity with the setting drew me in just as much as the heartbreaking story did.  I haven’t written a review of this novel yet because I wanted time to process it a bit more, but it’s been so long that I want to reread it before finally writing about it.

1. Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Reincarnation Blues Michael Poore

Goodreads | Amazon

I read this book for the first time last year, and I have a feeling it’s going to join The Hobbit and The Road in being books that I reread annually. It’s one of the most amazing stories that I’ve ever read. It’s not a novel that I can sum up quickly, so read my full review to learn why this book left such an impression on me.

What books would you love to reread? Let me know in the comments!

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How Not to Be a Hot Mess by Craig & Devon Hase – A Review

How not to be a hot mess craig devon hase

How Not to Be a Hot Mess: A Survival Guide for Modern Life by Craig & Devon Hase
Nonfiction | Self-Help | Buddhism
Published by Shambhala Publications
Released April 21st, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my opinion.

2020 has definitely been the year of self-help books for me. My mental health has been poor for most of the year, and I’ve felt stuck and trapped in my life. So, I’ve been reading at least one self-help book at all times.

When I saw a description of this book, I reached out to Shambhala for a review copy, which I am very grateful to have received. The book itself is super cute; small enough to fit in a pocket, bright pink and yellow, and just adorably designed. The book is definitely marketed to women though, which I feel was a mistake since the information in the book is meant for everyone.

devon craig hase
Devon and Craig Hase

Once I started reading How Not to Be a Hot Mess, I was instantly surprised that it’s influenced by Buddhist philosophy. I probably shouldn’t have been considering it’s published by Shambhala Publications, but the book hadn’t been marketed as being influenced by Buddhism. I was a practicing Buddhist for years and still try to live by Buddhist principles, and feel that it would have been a selling factor for the book if they had advertised that aspect a bit more.

The advice in the book won’t be anything new if you’re familiar with Buddhism or if you regularly read self-help. Mindfulness meditation, generosity, having a healthy sex life, not taking mind-altering drugs… all the usual stuff.

However, if you are new to these concepts, this book will for sure help. Devon and Craig Hase explain the topics clearly and with plenty of examples from their own life. There are guided meditations to practice as well.

Overall, for what it is this book is good. Due to my past and interests, I didn’t learn anything new, but again, it will be beneficial to people wanting to know how to incorporate Buddhist concepts into their daily life. It’ll make a great gift for your friend or family member that is going through a rough patch.

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