My March 2020 TBR

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It’s finally March (my birthday month!!), and to celebrate I’ve put together an extra-long TBR! I tend to set very, very unrealistic goals for myself, as you can see with this TBR. Will I be able to finish 31 books in 31 days? Probably not, but it’s a goal for me to strive towards!

One of the reasons I like to have huge TBRs is that I’m a mood reader. I like having a pile of books to choose from depending on what type of book I’m in the mood for.

I think I have a decent shot at finishing a lot of these since there are a lot of poetry collections and graphic novels, which tend to take me just an hour or two to finish.

If you’d prefer to watch this TBR, the video is linked below. Scroll down for the written TBR otherwise!


Poetry

Let’s start off with the poetry collections I want to read this month. Reading and enjoying poetry is something very new to me. I hated poetry in school, probably because we always read classic poetry, and I couldn’t stand the flowery metaphors and pages upon pages of repetitiveness.

Fortunately, I recently discovered that I do like poetry. Mostly modern poetry, but I want to experiment a bit more with classic as well. If you have any recommendations, let me know!

  • Live Oak, With Moss by Walt Whitman – I haven’t read this poem before, but the main reason I picked it up at my local library is that this edition is actually the poem told through illustrations! It’s a really unique format and I love the idea of it. The actual poem is included as well, of course!
  • The Truro Bear and Other Adventures by Mary Oliver – Mary Oliver is a name that I’ve continuously heard since her death last year. I wanted to give one of her collections a try, and out of the selection at my library, this one sounded the most promising since it’s about animals and nature.
  • The Tradition by Jericho Brown – I discovered Jericho Brown through this article at Garden & Gun. I was so impressed by the interview that I watched several of his readings on YouTube, and loved all of the poems that I heard. I’m really excited to read this full collection!
  • So Far So Good by Ursula K. Le Guin – This is Le Guin’s final poetry collection before her death in 2018, so I have a feeling it’s going to be a bit melancholy. I don’t know too much about it aside from it being about her life, the people she’s known along the way, and her experiences. I really enjoyed The Left Hand of Darkness, especially her writing style, so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy this too.
  • Dear Darkness by Kevin Young – The only thing I know about this collection is that it was inspired by the sudden death of Kevin Young’s father. Another melancholy collection, but one that I think I might be able to relate to, having lost my mother.
  • The Flame by Leonard Cohen – Did you know that musician Leonard Cohen wrote poetry? Because I didn’t! I have no idea what to expect from this, but I picked it up because I absolutely love his music.

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  • Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly – I found this tiny book tucked into the poetry section at my library, but it isn’t poetry. It’s fifty-two micro-memoirs about her life. The length of these micro-memoirs range from a few sentences to a few pages. I’m really intrigued by the format of this memoir.

Graphic Novels

I only picked up three graphic novels, but I’m really excited about all three of these!


Fiction

  • Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski – This is the second book (chronologically) in The Witcher series, but the most recent to be published. The Last Wish was the very last book I read in 2019, and one of my favorites. Just like The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny is a collection of short stories.
  • The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams – You’ve probably seen this romance novel everywhere in the book community. I love the idea of a group of guys reading smutty romance novels to learn to be better spouses. I’m expecting plenty of humor.
  • The Bear by Andrew Krivak – This short novel was released earlier this year, but I just didn’t find time to get it prior to publication. I’m still really excited, however, as it’s a post-apocalyptic tale about the last two humans left alive and a girl’s journey home with a bear.
  • The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams – First of all, I want to mention how much I love the faux-embroidery of this cover. It’s so beautiful. This historical fiction novel takes place after a mysterious flock of red birds descends over a girls’ school. It follows a number of symptoms the girls all experience afterward.
  • No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez – In this thriller/mystery novel, a woman has to deal with a stalker that knows too much about her family’s history. I’m still trying to get into thrillers, and this sounds like a great next step.
  • 142 Ostriches by April Davila – I’m so thankful for the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel! It’s set on an ostrich farm in California, and honestly, that’s all I needed to intrigue me.
  • A Bond Undone (Legends of the Condor Heroes #2) by Jin Yong – Last year I read the first novel in this Kung Fu fantasy series, and it ended up being one of my favorite books of the year. I’m really, really excited to find out what happens next!
  • Providence by Max Barry – I really like the cover of this science fiction novel. I’m purposefully keeping myself ignorant of the plot because I want to go into it a little bit blind. However, I do know that it has to do with a war against an alien race.
  • The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James – This gothic novel is told in dual timelines. First, we have a governess at an English estate; then, we meet the heir to that estate – a woman living in modern-day New York City.
  • The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan – Dealing with the heavy topic of suicide, this definitely isn’t going to be a light, fun read. In it, we meet people trying to figure out why Miwako killed herself. It reminds me a little of a grown-up version of 13 Reasons Why.
  • The Last Human by Zack Jordan – Here are the reasons I requested this book from the publisher and did a little happy dance when I received it earlier this week: Space opera, a ball of fluff with an IQ in the thousands, and “an android death enthusiast.” I’m ready.
  • Thunderhead and The Toll by Neal Shusterman – I’m buddy-reading this series with my friend Tawni, and it’s so freaking good! This might be one of the best young adult series I’ve read in ages. I’m constantly finding myself shocked by what happens, and I’m intrigued by all of the characters.
  • 88 Names by Matt Ruff – Matt Ruff is the author of Lovecraft Country, which is how I know of him. This novel is “part cyberthriller, part twisted romantic comedy.” It sounds wonderful.

Non-Fiction

  • Pisgah National Forest: A History by Marci Spencer – If you’ve been subscribed to this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard me mention that I lived in Asheville, NC for all of my twenties and that I’m constantly homesick for the mountains of Western North Carolina. This book is a history of Pisgah National Forest, an area that I am very familiar with.
  • Midnight in Siberia by David Greene – This book drew me in for two reasons – the remoteness of Siberia, and a long train ride. I’ve always wanted to take a long, scenic train ride, plus I love remote areas, so I’m really excited to be able to live vicariously through NPR’s David Greene.
  • Stateway’s Garden by Jasmon Drain – I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher, and I’m looking forward to reading it. It’s a collection of real-life stories from people living on the Southside of Chicago.
  • Death is But a Dream by Christopher Kerr – I’m starting to notice that I chose some really dark topics for March’s TBR. This is a book written by a doctor about his experience working in hospice with dying patients.
  • Lost Feast by Lenore Newman – Many of the foods we love are threatened by climate change, pollution, and overpopulation. Lost Feast is about these foods and the extinction of culinary treats that we’ve come to take for granted.
  • Footprints by David Farrier – This book reminds me a little of The World Without Us, which is one of my favorite non-fiction books. Farrier examines what traces of humanity are going to be left long after we’re gone.
  • Grain Brain by David Perlmutter – I’m guessing you’re probably somewhat familiar with this non-fiction book about the effect that gluten has on our brains. It’s been a best-seller for many years. I was recommended this book twice in one week, for both my polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and bipolar disorder. I had no idea that diet could possibly influence bipolar disorder, so, at my doctor’s recommendation, I’m currently doing 45 days of a gluten-free diet to see if it helps.

Whew! I know that was a long list! Have you read any of these books? If you have, let me know what you thought down in the comments!

What are you planning on reading in March?




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Break Your Glass Slippers by Amanda Lovelace – A Review

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Break Your Glass Slippers by Amanda Lovelace
Poetry | Feminist | Retellings
Published by Andrews McNeel Publishing
Release Date: March 17th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Note: I received an electronic arc of this collection from NetGalley. This in no way affects my opinions.

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I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry, despite often trying to love it. Classic poetry tends to either go right over my head or it’s so flowery that I struggle to enjoy it, and modern poetry’s “edginess” tends to annoy me.

Browsing Netgalley this morning, I came across Amanda Lovelace’s newest poetry collection, Break Your Glass Slippers, and thought I’d give it a shot. I’d heard from friends and the online book community that Lovelace’s works are really good.

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Amanda Lovelace

Break Your Glass Slippers is a modern, feminist collection of poetry inspired by the classic fairytale, Cinderella. Lovelace uses the classic story to show the reader that changing who you are in order to please your “prince” is not a requirement of deserving love. Learning how to love yourself first, being supportive of other women rather than feeling jealousy at what they have and you don’t, going after your own dreams… all are topics that Lovelace touches upon, as well as many others.

The layout of this collection was beautiful. Since I read an ARC of the collection rather than the finished copy, which is scheduled to be released mid-March, I’m not sure how much things will stay the same. In between sections in the collection, there were pages of a beautiful, illustrated moonscape, and some of the poems had cute illustrations. I hope these features will remain in the final version.

A lot of the poems resonated with me on a personal level, and I feel that many women will feel the same. I can see myself gifting Break Your Glass Slippers to my female friends. When it’s finally released, I hope so many other people will pick it up and fall in love with it just as I did.


Have you read any of Amanda Lovelace’s other collections? What did you think of them?




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Harry Potter Christmas Book Tag

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a book tag, so when I came across the Harry Potter Christmas Book Tag over at A Court of Coffee and Books, I knew I had to participate!

This tag was created by Charleigh over at Charleigh Writes. Her rules are simple:

  • Please link me back so I can read your answers.
  • You can’t choose a Harry Potter book for any of your answers.
  • Tag however many people you wish.
  • Most importantly, have fun!

Let’s get right to it!

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It’s your first Christmas at Hogwarts. What’s one book you’ve asked for this year?

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The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus is one of my favorite books, and I still haven’t been able to read The Starless Sea.

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You spot Hagrid hauling the Christmas tree through the grounds. What is the longest (or heaviest!) book you own?

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Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

All of the three books in The Stormlight Archive series are over 1,000 pages, and this is the longest. It’s like hauling a brick around in my bag, but so, so, so worth it.

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It’s time for the famous Great Hall feast. What’s one book you can’t read without snacks?

With the Fire on High

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

I don’t usually snack while I read, but this novel about inspiring chef and teenage mother Emoni never fails to make me hungry.

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Well done, you’ve brewed your first Polyjuice potion. What’s one book you’d change the cover of?

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Any book with a movie or T.V. tie in cover. Seriously. My real answer for this, however, is is the Ember in the Ashes series. I’ve never cared for people on the cover of books, and I feel as though this series could have much more beautiful covers (to match how beautiful the story is!).

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You receive a brand new Firebolt for Christmas. What’s one book you read super quickly?

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This book is only 181 pages, but it packs in an amazing amount of storytelling. This is one of my favorite Neil Gaiman novels, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it. I can usually finish it in just an hour or two.

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You join Harry for his first proper Christmas. What’s one book you’d love to receive this year?

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A Hero Born by Jin Yong

Any of the special editions published by The Folio Society, particularly this copy of A Hero Born, one of my favorite books of 2019.

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You get hit by one of Fred and George’s flying snowballs. What’s a book you wanted to throw across the room?

Echo North

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

I had high hopes for this book going into it, but by the end of it, I really did want to throw it at something. If you want to know all the details about why I thought this book was terrible, read my full review. To summarize, though, the main character falls for an abusive love interest who frequently lies to her and manipulates her.

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You’ve just visited Hogsmeade for the first time. What’s one popular book you haven’t read yet?

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Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I’ve had this book on my shelf since it came out and I still haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I definitely will be in 2020 though!

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Congratulations, you’ve been invited to the Yule Ball. What book about Christmas do you love?

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I honestly haven’t read very many Christmas books, so I’m going with this tried-and-true classic.

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You find Ron’s deluminator. What’s one book that’s helped you through some dark times?

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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you’ll know that The Hobbit is my favorite book, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. I have so many memories associated with this classic fantasy novel, and it’s been my favorite since I was a child.



If you want to do this tag, consider yourself tagged! If you do, leave your links below so I can see your answers!




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The (Other) F Word edited by Angie Manfredi – A Review

The Other F Word Angie Manfredi

The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce
Edited by Angie Manfredi
Nonfiction | Essay Collection | Body Positivity | Young Adult
Published by Amulet Books
Released September 24th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Note: I received a free, unsolicited edition from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion.

 The (Other) F Word is the type of book that I wish I had discovered in high school. It would have given me more confidence and shown me that it’s okay to love your body, regardless of its size.

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S. Qiouyi Lu

I’m fat. For most of my life, I’ve been overweight. I was the fat kid in school, and I’ve always had an unhealthy relationship with food and my weight. It’s been worse in the past few years, as I lost a drastic amount of weight in my early twenties (over a hundred pounds) and then gained it all back. That experience caused a great deal of discomfort with my body, as I felt like it betrayed me. I viewed it as a win when I lost the weight (which happened during a bipolar manic episode where I literally became obsessed with exercise in a shockingly unhealthy way), and as I gained it back (starting with a depressive episode) I felt like an absolute failure.

It’s only relatively recently that I’ve started learning how to love my body again and this collection of essays helped to give my confidence a boost. While The Other (F) Word is technically meant for teenagers, everyone struggling with their weight or who identify as fat will get some benefit from reading it.

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Saucyé West

While I’m not going to make a full list of each writer included in the collection, some prominent names include Julie Murphy, Alex Gino, P.S. Kaguya, Lily Anderson, S. Qiouyi Lu, Virgie TovarSaucyé West, and Ady Del Valle. Their contributions range from essays to poetry to illustrations and art.

It would take too long to review each essay, but suffice it to say that I gained a lot from reading through this entire collection. There’s advice for where to find clothes that actually fit well, self-care information, powerful motivators, and so much more. There is a wonderfully great amount of inclusivity here in terms of race, gender, sexuality, size, and ability, which is incredible to see.

I’m so glad that many of the essays brought up the fact that doctors and health professionals aren’t always welcoming to fat people. While I’ve been fortunate enough to find a doctor that doesn’t treat my weight as something bad, I have friends who have gone through absolute hell to receive treatment for serious medical conditions. In one case, the doctors automatically assumed that the pain she was experiencing was a result of her weight, and she had to fight to get them to take her seriously. It’s atrocious to me that people have to deal with that kind of treatment from a medical community that is supposed to be there to help, and I’m glad that it’s something that received attention in some of these essays.

If you’re anything like me, it’s inspiring to know that there’s a community of people who look like you who are living their best life and loving their bodies. They know they don’t have to conform to what society and the media believe to be beautiful because they already know that they’re beautiful and wonderful. This collection is one that I can see myself coming back to over and over again when I have any negative thoughts about body image or just when I want to be inspired. I would recommend The (Other) F Word to everyone.


Pair with a candle for maximum relaxation!

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Champagne Toast White Barn 3-Wick Scented Candle


Have you read The (Other) F Word? If so, what did you think?

Who are your favorite body-positive influencers? Let us know in the comments!




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An Example of What Bipolar Disorder is Like

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At least as far back as high school, I’ve dealt with severe depression, anxiety, and mood changes, but it wasn’t until this past year that I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The diagnosis didn’t lead to a cure for the disorder since there isn’t one, but it’s allowed me to notice the symptoms and triggers for the manic or depressive episodes that define the disease. Seeking professional help for it has also led to being on medication that I, in all honesty, should have been on decades ago.

Unfortunately, we’re still getting the medications worked out. The types of drugs and the amount vary for everyone, and we haven’t quite found the right mix for me yet, despite going as far as doing genetic testing to try to figure out the best combinations. The medication has certainly helped to a certain degree, but I’m still having manic and depressive episodes that are severe enough to interrupt my normal day-to-day activities.

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This past week has been a rough one, and also a perfect example of what my bipolar disorder is like. Therefore, I thought this would be a good opportunity to write about what I experience every time I go through a manic and depressive episode.

Everything started out fine this past week, and I even managed to complete nearly a full week at work (which has been rare for me lately). Then the hypomania kicked in.

Hypomania is different from mania, although it can also lead to full-blown mania. Bipolar mania tends to get out of control, sometimes even requiring hospitalizations. Mania lasts for a week or more, can lead to terrible decisions (think out-of-control spending, increased drinking and drug use, and making poor sexual choices) and is something that, thankfully, I’ve only experienced twice in my life.

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Lasting for just a few days however, hypomania actually feels great much of the time. During the hypomanic days that I experienced this past week, I was incredibly productive, highly motivated, excited about everything, talkative (which is strange for me, because I’m usually really quiet), and didn’t sleep as much. I experience hypomania frequently, and it always leads to a period of depression.

It’s a strange feeling to be hypomanic. One the one hand, it’s wonderful, because I no longer feel depressed, I have less anxiety, and I can get so much done. On the other hand, however, I know that it can lead to an actual manic episode. I have trouble knowing when I’m hypomanic, which is why I’m thankful for my boyfriend, who has taken the time to get familiar with the disorder so that he can help recognize the symptoms even when I can’t.

So, for two to three days, I felt great. And then yesterday happened.

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Yesterday I woke up feeling shattered. I didn’t want to get out of bed, my anxiety was about as high as it could get, and I felt worthless. I had to call out of work which was necessary but made me feel guilty and even more upset.

My entire day yesterday consisted of beating myself up mentally, binge-eating, trying to escape into Fallout 4, and napping. So much napping.

My boyfriend did what he could to try to cheer me up and to make sure I was eating and drinking water, lighting stress-relieving candles around me and putting my cat on my lap when I was feeling particularly bad (quick tip – purring cats make you feel better). Despite all this, I just felt like absolute trash all day.

Depression isn’t something that you can smile your way out of or ignore the pain of. There’s nothing worse that you can say to someone suffering from depression than “snap out of it” or “It’s not that bad – deal with it.” It’s a mental illness that can lead to physical pain and make normal life impossible to carry on with.

Being bipolar is difficult. There are any number of things that can trigger either a manic or depressive episode. The worst thing I’ve been dealing with lately is that it appears that my job is a trigger for depression, which is terrible since it’s the best-paying job I’ve ever had, and I desperately need the medical and mental health benefits that I receive from it.

While these manic and depressive episodes are different in everyone, and can even vary for me, this was a great example of what living with bipolar disorder feels like. As I learn more about coping with this disorder, I’ll share what I learn with you guys. As of today, I’m still struggling with the depressive part, but I know it won’t be too long before I’m on another upswing.

Bipolar disorder is one hell of a mentally exhausting disease.


Are there any questions you would like to see answered about living with bipolar disorder? Leave them in the comments for me and I’ll answer as many as I can!




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We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – A Review

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Horror | Classics | Gothic
Published by Penguin
Released September 21st, 1962
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Shirley Jackson is one of those authors whose books I’ve had on my TBR list for years, but never got around to reading. Which is odd, because I adore Gothic horror. Jackson is also the creator of the popular horror novel The Haunting of Hill House, as well as plenty of other similar books.

I had grand plans for my Halloween TBR, but all that ended up not happening when my bipolar disorder took a turn towards a depressive episode and we had to move at the end of the month. I was determined, however, to at least read some spooky books, and since We Have Always Lived in the Castle is relatively short, under 150 pages, it was a perfect choice.

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Shirley Jackson

I feel the need to preface this review by explaining something about my personality: I have very macabre fascinations and a dark sense of humor. I tend to be attracted to books and characters that have dark or nefarious qualities to them.

That personality trait hopefully explains why I was hooked on this book by the end of the first paragraph:

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I disklike watching myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.”

What a way to start a novel!

The book is about two sisters, Mary Katherine and Constance, who live in their large ancestral home with their Uncle Julian. The rest of their family died many years previously, and Constance stood trial for poisoning them but was eventually acquitted.

After the death of their family, Constance stopped leaving the house and the townspeople actively started to dislike the remaining members of the Blackwood family, even going so far as to create a macabre song to remind them of the murders:

“Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?
Oh no, said Merricat, you’ll poison me.
Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep?
Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!”

The small family keeps to themselves until things begin to change with the arrival of their cousin Charles. Eventually, there’s a haunting confrontation between the sisters and the townsfolk.

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The first edition of We Have Always Lived in the Castle

One of the most noticeable themes of this novel is agoraphobia, which is a phobia in which a person cannot leave their home and avoids any sort of uncomfortable situation. While Mary Katerine, nicknamed “Merricat,” heads into the town twice a week in order to pick up groceries and library books, Constance hasn’t left the house since the trial for the murder of her family. The sisters are terrified of outsiders and live in a fenced-off world all their own.

I’m not sure if any Stanley Kubrick fans are going to be reading this, but I was reminded of his films while reading this novel. Not due to the story being at all similar to any of the fantastic films he directed, but because of the anti-people cynicism that pervades the entire story.

Many of Kubrick’s films show the darker side of humanity, such as my favorite of his, Full Metal JacketSo many writers and artists strive to show the good of humanity, where people come together in times of need, overcoming prejudices and fears to embrace kindness and cooperation. Like Kubrick’s films, however, Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle displays how terrible people can be. The townspeople constantly heckle Merricat when she’s in the town on her trips to the grocery store, and there’s a particular scene towards the end of the novel where we are shown just how horrible people can be, especially in a mob setting. At its core, this novel shows how communities ostracize people deemed to be “other” or outsiders, and how it affects those targeted.

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In more modern times, fiction has embraced mental illness, showing the struggles of sufferers and focusing on how people overcome these sometimes debilitating conditions to live the lives they desire. This novel, however, shows two sisters who live without treating their mental illnesses, and how their conditions are exacerbated by a hateful community and a lack of resources. It was fascinating to see this other side of mental illness displayed in a novel.

I read this book in less than 24 hours, and I know that this is going to become not only one of my favorite books of all time but one that I’ll read over and over again. The mystery and atmosphere of the novel combined with its themes and characters left such an impact on me that I’ve been almost constantly thinking about it since finishing it. It’s also inspired me to start reading her other works, which I’ve already reserved at my library.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle was Shirley Jackson’s final published work before her death three years later in 1965. It’s a masterpiece of a novel to go out on, and a book that will stick around for decades to come.


Have you read We Have Always Lived in the Castle or any of Shirley Jackson’s other works? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!




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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – A Review

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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
The Bone Witch #1
Dark Fantasy | Witchcraft | Young Adult
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Released March 7th, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_and_a_half_stars

The young adult fantasy genre is oversaturated, but there’s always room for dark fantasy. The Bone Witch is just such a novel, following a young teenage girl named Tea after she accidentally raises her brother from the grave.

This series has been on my radar since it’s release in 2017, and I purchased a copy last year, but I just now got around to reading it. It’s an easy book to fly through and is engaging enough, but I finished it feeling far from satisfied.

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Rin Chupeco

Let’s not jump ahead. As I mentioned before, Tea raises her brother from the dead, which means she is a Bone Witch, aka a Dark Asha, a type of magic welder that is rare and feared by many people. Tea and her brother, who has become her “familiar,” leave their small village with the only other Dark Asha, Lady Mykaela.

Lady Mykaela takes Tea to a community full of other Ashas in order to receive magic training. She struggles through chores and strenuous challenges while fraternizing with the kingdom’s Prince Kance. By the end of the novel, Tea is faced with a difficult choice.

The book is told in dual timelines, one following Tea as she learns to become a Dark Asha, and the other told from a few years into the future when Tea has been banished and is alone on a dim beach.

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I felt like this book has so much potential, but among the reasons that I could only give it 2.5 stars is that it was definitely written with the intention of ending it on a cliffhanger so that you would have to read the next book to learn anything. There was so much left unresolved, something that has always annoyed me. I understand that many books are planned out to be a series, but I still prefer that each book in a series should also be a whole story by itself.

The magic system was fascinating, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it in book two. Magic is done by drawing runes based on the elements. I also really enjoyed the aesthetics of the world itself. Another interesting aspect is that people wear their hearts around their necks, displaying their health and emotions. I’ve never encountered that in a book before and it was refreshing to read something new.

My main issues with the book are that it felt incredibly rushed in many areas and the characters were either cliche or boring. There was this slight romance that appeared to be taking place between Tea and Prince Kance, but at the same time, they’re rarely in the story together. There’s no actual relationship between them, it’s just hinted at. Due to this, their “relationship” feels forced and I found myself annoyed at it much of the time. I also saw hints of what will probably become a love triangle in future books, a trope that heavily turns me off.

There were large swaths of time missing from the novel. For example, at one point Tea and some of the other Asha leave town to fight a monster that’s been terrorizing people, but there’s nothing about their journey. At the end of one chapter, they’re deciding to go fight this battle, and then at the beginning of the next, they’re there. I wish there had been more extended scenes so that the timeline of the novel would have flowed better.

I also would have appreciated more necromancy. There were only a few scenes in the book displaying Tea performing her Dark Asha skills, although I imagine there will be more of her magic in the rest of the series.

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One of the things that kept me reading this book was Rin Chupeco’s writing. This is the first book I’ve read of hers, and she definitely has a way with words. I enjoyed her descriptions and tone, and even if I end up not carrying on with this series after the second book, I would eagerly read other books written by her.

Despite the problems I encountered with the novel, I’ll still be reading book two. I’m interested enough in the story, magic system, and Tea to want to see where everything ends up next. I’d recommend only reading this book if you’re willing to commit to reading the series since this book can definitely not be read as a standalone. It’s an imperfect but enjoyable ride with a lot of potential.


Have you read The Bone Witch? What’s your favorite dark fantasy novel? Let me know in the comments!




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Who Says You’re Dead by Jacob M. Appel, MD – A Review

Who Says You're Dead Jacob M Appel

Who Says You’re Dead?: Medical & Ethical Dilemmas for the Curious & Concerned by Jacob M. Appel, M.D.
Nonfiction | Medical | Ethics | Science
Published by Algonquin Books
Released October 8, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

I’m fascinated by morbid science, questionable ethics, and interesting medical cases. This is why I reached out to Algonquin Books to ask for an ARC of this book and was thrilled when I received it in the mail. Who Says You’re Dead is a collection of medicine’s ethical dilemmas and insights into the difficult choices that medical professionals are forced to make.

The scenarios in the book cover a wide range of situations. Here are just a few:

  • Would it be ethical for a doctor to be present during the torture of prisoners to ensure that the prisoner doesn’t die?
  • Should lithium be added to the water in areas with a lot of suicides?
  • If a patient creates a lot of havoc at a doctor’s office and starts harassing other patients, should the doctor’s office be able to ban her? What if they’re the only place for miles around that can offer the particular treatment she needs in order to live?
  • Should employers be able to conduct DNA testing on potential new hires?
  • If a child is suffering from a terminal illness and near-constant pain, should the parents have the right to decide to end their child’s life?

This book was very engaging, and it was fun discussing the scenarios with others in order to see where we stood on certain issues. After reading Who Says You’re Dead, I’m very glad I’m not one of the people responsible for making these sorts of decisions. I can’t imagine having to face extremely hard ethical dilemmas like these every day.

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Jacob M. Appel, MD

Writer Jacob M. Appel pulled these scenarios from real events, which makes this book even more captivating. Appel is a bioethicist and is able to offer a lot of insight into these hard situations.

The chapters are incredibly short, at most being four pages. I do wish there had been more information given for a lot of the questions, as I was left wanting to know so much more about many of them.

One aspect of the book I did like, however, is that Appel doesn’t provide definite answers to what should be done in any of these scenarios. Just like in real life, there isn’t always one correct answer. Decisions often take place on a case-by-case basis where a lot of different factors have to be considered. The author presents all the options a doctor or medical professional can make and leaves it at that.

If you’re the type of person who binge-watches television shows like House or finds yourself fascinated by medical dilemmas and ethics, you’ll love this book. I’m glad to have read it as it gave me a great deal of insight into situations I had never considered before.


Will you be adding Who Says You’re Dead to your TBR? What are your favorite medical-related non-fiction books? Let me know in the comments!




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Children’s Books I Grew Up On – Reviews & Reflections

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Me as a toddler

I’ve mentioned many times on this blog that I grew up in a house of readers, always surrounded by books. I’m so thankful for that upbringing because I’ve loved books as far back as I can remember.

Recently, I decided to re-read a few of my favorite children’s books and wanted to provide some brief reviews and talk about why these books are so important to me.


The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

The first book that always comes to mind when I reminisce on the books that I loved growing up is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

The Hobbit is a sort of prelude to Tolkien’s adult fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Ringsand far more suitable to children who might not be interested in the intricacies of the deep folklore and language that Tolkien created for his other novels.

I was introduced to this book early on because my mother had a gorgeous green leather edition of it in a slipcase that I would frequently take down from our living room’s bookshelf and read through over and over again. I’d spend afternoons poring over the pages and maps contained within the story. Hell, at one point I even managed to learn to read the runes on the maps. I was obsessed with this story early on, and am so thankful that my mother loved this book too. She died back in 2010, and every time I re-read this book it makes me feel closer to her.


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An author that I frequently think about (and whose work I still love) is Shel Silverstein. Not too long ago I shared a review of Silverstein’s adult book, Different Dancesbut I grew up reading his collections of children-appropriate poems, such as Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up

When I re-read both of these books a few weeks ago, I was surprised to discover that I still enjoyed them, despite now being in my early thirties.

As with The Hobbit, Silverstein’s children’s books are definitely some that I’ll be sharing with any future children I have. The poems are perfect for kids that like to have fun with words and memorize witty little poems that they can recite back to friends and parents at (in)appropriate times.

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Silverstein’s drawings, on every page of his books, are fun and simple and drew me in when I was a child.

While Where the Sidewalk Ends is definitely one of his most well-known classics, my favorite has always been The Giving Tree.

If you’re not familiar with that story, it’s about the relationship and friendship between a little boy and his tree. The tree loves the boy dearly, and willingly gives up anything it has in order to protect him. Whether this is in the form of shade, limbs to play on, apples to eat, and so on, there’s no sacrifice too big for the tree. By the end of the story, you’re left with a message of sacrificing everything for love and learning how to appreciate others. 


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It would be absolutely impossible to have a list of children’s books without having several Dr. Seuss titles on it.

Almost everyone I know, including people much younger than me, had at least one Dr. Seuss story that stuck with them. His books are so perfect and timeless that they’re going to be around for many decades to come, helping children learn to read while, at times, teaching them important lessons.

When I was young, my favorite Dr. Seuss story was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I had the entire book memorized by first grade and could recite it back perfectly.

Some of my other favorites are well-known, such as Green Eggs and Ham, Fox in Socksand The Butter Battle Book

As an adult, the book that I’ve come to appreciate the most is The Lorax. It’s not a surprise that this book has stuck in my mind for so long. I grew up reading books like The Lorax and watching movies such as FerngullyIt’s obvious that becoming an environmentalist started very young for me.

The Lorax is the kind of book that teaches both children and adults important lessons about conservationism and consumerism.


Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak.jpg The most aesthetically beautiful book I remember from my childhood is Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are

This book is truly iconic and will be for many years to come. The story is a very simple one, about a boy’s imagination, but it’s the artwork done by author Maurice Sendak that really makes this book special.

Each spread in the book is colorful and perfect enough to hang on your wall as an art print. The images, as an adult, evoke memories of playing as a young child and the fun that could be had with the power of your own imagination.


A little princess and a secret garden.PNGTwo of the first chapter books I remember reading were both by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A Little Princess and The Secret Garden are both wonderful stories for children, and I loved them so much when I was a little girl.

I recently purchased these stunning Barnes & Noble editions so that I could re-read them as an adult, which I plan to do around the holidays.

Out of the two books, The Secret Garden was always my favorite, primarily because I’m attracted to flowers and gardens.

I remember also watching movie adaptations of these stories when I was little, but I don’t actually remember much about them at this point.



So there you have it – a few of my favorite children’s books. Sometime in the near future, I’ll do another post about my favorite books as a pre-teen and teenager because I have so many more books that I could talk about. All of these books I’ll be sharing with my future children and grandchildren to hopefully show them the same wonderful stories that I had growing up.



What were your favorite children’s books growing up? Have you read any of my favorites? Let me know in the comments!

Looking for some more children’s stories?

Fantastic Mr. Fox | The Witches | Bunnicula | Furthermore | The Tea Dragon Society




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January 2019 Wrapup

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January just disappeared. One second it was New Year’s, and suddenly I’m sitting at my desk writing a wrapup post. Where’d it all go?

Anyway, this was a busy month, and I didn’t get the chance to post as frequently as I’ve wanted to. One of the aspects of the blog that I’ve been focusing on lately is trying to figure out a frequent and consistent blogging schedule. On my days off from my full-time job, I have no issue sitting down and pushing out five or six articles, but on days that I have to go into work, it’s so hard to wake up early enough to do the same. I’m trying to get into the habit of writing twice as many posts as I normally would on my days off to schedule out for days that I work, so hopefully, you guys will start seeing posts becoming more consistent in February.

Here’s a quick look at challenges and posts on Read Yourself Happy.


Sugar-Free Challenge

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Sugar-Free Challenge Post One
Week One Update
Week Two Update

Some of you may have noticed that I never posted a week three update in my sugar-free challenge that I announced on January 1st. The reason for that was that I simply didn’t have anything new to say. This challenge was essentially a big fail for me in a lot of ways: I didn’t lose any weight and didn’t notice any change in my mood or skin. The only thing that changed was that many of my dreams during January ended up being about eating sugar.

I’m not saying that there’s no point in cutting sugar from your diet. I’m sure, even though I didn’t see physical manifestations in myself, that reducing the amount of sugar and artificial foods you eat still has an overall wonderful effect on my health. I think I was probably just setting expectations that were much too high to be met.


Book Reviews

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I had a pretty great reading month in January.

5 stars

4.5 stars

4 stars

3.5 stars

3 stars

1 star

 


Articles and Bookish Fun

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Introducing My Bookstagram!

I’ve been wanting to set up a book-centric Instagram account for a while, and I finally dived in this week!

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Read Yourself Happy – Instagram

It’s just getting started, but I’ll be posting around two to three bookish pictures per day! I’ll also be hosting a giveaway when I get to 1000 Instagram subscribers. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my favorite book covers with you guys, and so much more!

I’m always open to suggestions, so please leave me any advice or insights into starting and managing a bookstagram account! I also want new people to follow, so if you have your own bookish-themed account, please leave it linked below!

I figured now would be a good time to remind you guys of all my other social media accounts as well, so if you want to stay up to date with what I’m doing, subscribe, like, and follow!

Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Ko-Fi

The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth – A Review

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The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
Young Adult | Fantasy | Portal Fantasy
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by Harper Teen
Released October 23, 2018
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I remember the first time I heard of The Light Between Worlds – it was in a booktube video about new releases. As soon as I heard the premise I added it to my TBR because it sounded so unique. I couldn’t believe that no one had done it before.

The plot focuses on three siblings: Evelyn, Philippa, and Jamie Hapwell. They find themselves seeking safety in an air raid shelter during World War II, and something completely unexpected happens – they open their eyes to find they’re standing in a forest with a stag walking towards them. They’d been called to the Woodlands by Cervus, the guardian of the Woodlands. The siblings spend several years in this fantasy world, aiding the Woodlanders in their own war.

This book isn’t about their story in that fantasy world, though. It’s about how they deal with coming back to the real world. As I already stated, I can’t believe no one has done this before (that I’m aware of), because it’s an amazing plot. We’re always so focused on the magical lands that our characters find themselves in that we never take a moment to consider what their lives are like once they come back to their normal, everyday lives.

The first half of the novel is told from the point of view of the younger sister, Evelyn, and the latter half is in the words of Philippa. Evelyn has struggled with the transition back to her real life and only wants to go back to the Woodlands.

This book had very strong Narnia vibes, which is part of the reason I loved it. I grew up reading portal fantasy such as the Narnia book, and Laura E. Weymouth did an incredible job of turning such an over-used type of story and forming something unique and new with it. This is the author’s debut novel, and I can’t wait to see what she comes out with in the future.

I really enjoyed the dual timelines. For the most part, each chapter alternates between Evelyn trying to keep her head above water in her real life and what it was like being in the Woodlands. Even though the Woodlands are fighting a war against a ruler who is trying to take over the forest to use for fuel for another war that he’s fighting, Evelyn still finds so much beauty in that world and feels at home there.

“Why are there always people who want to own everything good and bright in the world, and destroy those things if they can’t be bought? Isn’t it enough to just know such things are there?”

There was one aspect of the book that I didn’t enjoy, and that was the romances of both Evelyn and Philippa. Both romances felt very insta-lovey and there was absolutely no build up to these relationships. In each case, the girls find a nice, well-mannered boy who is willing to take care of her and suddenly they’re dating. I don’t think these romances were needed at all, and they just made the novel feel fluffier than need be.

One unexpected aspect of this book is that it made me feel incredibly homesick. I found myself dreaming of the city where I spent my 20s and missing it so much. It’s not to be unexpected, as the novel deals with finding where you feel most at home, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen. It actually made me enjoy the book even more since I always love it when a book makes me feel so much emotion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and can see myself re-reading it in the future. It’s not perfect, but it’s fun to read and reminded me of what it means to feel at home.

The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes

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The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
Non-Fiction | Nutrition
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by Anchor Books
Released December 27, 2016
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

I’ve mentioned several times on my blog now that I gave up sugar for the month of January in an attempt to be healthier and to try to get my body to stop craving sweets. I find that whenever I’m doing something challenging, reading about why I made that decision helps to keep me focused. In that vein, I purchased The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes, the author known for the book Why We Get Fat.

When I bought the book I assumed it was going to be about the nutrition of why sugar is so bad for us. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even read the synopsis but instead purchased it based on the title alone. What I wasn’t expecting was a complete history of how sugar became so prevalent in the western world and the effect it has on diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, but I’m happy that it’s the book I got.

In the introduction to the book, Taubes lays out his argument:

“…that sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are fundamental causes of diabetes and obesity, using the same simple concept of causality that we employ when we say smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer. It’s not because we eat too much of these sugars – although that is implied merely by the terms ‘overconsumption’ and ‘overeating’ – but because they have unique physiological, metabolic, and endocrinological (i.e., hormonal) effects in the human body that directly triggers these disorders.”

From there he examines sugar in every way that can be done. I especially enjoyed his discussions on the history of sugar reaching the western world and how it’s been perceived as a healthy food for portions of that history, even being used medicinally on occasion:

“‘It was good for almost every part of the body, for the very young, for the very old, for the sick and for the healthy,’ wrote the British historian James Walvin. ‘It cured and prevented illnesses; it refreshed the weary, invigorated the weak.'”

The most striking (and, truthfully, infuriating) aspect of sugar that Taubes examines is that sugar was found to be unhealthy early on, but the sugar industry used its financial influence to pay scientists to argue that it wasn’t. Research was purposefully overlooked or not taken seriously, and the industry did everything it could to blame dietary fat for the issues that should have been attributed to sugar.

I was startled to realize while reading this book that so much of how we think about nutrition, calories, and sugar was instilled in us decades ago by the course that this research took. So many people are still drawn to “low-fat” products despite the fact that the majority of these products are filled with sugar; there are groups that still believe that “a calorie is a calorie,” regardless of where those calories come from. There were even times in the recent past where organizations such as the American Heart Association were recommending patients eat sugary treats rather than foods high in fat to stay healthy. It makes me feel that the role of sugar in our diet is going to be slow to diminish.

Taubes uses a lot of evidence to make his argument that sugar could be the cause of many of our “Western diseases” that have become more prevalent since the introduction of sugar into our diets. He examines hundreds of years of medical history, as well as very convincing population studies. Those population studies were the most plausible arguments to me. As populations added sugar to their diets, their instances of diabetes and similar metabolic diseases suddenly starting appearing en masse in populations that rarely saw those diseases prior to sugar.

I’m definitely not saying that sugar should be cut out of our diet completely, and I also didn’t get the impression that that was Taubes’ goal either. Instead, the quantity of sugar we eating is extraordinary and perhaps we shouldn’t indulge ourselves quite as much as we’re able to. I still plan on enjoying my weekend bowl of ice cream after this month ends, but this book has made me more cognizant of the role that sugar could have on my overall health, particularly as I age.

This book was a wonderful, comprehensive look at sugar and it’s history. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the history of foods, or that just want a deeper look at the effect that our highly sugar-filled diets might have on our long-term health.