2019 In Summary // My Personal Life, Reading Stats, and Goals for 2020

I haven’t posted here in like almost 4 months please kill me. But between those four months a new year has started! So why not wrap up 2019 by talking about all the things that happened and creating some goals for this year. I’m saying this as if nobody knows. How do I write again.

But anyway – let’s just get on to the post!!


So . . . how would I describe 2019? I think a very, extremely honest answer would be ‘I don’t know.’

When 2019 started, I was so excited to branch out in everything, especially in the book world: start this blog (why did I do this – I made like 0 posts and couldn’t tell you what ‘commitment’ was), do more buddy reads, read hundreds of books (yes, my reading challenge goal for 2019 was 200 books. I barely read 50.), engage in reading challenges (I signed up for dozens of those, and all of them I 100% ghosted on by like . . . April), make new friends, and so much more things. But did I actually really fulfill any of those things, no.

I’m kind of not even surprised, though? I’ve always been trying to do things I know aren’t realistic for me, and then in the process having an extreme lack of motivation, at the end failing with whatever my goal was. Which is what exactly what happened in 2019 – and something I want to get better at this year – actually commit to my responsibilities.

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So, onwards. Let’s look at the highlights from 2019!

  •  I got so much better at the violin! Lately I’ve been practicing so much, at least 2 hours a day, and it’s been paying off both mentally (as in how rewarding my practice has been for me), and with my progress. I also did my first audition for a youth orchestra in August, and was accepted! I’m going to audition for a more advanced orchestra this summer and I hope to do some classical music competitions this year. And speaking of classical music, that’s something I got into more – it’s all I listen to / watch now.
  • For the past two and a half years, I’ve kind of been in a ‘sexuality crisis’, if you will. But god finally that’s over. Also I realized I’m nonbinary.
  • I improved drastically with school! Last semester, I actually managed to stay on top of my assignments and ace my finals with all A’s (and in my general averages too!!)
  • 2019 was my first full year on Goodreads (I really started getting into books when I joined Goodreads in May 2018)! I used it way less though than I did in the fall-winter of 2018, but not to my chagrin.
  • This was also my first full year blogging?? (My first post, which is terrible by the way, was on January 6th, 2019. At the time I am posting this it’s January 5th 2020.) I don’t want to emphasize this a lot, though, because I barely was active on this blog, and only posted 24 times, aka estimated to be once every half month. Yeah . . . a big yikes. I really want to do better this year and commit to this.
  • I started using Duolingo to help with French class and now I finally get all the memes lmao
  • I made new irl friends! None of them like books though 😔 😔

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Let’s talk about books now. After all, this is a book blog, haha.

(yes I did lower my reading challenge goal to feel better about myself lmaoo. it was initially 200 but then I put it to 105, then 50 at the end of the year)

And now proceeding with the stats!

TOP NINE BOOKS I READ IN 2019: (#s 4-9 unranked)
1) The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum
2) Sadie by Courtney Summers
3) A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
4) Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
5) This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
6) Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart
7) American Panda by Gloria Chao
8) This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
9) Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz

TOP 9 DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2019: (unranked)
1) Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America (edited) by Ibi Zoboi
2) The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason
3) Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia
4) Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
5) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
6) Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab (I find my review of this so funny for some reason)
7) King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
8) How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters
9) Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi

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To end this, here are my goals for 2020, which seems so weird to say.

BOOKISH GOALS:

  • Read 100 books
  • Actually post on this blog
  • Engage in the book community
  • Stay on top of all my reviews / ARCs
  • Read a bunch of books on my TBR
  • Read more diverse books (I did well with this in 2019, 76% of the books I read had main characters who were LGBTQ+, POC, disabled, or had mental health conditions)
  • Branch out in the genres I read—especially with adult fiction

MUSICAL GOALS: (mostly violin stuff)

  • Be accepted into the youth symphony I’m going to audition for in August, and get a high chair
  • Enter 2-3 classical music competitions
  • Study chamber music
  • Learn Mozart Concerto No. 4 (currently learning the first movement of this) / another one of Mozart’s violin concertos, Massenet Meditation from Thais, Vivaldi Winter and Bach Concerto in A Minor
  • Complete 2 volumes of the method book I’m currently using for the violin
  • Actually practice my etudes 🤠 / work on harder scales (I’m talking to you, keys with 4+ flats/sharps)
  • Branch out in my classical music taste, especially with symphonies and chamber music (aka not just concertos lmaoo)
  • Also branch out in my music taste, other than classical music (this is a big one)

PERSONAL GOALS:

  • Stay on top of my schoolwork
  • Make new friends and stop being so awkward
  • Find a new hobby I enjoy, that is purely for fun
  • As I mentioned above, fully commit to all my responsibilities and don’t create unattainable goals for myself
  • Be content with myself and don’t stress over my failiures / hardships, something I struggled with immensely in 2019

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LET’S DISCUSS

How was your 2019? What were your favorite books? Your least favorite books? What are your major goals for this year?

Here’s to an amazing 2020!!!

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Blog Tour: Crier’s War by Nina Varela // The F/F High Fantasy You All Need In Your Lives (w/ INTL Giveaway)

Hi guys! Today I’m here with a review of Crier’s War by Nina Varela—this is part of the blog tour for the book, run by Karina @ Afire Pages in collaboration with HarperCollins International. I really enjoyed reading Crier’s War, and I’m so excited to tell you my thoughts on it. So anyway, let’s get into the review!

Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me with an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.



synopsis

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war. 


rating: 3.75 stars

Oh my God—I really, really, really liked this book. As soon as I finished it, I opened Goodreads to make sure it was part of a series and not a standalone, and seeing that is was indeed part of a series might have caused the biggest breath of relief I’ve ever took (Yes, that’s how much the ending . . . ended me). I demand the sequel as soon as possible.

If somebody was to ask me the aspect of Crier’s War I enjoyed most, I would probably say the romance, between the two main characters Crier and Ayla. When Ayla becomes the handmaiden of the king’s daughter, Crier, after saving her life, they slowly, but surely start becoming closer and closer to each other and ugh, everything about their relationship gave me all the feels.

Crier was beautiful. Created to be beautiful, but it was more than that; more than perfect bone structure and the symmetrical features and flawless brown skin. It was the way her eyes lit up with interest, the way her fingers were always so careful, almost reverent, as she flipped the pages of a book. The way she held absolutely still sometimes, like a deer in the woods, so still that Ayla wanted to touch her, reach out and touch her face to make sure she was still real.

I do wish the romance took a little bit more time to develop at the beginning of the story though; I thought it started off in a kind of instalovish way? Crier starts to have feelings for Ayla pretty much the time they meet, which kinda put me off. But, overall I did love the romance a lot—so it didn’t bother me too much.

Can we talk about the worldbuilding, though? The world Crier’s War is set in is so intricately made, fitting so perfectly with the rest of the book. Also, between each chapter, there are snippets of stories and writings from different time periods in the world of the book that give you backstory on it (kind of like The Young Elites), and it’s something I really liked!

The writing is so amazing, as well. I know I say this all the time, but I truly can’t think of something coherent to say that authentically describes how much I loved it. It reminds me both of Anna-Marie McLemore’s and Leigh Bardugo’s writing (yes, I know your mouth watered in immense joy as you read that sentence, I don’t blame you); beautiful, poetic, and something that just overall takes you in.

I do wish there were more plot points to the story. I feel as if this book relied too heavily, if that makes sense, on its main plot point and left little space for other ones, which is why I gave it a rating of 3.75 stars and not a full 4.

All in all—and despite my minor complications with it—I quite adored this book and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for an entertaining, and relatively shorter (but I will admit, being on the verge of tearing your heart apart) sapphic high fantasy! You’ll end up loving it.


info

representation: lesbian main character, bisexual main character (#ownvoices)
content warnings: [see here]

author: Nina Varela
date publishing: October 1st, 2019
genre: LGBTQ+, high fantasy, sci-fi, romance
publisher: HarperCollins
page count: 448

goodreads | amazon | book depository | indiebound


about the author

Nina Varela is a nationally awarded writer of screenplays and short fiction. She was born in New Orleans and raised on a hippie commune in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent most of her childhood playing in the Eno River, building faerie houses from moss and bark, and running barefoot through the woods. These days, Nina lives in Los Angeles with her writing partner and their tiny, ill-behaved dog. She tends to write stories about hard-won love and young people toppling the monarchy/patriarchy/whatever-archy. On a related note, she’s queer. On a less related note, she has strong feelings about hush puppies and loves a good jambalaya. CRIER’S WAR is her first novel.

You can find Nina at any given coffee shop in the greater Los Angeles area, or at www.ninavarela.com


giveaway

The giveaway is here! Fortunately, it’s international, too, so anyone can enter 🙂


tour schedule

week 1

Sept. 23 – Afire Pages | 21 Questions with Nina Varela

Sept. 24 – The Sparrow’s Perch | Fan Art
F A N N A | Reasons for Game of Thrones and Westworld Fans to Read Crier’s War

Sept. 25 – Forever and Everly
Your Tita Kate | Bookstagram Photos

Sept. 26 – Lori’s Bookshelf Reads 
Pages Left Unread | Characters Aesthetics

Sept. 27 – Caitlin Althea 
Pages Below the Vaulted Sky | Fan Art

Sept. 28 – Lauren’s Bookshelf
Reads Rainbow | Playlist

week 2

Sept. 30 – Boricua Reads | Sapphic Rebellious Women in YA
Read With Ngoc 

Oct. 1 – Once Upon A Bookcase
Read at Night | Favorite Quotes

Oct. 2 – Mel to the Any
A Cat, A Book, and A Cup of Tea

Oct. 3 – Novel Nerd Faction | Playlist
Shut Up, Shealea

Oct. 4 – Sage Shelves | F/F Fantasy Recommendation
The Book Bratz


let’s discuss

Have you read Crier’s War, or is it on your TBR? (I hope it is!!) Let’s talk about it in the comments!

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Blog Tour: An Excerpt from Six Goodbyes We Never Said by Candance Ganger

Hi, guys! This post is part of the blog tour (my first one!) of Six Goodbyes We Never Said by Candance Ganger, and this post’ll be featuring an excerpt from the book!

I’m currently reading Six Goodbyes We Never Said, and so far I’m really liking it—I’m curious to see what I’ll think of it as I continue to get more and more into it. But anyway, let’s get into the post!


about the book

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her. 

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects. 

Candace Ganger’s 
Six Goodbyes We Never Said is no love story. If you ask Naima, it’s not even a like story. But it is a story about love and fear and how sometimes you need a little help to be brave enough to say goodbye.

rep: biracial Latinx MCs, bi/pan mc w/ OCD, and anxiety, and depression, MC with anxiety
cw: mental illness, suicide attempt, self-harm, loss of loved ones

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Indiebound



excerpt

Dad

cell
May 3 at 7:33 PM

Transcription Beta

“Guess who’s getting ready to come home and take you to Ivy Springs? That’s right, Ima. It’s happening. It’s finally happening. Don’t tell Nell. I want to surprise her.”


0:00 -0:10

Speaker Call Back Delete

Email Draft (Unsent)

To

Subject

I’m holding my breath
Until you’re standing in front of me
Because we’ve danced this song
So many times before

Promise.

A
n
d
I
n
o
l
o
n
g
e
r
t
r
u
s
t


Y
o
u

l
l
d
o
w
h
a
t
y
o
u

Just in case,

I’ll count the hexagons.

NAIMA

Nell is a dingy yoga mat; the sweaty barrier between total chill­ status and my shit reality (aka, my annoying stepmom and ru­iner of all moments) (trust me on this).

“JJ and Kam aren’t going to believe how much you’ve grown since the funeral,” she says on our long­ass 794­ mile drive from Albany, Georgia, to Ivy Springs, Indiana. She tap tap taps her long, pointed fingernails against the steering wheel to the beat of what­ ever imaginary song she’s playing in her head. Probably some­ thing disco or hair band. The radio is silent, always silent, when we ride together, but the second she speaks with that high­pitched nasally voice I loathe, I regret this necessity. I concentrate harder on the objects we pass so I can properly pinch my toes between them.

Tap my nose. Tap my nose. Tap my nose.

Tap my nose. Tap my nose.

Tap my nose.

Click my tongue. Click my tongue. Click my tongue.

Click my tongue. Click my tongue.

Click my tongue.

Flick my thumbnail. Flick my thumbnail.

Flick my thumbnail.

Flick my thumbnail. Flick my thumbnail.

Flick my thumbnail.

Flick.

Flick.

FLICK.

I continue with my sequence the length of the drive. Nell hates it, but I hate when she wears fingerless gloves in the summer, so we’re even. Without my boring­ass stepbrother, Christian, to be my talk block—the dull cushion of conversation between Nell and me—(he left two days ago on a death star/plane to see his dad in NYC), the “spacious” SUV feels like I’ve been placed at a dinner table in a vast canyon and right across from me is literally the only woman I don’t want to meet for dinner. Like, why can’t I eat with the Queen of England or Oprah? I’m bound by my father’s love for Nell, or whatever, but now he’s gone, and I’m climbing the hell out of the canyon before she wants to talk about how big my naturally tousled hair is (a perfect mess), period cycles (semi­regular, FYI), sexually transmitted diseases (don’t have a single one, thanks), or worse—my feelings (happily bur­ ied!). Ugh. GTFO.

The failing engine’s hum, where the metal scrapes and churns with a whir, competes with Nell’s increased tapping. I’ve missed too many objects, my toes rapidly pinching and releasing, to make up for what’s been lost. But it’s too late. My mind shifts automatically to a neon sign flashing warning! There’s always a consequence to messing up the sequence. Always.

Counting is to time what the final voicemail Dad left is to the sound of my heart cracking open; a message I can’t listen to. It’ll become entombed in history, in me. My finger lingers over my phone and quickly retreats, knowing there’s nothing he could’ve said to make this pain less. Nothing can make him less gone.

I look out the window to where my dreary­eyed reflection stares blankly back at me; Nell glides over the double yellow lines into oncoming traffic, violently overcorrecting just before we would have been hit by a semi. The sound of his horn echoes

through the high­topped Tennessee mountains. Three thousand two hundred eighty­seven people die in car accidents every day. I Googled it. After I Googled it, I looked at pictures. And after I looked at pictures I went through the sequence. Car accident. Fatalities. My legs smashed up to my chest. Nell crushed into the hood.

“Sorry,” she says; her voice rattles. “Make sure Ray’s okay back there.”

I turn to investigate the vase­shaped metal urn surrounded by layers of sloppily folded sheets (Nell did that) and one per­ fectly situated hexagon quilt (that’s all me). The sun’s gleam hits

U.S. Marine Corp just so, and I’m reminded again that he’s gone.

Gone.

It’s fine,” I say, refusing to call that pile of ashes “Dad,” or “he.” The urn arrived several days ago in a twenty­four­hour pri­ ority package. Nell saying, “No reason to waste time getting him home,” and I was like, “What’s that?” and she was all “Your dad, silly,” and I was like, “Huh?” and she asked me if I wanted a banana­kale protein shake after she “got him situated.” A big hell no. I immediately dove into a Ziploc ration of Lucky Charms marshmallows to dull the pain of conversing with someone so exhausting.

After he was transported in ice from Afghanistan to Dover, after they sorted and processed his things, after he was cre­mated, after the police and state troopers closed down the streets to honor him as we drove him through, after we had the memorial service, after we were handed the folded flag with a bullet shell casing tucked inside, after they spoke of his medals, and after Christian and I sat in disbelief beneath a weep­ing willow tree for three hours, Nell finally decided the ashes should go to his hometown in Indiana, after all. I didn’t think she’d cave, but after one talk with my grandma, JJ, she did. If anyone could turn a donkey into a unicorn, it’s JJ (or so she says). And so, it was decided—Dad, I mean It, was going home a unicorn.

“Let’s stop for some grub,” Nell says, wide­eyed. “Hungry?” “Grub,” rhymes with “nub,” which she is. “No.”

“Let’s at least stretch our legs. Still a few hours to go.” “Fine. But no travel yoga this time.”

She pulls off to a rest area a few miles ahead, exiting the car. I crack a window and wait while she hikes a leg to the top of the trunk, bending forward with an “oh, that’s tight.” After, she says, “Going to the potty. BRB.”

I flash a thumbs­up and slink deep into the warmth of my seat, hiding from the stare of perverts and families. My foot kicks my bag on the floor mat, knocking my prescription bottle to its side. Dr. Rose, my therapist in Ft. Hood, said sometimes starting over is the only way to stop looking back. But what about when the past is all you have left of someone?

My gaze pushes forward to the vending machines. Dad and I stopped at this very place on our way to Indiana without basic Nell. He’d grab a cold can of Coke and toss me a bag of trail mix to sort into piles. If I close my eyes, it almost feels like he’s here—not a pile of ashes buckled tight into the backseat. We’d play a game of Would You Rather to see who could come up with the worst/most messed­ up scenarios (I usually won).

Would you rather wear Nell’s unwashed yoga pants every day for a month?

Or call an urn full of ashes “Dad”?

Sometimes, he’d pre­sort the trail mix,

Leaving me the best parts (the candy­coated chocolate).

I am one­of­a­kind

Magic, Dad would say.

But he was, too.

A unicorn, I think.

Definitely not a donkey. The more I think on it,

Maybe JJ could turn Nell

Into a unicorn, Too,

But no magic is that strong.

Dad

cell
June 1 at 9:04 AM

Transcription Beta

0:00 – 0:03

Speaker Call Back Delete

“Open the door.”

Sent Email

No Subject

Naima Jun 1, 9:07 AM

to Dad

If I open it,

Will you really be there

Or just a memory

From the last time?

Nevermind.

The ghost

I see you,

Outside my window.

DEW  GD BRICKMAN

DURATION:   10:49

In today’s forecast, sunshine early morning will give way to late-day thunderstorms. I love the smell of rain. It’s the aroma of being alive.

August Moon and the Paper Hearts—the band my parents opened for—advise we speak kindly to strangers through song. I’d like to think that’s what my parents would’ve said, too. I can still see my mother’s chestnut eyes soft as she hums. From the tired bones in her feet after long shifts at the glass­making factory (after the band split apart), to the graying curls that sprang into action when the beat hit her ears, she’s frozen in time; a whim­ sical ballerina, twirling inside a glass globe to a tune only she and I can hear.

“Let the music move your soul,” she’d tell me. “Let it carry you into the clouds, my darling.”

She’d grab my hand, hers papered by the rough gloves she was required to wear during her shifts, guiding me by the glitter­ ing moondust, while Dad watched on from the old twill rocker, threads carved around his boxy frame. Our feet stepped along invisible squares against the floor, round and round, until the world vanished beneath us. We floated.

“You got that boy spoiled, Momma,” Dad would tell her. “Don’t you know it,” she’d reply, pulling me closer.

That was when the universe built itself around the three of us; vibrant wildflowers, dipped in my mother’s favorite verb: “love.” I wish I could remember the smell of her better. I wish I could remember what Dad would say. When I lose my breath in the thick of human oceans and panic, I wish harder.

My second set of parents, Stella and Thomas, are kind to me. Stella’s eyes remind me of my mother’s—two infinity pools, giving the illusion of boundless compassion—while Thomas’s laugh is an eerily mirrored version of my father’s. Sometimes, when Thomas finds himself amused, I catch myself thinking Dad is here. I can almost see him holding his bass guitar, doubled over from a joke he’d heard.

My sister, Faith, hasn’t settled into this family yet, even after a year of fostering. She cries, punches her bed pillow—sometimes Stella; sometimes Thomas. Her wailing is incessant, scratchy, and raw. Sometimes I sit outside her door and silently cry with her. When you’re taken from your birth parents, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your new, adoptive, or temporary, foster parents are. They can be every warm hug you’ve needed, but if you’re holding tight to the feeling of being home, you may find com­ fort in the cold, dark night instead. I did at first. After all the months with us, Faith is realizing the Brickmans are her home now, but she’s still fighting to stay warm on her own, hoping her parents would somehow return.

“You can never know someone’s pain or happiness until you’ve stepped inside their shoes,” my mother would say.

“What if their shoes don’t fit?” I’d ask. “If our lives are too different?”

“Find a connection; something similar enough that all the dif­ ferences bounce off the table completely, like Ping­Pong balls. If we look past things that divide us, humanity will find a way to shine through.”

No one should step inside my shoes unless they’re prepared to understand the kind of grief that’s whole­body and constant. It’s quiet but deep. The same way Earth orbits the sun every

hour of every day of every year, I miss my parents, and Faith misses hers.

Stella and Thomas try. They’ve searched our shoe collection. They’ve tried them on. And, just as Cinderella found her magic fit, they’ve managed to find a pair that fits in some way. Of the hundreds of thousands of kids in foster care, they placed an inquiry about me, they went through the classes and orienta­ tion for me, they did the home study for me—they adopted me. Same for Faith, however different our circumstances.

It makes no matter that Stella and Thomas couldn’t conceive naturally. The foster and adoption process stole chunks of time they’ll never retrieve, for a “special needs” boy—due to my age, “minority group,” and “emotional trauma”—long past diapers and bottles and baby powder–scented snuggles. It was financially and emotionally draining for all of us involved, with no guaran­ tee I would welcome them or they could love me the way my parents did. I didn’t embrace them at first. I quite liked my previ­ ous foster family but they felt me only temporary. The Brick­ mans embraced me without hesitation, with a permanent kind of promise. It’s the same kindness my parents would endorse. They gave me a home, a family, and a place I belong. And so, to every stranger along my path, I will be kind, too. Even—especially—the ones who’d prefer I didn’t.

“Those are the souls who need compassion most,” Mom would say. “The ones broken by the world, angry and afraid of trust­ ing. You must remind them that they are not alone. Nothing can be lost in trying. Remember that always, my darling.”

As I hear Faith shouting into her comforter again, I wonder how many have failed to try on her shoes through the near dozen foster homes she’s been in.

I hear you, Faith. I am you.

I think all this before my pre­planned path to Baked & Caffeinated—the coffee and bakeshop at which I’ve been em­ ployed a mere six days—with August Moon streaming through

my earbuds. Today is my first scheduled shift, and if you could feel my heart beat, you’d assume it was about to burst (it very well may). Though Ivy Springs maintains a compact three­mile radius, it’s my first time walking alone. For most, it’s a relaxing walk. But, as my father would often tell me, I am not most people. The mere thought of the journey had me curled in a ball on my twin mattress for at least an hour. Beneath the covers, I gave my best, most inspiring pep talk about how, despite those voices tell­ ing me I can’t do it, I can and I will and I’ll be glorious.

Mom would always lift the blankets off the bed and sit next to me. “This, too, shall pass, my darling.”

“And if it doesn’t?” I’d say with quivering lips.

“It will. You are my corpse flower,” Mom told me. “The larg­ est, rarest flower in the whole world. Blooming takes many ar­ duous seasons, but it is worth the wait.”

The longer she’s gone, the more I understand the layers she peeled off of me. With each one, my shine radiated a little more. Mom and Dad never saw my fears in black and white; people aren’t made so simply. We’re straddling a blur of gray.

The downtown café is fairly new to this small blip of town. Serving variations of roasted coffee beans, espresso concoctions, and freshly baked confectionaries you can smell for miles, Baked

& Caffeinated is one of the few places people my age come. With school out for summer, the position of highly regarded cashier is a way to blend in slightly more than I stand out. When the manager, Liam “Big Foot” Thompson—college student and “organic medicinal specialist” (whatever that means)—barely glanced at the application I spent two long hours filling in, I’m not sure what prompted him to hire me on the spot, but there it was: an opportunity to slide into a new pair of shoes.

“Hard work reveals who people really are,” Dad would tell me. “When the going gets tough, some hide and others rise.”

I will rise, Dad.

One glance at the clock and I see no matter how I rush, the seconds tick by faster than I can keep up. I’m dressed in freshly ironed slacks, an ebony polo buttoned two­thirds of the way up (I was told this is appropriate), snazzy checkered suspenders, and the taupe fedora—feather and all—I cannot live without.

“I’m off,” I tell Stella.

She sits at the kitchen table, a list of recipe ingredients in hand, peering over the bridge of her reading glasses. She pulls a ceramic coffee mug to her lips and sips her coffee with a slurp. It dribbles to the paper. “Ah, damn it!”

I step back, my hands gripping my suspenders as if they’re bungee cords.

“Sorry,” she says, standing. She squares her shoulders with mine and drives her stare through me. “I hope you have the best time.” She pulls me near—an attempt at a hug that’s strangled by her awkward, coffee­saturated positioning. “If you feel over­ whelmed, take a deep breath, excuse yourself to the bathroom if necessary, and you can always, always call me. K?”

I hesitate, fear squirming between us.

She tips my chin up so my eyes fall straight into hers. Her eyes swallow me up in a bubble of safety, little lines spiderwebbing out from the corner creases that cling to my distress, fishing fear out of me, casting it somewhere else entirely. It’s a trick Mom used to do, too.

“You’re going to do great,” she reassures. “Promise.”

I nod, finally, and she releases me from her grip to deal with the coffee puddle. I watch her for a whole minute before she urges me out the door. I’m supposed to work on my time management. I lose time when my brain is knotted with worry. But how do you untangle something you can’t even see?

Along my walk down the potholed sidewalk, my eyes care­ fully plot each step to not catch on a divot. The last time, I nearly broke my arm, the exact spot ridiculing me as I pounce over it with the light­footed pirouette of a cat. I’m so proud of this move, distracted by my obvious victory against that mean concrete hole, I run straight into someone.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I stammer.

“Dude,” a boy says with a heavy grunt. “Watch it.”

I’m hesitant to make eye contact, but I do—Stella and Thomas have encouraged it—alarm bells blaring. The boy’s eyes are nar­ row, brows furrowed. I replay last night’s news headline in my mind—teen shoots former classmate at graduation partyand fold as far down as my small frame will allow.

He rips his earbuds out, his face softening only slightly. I try to walk by, he blocks me. I move to the other side. He stands in my way here, too.

“Excuse me,” I say.

“You should watch where you’re going. It’s a small town with shitty sidewalks.”

“Yes,” I stutter. “I will, thank you for the advice.”

He presses his earbuds back into place and allows me to pass with the wave of his hand.

“Have a wonderful day,” I tell him. My voice shakes, my feet moving faster than before.

Mom would say, “Chin up, eyes forward, not back,” so I re­ peat this to myself, pretending she’s here to ricochet these inter­ actions into outer space. I’m still learning how to be my own hero. My deepest darkest fear is, maybe I never will.

I stand outside the bakeshop and stare up at the illustrated cof­ fee mug on the sign. My reluctance holds me in the center of this busier than normal sidewalk. I remind myself I’m okay. The crowds won’t harm me. I can breathe through it and the day will go on. It can and it will, because it has to. As the sweat accumu­ lates beneath my hat, I think of Mom telling me “now or never,” and open the door. The bell attached to the door rings as I breeze through.

“You’re so late,” Mr. Thompson says after I wind through the line of customers bunched near the counter. “I thought we said ten.”

A quick glance at the time—ten seventeen—and my chin sinks into my chest. “Apologies. We did agree on that time.” Dad used to say, “The only good excuse is none at all,” so I swallow the ones rising into my throat and try to ignore the gnawing feel­

ing in my gut that makes me want to lock myself inside the bath­ room to escape all the noise and people and smells and sounds. My sensory dashboard is on overload. I imagine a little robot in a white coat frantically working to calm each circuit board before it fries. Poor fellow. His work is thankless and sometimes a com­ plete and utter failure. I do my best to help by inhaling another deep breath, exhaling through my mouth as Mr. Thompson guides me to the space behind the counter where I’m to stand. I fumble in the small space, as another employee, a girl in a long flowy dress covered by an apron, welcomes me with a wide grin.

“Hey, newb,” she says. “I’m Violet.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Dew.” I keep a generous distance to not make her uncomfortable, but she moves in close enough to notice how well I’ve brushed my teeth (well enough, I hope).

“You have a really great aura. It’s blue­centric with electric swirls of pink. Very neon, man.”

I respect her need for close proximity and we stand almost nose to nose. “Interesting. What does that mean?”

Her eyes widen as if she’s swallowing every centimeter of mine. “You’re highly sensitive, intuitive, and have strong mor­ als. Like, you’re honest to a fault and can’t seem to deviate from it, even if it’d serve you better to keep your mouth shut. I know, because I’m a total Purple. I can read your palms if you want.”

I slip them into my pockets. “Perhaps later, after I’ve grown accustomed to the process and routines here.”

She smiles and allows me the space to breathe again as Mr. Thompson waves me to a short stack of papers I’m to fill out. “When you’re finished with these, I’ll have Violet show you how to brew espresso shots for lattes.”

I nod. “Sir—”

He stops me with a snicker. “Please—my dad is sir because he’s a dinosaur. I’m Big Foot.”

My eyes confusedly scan the perimeter of this man who is neither big nor seems to have larger than average feet. Perhaps that’s the irony. I decide I like it. “Mr. Foot,” I begin; he stops me again to remind me it’s Big Foot, “I don’t have a driver’s license yet, only a permit. My birthday is in a few weeks, though I’m not interested in driving a motor vehicle at this time. I also have some allergies that may restrict my duties outside of handling the register. I forgot to mention it when I applied.”

He lays a hand on my shoulder. “I read the notes on the ap­ plication. I have a little bro with some pretty gnarly allergies. We specialize in nut­free, dairy­free shit. It’s my duty to represent the underrepresented, you know?”

I nod, relieved.

“If you’re not comfortable with any part, I’ll make sure the others know to step in. Wear gloves. Wash your hands. Take your meds,” he pauses, looks me over, “you got meds, right?”

I nod again.

“I got you, bro. Let me know if you have a flare­up from any­ thing, ’cause I’ve got EpiPens and all that jazz.”

My posture relaxes a bit.

“It’ll be all right. Come get me after V trains you on the espresso shots.”

I nod again, folding my hands in front of me.

Local boy freezes in the middle of summer—tonight at 10.

“So, listen,” Violet says, drawing me closer. “My best friend, Birdie, went through major crappage this past year, and I’ve learned how to be a better friend because of it. Apparently she didn’t feel like she could trust me with her most important secrets, so I totally reevaluated my life choices and decided, with a cleanse, to start anew.”

“Good for you.” I stop to wonder why she’s telling me, a per­ fect stranger, this.

“Point is, I know we just met, but as this new, improved me, I’m good at reading people. And it looks like you could use a little encouragement.”

She pulls a notebook from the cubby beneath the register, the words on the front flap, Book of Silver Linings, catching the gleam

of the fluorescent lights. I watch her fingers flip and fumble to a specific page. “Confidence grows when we step out of our com­ fort zone and do something different.” Her mouth hangs open, half smiling, as if she’s waiting for my reaction.

“That helps. Thank you.”

“No problem. I think you’ll be okay, Dew—what’s your last name?”

“Brickman now, was Diaz.”

“I think you’ll be okay Dew­Was­Diaz­Brickman.” With a wink, she packs the notebook away. “So you’re gonna be a soph­omore or . . . ?”

“Correct, you?”

“Only here for the summer, then off to pre­college; a year of exploratory learning.”

“Where are you headed?”

“Caramel School of Massage and Healing Arts, about forty minutes from here so I can go home when I want. Do you know what you’re doing after high school?”

The question strikes me as abrupt. I’ve thought about the future, but not in the context of who I’ll be in it. “Undecided.” “I was, too. Don’t stress too much. It’s only the rest of your

life.” She laughs, but it’s glaringly obvious it’s not a joke.

I turn to the stack of papers, still unsure of which boxes to check, which address to write, what emergency contacts to state. My initial reaction is my old Indianapolis address, Plum Street, and my parents’ cell numbers, which I’ve memorized. I have to stop myself and carefully think what is true today—a Pearl Street address in Ivy Springs, and numbers that belong to Stella and Thomas. It’s a habit I wish I didn’t have to break.

As I neatly write my answers, I look up to see a man reminis­ cent of my father, dressed in desert­camouflaged pants and a tan fitted T­shirt. He orders a large coffee, black, no sugar. I have a penchant for details. They’re the difference between knowing someone in 2­D or 4­D. Violet pumps the fresh java from a ca­ rafe while the man slides inside a booth near the entrance. The large window lets the sun seep in, coating him in a sunshine glaze; almost angelic. Perhaps it’s my dad inside my bones, mov­ing my feet—he never passed a service member without thanking them for their service—but I find myself standing at the foot of this man’s table.

“Thank you for your service,” I say dutifully.

“Thank you,” he says with a warm smile. “I appreciate that.”

“Well, I appreciate you appreciating me, so I suppose we’re at an impasse of gratitude.” I grin, my hands tucked behind my back to fidget with reckless abandon.

He chuckles as his phone rings. “I’m sorry, but I have to take this.”

“Have a great rest of your day,” I say. “And thank you again.”

“No, thank you—” He stops himself with a palm over the phone speaker. “We could go on forever.”

Violet brings a steaming cup to the table. “This cup signifies my gratitude. Plus, you have a really great aura.”

“Thank you,” he tells her before his attention returns to his call.

The crowd has thinned out and I slink back behind the counter without incident. Violet joins me moments later. I study the way the man holds himself, strong and steady. I wonder who he’s leav­ ing, or coming home to. I wonder where he’s been and where he calls home. I don’t mean to eavesdrop. But his dutiful brawn, his voice, his presence, they almost resound in our small space.

“Sir,” he says, shuffling in his seat. “I hadn’t intended to—yes, sir. I understand.”

A sudden, hard silence falls like a gavel, cutting his booth into before­and­after: the pleasantries before the call, and his tight­ ened jaw after. He holds the phone steady in the air, parallel to his ear, before clutching it inside his fist. All the color fades from his face. I want to look away, I should look away. But one mo­ ment he’s a floating warrior, levitating through fields of all he protects; the next he’s human, weighted by a sharp blow of some­ one’s brandished words, and I can’t.

“I know that look,” Violet whispers. “Heartbreak.”

She says it like she knows the term well. I refrain from spill­ ing how deeply I understand its etymology, my focus still at­ tached to this man—a mere stranger I feel strangely connected to—if only because my story has had a few chapters that didn’t end so well.

He dials a new number. His face contorts into different ex­pressions, shaking the tightness loose to find some kind of smile. “Smiling tricks the mind and body into thinking you aren’t in pain,” Stella taught me. As he forces his lips to upturn, mine do the same.

He clears his throat. “I just wanted to say . . . I . . . I love you. I wish I could stop time, you know? Of course you know. It’s always about the time, isn’t it, baby? We need to talk later. . . . Let me know when you and JJ are back from the farmer’s mar­ ket. I love you. . . . So much . . . Talk soon.”

Violet sighs. “Man. I feel for him. And whoever that message is for.”

I quietly decide I’ll do my best to unearth his buried treasures in the event there is an answer among them—one I’ve been searching for since everything in my own life changed.

“We all have things buried so deep, it would take a dedicated search team to pull them to the surface,” my counselor told me once. She said it after my parents died, when I first learned of the Brickmans’ interest in fostering me. It was a time when I only felt the pieces of me that went missing. This man is missing some­ thing, too.

As the clock moves forward, I feel that pull of time passing. Like oars dropped in the ocean, I scramble to grab ahold. But, losing time doesn’t change what’s happened.

In tonight’s top headlines, new Ivy Springs resident and soon-to-be high school sophomore Andrew Brickman finds something he hadn’t intended during his first shift at Baked & Caffeinated: the crushing realization his parents aren’t coming back.


about the author




Candace Ganger is the author of Six Goodbyes We Never Said and The Inevitable Collision of Birdie &
Bash as well as a contributing writer for HelloGiggles and obsessive marathoner. Aside from having past
lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and world’s worst vacuum sales rep, she’s also
ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction
authors alike. She lives in Ohio with her family.

Twitter: @candylandgang + @WednesdayBooks


let’s discuss

Did you enjoy the excerpt? Have you read Six Goodbyes We Never Said, or is it on your TBR? Let’s talk about it in the comments! (Also I know this post is a bit long—5.5k words—sdfghjk I’m S O R R Y )

Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | CuriousCat | Youtube | Spotify | Discord

August 2019 Reading Wrap-Up // School Obliterating My Reading Time

Let’s all silently ignore the fact this post is a week late and instead dwell on the terrible news school is slowly, but surely destroying my will to live read by the minute.

Jokes aside, I read five books in August! Two were graphic novels—I recently realized reading them is an easy way to getting closer to my reading challenge goal, so am now taking any opportunity to read any of them— and one I technically didn’t finish and had to return to the library, but again, two words: reading challenge.

Anyway, let’s get into the books!


books read

This was the book I didn’t actually get to finish; I had around 30 pages left to read of it before I had to turn it back to the library, but even if I hadn’t had to return it, I honestly don’t think I would have finished it. Oops.

It heavily deals with grief and suicide, and that particular aspect of it did get hard to read at times, but generally the story lagged on quite a bit. I feel as if this book had some other plot point to stand on along with the main one, it would have been more engaging.

rep: Taiwanese-American MC, lesbian side character
cw: suicide, depression

Katie O’ Neill’s books are probably what heaven feels like—I simply can’t fathom how it’s not possible to lay in bed and just exist to continually read this over and over again . . . I mean, is it?

From the festivities, to the Tea Dragons, this book is so, so lively and full of joy. Katie O’Neill successfully combines a fun storyline with beautiful art, and it was delightful to be pulled into this story—please read this when it releases this month!!

rep: almost all-POC cast, non-binary & black main character, main mlm couple, use of ASL

The plot of this book is as dry as the Sahara and my social life combined, which says a lot.

So, I found this book to be very relatable and down-to earth. As is the main character, Remy Cameron, I’m somebody who is queer and black / living in Georgia, so you could probably see how much I connected with Remy. But, I wish there was . . . more to the story?

I don’t completely have my feelings sort out for this book yet, as you can see, but I am looking forward to the author’s book coming out next year! Fingers crossed it won’t disappoint me as much as this one did.

rep: black + gay main character, Korean-American gay LI several other poc / LGBTQIAP+ side characters
cw: discussions of racism, homophobia, past minor characters’ death, alcoholism & depictions of homophobic bullying, scene involving brief sexual harassment/racial fetishism

Nobody talk to me for like . . . a year. If you’re wondering why, it’s the approximate time frame it will take for me to recover from this book.

It follows a girl named Ava, during the aftermath of her being a survivor of a house fire—which killed her parents and her cousin, leaving 60 percent of her own body burned.

I loved every part of this story! It’s very powerful and endearing, and is a book I think everyone should read. If you haven’t already read this or added this to your TBR, this is a request for you to please, do so. You won’t regret it.

rep: disfigured MC
cw: loss of loved ones, death by house fire

I recalled my reading of these books when I was younger seeing it on Netgalley not too long ago, so I decided to download it on there. And after reading this book, literally how did I enjoy these books @ younger me . . . I would like to know.


books hauled

  • l i b r a r y:
    – Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (in preparation for a Rick Riordan event I’m going to this month ! ! , which Roshani Chokshi will be a guest at)
    – The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
    – Cinder by Marrisa Meyer
  • p h y s i c a l:
    – Focused by Alyson Gerber
  • a r c s:
    – Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters
    – The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith
    – The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
    – Fireborne by Rosaria Munda
    – Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia

reading stats for august

books read – 5
pages read – 1,466
books dnfed – 0
average star rating (by the rounded up one): 2.4

let’s discuss

What’d you read in August – any of the books I read? What are you planning to read this month? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

July 2019 Life-Wrap Up // Existential Crisis. That’s It.

Hi, today I’m here with the things that occurred in my life last month July! I’m currently at a loss of words right now because I don’t really know anything notable that happened enough to write it here—it was basically a loop of me being my usual dumb self 🤔 🤔 —though why not try. But anyway, let’s get into the post!


did I achieve my july goals?

  • Read 10 books // // Yes, I did do this — I finished eleven books last month — and I’m still questioning how in the world I did that??
  • Stay on top of my school’s summer reading challenge // // I did manage to complete this goal, by doing it last minute, haha, but at least now that school’s resumed (hear my cries of grief in the background) I don’t have to worry about this.
  • Talk to online friends more often // // Barely? But I’m not surprised.
  • Listen to more music, AKA stop playing Billie Eilish on repeat // // Yes, in fact I found so many good songs in July!! Which I will mention later in this post.
  • Successfully reread the Six of Crows duology // // Oops.
  • Stop being lazy and do a certain thing every day // // My motivation always ceases to exist with this one, but I swear I T R Y. But really, I need to do this thing more often.
  • Post more // // I posted five times in July, which is less than I’d like, but still one more post than in June, so to trick myself into not feeling bad I’m counting it.
  • Spend less time on Twitter // // It’s just too addicting, sorry not sorry @ me a month ago. But I am actually doing so this month so that’s a plus.
  • Stop hoarding boxes of cereal in your room and finishing them in two days // // Um.

So, I completed 4 out of 9 of my goals for last month. That number isn’t so great, but it’s 11 percent more than May, so . . . growth? I don’t even know anymore.


what happened in july?

  • For starters, I read a bunch! I know, I know, I already mentioned this, but as you most likely inferred by now, I’m super happy at this. Now I just need to keep this going, because as I’ve also said before, my reading challenge is suffering. (I recently updated my goal for it from 150 to 105 books, which I thought I wasn’t going to do. But the guilt of not reading many books so far this year was too much, so yep, I did.)
  • As the title writes, I had existential crises over the fact school was resuming again in August. Now as I’ve started the school session (as this post is published, it’ll have been my second day of the year), it’s honestly not as terrible as I thought it would have been? I’m not acquaintanced with much people in my classes, but I’m at least happy I get to eat lunch with the same people I did last year.
  • After that . . . the usual? July was this endless void of reading, sleeping, and wasting time on the internet kinda? It went by so fast, and I really wish I could have made the most of summer break before it ended, but oh well.

media of the month?

This was something I had done for March, and practically ditched after, but now I’ve decided I’ll just add it with my life wrap-up posts because 1) my motivation . . . un-existing, and 2) I think it’s a bit redundant. So anyway.

posts

music

(artists link to their youtube channels if applicable, songs / albums link to spotify!)

  • Basically anything by Billie Eilish // Okay so, I found Billie Eilish in April and I am officially in love. Her music is so . . . I don’t even have the words for it?? Please listen to her music.
  • Basically the entire Healing album by In Love With a Ghost // If you’ve heard it, self-explanatory.
  • Butterfly by LOONA // I was a huuge K-pop fan back in 2017—I lost interest in the genre in early 2018—though I still really like this!! It’s so beautiful.
  • Sappho by Frankie Cosmos
  • Bags + Flaming Hot Cheetos by Clairo // It’s a crime I hadn’t found these earlier.

videos

(not a lot, considering I mostly watched meme compilations, but like . . . good shit)


my goals for august?

  • Read 10 books.
  • Try not to suffer over school.
  • Do a certain thing every day.
  • Catch up w/ my Goodreads reviews / ARCs.
  • Update the spreadsheets for my reading challenges, because yikes.

let’s discuss

What’d you do in July? (If applicable,) have you resumed your school session yet? Also, are you also a loyal worshipper of Billie Eilish? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

July 2019 Reading Wrap-up // The Reading Rush, (Finally) Fulfilling a Certain Goal, + More

Guess who read eleven books in July.

If you didn’t already assume: yep, that person is me — which serves for a extreme, rigorous celebratory event. I’m serious.

I usually only read about 5 or 6 books per month, so the fact I’ve managed to read this many books is surreal to me and I’ll probably never stop screaming about it!! But anyway, let’s get to the books I read in the month of July.


books i read


 :・゚☆✧ representation key :・゚☆✧
ownvoices : ☂️
poc : 🌹
lgbtqiap+ : 🌈
mental health + disability : 🌺


mooncakes // wendy xu and suzanne walker: 3.5 stars [☂️🌹🌈 🌺]

This graphic novel was really cute — I read it in three hours, and it felt refreshing to be immersed in the fun, magical setting of the book. There are a couple things that stand out about it; such as the art, humor, and fun storyline, but I do feel as if it was missing . . . something? Though I will say I got what I expected out of it: a light / short (too short, I will admit. I was devastated at the ending, I wanted moooore) read.

rep: queer Chinese-American MC [ownvoices] w/ hearing impairment [which she uses a hearing aid for] and queer Chinese-American non-binary LI, prominent sapphic couple, plus-size side character
cw: accidental misgendering – pronouns are accommodated afterwards throughout the novel

[goodreads] [goodreads review]


everything leads to you // nina lacour: 5 stars [☂️🌹🌈]

There are so many good things I could say about this book . . . in fact, the list goes on and on. But for now, let’s keep it short: I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with it so deeply. Well, there go all my plans and aspirations in life—just going to devote my time to loving this book. Whoops.

But really, everything about it is so ?? good?? The only negative thought I have about it is the beginning of the book was a bit slow and generally confusing for me (legit thought Ginger was Emi’s pet dog, not even joking), but after getting more and more into it my heart kept breaking into millions and millions of more pieces after every page. So yeah, wholeheartedly recommend.

rep: mixed race black lesbian MC w/ lesbian [ownvoices] LI
cw: death by overdose, parental neglect

[goodreads]


the past and other things that should stay buried // shaun david hutchinson: 3.5 stars [☂️🌹🌈]

This is a story about a boy who reconciles with his ex-best friend after she comes back to life, and I was very excited to read this book due to that specific paranormal element—which you will probably never hear me say again . . . throughout a year and a half of committed reading I have come to realize most paranormal is Trash. Though, I suppose this book is an exception.

Although I was a tidbit dissapointed by it? I did love the friendship part of it though, July and Dino are now among the list of my favorite brotps, but I found the reasoning behind the delay on death hard to grasp, and I feel as if it could have been concluded better.

rep: gay MC [ownvoices] w/ mixed-race Pakistani trans male LI
tw: graphic descriptions of death

[goodreads]

if i’m being honest // emily wibberley and austin-siegemund broka: 3.5 stars [🌹🌺]

Okay, I’m conflicted. That sentence could be majorly evidenced by the fact I added it to my favorites-of-2019 list despite only having rated it three and a half stars, and honestly: I’m still trying to sort my feelings out for it. But that subplot with Cameron and her dad? Amazing.

rep: LI w/ celiac disease [although personally, this came off as something only used to forward the plot, and wasn’t really done well] black ex-LI
cw: parental neglect, cheating

[goodreads]


no ivy league // hazel newlevant: 2 stars [🌹]

This memoir / graphic novel was a mess. And as my mantra is, I honestly don’t think I could sum up my thoughts coherently right now, so MGRTC (mini goodreads review to come? lmao)?

rep: several poc side characters
cw: racism, dream scene in which a minor is kissing a 32-year old, verbal sexual harassment [challenged]

[goodreads]

missing, presumed dead // emma berquist: 3.5 stars [🌈]

I actually managed to read this book in a couple of hours—because it was due at the library on said date—and liked it a lot! It’s about a girl named Lexi who has the ability to know when and how somebody dies via physical touch; throughout the book she helps a dead ghost girl figure out her murderer, and also ensues a romance with her. It was very fast-paced, and let’s just say I was n o t expecting that ending. I’m still sort of reeling over it.

rep: bi / pan mc, bi / pan LI, gay side character
cw: graphic descriptions of death, psychiatric holds

[goodreads]


welcome to hell, briggy bundy! // mina elwell and a.c medina: 2 stars

Not gonna lie, I mainly decided to read this to up my reading challenge (suffering.mp4).

I mean, a 96-page graphic novel? It’s a given. I thought this book was simply okay, but I am eager to find out what occurs in the next installment of the series, so I’ll probably be picking it up.

cw: graphic descriptions of death

[goodreads]


wild beauty // anna-marie mclemore: 2.5 stars [☂️🌹🌈]

Cue the everlasting disappointment from this one. It had so much potential for me as well—Anna-Marie’s writing is so, so, lush and beautiful, but I couldn’t get myself to be invested in this; it read as countless sequences of events . . . and less like a book, if that makes sense? I was constantly waiting for something to happen, and was instead left underwhelmed. //sigh//

rep: latinx / bisexual MCs [ownvoices], genderqueer LI, mlm side character
cw: colorism, sexism

[goodreads] [goodreads review]


girl gone viral // arvin ahmadi: 3 stars [🌹]

I was initially very expectant to love this book, considering its marketing pitch of ‘for fans of Warcross [and Black Mirror]’, it being a favorite of mine. (Insert me screaming about my excitement for this book here.) But to be frank . . . I didn’t. I guess there’s some underlying lesson with this? I don’t know.

rep: Nigerian LI, mlm side character
cw: mentions of suicide

[goodreads] [goodreads review]


oishinbo a la carte, volume 5 – vegetables // tetsu kariya and akira hanasaki: 3 stars [☂️🌹]

I had read most of the books in this series of Japanese-food-culture themed graphic novels, and recently picked up the ones I hadn’t—now desperately wishing I decided to earlier . . . they’re such a ‘treat’ to read. (Please don’t kill me for this.) And although being formulaic and repetitive, I was still super invested with the story! But most importantly, Yamaoka is basically me. I love him.

rep: all-Japanese cast [ownvoices]
cw: mentions of suicide

a list of cages // robin roe: 2.5 stars [🌺]

This was . . . just?? a meh read. How do I articulately say ‘I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it,’ though, because that’s exactly how I feel about it.

rep: MC w/ ADHD
cw: parental neglect / abuse

[goodreads]


Those are all the books I read in July! Now onto me projecting my inner laziness / dumb bitch into writing, this being a cause of it:


✨ the reading rush ✨

Despite me reading more books than usual in July, I literally finished zero books for The Reading Rush, a week-long reading challenge with eight prompts from July 22-28nd that I was super dumb in attempting to commit myself to. I tried.

After around 2-3 days in the week of this challenge, I realized I probably wasn’t going to be able to read seven books for the week, I had decided I was going to use the book I was currently reading to fulfill five challenges (The Astonishing Color of After), then use another book (The Sea of Monsters) to complete two more. Jokes on me that I believed I was actually going to get myself to watch the Sea of Monsters movie though, haha. I’m not surprised, though. Throughout my time of doing reading challenges, I’ve never actually completed on due to my immense lack of motivation and organization. Rip.


stats✨

books read: 11
pages read: 3,214
average rating (by rounded up one): 2.9
favorite book: everything leads to you
least favorite book: no ivy league


let’s discuss

What did you read in July — did you read any of these? Did you participate in the Reading Rush (and please tell me I wasn’t the only one who 100% failed in it)? What are you planning to read this month? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Recommendations for Your Reading Rush TBR

Am I only doing a recommendation post and not a TBR one for this readathon because I’m terrible at TBRs and they stress me out? Yes. But that’s not important right now.

If you don’t know what The Reading Rush is, it’s a week-long readathon—from July 22nd to the 28th—previously titled BookTubeAThon. The hosts (Ariel Bissett + Raeleen Lemay) rebranded it this year, with a new website as well and it looks super cool!! So I obviously had to participate in it this year even though I suck at readathons and this is probably a bad choice.

I don’t have a set TBR yet (I don’t think I’m even going to make one tbh), but why not make a recommendation post for fellow sufferers who are doing the reading challenges though have no idea what to read. Well, to the recs.

(ps: you can add me on the website if you’d like to!! my account name is @ pagestillunread <33)


one: read a book with purple on the cover // everything leads to you, nina lacour

Okay, this one may lean closer to pink than purple, but I just read it this month and ADORED IT. It’s about film-making, love (it’s sapphic!), and new discoveries, and I binged it so hard.

[goodreads]


two: read a book in the same spot the entire time

I can’t necessarily give a book recommendation for this one, so here I’ll just insert what I’ll most likely be doing for this prompt: my bed. I usually read at night in this spot anyway, and I can’t be bothered to pick another one, lmao, so this option is the easiest.

me and my abundance or lack of intellect.

three: read a book you meant to last year

Again, I can’t give a rec for this prompt, so as I did for the last one why not add books I’ll read for this one:

the sea of monsters // rick riordan

For a while, I’ve been wanting to reread the PJO series, so now I’ve made it my goal to (re)read one Rick Riordan book a month (with Zee!). Because honestly? The nostalgia can never be enough.

I read The Lightning Thief last month, and as I said, I loved it as much as the first time reading—maybe more—so I’m excited to see where my thoughts lie with The Sea of Monsters.

[goodreads]

the astonishing color of after // emily x.r pan

Can I just say this cover is absolutely beautiful? This book does look like it’ll be very hard-hitting, but my body is r e a d y.

[goodreads]


four: read an author’s first book // american panda, gloria chao

I know I scream about this one all the time now—but one of my sole missions in life is to get everyone to read this book, so sorry not sorry. It also recently got a new edition (isn’t it stunning?) so even more reasons for you to read it fghjjfghjk.

[goodreads]


five: read a book with a non-human main character

As one of the main characters in this book is undead, this counts . . . right? This was another book I read this month, and I really liked it! I thought it was fun / a nice read, and I loved the themes of friendship in it. But for the record, that ending was highly uncalled for.

[goodreads]


six: pick a book that has five or more words in the title // the weight of the stars, k. ancrum

Look: I could never just not ramble about my love for this book. It’s beautiful and heart-wrenching and I felt all the emotions on every single page. It’s probably going to be my top favorite book of the year, because oh my god, it was so fucking amazing and please read it!!!

[goodreads]

seven: read and watch a book to movie adaptation

W h y do reading challenges always have this one prompt of watching a book’s film adaptation??? I don’t usually watch TV, so I’m a bit stuck on this one (as if that wasn’t the same for the rest of the prompts, lmao), and I’ve only read one book that I liked the movie of—which was a classic.

But really, I can barely read a book, let alone watch a film based on it. My two brain cells are struggling.


LET’S DISCUSS

Are you participating in The Reading Rush? What are you reading for it? Are you reading any of these books / or are they on your TBR? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

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7 Books I Need to Read Before School Kills Me: Mystery Edition // An Undercover Rant About School

School starts in three weeks for me, and I am not ready in the slightest.

I’d rather stay home and sleep and read and do literally anything that doesn’t involve me being there. 100% serious.

And in honor of that, why not make a list of books I’d like to read before I have to go back to that particular hellhole? Except, them all being mystery / thrillers. Because they both involve dying (though school being halfway-figurative), emotional turmoil, and all that good stuff.

So.


one: missing, presumed dead — emma berquist

This book is actually the next one on my ‘TBR’ (kind of? since I don’t actually have a set TBR because they stress me out and I never do them, heh) after I finish my current reads and I’ve been dying to get to it ever since I read Vicky’s wonderful review on it. It’s a sapphic murder mystery, so OBVIOUSLY.

[goodreads]


two: death prefers blondes — caleb roehrig

This is also a book I’ll be reading in the next few days because it’s due date at the library for it is. is unfortunately, coming closer and closer. I desperately want to read it before I have to turn it in (story of my life), and I’m excited! Mostly because I’ll always be here for queer books featuring drag queens. Aaaa.

[goodreads]


three: wilder girls — rory power

Ever since I added this to my TBR back in December of 2018, this book has always been in the back of my mind because the cover is gorgeous, and along with everything else about it (specifically the sapphic / horror parts about it)!! I’m also obsessed with the author’s Twitter feed, so that’s a plus.

[goodreads]


four: two can keep a secret — karen m. mcmanus

While I haven’t read the author’s first book yet (I was about halfway into it before I had to return it to the library, smh), I’m so ready to get my hands on this one because it looks so compelling and good????? Also I should really try to finish One of Us is Lying in the near future.

[goodreads]


five: into the drowning deep — mira grant

This is a sapphic horror with mermaids and disability representation. So duh, I need this . . . no further elaboration needed.

[goodreads]

six: truly devious — maureen johnson

Lately, this trilogy—well, the third book releasing next year—has received looooots of hype, and I’ve only heard good things about it! I may put it off until the final book releases because apparently the first two end on major cliffhangers, but knowing myself, I’ll probably end up not doing that, lmao.

[goodreads]


seven: sadie — courtney summers

Despite the fact I read this less than two months ago, I’ve been aching to reread this ever since I finished it. And considering rereading books isn’t really my thing, that says a lot. (I would die for this book, if the memo didn’t come across already.)

[goodreads]


Those are all the books! I know this is on the shorter side, but hey: as the title says, it won’t be long until school absolutely drowns me in emotional turmoil and deep frustration, haha.


let’s discuss

If applicable, are you resuming your school session any time soon (or have you already started it)? Do you have any good mystery / thriller books to recommend? Have you read any of the books on this list? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

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An Author Interview With Phil Stamper, On The Gravity of Us // Space Intrigue, Gays, + More

Hi! Today, I’m here with an interview with Phil Stamper, debut author of The Gravity of Us!

I’m so excited for this book to release. It’s everything I ever wanted and uGH I need it now. And also possibly one of my most anticipated 2020 releases?? Adfghjkghjk.

Here’s some info about the book:

(THE COVER IS SO PRETTY.)


As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels–fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bloomsbury | Book Depository | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Target


I know you’d be lying if you said you wouldn’t already die for this book looking at the breathtaking cover and synopsis . . . because yes.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. To the interview:

I can’t wait to read The Gravity of Us! Who was your favorite character to write, and why? What was your least favorite thing about writing them?

I loved writing all of my characters, but building my main character Cal was by far the most rewarding. I have such a love for the 60s space race that I worried me being nostalgic for this time period would be inauthentic and would make the story feel less relevant as a contemporary story. But then I created Cal, a cynical social media journalist whose life is turned upside down when his dad gets chosen to be an astronaut candidate for a mission to Mars and he’s forced to relocate to Houston.

Seeing the fictional Mars mission and NASA’s reimagining of the 60s space race through his lens actually made me more cynical. He made me want to look for the real story. In the 60s, astronaut families were far from perfect, but when the cameras came around, they had to snap into shape and play their roles. Beyond that, the entire era was marred with sexism, racism, and so on.

At one point, Cal says “nostalgia is a blindfold” and in a way, he kind of taught me that while I wrote the book.


The way Cal and Leon get to meet, then fall in love is so interesting. Were there any scenes featuring Cal and Leon which meant a lot to you?

Oh, so many. In one of their first scenes together, after they’ve just gotten to know each other and have established that there’s some chemistry happening between them, Cal tries to kiss Leon.

Cal is a fixer—he wants conflict and tension to be resolved ASAP. He wants to make people happy, he wants the truth out, and he absolutely hates when anything gets in the way. In this case, he sees Leon struggling with depression, and simply wants to make him feel better.

But as we know, and as Cal learns, he can’t just “kiss away” mental health issues. This scene is really important to me because it shows how challenging it can be to respectfully navigate new relationships. But in this scene, I was able to pull from my experience with anxiety and depression to show that these scenarios exist and show readers their own experience with mental health is valid. You can read the full excerpt in my cover reveal here! 


I love the space intrigue + gays concept The Gravity of Us. Do you have any recommendations for books that have a similar concept to it?

I wish there were more books like this that come to mind. Generally when space intrigue + gays come together, it becomes a literal “gays in space” story—which is totally awesome, just not really what this one is about.

But the heart of the story is about two boys falling in love. Some queer stories I read recently—note that these are not all m/m—that have hit that spot for me include LIKE A LOVE STORY by Abdi Nazemian, LEAH ON THE OFFBEAT by Becky Albertalli, BLOOM by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau (Illustrator), and I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST by Mason Deaver.


about the author


Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. He has a B.A. in Music and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt. He works for a major book publisher in New York City and lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. THE GRAVITY OF US is his first novel, but he’s no stranger to writing. His self-insert Legend of Zelda fanfiction came with a disclaimer from the 14-year old author: “Please if you write a review don’t criticize my work.” He has since become more open to critique… sort of.


I hope you enjoyed reading this! It’s my first interview on the blog, so I hope the questions I asked weren’t too dumb, lmao.


let’s discuss

Is The Gravity of Us on Your TBR? Please tell me it is – or have you read an ARC of it? Let’s talk about it in the comments! 🙂

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June 2019 Life Wrap-Up (+ April and May) // Pride Month, Florida, Full Body Tics Disrupting My Sleep (only half-joking), and More

Hi! Today I’m here with all the stuff that occurred in my life in June. Also April . . . and May . . . because I’m lazy. But we won’t talk about that.


So, I don’t really want to dwell on the April and May events a lot, because those months seemed like ages ago and I don’t remember much about them?
So, to get those out of the way: in list form, here are a few notable things that happened then.

  • a bunch of orchestra concerts! my school also invited a school from a different state to perform for us / vice versa, which was really fun . . . but it was mostly me sitting there appreciating how GOOD THEY WERE, oml. i also made this one new friend during those concerts, so that whole thing was cool!
  • i had a violin recital! i think i did pretty well in it, and managed not to die right there and then, so i’m proud of myself for that.
  • school being out! it’s refreshing to not have all the stress from being in school / just having time for yourself, you know? also the opportunity to read more. which so far, is not going so well, but we have time!! (me trying to give myself false hope)
  • looots of tics—which is fitting, because tourettes’ awareness month is may 15th to june 15th. which, i will elaborate on in the june section if you’re not familiar with the term.

did i complete my april goals?

if you’re wondering about the may ones, i did not create any for may— which is also due to the fact i’m lazy.

  • read 10 books // ✘ // i’m not even surprised. i ended up reading four, which i am honestly still proud of! most of them were binge reads, too, which i barely ever do.
  • get accepted for at least 15 of the ARCs i requested // ✘ // what was i even thinking.
  • start journaling again // ✘ // i wrote one journal entry. and there’s only one to follow that one, so that goal’s not going very well overall.
  • catch up on my goodreads reviews // ✘ // pfft.
  • read more diverse books // // that i did do – and am continuing to do that! this is something i’ll strive to do forever, as well.
  • post more // ✘ // i posted 3 times in april, and 3 times in may – which was still more than in february (i posted 0 times, lol), though they were all wrap-ups. so, i guess you can interpret this both ways, which is why i added both the check mark and the x mark, i suppose.
  • chat with a specific group of online friends more // ✘ // not to my shock, this goal was not fulfilled. the whole reason i fell out with said group was for incredibly toxic (as in what they did), and honestly better for my wellbeing so i guess that’s kind of good for me? i do miss them for reasons though, mostly because i’m lonely and don’t have anyone to talk to now. and there’s always this guilt in me that if i didn’t start shortening the time i spent with them last summer, my connections to them would be normal and i wouldn’t have this problem? i’m not really sure.
  • raise my grades // // i did this!
  • listen to more music, AKA stop playing billie eilish on repeat // ✘ // i did not do this. but let’s be real: billie eilish on repeat is the best form of self care.
  • either update the spreadsheet for the reading challenges i’m in, or quit most of them // ✘ // nope.

So, looking at all of these, you can see I failed 7.5, and completed 2.5 of my April goals – I fulfilled only a third of them. I would like to try better this month, because . . . yikes, lmao.


what happened in june?

CW: I briefly mention anxiety, panic attacks, and homophobia.

June was kind of a blur (like every other month this year, holy shit), and was an anxious / depressing month for the most part, but why not highlight a couple things and ramble about them.

So, I could basically write ‘tics’ for this section, and still be mostly accurate.

Because that’s exactly what happened.

[As I mentioned in the April + May section], If you’re unfamilar with the term ‘tic,’ they’re short, repetitive involuntary movements or sounds.

They’re mainly associated with tic disorders like Tourette’s Syndrome—which you probably have heard of—Chronic Motor / Vocal Tic Disorder, Transient Tic Disorder, etc., and those with other neurological conditions that aren’t necessarily tic disorders can also have them—such as autistic people, those with PANDAS, and more. Common tics are but not limited to neck jerking, grunting, sniffing, coughing, and meaningless sounds and phrases. (In which I all have . . . including a lot more.)

Oh and, in case you’re wondering, all people with tic disorders having a swearing tic, formally referred to as coporalia, is a stereotype, and false—vocal tics are generally less common and only 10% of people with Tourettes’ and other tic disorders have swearing tics.

This is starting to read like a medical information pamphlet so anyway: that’s what I have—tics.

They’re not so painful or debilitating or anything, but it’s exhausting mentally to have them sometimes, which is why I want to talk about them. My family isn’t very supportive about my tics, which aggravates me because they’re involuntary and I can’t suppress them much. And I know they’re informed with that fact because we’ve seen medical professionals about them so it’s just like ??? sometimes.

Also, I’m a bit anxious about school coming around the corner because I have to wait a couple months in the coming term before I have a Tourettes’ diagnosis (because one of the diagnosis criterion is tics must be present for over a year), which is open to . . . lots of problems, so yay me.

Ending this part with a light note, I would also like to point out what I said in the title: ‘when you’re trying to sleep but the full body tics start coming in’ has been a big mood lately, haha.

Well, happy belated Tourettes’ Awareness Month.

I did go to Florida.

It wasn’t very fun because the reason we (as in my family) went wasn’t for vacational purposes, and I was on the verge of a couple panic attacks because of the amount of stress I had, and public places we went to. A bitch would rather stay in their room, read, and ramble on the internet, along with various other things. That bitch is me.

But I did take pictures! And we’re all here for some aesthetic, so.

caw caw

I didn’t forget about Pride Month!!

This is my first year actually acknowledging myself as a queer person—specifically nonbinary, asexual, and lesbian, so obviously I was coming into June in a ‘pride month is best month. convo over’ kind of way. While there was very much support, fun, rainbows, tasteful discourse, etc. (with some toxicity, though), in June online, it wasn’t so in real life—because I’m a closeted teen living in a majorly homophobic household. So it was pretty fucking awful at home. But that’s okay! June in the aspect of Pride Month was nice, if I forget about that part for a second, I guess.


my goals for july.

  • read 10 books // i’m almost certain I’ll be able to do this! i have several library books to get to, and i’m excited to read some of them and find out my thoughts concerning them.
  • stay on top of my school’s summer reading challenge.
  • talk to online friends more often // (not the aforementioned ones!!)
  • listen to more music, AKA stop playing Billie Eilish on repeat // so far, this is going well! i’m currently building up a playlist of songs i’d like to talk about for June’s MOTM and this month’s. so stay tuned for that.
  • successfully reread the six of crows duology // i initially read soc in aug 2018 (5 stars) and ck in december 2018 (2 stars), and i’ve decided to reread them! also, i’m buddy (re)reading them with ash.
  • stop being lazy and do a certain thing everyday.
  • post more. // i have a couple of posts and reviews in mind in which i’m excited to write! hopefully i end up doing them.
  • spend less time on twitter // i started using twitter in may, and now all i do it scroll it everyday. i’m addicted, please help. (or not.)
  • stop hoarding boxes of cereal in your room and finishing them in two days // kind of joking, kind of not . . i have officially hit rock bottom.

That’s it for this post! Sorry if it was too long, haha.


let’s discuss

What’d you do in June? Was this post too long / incoherent for your comprehension (I hope that’s not the case.)? Did you have a good Pride Month? Let’s talk about it in the comments! 🙂

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