Summer Bucket List

It’s officially summer! I absolutely love when the weather gets warm and the beach gets busy. This will be my first summer living in LA county and I am so stoked to have the opportunity to be at the beach whenever I want. I know not everyone lives in a similar geographical area, but I wanted to put together my own summer bucket list for those of us on a budget!

  • Street fruit, kombucha and the beach (or at the park!)

  • Hikes and picnics

  • Learn to surf

  • Day trips! (Santa Barbara, SLO, San Diego, Big Bear)

  • Rooftop pools

  • All of the sunsets (or sunrises)

  • Take your work out to a new location - a local park, beach, or other outdoor space

  • Free movies - check your city or surrounding cities for free movies in the park or at the beach

  • Kayaking or stand up paddling

  • Hike to a swimming hole

  • Play a game you loved as a child

  • Read one new book per month

  • Check out a community event - whether it’s a free concert, art walk, or something else entirely

  • Ask one Instagram friend to hang out irl

  • Be a tourist in your own town - see things through fresh eyes

I hope you all have a wonderful, and safe, summer! Tag me in your insta stories if you end up doing one or more of these things so I can see!

Book Review: Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith

somethinglikegravity.jpeg

I have been in the mood for a really good YA romance for a while now, but they just kept alluding me. That is, until I received Amber Smith’s newest book Something Like Gravity. The cover caught my eye, of course, but then the description: “for fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all” I crossed my fingers and hoped it wouldn’t disappoint and it definitely did not.

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

Chris is our main character who has recently come out as a trans man. He suffered a horrific assault at the hands of his peers, and is understandably still reeling. Maia is a cisgender female from a small southern town who is struggling to find herself after her sister has unexpectedly died. Chris and Maia’s families are both integral to the story, and we catch glimpses of them throughout. Where I was a little disappointed was in both Chris and Maia’s friends. Their characters felt very flat and one-dimensional. They were necessary for the story but felt really bland. Smith somehow gives us just enough development that we fall in love with these characters but still leaves us wanting more. The perfect literary balance.

PLOT

The writing style is very fluid throughout even with switching between point of views. This could have just been a light and fluffy summer romance novel, but it goes deeper. There are secrets, pain, trauma, misunderstandings, soul searching, and imperfect relationships. I was surprised by how sensitive the romance was and how important personal growth was to the story. I want more books like this. The pacing is good, and Smith writes in such a way that the pages essentially turn themselves. There were a few times when Smith pleasantly surprised me with a plot development choice.

OVERALL

Is there anything sexier than CONSENT? No there is not, and Smith proves that to us within these pages. Consent is and can be sexy, I hope other authors follow suit. As far as I am aware, this was not written in Own Voices so I hope that it is an accurate depiction of a FTM point of view. I myself have never had this experience so I cannot be sure, and it does give me some pause.

Overall, this was a fun read. If you enjoyed Love, Simon I think it’s safe to say you will love this one, too. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it provoked many important questions within me. I would absolutely purchase this for teens grade 9-12 and adults that enjoy contemporary YA romance. Due to be released June 18, 2019 - you can place your pre-order here.

Book Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Boarding school trope with a Feminist horror twist

Boarding school trope with a Feminist horror twist

Rory Power takes the well-known and well-loved young adult boarding school trope and marries it with a survival story…and then turns it all on its head. Wilder Girls is a wild ride, indeed. We find ourselves in a hellish world where a mysterious illness named the Tox either kills or deforms all those remaining at the Raxter School for Girls. It’s jam-packed with diversity and luscious, stylistic writing.

"Feminist horror" -- for those of you that are fans, do I need to say more? The gore will not disappoint. For those of you that are skeptical still, this certainly has creepy, skin-crawly elements. At times, I had to squeeze my eyes shut because the imagery was so vivid and horrific. I have to give an extra star just for uniqueness alone, as there are few books that I have read in the young adult genre that have similar story-lines. It has apocalyptic overtones and political undertones.

The first few chapters felt relatively bland to me. It wasn't until we first get Byatt's POV that I was gripped. The way that Powers writes for Byatt is nothing short of poetic. I wanted more Byatt and less Hetty. There was a lot of unnecessary repetition, which could just be my own pet peeve. The world building could have been more descriptive and the ending felt rushed and abrupt. An extra 50 pages, maybe more, were really needed to give some necessary backstory and a less hurried ending. That being said, I would be interested in a sequel. Power's writing style is unique, gripping and nothing short of exquisite.

The entire time I was reading, all I could do was compare this to an M. Night Shyamalan movie. It is that type of "wtf just happened". 3.5 stars from me, rounded up. The rushing at the end coupled with underdeveloped characters had me wanting more. But bravo for a first novel. You can pre-order your copy here, Wilder Girls will be out in early July of this year.

I'm pretty confident that we can all agree the cover is absolutely stunning. It is what caught my eye in the first place. I wish I had a physical copy to photograph because I know bookstagram would be all about this one.

Power does give us a list of content warnings, which I would advise you read before reading or gifting this to someone else.

Book Review: Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler

This is my review for Erika Swyler'‘s newest book,  Light From Other Stars

This is my review for Erika Swyler'‘s newest book, Light From Other Stars

This is Erika Swyler’s second novel, her first being The Book of Speculation which I absolutely loved reading a few years ago. I was so excited to see that she had a new book coming out with such a beautiful cover. (I still cannot get over that cover, y’all!) I put this on my Ravenclaw book recommendations list and for good reason, Light From Other Stars is moving, expansive, and utterly brilliant. It’s one of those books that you can’t easily shake even once you’re finished.

“She thought she’s had fear burned out of her in 1986, that particular emotion replaced by grit. “I didn’t think I would be, but I’m scared,” she said. “So was the first person who ate a lobster. But he was also hungry,”
— Light From Other Stars

Nedda Papas is our main character, she jumps between being an eleven year old dreamer and an adult aged achiever. Nedda and her parents are incredibly science minded. I myself am not science minded, and for that reason it was difficult for me to relate to the characters. With that being said, Swyler does an expert job at marrying the sciences and the humanities. Beyond that, the relationships between the characters are what really stood out for me. Relationship between mother and daughter, friends, colleagues, and father and daughter. The relationships between them reminded me what it means to be human, what separates us from machine. A story ultimately about love and loss, regret and hope and all of the other emotions that make us human.

I was actually surprised when the book took sharp turn towards science-fiction. The entire book is very smart and pushed my understandings of what is and is not possible within the realm of science. There were so many brilliant one liners peppered throughout this book, I have annotation tabs every few pages. Set in our world, and yet not, this one is for all of my sci-fi, space, NASA, science-loving readers out there. You are in for a treat. And for those readers that aren’t particularly into those things, this might not be your favorite book, but you will love it, and perhaps more importantly, learn from it.

Light From Other Stars is one of those books that makes you really pause to ponder, question, and think more deeply not only about the story unfolding before you, but also your own life and understandings. The pacing is perfect throughout. The writing is wonderful, poetic even; the kind of writing that reminds me why I love to read. Trust that Swyler will eventually answer all of your questions, and enjoy the ride. You can expect this book from Bloomsbury in May! You can pre-order your copy here.

There aren’t many books that I say this about, but trust me, you’re going to want to read this one.

Book Review: Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke

“Sometimes even destiny needs a little bit of help.”

“Sometimes even destiny needs a little bit of help.”

I included this one in my Ravenclaw book recommendations for good reason. It’s a bit like Divination class without tests. This is a story about fate, love, and the choices that we make in the face of both. It is fun, mischievous, fun-loving, and very witty. I have given Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke 4 out of 5 stars.

I absolutely love astrology, and was so excited when I read the premise of this book. I absolutely had to read it, and I am so glad that I did. The story is set in Australia, which was a fun change of pace from the mostly American and British books that I typically find myself reading. The chapter titles are each zodiac sign, with the chapters in between titled “cusp”. It is the simple but fun details that add to what makes this book so good.

Our main characters are Justine (Sagittarius and serious skeptic) and Nick (Aquarius and true believer) who grew up together but fell out of touch. Justine uses her position at work to attempt to sway Nick to choosing to give her a call for a date, but it goes south rather quickly. It’s quite a smart book, and I picked up many little details peppered throughout each chapter that related to the chapter title. For example, in Taurus there were places, events or otherwise that related back to the bull or characteristics of the bull. Darke really made this an entertaining read on many levels. The main characters felt believable and relatable, if not a little predictable.

If you are a fan of movies like New Year’s Day and Love Actually, you will love this book as well. I could see this easily adapting to the big screen. There were many other stories told in Star-Crossed in a similar way of those movies. At the beginning it was hard to follow along to all of these interweaving characters and stories, but as the book progressed it became more obvious how they were all tied together. I really appreciated that Darke mostly kept these other stories within the “cusp” chapters so it was easier to keep things organized in my mind.

It is a small world, after all. Darke reminds us not to take life too seriously, that we are all agents of change in our own lives, but to be reminded that there are larger forces acting upon us every day. This will be available for purchase in the US on May 21st, 2019. Place your pre-order for this one now, you won’t regret it.

Book Recommendations Based On Your Hogwarts House: Ravenclaw

Ravenclaw book recs!

Ravenclaw book recs!

Ah, Ravenclaw. My very own Hogwarts house, so I am a bit partial. Although, it was the most difficult house to put together a book list for. I took the house traits of wit, learning, creativity, and wisdom into consideration along with the house colors. I wanted to include a variety of books as I think Ravenclaw gets stereotyped as the nerdy bunch and it is often looked over that we are the dreamers and the creatives. These are my recommendations for fellow Ravenclaws.

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Red Queen - Victoria Aveyard || I did choose this book because it has a literal diadem on the front cover, and if you are familiar with Ravenclaw you know that the Lost Diadem of Ravenclaw was a critical horcrux in the Harry Potter series. These books tackle things like royal blood, power, and family. It’s not particularly clever or unique in its plot, but it’s good writing all the same.

Study in Charlotte - Brittany Cavallaro || This is an interesting kind of retelling of the Sherlock Holmes trope. Teenage descendants of both Holmes and Watson have become friends and are now solving mysteries together. I would say a fair share of Ravenclaw love to crack a good mystery and enjoy the thrill of a puzzle. These books are for you.

Exit West: A Novel - Mohsin Hamid || My fellow Ravenclaws will appreciate the subtlety in this book. It is quietly powerful, beautiful, and unique. Page after page is filled with gentle truth, and you will be moved. This is the story of the relationship between two young people who are changed by forces out of their control. This is one for the politically minded.

Strange the Dreamer - Laini Taylor || “The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around” This is such a well-loved book. Laini Taylor knows how to world build, and her characters are well done. Strange and beautiful, this is for my fellow Luna-hearted readers.

Star-Crossed - Minnie Darke (May 2019) || A love story with an astrological twist. I thought this was a fun play on love and Fate. Astrology and horoscope are woven through the plot. A fun-loving contemporary for those that look to the stars.

Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón || I honestly feel like I should re-read this, it has been many years since I picked it up. That being said, it is one of my favorite books of all time. A historical mystery that takes place in the winding streets of 1945 Barcelona. There are banned books, book cemeteries, and dark secrets. I encourage you to get swept up in this immediately.

Light From Other Stars - Erika Swyler (May 2019) || The cover is so beautiful! The main themes of this book are ambition but also dreams. What it means to have a dream, the ways that outside forces can hold us back, and the lengths we go to achieve them. This takes place on the Florida space coast and is for lovers of space, dreams, sacrifice, and feminism.

Binti trilogy - Nnedi Okorafor || You can buy these novellas separately, but they now come bound together in one collection. A sci-fi trilogy about a young girl named Binti who has a knack for math. She has been invited to attend the most prestigious University in the galaxy. If this doesn’t scream Ravenclaw, I don’t know what does. Short and beautifully written, these are a must read for young and older adults alike.

What would you add to the Ravenclaw book list? Let me know in the comments! You can find Hufflepuff recommendations here, and Slytherin and Gryffindor on my YouTube channel.

Book Review: Red, White & Royal Blue + A Word on Representation in Lit

My review for Casey McQuiston’s debut novel,   Red, White & Royal Blue

My review for Casey McQuiston’s debut novel, Red, White & Royal Blue

Have you ever read a book and wondered 1. if you actually blacked out for some period of time and wrote it or 2. it was written with you directly in mind as the reader? This is how I felt the entire time I was reading Casey McQuiston’s new-adult romantic comedy, Red, White & Royal Blue. The story is funny, sexy, HOT, heartbreaking, important, and relevant. Due out in May, pre-order is available now.

REPRESENTATION MATTERS

Expanding our world with different perspectives is part of the thrill of reading, but it can be very lonely to only read books where there isn't anybody like you. I support authors that include a diverse array of characters in their stories. I want younger generations to read a book and find themselves within the pages, I want them to feel included and inspired to be the hero in their own story.

PLOT AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

The First Son of the United States of America falls in love with the Prince of Wales. It’s not insta-love but it is a little bit of enemy turned lover. What at first begins as a fake, Instragrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. What would (or could) it look like for a political figurehead of the United Kingdom and the United States to fall in love with one another and discover their sexuality along the way?

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is so lovable, believable, relate-able. I want to be his best friend so that I can tell him to shut the actual fuck up. Prince Henry is a soul-wrenching heartthrob. He has been forced to divorce from who he truly is for who he was born to be. As these two get to know one another and grow together, you can’t help but fall in love, laugh out loud, scream, and cry along the way.

The secondary characters are well developed. June and Nora are the sisters and best friends I wish I had. It is this kind of character development that makes me cross my fingers and hope for a sequel. The kinds of characters you want to KNOW. The complexities and representations of the characters in this story are genius and cleverly done.

WHY I LOVED IT

  • Besides the fact that it was a romantic comedy centered around a queer couple, I absolutely fucking adored the political and historical plot-line and banter within. My undergraduate degree is in international affairs so I felt that it was an added unique layer that absolutely drew me in.

  • I LOST COUNT OF HOW MANY HARRY POTTER REFERENCES WERE MADE. “Hufflepuff ass bitch” is a direct quote. Need I say more on this?

  • Speaking of Hogwarts, I’m a Ravenclaw, and I appreciate when I can tell that an author did their research. Casey, I see that hard work and I appreciate it.

  • Lots of cussing. I want to read about characters that speak like I speak.

  • The relevancy of the topics within are so good. There are these really smart references to the current political climate that I just could scream about, honestly. It is done in such a clever way. Is the author a Ravenclaw? The wit. McQuiston manages to quietly address gun control, representation in government, “thoughts and prayers”, Brexit, lack of a female POTUS and others that make me want to already go back and read for again. It is in this quiet way that makes it feel even more powerful.

  • I wasn’t sure how it was going to end. There is honestly nothing I dislike more than a predictable ending.

  • It gave me hope. Hope for a future America that looks like the America depicted in this parallel-but-not world within RW&RB

WHY YOU WILL LOVE IT

Would you consider yourself to have a certain amount of sass? Do you identify as a millennial or Gen Z? Did you grow up on Harry Potter? Do you stay up-to-date on current politics? Do you enjoy laughing? Do you wish that there was a show that was a cross between The Crown and Queer Eye? Do you have a soul? THEN YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK.

Will this land on my “best of 2019”…the potential is there ya’ll.

Book Recommendations Based On Your Hogwarts House: Hufflepuff

Hufflepuff book recs!

Hufflepuff book recs!

People are always asking me for a good book recommendation, so I decided to take it a step further and create lists of book recommendations based on your Hogwarts House. This is something that I have seen done on YouTube and wanted to put my own spin on it. I will split the lists between my YouTube channel and here on my blog, so be sure to follow on both.

Ah, Hufflepuffs, known for their dedication, kindness, loyalty, and patience. Their house colors are yellow and black. Using both the characters of the house and the colors, I have come up with books that I think any Hufflepuff would love to have on their shelves. Happy reading!

Have you been sorted by the Hogwarts Sorting Hat?

Have you been sorted by the Hogwarts Sorting Hat?

The Female of the Species - Mindy McGInnis || The cover is cute and unassuming, yellow and perfectly Hufflepuff…but the inside is brutal at times. A contemporary YA novel that is complicated and important. This is not the fluffy, sweet book that you would assume to be assigned to Hufflepuffs. Hufflepuffs tend to known as simple and kind, but I know Hufflepuffs would understand the true importance of this book.

Turtles All The Way Down - John Green || If someone randomly asked me to choose an author for each Hogwarts House, I would definitely put John Green in Hufflepuff. This is his latest work about living with mental illness, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, and Star Wars fan fiction.

Anne of Green Gables - Lucy Maud Montgomery || Can you imagine a better place for a Hufflepuff than the Green Gables? Really, need I say more? Anne’s imagination is vast, her positivity infectious.

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli || I haven’t read these books, but I did watch Love, Simon and I did, in fact, love Simon. It’s cute, funny, emotional, and really important. It wasn’t so long ago that YA did not, could not, include LGBTQ+ characters. This is one of those feel-good nostalgia types that takes you back to high school and makes you cry and laugh along the way.

Bear Town - Frederick Backman || Loyalty. Family. Bear Town is full of Hufflepuffs. Frederick Backman is a well-known and well-loved author, but this is the first of his work that I have read. I was instantly sucked into the story, his writing is so compelling. Hufflepuffs, you will love this one if you love a tale about small towns, big dreams and the people that feel pressure to live up to expectations.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before - Jenny Han || I’m not sure that Lara Jean is a Hufflepuff, but she definitely has some of the house characteristics. This is such a feel good movie, I have to imagine the books are the same way. It made me laugh and cry and everything in between.

The UnHoneymooners - Christina Lauren (May 2019) || I chose this one for the cover. It is a tale of unlikely love. A romantic comedy, honestly, you might laugh so hard you cry. Good vibes all around, and if there is anyone who appreciates fun-loving good vibes, it’s a Hufflepuff.

I’ll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson || Do read this. Not only is the cover warm and perfect, so is the story inside. Every word is such a thing of radiant beauty, i know my soul is incapable of feeling anything other than joy when reading this. this book is true art at its finest. 

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell || “Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.” This book will make you feel all the feels. Wholesome, adorable, fun-loving…a must read.

Field Notes On Love - Jennifer E. Smith (March 2019) || Two characters meeting under unlikely circumstances setting out on an adventure together. Maybe a bit predictable but fun and heartfelt all the same. It sits snugly as a typical YA romance and if that is your thing, you won’t be disappointed.

What about you… what books would you add to the Hufflepuff reading list? What Hogwarts House do you want to see recommendations for next? Comment below and let me know! And be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss the next one!

Book Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review

I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review

Helen Hoang outdoes herself in her second novel. Her debut novel, The Kiss Quotient, was a bestseller and a romantic favorite. The Bride Test, due out May 2019, is undoubtedly cute, sexy, sweet and laugh-out-loud funny. It surprised me, however, with its depth and approach to important issues below the surface.

Khai is a Vietnamese-American with autism; Esme is an impoverished, uneducated Vietnamese immigrant living in America. When Khai's mother plays matchmaker with a determination for him to marry, Khai and Esme end up teaching one another lessons they never expected to learn. The secondary characters are just as rich as Khai and Esme, and a great source of my chuckling. Quan, Khai's brother, is well developed, three-dimensional and wholly believable.
This book broaches topics such as immigrating to the United States with no money, no education and a cultural learning curve. It may seem like another love story at the surface, but ultimately is a tale of bravery, mutual respect, and our capacity to love. Hoang makes consent look as sexy as it always should. We have a Vietnamese female protagonist presented in a way that doesn't feel forced. An individual with autism that has built up walls to numb pain but failed to realize it also numbed happiness.
Maybe this a 4.75 for me because it isn't a book that I would re-read (I am generally not a re-reader) but I would whole-heartedly recommend The Bride Test snag a spot on your May TBR list. It exceeded my expectations. Funny, important, HOT, and engaging.

10 Books Every Harry Potter Fan Should Read

The OG  Harry Potter  illustrations!

The OG Harry Potter illustrations!

I have been chasing down books that I could potentially love as much as I love Harry Potter for roughly ten years now. I decided to put together a little list of 10 books every Potterhead should add to their TBR stack. Happy reading!

  1. The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon || This has been my favorite series since Harry Potter. It follows a clairvoyant named Paige through Scion London. “Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.” This series is not complete yet, which is fun when you get to anticipate the next and re-read as the new ones comes out. Full of magic, loss and love these are definitely a must-read for fans of the Wizarding World.

  2. Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo || I am late to the Leigh Bardugo party but I am so glad I have finally arrived. She is a true queen of fantasy. The Grishaverse is brilliantly constructed in a way to make your imagination sing. I would recommend starting here if you are a first time Grishaverse reader. “Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.”

  3. Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo || Bardugo is the perfect author for those of us who are character driven but still love a good plot. Her characters are three-dimensional and believable and it is here that Bardugo begins to truly shine. “Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .”

  4. A Darker Shade of Magic - V.E. Schwab || This is the first book in the Shades of Magic trilogy. Schwab takes a unique approach on magic. This wasn’t a favorite read but explores magical realms and alternate realities in a way that is intriguing. “Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. . .After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.”

  5. Akata Witch - Nnedi Okorafor || I have seen this called the African Harry Potter. “Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?

  6. A Court of Thorns and Roses - Sarah J Maas || I absolutely adore these books. If you need a world other than your own to escape to, I would highly recommend Prythian. I know that these will be re-reads for me; the kind of books that you find something different in each time you pick it up. “Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...”

  7. Children of Blood and Bone - Tomi Adeyem || This is the first in what is to be a series, and with all the buzz already surrounding it, I had to put it on the list. “They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. Now we rise. Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.”

  8. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins || This is now a well known and well loved major motion picture, and for good reason. These were the first books that reminded me that there are other amazing fantasy authors besides just J.K. Rowling.

  9. Throne of Glass - Sarah J Maas || “Meet Celaena Sardothien. Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness. In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, Celaena, an assassin, is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king’s champion.”

  10. The Gilded Wolves - Roshani Chokshi || “A novel set in Paris during a time of extraordinary change—one that is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous desires...” That’s really all I needed to know that I would love this. Somewhere between fantasy and historical fiction, you won't want to pass this one up.

Have you read any of these? Do you agree that they should make the cut? What books would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Hot Topic: A Love Story

“It’s  NOT  a phase, mom!”

“It’s NOT a phase, mom!”

I make the statement at least once a month that someone should do a project on Hot Topic for their business class. I mean, wow, what an evolution. I’m not in any business classes, but I thought who better to point out the way that Hot Topic has grown and changed along with us than me, myself, and I? And it is almost Valentine’s Day, after all. This one’s for you, fellow old folks!

Gone is the smell of must and plastic friendship bracelets. Gone are the doors with the logo that was made to look like dripping blood. There is no longer metal music blaring over the speakers, and while there is still a t-shirt wall, it’s now mostly cute, funny, and sweet tees.

I spent the better portion of my middle school angsty teenage years wandering the halls of my local mall. My best and I were s0o edgy. We would have one of our parents drop us off to see a movie where our feet would stick to the floor and we couldn’t have loved it more. After the end credits we would walk aimlessly through the mall, usually ending up in Hot Topic to peruse the mesh and lace tops, flame boots, and new chain wallets. I had colorful jelly bracelets on up to my elbows, and two mismatched earrings because #punkrockforever. We almost always left with a new punk band tee from the iconic t-shirt wall; Good Charlotte, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Cute Is What We Aim For…the list goes on. It was while perusing the body jewelry in the locked cases that I decided I would one day have my septum pierced.

My punk self felt much more at home within the weird smelling walls of Hot Topic than I ever did in the likes of, say, Abercrombie or Hollister. As I got older and was able to drive, as my tastes changed, Hot Topic faded from memory and wasn’t a store that I frequented any longer.

Don’t worry, they still have tees

Don’t worry, they still have tees

Somewhere along the way, however, Hot Topic grew up with me. What was once a place that struck terror in the hearts of the preps is now a wonderland for fandoms and pop culture of all types. It is now well-lit, sans-musk and downright bubbly.

With a little research, I learned that Hot Topic has been female operated since around 2000, and was actually the same woman that launched Torrid. Now Hot Topic has successfully launched BoxLunch which all my fellow nerds will know and love.

As the youth of America changed so too did Hot Topic. They somehow re-branded without ever actually re-branding. Without knowing their sales statistics or what it looked like from the inside, I would say that this is a great example of retail success.

What was once a staple of counterculture is now a staple of popular culture, Hot Topic, we stan. (Am I doing this right?)

This is 0% sponsored by Hot Topic, but hey, if you are reading this, find me via the contact button.

Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

A review of  The Power  by Naomi Alderman

A review of The Power by Naomi Alderman

“Gender is a shell game. What is a man? Whatever a woman isn’t. What is a woman? Whatever a man is not. Tap on it and it’s hollow. Look under the shells: it’s not there.”

The buzz surrounding The Power by Naomi Alderman was immense; I saw headlines and reviews touting that it was the 21st Century Handmaid’s Tale, it had won literary awards, it was a piece of feminist literature. Of course I wanted to read it.

What would you do, if given the power? Would you kill because you could? Would you rape because you had the upper hand? Would I? I have been so angry. I have watched rape scenes play out on screens and in books, I have gritted my teeth. I have been afraid to walk alone in my own neighborhood, I have been trapped in elevators and corners of dark rooms where I couldn’t be sure if I would make it out safely. What if I had electricity coursing through my veins instead of my car keys stuck through each knuckle? Would I use it? Would I lash out?

Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Alderman seems to believe so. The Power imagines what the world would be like if men, not women, had to live in constant fear for their physical safety. This book doesn't just flip gender roles. It delves into complicated discussions around systemic oppression, power, rape culture, gender, and religion. It sometimes feels difficult to navigate this book; it is both an unflinching dystopian yet also a mirror of our world today. It forces you to ask hard questions about your beliefs. Alderman considers these issues through the eyes of four very different people.

There's Roxy, the rough and tumble daughter of a British mobster. There's Allie, a mixed-race girl who runs away after years of abuse and finds herself at a convent, revered as some kind of messiah. There's Margot, an American politician and one of the few older women with the power. And then Tunde, a millennial Nigerian man and aspiring journalist who captures footage of the power in action.

This could have been so much more revolutionary if Alderman would have given the women “the power” and then shown how they were compassionate, just, caring and inclusive. If she could have shown a world that was not so blinded by team mentality, a world where it was possible to find balance in power, a world ruled by women... Perhaps, though, it is more effective that it served as a mirror. If there are people reading this that don’t see the absurdities in our current political and cultural climate, this could help reflect that back to them.

GENDER ROLES

This book had so much unfulfilled potential. I love the premise, because it invites so many nuanced questions and discussions within the realm of feminism and religion. What are the implications of empowering women just so they act more like men? Unfortunately, the book itself doesn’t feel nuanced enough within itself. Some parts seemed too simplistic.

This book opens with a framing device, the frame being this work as a book or research project being sent from a person named Neil to Alderman. If this is presumably a piece of research, I wish it would have been treated as such. I don't believe that Saudi women would embrace rebellion so readily and to the extent laid out here. The notion that Muslim women are just waiting to throw off their clothes, riot in the street, and have casual sex feels like a blinkered "Western" perspective. Sure, maybe this would evolve over time if Saudi women had power, but I find it very hard to believe that anyone would cast off centuries of cultural practices in a matter of days.

It has been touted as a feminist novel, but after reading it myself I don’t know that it is. On one hand, it exposes the failures of men throughout history by turning the tables, but on the other - with women in charge, Alderman has written that there are just as many wars, lies, oppression, murder and rape as there's been with men in power. I see my bias, I know it is there, but I don’t know that I believe this would be the case if women were to come into power in this way. Would the oppressed become the oppressor? I would like to believe that we would use our power more wisely and more compassionately.

There are countries in this new world order that begin to change their rules to fit the new power dynamic, one of which bans men from voting with the notion that they cannot be trusted to rule or govern because of their years of violence and degradation. And yet women now have the power and are just as violent and degrading? Tunde observes, “Transfers of power, of course, are rarely smooth”. That narrative seems oversimplified and just doesn’t fit for me.

It bothered me from the beginning and then throughout the book that Alderman never fully addressed non-binary or gender non-conforming individuals. The whole story is focused on hetero-normative, cisgender perspectives. She does briefly touch on chromosomal irregularities but in no meaningful way. It gets mentioned how some males are born with the “skein” and the power and how some women are not. They are outcast and seen as the deviant other. They are experimented on, tortured at worst and hated at best.

RAPE CULTURE

If rape is triggering for you, please know that it is mentioned more than once in this book.

There are many scenarios throughout the book that nod to rape culture. I particularly liked the part where one woman claims that some males "secretly like it", a play on the notion of "asking for it".

Suddenly “sex sells” translates to cute boys batting their eyelashes while enforcing a narrative to be strong girls above all else. But presumably this power is new to women...so how is it that subliminal marketing messaging works by playing on brand new cultural narratives? It is my understanding that this should only work to reinforce long standing norms. Women have never been in a place where they are the more powerful, where they are raised from birth to believe that their strength is one of the most important parts about them, and in that same way, boys have never been raised to be valued only for what they look like. Again, I get it, it’s serving a mirror. But I want the mirror shattered into a thousand glistening pieces.

RELIGION

“She cuppeth the lightning in her hand. She commandeth it to strike.”

Alderman manages to pack in a lot about religion. There are Biblical overtones and allusion to the Bible. Margaret Atwood is Alderman’s mentor and it is reflected in her work especially in how they weave through religious narrative. Every major religion from Christianity to Wicca is touched on, and even the Westboro Baptist Church gets a mention. Allie's POV became deeply entrenched in religion, more so than was interesting. Allie adopts the new name of Eve for herself, becoming a kind of messiah and goddess.

“Eve says, ‘God is neither woman nor man but both these things. But now She has come to show us a new side to Her face, one we have ignored...They have said to you that man rules over woman as Jesus rules over the Church. But I say unto you that woman rules over man as Mary guided her infant son, with kindness and with love.’”

Matriarchal tribes do still exist. There are Creation stories where a female(s) has been central to the story, and which many anthropologists point to as evidence for many of those cultures being a matriarchy. This is another example where Alderman seems to oversimplify. She could have pulled from actual anthropological accounts of these cultures that are ruled by women. If, on the one hand, you have this character Allie/Eve touting that God is love, kindness, compassion but then on the other you have her following forming vigilante mob mentality you would need to give more insight as to why those two things are happening simultaneously in order for it to hit its mark.

“Everything is more complicated than that, sugar. However complicated you think it is, everything is always more complicated than that. There are no shortcuts. Not to understanding and not to knowledge. You can’t put anyone into a box.”

I wonder the depth of empathy and compassion that this world could be capable of if women were in charge more times than men. I wonder if kindness would be our default instead of anger and resentment. Perhaps the aim of the book was solely to shine a light on the double standards that exist between men and women, to show the true inequality in it. I did find myself questioning the ultimate aim. It was difficult to accept the conclusion that the world would look exactly the same, as brutal, as violent, as unjust, if it were destroyed and rebuilt with women in charge.

Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

My review of Sarah J Maas’s “A Court of Mist and Fury” (ACOTAR #2)

My review of Sarah J Maas’s “A Court of Mist and Fury” (ACOTAR #2)

Oh, Queen Maas. You’ve won my loyalty. In a captivating second installment to A Court of Thrones and Roses (ACOTAR) I can’t help but wonder if this is one of the most riveting pieces of feminist new adult fiction literature that exists. This is my review of A Court of Misty and Fury; I will be giving my opinions on the characters, the love story and the sex but I will mostly be discussing gender, the patriarchy and abusive relationships. This review does contain spoilers.

To the people who look at the stars, Rhys.”
”To the stars who listen—and the dreams that are answered.”

WORLD BUILDING

“I smelled jasmine first—then saw the stars. A sea of stars flickering beyond glowing pillars of moonstone that framed the sweeping view of endless snow capped mountains. Welcome to the Night Court.”

How could you not ache to travel to the Night Court whilst reading about it? The way that Maas describes the sights, sounds, smells, tastes of each Court, but especially the Night Court... I almost feel like I can really book my flight. Even the architectural details (like that bathtub, where can i get one of those amirite?) left me wanting for nothing. And then there’s Starfell, how sublime was reading about Starfell?

Fanart by  BRENDA GROSSOLANO

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

RHYSAND

I feel like it’s possible that I could ramble on forever about Rhysand. I don’t think I’m alone in that. We could feel the pull of him in ACOTAR, but here, we fall. A dreamer, someone who has felt deep, guttural pain and still, he dreams, and loves. Oh, does he love. But more on that later. It’s true of all the characters, but especially true of Rhys, Maas has shown that wholly unique characters can still be brought to life, and that Prince Charming rarely comes in the form of someone like Tamlin.

FEYRE

Feyre is both feminine, sexy and soft and also strong and fierce. You don’t have to be one or the other, you don’t have to fit inside the box that society laid out for you. I appreciate this so much, Sarah J Maas.

Feyre admits to Rhysand, “I’m thinking I was a lonely, hopeless person, and I might have fallen in love with the first thing that showed me a hint of kindness and safety.” And that right there is such a powerful lesson to teach women. Humans, really. That we all are deserving of authentic love, kindness and connection. That you don’t have to settle for less than what you deserve.

On page 533, I almost felt as if Feyre was giving her vows to Rhysand, and I felt emotion well behind my eyes, press at my throat. They reminded me of my own wedding day.

“My friend through many dangers. My lover who had healed my broken and weary soul. My mate who had waited for me against all hope, despite all odds.”

The female characters in this book are varied, but all strong. They are complicated, they have depth. Mor, especially, highlights how Maas has painstakingly included such backstories, so much attention to detail. Feyre, about Mor, “a special strength in enduring such dark trials and hardships...and still remaining warm and kind. Still willing to trust—and reach out.”

GENDER ROLES, TOXIC MASCULINITY AND ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS

I begin to hate Tamlin with such simmering rage. He represents all that is wrong the patriarchy. The ways that men believe they own women, the way they believe they control them, have a right to them. The ways in which they tell us what we can wear, what we can say, where we can go and with whom we go. The control that they seek above all, in order to protect their toxic masculinity. When Tamlin imprisoned Feyre, when he began to forbid her comings and goings, stopped including her in conversation, when he lost his temper so completely that Feyre had to cower in fear for her life...my heart ached for every survivor of abuse at the hands of a lover. That is not love, it never will be.

It is interesting to note that during Feyre’s time at the Spring Court how women are permitted to being sexually active. They are permitted to have multiple partners and yet, still held to the rules of the patriarchy, or traditional expectations as Lucien would called them, at being a “good bride”.

Freedom is a topic woven throughout this book. It begins early on when Feyre is discussing how, in the human realm, even wealthy women, who one would assume to be more free, actually have their freedoms and roles restricted the most. Under The Mountain, freedom was but a dream. And to be expected of that tortuous, terrible place. But in her own home? From the man she thought she loved and that she thought loved her? I love that Maas juxtaposes Rhysand next to Tamlin in this way. Rhysand makes it a point to have Feyre know with a conviction that she is free. That freedom is a relationship is an inherent right, not a privilege. 

One major critique of mine, though. I do find it upsetting that Rhysand and Feyre resort to this whole “you’re mine” thing. I’m a little disappointed that Maas wrote the story in this way. I understand the concept of the mates, I’m as hopeless of a romantic as the next. But, after talking so much about freedom, to have those two characters then repeatedly claim their right to the other? It felt contradictory and strange. People are not possessions. Individuals don’t belong to anyone, as Rhysand said, freedom in a relationship is an inherent right, so I just felt it was really off to include the “you’re mine” thing. 

A WORD ON SEX

ICYMI this is not a “young adult” book. This is some new kinky adult trip, feel me? I’m talking Fifty Shades of Gray type of orgasming. Let’s just say that I noticed there were 69 chapters, and I don’t think that was a coincidence.

Speaking of orgasming, I get that it’s a book but do you think just ONCE we could get a woman that is too distracted by the enemy/concerns about her body/the laundry that needs folded/her ex that she is unable to reach completion? I won’t hold my breath.

Don’t get me wrong, this book has its steamy moments. I appreciated that Rhysand and Feyre didn’t rush into the physical aspect; Rhysand put her pleasure before his own. AND to make my conviction about this being an excellent piece of feminist literature, Rhys and Feyre even discuss birth control.

This is the book that young women need (minus the whole “you’re mine” bullshit). Feyre is the independent, strong-willed, feminine, sexy “princess” that girls need to look up to. Rhysand is the type of character that Prince Charming should be modeled after. And Maas is the author that we should all be reading.


Thanks for reading my review, and if you have read this far I hope this is a book you’ve already completed, so let me know your own thoughts on it in the comments!

My 2019 Goals

My 2019 goals!

My 2019 goals!

I realize I’m a bit late to the “new year, new me” resolution season blog posts. I personally love any reason to take a look at life and consider what I can improve, and this year it took me a little longer than just January 1st to decide how I wanted to move forward. I took time to consider all the main factors of my life and considered what was going well and what needed some work. From there, I came up with a few things I’d like to achieve in the upcoming year:

1 Find passion and creativity in my career.

This is quite the ongoing saga, isn’t it? I swear I change careers like some people change their bed sheets. Slowly I have been pinpointing and fine-tuning just what it is that aligns my passions with a career. In 2019, I plan to make enough money doing what I love that I don’t have to stretch my time with a full time position just to pay our bills. If i calculated how much time I spend on unpaid work (the work that sets my soul on fire) I would probably shed a tear or two. I suppose it doesn’t need much more elaborating than that, the goal being to work just as hard, if not harder, and get paid doing it.

Steps to get there:

Staying grateful for each opportunity

Utilize my Master’s program and education

Stay consistent

2. Read 50 books

For a while I abandoned by most treasured hobby of reading to pursue travel and my education, but now that I have picked reading back up, I want to aim for 50 books this year. I will keep my Goodreads updated throughout the year to measure my progress!

3. Keep growing on Instagram, without focusing on numbers

I hope to continue creating visually appealing photos for my bookstagram page. A year ago I would never guess that this would be a 2019 goal, but here we are! I am wholly unfocused on numbers, I learned that lesson the hard way before. I do want to test various posting times and days, but more for professional growth and skillset than anything. I want to grow in quality, not in quantity. I want to grow in connections via comments rather than hollow likes. There are so many people still to connect with on bookstagram and in the Potterverse!

4. Be approved for one major ARC

An ARC is an advanced reader copy; a copy of the book sent to reviewers prior to the official publishing date. I really want to make connections with publishing contacts and be approved to review one ARC on my social channels and blog!

Steps to get there:

Establish an up-to-date contact list for major publishing companies

Develop an email template that includes what I have done/can do and the monetary worth

Stay persistent and don’t get discouraged!

5. Focus on optimizing my blog

While YouTube is super fun, and I would love to grow there as well, I ultimately prefer writing to talking so I want to place the focus in 2019 on learning more about SEO and how to get traffic directed to my book reviews in this space. Not only do I want to get the traffic, but maintain it!


That’s it! I’m not trying to change my whole life over here (that was so 2018), I’m just trying to improve on the life I already love. What are your goals for this year?

Review: 'People Like Us' by Dana Mele

A review of  People Like Us  by Dana Mele

A review of People Like Us by Dana Mele


Another Boarding School?

I don’t quite remember where I first saw this book recommended. It could have been on social media or on someone’s blog at one point or another; wherever it was, the title had stuck with me. People Like Us is a young adult mystery/thriller set at, you guessed it, a boarding school. If you aren’t subscribed to my YouTube channel, you may not know yet that one of my guilty pleasures happens to be YA fiction set at boarding schools. A multitude of books are set at boarding schools, and it seems that I have read at least half of them. At some point it just became a cliche, and yet I still go back for more. If you are like me in this way, you’ll enjoy the blend of predictable prep school elements with unpredictable suspense.

People Like Us brushes up against the likes of Mean Girls and Thirteen Reasons Why and lands somewhere in the middle. The characters felt nuanced and complex while simple enough that the long list didn’t feel overwhelming. Kay, our main protagonist, has pretty one dimensional relationships with her friends, but there are a couple exceptions to this: she is potentially in love with her best friend Brie, at the very least attracted to her. A ways into the story we meet Nola, a classmate who has always been seen as weird. I very much appreciated that Mele treats the main character’s sexuality as just a fact of the story, and that all of them seem to be fairly sexually fluid.

From the onset, i felt drawn in. Dana Mele does an excellent job with her pacing and atmosphere, and my attention was rapt from the start. Peppered throughout are quotes like, “I gaze into her eyes and look for my shadow self somewhere”. I mean, come on. How can’t you highlight the hell out of lines like that?

Mele brings up some interesting points about the human condition. We all make mistakes, some of us do bad things. Does that mean we deserve bad things to happen to us? Overall this is quite a dark psychological thriller, and I wouldn’t recommend it for immature audiences.

As I said, the pacing was great throughout, but it’s almost as if Mele ran out of steam at the end. It just felt like things fell a bit flat, like it was a rush to the end. Details are revealed about Nola that needed to be further fleshed out, or not even mentioned at all. And once we do finally get to the motive, it’s almost as if it’s mentioned in passing.

Something to take note of, if suicide if a trigger for you, please know that before reading. Mental health seems like it should be a big topic in this book, but somehow isn’t addressed properly, and for that I was disappointed.

Who This Book Is For

Overall, a good read. Dana Mele is on my radar for the future. If you enjoy Mean Girls, Thirteen Reasons Why, Riverdale, etc. I am sure you will enjoy this book as well.


Have you read People Like Us? What did you think?

19 Books I Want To Read in 2019

Follow  my bookstagram  account!

Follow my bookstagram account!

I had quite the epiphany lately, and will be doing more bookish posts in this space. More on that in 2019. I thought a great place to start was the books that I am most looking forward to reading in the coming months.

Some of the following books have already been released, while others will be releasing in the coming year. I have included a link to a brief synopsis of each book. They have also all been added to my Goodreads account, if you want to follow along with my current reads and what I’m rating them.

Happy reading, bookworms. . .


19 Books I Want To Read in 2019:

  1. Renegades by Marissa Meyer

  2. People Like Us by Dana Mele

  3. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (Apparently the US version had to add the ‘1/2’ but it is the same book as The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle)

  4. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

  5. Shades of Magic series by VE Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, and A Conjuring of Light)

  6. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

  7. Sadie by Courtney Summers

  8. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  9. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (February 2019)

  10. Crazy Rich Asians trilogy by Kevin Kwan

  11. The Diviners Libba Bray

  12. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

  13. Us Against You (Beartown, #2)  by Fredrik Backman

  14. A Man Called Ove by  Fredrik Backman

  15. Again, But Better by Christine Riccio (May 2019)

  16. The Case for Jamie (Charlotte Holmes #3) by Brittany Cavallaro

  17. Era of Ignition: Coming of Age in a Time of Rage and Revolution by Amber Tamblyn (March 2019)

  18. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (June 2019)

  19. The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison


I hope you all enjoyed this post and found it helpful for planning your own reads for 2019. What are some books on your TBR pile?

My Journey to the Tarot (What is Tarot, how to choose a deck, and more)

Photo credit:  Sara Myers

Photo credit: Sara Myers

If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably noticed an increase in the amount that I talk about Tarot. I have been sharing things little by little, and thought it was time to write it all in one place. This post will outline how I came to the Tarot, what the fuck Tarot even is, how to choose a deck, what Tarot is good for, and how I use it in my own life.


Okay, so what is Tarot?

The Tarot is a deck of 78 cards, each with its own imagery, symbolism and story. The deck is made up of 22 Major Arcana cards (Big Energy and big life lessons) and 56 Minor Arcana cards (the things we experience on a daily basis). The Minor Arcana includes 40 numbered cards organized by suits, with 10 cards each, representing various situations that we encounter. To put it simply, Tarot is simply a tool. How you want to use it is completely up to you.

Tarot reading is the practice of gleaning Universal wisdom and guidance through a specific spread (or layout) of Tarot cards via your intuition. The cards do not simply tell your fortune, and one does not have to be a psychic to give Tarot readings.

What can it be used for?

Tarot is perfect for self-development, mental clarity, financial planning, making decisions, manifesting goals, relationship advice, writing a book, meditating—whatever you might want to consult the Tarot about, that’s what it can be used for.

I use the  Starchild Tarot  deck

I use the Starchild Tarot deck

How do you choose a deck?

There are SO many Tarot decks to choose from. There are traditional Rider-Waite decks that are simple that you can find on Amazon that are great for learning. However, I didn’t feel particularly moved by the imagery of the traditional deck. I would recommend that you visit your local metaphysical shop and look through their deck options. Thankfully, a good friend of mine brought me to the Tarot and took me to a shop in Durham, North Carolina that had all of the decks that they sold open so you can finger through the cards and see each one. This is my recommendation, actually hold the options in your hands, look at the photos. If the imagery isn’t speaking to your soul, it isn’t your deck. Now, this is just my advice, you could very easily just choose your first deck to learn with and that will be fine. I plan on purchasing other decks as I get more business so that clients have the option to choose which deck they would like for me to perform their reading with.

How do you choose a spread?

Just as there are many decks to choose from, there are many spreads as well. And you can even make up your own. A spread is how you lay out the Tarot cards and can be anywhere from a 3 card to a 10 card (or more) layout.

If you are new to Tarot, I would recommend getting comfortable with 3 card spreads such as Past, Present and Future or Situation, Outcome, Advice before moving onto the Celtic Cross or other more complicated spreads. Check the booklet that came with your deck, there may be some spread layouts provided to help you start.

Do I need to cleanse my cards?

Yes. It is important that you clean and cleanse your cards regularly to maintain a positive connection. Sometimes very heavy and dark things will come up in your readings, and you don’t want that energy to linger. You will probably know when you need to cleanse your cards, I can tell because they just don’t feel right. Once you start trusting your intuition, you’ll see what I mean. You will definitely want to cleanse a new deck, or if they have been sitting without being used for a while, your cards have fallen, you feel disconnected from the deck. I also clean my cards between readings for other people.

A cheap and easy way to cleanse your cards are with a moon bath. Stick the cards outside or in a window sill on a full moon to charge the cards and clear the energy. Of course you can also smudge the cards with Sage or Palo Santo but be mindful about where it is being harvested from.

My Tarot Ritual

I personally pull a card every single morning and then write that card and its meaning into my journal. Sometimes I pull the journal back out in the evening to see if that morning pull makes sense. This is a great way for me to know what challenges might lay ahead in the day, what tools I might need to tackle the day ahead, anything of that sort. I sit in a comfortable seat, light Palo Santo, choose a crystal to meditate with, and then shuffle and do my pull. This is my favorite ritual, as beneficial to my health as the gym or eating healthy.

I do a more in-depth spread on myself about once a week, or if I have a decision or something pressing that I need Divine wisdom for. If there is an issue that I feel I cannot be objective about, I consult another Tarot reader to have them read for me.

I hope that you found this super helpful and informative. The Tarot has definitely changed my life, and it can change yours, too. If you would like to book a reading with me, please follow the link below.

Tarot Reading
25.00 35.00

Tarot is a powerful tool. You don’t necessarily need to believe in magic, but you do need to be committed to your self growth and believe in your capacity to evolve. I will not be telling you the exact future, but the Tarot will reveal where you need to let go, where you should lean in, and what you should be watching for on the horizon.

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Can Living with Less Make Room for More Joy?

Photo styled and shot  by Boho-tique

Photo styled and shot by Boho-tique

I am continually amazed at the impact that a “minimalist” approach is having on my life. I have certainly baby-stepped my way into the lifestyle, and wanted to finish the year challenging myself to opt out of spending money on “things”. Our culture has programmed us to constantly be on the lookout for the next best thing. I will be finding ways to live better with less in order to make room for more joy. Interested in finding out more or even joining the challenge yourself? Continue reading to learn more on how I define minimalism, what I mean by no more spending and how we can stop being victims to consumer culture.

76 days until 2019. Is it possible to close out the year using what you already have? Is it possible to live with less and make room for more joy? I think it is. I recently moved from my small home in West Virginia to an even smaller apartment in California. I have been slowly ridding my life and closet of clutter, with the move inspiring me to sell and donate over half of my belongings. Since moving into the studio apartment, I just feel more at ease. There isn’t “stuff” everywhere, it’s easier to clean, my mind feels clearer and I don’t have a storage space somewhere filled to the brim with clutter waiting on me. Now, I am 100% not a “typical minimalist” and I’m not asking you to sell your house and live tiny. I own more than 1 pair of jeans, I still own too many shoes, I still like clothes. By no means is this a “who can be the perfect minimalist” challenge. No ma’am. This is more about seeking more joy and less clutter in our lives. This is about impacting our mental health, our creativity, the climate, our humanity in a more positive way.

Minimalism and Mental Health

There are studies that indicate a direct link between minimalism and better mental health. I wrote more about my own experience on Clutch MOV. Since I wrote that article, I have had more time to see it unfold in my life. I feel so much better when surfaces aren’t overcrowded with things, when I don’t have to spend time and energy rifling through my closet or drawers…everything just feels more peaceful. My anxiety still flares up, of course, but it isn’t as triggered by being at home or by this recurring feeling I used to get to clean and clear my space. The awareness of self and the intricate human connection with Mother Nature is lost in this notion that “just one more handbag will make me happier”. All of this “stuff” numbs us and incapacitates us so that we are unable to fully and completely sit with ourselves. It becomes very difficult to practice true mindfulness, peace and harmony with ourselves when we are constantly looking elsewhere for happiness, joy, and the next best thing. Is this resonating? Let’s break the “next best thing” cycle, together.

Living Better With Less

When I say that I am not spending money on things for the rest of the year, I don’t mean a no spending challenge. This isn’t about saving money or spending less money. That is, of course, an indirect side effect, but I just don’t want to spend money on items. I will be spending money on food, experiences or things I might actually need (like medicine). I will not be spending money on clothes, home decor, accessories, technology or knick-knacks. This will be a real challenge for me, but I have some ideas on how I can make it work. If this sounds Big and Scary to you, it’s okay. This is all about making room for more joy in our lives. I will be sending out tips and resources like TED talks, articles, books, my own updates + more via email over the coming weeks.

Re-Imagine and Reconnect

Have you ever lived somewhere that you could run to the neighbor when you were out of sugar? Let’s use this same principle in our #MakeRoomForJoyChallenge by counting on others when we need it. By living with less, we make room for nurturing new and old connections. We can swap clothes at a thrift store, borrow from friends, family or neighbors. If something breaks? Learn to fix it, or ask someone to fix it. Maybe you learn to stitch or use a handsaw. I also really want to encourage using one item for many things. I recently had my mind blown when someone suggested wearing a blanket scarf as a skirt. We get so accustomed to things being only one way, we often stifle our own creativity and imagination by blindly accepting. Let your creativity and imagination run free. Don’t allow consumer culture to dictate what and how much you need.

100% borrowed look, don’t let the media tell you that borrowed isn’t beautiful.

100% borrowed look, don’t let the media tell you that borrowed isn’t beautiful.

Consumer Culture

Every day, all day long, you are being bombarded by clever marketing messages telling you that You Must Spend Money or You Need This Thing. We know we don’t actually need it but we are socially, culturally, economically, and psychologically invested in this system. Our everyday life experiences, our relationships with friends and loved ones, our practices of leisure and amusement, and our personal goals and identities are all tied to the culture in which we were raised. Many of us measure our self-worth by how much money we make, and by the quantity, quality, and newness of stuff we are able to buy.

Is it possible to have a sustainable consumer culture? Even those of us that are critically aware of the implications of production, consumption, and waste, can’t help but want more. Sustainable brands are still dependent on our culture of consumption, they still chant to us “you must buy this”. Yes, there are great options out there that I would recommend, but I am challenging myself and all of you to live with that you already have. This challenge is about becoming mindful of our consumption in order to be creative with what we already have. I think we all might find that what we have is more than enough, and that living with less will make room for much more joy.

Not Ready to Totally Commit?

Understandable! First of all, this challenge is NOT about being “perfect”. I am putting that in quotations because it doesn’t exist so stop chasing it. Don’t feel like you can’t participate in the challenge just because you might end up being something(s). But, if you 100% know you aren’t up to accepting this particular challenge, but want to take steps in that direction, I wanted to offer a few tips on how you could start your minimalist journey.

  • Clean out your closet - I mean, really clean it out. If you haven’t worn it in a month, donate it. If you are holding onto it for a “special occasion” or for your body to be different, get rid of it. If you don’t absolutely love it, it doesn’t have a purpose.

  • Get thrifty - If there are some clothing items you need to purchase check out a local thrift store. My personal favorite places to find cute secondhand items are Golden Trash, Collage WV, Poshmark or Boho-tique.

  • Buy reusable Items - Instead of buying items that are poorly made or single-use, opt to purchase things that will last a long time. Items like reusable water bottles, bamboo cutlery, well-made sustainable clothing rather than fast fashion and quality footwear.

  • Do you really need it? - Ask yourself this question every single time you find yourself about to make a purchase. Do you really need it? Or is the really clever marketing making you believe that you do? Do you absolutely love it? Take a moment to check in, practicing mindfulness in this way will spill over to other areas of your life, as well. . .

Watch my YouTube video  that explains a little more…

Watch my YouTube video that explains a little more…

Want to join the challenge? I will be sending out tips and resources via email (you can sign up here). Use hashtag #MakeRoomForJoyChallenge on social media and tag me on Instagram so I can follow your journey and other participants can find you as well!

Anxiety of Enough + Chill Vibes Playlist

Watercolor  inspired by all things beautiful and natural by  Sophia Longas

Watercolor inspired by all things beautiful and natural by Sophia Longas

Anxiety of Enough

I say I want it.

I mean, I know I do.

Or, I think I do?

But, do I want it badly enough?

Am I working hard enough?

Am I spending all the time I could, or should, be?

Maybe I should be sending more emails

Maybe I should be furiously, exhaustively, writing...

Creating

Maybe it should all be pouring out of me at every waking moment

That's what I've been told, anyway

The only way to make a decent living from creating is to hustle hard enough that you tread water instead of drown in it

That the only way to beat out the competition is to work harder, do more, be better

Give 110% of everything you’ve got

I guess we'll find out, won't we?

I'll either pave my own way or I'll be a victim of the cycle

At a young age, somehow, I understood mortality in a way most kids don't seem to.

I chose time, experiences, over money

I've been acutely aware ever since that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it doing things that I love, with people that I love.

I guess it's possible I will be on my deathbed, wishing I had hustled harder.

Regretting that I didn't say everything that I had to say

But

I think what I will really wish is that I could have one more long talk with Danny

One last good, hard laugh

Time to explore one more new place

In a world that demands output more than input

That puts pressure on being Someone

on creating Something

An expectation to share infinitely, to work infinitely

Go at your own pace

Life is too short

too fleeting

to be so busy.