Blogiversary: Celebrating My First Year

This blog started out as an outlet to talk about books, and now it’s officially been a year as of writing this post. Actually posting it is another story since after more than year of not seeing one another, it was decided we needed a vacation of the reunion type.

I have had wonderful experiences so far. The bookish community has been welcoming, and I’ve loved being able to commiserate with bloggers over some books as well as share the love over other books. Now, if I could just replicate this in real life too, I would be living the good life.

WHAT I’VE LeARNED

Here are some things that I’ve learned while blogging.

  • Do what you like, write what you want. There is a lot of content out there, and there were temptations along to the way to conform to different writing styles because I felt as though my reviews were horrible. I’ve since become more comfortable with knowing that how I write will often be related to how much I liked or didn’t like a book as well as what mood I’m in.
  • Attributions. I try to mindful about attributing content to their respective creators.
  • Be courteous and kind.
  • If you don’t get approved for an ARC, it’s okay. It’s not personal, even if it can feel like it is.
  • Tags and memes are super fun. They also provide a mental break from reviews when needed. There are so many to choose from so do ones you like. I particularly enjoy Six Degrees of Separation and Let’s Talk Bookish
  • Blogging should be fun. Reading should be fun. When it starts to feel like a chore, it might be a sign to take a break–long, short, whatever feels best. Also, it’s okay not to review every book I read. It helps make blogging feel less like a chore.

FREE ReSOURCES

Here is a list of resources that are free for the most part. They may just require you to sign up.

  • UNSPLASH
    A resource for free images. I’ve used the images for quotes, and there are so many images to choose from!
  • HUNGRY JPEG, CREATIVE FABRICA, DESIGNBUNDLES, FONTBUNDLES
    There are $1 deals and weekly freebies all the time. I get a lot of fonts and images from here. The freebies also usually come with commercial licenses as well but double check when you’re downloading them.
  • KRITA
    This is an open source program I utilize. It can do a lot of things but I use it for simple stuff because I don’t know how to do much. Heh… So far, it’s worked for the things I’ve needed it for.
  • CANVA
    I’ve used Canva before but not so much for blogging. It’s a great resource, although it can be somewhat limited for what it offers for free.
  • GRAMMARLY
    I use this to double check my writing because I sometimes skip words or write something twice when I edit. It’s helpful. It’s free but is limited to a few things like whether the writing is clear and correct but there are premium suggestions that you only get access to if you pay. I’ve liked the free service so far. My biggest fear about it is if I become to reliant on it! Heh…

FAVORITE BOOKiSH POSTS

Blog hopping is one of my favorite things to do during the week, and there are a few blog features that I always make sure to read as soon as I see them in my inbox or on my reader.

  • A Fox’s Wanderings: All Time Favorites is from one of the cutest blogs ever that features the most adorable fox. I love Alienor’s graphics. All Time Favorites is a feature that highlights Alienor’s absolute favorite books.
  • Emandherbooks: Map Monday was inspired by the pandemic and the inability to travel. Em shares a book and provides facts about the place in the book. I love reading about the places and make note of those I’d like to travel to one day, although I’ve never been much of a traveler.
  • One Book More: Loving the Lines spotlights Julie’s favorite lines from a book or series. As someone who loves to highlight favorite lines and can easily swoon over them, this bookish post has turned me to a few books because I’ve loved the lines Julie’s featured.

I look forward to more reading, more blogging, and more posts to read.
Thank you so much for being a part of my journey.


The Unbroken (2021)

by C.L. Clark
ASIN/ISBN: 9780316542753
Publication: March 23, 2021
Series: Magic of the Lost #1

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

I started reading The Unbroken in early March but struggled to finish it. The book is long-winded, and I had to take multiple breaks in-between to read it. After nearly four months, I finally finished it a few days ago. It is character-driven with an overall plot that is interesting and provides a critical perspective of colonialism. The biggest drawback of the book is the painstakingly slow pace, which makes the already nearly 500 pages–over 500 pages depending on which edition is read–feel a lot longer than it is.

Stolen as a child and raised to be a soldier by the Balladairan empire, Touraine returns to Qazāl more a stranger than someone coming home. As a lieutenant in command of the Sands, soldiers stolen as children just like her, Touraine’s loyalty is to those in her unit first, but she also has a longing to be accepted by Balladaire. Her behavior throughout the book is reflective of this desire. From experience, she knows the Sands will always be the first to be called to the front lines and will also likely be the first punished in any situation they take part in. Touraine’s story is the most compelling as she straddles the middle, looking for where she belongs. As a Balladairan soldier, she’s called a traitor by Qazāl, but she will never be fully accepted by Balladaire either. She is forced to tread a path where she will always be a scapegoat because she is a victim of imperialism. It’s difficult to watch her struggle and try to make the best choices when there isn’t a right choice to make if she remains in the middle. The longer she remains there, the longer she falters.

The story alternates between Touraine and Luca, the Balladairan princess without her throne. Luca arrives in Qazāl with hopes of quelling a rebellion so she may ascend her throne, taking it from her uncle who has cleverly placed himself there in her stead after her parents’ death. Luca is similar to Touraine in that she also hopes to find a balance somewhere in the middle. Of course, her somewhere in the middle also includes her being in power.  On the idealistic side, Luca wants peace between Qazāl and Balladaire, but it’s difficult to figure out who she can trust when there are those on both sides who would like to tip the status quo in their favor. Touraine and Luca are forced to work together when Luca comes up with a plan to try to establish peace with the rebels that may require treasonous actions. Luca is someone I wanted to root for because she appeared genuine in her desire for peace and had the qualities of what a good leader could be, with the understanding that good is relative. Is it possible to be a good leader if her desire for peace also requires she sits on the throne? Is it possible to be a good leader if those forced into becoming part of her empire desire to be free from her authority? When is enough going to be enough for Luca if sitting on her throne requires her to continue taking?

The book is well-written. The plot and Touraine’s journey to self-discovery were elements that I especially liked. Touraine’s story tugged at me and gave the book sad undertones that constantly had me questioning what it is like to lose one’s heritage. Although I recognize the necessity of many of the events that take place because they contribute to Touraine’s character development, the pace was a struggle for me. Another element I wanted more of was the magic Luca constantly talked about it. If you can overcome the pacing like I eventually was able to, this is a book filled with layers worth reading.

Music Monday 1.4: Vingt mille façons…

This meme was created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek. You pick a song you really like and share it on, you guessed it, Monday.

Recommendations from YouTube can sometimes be good and other times not so much. Here’s one I ended up liking a lot and thought it would be fun for summer. Sidoine was a contestant on the first season of France’s Star Academy, a reality show where young singers compete for a record deal. Sidoine’s “On Ne Vit Qu’Une Fois” (2013) is all about not letting things stand in our way because we only have one life. It’s super catchy, something to help dance the hot summer away. I listen to nearly everything as long as I like it–language rarely serves as a barrier in music. I don’t speak French but a wonderful person put the translation in the comment. I’ve put them below as well.

**translations via YouTube comment from Amber Lin

Vingt mille raisons de le hair,
Twenty thousand reasons to hate it

Comment se relever si on tombe?
If you fall how do you get back up?

Plus peur de vivre que de mourir,
More scared to live than to die

A quoi bon ces promesses d’amour,
What’s the point in these love promises

Courir après l’infini,
Running after infinity

Vu que tout s’arrête un jour,
Since everything stops one day,

Et qu’avec le temps tout s’oublie…
And that everything is forgotten over time…

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois ha ha ha ha,
If we live once ha ha ha ha

Pourquoi ces montagnes qui nous fait hé hé hé hé,
Why are these mountains hindering us he he he he

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois ha ha ha ha, Dis-moi tout sauf que tu m’aimes aimes aimes aimes,
If you only live once ha ha ha ha, Tell me everything except that you love me like me,

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois…
If you only live once …

Vingt mille façons de dire je t’aime,
Twenty thousand ways to tell me i love you

Vingt mille raisons de ne pas le dire,
Twenty thousand reasons not to say it,

Très peu de chance pour le contraire,
Unlikely that we understand it.

Que fera-t-on pour se détruire?
What will we do to destroy ourselves?

Vingt mille chances qu’on se regrette,
Twenty thousand chances that we regret,

Vingt mille questions sans réponse,
Twenty thousand questions without an answer

Sera-t-on ce qu’on a voulu être?
Will we be what we wanted to be?
Que fera-t-on si on renonce?
What will we do if we give up?

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois ha ha ha ha,
If we live once ha ha ha ha

Pourquoi ces montagnes qui nous fait hé hé hé hé,
Why are these mountains hindering us he he he he

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois ha ha ha ha, Dis-moi tout sauf que tu m’aimes aimes aimes aimes,
If you only live once ha ha ha ha, Tell me everything except that you love me like me,

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois ha ha ha ha,
If we live once ha ha ha ha

Pourquoi ces montagnes qui nous fait hé hé hé hé,
Why are these mountains hindering us he he he he

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois ha ha ha ha, Dis-moi tout sauf que tu m’aimes aimes aimes aimes,
If you only live once ha ha ha ha, Tell me everything except that you love me like me,

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois…
If you only live once …

Toutes ces questions courent dans ma tête,
All these questions are running in my head

Toutes ces questions que je me pose,
All these questions that I ask myself,

Que fera-t-on si tout s’arrête?
What will we do if everything stops?

Quelles sont les raisons à ces causes?
What are the reasons for this happening?

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois ha ha ha ha,
If we live once ha ha ha ha

Pourquoi ces montagnes qui nous fait hé hé hé hé,
Why are these mountains hindering us he he he he

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois ha ha ha ha, Dis-moi tout sauf que tu m’aimes aimes aimes aimes,
If you only live once ha ha ha ha, Tell me everything except that you love me like me,

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois,
If you only live once,
Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois,
If you only live once,
Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois.
If we do not live once.

Si l’on ne vit qu’une fois ha ha ha ha / urquoi ces montagnes qui nous fait hé hé hé hé
If we live once ha ha ha / Why are these mountains hindering us he he he he

I had a hard time choosing just one book to fit my favorite lines above, so there’s no book today from me. What’s a book you recommend that encompasses taking chances or overcoming barriers characters possibly place on themselves?

To Sir, With Love (2021)

by Lauren Layne
ASIN/ISBN: 9781982152819
Publication: June 29, 2021

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

(If you’ve never seen You’ve Got Mail then this review will be filled spoilers for both the movie and the book. Please proceed with caution. Sorry!)

To Sir, with Love updates the dial-up connection of You’ve Got Mail with the DM alerts of a dating app; however, the romance doesn’t quite hit the mark. Of course, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’s chemistry is a tough one to recreate. The book closely mirrors the plot of You’ve Got Mail, which mirrors the plots of those titles it is an adaptation of. A woman has a connection with a man whom she has regular correspondence, but they have never met, except they have and just don’t realize it. In person, they mostly despise each other, but there’s a bit of a spark that is the complete opposite of hate. There’s enough to differentiate To Sir, With Love and appreciate it on its own merit, but if you love You’ve Got Mail as I do, the comparisons are inevitable.

Gracie’s backstory is compelling. She is a budding artist who gave up her dreams to fulfill her dad’s dreams of keeping their store in the family. Faced with the impending close of the store, she has to figure out what she wants to do–continue daydreaming or live her dreams. The exploration of Gracie’s character beyond the store was an aspect of the book I especially liked, giving her character a bit more depth. The secondary characters fill out Gracie’s life and help enhance the plot. I especially liked neighbor and friend Keva’s potential love line with her boss Grady. There’s just enough information about it for me to want a book about it from Layne in the future.

Here comes the inevitable comparison. I wanted to like the romance but was disappointed with the development of Gracie’s relationships with both Sir and Sebastian. Sir is introduced through messages to Gracie on the dating app. Their interactions appear more formal than personal and sometimes even a bit detached. I could believe it to be an attraction, but I wouldn’t think it was love, not enough to stake my entire love life around it especially because there is no declaration of love, even if you read between the lines.

With Sebastian, Gracie shares a moment–more Sleepless in Seattle than You’ve Got Mail–and it didn’t work that well for me. This is the moment Gracie harkens back to when she thinks of Sebastian. They meet again and grab food a few times, but it never feels like they move beyond that first magical connection. It’s something to build on but the building never reaches love or friendship potential. There lacked a book equivalent of a montage of them getting to know each other and becoming friends. Remember how Tom Hanks knows he needs to change Meg Ryan’s perception of him so he works hard for them to become friends before the final reveal? There’s hardly any of it before Gracie was already saying she was in love with two people. Just like with Sir, this relationship felt one-sided as well. The addition of Sebastian’s point of view might have helped remedy this, helping to establish a connection on his part and build a sturdier foundation for possible later declarations.

I liked the book but had expected a bit more. Despite my disappointment, my heart still managed to flutter as the book neared its conclusion–I am still a hopeless romantic after all.

Music Monday 1.3: It’s not simple…

This meme was created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek. You pick a song you really like and share it on, you guessed it, Monday.

Released in 2015, Sara Barielles wrote this song for the musical Waitress, which is based on the movie of the same name. The song is one of self-reflection, mourning for her current situation and who she used to be but also hopeful that maybe she can find herself again. It’s such a heart wrenching song, perfect for those moments when you’re feeling a little lost.

Til it finally reminds her / To fight just a little
To bring back the fire in her eyes / that’s been gone but it used to be mine

Here’s another book you may see showing up here and there. I apologize in advance. I love the leads in this with their insecurities, their vulnerabilities, and how much they become to each other without even realizing it. It’s a slow read and most of it takes place in a shared hospital room with lots of self-reflection. It’s so good. Houghton wrote such a beautiful novel. (Review)

Lying with Lions (2021)

by Annabel Fielding
ASIN/ISBN: B095J8D5XC
Publication: June 21, 2021

Goodreads | Amazon


DESCRIPTiON

Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit – and into the clutch of their ambitions.

They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail – and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch – the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen’s plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Annabel Fielding, having graduated from the University of Arts London with an MA in Public Relations, is a PR assistant by day and a novelist by night. Being a self-professed history geek, she dedicates her free time to obscure biographies, solo travel and tea. Her special areas of interest are Edwardian age and Late Middle Agnes/Renaissance, but sometimes veers into other directions, too, when distracted by a shiny thing.  She is the author of A Pearl for My Mistress (2017).

Website | Twitter | Goodreads


REViEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by the author through NetGalley as a Tour Participant. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Lying with Lions is not the typical book I read but on occasion I am willing to venture out and try new genres.  I found an intricate character-driven plot and knew immediately this was my type of movie as opposed to my type of book. As I read, the thought that I would enjoy this on the big screen accompanied was often on my mind.

The story is written in present tense, which was a bit jarring at first.  Eventually I settled into it along with the feeling that I was watching the events unfold as an omniscient narrator allowed me a glimpse into the machinations of high society through Agnes.  From a humble background, Agnes is hired by the Bryant family to serve as their archivist to compile and organize the family history.  Eventually she becomes more than just a bystander, becoming Lady Bryant’s secretary.  Rather than an observer, she becomes a willing participant in the political maneuvers of those she comes to be associated with.

Agnes was often an enigma to me, making it hard to figure out her motives. Is she being genuine? Does she have something planned? Is she a “good” person? Part of me wanted to skip to the end because I wanted to know the why behind Agnes’s actions. My urge to spoil the ending was further spurred on by the novel’s slow build.  It was not until about a fifth of the way when the pieces started to fall into place, and I recognized with some amount of certainty where the book was heading. The pace was slow, but it was the deliberate kind that encourages readers to be immersed in the plot and observe as well as question the decisions of characters, what will those in power do to remain in power? I had to exercise a fair amount of self-control but the ending was worth it as revelations are made. 

Let’s Talk Bookish: Appreciation for book bloggers

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Discussions pertain to topics related to reading or books. Share your opinions, and spread the love by visiting other “Let’s Talk Bookish” posts.

Prompts: Do you feel appreciated as a book blogger? Who do you think appreciates the work of book bloggers the most? Do you think that bookish social media is aiding in the depreciation of book bloggers or is it supporting them? Is it wrong to want compensation from the book industry for our work?

I started blogging because I happened upon a discussion calling for more diversity in reviewers, and I was also searching for an outlet to talk about books. I didn’t know if anyone would read any of my reviews. I always feel appreciated whenever I receive views, likes, comments, and/or follows. Literally me, “Yay! Someone liked it! Oh! There’s a comment. Someone read this! ” Considering that I started with zero expectations and wondered if anyone would read what I wrote, nearly anything makes me feel appreciated.

That’s also how I show appreciation to other bloggers–likes, views, comments, and/or follows. I carve out as much time as I can to blog hop because it’s important for me to show my appreciation and be engaged. I genuinely enjoy the content from bloggers and love talking about books when possible. When I wonder about a book, the first thing I do is look to trusted bloggers for their thoughts. Appreciation, then, likely comes from others in the bookish community and are likely to also be bloggers themselves. We want to interact with others who share in our love of reading, and we understand the time and effort it takes for a single post, whether it be a review or a list of recommended books.

As more accessible alternatives to blogs become available, blogs may become less valued. Blogs are more text-intensive as opposed to newer platforms like Instagram and TikTok. More visual platforms likely require less cognitive effort. It doesn’t necessarily mean blogs will cease to exist or will no longer be valued. There will always be a place for blogs but they may not receive the same amount of traffic. Consider newspapers and the rise of television. Although most people say they get their news from the television, newspapers are still around. Each medium still has an audience.

With the time and effort expended, I do not think it’s wrong for bloggers to want compensation, especially if a blogger has a large following. Creating content on any platform requires a lot of work. Like with any job, there should be compensation for time spent and/or output. Those compensated should then be transparent about it, allowing readers/viewers to decide how much weight to place on the review.

I would love to know your thoughts. Do you feel appreciated as a blogger? How can people show their appreciation of you and your content? Should bloggers be compensated? Do blogs have a future especially with the rise of alternative social media outlets?

Wrath of the Tooth Fairy (2020)

by Sarina Dorie
ASIN/ISBN: B0851NDS9G
Publication: July 21, 2020

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Mira was a fairy godmother until she was found in a compromising position after falling in love with a godson, a Prince Charming. After losing her job as a fairy godmother and deemed a predator, she is relegated to a tooth fairy. After nearly a hundred years, she’s still trying to work her way back to being a fairy godmother. When she starts being visited by a bogeyman, she sets out to find a way to keep him away. The bogeyman, however, may be more than he seems when a prank he plays makes Mira suspect there may be shady practices going on within the company she works at.

Wrath of the Tooth Fairy can be classified as a romantic fantasy, but the romance is not as developed as I would like in my romance novels. Fortunately, the romance isn’t the draw of the book. Mira’s journey is what kept me reading. Mira loved her job as a fairy godmother and was on the way to holding a prominent position before falling in love with Prince Charming. She is determined to regain her fairy godmother status. She has a soft heart and bends the rules to help her clients beyond her teeth collecting duties even if being found out could lead to losing her job–becoming a toilet fairy does not sound fun. While she tries to keep her head down and stay away from trouble, the small ways in which she rebels against the system made her someone I rooted for. (You can do it!) But are these small gestures enough? What happens if you need to put more skin in the game?

The world immediately drew me in. Although there are different dimensions, the world we spend the most time in is the one that overlaps with humans and operates much like it as well. Individuals fulfill occupational roles ranging from bogeyman to Santas and Easter Bunnies. Not all fairies have wings. Unfortunately, cupids do have uniforms that look exactly like a giant diaper. Of all things replicated, it’s the oft-dreaded bureaucracies and their red tape that made me cringe. (Ugh! Not here too!) Joining Mira on her journey felt like it could be just another day at work: a lousy boss, incessant complaints, and commiserating with coworkers. Different world, the same problems. Heh…

Just like being on the clock, that darn minute hand doesn’t budge very easily. As much as I liked the setup of the novel and Mira’s journey, the pacing of the book had me checking how much more I had to go before the middle mark and then how much more until the end. It’s repetitive with Mira working, the bogeyman showing up many times over, and Mira trying to figure out what to do about him. It felt like so much happened, but also nothing happened at all. It’s not until the second half that the plot moves forward. When it did, I breathed a sigh of relief and was rewarded for overcoming the first half. It was an uphill battle for a while there. Then toward the end, it kept going when I was ready for it to stop.

Like Mira, I had to figure out whether I should risk putting my skin in the game–so many books, so little time, right? And, time is something you never get back. (That’s a lot of skin!) Overall, I made a sound decision. The pacing wore me down some, but Mira puts up a good fight, well, at least in the second half, which is how the half star appeared. For the most part, I enjoyed it and can positively say time was not wasted. While I do recommend Wrath of the Tooth Fairy, you’ll have to consider if the risk is worth it as well.

This Is for Tonight (2021)

by Jessica Patrick
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250757159
Publication: May 4, 2021

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Andi enters a scavenger hunt for social media influencers at a music festival. With a prize that can help pay for college, she’s intent on winning the scavenger hunt so she can attend the same college with her brother. One of the competitors is Jay Bankar, the host of a prank channel and someone she loathes. Jay was kind enough to help her set up camp for the festival. While she’s certain she dislikes him, she also can’t help her attraction to the person she met before she realized who he was.  

This Is for Tonight is a cute YA romance that takes place in the span of a few days. Although the burgeoning romance between Andi and Jay is the central focus of the story, it also touches on grief, family, and the inevitability of growing up. However, I wouldn’t quite categorize it as a coming-of-age story. The elements are present, but the exploration of the themes is surface level.

I enjoyed the book for the light romance. Andi loves crafting, which serves as the main content of her YouTube channel. She makes no apologies for what she likes to do and also speaks her mind. When she first meets Jay, she doesn’t realize who he is, and they’re attracted to each other nearly instantly. The scavenger hunt plays a minor obstacle in comparison to Andi’s dislike of Jay, which is completely understandable. While Jay initially comes off sweet, Andi notes there are so many sides to him that it’s difficult to trust him. Who is he exactly? He appears genuine and helpful in person, but his personality runs opposite to how he appears on his channel–obnoxious and misogynistic. The only thing certain about him is how confusing he is. The bulk of the book is about trying to figure him out and whether a relationship is even possible. There are a few moments in the book that were frustrating because Andi would be on the cusp of finding out only to be left hanging.

One of the other highlights is Andi’s relationship with her brother Jordan. She is the more responsible twin, while he is the sociable and popular twin. He also doubles as her best friend. Although somewhat unreliable and more than willing to blow her off for a pretty girl, Jordan is also there for her when it counts, but is that enough? She also feels like she has to take on more responsibility than she has to, especially when one of the reasons for going to the same college as her brother Jordan comes to light. While the sibling relationship is a highlight, it isn’t thoroughly examined, and any tension that might exist gets resolved rather quickly.

This Is for Tonight is a light romance set within the backdrop of a music festival. It is relatively short and doesn’t delve deeply into some of the topics it touches on, but I still had a good time reading it.