Goodreads Wins for 2016

I recall quite clearly how excited I was when I received my first email from Goodreads with the headline “Congrats – You’re a Giveaways Winner!” I had won Nadja Spiegelman’s I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This: A Memoir. Now I’ve won more giveaways than I’d considered possible, due mostly to my incessant boredom at work during lulls leading me to enter into dozens at a time. I certainly can’t say I never win anything anymore!

Here’s a list of the books I’ve won this year, linked to Goodreads:

What a list! I’ve really enjoyed some of the books that I won this year. Regardless of the reviews I’ve left, I am so grateful to have won at all, much less in such a bounty. That’s fourteen books that I may never have had my hands on if it weren’t for these giveaways. I encourage any avid readers, especially those of us who are in school or otherwise struggling financially to look into the Goodreads Giveaways tab, browse the genres, enter and try your luck. It’s beneficial to you and to the writer/publisher whose book(s) you review.

A note on integrity; My reviews were always honest, as the contests requested – the point in giveaways is to receive honest feedback, and in some cases mine was negative. Though I don’t want to seem unappreciative, I have a moral obligation to review these books as I would any other for the sake of book buyers everywhere.

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Book 62: Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb

Lamb makes a reference to one of my favorite Saints on the first page, Dymphna. Naming a nun for Dymphna is interesting, and it had me wondering whether the reference implied incest or mental illness; either way, I knew that Lamb had a deeper meaning loaded in there. One does not simply name a character for a Saint with no allusion intended. Unfortunately, she’s not present for much of the novel itself.

In high school I fell in love with Wally Lamb’s fiction, starting with The Hour I First Believed, and catapulting myself on to read  I Know This Much Is True, and later She’s Come Undone. I haven’t read We Are Water yet, though it is sitting on my shelf, waiting patiently. I’ve yet to pick up any of his nonfiction for myself, though I did gift a copy of one of the essay collections to a good friend last Christmas.

I chose to go ahead and read Wishin’ and Hopin’ because it’s a novel about Christmas, and it is, indeed, Christmas time. If I’m being honest, I haven’t been able to find the spirit this year. 2016 had been a tumultuous year for most of us, one that I’m not sorry to say goodbye to, and in turn it has been one that didn’t leave me much room for celebration. I picked up Wishin’ and Hopin’ with the goal to find some joy.

Lamb’s writing is so easy to read; it’s not easy in that it’s too simple, it’s easy in that his wit and diction are complex while still reading seamlessly. Because of this writing skill, I was two thirds into the book before I realized we’d yet to get to Christmas. Aside from the everyday goings-on of a 5th grader’s life, little of note had really happened in the story itself, either.

I will say that I’m not overly fond of such a young protagonist for a novel, especially one that’s not listed solely as YA.

The story is set in 1964, so civil rights was one of the first things to come to mind from the era. Lamb doesn’t address it much, other than going back and forth between calling the one boy in the class “colored” and then correcting it later, saying “black or Afro-American.” This one student in the catholic school also has a tagline: “Wait’ll the NAACP hears about this!” a nod to Sammy Davis Jr’s comment at the 1964 Oscars.

My favorite section of the book was the Epilogue; though it’s a work of fiction, I liked hearing the brief complexities that Lamb had molded their lives into. If only I felt the same way about the book itself…

I give the book 5/10.

Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story (Hardcover)

Happy reading!

Self Improvement Roundup 2016

I know it’s a bit early, but I’ve decided to go ahead and dedicate the rest of the year to other genres, I feel content with the amount of Self-Help I’ve read this year. In an effort to avoid posting ten things on NYE, I’m getting this up now.

I wanted to round-up my Self-Help/Personal Growth genre and give a little bit of feedback on what I’ve learned this year. I’ve previously reviewed all of these books, as they were part of my 52 week challenge, so you can look for those in the archives if you’re interested. They’re listed in the order that they appeared on the blog.

  • Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov
    • What I learned: The hope for a book about dating that doesn’t rely on gender stereotypes and weird sexism is not futile, though I am 99% sure that when I do find that book, the word “Bitch” will not be in the title.
  • Strong Looks Better Naked by Khloe Kardashian
    • What I learned: Kris Jenner likes Belvedere vodka. Khloe Kardashian likes to work out.
  • How to be a Bad Bitch by Amber Rose
    • What I learned: Never listen to the people putting you down, especially when they’re slut-shamers and assholes.
  • Raising Confident Girls by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer
    • What I learned: We, as a society, owe it to girls to instill them with self-worth and self-love from an early age. It is not something that comes naturally for most of us, as a woman and a sister, I need to do my part.
  • Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
    • What I learned: To say “yes” to the scary stuff, it often benefits us more than we can comprehend.
  • The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith
    • What I learned: There’s no use in searching for a blanket of surface-level happiness – meaning will always be worth more in the long-run.

I thoroughly enjoyed trying to improve myself this year, though I can promise you, a few of these books were little help in the venture. I found several, especially Rose, Rhimes, and Smith’s books, to be quite insightful. They’re three that I may revisit in the future. If I had to list my least favorites, Argov and Kardashian are a close tie.

Expect a post on New Year’s Eve encompassing all of my reading for the year! Cheers this holiday season, I hope you’re all finding your own happiness.

❤️ Happy Val/Gal/Palentine’s Day! ❤️

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I’ve decided to make a quick post that explains a few alternative ways to celebrate the day (with your gals or your pals if you’re single or ace, etc!). I’ll be including some literary quotes, some music videos for a few of my favorite related songs, and some random ideas/advice.

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

If you’re celebrating with a Significant Other:

“To love another person is to see the face of god.”
-Les Miserables

It’s wonderful to be in love. It’s an incredible feeling, one that a lot of people enjoy (some don’t, asexual/aromantic folk you are not alone). I’m one of those people who never seems to find myself involved on Valentine’s day, but if you are, consider spending the day curled up watching movies or netflix, taking a break from the hustle and bustle and enjoying eachother’s company. Dinners at fancy restaurants are great, but you can bet they’ll all be crowded tonight. Why not order a pizza and wear sweats, love doesn’t have to be performative.

(No shame to those going out!)

As far as music goes, I’m definitely one for Alicia Keys; she’s one of my go-to artist for love songs, and of course I can’t leave out two of her biggest hits:

If you’re celebrating with Significant Others:

“Soul meets soul on lovers’ lips.”
-Prometheus Unbound

There’s nothing wrong with polyamory when you’re a part of a healthy, consensual situation. Why not spend some time with everyone, be it today or over the course of a few? Valentine’s Day can probably be fairly hectic for poly folk, and I surely hope that you all enjoy today and others used to celebrate togetherness with your partners.

Picking poly Valentine anthems is something that I am definitely not the best for, but I did think that this song could make a great tongue-in-cheek anthem for your day! (I love her attitude, hopefully this doesn’t translate offensively).

If you’re having a Galentine’s Day:

“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”
-Beloved

Amy Poehler isn’t my absolute favorite, but I adore the concept of Galentine’s Day; loosely translated it’s a day spent with girl friends.

There’s something to say about having excellent friends. I have the strongest network of lady friends in Kennesaw (I recently graduated from KSU), and I miss them constantly. If I hadn’t moved I’m sure I’d be spending tonight Netflixing with a bottle of wine (and pizza) on Sierra’s couch with Jessica, Carina, and Carlynn. Last year we celebrated early with a YES!body event (hosted by my committee) that dealt with self-love, body positivity, interpersonal violence prevention, masturbation, and safe sex. You know you’ve got awesome friends when you can all hang out in onesies talking about how we can further smash the heteronormative, transphobic, capitalist, racist, patriarchal society in which we live.
If you’re having a Galentine’s day with friends, blare girl power music. Play it loud. Sing and dance along. I’ve linked Beyonce’s Who Run the World because it’s like girl-power concentrate, and Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda because it’s carefree and upbeat (remember, I’m all about sex positivity, so of course I vibe to Nicki and Bey, not girl hate or slut-shaming).


If you’re having a Palentine’s Day:

“‘Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.’”
-Charlotte’s Web

I was scrolling through the Valentine’s Day tag on Tumblr this morning when I stumbled upon a post that talked about how Galentine’s Day wasn’t inclusive for non-binary folk, and I of course agreed. Palentine’s Day leaves room for non-binary, guy, or girl friends to all hang out and have a good time celebrating their friendships.

Some friend-tunes I’ve found are as follows! The RHCP song isn’t exactly bright and sunshiney but it’s a solid friendship anthem for those who deal with depression (me). Ignore Kanye’s horrible misogyny and enjoy Clique for the beat and theme. I’ve thrown in my fave John Legend song because it’s excellent for long-time friends or family.



If you’re having a V-Day Me Day:

“I am so beautiful, sometimes people weep when they see me. And it has nothing to do with what I look like really, it is just that I gave myself the power to say that I am beautiful, and if I could do that, maybe there is hope for them too. And the great divide between the beautiful and the ugly will cease to be. Because we are all what we choose.”
―Margaret Cho

Self-love is a constant struggle for me, but on the days where it is my main focus, I often find myself feeling incredibly happy. As Margaret Cho’s quote states, we have the power to be strong and beautiful no matter our appearance (who honestly cares about appearance over everything else anyway?).

Let’s not forget folks on the ace spectrum; y’all can definitely enjoy this day with friends or loved ones in your own way, or by yourself. Spoil yourself, spoil those around you, spoil them with love over gifts.

If you’re dedicating today to self-love, I would suggest listening to Florence and the Machine. She’s one of my go-tos for fun music. She writes wildly unique lyrics, and Ceremonials is by far my favorite album of hers. She does write a considerable number of love songs, but she’s multi-dimensional enough that they aren’t ever stereotypical or overwhelming.

HEART SHAPED PIZZAS FOR EVERYONE!

Since they always seem to be a hit, I’ve decided to link some options for ordering or making heart-shaped pizzas! They work fine for any form of celebration, or just for the sake of having a pizza:

Papa John’s Valentine’s Day Special includes a heart-shaped one topping and a big brownie for $15.

Pizza Hut is apparently offering heart-shaped pizzas at select locations, so you’ll need to contact your local Pizza Hut to see if they have them.

If you’re feeling a culinary inclination, you can try one of these recipes: Beet Crust Heart-Shaped Pizza, Pillsbury’s Valentine’s Pizza Recipe, or whichever recipe you use to make pizza from scratch.

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

I hope you all have a wonderful day, be it with a significant other/others, friends, family, or alone!