An Open Letter to Myself on my One Year Blogging Anniversary

Dear me,

You did it – you’ve been blogging for a whole year. I know that when you started this, it was because you love to read, and you wanted an outlet to share all of your thoughts about one of your favourite hobbies, but I also know that you probably didn’t anticipate lasting this long so I’m really proud of you. Although ‘this is one for the books’, it’s also become one for the life lessons, new friendships, and everything in between. This is a space where you can talk about whatever you want, and I like that you never shied away from that, even when it made you vulnerable and nervous to be so open.

In the past year especially, you have been growing into such a strong and beautiful person even though you don’t see that a lot of the time. Between you and me, I think the one year ago you who started this blog would be really proud of the person you are now, and if you could see yourself through her eyes, I bet your perception of yourself would be a lot different. Reading has helped you through so much, and I’m glad you could find a community of people like you to share that passion with. When you first started one year ago, I don’t think you understood how impactful your blog would be on your personal life. You have made some amazing friends, both online and off, and read some of the most eye-opening and life changing books this past year which have enriched your life in ways you may not even be fully aware of yet.

If your experiences last year are any indication of what’s to come, I’m excited to look back this time next year at all of the new adventures you went on because of all the great books waiting to be discovered by you right now in this very moment. I know that these days it’s become difficult to finish books as fast as you used to, and sometimes even to pick one up at all, but my wish for you is that in the next year, as you get to know yourself more deeply, that you get to read even more books that change your life for the better. Happy one year of blogging; I can’t wait to see all the wonderful things and books in store for you next.

Always & Forever,
Catherine

“One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”


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Review// The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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Author: Cormac McCarthy
Series: Standalone
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: September 26, 2006
Book Length: 241 pages 
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Review: 4/5

My Review:

In a post-apocalyptic world where a man and his son struggle to survive, The Road offers a horrifying glimpse into what life is like for the little civilization that is left.

This book follows the man and child as they are walking along the road in search of food, shelter, and supplies to continue their journey. Admittedly, it wasn’t until about the 40% mark that things started to get interesting for me. Up until that point, it didn’t seem like the two were faced with very many dangers aside from the unfortunate living conditions that made it difficult to get through each day. This danger eventually came in the form of people whom the boy referred to as “bad guys” that seemed to be capturing, severing and eating other humans. As they ventured off the road from abandoned house to abandoned house searching for what they needed, I was always curious as to what, if anything, may be lurking in the shadows next.

Although the man and the boy do not speak to each other very much, the conversations they did have pulled at my heart strings. It was evident that in this new world, people were forced to harden in order to maintain any chance of going on, but the true softness of humanity could still be found in the voice of the child. Society had become very ‘every man for himself’, yet it was the boy who always found it in his heart to ask his father to extend a hand and share their food or bring other potential ‘good guys’ along on their journey.

This is undoubtedly a book about survival, but not so much about the act itself as it is about the survival of the defining qualities of human nature: compassion, hope, humility, kindness, and optimism—even when it seems too difficult to carry on.

What’s the bravest thing you ever did?
He spat into the road a bloody phlegm. Getting up this morning, he said.

-Catherine

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Review// You by Caroline Kepnes

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Author: Caroline Kepnes
Series: Standalone
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Book Length: 424 pages 
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

My Review:

This was just as terrifying the second time around. Everything that happened to Beck and the people around her after meeting Joe was a nightmare, but no matter how psychotic Joe was, I remained addicted to the thrill of being inside his mind. The creepiest thing was that he was so twisted, scary, and manipulative, yet all the while appearing completely normal to everyone around him. I think that this story works because the reader almost wants to root for Joe. He stole things from Beck’s house and created a hidden shrine of her belongings, attacked people she loved, stalked her every move, and the list goes on, but despite all of that, you get so caught up in his mind games that you almost start to believe the victims of his deserved what they had coming.

I had been meaning to re-read this for a while now, and I’m so happy I finally got around to it. If there is any lesson to be taken away from this book, it’s to be very careful who you trust and the amount of things you expose about yourself online, because you never know who is watching you.

There’s nothing to worry about anymore. I’ve never felt so at peace with where I am, right now, on a train, tunneling toward my home, toward you. I take my time walking up the stairs and onto the street. I want life to move slowly because I want to anticipate you with all my heart, greet you with all my heart, fuck you with all my heart and miss you with all my heart. I have to laugh because I sound like a greeting card but I deserve this, you, joy.

If you’ve watched the Netlfix adaptation, I would love to hear your thoughts! 🙂 

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Review// The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

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Author: Heather Rose
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: September 1, 2016
Book Length: 296 pages 
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Review: 1/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

A mesmerising literary novel about a lost man in search of connection – a meditation on love, art and commitment, set against the backdrop of one of the greatest art events in modern history, Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present.

She watched as the final hours of The Artist is Present passed by, sitter after sitter in a gaze with the woman across the table. Jane felt she had witnessed a thing of inexplicable beauty among humans who had been drawn to this art and had found the reflection of a great mystery. What are we? How should we live?

If this was a dream, then he wanted to know when it would end. Maybe it would end if he went to see Lydia. But it was the one thing he was not allowed to do.

Arky Levin is a film composer in New York separated from his wife, who has asked him to keep one devastating promise. One day he finds his way to The Atrium at MOMA and sees Marina Abramovic in The Artist is Present. The performance continues for seventy-five days and, as it unfolds, so does Arky. As he watches and meets other people drawn to the exhibit, he slowly starts to understand what might be missing in his life and what he must do.

This dazzlingly original novel asks beguiling questions about the nature of art, life and love and finds a way to answer them.

My Review:

I feel guilty for not having felt the way the majority of reviewers did about this. I thought I would enjoy it because art and history are two of my favourite things to learn about and this incorporated both, but I just couldn’t get into the story. This was somewhere between a 1 and 2, but if it wasn’t for book club, I would have ‘DNF’d’ it before it got slightly more enjoyable, so I think a 1 is more appropriate.

Despite giving it a 1, I think the idea behind the book was interesting. Marina Abramovic, the artist in the book, was an actual performance artist who performed a piece called The Artist is Present, where she sat for 75 days straight across from various visitors to the MoMa for a few minutes at a time. In the book, the visitors would basically see these visions of their lovers as they sat across from and stared into Marina’s eyes – some getting very emotional. If you search The Artist is Present on YouTube, you will see real footage of people having sat across from her during the exhibition, and I think it’s cool that this whole thing happened in real life and was made into a book including some real and some fictional events. I also liked the storyline with Levin the most; his chapters were the ones I was most engrossed in because I wanted to know what would happen between him and his wife.

Even though the idea was interesting, I still felt bored while reading. I know there is a documentary about this performance art piece, and something tells me I would probably like that better. Overall, I really don’t think this was necessarily bad, it just wasn’t for me. So if you think it sounds interesting, I would give it a chance because majority of people did like this more than I did.

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Review// I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

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Author: Vivek Shraya
Series: Standalone
Genre: Nonfiction
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Book Length: 96 pages 
Publisher: Penguin Books Canada
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl–and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century.

Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she’s endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak.

Now, with raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate. I’m Afraid of Men is a journey from camouflage to a riot of colour and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.

My Review:

I would be lying if I said that the title didn’t have a huge influence on my intrigue in this initially, however, this book ended up giving me way more insight than I could have ever guessed. Exploring masculinity from the perspective of a trans woman through her experiences both pre and post transition, Vivek Shraya delivers a very raw take on how misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia has impacted her life.

A particularly insightful part in this for me was Shraya’s take on the ‘good man’:

In spite of my negative experiences, I’ve maintained a robust attachment to the idea of the “good man.” A common theme in my encounters and relationships is my certainty that the men I have admired were “good”, a synonym for “different from the rest.” The attachment to the promise of goodness is what left me bereft when, in various ways, I discovered that each of these men wasn’t “one of the good guys.” 

She goes on to talk about how instead of categorizing men (or anyone, really) as ‘good’, that we value specific characteristics one possesses such as communication, dependability, and the like. If we are to focus on specific characteristics as opposed to categorizing people as generally ‘good’, it not only eliminates the elevated image we’ve created of them, but unlike how being ‘good’ cancels out when one does something ‘bad’, these character attributes can coexist alongside one another.

Although I can’t speak to experiences one faces in the LGBTQ+ community, I can relate to the experiences and scenarios presented that affect women on a daily basis. What I liked about this was also that it didn’t skip past the fact that women who defend or feed into misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia are equally to blame. Overall, I thought this was very well written, and at 96 pages, the only thing I wish is that it was longer.

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