Review// Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life & Love From Dear Sugar

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Author: Cheryl Strayed
Series: Standalone
Genre: Non-fiction
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Book Length:  304 pages 
Publisher: Vintage
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.
Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond.  Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.

My Review:

It’s hard to think of the perfect thing to say that would accurately convey what this book has done to me but the one thing that I know for certain is that it was life-altering. I’m better for having read this, and that, to me, is what all the best books do—they make you feel changed for the better.

This book is a compilation of advice columns answered by a woman who goes by the name, ‘Sugar’. It is what the title says it is—advice on life and love—but for almost the whole book, I wondered why it was called Tiny Beautiful Things. It’s not until I finished that I understood that it is sometimes the tiny, beautiful, seemingly-meaningless things about life that you don’t think matter that much in the moment which are the things you look back on as some of the most profound of your life.

The letters written to Sugar over the course of this book come from people of all ages, backgrounds, religious beliefs, and the like—people who are lost, confused, lonely, desperate, and scared, looking for someone to give them answers. Sugar isn’t some all-knowing fortune teller with a crystal ball who can see into your future, and she doesn’t claim to be; she is a real human being like you or I who has also been lost, confused, lonely, desperate, and scared. That is what makes her advice so good.  That is why thousands of people write to her—because even if she hasn’t been in their particular situation, she makes them feel understood by bringing up her own experiences and never saying that they are wrong for feeling what they do. And feeling understood feels really, really good, especially when you are going through tough situations that make you feel alone, as many of these people were. Even though I can’t say I have experienced half of the exact things that the people who wrote to her were going through, I can say that I have experienced the same emotions, which made the stories feel relatable regardless.

This was eye-opening and, at times, a heavy and emotional read. I really cannot recommend it enough, and I will be giving it a reread in the future for sure.


What would you tell your twentysomething self if you could talk to her now?

There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.


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Review// The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson

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Author: Lisa Dickenson
Series: Standalone
Genre: Romance
Release Date: October 22, 2015
Book Length:  384 pages 
Publisher: Sphere
Review: 1/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

At thirty, Claudia’s life is stale and the romance with long-term boyfriend, Seth, has disappeared. Determined to inject some festive spark back into their love life, Claudia and Seth go on their first date in a very long time. But when the night ends in disaster, Claudia suddenly finds herself facing life – and Christmas – alone.

Life alone is exciting, scary and full of soon-forgotten exercise regimes and ill-advised attempts at crafting sexy underwear. It’s also filling up with dates, surprisingly. With best friends Penny and Nick at her side, a surplus of festive markets, mulled wine and Christmas tunes, Claudia attempts to face all this change with gusto. One thing’s for certain: this year, Christmas is going to be very different . . .

This is the story of Claudia and her twelve dates of Christmas. Hilarious, uplifting and romantic, it’s a story about losing love, finding love, and discovering what’s been there all along. Expect Christmas sparkle, butterflies-in-your-stomach romance and a lot of very funny moments in The Twelve Dates of Christmas.

My Review:

Oh my. Where do I even begin with this? The synopsis makes it sound kind of cute, but you could probably tell by my rating that this was not the book for me. Before I get into the bits I didn’t like, I will mention a few of the things I did:

The cover: it’s really pretty, and I always get sucked into the pretty covers.
It felt festive: I wanted to read a holiday-themed book, and I thought this delivered really well in giving me that vibe.
Claudia had a Friends poster in her childhood bedroom: do I even need to explain this?
The dedication at the front: the author thanked herself in the dedication which I thought was kind of funny.

Unfortunately, that is a much shorter list of things I thought were good about it than I had hoped to give it. Mainly, the thing that I didn’t like was how dramatic and far-fetched the scenarios in this book were. Claudia has just broken it off with her boyfriend of 5 years – a man who, just hours before their disastrous date that ended things, she was so into trying to impress to give him the best night ever. The part in the synopsis about ‘life alone being so exciting’ actually makes me laugh because she didn’t have a life alone after him??? It was literally ONE DAY. I completely understand that everyone grieves the end of a relationship differently, but I find it really hard to believe that like a day or two after, she was able to go on a date with someone new so effortlessly. Basically, her reasoning for this was that she kind of wanted to ‘spite’ Seth because she had seen him with someone new the night they called it off, and I found that to be very childish. Although Seth was awful, I really wanted to root for Claudia to find better, but that became difficult when she was so petty, annoying, gullible, immature, and just plain stupid. I really don’t think that she was in the right head space to go on one date, let alone twelve, so I really didn’t feel any sort of desire to watch her find love.

It felt like the author was forcing the timeline to move so fast because she could only fit the Christmas narrative within the one month of December. This is just a personal preference, but I enjoy more of a slow burn when it comes to books with romance in them; I would rather the author build up tension for like, 200 pages with narrative that makes me question where the relationship will go, rather than it being so predictable and outwardly cheesy. Speaking of cheesiness, there were many scenes in this book that reminded me so much of those Lifetime movies with the bad acting. I just cringed through so many scenes and felt way too much second hand embarrassment to allow myself to enjoy it.

The book wasn’t completely awful; it just was not my cup of tea. If you like predictability, cheesiness, and exaggerated drama, you might like this, but it just was not for me.

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Review// The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

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Author: Alice Hoffman
Series: Practical Magic #1
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Book Length:  369 pages 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy

My Review:

The Rules of Magic: do as you will, but harm no one; what you give will be returned to you threefold; and fall in love whenever you can.

I was hooked on the idea of this story the second I found out it was about witches; I could really use some more books about witches in my life. I think one of the best parts about this was the characters. Franny, Jet, and Vincent all had very different and distinct personalities but they worked so well as a team. Although they had their disagreements, as all siblings do, they always watched out for one another and had the others’ best interests at heart. Something I adored was getting to watch them grow old as the story progressed; usually a story will only show you a snapshot in time of characters’ lives, but this took you through practically their whole lifespans. This was made even better by real historic events being woven through the story as the decades went on to make it very believable.

Yes, one of the major themes in this book is love, but more than that, it is about family, growing up, loss, and choosing courage over caution to face it all. Most of the time, you don’t get to choose the cards you are dealt in life, but none of the siblings ever let the looming curse stop them from choosing courage to make it through, even though caution was always more convenient.

This was such a great book and one I would recommend to anybody looking for a feel-good, magical story.

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Review// A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns & Roses
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Book Length: 416 pages 
Publisher: Blooomsbury USA Children's
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

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 …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

My Review:

No one understands how happy I am to finally be done this book. No one. Not because I disliked it, but because it took me way too long to get into it once I did—which is sad because the second half was actually really great!

If I went to look up ‘hyped’ in the dictionary, this book/series would be plastered all over the page—you wouldn’t even be able to see the definition. Do I think it’s for good reason? Somewhat. The last half of the book was amazing, but it didn’t entirely make up for how painfully slow the first half was. I kept asking myself if I was reading the same book everyone else has been because nowhere had I been warned of how anticlimactic it could be at times. I appreciate a slow burn, but not too slow a burn which is what I felt this was.

However, when the pace picked up, it really picked up and I had a hard time not thinking about reading it every chance I got. Honestly, once I saw that there was a map at the beginning of the book, I was all in and that aspect did not disappoint. The world Sarah J. Maas created  was really cool; I wish I could actually see it come to life (although that would be bad because we as humans wouldn’t stand a chance in it, but whatever).

Feyre was also such a badass character, and it was nice to see her walls come down a bit as the story progressed. I felt like, although flawed, she was a pretty well-rounded protagonist and someone I wanted to root for. I liked being kept guessing whether characters like Lucien, Tamlin, and Rhysand were ‘good’ or ‘evil’ because that is what kept me going through the slower parts. I have heard these names floating around the book community for a very long time, and it was exciting to actually be reading about them finally!

Hopefully the next books bring more action and excitement because I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

What did you think of this book if you’ve read it? Did you have the same problem with the pacing? Does the series get even better? I would love to know!

Catherine

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Review// Carrie by Stephen King

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Author: Stephen King
Series: Standalone
Genre: Horror
Release Date: April 5, 1974
Book Length: 253 pages 
Publisher: Pocket Books
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Carrie knew she should not use the terrifying power she possessed… But one night at her senior prom, Carrie was scorned and humiliated just one time too many, and in a fit of uncontrollable fury she turned her clandestine game into a weapon of horror and destruction…

My Review:

YES I FINALLY LIKED A BOOK. It’s been a while since I have rated something 3+ stars; I have missed being in love with something I read. Although I didn’t love this, I did like it and sometimes that’s enough.

However, I almost didn’t get through it after the first scene where Carrie gets her period in the shower because it was so painfully exaggerated and far from anything remotely plausible that I cringed through it. Part of me thought that maybe Stephen King meant for it to be overly exaggerated due to the nature of the genre, but at the same time, it was a little bit too overdone and I could just tell he didn’t bother researching how female anatomy works before writing.

Anyways, after I got over that, I actually really enjoyed this. Carrie White is an outcast; she is often the target when it comes to ridicule and bullying at school. To make matters worse, her mother is a scary religious fanatic who believes Carrie is her punishment for sinning when she had her. As a result, she abuses and sexually represses Carrie to the point where you really start to feel awful for her. Not only does Carrie have no friends, but she doesn’t really have a family either. However, she does have telekinesis powers that kick in when she’s angry so that’s pretty cool. Her luck seems to be turning around when a boy asks her to the prom, but as this is a popular story, I’m sure most people already know that there unfortunately is no happy ending. What Carrie did in the end was terrifying, but I felt like I was almost rooting for her to destroy everyone who did her wrong. Stephen King did an excellent job of making you sympathize for this girl—so much so that you almost justified it by thinking they all had it coming.

I loved how King employed fictional newspaper reports, court transcripts, and personal memoirs to show multiple viewpoints of what happened, but sometimes it felt so all over the place. Just when I would be getting into one of the scenes from prom night, out of nowhere there would be a court transcript from a random person who was not really connected to the main story at all. Even though these things supplemented the story well, it became a lot less effective when they kept being thrown in there every couple pages by people who I either didn’t care to hear from or heard way too much from already.

This was my first Stephen King book, and it won’t be my last. I went into this expecting to be terrified, and although I wasn’t, it was still very thrilling and brought upon a lot of other emotions that I didn’t expect to feel. Carrie is a scary reminder to be kinder to other people. After all, you never really know what they are capable of.

This is my first Horror book, so I’m curious if anyone has read any other good Stephen King books or Horror in general. If so, let me know! Always looking for new suggestions 🙂

Catherine

Let’s connect! Goodreads | Twitter


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