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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18 Things I Learned in 2018

This post is going to be something a little different from my norm in that it’s not necessarily related to books, but it is something I want to share. Since starting my blog earlier this year, I have learned so much, and I want to be able to reflect on all of it in one final post of 2018. It would be awesome if I could write two thousand and eighteen things I learned this year, but in the interest of time and length, eighteen things will have to do.

  1. Do whatever it is you’re ‘waiting to be ready’ for sooner rather than later, because chances are, if you don’t, it’s never going to happen.
    This goes for anything – careers, self-improvement, hobbies, and everything in between. For months, I contemplated starting this blog; I would come on WordPress, fill out all the fields to get started, and then press backspace on the browser because I was scared I wasn’t ready. Finally, after a gentle nudge from a friend, I just closed my eyes and did it. Even now sometimes, I still don’t think I am ready. But guess what? I’m doing it. And it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. Reading and writing are more than just hobbies, they are an escape, and if it wasn’t for this blog this year I would have had a much harder time getting through it all. Even now I wonder, am I ready to publish such a vulnerable post? Nope. But I’m going to do it anyway, and I’m going to be better for it.
  2. It’s okay to not finish a book.
    Leaving things left undone is not in my nature. I always feel like a quitter when I stop in the middle of something or think I haven’t given my all. It’s true when they say you are your toughest critic – at least, I am mine. However, it’s okay to recognize you’re not enjoying whatever it is you’re doing – like reading a book – and stopping if it doesn’t make you happy. This same logic can be applied to many other situations in life: if it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it; if it isn’t fulfilling to you, you’re allowed and valid in focusing your attention elsewhere.
  3.  Every bad thing that’s happening to you is preparing you for something better.
    This is going to sound so cliché, but I’ll put it like this: when plants are growing, they need water, and dirt, and fertilizer. When you Google how fertilizer helps plants grow, you get this answer: “Plants need to be fertilized because most soil does not provide the essential nutrients required for optimum growth.” Well, I like to think that humans are the same way. Just like plants need to grow through shit, humans need to go through shit. If all the negative things that happened to me this year didn’t happen, I would probably be a lot happier, but I also wouldn’t be as strong. There have been so many times when I thought, “why is this happening to me?” but looking back, I feel like none of it was ever truly negative, because the character I’m building will only serve to prepare me for all the good things the world has in store in the future. And if I’m being honest, I kind of like the me that I am now more than I liked the me that I was at the beginning of the year, and I couldn’t say that without all the things – good and bad – that happened this year to shape me into who I am today.
  4.  You will never regret putting yourself outside of your comfort zone.
    If you asked me if I were an introvert or an extrovert, I would say that I’m an extroverted introvert. It’s like having the devil and angel on your shoulder – the introverted part of me tries to convince me to stay inside the comfort of the bubble I’ve created, while the extroverted part tries convincing me that it would be fun to pop it. About 60% of the time, the introverted part wins, but the 40% where the extroverted part does are the most exciting. I have no idea what winning the lottery feels like, but I imagine the high I get from doing something outside of my comfort zone and it not being the most painful experience in the world, like my introverted side tries to warn me, is prettttty close.
  5. Your feelings are valid. All. The. Time.
    People will try to convince you that they’re not, and for the rest of your life, someone probably will. For the rest of your life, these people will also be wrong.
  6. Having a full-time job does not have to be miserable.
    This was a big year for me career-wise because I got my first full-time job. For probably my whole life, I have had the impression that having a full-time job is daunting and that I’m going to go to work every day hating my life. Well, guess what? That is not the case all the time! I’m very lucky, but I genuinely like going to work every day and I never thought I would say that.
  7.  Forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving other people.
    I’m way quicker to forgive other people than I am to forgive myself. If someone hurts me, I’m over it before I was even under it. But when I hurt me, I can hurt me and hurt me and hurt me and the forgiveness just doesn’t come as easily – I almost feel like I don’t deserve it sometimes. With that being said, you have to live with yourself your whole entire life. Isn’t that crazy? It sometimes boggles my mind to think that I will never know what it’s like to be someone else. So, even though it’s hard, the least I can do for myself is learn to forgive me if I have to be around me forever. You should do the same for you.
  8. Your worth doesn’t come from other people, it comes from you!
    I think that I have placed too much of my self-worth on whether or not other people see me in a certain way, and this year has really challenged my ability to see worth in myself.  It’s not something you can change overnight, and it’s something I’m going to have to keep working on, but I feel like I have come a long way. Focusing your energy on you actually attracts people automatically. You don’t (and should never) have to actually work to get people to like you, or to care about you, or to see you, or to talk to you, THEY JUST DO. And anyone from that point who doesn’t see how amazing you are to be around or talk to is just plain stupid, probably has their own personal issues to sort through, and doesn’t deserve your attention anyway.
  9. When you’re at a party, dance.
    You know how many solo dance parties I’ve had in my room? Too many. And you know what usually happens when I go to parties? Not dancing! I don’t want to constantly think about whether or not I look stupid, because even if I do, who cares??? I love singing and dancing with my friends and if I’m having fun, who cares. The secret is that no one is paying attention to how stupid you do or don’t look, because they’re too busy worrying about themselves. So dance at parties, these are the memories with your friends you’re going to remember.
  10.  Meeting new people is really fun.
    This kind of goes back to the comfort zone thing, but I never realized how much I love talking to new people until this year. Like I said, I am not the most extroverted person, so talking to strangers is something I’ve never thought I enjoyed until now. This year, I complimented a lot more strangers and let me tell you, it felt good! Also, if it weren’t for me talking to new people, I wouldn’t have met Kelly, one of my best friends in the book community ❤ So, go out there and talk to strangers, because you never know if one might end up being a big part of your life one day.
  11. Going on trips without your family can be really good for your growth.
    This year, I went on vacation for the first time without my parents. It was both my friend and I’s first time going anywhere alone together, and we were both kind of nervous, but it ended up being one of the most memorable things that happened all year. Planning our own trip made me feel like a real responsible adult, and made me a lot more grateful for all the times my parents organized vacations for the five of us, because organizing for just myself was hard enough!
  12. Take the opportunity to go for walks when the weather is nice.
    Something I kind of dislike about myself is that I am a hermit. I love being in my room alone having me-time, which is fine, but it makes a world of a difference when that me-time is out in fresh air. I live somewhere where the weather is nice less than half of the year, so when it was good, I went for a walk almost every day and my mood improved all the time. Definitely going to be doing more of that in 2019.
  13. Go to bed early if you’re tired. You’ll thank yourself tomorrow.
    I’ve been a night owl ever since I can remember. I don’t know what happened to me this year, but I have been getting tired at normal times lately, and I have never regretted falling asleep early and feeling so refreshed waking up early the next day. Didn’t even know that was a possibility for me, but let me tell you, it is life changing.
  14. If you compare yourself to other people, you are always going to be miserable.
    This is a huge one and I’m probably going to have to keep working on it for life. Trying not to compare yourself is hard enough without social media in the mix, magnifying everyone else’s highs and making you feel like you’re behind. It’s not easy at all, but when I tried my best to not compare where I am at in life to where other people my age are, I stopped feeling sorry for the things I haven’t done, and started to feel proud of everything I have. Life is not a race; everyone is on their own path. Focus on yourself instead of focusing on other people.
  15. Putting effort into your appearance can actually make you feel 10x better about your day.
    Obviously appearance isn’t everything, that’s not what I’m saying. But I noticed that this year, I tried putting a lot more effort than usual into what I wear and trying to get up earlier to do my makeup, and the outlook I have on my day has improved exponentially.
  16. It is okay to make mistakes – healthy, even.
    This is another one I am going to have to continuously work on, but I really hate making mistakes. However, making mistakes is really the only way you’re going to learn life lessons. I know that I have a lot more mistakes to make, and it does scare me, but for the first time probably ever, I think it excites me too. I know that sounds strange, but I actually feel kind of happy about it because it means that I am going to continue to grow and change so much more and (hopefully) become a better person from them; who doesn’t want that?
  17. Doing things alone doesn’t have to be lonely.
    I used to be so embarrassed to do the smallest things, like sitting in a coffee shop, alone but now I love it. I think enjoying your own company is really important and a healthy part of growing into who you are.
  18. Everything happens for a reason, even if you don’t see it right now, and everything is always going to work out – maybe not in the way you imagined, and maybe not as soon as you’d hoped, but it will work out for the best and you will see that eventually.

Although I think that 2018 was probably my hardest year mentally and emotionally, I don’t want to look back on it as a bad year because I learned a lot, I grew a lot, and despite everything, I still laughed a lot. Something tells me that 2019 is going to be even better, and I can’t wait to experience all the highs and lows that come with it and see how much farther I’ve come next year.

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, and if you made it this far, thank you for reading.
If anyone has any of their own experiences to add, let me know! I’d love to hear them 🙂

-Catherine

Let’s connect! Goodreads | Twitter


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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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Disney Channel Halloween Movies Tag

Yay, a Halloween-inspired tag! Thank you to Rendz of Reading With Rendz for tagging me to do this; I was really excited because Disney Channel Halloween movies are my life this time of year. (And no, I don’t care how old I get, I will always love the classic Disney Channel movies – Halloween or not – of my childhood. No shame whatsoever).

Rules:

  1. Tag the creator (bookprincessreviews) of the DHM Tag.
  2. Thank the person who tagged who.
  3. Answer the questions.
  4. Tag five more people.

Halloweentown: Where is your favorite place to go for Halloween or a place you want to go?

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Can I literally say Halloweentown or is that cheating? The first Halloweentown movie is my favourite one they play on Disney Channel during this season. Normally I would be terrified to go where all of those creatures live, but that movie made them seem friendly and I was always so jealous of those kids. Really hoping I’m not too old for a distant relative to show up on Halloween night and tell me I’m a witch…

Under Wraps: What’s something that used to be scary to you and then you realized it wasn’t just the mummy in this movie?

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The dark used to be very scary to me and I’ve learned to not be as afraid of it, buuut sometimes I still can be! My issue is that I really like to read about/ watch things that freak me out, so if I do it too close to bed time I am in for a long, sleepless night.

Tower of Terror: What is the scariest place you’ve ever been?

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I went to one of those amusement parks around Halloween time that has mazes where people dressed in scary costumes jump out at you, and where people come at you with chainsaws. You can imagine I did not sleep well that night. But, like I said, I enjoy things that freak me out… even if I am tortured by the thoughts of it later.

Twitches: If you could be any supernatural creature, what would you be?

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I would want to be a witch for sure!!! I was that girl whose costume was a witch like 5 times in a row in elementary school.

Don’t Look Under the Bed: Were you scared of monsters when you were a kid? When did it stop?

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Yes. I used to practically suffocate under blankets before I allowed my feet to dangle off my bed for fear that a monster would grab my foot. I don’t even know when it stopped, but I’m gonna guess it was a lot more recently that I would prefer to admit.

Phantom of the Megaplex: Do you watch scary movies? If so, what is your favorite or the one you got most afraid of?

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I do! Does it count if I’m covering my eyes (more than) half the time though?! I liked IT – I’ve only watched the remake – and Poltergeist, and I remember watching The Strangers when it came out and being terrified. Going to a remote cabin in the woods??? Noooooope. Count me out.

The Scream Team: Who would be on your dream team if you went on a ghost/supernatural creature hunt?

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Rhysand from the ACOTAR series. I feel like he would be a good protector, and like he’s a High Fae so he has some cool powers I think may be helpful. (I’m only on the second book, no one spoil him for me!!!) Also, I liked Rendz’s idea of bringing along a hot guy to hide behind so I am totally stealing that.

Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire: Have you ever witnessed something/someone that could only be explained by the paranormal? If yes, what/who?

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I’m going to sound crazy, but when I was a kid my bed used to be close to my window and one night I heard a little kid calling for their dad over and over in the exact same tone (sounded like a broken record) at like 11PM. First of all, no little kid lived next door, and second, I don’t think one would be outside by themselves at 11PM on a school night in the dead of winter. The second I called for my own dad, the voice stopped. Pretty sure I slept with the covers aaaaalll the way up to my nose that night.

This tag was so fun! I tag: 

Shalini

Becky

Catherine

Angelica

Kristin

As always, if you don’t want to do the tag or have done it already, no pressure to do it! And if I didn’t tag you but you want to do it, feel free to say I tagged you so I can see your answers 🙂

Happy reading,

Catherine

Let’s connect! Goodreads | Twitter


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