Outstanding Blogger Award! 📚🎉

Today I will be posting about the Outstanding Blogger Award. Thank you so much to Maya @HerBookishDesires for the nomination! I’m really honored to have been thought of for this, it completely made my day. Please go check out Maya’s blog, it’s one of my favourites! 😊

Rules:

  1. Provide the link to the creator’s original award post. (very important: see why in step 5)
  2. Answer the questions provided.
  3. Create 7 unique questions.
  4. Nominate 10 bloggers. Ensure that they are aware of their nomination. Neither the award’s creator, nor the blogger that nominated you, can be nominated.
  5. At the end of 2020, every blog that ping-backs the creator’s original post will be entered to win the 2020 Outstanding Blogger Award!

Maya’s Questions:

1. If you could live in one bookish setting, where would you live?

I would love to live in Frell where Ella from Ella Enchanted is from, mostly because I like the idea of there being fairies and other mythical creatures living amongst humans in the world.

2. Favorite book cover of 2020 (the book does not have to be published in 2020, you just had to read it!)

I love this cover, and I loved the book too!

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3. What have you learned (about yourself, blogging, reading) since you started blogging?

Blogging and reading has strengthened my value of friendships. There are so many kind, thoughtful people in this community, and it felt good to be so welcomed right off the bat. I feel like the older you get, the less faith you start to have in humanity, but being here makes me believe that there are lots of wonderful people out there. It is just a huge bonus that they happen to share in my hobby!

4. What gets you out of a reading and/or blogging slump?

Taking a break from reading/ blogging is really the only thing that works for me! Then eventually I get bored or curious as to what books are out there, or I get inspired after reading someone else’s blog posts to start back up again. I think the biggest challenge though is realizing that it’s okay to take a break if I need to. Reading and blogging are my hobbies, not part of a checklist of things I have to get done every week, so if I need to take a break, I need to remind myself that it’s totally okay!

5. Why did you start book blogging?

I had recently fallen back in love with reading and wanted an outlet to share all my bookish thoughts, since my friends IRL didn’t share in that passion as much as I did. Sometimes you just need to scream into the void about something you love, you know? 😇

6. What is your most hated book trope? Most loved?

I don’t really hate any book tropes enough to use the word hate, but I would say one of my least favourite is insta-love. One of my most favourite is lovers to sorta-enemies to lovers (as you might be able to tell from my love of You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle above)! 🙌

7. If you could only pick 3 books to read for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Nominees:

  1. Kaya @AFictionalBookworm
  2. Kristin @KristinKravesBooks
  3. Aoife @PrettyPurplePolkadots
  4. Kira @KiraJeanette
  5. Mandy @DevouringBooks
  6. Sofia @BookishWanderess
  7. Mayeesha @HeadOverBooks
  8. Ashmita @TheFictionalJournal
  9. Leelynn @SometimesLeelynnReads
  10. Sofii @ABookAThought

My Questions:

  1. Describe yourself in a single word.
  2. What are three random facts about yourself?
  3. If you came back in your next life as an animal, which would you be?
  4. If you could turn any book into a movie, which would it be and why?
  5. What’s your favorite thing about your book blog?
  6. What do you like the most about the country you are living in now?
  7. Are you in any fandoms? If so, what are they?

Thank you again to Maya for the nomination, and as always do not feel pressured to do the tag! ❤️

– Catherine

Let’s connect! Goodreads | Twitter


Review// My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

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Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Book Length: 373 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of RoomMy Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

My Review:

Someday, when people ask me, “Who was your first lover?” the truth will set me apart. Not some ordinary boy, but an older man: my teacher. He loved me so desperately I had to leave him behind. It was tragic, but I didn’t have a choice. That’s just how the world works.

I’m like a kettle on a stove right now – bubbling, seething, on the brink of overflowing with emotion from all this book has made me feel. I wish I could reach inside myself and pour it all out, find the right words to say what this has done to me, but I’m afraid nothing I say could do it justice.

Vanessa Wye was only 15 when her teacher, Jacob Strane, patted her on the leg – that one act enough to spiral into 17 years worth of physical, mental, emotional turmoil. This book was very difficult to read at times; Vanessa was groomed by Strane from the very beginning, all the while making her believe that she was responsible for their relationship. After all, according to Strane, she’s the one who made him start wanting her; she’s the one who said yes when he asked if she was okay with him touching her; she’s the one who craved his validation – so then that automatically makes her the dark one, right?

It was incredibly mind boggling just how manipulative Strane was the entire time, shifting any culpability from himself over to her in order to be able to live with everything he’d done. It is so scary to think that these people really do exist in the world, and that they prey on young, naïve boys and girls just like Vanessa.

One thing I really liked about the book was how it shifted from the 2000s to 2017 every other chapter; the switch over from one to the other was done perfectly and it made me so interested to see where the events of the past led to in the present. Every relationship Vanessa had after and during Strane was interwoven with theirs, and I think it was really significant for the author to depict this because the affair with him shaped every other relationship after it – including the one she had with her parents. I can’t even describe how upsetting and heartbreaking it was to read about the parts with Vanessa’s mom, both past and present. To read about Vanessa defending Strane both to others and to herself was so hard; she wanted so badly to believe she was his exception, that she wanted everything he did to her because that meant that she wouldn’t have to face the truth.

I held off reading the last chapter because I honestly didn’t want this to end, and when it ended, I cried.

If you are in the right headspace for it, and the events of this book would not be triggering to you, I recommend My Dark Vanessa wholeheartedly. I can’t stop thinking about this book, and I will never stop thinking about this book. One of my favourites of 2020 and all time.

– Catherine

Let’s connect! Goodreads | Twitter


3 Specialty Indie Bookstores You Need to Visit 🤩🙌

I’ve been curious lately as to whether or not there are any specialty, or niche bookstores in the world. After a bit of research, it turns out there are! Here are 3 specialty indie bookstores you just need to visit, and if you can’t visit, you can still support!

Grolier Poetry Bookshop – Cambridge, Massachusetts

CambridgeRealEstate.com, Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard... | Bookshop,  Poetry books, Book cafe

This bookshop sells exclusively poetry books, with 15,000 poetry works in their collection. It is the oldest poetry-specific bookshop in the United States, around since 1927. Many poets and writers throughout the years have frequented Grolier, especially because Harvard University, where most of them had studied, is in Cambridge as well.

https://bookshop.org/shop/grolier

The Ripped Bodice – Culver City, California

Fall in Love With The Ripped Bodice, The Only All-Romance Bookstore |  Observer

The Ripped Bodice is a Romance-specific bookstore, and the only one in the United States. It was started by sisters Leah and Bea Koch who raised $91,000 on Kickstarter to open the store. Their tagline is “Smart girls read romance,” so that people don’t feel ashamed of their love for the genre, and they have a wide array of gifts one can purchase to support independent, female owned businesses.

https://www.therippedbodicela.com/

Atomic Books – Baltimore, Maryland

Stockist Spotlight: Atomic Books // Baltimore, Maryland — Got a Girl Crush

Atomic Books has been around since 1992 and specializes in non-super hero comic books and graphic novels. Bonus: there is a bar inside called Eightbar which sells craft beer, wine, ciders, and meads! Atomic Books is doing it right; I think all bookshops should have a bar at the back. 💁‍♀️

https://atomicbooks.com/

If you know about any other specialty Indie bookshops that I can check out, let me know. I’d love to hear about them.

-Catherine


Review// Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

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Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Book Length: 229 pages 
Publisher: Grove Press
Review: 4/5

My Review:

This is definitely one of the more interesting books I’ve read this year, and not only did I enjoy it in general, but I learned a lot while doing so.

Freshwater is about a girl named Ada born in Nigeria. In Igbo traditional belief, Ada is an ogbanje – a spirit child who dies and reincarnates over and over to the same parents, often causing them a lot of grief and trouble.

However, Ada does not die as a child, but makes it through to adulthood, though it is not without behaviour – self destructive or otherwise – which allows her to flirt with death: turbulent, mentally and physically abusive relationships; self harm; suicide attempts; an eating disorder; and binge drinking to name a few.

The trauma Ada faces awakens an ogbanje which she names Asughara. Asughara takes over most of the narration after Ada finds out she is being sexually assaulted by her boyfriend in her sleep. Though at times, Asughara insists that they are protecting Ada, they are also the driving force for many future self-destructive decisions Ada makes. Another spirit within Ada, Saint Vincent, encourages her to date women and explore her non-binary identity. It is very difficult for Ada to focus in on which ogbanje she should listen to, because they are often swaying her in different directions.

This was a great book about self discovery; it was very well written and thought provoking, and I can not recommend it enough.

– Catherine

Let’s connect! Goodreads | Twitter


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Review// Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

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Author: David Mitchell
Series: Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: July 14, 2020
Book Length: 608 pages 
Publisher: Sceptre
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Utopia Avenue are the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folksinger Elf Holloway, guitar demigod Jasper de Zoet and blues bassist Dean Moss, Utopia Avenue released only two LPs during its brief and blazing journey from the clubs of Soho and draughty ballrooms to Top of the Pops and the cusp of chart success, to glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome and a fateful American fortnight in the autumn of 1968.

David Mitchell’s new novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue; of riots in the streets and revolutions in the head; of drugs, thugs, madness, love, sex, death, art; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder. Can we change the world in turbulent times, or does the world change us? Utopia means ‘nowhere’ but could a shinier world be within grasp, if only we had a map?

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book overall; give me a historical fiction about music and I’m always going to be eager to read it.

The author really made me feel as though Dean, Elf, Griff, and Jasper were actual icons in the 60s, and along with all the real celebrity cameos it set the scenes well. However, sometimes, I have to admit that it didn’t seem believable that they would run into that many big names so casually. I don’t know what the music scene was like back then from my own knowledge, so I could be wrong, but the cameos felt a bit too in your face at times. I think the book got off to a really strong and promising start; I especially liked the way the author wrote all the flashbacks, and as the backstories of the main characters were revealed, I began to enjoy the book more and more.

Despite that though, there were a few things I didn’t particularly enjoy. For starters, Jasper’s backstory with the Knock Knock felt too long winded – I began to get a bit annoyed by it, and I didn’t like the magical direction it took because I didn’t think it suited the book at all. I wish Griff got more of a backstory too, because after 600 pages, I still feel like I barely know his character, despite him being one of the main ones. The biggest disappointment for me though was that I really did not enjoy how the book ended. I could tell that so much thought and work went in to writing the beginning and middle parts, but the ending felt unsatisfactory and kind of like a cop out. I do appreciate that it wasn’t predictable, but I don’t think it had a satisfying ending, and it did not leave me longing for the characters and story long after I put it down.

Even though I personally wasn’t a fan of how it ended, I would still recommend this book if you like historical fiction about music and bands. It was well written overall and kept me engaged and eager to see where the story was going to go.

– Catherine

Let’s connect! Goodreads | Twitter


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