🍂 My Ultimate Fall Reading List + Goals 🍂

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My Ultimate Fall Reading List + Goals

The best season ever is arriving. It’s not actually Fall yet, but I don’t care. It feels like it and that’s all that matters. After a long, uneventful (and SCORCHING) summer, I’m ready. I’m excited for apple spices, chai, butternut squash, chili, and hot cocoa. I’m excited for layers, flannel, boots, leggings, and over sized sweaters. I’m so much more in my element when it’s cold.

I decided to start doing seasonal TBR lists. Instead of a monthly TBR where I pressure myself to complete a book every seven days, I’m going to just go ahead and combine September and October’s TBR. I don’t do it all the time but reading seasonly feels way less restricting. I feel like I can put a book down and pick up a week or so later or the following month. That way I can hop around if I’m stuck on a book.

Here is my Fall TBR pile!

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Date Start: Sunday, September 2nd. 

  • City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab · Progress: Complete 
  • Tower of Dawn  by Sarah J. Maas | Page Count: 664  · Progress: Complete 
  • The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager | Page Count: 370
  • Vengeful by Victoria Schwab | Page Count: 400
  • The Poppy War (Part 1) by R. F. Kuang | Page Count: 530
  • Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco | Page Count: 434
  • Dragonfly in Amber: Parts 1-3 by Diana Gabaldon | Page Count: 768 pages 
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley | Page Count: 208
  • Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (Releases: 10/23/18) | Page Count: 720

Copy of My Ultimate Fall Reading List + Goals

Goal #1: Get back into the swing of writing.

I was writing consistently from October to March. Then beginning from April and onward, my writing pretty much derailed. I’m okay with that! Warm weather months don’t inspire me. No need to force my creativity. I need to figure out a routine. I’m more of a night writer, but I live with another person now so most of my evenings consist eating a meal, spending time together, walking the dog, and cleaning up after dinner. There’s too many distractions at night time, so I need to learn to write during the day.

Goal #2: Manage my anxiety.

During the month of August my anxiety has been up and down. I hope to do more breathing exercises, practice self-care, and get physically active.

Goal #3: Write more travel/lifestyle posts.

As you might remember from past posts, I talked about wanting to do more lifestyle and bookish combos in my posts. I’m not changing much except I’m brainstorming content that includes recipes, travel, and how-to but keeping it as bookish as possible.

I designed a survey to gauge what bloggers think of some changes but I only got a handful of responses. The giveaway is closed but if you’re feeling up to it, taking two minutes to answer some questions would help me improve my blog! You can take the survey here. Thank you!

Goal #4: Start brainstorming a one year anniversary gift for next month.

Yep, I’m a newlywed. It still feels weird. Haha. I don’t know what to get that would be special. I almost want to skip gifts just because we’ve known each other since high school! We have each other and I’m content with that. We’ll just have to see what happens. ❤

Update: Due to unexpected circumstances (the East Coast hurricane weather), I removed  three of my goals. If you saw my original post you may notice they are no longer there. I will most likely recycle them for the next month. Thank you for understanding!

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Thanks for reading my blog post! What’s on the top of your TBR this month? Are there any goals you hope to accomplish during the Fall? ❤

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Blog Tour: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Mirage

Summary 

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death. (via Goodreads)

Review

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

  • Characters: ☆☆☆☆
  • Plot: ☆☆☆☆
  • Writing: ☆☆☆☆☆
  • World-building: ☆☆☆

Recommended for: Those who like Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, or  Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.

Characters

Amani // She is taken from her home, Cadiz. She is forced to play the part of her doppelgänger, Maram, and sacrifice her own life for royalty. She doesn’t take for granted poetry and out-lawed customs.

Maram // She is the High Princess of Vath. She is cruel and bitter, a hard part for Amani to play. She is the half-Vathek/half-Kushaila princess whose inheritance to the throne is not secure due to the fact that her heritage isn’t considered pure enough.

Idris // He is engaged to the heartless Maram and plays her games at first. Until he uncovers a secret and decides to make plans of his own…

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With Mirage comes a stunning debut about rebellion and hope (sounds like a Star Wars reference doesn’t it?). My first impression of this novel before reading it was that it was a fantasy. It wasn’t until I read early reviews that I learned that Mirage is actually science-fiction. The most sci-fi aspect to this novel is that there are colonies on various moons, droids that act as servants, and space shuttles that transport the people around. Usually within the sci-fi genre, technology plays a central role but instead Mirage reads more like slow-burn fantasy and less like a fast-paced, space opera.  No matter. I still enjoyed Mirage. 

“The blood never dies. The blood never forgets.”

I felt that Somaiya Daud’s Morrocan-inspired world was akin to the Leigh Bardugo’s “Grishaverse”. The story also follows a loosely similar plot. An under-privileged girl is taken against her will to fulfill a purpose for someone powerful and gets caught up in world of riches and intrigue. However, Mirage takes its own turn because our protagonist Amani must always have her wits about her as she doesn’t have secret dormant powers to protect her.

“We are two sides of the same coin,” she said softly. “Mercy and ruthlessness.”

An aspect I liked about Mirage were the history and politics. There is backstory of the “Vathek empire” to set up the world, but it wasn’t so much that I got lost or didn’t understand. There are also indicators to Moroccan culture abound, such as, “turban”, “daan”, “kaftan”. While Moroccan culture is new to me, I didn’t feel like the author made anything overly complicated. The magic of Mirage is that the Daud writes vividly and carries the story seamlessly. The author uses dialogue for certain details to come up naturally thus avoiding the dreaded “info dump”.

“She had a fire in her, an unquenchable flame that would devour all that stood in her path.”

Furthermore, the characters all surprised me! I didn’t feel like any of them were one-dimensional. You can see that every character has a goal and that every character is struggling with some inner-conflict making their purpose in the story more plausible. I also LOVED how the women in the story all played significant roles. Sure, there is a bit of a slow-burn romance but it doesn’t suffocate the story for me (Edit: Personally, I felt like the romance developed slowly, but it does feel sudden at first.)

One thing of note is that I felt like Amani adjusted to her kidnapping and being forced as Maram’s double too quickly. She is initially sad, but later doesn’t exhibit much emotion about missing family or her abusive treatment. Weeks go by of having to be put at risk by making public experiences and she barely puts up a fight. Amani initially considers running away when she has the chance, but she seems to be enjoying herself for a girl who was literally ripped away from her family. It is possible that she’s so used to brutality that she adapts well to such situations.

“Hope. Hard won, soaked in blood, a hope that burned as much as it lit her way.”

However, as Amani’s time away from home lengthens, she uses her new position as an opportunity. She is quick to forge alliances in the hopes of securing a new and better future for. There is a lot at stake—a secret romance, a dash of espionage, and shifting galactic politics. Through powerful writing, an enthralling universe, and relevant themes of colonialism, Mirage sets the tone for what I expect an amazing series to come!

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Thank you to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review! A special shout out to Aimee, Always for organizing this blog tour!

Amazon • B&N • IndieBound • Kobo • Book Depository


 

Somaiya Daud was born in a Midwestern city, and spent a large part of her childhood and adolescence moving around. Like most writers, she started when she was young and never really stopped. Her love of all things books propelled her to get a degree in English literature (specializing in the medieval and early modern), and while she worked on her Master’s degree she doubled as a bookseller at Politics and Prose in their children’s department. Determined to remain in school for as long as possible, she packed her bags in 2014 and moved the west coast to pursue a doctoral degree in English literature. Now she’s preparing to write a dissertation on Victorians, rocks, race, and the environment.

Website • Goodreads • Twitter • Instagram • Facebook

Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

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Summary

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .

The only way to survive is to open your heart. (via Goodreads

Review

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

I knew next to nothing about this book. What thought I knew was completely wrong. I thought it was about a thirty-year-old woman who’s socially awkward and struggles when it comes to her love life. HA. HA. HA. That’s only hitting the surface. I didn’t even read the synopsis when I bought this book. I was in the mood for more literary fiction in my life and I thought a protagonist like Eleanor was exactly what I needed. I’m closer to thirty than I am to twenty nowadays, so I figured this book would be up my alley— a story about a woman navigating her life at an age where one is expected to be established.

“After what had happened […], I could see no point in being anything other than truthful with the world. I had, literally, nothing left to lose.”

Eleanor Oliphant is a cinnamon roll and must be protected at all costs.

Between Eleanor’s dead-pan humor and her almost child-like observations, I have never read about a character so guileless. From the outside, it appears as though Eleanor is simply antisocial or extremely introverted. For the last ten years, Eleanor simply drifts through life. As the summary indicates, Eleanor goes straight home, eats her frozen meals, and drinks her vodka. Behind it all, she has a toxic relationship with her “mummy” and is essentially a functional alcoholic.

The truth, we soon learn, is much more sinister.

“I feel sorry for beautiful people. Beauty, from the moment you possess it, is already slipping away, ephemeral.”

At first the plot surrounds her quest to make a man love her, but her priorities change when Eleanor meets Raymond after they help an older man who fell on the street. From there on Eleanor develops her first real friendship, thus opening the door to a new beginning in her life. She meets new people and attends social gatherings. The treatment she receives by her new peers leads Eleanor to realize she isn’t a complete outcast and that she might actually be valuable as a person.

“You can make anything happen, anything at all, inside a daydream.”

However, Eleanor’s life nearly hits rock bottom when her romantic plans with a stranger foil thereby triggering a major crisis. Raymond, as compassionate as always, doesn’t “save” her but instead suggests some options for Eleanor that may help. Raymond’s purpose seems to serve as being a voice of reason to Eleanor. I’m happy that the relationship between Eleanor and Raymond remains platonic. In the end, Eleanor saves herself and thus she’s her own heroine.

“Later. I woke again. I kept my eyes closed. I was curious about something. What, I wondered was the point of me?”

The character’s are not perfectly likable. While Raymond is able to exhibit basic human kindness, he still has flaws such as smoking too much or voicing that he’s not interested in someone but still having some level of romantic involvement with the person. I like how at first we see Eleanor exactly how she sees herself  but as the story unfolds, the author shows us details from her life that appear off-kilter but than become more revealing of why Eleanor acts the way she does.  This book is definitely more on the character-driven and a beautiful examination of what it means to be a flawed human being.

“There are scars on my heart, just as thick, as disfiguring as those on my face. I know they’re there. I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out. I hope.”

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is as heart-warming as it is sad. Through the help of Raymond, the layers of Eleanor’s past begin to peel back and the cracks in her life begin to heal. Is Eleanor ready to confront the truth once and for all?

Don’t be deceived—Eleanor Oliphant is NOT completely fine.

 

Of Note: 

  • Eleanor has a VERY unhealthy relationship with her mom, which impacts her whole life and perception of herself. It goes to show that you don’t magically heal from the damage done in your childhood even when you’re in your 30s, 40s, or even 50s.
  • There was an incident with Eleanor in which I felt under normal circumstances, she could have lost her job. This book is set in Scotland, therefore, I feel like it represented how much less stigma around mental illness there is versus here in America.
  • The lack of closure with THAT end. I felt like it was realistic and I’m glad the story wasn’t “happily ever after”. A real journey is not a steady line upward. There’s always hurdles and set backs. What matters is that we persevere. I felt like the way the author ended Eleanor’s journey was intentional. I also felt as though it was now my time to give Eleanor the space to heal and let her go. #bittersweet

Let’s Chat!

Have you read this book? Do you typically read adult fiction? What’s your favorite adult fiction novel?

 

summer wrap up + mini reviews

Mid Year reads

Wow, I read a lot more this summer (July and August) than I thought I would. I only read ONE book in July but I managed to catch up this month. I don’t have much to report other than books because like I said, my summers are very low key. I mean, I kind of like it that way because fall is the best season anyway. With the exception of TATBILB on Netflix, I didn’t see a SINGLE popular movie in theaters. I’ve been mostly marathoning Westworld and Riverdale. I did discover a few new coffee shops downtown, so that’s something. Without further ado, here is my summer wrap up!

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My Rating: ☆☆☆.5

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli is a book I discovered in childhood. This is the first time I’m reading it since it was published in the year 2000. I found it in a second hand bookstore and wanted to see how it held up today. It follows a boy named Leo who is introduced to our non-conformist, quirky former homeschooled teenager who goes by Stargirl. At first people are curious and intrigued by the newcomer, but her popularity among her peer quickly declines. Leo tries to teach her to be “normal” because he is ashamed to be around her. I remembered how this book made me feel, but I didn’t remember exact details. I remember it left me with a sort of sad, wistful feeling.

Stargirl taught me that it was okay to be different in spite of the adversity. It’s a simple coming-of-age tale of a girl who longs to belong and how her peers, including Leo, see her quirks more objectively than humanely, if that makes sense. This book definitely has the vibe of an early 2000s Contemporary. I gave it 3.5 stars because I felt like the writing was too simplistic and reads more “middle grade” so the impact isn’t as hard-hitting to me as it was back then.


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My Rating: ☆☆☆.75

I listened to Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down on audiobook. Funny story. I initially thought this book was a science fiction novel! I didn’t know anything about it, so I was going strictly by the cover. The cover is important. The duration of the story takes place on an elevator. Our main character is angry that his friend was shot and it seems the ghosts of his past all arrive on the elevator to talk him out of it. There is a theme of gun violence and dealing with the consequences of that and how the character chooses to respond.

The only reason I didn’t give this book a full 4 star rating from me is because I would like to read or listen to it again. Because the novel is told in verse, it was difficult for me to grasp certain details. That’s completely on me and has nothing to do with the audiobook. In fact, the author himself is the audiobook narrator. I enjoyed both the relevant themes and style of story telling. I hope to read it again!


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My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

When I first started My Heart and Other Black Holes, I was feeling a little depressed. What better way to feel less depressed than to read a depressing book? This book surprised me. It was so well-written, authentic, and believable. I felt that it handled the topic of mental illness well. One of the most sad aspects of this story is that both Aysel and Roman believe they are doomed and that there’s nothing to redeem them. That’s why they meet online to make a suicide pact. But their new found friendship may alter the course of their “fate”. I don’t think this book romanticizes mental illness. The author gives us a reason for the character’s actions and their choices aren’t about “saving” each other.

“Depression is like a heaviness that you can’t ever escape. It crushes down on you, making even the smallest things like tying your shoes or chewing on toast seem like a twenty-mile hike uphill. Depression is a part of you; it’s in your bones and your blood. If I know anything about it, this is what I know: It’s impossible to escape.”

I related to Aysel too well. I remember having a similar thought process to Aysel in high school. While Aysel has a distinct reason for her sadness, I could never full pin point mine. Aside from that, her depression felt familiar. Another thing I liked is that this story is not wrapped up in a tight, neat bow. Mental illness is an ongoing journey with loose ends. Perhaps other readers will have liked closure, but I appreciate the author’s foresight and wisdom in writing Aysel and Roman’s journey so honestly. My Heart and Other Black Holes is definitely a story that would’ve helped me feel less alone when I was a teenager.

CW: Attempted suicide, depressed thoughts.


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My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

It took awhile for The Infernal Devices to grow on me. There’s SO much I appreciate about this series, but the pacing is what took away from my experience. It took me until the VERY end of the series to realize that Cassandra Clare intentionally made this entire series character-driven. After the whirlwind that was The Mortal Instruments, I was expecting something just as fun and fast-paced. While I do feel like the writing is a tad repetitive and drawn out, I find that TID is better written and has certain strengths that TMI did not. I did find the conclusion to one of the biggest plot points to be anti-climatic, but when I read the last chapter and then the Epilogue I was like, “I get it. I get it now.” I realized that this series was bigger than Mortmain and the clockwork creatures. I’m glad I read this series because I know there are significant players for later series. I appreciate the Shadowhunter world so much more because of TID. I’m looking forward to reading The Dark Artifices!

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I read several other books this summer, but they are each getting a longer review or I already wrote a quick one on Goodreads.

This list completes my Summer Reading wrap up: 

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Next month I will have my Fall TBR posted. I’m so excited! Fall begins on September 1st. I don’t care what anyone says. Summer is finally ENDING. Next month and onward, I’m finally moving apartments, I’m going to a wedding, and more!  I’m hoping to blog A LOT more and transition into travel and how-to posts.

Shout out to all my readers! I hope you all are having a good summer. And for those who just started school or their first week at college— Good luck! You’re doing fine!

XO