Saturday, May 18, 2019

REVIEW: OKAY, FINE, WHATEVER


35397338To be clear: I am a self-defined coward. In almost all areas of my life, I am in some form of constant terror. While my baby brother finds this amusing, and my childhood best friend finds it infuriating, it's been such a reliable presence in my life that I have even developed a tendency to freak out when I don't feel it. Needless to say, whenever I see a memoir that mentions Anxiety with a capital "A" in the blurb, it winds up in my hands. 

Okay, Fine, Whatever, by Courtenay Hameister is a memoir of Anxiety, chronicling her attempts at breaking through the stress of daily life, by embracing stress in its more exaggerated forms, too. (It's one thing to get over an instance of stage fright, but quite another to visit a professional cuddler, you know?)

Of course I was immediately drawn to Hameister's story, of trying new things and working through fear over the course of a year. However, the trap of being compelled to pick up a memoir of someone you think is very much like you, is that you inevitably get turned off when, eventually, they reveal themselves to not be like you at all.

Hameister portrays this memoir as one oriented around trying new things, and she does: from an isolation tank to water aerobics, to getting high, and getting an MRI, she attempts quite a few new experiences, most of which would spook most people.

The difficulty comes when the majority of them seem to fall into one specific category: Romance. She attempts online dating in three different chapters - chronicling several failed dates within each - and some of her other exploits include doomed romances within the polyamorous spectrum, explorations with public sex, and an instructional fellatio class. Even some of her tamer excursions still find ways to relate to intimacy or sexuality, like getting a Brazilian wax, and visiting the aforementioned professional cuddler.

At times, it felt like the book wanted to tell two different stories, one of Hameister's mental health and working through her anxiety, and the other of her romantic history, as a sort of "getting her groove back" memoir.

In some ways, Hameister does a good job at communicating how her Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects her life; especially in the form of her "stress balls," which weigh in her stomach and balloon small issues into greater ones, like with worries over her career and health. And I did relate to some of her candid accounts of her romantic history... it was just at all the stops after that, she totally lost me.

(Also, side note: she is INCREDIBLY funny, which made the book a little easier to read, too.)

In conclusion: I didn't love the book so much as the idea behind it, and I couldn't stop thinking about how much more I'd enjoy it if it was someone a little more relatable, or if her journey was made a little more clear.


What is something brave or new you've tried recently? Have you read any other memoirs about anxiety? Let me know, in the comments below!

Friday, May 3, 2019

READCHELLA REVIEWS: THE BOOKS THAT SAVED ME FROM THE SLUMP


Hey, remember when I was bemoaning my major reading slump a couple of weeks ago? Remember when I invented a whole readathon weekend in order to compel myself into breaking it? Well, I've recovered - kind of - and despite the fact that this blog post has now mysteriously deleted itself twice, I'm finally ready to review the books I read!


Book #1: The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black

A fave from my college days - lent to me by a serial book-lending friend - that has resurfaced in my reading habits every once in a while since, this book was absolutely perfect to kick off my reading weekend, because it matches a fast-paced plot and action-oriented characters, with a sense of familiarity. 

I maintain that one of the best ways to break out of a slump is with a title you know really well, because if you know the narrative and what's going to be happening around the corner, and you already love it, well, that's going to make you want to keep reading, don't you think?

And what's not to love about this YA Contemporary Fantasy? Hazel, a feisty teen with a big secret, strives to save her faerie-adjacent town from a malevolent force in the forest, alongside her brother, Ben, and his changeling best friend, Jack. Together, they have to track down an immortal prince, who has suddenly disappeared from his glass casket, without incurring the wrath of any of the tricksy figures of the woods, who are beginning to get much braver in their efforts to antagonize the humans of Fairfold.

Not only is it an old fave of mine, but its structure and theming reminds me of some other media I love, too (Check out its place in my reading recommendations for fans of Gravity Falls!). Revisiting it once more was made even easier by doing so in a different format: having it on my Kindle, with a backlit screen, portable size, and easy click-through pages, made getting back into reading easier than if I had tried to do so with a physical book.


Book #2: Nancy Drew #18: The Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion, Carolyn Keene (1941)

I have typed and retyped and retyped this section at least three times, but to sound like the cagiest person ever: this simple, antique mystery novel, opened up a whole new mystery for me to explore. Reading it as a part of this challenge invigorated me, partially because it definitely set me off reading quite a bit into its history, as well. In fact, I'm actually going to be covering it as a part of a separate blog post! So, no review for now... you'll be hearing plenty more about it in the future!

But to be clear, some of the reasons it was perfect for a readathon, were its size, and slightly younger intended audience. I still felt like I was reading a real book, because it was an antique copy and over 200 pages... but it didn't really require much mental effort at all. On to the next!


Book #3: The Proposal, Jasmine Guillory

I've been meaning to pick up this Reese Witherspoon book club pick since January, and thankfully, its availability on my library holds lists coincided perfectly with my reading weekend! An airy, un-bothered LA romance that was sunny and sweet, this next read really didn't require much mental exertion to keep the plot moving, either.

When her boyfriend of only five months makes a spontaneous proposal at a Dodgers game - while misspelling her name, no less - Nik needs a way out, and fast. Thankfully, Carlos and his sister are there to help whisk her out of the stadium posthaste. Nik's friends claim he's a perfect rebound candidate, but she isn't so sure... until a few chance meetings - and, well, not-so-chance meetings - later, when she realizes she actually might be falling for the guy instead. But are either really ready for a relationship?

One of my favorite things about this book, was that the conflict or tension was... almost nonexistent. The main characters are well-off and well-settled in their metropolitan landscape of Los Angeles, and are free from any more intense issues plaguing their lives, than coping with bad press (which Nik does easily), and Carlos' cousin's difficult pregnancy (which resolves itself without his input). They have very little baggage to lug onto this particular love train, you know? This frees them both up to fall in love with each other rather easily. In fact, the high point of tension in their relationship, is whether either is actually willing to be in one!

While the lack of conflict may be unrealistic, the cast of characters is much more representative. Guillory has received accolades for her romance reads centering black women in a romance landscape, but I was excited to see that her entire cast is well-fleshed out with people you'd actually find in the real world: our heroine's two best friends are Korean and plus size, and black and lesbian, while the love interest's family and heritage is Hispanic.

My primary qualm with the novel, was that I was a little bummed that the title event of the novel is tidily wrapped up within the first twenty pages or so. There is no lead up to the proposal at all, with the whole thing transpiring within the first few pages, and very little explanation as to why Nik and her d-bag boyfriend Fisher were together in the first place (especially when, spoiler alert, his intentions are later revealed to be kinda racist).

Other than that, it was basically the equivalent of setting your brain on E! channel mode for a few hours... which has made it my go-to beach read recommendation for 2019!


Book #4: Space Opera, Catheryne Valente

Alright, it's the Sunday morning of your readathon weekend, and you stayed up past midnight to finish your romance the night before. What do you reach for next?

Why not something completely different?

This popular, 2019 Hugo Award finalist is a total work of balls-to-the-wall science fiction, in the style of Douglas Adams. Taking the concept of "Intergalactic Eurovision," and decking it out in all the glitter, pizzaz, and gratuitously explained science-ish lingo it can, what results is a fast-paced mad-cap dash into the outer reaches of scientific exploration to save the human race with a failed, aging glam punk band... with significant heart and humor along the way, of course.

In some ways, this was the perfect book to pick for a readathon weekend, because it blasts along at such a frenetic and upbeat pace, that it's hard not to giggle all the way. In others, it was the worst: long and complex alien technological and biological explanations, and surprisingly subtle character moments, had me slowing down, rereading chapters, and trying to find the threads that ran through the narrative. It almost straddles the line, of wanting a little more information about some things, while having absolutely too much about others. For instance, wanting to hear more about the human relationships - which is trotted out piecemeal over the length of the story - versus the detailed descriptions of alien planets and competitions past.

In the end, I was so incredibly happy to have finally gave myself a reason to pick up this read, because on the whole, it did exactly what you wanted it to: it showed me a damn good time. 

I actually was originally recommended this novel via #askalibrarian on Twitter, with my query being "light-hearted science fiction," and this read absolutely delivered. It makes me want to check out more of those responses I got!



So, what do you think about the results of my personal Readchella 2019? Do any of the books on this list appeal to you? Let me know, in the comments below!

Monday, April 15, 2019

BACK TO THE BOOKS: READCHELLA DAY THREE


As you may have seen in my first post last Friday, I've been suffering under a really disheartening and oppressive reading slump lately. With the advent of the weekend, I'd decided to do something about it: hosting what was, essentially, a readathon for one, coinciding with the first weekend of Coachella!

I gathered the necessary provisions, gave the required apologies, and strapped in, for what I hoped would become a weekend of pushing through difficult mental blocks, to reach the great, green, bookish landscape on the other side. By day two, as detailed in my second blog post, I had somehow managed to make it through two novels, and was about halfway into a third.

And now, the weekend is over, and I reflect back on how my Readchella ended. So, what do you think? Did I make it through the third book?

saturday pm -> sunday am

  • So, I actually ended up finishing The Proposal... at about 12:30am. I stayed up a lot longer than I should have in order to finish it, but the momentum I'd built up to that point just wasn't ready to slow down yet! 
  • The next morning - Sunday - saw a lazy breakfast, packing my sister off for an HR convention, and chilling out around the house. All told, I actually didn't end up sitting down to read until a little before noon, which had begun to make me a little anxious about whether I could finish at least one more book before the challenge was over... 
  • Little did I know that my fears were pretty much unfounded. I managed to make it through Space Opera, by Catherynne Valente, a little bit before 8pm last night, leaving me to bask in the glory of a weekend well spent... 
  • As well as pick up the next book I plan on reading! Consider this slump over! 

bookstack! 


Like I said, I ended up completing four different books this weekend. I think I'm going to save reviews of the new reads for a different post, because they're all worth delving into a little more than just a cursory paragraph would allow, but I did want to say a little bit about how each of these specific selections served to help push through my book block.

The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black
an old favorite that I could probably retell in my sleep, with enough action and romance to keep me engaged and reading 

Nancy Drew and the Moss-Covered Mansion, Carolyn Keene (1941 edition)
a collector's piece I've been meaning to revisit, intended for young audiences and with enough chapter-ending cliffhangers to keep me enticed 

The Proposal, Jasmine Guillory
a fluffy contemporary romance, with an LA setting, that helped distract me from the weather outside, and also served as the first non-reread of the weekend 

Space Opera, Catherynne Valente
a slightly more difficult science fiction novel, with jaw-dropping descriptions and a highly comedic concept, that helped slowly maneuver me into feeling up to reading harder books again 

I also started a fifth novel, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but didn't include it here, because I didn't make it far enough into the book to feel like it warranted a spot. However, I did want to mention it, because a. It's my blog, and I think it belongs on the list, and b. because if I had tried to pick up this read a few weeks ago, I wouldn't have made it past page one. And yet, here I am, well on my way back into an old classic! 


getting it back, and going forward 

One of the first things I did when planning out this readathon weekend, was look up the best advice on how to get out of a reading rut. Here's what ended up being the most helpful: 

  • Telling myself to stop being stubborn, and just DNF the book already. One of the first orders of business on my Readchella weekend was putting down one of my recent reads, for good. I had been slogging through Lauren Weisberger's When Life Gives You Lululemons, but kept getting put off... somehow, it's strange writing style and irritating characters made me feel both too young and too old for the story. However, I kept at it, mainly because I knew it was a really hyped book last year, and I wanted to stick with it... but when I finally gave it up to the Goodwill bags, I felt so much better! 
  • Changing up the format of how I was reading. I was actually pretty surprised at how much easier everything became once I was reading a book on my Kindle, rather than a physical copy. Maybe it was the low handling effort required, or the fact that the percentage of completion was always in view at the bottom, but it felt like it went by a lot quicker, and I was less distracted from the brightly lit screen. Of course, there were times where I had to put it down and walk away, but it also made it a lot easier to pick back up again when I needed to, and come right back to the same place. 
  • Reading something tested and true, that I knew I liked. There's a reason I picked Holly Black for my first read of the weekend: I'm an old fan of her work, no matter the audience, and I knew that I could get lost in her books, no problem. While I could have opted for The Cruel Prince or The Wicked King, those aren't exactly my favorite... The Darkest Part of the Forest is just enough of an underrated hit for me to keep reading it over and over again, and the story is so familiar to me, I could probably tell you the whole thing myself at this point. Same goes for the antique Nancy Drew I read, too! 
  • Finding my footing in familiar genres, like Contemporary, Fantasy, and Romance. Bite-sized, easy to read, and not require a ton of brainpower to decipher, the first three reads I reached for were all very much popcorn books, which highly differed from the realm of meaty nonfiction I'd been trapped in. 
  • Reaching for reads under 400 pages. One of the key elements of keeping my readathon moving, was not devoting a ton of time to each of these novels. Even the one that took the longest, took no more than a day to finish! This not only helped me gather back my confidence - hey, I can finish a whole book! - but kept me engaged enough to where I felt like I was always making progress on my challenge. 



Hooray, my readathon is over! (Or is it just getting started?) What should I pick up now that my Readchella weekend is over? Let me know, in the comments below!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

BATTLE OF THE BLOCK: READCHELLA DAY TWO


I promised you an update post yesterday, so I'm here. Granted, I don't really especially want to be writing this post right now, but I am. (Hey, two blood orange margaritas, and a boatload of chips and salsa at dinner, can do that to a person!)

You might have seen my blog post yesterday, about the book block I've been enduring these past two months. With only two Goodreads updates and two blog updates to show between both March and April thus far, I think that my statistics stand for themselves: sure, they still might be better than most people - according to my overly optimistic Mom - but they sure aren't on par for me. Far from it, actually.

And this might be a little "too heavy" of a moment for what is ostensibly a lighthearted topic, but it's necessary to include here: while "slowing down" and "taking a break" might be the advice I received from most people, it doesn't help my situation. While it might be okay to take a break from hobbies I've had trouble with in the past - like embroidery, or cooking - reading has always been an important part of my ability to self-regulate, and the absence of it in my daily routines can lead to spikes in anxiety and depression, both things I try to mitigate as much as possible on my own.

After a really hard anniversary came up again this past week - a week when I was, unfortunately, spending a lot of time by myself, and which passed by with little recognition from others - and I wasn't able to read through it, I realized that it was important for me to come up with a plan on how to fix things on my own.

And thus, Savannah's Readchella 2019 was born.

I've already told you what I planned to do about it, so here's what I actually ended up accomplishing last night, and so far today. Good news: it's kind of a lot!


friday night delight


Armed with my bevy of information, and with minimal amounts of forewarning to my family, I embarked upon my readathon weekend with as little overthinking as I could manage. I focused a little more on preparation than just simply reading, but still managed to get quite a bit done: 
  • I cleaned up my room and parts of my house, so that I'd have relatively clear reading spaces (or at the very least, I'd be less called away by the distraction of chores later on). 
  • I picked up a new cookbook from the library to glance through, as well as stalked through the movie section in order to pick up something that might serve as a suitable break, should I get burnt out on reading. In the end, I went for Brooklyn (2015), because I knew that I could probably get my film-buff sister to sit down and watch it with me! 
  • In the end, I did end up DNFing one of the books that I had been stuck in before: When Life Gives You Lululemons, by Lauren Weisberger. I'll end up talking about this more once my Readchella is over, but it just wasn't serving me as either entertainment, or interesting reading material. So, I took out my bookmark, thanked it for its service, and sent it away into the donation pile! 
  • I posted my first Readchella blog post (obviously). 
  • And I downloaded, and started to read, Holly Black's The Darkest Part of the Forest on my Kindle from a local library ebook database. I only got to about 50% through before I went to bed... which actually left me a little worried as to how much of this personal challenge I'd be able to complete. 

saturday distractions... and success!


To be honest, while I was okay with the progress I had made on Friday, it still wasn't too much to be excited about: sure, I'd written a blogpost, and gotten through half of a book, which was still a lot more than I had been managing up until that point, but it certainly wasn't the kind of outcome I'd been hoping for. 

After an impromptu family breakfast at IHOP, and family chores completed around the house, I buckled down and got ready to read at about 11am. Here's how the rest of my day has gone: 
  • I finished reading The Darkest Part of the Forest at about 12:46pm, making it my first completed read of this challenge! Needless to say, I was stoked... and wasted little time picking up another read. 
  • I figured that TDPotF had been such a success because it was 1. short, 2. compelling, and 3. familiar, so I aimed for a variation of that set of principles for my next read, with the expectation that the momentum would continue. I'd been looking for a reason to revisit one of my old WWII editions of Nancy Drew novels for a while, so I picked up my 1941 copy of The Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion! 
  • By 2:24pm, I'd finished that read as well, and had a really good time doing it. Again, more on this later, but I think the fact that it was such a nostalgic and slightly more juvenile read made it easier to get lost in. Readchella #2 complete! 
  • Without wasting any time, I jumped back into reading as quickly as I could, getting started on Jasmine Guillory's The Proposal. Contemporary Romance was one of the more recommended genres to try and break a slump with, and I can see why: within a twenty minutes, I was more than 30 pages in! 
Unfortunately, my habits got a little waylaid after that point: I spent an hour and a half playing a board game with my sister and her girlfriend - Ticket to Ride is the best! - but it was a little too long of a distraction for me. Then, when we were finished, it was decided that the family was going to go out to eat for dinner. 

Filler time struck again, when we arrived at the restaurant, only to find that we wouldn't be able to be seated for a little while, which ended up taking a little over twenty minutes. Naturally, I had forgotten to bring my book along for the ride! It's a good note to be taking forward in this challenge, and any others I might undertake in the future: simply having a book at your side, is a pretty good way to guarantee you'll find time to read it. 

what's up next?


So, that brings us to now! I'm going to try and get a little further into The Proposal tonight, but being that I'm only at page 87, I can't imagine I'm going to be able to finish it before bed (not when it has Saturday Night Live and picking up my brother from his school musical to compete with). 

Here's my plans for tomorrow: 
  • FinishThe Proposal
  • Get started on another book... I'm leaning towards Cat Valente's Space Opera, a lighthearted science fiction read I had anticipating getting to on my Oregon vacation
  • Maybe spending some time at a local cafe or restaurant, in order to get some reading done outside my own home 
  • Make some good reading snacks (I've had a craving for Rice Krispie Treats for the past two days... specifically, Mickey Mouse shaped) 
  • Taking the opportunity to do a little more blog drafting for posts coming up this month
For the most part, I'm trying to keep things loose and non-committal, so I can change up the plan if the mood strikes me! But you can bet that I'll get at least one more book completed (please!), and another post just like this one coming your way tomorrow afternoon. 


How do you think I'm doing? Any more tips for how to beat a slump? Let me know, in the comments below!

Friday, April 12, 2019

HOW TO BEAT A BOOK SLUMP: READCHELLA, DAY ONE


So, I'm not going to mince words: I feel completely trapped, at the moment.

I went on two vacations recently, to Victoria, BC, and Sunriver, OR, and as someone who's dedicated entire posts on the importance of a Vacation TBR, and who packed upwards of six books for that second vacation alone, I totally disappointed myself. Out of both vacations, I only finished a grand total of two books... and one of those, I had actually already started a few weeks beforehand. These also happen to be the first books I've managed to finish since February. 

And that's not where this permeating feeling of failure ends: I am currently stuck in the middle of two other different books, one of which I've been reading since March. I'm nearly going to DNF the second, despite being more than 100 pages in. I set a Goodreads Challenge for myself this year of 60 books - totally doable, given my track record - and I am currently SIX books behind where I'm supposed to be. This blogpost will only be my third time actually having posted within the past two months.

We've all been here. I'm stuck in a big, bad reading slump. 

I've already gotten plenty of comments from others that I shouldn't be forcing myself to slave over a hobby, but to be very honest, this mental break has gone far enough. I miss reading... and this might sound slightly insane, but I can feel it physically when I haven't read in a long time. The escapist aspect of getting lost in a good read has been one of my longest-exercised means of mitigating my anxiety, and without it, I feel like my body carries a lot of tension, the relief of which I definitely don't experience when I do something like watch television or a movie (in fact, those both usually only serve to heighten these issues!).

So you can see quite plainly, I really need a good reading-specific break, rather than a break from reading itself. But I'm having a huge problem actually picking up a book!

So, I turned to the Grand Ol' Internet, and decided to check out what other people had to say about beating a reading block. I'm going to assemble the advice, get my self-care artillery in line, and take down this slump once and for all, over the course of the next three days, starting tonight. 

And, you know. It's the first weekend of Coachella. So, Savannah's #Readchella2019 it is. 



let's hear from the experts 


Here's what book bloggers, BookTubers, and other assorted writers and book lovers had to say across the web, about how to take down a reading slump:

Book Roast on YouTube: Make reading a special occasion
"Set a time, set a place, set a meal, set it up a few days before so you have something to look forward to... make it an experience!"

Julia Seales on Bustle: Pick up something familiar
"Nothing will remind you of how much you love reading like revisiting an old favorite...You already know what's going to happen in the next chapter, so all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the story." 

Hailey in Bookland on YouTube: Go for something sweet and bite-sized 
"Choose the smaller books... pick up a book that is small, super quick, and, definitely, quick contemporaries are my favorite."

Charleigh from Charleigh Writes: Stop being stubborn
"There are too many books in the world to read – that you’ll probably enjoy – to stay hung up on a book you’re not into... Don’t do it to yourself – it’s not worth it and you’ll probably miss out on great books with all the time you’ve wasted on trying to finish a book you’re not connecting with."

Book Sundays on YouTube: Switch up your reading location 
"I think it's really important to find a cozy reading nook, and maybe that's a different reading nook than you're used to... You could try a coffee shop, you could try a park, you could even just run a bath!"

Haley at Whatever Bright Things: Space it out, and set goals 
"Set yourself a reasonable goal, and divide it into manageable chunks."

Paige at Creating and Co: Find a new way of looking at things, with a format shift 
"Try a different book format... what I mean, is an audiobook, or an e-reader. The human mind is a crazy thing. Sometimes it's easier to listen, or the faint glow of your e-reader helps trick you into reading again."

Susie Rodarme on Book Riot: Get away from the screens 
"Unplug. I find that the internet (gulp) is one of my main culprits for a lack of reading. Being online presents one with endless stimuli and I find that it can dampen that itch of needing to read something. Either that, or I get caught up binge-watching shows, and I can’t do both that and read at the same time." 


alright, so here's the plan


We've got our instructions, now it's time to formulate a plan with which to carry them out. I've got the next three days to wear this thing down, and I'm bringing in some of the big guns - from old favorites, to fun snacks, to genre-switching - to help me through it.

I'm planning what is, essentially, a readathon for one, so I might as well lean into the experience by making it as fun for myself as possible. My family is busy for most of tomorrow (Saturday), and that should free up time for me to do what I need to get done... and you better expect a great Trader Joe's cheeseboard, fresh fruit, home-baked cookies, and some delicious tea is going with it.

I'm also stepping away from the big books. I've been struggling through a couple larger non-fiction reads lately, as well as plenty of reference books as I try to set up my garden this Spring, so for the weekend, I'm going to be keeping away from any and all things above 400 pages.

I'm returning to an old favorite. Pretty soon after I started looking at all this info about how to break a slump, I skipped over to my library's Overdrive database, and immediately sent Holly Black's The Darkest Part of the Forest to my Kindle. It's a Contemporary YA Fantasy that I've read a million times, and I'm about to try and read it again, in a different format than I'm used to.

I'm going to try reading somewhere new. I am absolutely guilty about pretty much holing up in either one of two places to read, both of which are conveniently placed in my bedroom. However, I'm going to try and branch out, by switching up my spots to other comfy places in the house, and if that doesn't work, I'll try my hand at one of the quieter local cafes downtown.

Of course, I'll be taking short breaks, so I don't feel like I'm losing out on my weekend. Spending time rearranging my bookshelves, and cleaning my room in general, are typically two activities that make me feel more thankful for the time I spend reading. I like cooking food for my family, and taking long walks in the sunshine, both of which will be totally doable this weekend.

Naturally, taking breaks to write blogposts is definitely going to be a factor, too... because let's be real, this blog has been really suffering at the same time my reading habits have been.


friday night plans: readchella, day one


  • figure out whether I want to DNF either of the books I've been struggling with, or put them away for the weekend
  • check out some fun rewards and distractions from the library - like a new cookbook, or a movie adaptation of a fictional work you enjoy - to serve as reading breaks 
  • decide which blogdrafts to work on and finish over the weekend 
  • finish downloading The Darkest Part of the Forest to my Kindle, and start reading
I'll check back in with you tomorrow, to see how my first day's worth of reading has gone, and let you know of what my plans for Saturday and Sunday look like. 

Welcome to my Readchella! (Tagline: Because reading on my couch is still better than sweating my butt off in the Californian desert.) 



So, wish me luck! Do you have any recommendations for helping break from a reading slump? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

TOP TEN TUESDAY: 10 THINGS THAT MAKE ME PICK UP A BOOK


Man, I really came out of that recent blog layout and style change with the best possible intentions, didn't I? Now, I'm finally emerging from this massively soul-crushing reading slump, to realize that I haven't posted new content in almost a month. Good gracious!

Don't worry, though: I'm reporting to you live on vacation, where I'm basking in the dual warmth of having taken a blistering-hot shower (after two days of extensive hiking and long walks), as well as the afterglow of a really fantastic Oregon-produced marionberry cider, and I'm ready to get back to this whole blog-writing gig I've been hanging tough with for the past nearly-nine years.

And truly, nothing makes that easier than a really good writing prompt, and "Top Ten Tuesday," hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is really here to deliver today. Ever wonder what ten things will make me want to pick up a book? Well, your suspense is about to pay off:



1. An appealing cover

Yeah, it's not an original concept, but as it turns out, the majority of people will openly admit to picking up reads based on how inviting and interesting their cover is (or at least reading the back cover, too). I'm definitely not an exception to that rule; in fact, one of the biggest bummers about my modest shelf space, is that I'm not able to properly display my favorites at home.

2. A favored author... specifically, Jennifer Egan, Neil Gaiman, Libba Bray, and V. E. Schwab

These tried, tested, and true names are ones that have proven their prowess to me across time and titles, and sometimes, even genres. My chances of picking up a book will increase wildly should I recognize they came from one of these trusted sources.

3. Shakespearean and Mythological adaptations

To be very honest, if this were high school Savannah answering this question, this would have read "Fairy Tale adaptations," instead. The thing is, I love seeing what people can do with familiar tropes and stories, commuting them to a new setting and environment, set of reality "rules," or even time period. (I've been following the rise of Hadestown for two years now, because the words "musical Orpheus and Eurydice retelling" nearly smacked me across the face way back in 2016.)

4. Pirates

I am not a complicated human: I've only ever lived in two different port towns, I was raised on seafaring stories, and if I ever moved to a landlocked state, I think I'd die of heartbreak. Ching Shih, Grace O'Malley, and Anne Bonny and Mary Read were all childhood names to me. I live for pirates.

5. Food nonfiction

Again, not a complicated human. Food is both delicious and necessary for survival, and has served as an endless source of inspiration and interest to me across my life thus far. Not only that, but it's a meaningful measurement of things like relationships and community, social traditions, and cultural significance, and like music and math, it touches the lives of everyone. Who wouldn't want to read about it?

6. Fellow reader social media recs

That's only the header for this paragraph because the phase #BookstagramMadeMeDoIt is honestly kind of ugly. But it's an ugly truth: I am infinitely more likely to purchase a book, if I've seen it artfully arranged in a cool flat lay, posed surrounded by masterfully chosen props, or held aloft in the arms of a fellow reader I admire. I've said it before, but there was absolutely nothing about Frederick Backman's Beartown that spoke to me... until I saw it hanging around people I think are cool. Now it's sitting on my TBR shelf.

7. It's going to be a TV show

As someone who doesn't love to binge television, it is actually kind of comical, the lengths I will go to to read a book, if I know it's becoming or has already been translated to a different form of media. I read the whole Lev Grossman Magicians series, because I wanted to watch the TV show; same goes for the upcoming Amazon Prime version of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet's Good Omens.

8. It's being offered at a discount

Hello, Book Outlet! How's it going, Goodwill? Basically, most of my purchases these days come from either serious price-slashers, or they've been found secondhand. I'll literally sort through editions at Powell's, and gauge whether things like wear-and-tear or slight water damage is worth getting a copy that's marginally cheaper.

9. It brings to mind where I would read it

Okay, I'm fully aware that this is going to sound absolutely nuts, but if I pick up a title, read a couple of pages and think, "I'd read this on a rainy day," or "This would make a really great late-summer vacation read," I am way more likely to carry it all the way to the cash register. I guess it's kind of like positive visualization: if the book is easily factored into a mood or setting I know I'll be experiencing later, then I know how it could potentially be a good fit into my life. Does that make sense?

10. Someone told me to

This is kind of like that whole Bookstagram thing, but a lot more opaque: according to Gretchen Rubin's Better than Before, I am absolutely an "Obliger," aka, someone who thrives on external validation and engagement in accomplishing my goals. I'm already going to be reading and racking up those Goodreads numbers, anyways; if you tell me you want me to read something, chances are, it's a lot closer to being on my shelves. (It's how my brother finally got me to commit to reading Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows.)



What's in YOUR Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

BITS OF BOOKS: DRAFTS FOLDER LOVE STORIES


Remember a month or so ago, when I told you all about the treasure trove of unused reviews I had found tucked away into the nooks and crannies of my Drafts folder? Well, they weren't exactly the end of the stack... in fact, far from it!

So, I grouped together a few of those drafts that just so happened to follow a common theme: love stories. Sure, I've only gotten into romance novels recently, but I've had my past with cutesy contemporary YA and NA happily ever afters, too! While they certainly aren't the kinds of things I'd feel prompted to pick up nowadays, it feels a shame to leave them languishing in the dark of Drafts... so, I've decided to share some of them with you.

And besides, it doesn't look like the bad weather is letting up around Washington anytime soon. Might as well find something sunshiny to keep you optimistic while the world around you is thawing!



Leah on the Offbeat, Becky Albertalli


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I had a hold placed on this Simon Vs. The Homosapiens Agenda sequel at the library months before it came out last summer. Both self-aware and highly aware of current teen trends, Leah on the Offbeat is a contemporary YA romance in every sense of the term, packed with relatable feelings, current humor and slang, and conversations that feel all to real to anyone who's had to struggle through things like school musicals, epic promposals, and friend breakups.

I'm a fan of Albertalli's other books, but unfortunately, I came away fairly underwhelmed. The excitement I had over revisiting Leah as a character was dashed a little bit by the fact that she is incredibly cynical, sarcastic, and angsty, which is not always a great character frame to inhabit as a firsthand narrator. It was hard to get invested in some of her troubles, especially those between her and her mom, when it felt like her attitude went a large ways in causing them. While I did appreciate some of her attributes, like her fierce protection of her friends, her enthusiasm for drumming and art, and the relatable relationship she had with her weight (curvy main characters, represent!), they were often washed away by her constant snarking and pessimism.

Honestly, my favorite parts of the novel as a whole were often the ones that featured - shocker! - Simon and Bram. 

Now Me: Unfortunately, the more I think of this secondary installment for the Creekwood fan base, the more disappointment I feel at its outcome. I liked Albertalli's other YA foray, The Upside of Unrequited, a lot more, and it had a curvy main character as well. I'd probably opt to reread that selection, rather than this one. 



I Believe in a Thing Called Love, Maurene Goo

31145133An unexpected and fun YA contemporary romance with plenty of hijinks and hilarity to stretch the bounds of what your average high school experience looks like, without sacrificing any of the awkward charm. 

Cheerfully steering clear of the typical high school stereotypes, by swapping out the teen rom-com rulebook for one of her own, Goo creates a unique cast of characters unlike any you've ever met before... outside of a K-Drama, that is. While I don't think I knew anyone in high school quite as high-achieving as Desi Lee before, I think I probably would have liked her: she reminded me of Sarah Strohmeyer's whip-smart heroines from Smart Girls Get What They Want.

Now Me: Everything about this book - from the doodles on the cover, to our quirky main character - were absolutely cute and fun. Goo has another popular YA book out, and another one arriving this summer... maybe it would be fun to take a step back into the mindset of a romantic high schooler again? 



Public Relations, Katie Heaney

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This book was a fun, quick read, that ultimately resembled bad fan fiction a little too strongly for me to fully engage with the plot. 

The attempts at obscuring the inspiration for Archie Fox, the love interest, were almost comically half-hearted, and it kind of made the whole thing come off as a Tumblr "imagine" rather than a fully edited and published novel. That, coupled with a less-than-inspirational heroine, and an unconvincing romantic buildup, rendered the entire thing more suitable for YA shelves than NA. If I was looking for a good celebrity-and-normal-person romance, I'd probably reread something like Meg Cabot's Teen Idol instead. 


Also, this book will absolutely not age well. From frequent mentions of real-life celebrities, to strong social media reliance, to the amount of times the food-ordering service Seamless was mentioned, this book will have exhausted any of its cultural collateral within five years. 


Now Me: Same with Leah on the Offbeat, my opinions of this book have only gotten stronger with time. The litany of narrative issues, coupled with inconstant stereotyping, and the poorly obscured real-life source material, make this one more closely resemble something you'd find on Tumblr than in the real world. 







What kinds of past reads have you been thinking about lately? Got anything buried in your Drafts folder? Let me know, in the comments below!