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August Wrap-Up

August stats:

Books read: 7

This was a lackluster month, to be honest. I liked a lot of the books I read, but I didn’t love any of them. And coupled with many that I couldn’t rate for various reasons, I didn’t feel satisfied with many of my reads. In ascending order of how much I liked them…

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk | This was an impulse buy at a store and I wish I’d loved it more! The story follows three teens who are dealing with death: one character’s twin has died of cancer, another character’s friend has died suddenly by car accident, and the third character’s ex boyfriend died by suicide. The premise is that they learn to cope after the deaths by embracing music, but I was disappointed that their lives barely intersected, despite the fact that the same band was the thread that ran through them.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos | This was a literary fiction novel about lower-class women being paid well to be surrogates for the wealthy, in the near-future, as we follow an immigrant, Jane, who is a member of The Farm. I wish this had been commercial, rather than literary, fiction; the concept was great but I never felt the story grip me.

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July Wrap-Up

July stats:

Books read: 9

Ratings of the books I read:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 0
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5
⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3
No rating: 2

I know, I skipped May and June of my wrap-up. I’m probably not going to retroactively fix that. 

Four-star reads

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens | I was set to write a nice review about this book, but a few days after I finished reading it, this article was published… so I feel weird about recommending this.

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Mid-Year Book Freak Out 2019

I did this post last year in June and thought it’d be interesting to do it again. Even though we’re OVER halfway through the year (it’s nearly August?! how did that happen??) I thought it’d be worth it. Just to ease back into blogging after my accidental hiatus…

(If you’re wondering, no, writing is not going well right now.)

One: Best book read so far this year

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

I did NOT expect to love this as much as I did. But this memoir was absolutely bonkers in premise (Jessica, an amateur violinist, toured with a quartet and a conductor and faked their concerts — by playing an altered Titanic soundtrack) and also touched on many points about life as a Millennial woman that made me feel SO SEEN. I highly recommend it.

Two: Best sequel read so far this year

I actually haven’t read any sequels so far this year! I’ve started a few series but have not continued them.

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Where Have I Been?

A photo I took of my friend/model Abigail

So I guess it’s a bit obvious that I’ve been MIA from this space for the past 2+ months. I don’t know if people actually check this blog or not (I don’t have much of a following here — or anywhere) but if you did care, or wonder, here’s what’s been going on…

A TL;DR: chapters of my life closing, mental health, creativity sparks sadness

As I’ve mentioned before, I own a wedding photography business. Lately, it hasn’t been going very well, bookings-wise. In 2017, I figured that a lot of people were going to scale down their weddings, get married sooner, cut out extraneous expenses, because of what happened with our last election. But now I see that, while a lot of my photographer colleagues were also feeling the pinch, the ongoing issue was me. I was not hustling. I was not happy. I was not… thriving.

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Book Review: Red, White & Royal Blue

red-white-royal-blue

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (Goodreads)
Rep: Bisexual/gay rep, Latinx/white lead

I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley for an honest review. **This review is spoiler-free.**

Summary

First Son of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz, creates a publicity snafu when he accidentally brawls with Prince Henry of Wales at a royal wedding. Damage control dictates that the two men have to play it off like they’re friends — even though Alex can’t stand Henry, that uppity MFer — and they are thrown together for a long weekend and photo op in the UK. Unlikely as it may be, Alex and Henry begin texting at all hours and learn what is underneath each other’s hard veneers; soon, they fall in love. But while Alex’s mother is working on her presidential reelection campaign, and Henry can’t come out due to strict royal regulations, Alex has to wonder: is this love worth the sacrifice? How can they have their happy ending when so much is riding against them?

I didn’t know I needed this book until I read it.

I have so many thoughts about this book, but the biggest is that I didn’t know I needed this until I read it. Yes, it’s adorable; yes, it’s hot. But also, it’s so hopeful.

From the trope of enemies-to-friends-tolovers done well, to heartwarming side characters and intriguing side plots that bring the full breadth of the story to life, I loved almost every second of this book. There is so much juggling going on, but Casey McQuiston executes it all flawlessly, especially the realistic and touching budding friendship to romance between Alex and Henry. They were full of adorable, sweet moments, and also fraught moments of pain and confusion that made me wonder how they were going to make it.

I also loved Alex’s relationship with his sister June and his on/off again relationship with the VP’s granddaughter Nora; Henry’s complicated relationships to his family, including a stuck-up Philip in line to the throne and his wild/misunderstood sister Beatrice; Henry’s flamboyant fashionista friend Pez… The relationships between all of the family members, which is convoluted and complicated but rooted in caring and love, and family friends and enemies in politics, all felt real and believable.

I like this timeline

My only issue with the story was that the timeline took a while to figure out. I expected this story to be in the near future, perhaps 2024, but it actually takes place now. In some alternate universe, Ellen Claremont won the 2016 election as a Democrat and moved her son and daughter into the White House, and the reelection campaign takes place from 2018-2020. The royal family of England still has the Queen (this time, Mary) as the matriarch, but the rest of the family tree is different: Henry’s mother was a princess who married a commoner, and the three heirs are different from the current royal family.

I think I read in the author acknowledgments at the end that she started this book in early 2016 and then had to reevaluate where to take it after our last presidential election. So it’s packed full of hopefulness, to the brink of idealism. I almost wish that the author had fabricated a regal line to dress up, because — practical as I am — I spent too much time figuring out the edges of what was in the real world now vs. what was made up or embellished for this story. It seems to me that switching the timeline would have been easy and would have also saved me some mental gymnastics as I tried to figure out when everything took place. This is why I deducted half a star.

The added bonus of being a Texan

I think everyone who reads this book will be so thrilled at the amazingly-written romance between Henry and Alex, which is established well before the halfway mark, so this is not a spoiler by any means. Their love is amazing, their families’ responses to their relationship is believable, and the tension throughout as the secret risks exposure gave me lots of feelings.

But.

I feel like, as a Texan, I have to talk about the absolute uplifting back story of Alex becoming the FSOTUS (which is not a spoiler either). Alex’s other home is in the Hill Country near Austin, where I live. The author successfully encompassed the feeling of the liberal-blue of Austin and the surrounding conservative-red of rural Texas. Her description of how Ellen, nicknamed the Lometa Longshot from a small town in Texas, rose to the highest seat in the country was so inspiring — I wanted it to be real. Her nuanced view of politics in Texas, especially that of Ellen winning in 2016 by getting enough electoral votes from all the big states but lost her own state — felt believable.

For those readers outside of the US, or even outside of Texas, I’m sure this side plot about Ellen’s political career won’t feel as poignant as it does to me. But it plays a big part in a large chunk of the story, and it was cathartic in a personal way for me.

I want to see a real world where an Ellen Claremont, divorced mother of two, formerly married to a Mexican-American congressman, Democrat, and general good person could win the presidency. I want to see a world where two high-profile guys can fall in love across international lines and hold onto that precious feeling for as long as they want, without fear of repurcussion.

This was a great read. 4.5/5 stars.

Red, White & Royal Blue will be out May 14.

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April Wrap-Up

April stats:

Books read: 6
Number of Re-reads: 1
Partial books read: 1

Ratings of the books I read:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 0
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5
⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1

I’m sorry I haven’t posted since my March wrap-up! April is basically busy season with my job and I’ve been working. I haven’t read a lot, either :( 

Most of my books this month have been good, but not amazing. All 4 stars, except for one, which earned itself only 3.

Four-star reads

The Martian by Andy Weir | A re-read, just because. I haven’t read this since 2015 but it holds up. This book is one of the rare instances where I think the movie and book are both great.

Tinnitus Toolbox Hyperacusis Handbook by Jan L. Mayes | I got this as an ARC because I have tinnitus and thought the material would be relevant for me. Truthfully, since I’ve had it for so long (3 years) I’ve gone through a lot of the journey outlined already, but for people who have just developed tinnitus (or hyper ears, or misophonia, or hearing loss) this book would be a good reference guide.

The Witch Elm by Tana French | I love Tana French! Her writing is just so interesting to me, in that she can write a story that isn’t necessarily thrilling or have a twist or whatever, and the characters talk a lot and there’s a lot of unnecessary minutiae that has no relevance to the mystery at hand, but I’m still enthralled. I didn’t LOVE this book as much as some in the Dublin Murder Squad series, but it was still very good.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway | A lot of my friends were really into this book, but I was only ambivalent. I liked a lot about it, but ultimately thought it was too long.

The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston | One of my most anticipated reads this year! I loved Poston’s Geekerella, which is a fandom-obsessed version of Cinderella, but this one was a little less enjoyable. More preaching about the legitimacy of fandom, and everything takes place over the course of one weekend so it feels a little rushed. But ultimately, still very cute.

Three Stars

For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt | A book about two parents killing someone who threatened their child should be more interesting than this. I am always a little upset when a good premise doesn’t follow through with a good story.

Other Bookish Things…

This month, people reminded me that I can also rent DVDs from the library. So rather than paying $2 on Amazon or Redbox or whatever, I actually paid $0 to rent the movie Paper Towns (based on the John Green novel of the same name), which was a decent deal. The movie was fine. I didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, and didn’t resent my time watching it. So a win-win.

I’m also 20% into the behemoth of a novel that is James Michener’s Texas. One of the reasons why my book-read count is so low is because I’m trying to actually make some headway in this thing. I cracked it open during Thanksgiving and had read only 4% (the equivalent of maybe 60 pages) for the remainder of 2018, getting stuck in Cabeza de Vaca’s era. But now I’m slowly chewing through to the 300+ page mark. It’s too soon to tell if this book is a massive waste of my time.

How was your month?

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March Wrap-Up

Monthly stats:

Books read: 10
Number of Re-reads: 2
ARCS read: 3

Ratings of the books I read:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 2
⭐️⭐️⭐️ 2
No rating given: 1

I guess the biggest thing to mention about March was that I spent half of the month traveling. I visited three islands of Hawaii, where I was able to shop in the westernmost bookstore in the United States, and San Diego, where I visited Warwick’s.

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