How do I review Sing, Unburied, Sing?

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The other night, in the silence of my apartment, I tore through the last 50 pages of Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. I sat on my couch while waiting for my dinner to cook in the oven, getting up every so often to make sure my meatballs weren’t burning. Once I finished the book, I put it down and then proceeded to not think about it.

I put off writing this review for a few days because the impact this book leaves is so intense that it only feels appropriate to give it a few days of mourning. I still don’t know where to begin with writing this review. I guess I should start with the summary.

SING, UNBURIED, SING

32920226Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

I feel like the central theme in this novel was grief and loss. Leonie struggling with the loss of her brother. Jojo is struggling with the loss of his mother emotionally. Pop is struggling with the possible loss of his cancer-ridden wife and his friend when he was younger. Everyone is dealing with some form of loss and everyone is doing is so quietly.

The story takes place in both Jojo and Leonie’s point of view. Each chapter switches off which tale you’re going to hear. For Jojo, you hear a lot of resentment for his birth mother. He can’t stand that she’s not the mother she’s supposed to be. Instead, she’s found indulging too much on meth and forgetting she’s ever really had kids. Jojo finds himself having to grow up much sooner than he expected, impressing his grandfather with how “manly” he is in serious situations.

For Leonie, you hear a lot about her struggle with fighting against herself. She knows she’s a bad mother, but she can’t help herself. Her grief began when her brother, Given, was murdered on a hunting trip. Given was her favorite person in the world and she never quite got over him dying. Every time she does drugs, Given comes to visit her while she’s high. You can see how that can drive any person insane.

However there’s a third perspective that reveals itself slowly throughout the story, which is the ghosts of the people who have been killed in terrible ways. Leonie, Jojo, Kayla, and Mama all have these powers that allow them to know the future, read minds, and speak with the dead. It’s not supernatural, but almost like a gift bestowed upon their family ever since they came to this country. They were given a gift and sadly, it was taken for granted.

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I’ve asked numerous people what they thought and all of them felt the same. It was good, but I can’t put into words exactly how good this was. Was it the ghostly images of the African Americans who have died throughout the years? Was it the drug abuse Leonie uses to escape her own sorrows? Is it the ability to see between the veil of life and death? Was it the use of an old farm to enslave prisoners and bring back a part of this country’s history to punish them? Was it seeing a mother struggle with wanting to be one and her son taking up the responsibilities when she couldn’t?

Sometimes you find yourself with a book that is really difficult to put into words how good it is. It’s good, you know that much. But why? I can’t put my finger on it. And the adjectives other people have used to describe this book match what I feel. It’s haunting, slight disturbing, with doses of reality, sadness, foreboding, intrigue. You want to read more because you want to know more. You want to find out what is happening to this family.

However, I’m not even sure that’s the appropriate way of explaining this novel. I am really struggling with this one.

In many ways this book reminded me a lot of Beloved. The dark and densely moving story about a family who is haunted by the decisions they made in their past. How much they wanted to move themselves away from those horrors in order to live a peaceful life and how the dead can never truly rest without hearing and knowing the truth. I honestly thought this book would be about the struggle of being African American in the South, but this book was so much more.

My favorite thing about this entire experience was the writing. It was extraordinary writing. Each chapter had pearls of beautiful quotes that displayed each character’s personality and also their struggle. Each quote another example of how life is so important because death is hanging right outside the door. It was an incredibly breathtaking story that I had a hard time putting down.

I think the only flaw this book has was the pace. While Leonie and the kids are driving up to release Michael from Parchman, the pace felt slow and even. They were a dysfunctional family on the road to meet their father; whom Kayla hasn’t even met in her life. They were on the road to becoming a family again.

By the time they returned from Parchman, the story somehow picked up in pace. Suddenly, the history of their family unravels and the mystical powers they have and the ghosts that have been haunting them swirl together in the penultimate scene. Mama is on her death bed and she’s about to open the curtain between life and death so that she can die in peace. Of course you can only imagine that the door doesn’t just open in one direction.

I don’t know where to begin. I honestly just believe that you’ll need to experience it for yourself.

 

Fail All the Marriages – Books not about love

 

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I love love. I love reading about love and reading about how people get together. I'm a huge fan of romantic comedies and dramas about love and I just love love.

But lately, I've been coming across more and more books not about love, but the struggle being in love brings. What's the worst thing that can happen to love? It can die and you get a divorce.

The other day, I was having a conversation with a bookish friend and we were discussing how so many novels these days are like little time bombs of tragic romances. "I have to be careful with what I read because I don't think I can read another sad love story."

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Being a newlywed, it's not that inspiring to read so many books about failed love. And you know what it is that they all failed at? Communicating with each other.

Books after book, tome after tome, of sad love stories where people used to love each other and become exceptional at hating each other until eventually some tragedy breaks them apart. There's also the topic of bored love; people who are together but you just ask yourself "why?" the entire time you're reading.

It's almost every single literary fiction novel I pick up that starts off with a cute couple trying to make it and ends up with breaking up. Is that what I should look forward to? Is that what happens with love?

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Of course, I'm being completely joking about my dislike for these books, but I will say this. Authors, you need to get it together.

Here's my top five list of recently published books to make you wonder where all of this is going:

 

 

Welcome to the Longest Day of the Year

I absolutely love today because of a few reasons:

  1. Today is my mother’s birthday
  2. Today is the longest day of the year

I sometimes imagine what it must be like to live in the Arctic circle where they have the longest days of any place in the entire world and that’s because it doesn’t get dark. Ever.

But for those of us that live in a slightly bigger city (or adjacent), we only get one day of the year where the sun stays out for a little bit longer than it would any other day.

And you all know what I’m going to be doing; reading.

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If you haven’t noticed from my Instagram, I love being indoors. But B and I made it a point to get ourselves an apartment with a balcony so that we can spend some outside.

While not every reader is an introvert, I just happen to fit into the stereotype very well. I like my home and sitting on my green couch and staring out windows at the people enjoying the sunshine. Having a balcony really helps me to get my much needed Vitamin D without having to converse with other people or spend money on a ridiculously large cup of coffee.

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Also, the privacy gives me the quiet I need to get some reading done. Sometimes when I go to a cafe or to the park, I get so distracted by all the people around. I want to people watch and not be buried deep in the passages of a novel.

Have you ever experienced this? Have you ever wanted to spend time outside and find yourself stuck on the inside?

Well, if you have, I dare you to step outside for a little while today before the sun goes down on this beautiful day. Or, you can always wait till next year.

Happy Solstice, everyone!

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It took me exactly one month to finish A Court of Wings and Ruin

IMG_3145Some of you may do this while others take a more traditional approach, but I love to track my books on Goodreads. Being as my day job consists of looking at numbers all the time, I wanted to look at the numbers for a book I was reading. How long does it take me to read a book? What genres motivate me more? What motivates me less? What do I truly love to read? I can find out all that information through tracking.

So when I recently finished reading A Court of Wings and Ruin (or lovingly referred to as ACOWAR) by Sarah J. Maas, I did what I always do; I marked it on my Goodreads. And lo and behold, I can see the dates I started reading the book and when I finished.

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Looking closely at the status dates, I started ACOWAR on May 9th and marked it read on June 9th. That is ONE MONTH of reading a book.

I think the last time it took me that long to read a book I was reading 1Q84 and I wasn’t as avid a reader as I am now. That book took me four months, but we don’t have to talk about that.

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You must be thinking, a 700-page book and it only took you a month? Please that seems accurate. But it doesn’t feel accurate when the last book you read by Sarah J. Maas was even longer and you read it in eight hours.

Yes. Eight, straight hours.

Granted there are a million excuses for me not reading faster or carving more time out of my day to read this book, but I think the biggest reason why I didn’t read is just circumstance. I was busy getting fired from my job. I was busy looking for another job. I was busy putting all my life possession into boxes, moving to another city, and then unpacking all those boxes. I didn’t have Internet for a week and then I got a new job that I needed to focus on.

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And the reason why I bring this up is because life is filled with circumstance. There will be days, weeks, or even years where you don’t have time to read. Just remember that deep down while you don’t have a book in your hand, you’re still a book reader. If it takes you a week or a month to read a book, just be happy with the fact that you’re reading. You’re educating yourself and you’re questioning the understood belief.

People always say that life is short, but it’s only short if you want it to be. If you savor each moment and spend your time doing instead of thinking, then you might think life is short, but it’ll have been the greatest life of all time. Don’t waste your time getting caught up by your reading challenge. If you’re a blogger, don’t feel guilty for not writing a post in a few months. People always find a way back to you especially if they like you.

Anyway, onto my review.

Synopsis

23766634Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

This book was difficult for me to get through despite the fact that I had some outside circumstances getting in my way of finishing it. However, I feel like this always happens when you’re reading a book series.

Rating: 4/5 Cauldrons

My thoughts

Aside from the fact that it took me a month to read this, I thought this book was OK. In comparison to the last two, this felt like a mid-series novel where a lot of set up needed to happen in order for the final battle can happen. There was a lot of setting up of meetings and conversations and thoughts and wondering about things and sometimes you need to sacrifice a book to the series gods in order to build up for the big thing. I was worried this book would be a whole bunch of build up and then nothing happens. I thought Sarah J Maas was going to leave us on the edge of our seats and wait for the next book to come out. However, she doesn’t. Actually, I loved this ending (and endings are a bit of a sore subject for me), but where will she go from here?

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Another big thing about this book is that we see the true nature of the characters that Sarah J. Maas created. I was kind of shocked to see that some of them were “playing the game” while others were just hurt and sad. It’s true to reality where we wear these masks of pride in order to hide what we truly feel. In the end, masks are removable and for the characters, no one can hide for long.

I was reading a few reviews of this book and someone brought up the fact that Feyre has had it pretty easy for her. Without knowing spells or having the talent or the little tidbit where she was human, she’s been able to manage through the Fae world pretty easily without being too injured or too abandoned. I guess that blogger is right. It’s been pretty easy for her, but I do hope that things get a little bit tough. Granted, I don’t want to see anyone die, but perhaps that’s what’s in store in the future. Perhaps we’ll see something go wrong.

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But it’ll probably be another year before we all find out, so I guess for now all we can do is wait.

 

 

 

My favorite Brooklyn places to take bookish photos

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My husband and I are moving (definitely moving, not considering moving) to New Jersey in a few weeks and I’ve been thinking about all the different and new places I’ll find in our new neighborhood. Either for me to get coffee or lounge with my book or even to buy groceries or have dinner together. It’ll be tough at first as I check out different places, but what I’m hoping for is that go-to where the coffee is good, the baked goods selection is ample, and I can read uninterrupted somewhere that isn’t in my home or on the train.

Thinking about all the places I’ll see, I started thinking about all the places I used to go. To give you an idea of what part of Brooklyn I lived in, I was in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area and my workplace was in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn. I should preface this with “my favorite places where they sell coffee and treats and I can actually sit and read my book if I wanted to afterward.” Because there are some really beautiful places to take bookish photos, but they’re not conducive to reading. You’ll end up hearing the chatter of all the other people in a restaurant. The bookstores are too distracting with cute dogs walking by and humans walking by and people just generally in your face all the time. The bookstores in Brooklyn are also pretty tiny with not a lot of room to sit and read. They’re mostly there for you to get your book and go.

There used to be this hidden gem of a Barnes and Noble in Manhattan that I would always go to. I didn’t buy books there because oddly their selection was so limited that independent bookstore look like Amazon, but I did love to sit around in a nearly abandoned bookstore and read without distractions. Sadly, that Barnes and Noble did close and it’s probably because it was a nearly abandoned bookstore you can read in without distractions. Also, homeless people chilled in the reading areas. That’s New York living for you.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s check out the options I’ve got here in my lovely little neighborhood.

My Couch

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You’ve probably seen the green monstrosity that I call a couch. It’s my favorite place to sit in the entire apartment with only three working legs and the fourth being held up by books.

I’m a huge introvert and sometimes that means that I don’t want to leave the house or talk to humans or be around people I love (sorry, honey). Sometimes I just need to sit in my favorite spot on the couch and read. It’s also a great place to take photos if you set the mood right and there’s some great reading light. It’s also very cost-efficient since you don’t need to buy a $5 cup of coffee to sit on your own couch. Make yourself a cup of tea or do a late-afternoon coffee with a snack. Grab your fur baby and force them to cuddle with you. Invest in some beautiful blankets.

Most importantly, PUT ON PANTS. I’m a huge advocate for sweats at home, but if I’m taking a bookish photo, I really try to put some effort into the way the bottom half of my body looks. Once you’ve got all those necessities, you’ll be ready to take some cozy effortless photos of you just nonchalantly reading on a weekday afternoon. The photo above was an exception because it was the holiday season and who wears pants while they open presents?

Bakeri

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Bakeri is this beautiful little place right near my apartment. Every once in a while, I will pull myself off my couch and this is the go-to place for me. The tables are long and communal, so you need to share with other folks around you, but the vibe is good. Not a lot of talkers in that place and bonus points for not a lot of laptops. This place has no wifi, which is nice because you don’t need the Internet to read and it keeps those laptop squatters at bay. Pro tip: Find the place that doesn’t have wifi for a quiet reading spot. No wifi means less people wanting to stay and do stuff.

Bluestone Lane

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There’s a few New York based book bloggers that use Bluestone Lane as a means for bookish photos. I worked near one so I would head down for a quick coffee run and take a bookish photo. I will admit that I’ve been guilty of using other people’s drinks and coffee cups to take some cute photos, but for the most part the drinks are mine.

I don’t think this is the quietest place to sit and read, but it is good for some beautiful photos. The way food and drinks are served here have been really delightful and I always come back here for their coffee and teas. Also, they have some a pretty incredible matcha latte if you’re into that kind of thing.

Woops Bakery

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Woops Bakery is a super cute place in Williamsburg with ridiculously photogenic tables and food. I go here from time to time and partake in their delicious macaron selection and good coffee. And if you get the setting right, then you can get some beautiful photos.

However, they do tend to get a bit crowded because it’s right off the Bedford stop (and if you’ve ever been to Williamsburg, you understand), so it’s best to go during the week.

One Girl Cookies

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One Girl Cookies is another great little coffee shop (and mentioned in a few YAs). They’re famous for their whoopee pies and great setting. Beautiful and large, this place sits right by the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. You can settle in to their little seating area or you can take your coffee on the go and take some really beautiful bookish photos by the East River. This place does get crowded and sometimes there’s a photoshoot or a movie being made here, but when there isn’t, you can find yourself getting lost in your book for a few hours.

The last thing I want to say before I wrap up here is this: do what feels right for you. I know it’s easy to be tempted by the beautiful book photos you see on the Internet and with a little bit of elbow grease, you can take lovely photos of your current reads in your favorite setting without spending too much money or sacrificing reading time to the less-reading crowds.

I’ll be back in a few weeks with my new New Jersey digs, but for now let me know what your favorite bookish photo spot are!