My January 2019 TBR

My January 2019 TBR

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Ahhh fresh book stacks. You have to love them.

This month’s TBR has a little bit of everything. Because I’m enacting some of my reading goals into this list like keeping my list pretty small, exploring some other genres, and reading nonfiction. When I think about this list, I wish I had the foresight to do this before. I have a great mix of books from genres I love. I have challenging novels that I’m excited to read and I’ve somehow incorporated nonfiction, which isn’t a genre I read often. All in all, I’m really happy with this month’s TBR. Here’s what I’ll be reading:

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim

I’ll be reading this book for my Words Between Worlds Book Club on Instagram. Crystal Hana Kim is a fellow Korean American and this novel is supposed to surpass those physical boundaries (like a wall between North and South Korea). I’m really excited to read it.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

This year I’ve got a few highly anticipated fantasy novels and Black Leopard, Red Wolf is one of them. I don’t know if I buy that this is a Game of Thrones-style book, but we’ll get into it. I have a feeling it’ll be more science fiction than fantasy, but I could be wrong. I’ll be reading this one next week.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

I started my new year with this book and I’m already shook. It reminds me a lot of Six of Crows, which I loved! It’s got a cast of characters that all bring different skillsets to the group and you can just tell there’s going to be some major heisting. I love a book that reads like Ocean’s 11. I don’t want to make any more assumptions, but it’s definitely got my attention.

Golden Child by Claire Adam

This is the second novel being published by SJP and Hogarth. It’s about a family living in rural Trinidad and their two twin sons, Paul and Peter. When Paul disappears one day, their father, Clyde, doesn’t think much of it. It’s not until a few weeks past that he realizes the implications of his lost son. OMG, I can’t wait to read this!

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Winter, for me, is thriller time. Romance in the summer. Fantasy in the fall. Thrillers in the winter. I think it has something to do with the temperatures dropping and the dark moods we all adopt. Bonfire has been on my TBR for quite some time, so I plan on reading this one during the shortened daylight hours. I’ll also be reading a few more thrillers this month.

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

This particular novel sounds scary AF. Just three words for you: feminist revenge fantasy. It’s got Handmaid’s Tale vibes and science fiction vibes. While I’m not necessarily the type to read feminist fiction, I can’t resist a good story about women who find themselves trapped in their society and then figure out how to escape. It’s going to be a good one and it might keep me up at night.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I picked Dark Matter for The Backlist Book Club pick this month! Going on my theme of thrillers in the winter, I chose this to continue my late nights up scared out of my mind. While I categorized this as a thriller, I’ve been told that it’s more scary than your average thriller. It’s science fiction-y with some scary components, so I will definitely be enjoying this. I can’t wait for the conversations this one is going to incite.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

While I won’t be reading any more contemporary YA, that doesn’t mean I won’t be reading some thriller-y YA. I still like parts of the YA category and I think Sadie will carry all of them. I would say this feels more like crime fiction than thriller, but I’m not 100% sure of the difference between the two. We shall see with this one.

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

Finally, my one nonfiction book for the month. I’m so excited to read Heavy after Kelsey Manning from Scribner suggested we check it out. Heavy is a memoir written by Kiese Laymon. It touches on his life living in Jackson, Mississippi, the sexual violence of his youth and the writer he is today. There’s a lot going on from the synopsis of this memoir, so I’m going to be digging into this one. I hope I don’t cry too much.

Bookstore Tour: The Last Bookstore, Downtown Los Angeles

Bookstore Tour: The Last Bookstore, Downtown Los Angeles

I haven’t done a bookstore tour in a really long time. I think I was still living in Brooklyn where small bookstores reign gloriously. But I went on vacation and did some road tripping recently and I have bookstores to report back!

Today we’re going to be heading to the West (best) Coast to check out The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA. If you’re not aware, The Last Bookstore is probably one of the most instagrammed bookstores. The reason: because this store is outfitted with artsy bookish displays for you and your friends to pose next to.

Continue reading “Bookstore Tour: The Last Bookstore, Downtown Los Angeles”

Why I Sometimes See the Movie Before I Read the Book

Why I Sometimes See the Movie Before I Read the Book

My friend, Michaela, at The Ardent Biblio recently talked about reading War and Peace for the first time. If you aren’t aware, War and Peace is considered one of the best books of all time written by the most prolific writers, Leo Tolstoy.

However, it was originally written in Russian, is over 1400 pages long, and it takes place during the Franco-Russian War. Unless you’re actually studying the text, there aren’t many people who decide to pick this book and read it. And if you do decide to read it, there’s a lot of families, a lot of names, and a lot of important moments you have to remember.

But a copy of the book has been sitting on my shelf for years. I even dedicated some time to read Anna Karenina (Tolstoy’s other epic classic) a few years back only to stop reading it one day and never picked it back up.

When it comes to books like this, I’m immediately intimidated. I felt the same way about Game of Thrones when the show first came out. I was weary with reading the novel because of all the characters, the places, and the events you had to remember. I think this is one of the many reasons why I put off reading War and Peace.

Today just happened to be the day I decided I will read it. I know that some of this influence does come from Michaela, but the other part comes from the fact that I’m currently watching the TV adaptation of the book. Here’s a trailer below:

So you must be angry at me for watching the BBC version of this show rather than reading the actual novel. Don’t worry, I will definitely read the novel in time. I just would rather watch the show first before diving into the book.

But why?

I think we’ve come to a day and age where reading classics (or some more difficult fantasy novels) has become easier. Aside from the myriad of translations you can choose from (definitely check out The Ardent Biblio post about it above), many of the beloved classics from yesteryear are now available on TV. Movies and retellings and mini-series have been made in abundance for so many classic books. I remember the day I watched all of the BBC Pride and Prejudice and after watching the epic mini-series, I decided to read the book. I read Little Women after watching the 1995-film version with Winona Ryder for the millionth time.

Similarly to many other books I come across, I always have a tough time with visualizing characters and people. With a ton of names and events, it’s hard to keep track of them all. I always find myself flipping from the front of the book and the family tree and the index back to the page I was reading. God forbid the author doesn’t even give you that! Even when the novel is simpler, I always find myself using some actor or actress I feel is appropriate for the main character instead of dreaming up someone in my head. I should have gone into casting or something for these movies.

What watching the show does is allow me to visualize what may have been more difficult without. I’m able to see who exactly is Pierre and Andrei and Natasha and all the others. I can see them in my head and when I read the book I can use that to help shape the story. When I go to the book later on, I’ll be able to read with those characters in mind and be able to visualize the nuances of their emotions and reactions.

I’m also able to visualize the story. You may think that this will spoil a novel for me, but it doesn’t. When a book is as popularized to make a movie, I feel like the spoilers are gone. You already know what’s going to happen or you can read about them online. But the visualization of the story allows me to follow along and understand the bigger events that happen.

Of course you’re not going to get the whole book in the show. If anything, the shows and movies provide a bone structure for you to go back and read the book and fill in the muscle and the tissue. A movie without the book isn’t the same as the movie with the book. You get to a battle scene with its gore and guns and fighting and for some reason these scenes have always been really tough for me to envision in my head. Instead, I get this battle scene played out for me and I can go back later and fill in the gaps I missed about that scene.

The last added bonus of watching the movie before reading the book is that you’re never disappointed. I’ve read books before watching the movie and felt the upset of it not being true to the film. I’ve seen movies that were even better than the book and that annoys me to no end as well. Watching the movie before the book sets me up for good reading with well-crafted scenes and if the adaptation is really good, it can really blow the book out of the water (but that’s a post for another time).

Y’all probably hate me now because I do this weird method of watching the adaptation before reading the book, but for some reason it’s worked for me. I’ve been able to really enjoy some of my favorite classics because I was able to watch them played out like this. It’s also great when the people who made the movie put in the extra work to make it incredible. With an adaptation like War and Peace, there’s a lot of ground to cover in more than just three hours. I mean, look at what happened with the Lord of the Rings movies.

How to manage emotionally triggering books


Is it weird when I call a book “emotionally triggering,” I’m talking about the passive of time in the book rather than anything else?

I can deal with my fair share of self-harm, sexual abuse, and even suicide. When a book writes about them (and they do it well), I find it most fascinating and continue to read instead of depressing and want to put the book down.

However, you mention the passive of time and getting older and being on your deathbed and I’m an emotional wreck.

I’m currently reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and if you haven’t already heard of this book it’s an emotional time bomb. Each section of the book brings forth something else that will break you down, make you cry, or leave you in the dark of your bedroom with a full blown anxiety attack. Almost every review (despite its star rating) has said “THIS BOOK IS DEPRESSING AS FUCK. HEED CAUTION.” Who would ever want to read a book like that?

But people do and they all fall prey to its emotional triggers and depression. Every time someone mentions how old they are and how their bodies and deteriorating and culling up dead people, then I’m in the dark having an anxiety attack. It’s got something for everyone!


For the most part, if a book is emotionally triggering for me (and many are. How do you write an adult book that doesn’t talk about existential crisis?) I will put it down. If it’s not worth my time reading or if the book straight up sucks the I won’t do it. I’ll just put it down, remove it from my Goodreads, and not mention it again. I won’t write a review. I won’t talk about it with friends. If a book is emotionally triggering for me, it might not be for anyone else so I don’t bring up my opinions on it because I would rather someone read it for themselves.

22822858However, this book is good. The writing is beautiful albeit a little heavy on the descriptors and unnecessary comments. And yes, emotionally triggering. So I’m stuck at this crossroads where I need to decide if I want to continue reading the book despite its emotional triggers, or if I should put the book down and go the route that I’m used to.

And I’ve decided that I’m going to continue reading it. But how do I manage the emotional triggers? How do I get passed them and still enjoy the book. I’ve basically put together a list of ways I can manage this emotion and continue on. I hope you enjoy it!


1. It’s just a book. If you’re a big fantasy book reader always wanting to ship your OTP and bust out the knives and guns to defeat the bad guy, then you might be one of those Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole falling people who have pretty bad book hangovers. You get lost in the book. You find yourself traipsing along through a story as if you’re standing beside the main character. What they feel, you feel. It’s a great feeling and one of the ones that really makes me love reading. However, you need to draw a line when it comes to the emotionally difficult stuff. If you find yourself trapped in the abuse of a character or tripping down a dark path, you have to remember that it’s just a book. It’s fiction. It’s a fantasy. It’s something that someone made up in their brain, put to words, and got some sadistic publisher to publish. It’s just a book and reality is waiting outside your bedroom door and reality isn’t as bad as the book you’re reading.


2. Take breaks. It’s so crucial that when you’re reading a book that is emotionally triggering and an amazing read is to take breaks. Take 5 minutes. Take an hour. Set a timer on your phone. If you’ve got one of those smart watches or a Fitbit, then set it to tickle you every hour and take a walk. Sometimes the cause for the emotion draining is the fact that you’ve spent too much time stuck in the book’s story and you need to pull yourself out. Forcing yourself to take a break while you read will refocus your brain to the reality of things. It’s a sunny day. There’s a dog sleeping at your feet. There’s a cat swatting at your water glass. If you take a break and look around or walk around, your brain will naturally pull itself out of the emotionally draining and give you the energy you need to continue reading.

3. Keep distractions close by. This kind of goes along with taking breaks. If you’re like me and you think about books long after you’ve finished reading them, then you need to  refocus your brain on something else. I don’t want to say “distract” yourself because that implies almost a bandage to the wound rather than a fix. However, if you’re able to refocus your brain on another activity then you’re not distracting yourself from the inevitable continuation of reading, but taking your mind completely off the book and doing something else for a while. It’s a method used for people with have obsessive thoughts (like me). Don’t “distract” yourself, but refocus your brain to do something else other than thinking about the book. I like Candy Crush personally as a way to stimulate my brain and refocus.

4. Learn to know when to let go. The final step is basically pulling the ripcord. While you may try to be as strong as you can be when reading an emotionally triggering book, sometimes the themes and the story are just too much. In this case, you need to let the book go. I’ve come across so many books where I thought it was enjoyable but then feel emotionally triggered by one little theme that runs through the entirety of the book that I had to let it go. It’s tough for us book readers especially since we’re all about reading what’s new and interesting and possible award winners. I feel a little bit of pressure to read and enjoy some very popular books because everyone else is reading them. Granted this is all in my head and I can easily turn it off, but it’s an insecurity of mine. But knowing when to let a book go or stop reading when you’re feeling emotionally triggered is like learning that what you’re going through isn’t the definer of your being. It’s like CBT to know when enough is enough. You have control and it’s as easy as closing the book.


Reasons why I started a book blog

And you may ask yourself
Well…How did I get here?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about why I started to blog about books. I’ve never done it before. Most of my blogs in the past were about petty teenager stuff; poems I’ve written about love interests that didn’t work out. But at some point early this year, I realized that I wanted a place where I can express my thoughts about books, about life, about the impact books have on my life.

I definitely know that I’m not blogging about books because I want to be rich and famous. Yes, I want to be rich and famous, but who doesn’t? I don’t think the approach would be to start a book blog. Let’s be honest, that’s probably the least successful way of getting rich and famous.

No, I started this blog because my brain is a garbage heap and I can’t remember plot points to books I’ve read.

I found this out last year when I challenged myself to read 60 books. On average, I could finish one book within a week (5-7 days for those doing the math). My challenge meant I would add an additional 8 books to my year. I figured that there would be some books that I finished within less than a week providing me the additional space to read more.

With my ambition came my downfall. While I was meeting the needs of my challenge, I was also forgetting what I was reading. I don’t remember much about the books that I did read. I was so enraptured in the thought that I will get behind my reading challenge that I didn’t remember what I read and what I didn’t read. It all blended together and even plots blended together. All I remember was what I liked and what I didn’t like, but I didn’t remember specific reasons why my opinions swayed one way or another.

It was most embarrassing when I was at intellectual friend’s party and people asked me “oh what did you think?” and all I can muster is “Uh…it was good!”

You want to say something cool about the book or note on an anecdote, but you can’t even remember the basic plot. You’ve got like these pseudo-intellectuals living in Brooklyn staring at you wondering if you have any thoughts about books.

That was when I decided that I needed to have a reading blog. It’s more than just journaling my thoughts about books, but it’s about being able to recall details from stories. It’s a brain dump, essentially. I’m trying to get out the most I can think about a book and in doing so somehow remember it? I don’t know, this worked in college.

I want to be a reading advocate and someone who’s bookish thoughts are listened to and considered important. I don’t want to be just some book critic with overhyped opinions inflated with intellectual language and not a lot of heart. I want what I read to invoke thoughts and my thoughts hopefully met by a like-minded audience. I’m not really doing this to find some fame or fortune, but just the opportunity to talk about books through social media.

So that’s why I started my blog. Books mean a lot to me, and I guess what I’m trying to say by having a blog is that I want to share their importance with you.

What are some reasons why you started your book blog?

In the Mood to Read


Have you ever had those moments when you’re reading a book and you wonder to yourself why you’re reading that book?

Let me give you a scenario:

You’ve been interested in a book. It’s been on your TBR for a while and finally, you pick it up. You start reading it, but something triggers in you that makes you realize you don’t want to read this book right now. Is it the book? Is it you? Who knows! Something about it makes you want to put it down and pick up something else instead.

9/10 times, for me, it’s usually my anxiety. I have pretty negative thoughts in my head that tend to also perpetuate even further with the book I’m reading. This is why I haven’t read anything by Ransom Riggs because I don’t need photos of creepy kids giving me anxiety attacks every other page.

But for others, it could be a myriad of reasons. Maybe it’s Autumn and you decided to reread Harry Potter. Maybe it’s just a boring story (feasible scenario). Or maybe it’s because you’re just not in the mood for it.

It took me a really long time to understand that what I’m feeling is a lack of interest in reading, I’m just not in the mood. Reading books is like trying to figure out what you want to eat for dinner. If there aren’t any obvious choices, you’re going to go for the cheapest, most convenient thing in front of you. Halfway through the meal, you realize that this isn’t what you wanted in the first place and then the meal is in the trash or put in the back of your fridge.

If you haven’t done that with your books, then your fridge must look pretty barren.

I hate leaving a book in the middle of the story, but sometimes when you’re not in the mood to read that particular story and that’s OK. I think the key point to understand here is that reading is subjective. Either you want to do it or you don’t. If you don’t want to do it, there’s no mark against you. Yeah, you’ll get put back a little bit on your reading challenge, but it’s not the end of the world. Unless it is the end of the world and even then there are bigger things to worry about than not being able to finish Anna Karenina.

So, in summation, be kind to yourself. Read what you want to read when you want to read it. And if you’re just not in the mood, then put down the book. There’s no one watching. Go ahead. Put it down.