Posted in Books

Top Ten Least Favorite Books of 2020

I don’t normally do a list of my least favorite books of the year.

Everyone on BookTube was doing it, though, and it looked really fun.

I disliked quite a few books this year, so narrowing this list down to ten was a REAL CHALLENGE.

I managed, though.

Continue reading “Top Ten Least Favorite Books of 2020”
Posted in Real Life

2020 Gift Guide

It’s 2020 and I’d like to highlight some small businesses (and a few larger ones) that you can order from this holiday season.

I buy from some of these shops regularly and would love to see them get more business.

Check out these stores for great gift ideas.

Art Prints

Beverly Johnson sells soft sapphic prints, some of it inspired by popular TV shows like The Haunting of Bly Manor and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

GDBee Art creates gorgeous celestial prints featuring joyful Black women and the beauty of the cosmos.

Pande Sai put their own twist on Klimt’s The Kiss. I have a print hanging on my wall and it makes me smile every time I look at it.

Nekokonut sells beautiful prints of Avatar: The Last Airbender characters. Zuko looks like a model and I CAN’T HANDLE IT.

Lemonciel offers a TON of bookish fan art of characters from Shadowhunters, Carry On, The Raven Cycle, and more.

Becca Farrow sells fandom art (video game- and film-inspired), trope pins, and even hats! Do you like D&D and pride gear? What about D&D Pride gear?

Little Corvus Art is the perfect place for witchy zines, magical graphic novels, FinnPoe prints, and Schitt’s Creek fanart.

Yoshi Yoshitani designs clothes, tarot cards, enamel pins, and the most gorgeous folklore-inspired prints. I’m personally in love with this print of Avalokiteshvara.

Elise Schuenke published one zine about Daphne and Velma and one about her love for Princess Leia, both of which are available on Gumroad.

Soap/Skin Care

My friend Fox is obsessed with the soaps and lotions from local business WildElixirsShop. I bought a number of soaps for my family members and a body butter for myself. I had to stop myself from buying more. Lavender Oat + Cocoa? Coffee & Vanilla? I can’t handle it.

My friend Rhea owns The Persistent Pestle and sells magickal skin care remedies and yummy teas. She also offers different classes and sometimes does flash sales of clothes and books. She’s one of my favorite vendors – please check her out.

Candles

I bought a BriarWick candle for my friend Nikita and we COULD NOT figure out what the scent was. She later discovered it was absinthe and lime, inspired by Amanda Foody’s Ace of Shades. How genius is that???

In return, Nikita bought me a Bookshop Dweller candle from From the Page. The shop also sells an A Day With Mr. Darcy candle that smells like wild honeysuckle, meadow, and orange. You’re welcome.

I had Cornerfolds Candles make me a custom Reylo candle for my birthday last year. The rest of their bookish candles smell just as amazing.

Memento Mori Goods recently put out a Grunge candle. GUESS WHO LOVES NAG CHAMPA NOW? The tin even has the Space Needle on the lid!

Cantrip Candles has a line of D&D-inspired candles that smell SO GOOD. These candles sell out often but they’re well-worth a preorder. Also, the 16 oz candles have a 20-sided metal die in the bottom!

Books

If you purchase any books this season, opt for Bookshop over Amazon. Bookshop donates part of their proceeds to local bookstores.

An even better option: buy directly from your local bookstore. Book giant Powell’s could use your support.

Indie publisher Nyx Publishing released Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology and has a Dracula-inspired novel coming out next year.

British publishing house Monstrous Regiment is responsible for both volumes of The Bi-ble and added So Hormonal to its titles this year.

Subscription Boxes

I’m super stoked about Rainbow Crate, a brand-new LGBTQIA+ subscription book box. I will be buying myself a box for my birthday in January.

Jewelry

I’ve purchased approximately 89,000,000 pieces from The Peculiarity Shop and I love each and every one. The shop recently required some axe charms, so if you EVER NEED A PIECE OF JEWELRY COMMISSIONED, you know where to look.

Yarn

The Tenacious Unicorn Ranch is a trans haven in Colorado that sells very soft and wonderful yarn courtesy of its friendly alpacas! Buy some yarn, help out trans people – it’s a win-win.

Apparel

I bought some tank tops from Stuzo Clothing earlier this year and I love them. Stuzo is a Black woman-owned, gender-free clothing company in Los Angeles with the flyest button-downs and face masks.

The “Soft as Fuck” beanies from Astraea goods are sold out, but I couldn’t help bringing them up – I love them so much.

I started wearing MeUndies this year; the cute prints make me smile daily. The company occasionally sells limited-edition Star Wars-print boxers. Get them while you can.

Happy holidays! May your gift-shopping go well!

You can never have too much art or soap!

Posted in Real Life

Seattle Reality Checks

In 2015, I wanted to move to Portland, Oregon.

When people asked me what my Plan was, I’d tell them, “I’m going to move to Portland and work at Powell’s.” Some people thought this was a cop-out, not knowing I was describing my Dream Life. I couldn’t wait to work at my favorite bookstore in one of my favorite U.S. cities.

That did not happen.

My quest to move proved a discouraging failure: I couldn’t find a job or affordable housing and all my predictive budgeting put me in massive debt. My dream started to look impossible.

In the wake of that disappointment, a new idea formed: What if I moved to Seattle? Continue reading “Seattle Reality Checks”

Posted in Books

R.I.P. It or Ship It: Round 9

For round 9, I picked

Ryan from You Know Me Well
and
Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey

Background
How do you know Ryan is a serious artist? He writes SLAM POETRY and works on a LITERARY JOURNAL, two things that would make him cool if he wasn’t such a terrible friend. Ryan pretends his “friends with benefits” relationship never happened. When confronted, HE NEVER APOLOGIZES. His feelings eclipse every wrong he’s ever done. In short, Ryan is the WORST.

Ryan
“I’m the real victim here!”

And then we have Catherine Morland, the patron saint of stupidity. Young, fanciful, and dumb as a rock, she creates AN ENTIRE MURDER PLOT out of nothing. That’s not fanciful; that’s insane. I don’t love that when people think of “bookish” characters, they list Hermione Granger, Harriet the Spy, and her. THIS IS NOT THE CHAMPION I ASKED FOR!

Ruining
Catherine Morland: ruining reading for women since 1817.

The Couple
Well…they’ve tied for first in my Most Hated Character contest.

Ryan loves slapping ill-fitting labels on himself and others; for instance, he, the oblivious, self-centered tool, is the Sensitive Artist, while his emotionally-savvy best friend is the Dumb Jock.

Related image
Cute.

Catherine sees things that aren’t real. She would buy into Ryan’s broody shtick real fast. She might even see good qualities he CLEARLY DOES NOT HAVE. Ryan must be who he says he is; Catherine’s read plenty of books with Sensitive Artists in them!

PEOPLE ARE MORE COMPLEX THAN THAT, CATHERINE.

I don’t know if you’ve picked up on the fact that I despise Catherine Morland.

Image result for catherine morland
I’M NOT SORRY

EVEN SO, I can’t help but think of the devastating fallout ahead.

Do you know how much energy it takes to feed someone’s self-perception? Constantly feeding another person’s ego while they roil with “torment” kills relationships.

What happens when Ryan’s facade finally fails and Catherine sees there’s nothing there?

She’ll discover that her relationship, much like creating murder mysteries out of thin air, has been a complete waste of time.

I wouldn’t wish that on ANYONE.

Verdict: R.I.P. IT

Posted in Books

Lauren’s Go-To Reads: New Favorites Editions

This list did not turn out how I planned.

I started writing about my all-time favorite books – Princess DiariesLunar Chronicles, all that junk – when I noticed a pattern.

I have a habit of acquiring books, thanks to unwise spending habits, a Seattle library card, and literary friends. I fill my pile with finds that others have recommended or that have interesting covers or that cost $8 at Target (a price that hits my stingy sweet spot. $9.99? What am I, made of money? $8? That means I can buy 4!) The floor of my studio is covered with brand new and gently used books I should be reading right now.

AND YET…

…I reread the same 11 books instead.

I think about these books constantly. I press them on good friends, whispering, “This book ruined my life.” I read them to stave off anxiety attacks and cure bad moods.

These aren’t long-time favorites that I’ve collected throughout my life, but more recent volumes that I’ve read over the last two years. These are the stories I need right now, the ones that reassure me I’m on the right track. Continue reading “Lauren’s Go-To Reads: New Favorites Editions”

Posted in Books

BOOK REVIEW: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

The premise: At the start of the book, fraternal twins Noah and Jude are best friends despite being opposites; Noah is shy, likes to draw, and folds in on himself, while Jude is more outgoing, feels comfortable around others (especially boys), and prefers making sculptures. Three years later, the two no longer speak and have almost switched personalities: Jude is on a boy boycott and Noah is now popular and athletic. Both are miserable. Told in alternating perspectives chronicling the past and the present, the twins figure out how to love their messed-up family, each other, and themselves.

Go buy a copy of this book immediately. Immediately.

I’m always amazed by Jandy Nelson’s writing. She is full-stop, italicized-and-underlined, jaw-drop, face-plant awesome.

She’s better at expressing emotions than I am at verbalizing them. She nails the most obscure emotions by writing off-the-wall descriptions about planets or moons or flying into the ceiling. When I read her books, I feel everything her characters feel and more without having to be persuaded. And she makes it seem easy (it’s not).

To be honest, it took me a while to get into this book, which starts in Noah’s perspective. Being in Noah’s head is so bizarre I thought for a while he had synesthesia. Despite its weirdness, the first chapter sets up Noah’s odd worldview and his family dynamics.

Then Jude’s chapter–taking place three years later–hits and everything is terrible.

After the time skip, Noah and Jude’s worlds are drastically different. I was shocked that so much happened so quickly without knowing why. The book’s organization sets up an intriguing mystery that lets readers slowly piece together exactly what went wrong with Noah and Jude’s family.

Nelson’s writing benefits from having two drastically different narrators. It was fascinating to see how each twin dealt with romance and grief and to compare their differing–and often faulty–perspectives on the same events. The title comes from a game invented by the highly competitive twins where they divide up the world–Noah takes the oceans but keeps the flowers, Jude keeps everything but gives up the sun, etc. The game underscores their complicated relationship; the twins love each other and have fun together, but always with an underlying spirit of intense competition.

The twins make poor decisions yet remain likeable. In other books, I can be overwhelmed by the amount of tension and conflict. Every event in this book contributed to the tension, ruining relationships and sometimes killing characters, but nothing that happened felt unnecessary. Each thing that happened tied into the eventual conclusion, leading to satisfying resolutions to every plot thread.

The plot thread that stuck out to me was Noah’s relationship with his dad. Gay, artistic, and sensitive, Noah has never felt accepted by his sports-loving father. In the latter half of the timeline, they bond over animal documentaries and tennis. Noah is both elated and worried that their fragile peace will be ruined when he comes out of the closet. Of all the storylines–romance included–this one was my favorite because it was treated with such delicacy. Noah’s dad isn’t a bad guy–he’s just a stranger in his own family, at a loss at how to interact with his two gifted kids. The culmination of Noah’s coming out story provided one of my favorite endings in recent YA history.

This is a book I want everyone to read and talk about, and one that has earned a spot on my shelf. Here’s a list of instructions inspired by one of the books best quotes:

  1. Buy this book.
  2. Read it.
  3. Make a wish.
  4. Take a (second or third or fourth) chance.
  5. Remake the world.