much-needed feminist poetry: shine your icy crown review

Summary (from the publisher):

amanda lovelace, the bestselling & award-winning author of the “women are some kind of magic” poetry series, presents shine your icy crown, the second installment in her new feminist poetry series, “you are your own fairy tale.” this is a story about not letting society dictate the limits of your potential. it’s time to take back your power & realize that you don’t need a king in order to be a queen.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

It’s never a complete reading year without reading at least one poetry collection from amanda lovelace. I’m so grateful I was able to kick off my new year reading this month with the second & latest installment in her “you are your own fairy tale” feminist poetry series. shine your icy crown is its own fairytale, interweaving the story of a princess who doesn’t want to accept a crown from a prince, a big sister’s advice to a little sister, and pieces of wisdom & advice.

amanda lovelace’s poetry always comes at the right time for me. I always look forward to sitting down with a set of page tabs and making note of all the poems that I really relate with. The poems that spoke to me the most in this collection reflected women empowerment and doing things for one’s self. Given the timeliness of inaugurating our first female vice president here in the US, I especially loved the poems about female leadership. My favorite section of the book was this first section, which alternates between the ‘little sister’ having darker and honest thoughts about herself and the ‘big sister’ giving her corresponding advice. I loved the poems dealing with creating your own story, (female) friendship, and dealing with crushes, unrequited men, and partnership. There were some poems across the collection that I couldn’t personally relate to, but I always appreciate that amanda lovelace’s poetry is so representative of different female experiences. Read More »

2021 Reading Goals

I wasn’t going to publish my 2021 reading goals because until last week, it didn’t feel like I had any.  I was writing my winter 2021 recent TBR additions post, when I realized I mentioned at least 2 reading goals and figured it was time to formalize them. I didn’t rush to formalize or even create goals for 2021 because let’s be honest, everything is in such a weird fluctuating state right now both in the world and even in my personal life. I’ll get more into this below when I talk about the amount of books I want to read this year, but I’m currently in my last semester in a fairly intense graduate program and by the time I settle in for the night, I’m often too tired to focus on reading – I find that I have the most energy to read right when I get home if I don’t have to do work or attend a remote class.

Read at least 75 books, with the ultimate goal of reading at least 100 – You can probably tell that there is a bit of an explanation to how many books I want to read in 2021. I do the most amount of reading in the summer months, reading 12-15 books a month between June through August. I then on average read anywhere from 5-10 books during the other months, based on school commitments and work. I definitely got a boost in 2020 due to the state of the world and that I was the type of person who looked (and still looks) to reading as a way to relax and be distracted.  I wasn’t commuting whatsoever, I wasn’t living with my friends (who are awesome but definitely distract me from reading), I worked and went to school from home, & had a ton of beach and pool days.

That all being said, I think I will be able to read at least 75 books in 2021, which I set as my Goodreads goal. The ultimate goal is to read at least 100 books, since I’ve been able to do so each year since 2018. The reach, REACH goal is to read more than 133 books in 2021, which was the amount of books I read in 2020. I think in order to do so, I would have to cut out a significant amount of TV time out of my life. I do ultimately read more than I watch… but then I get to my monthly wrap ups and am always astonished about how much TV I did ultimately watch. Also add in the fact that after a long day of work and school, I tend to favor TV over reading because I feel like I can’t focus as much. I’m always caught between knowing I want to read more but also feeling tired, but ultimately, reading is something that I forever want to be able to enjoy and not treat as a chore.

Read at least 1 non-fiction book every 1-2 months/ at least 6 non-fiction books total – 2020 was the year of non-fiction for me… okay, I think I only read 8 non-fiction books out of the 133 I did read, but that is the most amount of non-fiction I read any other year. I’m going to try to regularly incorporate non-fiction into my reading life in 2021 by reading at least 1 non-fiction book every 2 months. I’d like to beat my 2020 total by reading more than 8, but I find that a non-fiction book really has to grab me in order to read it and I generally don’t have many on my TBR (aka leave me recs in the comments).

Catch up reading popular contemporary books/contemporary romances – I somewhat started this goal in 2020, but I want to catch up on popular contemporary or contemporary books that I haven’t yet read either because of the hype scaring me away, I wasn’t originally interested in the book when it first came out, or I just haven’t gotten to them yet. Some priority books for me include The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes, The Friend Zone series by Abby Jimenez, Katherine Center’s books, and most of Christina Lauren’s backlist. Whenever I’m stressed IRL, I always reach for a contemporary book and I’m going to try & reach for these in those moments.

Actually reread books – Rereading is often a goal we all strive to do each year, and more often than not, I personally never reread as much as I’d like. I couldn’t tell you how many ‘rereading goals’ blog posts I’ve written over the past 4 years, but I could tell you that I most likely only reread maybe half of the books I listed. Between lockdown and my county library being closed for a few months last year, I ended up rereading 7 books, but once the libraries and bookstores opened up again, I basically kissed any rereading goals goodbye. I’d like to get back to my goal of rereading Rainbow Rowell’s contemporary books (I have Fangirl and Eleanor & Park left), Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Frost & Starlight and House of Earth & Blood before their respective sequels come out, Jenny Han’s Always & Forever, Lara Jean, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.

What are your reading goals for 2021? Do you have any contemporary romance or nonfiction recommendations? Share in the comments!

Recent TBR Additions: Winter 2021 Edition

Last year, I shared a few recent TBR additions posts and I want to keep up the trend more frequently in 2021 – maybe I’ll share  each season! I love these blog posts because it’s fun to share my recent reading cravings and also got feedback from you if you’ve read the book or have similar recommendations. I’m not the type of reader whose goal it is to get their TBR down to single digits or 0. I actually enjoy knowing that there’s always books I’m looking forward to reading one day.

shine your icy crown (you are your own fairy tale #2) by amanda lovelace – I absolutely loved the first collection in amanda lovelace’s you are your own fairy tale poetry series, break your glass sippers, in 2020 – so much so that I can’t believe I didn’t realize the second installment is coming out next week until I was generously given a copy for review by the publisher!! I cannot wait to dive into shine your icy crown on a cozy weekend day ASAP. shine your icy crown comes out on January 26. 

Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst – I discovered Jennifer Probst’s Our Italian Summer through Emily Henry’s Instagram last week. I recently read The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany, and I’m so ready to once again dive into the Italian setting. The book follows three generations of women as they embark on a summer vacation to trace their family roots in Italy. Read More »

evermore book tag

I was so swept up in the holidays and taking a small laptop detox in December that I didn’t consider if there was an evermore book tag floating around the book blogosphere. It’s been over a month since Taylor Swift’s second surprise album of 2020 came out, and I still can’t decide (not that it’s a high stakes decision) if I prefer folklore or evermore.Surprise, surprise, I love both so much! Right now, I’m leaning more towards folklore, but evermore has become my go-to car music lately. My current top favorite songs are “no body, no crime,” “marjorie,” and “ ’tis the damn season,” with much love for “right where you left me,” “dorothea,” and “long story short.”

The evermore book tag was created by Ahaana of Windows to World, and I personally discovered the tag through Erin of Rin’s Reads. 

willow – a book with a character you can’t help but fall in love with 

I absolutely love The Russian/Vlad from Lyssa Kay Adams’ Bromance Book Club series, and I can’t wait for his own installment coming out this summer, Isn’t It Bromantic?, featuring his mystery wife, Elena. 

champagne problems – a book with a broken relationship 

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle – there’s a few in this book, and I think it’s even more coincidental that I believe the characters drink champagne at some point. 

gold rush –  a book you love with all your heart

Yes it’s 2021, and yes I’m still keeping my love for Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl alive and well. 

Read More »

MATURE YA READ ABOUT FRIENDSHIP: Our Year of Maybe Review

Summary (from the publisher):

Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.

But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.

Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I really enjoy YA contemporaries that focus more on friendship and family dynamics rather than romance (don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE a good YA romance). I really enjoyed Rachel Lynn Solomon’s You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone and her 2020 release, Today Tonight Tomorrow, was my favorite book of the year. As one of my new favorite authors, I knew I had to read the only book of hers I hadn’t yet read, Our Year of Maybe. I was gifted a copy of the recently released paperback editio, which looks so good on one of my contemporary bookshelves!

Back to the book, Our Year of Maybe follows forever best friends and neighbors, Sophie and Peter. While Peter & Sophie have always been super close, from always hanging out to putting on performances for their families as Sophie dances and Peter plays piano, their friendship goes to the next level when Sophie donates her kidney to Peter. Peter has a chronic kidney disease, but after a successful transplant from Sophie, he’s able to go back to school and live his life outside of the confines of his house and his parents’ strict rules. But as Peter makes new friends without Sophie and Sophie gets swept into dance team and picturing a new life for herself, the two have to deal with their feelings for another. 

I know that was a lot to unravel about the book, but in short, Sophie and Peter at a few points in their relationship have had more-than-friends feelings for one another, but the lines between genuine love for each other as friends vs. romantic feels get even more muddy after Sophie donates her kidney to Peter and Peter begins to form new relationships and discover a new life for himself. By the end of the book, Sophie and Peter are both such different people. I really liked seeing their transformation, especially for Sophie, who often adapted her social life and future plans for Peter’s sake. Read More »

THRILLER & GYMNASTICS-INSPIRED READS: YA Mini Reviews

I think half of my reading back in December was dedicated to YA books, including the three books included in today’s mini review round up. One of these books has definitely received so much hype since the authors is a YA thriller favorite, while I’d love to see more hype and love for the last 2 books in today’s reviews!

The Cousins by Karen McManus

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I was craving a YA book early on December and since it was the Bad on Paper Podcast book club pick for December, I decided to pick up Karen McManus’  The Cousins. I’ve only read Karen McManus’ smash hit, One of Us is Lying, back in 2018. It wasn’t my FAVORITE book in the world, but I definitely understood the hype and liked Karen McManus’ writing style. Another YA mystery, The Cousins follows Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story, three cousins whose family has been estranged ever since their grandmother disinherited their parents over twenty years ago. When the cousins receive a letter from their grandmother asking them to work for the family resort for the summer, the three soon find themselves heading to Cape Cod for the season and trying to figure out what went wrong all those years ago. 

The Cousins is such a great thriller to binge read in a day or so this winter. I ultimately read it in three sittings, but if it hadn’t been for final exam season, I so would’ve read it in one go! You know that I love reading YA books with ‘rich kid’ settings, and I really enjoyed getting into the extravagance of the Storys’ lives on a fictional Nantucket meets Martha Vineyard’s inspired island. Although their grandmother and their parents as teens did have pretty privileged lives (we get a few chapters told from the teenage perspective of Milly’s mom), Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah’s lives aren’t exactly as extravagant as their parents used to be. I feel like we got to explore Aubrey and Jonah’s backstories quite well and their own secrets, but I do wish we got some on Milly- the only reason I think why we maybe don’t is because we explore her mom’s story as a teen. I admit I often had to return to the family tree in the beginning of the book because I kept getting their parents/the four siblings confused, since all their names begin with A. I really didn’t know what to expect from the mystery and I did enjoy the way the plot unraveled. It wasn’t the most jaw-dropping ending, but I thought the twists were delivered well and I honestly wouldn’t have guessed the big reveals in the beginning of the book. Will The Cousins be a super memorable read for me? Maybe not, but nevertheless, there’s just something about Karen McManus’ writing style that is so easy to get hooked into that makes The Cousins a fun binge read on a cold day this season. 

Break the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Hannah Orenstein’s Head Over Heels, a gymnastics-inspired contemporary romance, is one my favorite reads of 2020 that left me craving another book about gymnastics. Enter Jennifer Iacopelli’s 2020 release, Break the Fall, a YA book following a fictional group of young women on the USA gymnastics team headed to the 2020 Olympics, until a scandal involving their coaches and one of their teammates threatens their future at the Games. 

Break the Fall tackles the very real reality surrounding sexual assault and other scandals in the competitive gymnastics world. While the main protagonist, Audrey, is not directly involved in the scandals, her teammates’ experiences are obviously very traumatic and affect the entire team’s mentality and relationships. The book well balances these serious discussions while also focusing on Audrey’s preparation for the Games – something she never thought she’d actually experience between the competition and the back injury that almost ended her career. There is a lot of details about the type of moves and gymnastic events Audrey and her teammates perform, and I found myself glued to every paragraph in fear that they would make a wrong move or in anticipation for their final score. The book was so well-written and again balanced the gymnastics scenes with the serious conversations and emotions going through Audrey’s head. There is a slight romance between Audrey and another Olympic hopeful snowboarder, Leo. While I think the story still would’ve been strong without it, their relationship allowed us to see another side of Audrey, especially as she prepares for a life without gymnastics after the Games. Read More »

What I Read & Watched This Weekend: January 2021 Edition 

Is it just me, or is anyone still feeling some of the 2020 burnout seeping into the first few weeks of the new year? I can’t get into too much detail, but I started the first full week of my clinical practicum for my master’s program this week. Although I had a nice week getting back into the swing of things, I was absolutely drained by Friday afternoon and probably didn’t get as much work as I would’ve liked to over the weekend. I think my goal for 2021, or at least this semester, is to not let work pile up on me on Sunday and instead try to divide some work over both days of the weekend. Anyway, what I really did enjoy over this weekend was getting to cozy up with a few reads and deep dive into some travel vlog watching. 

What I Read

I try to read at night as much as I feel during the week, but my mind tends to favor mindlessly watching TV over reading.

Halfway through this week, I found myself missing reading, so I think it was Thursday night that I began Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza. This might not be the most comforting read for some, given politics & division in the US – & yes like many, last Wednesday’s news coverage of the Capitol definitely kept me glued to the couch and away from reading – but I really enjoyed it. The book follows Silicon Valley COO Charlotte as she moves her life and her family back to her home state of Pennsylvania as she runs for Senate. This was a really smart but super readable & addicting read that delved into female representation in politics, as well as the family & relationships intricacies Charlotte must deal with as she runs for office. Read More »

5 Star Predictions: 2021 Release Edition

You know that feeling you get before you even start reading a book that there’s a very likely possibility that you’re going to completely love it? That’s how I feel about the following 2021 releases! For the past two years, I’ve predicted what new books I would rate five stars as I read in the new year (mini spoiler alert but I went 4/6 for my 2020 new release five star predictions). Since I’ve talked about all the books below in my anticipated release posts for 2021, I’m not going to go into too much about the book itself. I’ll link to their Goodreads if you want to find out more about the synopsis, but I’ll be focusing on why I think it’ll be a five star read.

Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock | Release Date: April 1

I have so much love for Bonnie Sue Hitchcock’s The Smell of Other People’s Houses that I expect to fall in love with this new book and its writing style just as much. I really like books and honestly stories overall that unexpectedly interweave characters and storylines, and I believe that’s we can expect in this book about the lives of teens in Alaska and the American west. Add it on Goodreads 

Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle | RD: April 6

Sarah Hogle’s Twice Shy is another case where I think I’m going to absolutely love this one because I loved her debut, You Deserve Each Other, and the synopsis has me completely smitten – a woman inherits an estate from her great aunt and has to deal with the grumpy groundskeeper.  Add it on Goodreads Read More »

January & February 2021 Anticipated Releases 

One of the best ways to start off your bookish year is to add more books to your TBR, right? 

I mentioned in one of my 2021 most anticipated releases post last month that I knew I would be adding more upcoming releases after I published my lists and I was right (p.s. if you’re looking for books coming out throughout 2021, check out my most anticipated contemporary romances and YA books for the year). I was reading through blogs and Goodreads on New Year’s Day, and sure enough, I think I added 10 more books to my anticipated 2021 Goodreads shelf.

Today, I’ll just be focusing on my most anticipated books coming out this January and February from a mix of genres. I won’t be going in too much detail when it comes to some of these books, since I just included a few in my anticipated releases posts in December. 

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins | Release Date: January 5 

I totally admit that Rachel Hawkins’ adult thriller was one of those books I added to my TBR on New Year’s Day. I think the hype for this book as a Book of the Month pick and being on so many anticipated book lists finally made me really check out its synopsis. Although I’m not the biggest Jane Eyre fan, I am super interested to see Rachel Hawkin’s retelling through a domestic thriller. Add it on Goodreads 

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas | RD: January 12

I think everyone is going to be reading Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give prequel, Concrete Rose, at some point this year. The book follows Starr’s father, Maverick, as a seventeen-year old teen. Add it on GoodreadsRead More »

December 2020 Mini Reviews: Contemporary Edition

I always try to write reviews within 1-3 days right after finishing the book, but winter break brain has gotten to me – I’m not necessarily feeling guilty about this because I minimized as much time as possible on my laptop over the holidays and ate up as many books as possible. Between blogging in chunks this month and reading so, so much, I have plenty of mini reviews ready to go, including today’s reviews focused on contemporary romance and adult contemporary.

I know I usually include only 3 books in my mini review round-ups, but I decided to go with 5 of my recent reads from December since some of my reviews are on the shorter side (with the exception of one where I ranted a bit longer than I first thought while drafting the review, oops).

Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I’ve been doing my best to keep up with as many new contemporary romances as possible in 2020, which led me to pick up Jane Igharo’s debut novel, Ties That Tether. Its cover immediately caught my attention one day while scrolling through bookstagram and I was equally intrigued by its synopsis. The novel follows Azere, a twenty-five year old Nigerian Canadian woman who has always been pressured by her family to only marry a Nigerian man. Azere’s mom is always setting her up on dates with Nigerian men, and feels even more pressured after promising her father before he died that she would marry a Nigerian man. Things get complicated for Azere when she meets Rafael, who is everything Azere wants in a guy…except he’s white. Things get even MORE complicated for Azere and Rafael when their one night stand turns into something a lot more complicated than they could have imagined.

Although it has some classic contemporary romance lightness and humor, Ties That Tether is definitely one of the more serious contemporary romances I’ve read for its discussions surrounding race, ethnicity, and culture. I haven’t read a contemporary romance that deals with a conflict like the pressure Azere feels from her family to marry a man from her culture. The book goes beyond who Azere should marry, as Azere has felt she has never been able to embrace both of her cultures as a Nigerian AND Canadian woman. 

What I ultimately wasn’t didn’t like about Ties That Tether was the romance. I was never really super in love with Rafael, and I didn’t think the few chapters from his perspective were necessary. Although they added some mystery, I think his big reveals would’ve still be impactful strictly coming from Azere’s perspective. I really thought at one point that Azere was perhaps going to realize that Rafael wasn’t the guy for her. I never really felt any deep chemistry between them, which could’ve resulted from the fact that they both have something to hide. I wish Azere would have been honest with him earlier about how her family feels about who she should marry. I also wasn’t super in love with the love triangle, as Azere’s mom keeps pressuring her to date a guy from her past… and he keeps just randomly showing up??

I enjoyed the book mostly for Azere’s personal growth and as much as she killed me for her stubborness, seeing how Azere and mom would resolve their conflict. I know a few readers have been mixed on revealing this spoiler, so I’ll stay vague, but there’s an added layer to Azere and Rafael’s relationship that I personally haven’t read too much in contemporary romances. An addition to their relationship (trying to be as non-spoilery as possible) puts so much pressure on their progress and causes more anger from Azere’s mom. Although Ties That Tether isn’t my new favorite contemporary romance, I enjoyed it because the novel tackles a few themes and plot elements I personally haven’t encountered  too much in other contemporary romances.

A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jenny Holiday’s A Princess for Christmas is the perfect holiday book for readers who love Hallmark Christmas movies or even some of Netflix’s cheesy Christmas movies. The book’s synopsis is literally a play on what’d you expect in one of those films, and the book does have a few references to Hallmark movies. Leo, a cab driver living in NYC doing his best to make ends meet and raise his little sister, gives an unexpected cab ride to the princess of Eldovia, Marie. Marie is in the city on royal business, but soon finds herself trying to spend any free opportunity with Leo and his sister, Gabby, until she decides to invite them back to Eldovia for the holidays. 

A Princess for Christmas was the quintessential, fluffy holiday read I was craving. Is it the best book I ever read? Not exactly. But was it better than most cheesy Christmas movies I could’ve watched instead? Absolutely! A Princess for Christmas was just so atmospheric. Like my recent Dash & Lily watch on Netflix, it made me so nostalgic for holiday-time NYC, like the scene where Leo and Marie goes ice skating in what I believe was Rockefeller Center. The Eldovia setting was also the holiday away of many of your dreams (picture any royal town in a Hallmark or Netflix movie), with Leo and Gabby staying in Marie’s palace in the snow. I knew A Princess for Christmas was a romance, but due to its fluffiness, I didn’t expect the romance scenes to be that STEAMY. Overall, A Princess for Christmas was the cute & festive holiday read that you may be crave during winter. Read More »