Book as Refuge: What I Read During the Pandemic

“Indeed, who has a greater right to public respect than the man of color fighting for freedom after having experienced all the horrors of slavery? To equal the most celebrated warriors he need only keep in mind all the evils he has suffered.”
― Tom Reiss, the Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

I know it’s been some time since I last posted anything, and I am truly sorry for my disappearance. Towards the end of last year, work was both chaotic and stressful which led me into a massive reading slump. However, right when things started to calm down, the world stopped due to the Coronavirus. Like everyone else, I was a bit nervous and scared about this pandemic. Standing in long lines at grocery stores, being holed up at home, and receiving devastating updates from news outlets all had me craving for some kind of diversion from the unfolding crisis. And like a true bibliophile, I turned to books as my refuge during these trying times. To my amazement, I’ve read a total of five books last month! Now, I know that’s not an impressive number, but if you’re a slow reader like myself, you’ll agree that this is a colossal achievement. With that being said, here are the books that have kept me sane during this time, along with a brief review:

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory — This book was not for me. I didn’t enjoy it one bit. The plot was OK but the execution was very cliche. The characters were annoying and the romance felt cheesy and rushed. I normally don’t DNF a book — a bookish terminology which means Did Not Finish — and because I bought this book with my own money, I owed it to myself to finish reading it no matter how boring the story was.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter — This book should have been featured above as the second novel to the right but I grabbed the wrong publication for this photo. Oops. Anyway, this book was fantastic! Absolutely moving! I normally avoid any holocaust novels because I just can’t stomach the horrific truth. However, I accidentally purchased this book without reading the synopsis, thinking it was a romance novel. However, I am so glad that I obtained this amazing book! The author was inspired to write this incredible true story of a Jewish family that got separated at the start of World War II. Finding out more about what the Jewish community really went through in order to survive shocked me to my core. This book made me cry, laugh, and cry even more.

Continue reading “Book as Refuge: What I Read During the Pandemic”

Conquer Slow Reading with Five Simple Tips

I’ll just come right out and say it: I am a slow reader. I guess you can say I finally accepted this hard truth when I noticed that all of my favorite BookTubers’—that’s what we call a YouTuber in the book community—monthly wrap up videos consisted of 10 or more novels. Nevermind that I have a stack of unread books at home that just keeps growing. I normally find myself rereading almost every page just to make sure I understand every detail since I am easily distracted. I often have to pause movies or TV shows so that I can read the subtitles before they disappear from the screen. You can imagine what I go through when I’m at the theater. Yet, none of this highlights my embarrassing plight more than my Goodreads account. I’ve managed to read only 13 of the 50 books I planned to read last year. I’m serious. This is insanely ridiculous. I have no idea how some people can easily knock out seven or more books within a month. It’s unnatural! One BookTuber recently gushed about the 17 books she read last month! Not only do I envy her, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that she’s obviously not human.  Although I don’t possess any supernatural power to shred through 17 books in a month, I’ve put together five weapon-like tips that have helped me to battle against my slow reading while holding on to a bit of dignity.

  • Size Does Matter — Let’s be real here. If you’re trying to find the quickest way to read It by Stephen King within a week, I genuinely wish you good luck. I am normally realistic when it comes to how long it’ll take me to finish reading a book with over five hundred pages. I’d give myself a reasonable deadline based on the length of a given read. Why does this work? Well, if you’re brave enough to read a thick book, then creating an appropriate deadline based on the size of that book will help you stay motivated to successfully complete your novel.  
  • Section it Off — I know this sounds confusing, but stay with me here. Sectioning off the chapters of your book simply means grouping a few chapters together so as to have a smooth and enjoyable reading experience that will in turn, help eliminate the common stress of slow reading. In my case, after I’ve selected my next read, I’ll count the number of chapters it contains, and then divide them into small reading sections using Post-It tabs. For example, if a book has 20 chapters, I’ll divide the book into sections of five chapters each. This method will help you focus your attention on one section at a time instead of the total number of pages overall. 
  • Plan it Out — I’m not going to lie here, I totally stole this tip from my college years. Reading Bible-like textbooks with absolutely boring topics was a real struggle back in the day. However, what kept me on top of my reading assignments was creating a schedule that I followed religiously. I put together a plan where I am completely honest with myself about both the time and amount of pages I can get through on a given day. By creating a reading schedule, which takes into consideration the number of pages you wish to complete, you not only get a sense of accomplishment when sticking to your schedule, but you also retain a level of comprehension while enjoying your novel. 
  • Readathon is a Must — This tip is literally self-explanatory but for those of you who have never heard of this term, a readathon is basically where you read all day long. Many BookTubers usually host readathons with a cool theme. My favorite readathon to participate in is the Harry Potter theme hosted by G from Book Roast. As if that’s not enough, there’s also fun reading challenges like selecting a book with a particular cover or reading with others from the same spot in a book selection to name a few. I’m always amazed at the number of publications I am able to get through when I join a readathon.  

Audiobooks Save Lives— I strongly believe that audiobooks are a godsend for slow readers like myself. I have an Audible subscription which I enjoy immensely because I can choose to follow along with my hard copy, or multitask if I’m pressed for time. Also, you can adjust the narrator’s speed if you’d like. I normally stick to the regular speed. If you want to avoid a monthly subscription, you can download apps like Libby or Chirp that also work in conjunction with your local library, to help you enjoy great audiobooks.

While I may not have reached my reading goal last year, I know I will this year. These simple tips have helped me to read with comprehension while simultaneously, enjoying some amazing reads. There are times where I am hit with a major reading slump, and the amount of books I wish to read just doesn’t happen, and that’s OK. The most important thing is having fun! What are some of your reading goals this year?

Again, thanks for reading!

Twenty Fun Facts About Yours Truly


Sweets are my Achilles heel!

If there’s one thing I hate most, it’s writing about myself. Seriously. As embarrassing as this may sound to some, I usually hit a massive blank wall when it comes to sharing a few things about me. You would think that writing about who I am would be the easiest task to do given that I’ve hung out with myself since birth, but nope. Instead, I just have a staring contest with my computer. As a matter of fact, it took eons for me to come up with my first sentence when drafting my About Me page for this blog. Yet, because I want to get better acquainted with you all, I thought it would be best to just list some fun facts about me. On with the show! 

  1. The hobby I could never give up is, of course, reading and writing. I know this doesn’t come as a surprise. 
  2. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched Gladiator. It’s literally one of my all-time favorite films. Who could ever forget that famous line? “Are you not entertained?” An absolute classic!
  3. My alcoholic drink of choice is strawberry mojito. Delicious!
  4. I mostly listen to movie scores. I don’t know why, but the music not only moves you, but it also tells its own story as well. I definitely recommend listening to Let Them Up by Junkie XL from the motion picture Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s really moving.
  5. I am lactose intolerant. Though I was never diagnosed by a doctor, my body has made it clear that it would be best to avoid all dairy products. But I don’t. 
  6. My name in Greek means wisdom. I plan on getting a tattoo of an owl but I’m not sure if I’m ready for the pain. 
  7. Sweets are my Achilles heel. I love Oreos, Reese Buttercup, Chocolate and Churros, Tres Leches, and so much more! 
  8. I spend far too much money on books. We don’t need to go into details with this one. 
  9. If I could live in any era of history, it would have to be the Revolutionary era (1775–1783) because that’s when we took a stand against the world’s greatest empire at the time and said “enough”! Our founding fathers embarked on a dangerous quest for equal representation and they pushed forward regardless of the consequences. Of course, I would want to live in that era as a white woman. 
  10. The thing I love most about me is my ability to forgive people no matter how bad they’ve hurt me. I am somewhat a passive person. 
  11. If I could live anywhere in the world it would be London. I just love the history, the culture, and not to mention the accent. 
  12. I hate anything horror/thriller. If it’s scary, you can have it. If it’s demonic, I will throw my Bible at you and run. It’s that simple. 
  13. I have never been to Disney. I still don’t understand why I haven’t since I live in Florida. Yeah, maybe next year I’ll go. 
  14. I suffer from trypophobia. I can’t even begin to describe what that is without making my skin crawl. Google it. 
  15. I am a very friendly and awkward person. I don’t know, I love meeting new people, but then I would ruin that first impression by trying to be funny. 
  16. I hate both the taste and smell of mint. I can tolerate minty toothpaste, but that’s about it. 
  17. My favorite season is fall. Though I live in a state that only has one season, I can still feel a slight change in the weather during the fall. 
  18. I consider myself an undercover history aficionado. I plan on sharing some history-related content soon.   
  19. I suffer from depression. Again, I haven’t been diagnosed with depression, but the symptoms are there. I have to constantly work around the clock to keep my mind from slipping into that dark place in my head where the thoughts of hurting myself fatally are always lurking.  
  20. My favorite music composer is Hans Zimmer! — Need I say more?

I hope you guys were able to get a feel of who I am. If there’s something you would like to know about me, just shoot me a question in the comments section!

Thanks for stopping by!

Five Deliciously Spooky Reads for October

What do you get if you cross Bambi with a ghost? Bamboo! —Joshua T., Cheltenham

OK, let’s get one thing straight. I detest anything horror, thriller, and definitely demonic. You will never catch me watching Hereditary or reading any of Stephen King’s novels. In fact, I never really understood how most people can get scared stiff, whether it be by a book or a movie,  and yet are able to sleep peacefully without any care in the world. The last time I was forced to watch a scary movie, going to bed afterward was the worst experience of my life. I kept anything that produced light on in my room. I had two copies of my personal Bibles on each of my nightstands, and I made sure that God himself wouldn’t be able to open my closet door in the middle of the night. Alright, that was a bit much, but I’m sure you get the point. With all that, I know you’re a little confused by the title of this post. No, I am not contradicting myself. I still loathe all things scary, but I also want to muster up the courage to finally read a spooky book that is not intended for middle-graders. Though I have a feeling I might regret this idea, I’ve bravely compiled a small TBR for this month, which will only be read during daylight hours. Let’s get started!

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley —  This is a book that I think will help me dip my toes into the thriller genre without suffering a heart attack.  I am actually looking forward to reading it.
  • The Other Woman by Sandie Jones — I am playing it somewhat safe with this girl-against-girl thriller showdown. I’ve heard good things about this book, so I don’t anticipate any nightmares with this one either.
  • Lock Every Door by Riley Sager — We’re inching closer to possible paranoia anxiety with this novel. Some of my favorite Booktubers have gushed about how amazing it is. I’m not sure if I’ll have the same experience, but I know can make it to the end with this read. I think.
  • A Monster Call by Patrick Ness — OK, I’ll have to admit that I’m actually curious about this read. I’ve seen the trailer, but I never watched the film—you guys know why. However, from what I’ve read from a few reviews, this book has a bittersweet ending. I’m all for it!
  • The Turn of the Key By Ruth Ware — And finally, the mother of all evil! When I first heard about this book, I instantly made up my mind that I wasn’t going to read it, let alone even look at it when I visit my local bookstore. Yet, here I am with this thriller story in my possession. This novel will definitely put my bravado to the test for sure.

I know this TBR might not meet your standard of creepy, but I am taking a gigantic step out of my comfort zone. I will come clean and say that at times, I would come across a scary book that actually sounds so interesting, but reflecting on the consequences to follow, has helped me stay clear from reading such novels. 

Have you ever read a book outside of your comfort zone? Or what about a genre that you never thought you would enjoy? I would love to read about your experience! Remember to share it below!

Thanks for stopping by!

If I Was Your Girl Review: Big-Hearted Novel About Being Who You Are By Meredith Russo

“For as long as I could remember, I had been apologizing for existing, for trying to be who I was, to live the life I was meant to lead.” 

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Eighteen-year-old Amanda Hardy is ready for a fresh start at Lambertville High School. After being severely bullied at her old school and ending up in the hospital with multiple injuries, Amanda wants nothing more but to survive her senior year and move far away from the south after graduation. However, unlike her life back in Smyrna, Georgia, Amanda is the new it-girl and is finally creating genuine friendships. Yet, she has a deep secret that she is desperately trying to keep from ruining her new life. In her old school, Amanda was known as Andrew. After meeting the cute and easygoing Grant, Amanda’s resolve is put to the test as she gets closer to him.

This book is absolutely a page-turner from the very beginning. However, what makes this publication so beautiful is that it is a fantastic work of fiction by an actual transgender author. In her debut novel, Meredith Russo perfectly communicates the experience of being a transgender teenager very clearly, while indirectly highlighting the importance of being true to oneself and maintaining a level of self-worth. I enjoyed this story so much because of what Amanda Hardy had to endure. In high school, bullying is a social norm, and Amanda—being as different as she is—makes for an easy target. Yet, it’s usually how one deals with being bullied that will either help them to push forward or lead them to fall apart. At the beginning of the story, we meet Amanda who is extremely terrified and shy, crumbling inside when she receives awkward looks or hurtful comments. But towards the end, Amanda develops the courage to be proud of who she is and refuses to apologize for choosing to live her true self.

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Dealing with Depression: How Books Became My Remedy

This is a post I never thought I would write. I’m usually an expert on suppressing my true feelings, but recently, I’ve been in a constant battle with my emotions. I would burst into tears unsuspectingly, avoid spending time with friends, and hibernate in my room while contemplating the easiest, and most effective way, of hurting myself. Like in most cases, my depression is the result of a traumatic experience I endured near the beginning of this year. I had hoped by now that this devastating pain would just go away, but I’ve realized that rushing my recovery or denying my feelings won’t solve anything. Although it’s recommended to seek professional help when dealing with depression, reading is one of the few things that has helped me to stay afloat.

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A Broken Promise Book Haul

At the beginning of this year, I made a promise to myself that I would never set foot in any bookstore until I’ve conquered the mountain-like piles of  “To Be Read” (TBR) books that inhabited my bedroom floor. Had my life depended on me keeping this covenant, I would’ve been dead by now. I have habitually visited my local Barnes and Noble since then, and have walked out with what should’ve been one, but instead, five or more books. Despite the fact that: (1) I probably have too many books at this point, (2) I’m running out of space on my bookshelf, and (3) my bank account is on the verge of depletion,  I give you my “I-shouldn’t-have-bought-these-books-and-am-not-sure-when-I’ll-read-them” book haul with a teeny weeny synopsis! 

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This Middle-Grade Book will have you Sleeping with a Nightlight

“I would say it’s a pleasure to meet thee, Prosperity Oceanus Redding, but truly I only anticipate the delights of destroying thy happiness. . . ” –Alastor

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

12-years-old Prosperity –Prosper–, Redding is not like the rest of his famous and ambitious family members. He’s often bullied, doesn’t do well in school, and his relationship with his twin sister, Prue, is drifting even further apart. However, although his family is extremely wealthy and powerful, there’s a dark, hidden secret that is credited to the family’s fame. One of his ancestors made a deal with a demon many years ago for fame and glory in exchange for their souls. Like most contracts, the deal was broken. Now, the demon is hellbent on taking the family down. And Prosper is his first victim. 

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Circe By Madeline Miller

I had begun to know what fear was. What could make a god afraid? I knew that answer, too. A power greater than their own.” – Circe

Circe is an immortal coming of age story about Western literature’s first female witch. Similarly to her debut novel, The Songs of Achilles, Madeline Miller once again creatively explore the second major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. Miller beautifully responds to Homer’s Odyssey by retelling the encounter between the goddess of magic and wily Odysseus after the Trojan War.

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Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

My mom did what school didn’t. She taught me how to think.”
– Trevor Noah

Born a Crime is a personal glimpse into Trevor Noah’s life both during and after the apartheid in South Africa. It is also a story about his relationship with his stubborn, courageous, and extremely religious mother who is determined to save him from the cycle of poverty and violence.

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

“There was a vividness to him, even at rest, that made death and spirits seem foolish.” —Patroclus

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of Homer’s “Iliad” which portrays the epic battle between the ancient Kingdom of Troy and Sparta. Madeline Miller, the author of this novel, creatively explores one of the most important events in Greek mythology from the perspective of an often forgettable, but equally vital, player of Achilles’ glory: Patroclus.

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