The-Night-Circus-Book-Review

Hi all! I loved The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Review below, but basically, this book was enchanting, mysterious, elegant, and a total page turner. I’m planning a “Midnight Dinner” with some friends this month to celebrate the Circus of Dreams. Bookish parties are the best, aren’t they?

Brit-Bennett-the-Mothers-book-review
Oh, my heart! This book aches the whole way through. I was absolutely astonished by the writing.
The Mothers is about a young girl named Nadia who tries to cope after her mother kills herself, the catalyst for Nadia’s pursuit of any opportunity that makes her feel—any opportunity to forget her hurt. She meets Luke, the pastor’s son, and the teen romance ends abruptly, but she can’t stop imagining the life she could have had. In her suffering, she forms an unlikely friendship with a God-fearing girl named Aubrey. The characters are molded by their hurt over the years, each moving through their lives like ghosts, but they remain connected.

This is truly one of the most heart-breaking books about grief, lost love, and the severed intimacy of family. I almost couldn’t bear it. But in its ruthless untangling, there’s a bravery to it and a quiet acceptance that startles me awake.

Brit Bennett has the tragic gift of understanding the misunderstandings of people—the truth behind closed doors and the secrets we carry in our loneliness and our grief. I was weighed down by what lay behind her words. As the mothers said, “the weight of what has been lost is always heavier than what remains.” But, my goodness, I was stunned by how beautiful it was: not just the poetic language, but the way she dissects emotion and makes it uncomfortably tangible. She doesn’t apologize for it. I loved that about this story. I loved Aubrey’s story especially, and I was extremely impressed by how she fleshed out the Mothers’ collective voice. Every “we,” and “she-said-he-said” was a perfect echo of the “church gossip” of the south; I was surprised, at times, that it took place in Southern California. I was also surprised by how much we, as readers, can peer into Luke’s thoughts, motivations, desires, and fears.

What else can I say? This book made me grieve for my gender. I felt the weight of a woman’s shame—a mother’s shame— that presses and flattens you out on all sides—the shame and pressures laid upon every mother and every girl who will one day be expected to grow into a mother. “Magic you wanted was a miracle, magic you didn’t want was haunting.” “Suffering pain is what made you a woman.” Even so, this book made me proud to be a woman. I’m softened by their need for love and their need to love. They feel hurt beyond repair, but the heart is stronger. In the midst of suffering, one character remembers walking to the end of a pier—a pier that must be rebuilt time and time again because of the storms. “She wondered if that was the point, if sometimes the glory was in rebuilding the broken thing, not the result but the process of trying.”

Oh, there’s so much we don’t know about the human heart. We experience it all with Nadia: how a loved one’s face she aches to remember slowly slips away while the grainy image on a sonogram never leaves her.

There’s no doubt about it. I will definitely pick up Brit Bennett’s next book.

editor-desk

Hey wordsmith!

I realized people stumbling upon my editing blog posts may not realize I’ve been talking about my life as an editor over on my YouTube channel. I’m overdue for another relevant video, but go ahead and hop over if you’re looking for more info on the best editing books, how I became an editor, and more! x

Edit on, and may the Oxford comma be with you!

aristotle-and-dante-discover-the-secrets-of-the-universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a touching coming-of-age story about a fifteen-year-old boy named Ari and his best friend, Dante, and their unique experiences in El Paso, Texas, as Mexican-American teenagers. I listened to the audio version of this story, and while I do believe it was overhyped, I’m fully aware that my personal listening experience could have been completely different if I had physically read the book. Don’t get me wrong: Lin-Manuel Miranda was a brilliant narrator and I thoroughly enjoyed his voice for all of the characters.

I also enjoyed the story’s depiction of family and the secrets we carry, vulnerability and how we all fight our “private wars,” and the authenticity of intense teenage friendships and romance. My heart ached for Ari as he talked about every family member, especially his father and the emotional distance between them. Dante was perfectly loaristotle-and-dante-discover-the-secrets-of-the-universe-book-coverveable in every way, and I couldn’t help but smile at his sensitive spirit and quirky one-liners. I also really, really enjoyed the dream sequences in this book. They were telling and beautiful and tragic—and they seemed to unravel a part of Ari that he didn’t know was there: the struggle he constantly faced to find the secrets of the universe and the secrets of himself. Also, the fact that he named his dog Legs makes me so incredibly happy.

As much as I wanted to love this book, however, I have to say that I was mostly underwhelmed. I enjoyed the story and thought it was cute and touching, but overall, I expected much more, and I’m not sure it gripped me as much as it gripped other readers. I’m all for angsty teen protagonists, but I want the angst to be founded in something real—even if I can’t understand it as a reader.

It’s understandable for a confused character to be upset and not know why or sad and not know why, but I found that I just couldn’t connect with Ari’s anger. I tend to empathize with angry characters, especially “strange” teen characters who are feeling emotions intensely for the first time and learning about themselves and the world around them. But the interior monologue, so often, was and that made me mad. I don’t know why or I really hate that.

I get that Ari is an emotionally stunted character learning to accept his own vulnerability—and that he does transition and grow thanks to Dante’s emotional honesty—but I don’t know if I fully believed Ari at times. When I DID believe him though—and his angst was founded in something real or he dug a little deeper—I was deeply moved. Those moments were in there, but in my opinion, they were few and far between.

It’s not that I was looking for fancy, flowery descriptions or vivid scenes, I just wanted something more . . . delicate. Sometimes the simple, subtle sentences jumped out at me, such as: “Love was always something heavy for me, something I had to carry.” I loved this, and I think my favorite parts of the book were when Ari was with his parents or Dante’s parents.

Overall, I enjoyed most of this book and I can see how it could be a favorite for some people. Ari and Dante are so endearing, and I also acknowledge that my listening experience may have affected how I feel about the story overall (the angst just doesn’t sit well with me when I listen to young adult books on audio, and I plan to avoid listening to YA books on audio in the future).

I said on my BookTube channel that I didn’t have any resolutions or goals for 2017, but I’ve changed my mind in, oh, a day? I’m just a sucker for resolutions, you guys. I wasn’t always this way, but I’m finally coming around to the truth that I am a goal-oriented person. My downfall, however, is always my all-or-nothing goals. I tell myself I’m going all in or there’s no point to it all, which is just silly. Thankfully, I don’t feel that way about readathons or monthly TBRs, and reading in general. Reading has always been something I enjoy when I’m relaxed, and so I can’t actually control it. I’m 100 percent a mood reader, so even though I strive to complete monthly TBRs, I don’t fret when it doesn’t happen. And more importantly, I don’t quit reading altogether (exercise experiences, anyone?).

So yes, these are more of goals than resolutions. Goals are more about achieving attainable milestones, whereas resolutions are more about instilling lifelong changes. When it comes to resolutions, I’m as vague as they come: be mindful, encourage creativity, move and breathe, read and write more, more yoga, eat healthy, etc. Sometimes the smaller resolutions are nice. I once knew someone whose resolution was simple: to only drink coffee with two hands, meaning she couldn’t be chugging coffee at her desk with an ever looking to-do list, and she couldn’t multitask while she enjoyed her morning cup. She had to have both hands on the mug and be present. I loved it. Sadly, I wasn’t able to commit to this simple resolution, and I won’t be able to this year either (for reasons I’ll explain in a bit…).

BOOKISH GOALS

  1. Read at least 50 books in 2017. This may not seem like a lot for most avid readers, but I’m a pretty slow reader. I’m also hoping to exceed 50 books, but I wanted to set the bar a little bit lower for my first Goodreads challenge. I hope tracking a Goodreads goal is more intentional and less of a burden, but we’ll see how it goes!
  2. Meet up with BookTube friends! A few of my BookTube friends and I are planning a trip to Chicago this year, and I can’t wait to meet them. I’d love to meet up with several BookTubers/book lovers because this community has been so special to me. I was planning to go to BEA this year, and honestly, I still might, but it’s definitely up in the air for now. Either way, I want to meet some Internet friends!
  3. Host a readathon. I think it would be so fun to host a readathon with some other bookish friends. I’ve talked to a few other BookTubers about it, but we haven’t decided when it will be or what the goals/theme would be. Running the Twitter sprints for the summer BookTubeAThon was such a blast, and I’d love to do something like that again.
  4. Post a book review, in blog or video form, at least once a month. This may not seem like a lofty goal to most readers, but I am notoriously bad at consistently posting separate book reviews. I love to do it, but it just takes extra time. This year, I’d love to aim to review every book I read, but I know that isn’t really realistic. Hopefully I can include as many book reviews as possible! I love the idea of blogging my book reviews, too, because I’m definitely able to get more of my critical thoughts down through writing rather than filming. But either way, I’m going to make this a goal!

PERSONAL/PROFESSIONAL GOALS

  1. Take at least four courses through the University of Chicago toward fulfilling my Editing certificate. This is something I’ve wanted to do professional for a long time, and I’m finally taking the plunge! My first class is in March, and I’m hoping to knock out the four core classes, if not the first three. It’s going to be challenging to participate in these four- to six-week courses on top of freelance work, a social life, hobbies, etc., but I know I’m going to learn so much, and I’m ready to advance my knowledge and skills in the publishing world. I’ve taken many other editing courses in the past, but I’ve always been most excited about this particular certificate.
  2. Give up coffee. Yep. You read that right. I know. But listen, take a deep breath, people. This is a decision I didn’t want to make, and it took me a loooong time to admit to myself that this was something I should try. I love coffee more than the average human, that’s for sure. My husband roasts coffee, and we’re total snobs about it. I have a regular coffee maker, chemex, french press, and aero press coffee machine. I. LOVE. COFFEE. I also don’t love anxiety. I’ve heard that being caffeine free can do wonders for people with anxiety, and there are many other perks, too. Apparently, being caffeine free helps you sleep better, have more energy (Lord knows not in the beginning), generally feel calm throughout the day, and it doesn’t hurt the wallet, either. I already don’t drink sodas or energy drinks, so coffee is the main way I consume caffeine, and I’m going to try and ease myself off of it. This may be in the middle of the year that I try this or at the end. I’m not sure, but I want to try it. I know I may not stick with it, and that’s okay. I just want to see what all the hype is about and hopefully do something to help my anxiety.
  3. Inspire more breath and movement. Okay, you caught me: I Know this is a resolution and not a goal. But going along with the whole anxiety issue, I’ve learned that yoga is absolutely essential to my life—not just a nice thing to make me feel better. If I go a week without yoga, I can feel it. I don’t take time to breathe, be mindful, stretch, and ultimately, relax my muscles. It’s so, so important to my mental health. I would say it’s much more important to my mental than physical health, but the physical benefits don’t hurt either. The past few months, I’ve gotten out of the habit of consistently practicing yoga because of illnesses, travel, and general complacency. Not this year! I’m going to be stronger physically and less anxious mentally. I’m going to push myself to remember to BREATHE correctly, whether that’s in a yoga class or sitting at my desk. I want to learn to not only recognize fear, anxiety, and stress, but disrupt it. Change the way I respond to it. A lot of people tell me they like to use a word or phrase to motivate them in the new year instead of resolutions. For me, that word is breath. 2017 is the year I breathe.
  4. No phone in the bed at night. Here’s my tendency to be an all-or-nothing person. I’ve already broken this one this year, but I’m trying to remember it’s about progress. I want to be off my phone less in general. I already don’t have Facebook, which is incredible, but I love the Internet so much. I’m constantly on Twitter, Instagram, and (duh) YouTube. It’s such a fun part of my everyday life. But, being on my phone so much, especially right before bed, is so distracting. I want to be able to read more without picking up my phone every five seconds; I want to walk my dog, have late-night conversations with the hubs, prepare for the day ahead, and so much more. I already don’t watch a ton of television—well, okay, I binge every now and then—but I want to cut down on screen time. Having my phone in another room at night will also help me when my alarm goes off to get out of bed and stop snoozing. Side note: why is snoozing the best feeling ever?

    So those are my goals. I’d love to know some of yours—bookish or personal! Cheers to another year of life, love, and reading!