Marvel Monday: Black Widow's Forever Red Book Review

You don't need to know the history of Natasha Romanov (AKA Black Widow) to read this book. If you've never picked up a comic in your life, ever had any interest in superheroes don't let that stop you from having any interests at all. You don't need to know the whole history, know the artists, writes, issue numbers, or volume collections. Even the differences between the movies and the comics and pick them apart. What's important is you have an interest in something; I think it's wonderful and you should grow that interest. If you're interested in getting into it, this book is a perfect start. 

Black Widow: Forever Red

I got Forever Red book during BEA/BookCon, and it's been sitting on my shelf for months. At first, the title sounded like a Taylor Swift song to me (later on I found out it's actually a perfume from her, ha) but I finally got around to reading it and I finished it in 3 days. It was so good.  It's a YA book from a YA writer, Margaret Stohl, from famed Beautiful Creatures series. She's an unexpected author for Natasha but captures her so well in her writing, it gave me a better glimpse of her character beyond the comics. Natasha is fighting off her emotions but even after years of suppressing what happened to her in the Red Room (a Russian operation to train young orphan girls to become assassins and spies) she deals with her deadly father figure. There's a new character, Ava Orlova, and without giving much away, and they help each other throughout the book in unexpected plots with an adventurous twist. 

Marvel doesn't have much marketing on Black Widow so I was surprised this book was published. At this point, as a Black Widow fan, I will take anything I can get, and this is a book I will happily support. If Marvel notices a jump in book sales, maybe they'll finally bite for a movie. Preorder the book here

The 52 Lists Project Book + A Giveaway {Giveaway Closed}

I have been sitting on this gem for some time and I'm so excited to finally share. Friend, fellow blogger, and just all around inspiration Moorea Seal released her new book, 52 Lists Project. I knew when I was asked to review a copy I would like it. I didn't expect to love it so much. If you love Moorea's aesthetic, you will love this book. A couple years ago, she began her weekly lists post on her personal blog and dived into documenting what she loves, what challenges her, and what she thrives on. The readers were able to participate on their own and it became one of her most popular posts. Forward to today, it's now in hardback and it's so so beautiful. The details are what make the book- the thick pages, the gold trim and spine (imagine how beautiful it will look on your bookshelf), and the contents of the book may be slim since it's a diary, but they're powerful topics. I am kicking myself every year for not doing more scrapbooking. I want to do something a little more than journaling, I want to leave a little bit of a who I was, who I'm growing to be, and this is a good start. Below are some sneak peeks of what's inside. 

I feel honored to not only introduce 52 Lists Project Book, but one of my US readers will be winning a copy. Fill out the form below to enter. If you don't want to wait to win, you can buy it on Amazon or directly from Moorea Seal Shop. Giveaway ends in 7 days and winner will be chosen at random via Your email and information will be deleted and never shared once giveaway has ended. Good luck! 

UPDATE! Thank you everyone who entered. The winner is now emailed and if they don't reply within 2 days, I will try another winner. 

Trigger Warning Should Be The Title of This Book

I wanted to pick up the A Little Life after reading so many positive reviews on it. I started this book months ago and every time I picked it up, it was so so painful to read but Hanya Yanagihara's writing is so beautiful, I didn't want to stop altogether. I wondered if the 2 years of grief therapy could be easily unraveled by 700+ pages. It wasn't but it was heartbreaking, and crushing. I’ll admit I hated the cover at first. Even the cover was just painful to look at. It’s a man full of anguish. From a stomachache or a broken heart, he is in pain. Now that I’ve finished it, it’s a perfect cover for the book. It’s almost like a warning to the reader- this man’s face is what your heart will feel like if you open it.

I don't think my review on the narrative will really change anyone's mind about picking it up. You either have the heart to read this or you don't. This bildungsroman book follows a group of men from early college years and on. The characters are involved in terrifying abuse of almost every kind and the shame and guilt that grew with them breaks you and you read about the decisions they make based on what terrible circumstances they were put in. I grew to love them, I was angry for them, I wanted to hug them, I cried for them, and I grieved for their pain. Yanahihara writes the worst book I've ever read but at the same time a book that breaks me and reminds how human I am, how kindness goes a long away, how feelings are our worst enemy, and it's a book that will stay with me for a long long time. 

The book is filled with post-its, highlights and bent pages. There are so many passages and quotes I love (I shared one here for Mother's Day). 

"Friendship was witnessing another's slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person's most dismal moments, and knowing that you can be dismal around him in return."

"We all say we want our kids to be happy, only happy, and healthy, but we don't want that. We want them to be like we are, or better than we are. We as humans are very unimaginative in that sense. We aren't equipped for the possibility that they might be worse. But I guess that would be asking too much. It must be an evolutionary stopgap- if we were all so specifically, vividly aware of what might go horribly wrong, we would none of us have children at all."

"But being with you is like being in this fantastic landscape[...]you think it's one thing, a forest, and then suddenly it changes, and it's a meadow, or a jungle, or cliffs of ice. And they're all beautiful, but they're strange as well, and you don't have a map, and you don't understand how you got from one terrain to the next so abruptly, and you don't know when the next transition will arrive, and you don't have any of the equipment you need. And so you keep walking through, and trying to adjust as you go, but you don't really know what you're doing."

It's a book I would recommend but with caution. Buy it here. 

2015 Library Challenge

Too many books seems like a good problem to have. I have an app that tells me how much I spend on certain items and once again, the shame I had in spending was valid. Books will always be the culprit to an empty wallet for me. I wouldn’t so much ashamed of buying them, as they just sit on my shelf, digitally and physically. I feel like a poser and as much as I love the idea of a physical and digital collection, the library is right down the street from me, I’m going to challenge my wallet to a spend off.  I won't be buying books for 2015, unless they're for gifts. Most bloggers try to save money on clothes. I’ve done a lot of personal book challenges, some I failed, but ultimately I want to discipline my spending. If I can control the one thing I can’t stop buying, that’s a good start to something bigger.

This is a good problem to have, a collection of too many books. I’m not in debt, it’s not emotionally hurting anyone, but it’s enough to bother me to make a change. At the end of project, I’d love to donate the money I saved to the library that’s supported my reading habit. Or buy new books (just kidding). 

Books read- To All The Boys I've Loved Before, Sacred Cows, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, We Were Liars, Rebel Belle. Books on hold- A Little Life, The Goldfinch, plus a couple others but I'm impatiently waiting for these two in particular. I'll also be donating any affiliate sales I make from this blog post to the library. Thanks for the support! Be sure to follow along on Goodreads

Book Review; To All The Boys I've Loved Before

I had surgery a few days ago and the best thing about recovery was discovering writer Jenny Han. To All The Boys I've Loved Before is a YA book and while it has a girl on the cover that I'm assuming is a portrayal of Lara Jean, the book, to me, is about the Song family. Lara Jean's mom dies at a young age and she is left with her dad, and her sisters Margot and Kitty. Lara Jean writes anti-love letters to the crushes she's had in the past, almost like a diary and she shares her deepest feelings about them, knowing the letters won't ever be read. She keeps them in a vintage hat box her mother gave her. The book follows the teenage drama when the letters are mailed out one day. I won't share spoilers about what happens with the letters, but the way Lara Jean deals with it is both charming and annoying. I wanted to shake my fist at her for her poor choices throughout the book but at the same time I remember being a teenager once and thinking with my feelings. She's also sweet, funny and for dealing with the death of her mom, LJ has a good head on her after she catches it from spinning. The relationship between the siblings develop even though Margot is gone half the book from a trip overseas. I've read so many YA books about girls swooning over boys and this book has the same narrative but a twist. Lara Jean realizes she doesn't need any boy, but as long as she has her family, she'll be fine. It's cute, it's fun, and I loved it. You can buy the book on Amazon or go to the library and check it out for free! 


Grief Is A Mix Playlist: Review of Love Is A Mix Tape

Ok, so I’ll admit i bought Rob Shefflield'sLove is a Mix Tape because of the cover. It wasn’t the most mature decision, but one of my best decisions when it comes to judging books by it’s cover. At the time I got this book, I was reading a ton of YA and since I thought it was a YA book about break ups, little did I realize then, it was recommended in a cluster of grief books I was also reading. This book surprised me. Not just because it’s about grief, but because it’s an awesome book about grief. Yes, awesome and grief in the same sentence. Very few times do I read a book that feels like I’m having a conversation with the author, and this time it felt like Shefflied was telling me about Renee, his wife that passed, the music they loved and shared and the music that got him through his pain. Halfway through the book it gets a little unexpectedly heavy but I loved it. I mean, it’s about a sad topic, and no matter how cool Rob is, no one can make grief cool. 

When I used to blog on Live Journal and use MySpace, they were riddled with music lyrics. Most of the time terrible, vague, passive aggressive (oh to be emotionally immature again), and angry. Just like it helped me in those times, music helped me outrageously in my grief and Love is a Mix Tape reminded me of this. I found myself highlighting so much of the book. 

"You lose a certain kind of innocence when you experience this type of kindness. You lose your right to be a jaded cynic. You can no longer go back through the looking glass and pretend not to know what you know about kindness. It’s a defeat, in a way."- Rob Sheffield

When Max died, I felt so unworthy of people’s kindness. I still do. I felt undeserving of even a text, tweet, an email. My mind can’t process this many people being kind, and after so long, it is defeat. I stopped denying myself of this type of love, even if it’s from a complete stranger. My heart opened, it allowed me to heal, and even to this day, not one single comment, in any form of medium shared, goes unnoticed. It goes straight to the heart. 

“When we die, we will turn into songs, and we will hear each other and remember each other."- Rob Sheffield

 When I think of old friends, I think of songs we listened to for hours in our rooms, driving, going to shows, and even when those songs annoyed me, those songs represent a moment with that person. I always wonder what song I’ll have with someone, but when i think about Max, I thought of Oceans- it was the first song that played when we turned on the car to head home after we left the hospital. We were in disbelief and out of habit, I plugged my phone in and Rdio played. I also remember the drive to the hospital. We played Lorde’s Heroine album, on repeat. It just came out a few days before and I remember we were so excited to meet our baby. I also remember my labor playlist. It took me months before I could listen to Birdy and Jonsi. These artists are complete strangers, but I felt like they delivered a baby with me (creepy but there's sentiment to it). Allison Weiss and Young and Free got me through 2014 and I’ll never forget the moments I felt OKAY for the first time while listening to them. 

This book is therapeutic, just like music itself. Music has the power to heal, lift and drag your spirit and there is a certain power I found in myself in choosing what to listen to. It’s only a click away but it can enhance my mood, break my heart, or feed or deplete my energy levels. 

“Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they add up to the story of a life.”- Rob Sheffeild

The Art of Discomfort

“Discomforts are only discomforting when they’re an unexpected inconvenience, an unusual annoyance, an unplanned-for irritant. Discomforts are only discomforting when we aren’t used to them. But when we deal with the same discomforts every day, they become expected and part of the routine, and we are no longer afflicted with them the way we were. We forget to think about them like the daily disturbances of going to the bathroom, or brushing our teeth, or listening to noisy street traffic. Give your body the chance to harden, your blood to thicken, and your skin to toughen, and you’ll find that the human body carries with it a weightless wardrobe. When we’re hardy in mind and body, we can select from an array of outfits to comfortably bear most any climate.”- Ken Ilgunas 

Ok, so quote was about living in a van without the comforts of a home but I loved it. I thought of all my discomforts. I stared at my plate of broccoli and reminded myself how uncomfortable it was to eat healthy. All the prepping, all the veggies I had to force myself to eat when eating something sugary or packaged was easier. I thought of my grief, the thorn in my side. It reminds me nothing lasts forever, to keep it real and to never take anything for granted. For the rest of my life I wake up with a sadness and the choice is up to me to decide how to honor that sadness. I live in such a comfortable world and I'm grateful- I have a warm bed, AC, food in my fridge and the discomforts of the body and the heart discipline me and I'm grateful for those too. 

Overall, I really liked Ken Ilugans book, Walden on Wheels. He choose to not live in the comforts of living the typical 9-5 life to pay off debt like the rest of his classmates. What attracts to me to minimalist lifestyle is the freedom of STUFF. He wrote about living in a van, but the first half of the book he writes about his adventure living in the mountains, and what drove him to live like Thoreau. I loved his writing and while he chose this way of living, he also recognized living in poverty was a choice, unlike some of the people he met on his journey.  He wasn't boastful, he was humble, and he recognized this. I would never do anything like he did, but it takes me a step closer to live with less. 

Recycle Old Books

One of the things people loved about my library-themed wedding were the book decorations we made. Instead of flowers, we had books to decorate and for guests to take home and a book that "fans" out. I don’t know if this is even considered a “DIY” or a craft, it’s so easy to make, and it's even a little therapeutic. All you need is a book, and a great podcast or Netflix show. 

We have a few thrifted books we would never read again, and instead of giving them back to the thrift store or even throwing them out, we use them for decoration. For each book, just fold the top corner completely to the spine, go the to next page, and fold the bottom corner to the spine. Simple! 

Book Review: California

Most dystopian novels have a twist- zombies, or global disease, but this twist from California by Edan Lepucki, I didn't see coming. The writer builds her characters so well, I was getting annoyed with Frida, the main character, as if I really knew Frida in real life. She's stubborn, fearless, and spoiled and I couldn't stop reading. She's pregnant with her first baby and struggling with keeping a healthy marriage and healthy baby when there are limited resources in a fallen world. There is no food, only the food they grow, no antibiotics and even bandaids are hard to come by. The survival story of Frida and her husband Cal is exciting. I can't help but see myself in this book. The way the world Frida and Cal live in is not far off from how we live now. The only difference is coffee is extinct, internet is for the super rich, and eyeliner is described almost like a unicorn, it's never been seen in the last days. How would I live with the post apocalyptic life? It puts you on the edge of your seat, white knuckles you, and all the other cliches to tell you this book is suspenseful. After I finish a book, I normally pick up another one. However, I couldn't concentrate on my new book. I had to give myself a day or two to think about what Lepucki wrote. She wrote a great summer read. It's dark, disturbing, suspenseful, and well written. That's what I loved best about this book. Regardless of how silly the story is (extinct coffee? ha!) Lepucki has a gift for writing that keeps you reading. 

nail polish from the new black in walrus

nail polish from the new black in walrus

More Than a Pretty Cover: Design Bureau

I should clarify I'm not a designer, at all. I can appreciate beautiful things and the engineering of them but photoshop is one big math equation to me and the only font I'm familiar with is the Wes Anderson futura font. 

Fab always has magazine sales and a couple years ago, I subscribed to Design Bureau. Ever since then, I've been an avid reader of the magazine. Unlike other design magazines, it's not geared toward high budget clients, this magazine is for the struggling creative professional to the industry leader. Design Bureau isn't just pretty to look at, it's filled with educational dialogue on design. There's writing on music, home tours, architectures, historical landmarks, well designed products to make our life easier. Everything is digital now and there's something therapeutic about flipping through a magazine than zoning out on Pinterest. I'll gladly give up fashion magazines for space to house Design Bureau. I've looked back at my issues from a couple years ago and I still learn something from it. When I'm feeling stumped for creativity, I browse through the magazine for some inspiration. You can subscribe here and right now they're having a half off sale. 

Another thing I should clarify- I'm not working with Design Bereau, and this isn't affiliated. They have no idea I exist, I just really like the magazine and thought I'd pass it along.