August TBR 2020

Welcome to another TBR post! This month, just like last month, my TBR is going to be quite short. That is for a couple of reasons. First, I plan on reading some of my longer books this month, which means that I won’t be able to read as many books. Second, I want to slow down my reading a bit to focus on some other things, especially since I’m going back to school in a month. I’ve already read around 80 books this year, which is really great, but there’s no need for me to read so fast, so I want to take it slow for now!

Anyway, let’s just get into the books!

Just Friends by Dyan Sheldon

This is my e-book pick from my TBR jar for the month! I honestly don’t know what to expect from it, and I have no idea what it’s about, but it’s been on my TBR for a long time now. I’m looking forward to finally knocking it off of my list.

If I’m being real truthful, though, I don’t really have too much interest in reading this one, and I have a feeling I won’t like it. I want to at least give it a try, though.

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

I got this book on libby finally- which means I absolutely must read it this month! It’ll probably be one of the first books I read, actually. I’m really excited about it, and I’ve heard some great things.

I’ve really missed reading about Nikolai, even though I didn’t really love him as much as everyone else seems to. Maybe this book will make me care for him a bit more?? I don’t know, we’ll see!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Yes, I’ve decided to make this month the one that I conquer this book. I realized that I’m going back to school in September, and I don’t want to read this book there, surrounded by my housemates, because they’ll then witness me sobbing for hours straight (which I’m expecting to do from this book). So, to avoid that, I figured I should probably get to it now!

That way, I can cry from the comfort of my own home. I am worried about this book because of it’s size, too. It’s so long and intimidating, but apparently I’m forcing myself to get over that fear this month.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Everyone has been yelling at me to read this book and finish the trilogy! I hear ya, and I’m going to do just that!! I was able to get the audiobook of this one, which means it should hopefully be a decently fast read. I honestly can’t remember how the last book ended, so I’m going to have to read an online recap before then, but I really have loved the first two books. Maybe this one will be my favorite!

What books are on your TBR for the month? Have you read any of the ones I’m planning to? Tell me all of your thoughts in the comments, I want to know!

The Black Madonna of Derby Review // Blog Tour

Hello and welcome to my surprise bonus post for the week! Today I am so excited to be doing a blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources for The Black Madonna of Derby by Joanna Czechowska*. Thank you so much to Rachel for having me on :)

*All opinions are my own!

Synopsis:

During and after the Second World War, 200,000 Poles were given leave to remain in the UK as thanks for their help during the conflict-this book is a fictional account of just one of those families.Set during the 1960s and1970s,The Black Madonna of Derby traces the story of the Baran family living in a provincial town in England. Their seemingly ordinary existence hides secrets of past betrayal, madness, and tragedy.

The story focuses on three generations: the elderly grandmother whose proud Polish patriotism hides dark events from the past that affect the present, the mother whose tries to meld her past life in war-torn Poland and Germany with her new life in England and the granddaughter who lives a double life culturally and linguistically-Polish at home and English outside.

The swinging sixties in London is vividly recreated, as is the hardship of life under communism in thePoland of that time. This book is unique in that there are no other novels dealing with the story of second generation Poles in the UK. It is a story that deserves to be told, a story of a group of people who have had little attention in the literature. Listen to what they have to say.

Review:

I don’t usually gravitate toward historical works, but when I saw that this one was about a Polish family, I knew I had to check it out! As someone whose entire family was born in Poland, and who attended Polish school for 12 or so years, I definitely wanted to read about that perspective because I actually haven’t read any fiction books with Polish main characters (that I know of).

Immediately, there was so much that I recognized. From the food, to the Polish words, to the kids attending Polish school, among other things! I also loved that it was a multigenerational story, and so we got to see a bit of everyone’s history. It was so fascinating to learn!

One fault that I had with the book was that it took me a little while to get into. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and I was getting a bit confused here and there. However, about an hour into the audiobook, I finally felt comfortable with everyone, and could differentiate the storylines.

Once I was fully immersed in this story, I did not want to put it down. I related to each of the characters in different ways, and it almost felt like I was a part of their family myself. This book was filled with tons of twists and turns- there were a lot of things that I didn’t see coming. This story was so layered and filled with history and pain and hurt.

It was honestly one of the most emotional reads of the year for me, and I will be thinking about it for a really long time, I can already tell!

My only other issue was with the narrator- I felt like she didn’t really do the book justice, as it felt a little too bland at times that should have been read with more enthusiasm. Also, some of her pronunciation of the Polish words or names wasn’t too great, so I wish that a Polish narrator had been chosen.

Final Thoughts:

This book truly deserves a piece of my heart and will be living in my mind rent free. I loved it.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

If you want to purchase the book for yourself, you can do so here!

What is your nationality or ethnicity? Have you ever read any books with characters with the same background as you?

A Surprisingly Good Reading Month? // July Wrap-Up 2020

Hello everyone! If you recall my July TBR, I created a super short list of books for myself to read because I didn’t think I was going to get a lot of reading done this month. Somehow, I ended up reading 10 books, though!

5 stars

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: This was my first read of the month, and I definitely started off on a good note! Toni Morrison just has such an incredible writing style. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before, and I definitely want to read more of her work.
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: I picked this up because I was seeing it all over bookstagram, and when I read the synopsis, it seemed so intriguing. The synopsis just doesn’t fully cover what this book is about. I was not prepared for the rollercoaster that it was, and it blew my expectations out of the water. It was such a great read. Also, I know there were some issues with the Reading Rush and them dismissing this book (which was their book club pick), so I want to really stress how great this book is, and please, pick it up if you haven’t already!
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I finally read this book! I also watched the movie this month, and let me tell you- both were so incredible. I understand all of the hype for the movie now, and I think I might watch it again soon!

4 stars

  • The King of Crows by Libba Bray: I’ve talked about the Diviners series quite a lot recently, as I finally read it this year. I’m so sad that I’m done with the whole series now. This final book was not my favorite of the four, but I think it was a good ending to this world. If you haven’t yet read The Diviners, and it’s been on your TBR as long as it had been on mine, I definitely say you should pick it up ASAP. It was such a magical and fun story, and I didn’t want it to end.

3 stars

  • The Great Gatsby Graphic Novel Adaptation illustrated by K. Woodman-Maynard: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, so thank you! Unfortunately, I was expecting a little more from it, though. It’s hard for me to judge it because I don’t have a huge knowledge of graphic novels, but I think if you hadn’t ever read The Great Gatsby novel, this version of the story would be very confusing. It was just missing some plot points in between to make the story flow better. I did love the illustrations, though!
  • Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: I’ve talked about this book and my feelings a lot already, so all I’ll say is this did not live up to the hype for me. I was expecting to be blown away…and I just wasn’t. It wasn’t a bad book, but it just wasn’t really for me.
  • 1984 by George Orwell: I finally read this classic that has been on my TBR for AGES!! It was a good read. I definitely think it covers so many important topics, and it left me thinking about the current state of the world. It was good, just not a new favorite!
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney: This book has been talked about a LOT all over booktube, Instagram, and Twitter, especially with the show coming out. I have to say, I didn’t think it was that incredible. But, I’m watching the show right now, and I think I actually like it more than the book (which is hard to believe, ahahaha).

2 stars

  • The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman: This book has really high ratings on Goodreads, and I was really excited to pick this up. Unfortunately, I just had a lot of issues with the way it was handled. Overall, the racism was just never really resolved, and the main character was very selfish in terms of how things played out. I just didn’t feel great about it. But I really liked the love interest and wanted to hear more from his perspective, which I think would have improved this story for me.

1 star

Tell me about your reading month! How many books did you read? Did you find any favorites? I’d love to know!

And let me know if you’ve read any of the ones I did, and what your thoughts were on them!

The Highest Rated Books I’ve Read (According to Goodreads) & My Thoughts

Hello!

For today’s post, I thought it would be fun to take a look at my Goodreads shelves to see what the highest rated books are that I’ve read. I want to compare those ratings to my own ratings, and see if they match up!

I went to my read shelf on Goodreads and ordered it by average rating, starting with the highest! I took the first ten, and now I’m going to see how they compare!

I want to preface this by saying I skipped over the poetry collections (mainly because they were like the first 5 books or so), and I’m not including books by JKR (I no longer want to support her on this platform, not that I ever really have, but still).

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo- 4.60

My rating- 5 stars

I think it makes a lot of sense for this book to be at the top because it’s the second in a duology. People who read Crooked Kingdom are mostly people who read and enjoyed Six of Crows, so it makes sense for it to have a higher rating.

I definitely enjoyed Crooked Kingdom a lot more than Six of Crows. I think this deserves its place at the top!

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody- 4.55

My rating- 5 stars

I recently read this book and I talked about it in a wrap-up already, but I really did love this book. It helped me out with the structure of my outline, and it completely changed the way I view stories now, in the best way possible.

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon- 4.55

My rating- 5 stars

So far, all of these ratings match up with my own opinions really well. As many of you know, I read and LOVED this book, which actually comes out today, the day this post is up! If you haven’t already, check out my review because I share all of my feelings there. I really did love this book, though!

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi- 4.54

My rating- 4 stars

This was a really great non-fiction that recounts the history of racism and slavery in the United States. It was a super valuable read for me, and I gave it a high rating! The reason it wasn’t a 5 for me was because I felt like there were some parts that were a little too info-dumpy, and could have been condensed a bit.

Becoming by Michelle Obama- 4.54

My rating- 5 stars

Michelle Obama is one of my favorite people on this planet, and I feel like the majority of the world agrees that she’s incredible. Her memoir is definitely one of my favorites, and I highly recommend picking it up! Her having a high rating is very well-deserved.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas- 4.52

My rating- 5 stars

Angie Thomas is obviously up on this list, and rightfully so. There was no possible way I could give The Hate U Give anything less than 5 stars, and I’m honestly surprised this one isn’t at the top of this list. Either way, it is a phenomenal piece of art, and if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta- 4.51

My rating- 4 stars

This is a novel told in verse and it was so so beautiful. I read it in one day, I believe, because I couldn’t stop listening to it. If you are looking to get more into novels in verse, I suggest picking it up. I gave it 4 stars because I felt like there were some scenes that could have been expanded on a bit more, but overall it was a fantastic read.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens- 4.48

My rating- 3 stars

We finally have one slightly controversial opinion. I just read Where the Crawdads Sing, and if I’m being completely honest, I did not enjoy it all too much. I found it to be quite boring and not as exciting as everyone made it seem to be.

Don’t get me wrong, the writing was really great, but I just didn’t care for the plot or the characters at all. I personally do not understand why so many people hype it up.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo- 4.45

My rating- 4 stars

I already talked about this earlier with Crooked Kingdom, but I definitely preferred the second book over Six of Crows. I enjoyed SoC, but for the majority of the book, I was sort of confused by it. I kept getting lost by which character was who, and I honestly didn’t know what was happening until the end of the book.

However, I enjoyed Crooked Kingdom a lot more because I was familiar with the cast and I could actually follow along with the story from the beginning!

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson- 4.45

My rating- 5 stars

We are ending with yet again, a great book. This is a memoir, and I listened to the audiobook, which really brought this story to life for me. I absolutely adored it, and I am hoping to buy a copy for my collection as soon as possible!

If I’m being completely honest, I thought this post would be more interesting because I thought my opinions would be more controversial. However, it seems like my opinions of the books matches the general readerships opinions. These are some well-deserved highly rated books!

Tell me, what did you think of some of these? Are there any that you think shouldn’t have such a high rating?

The Stuck at Home Book Tag

It’s been… a long time since I’ve done any sort of official tag post (aside from the Mid Year Freakout). I love doing tags, though, I really do. They are so much fun and I get to talk about things that I normally don’t talk about!

Today, I wanted to do the stuck at home book tag, even though I’m a little late (BUT it’s the perfect opportunity to remind you to please continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, etc.! This virus isn’t over yet!) because I was tagged to do it by Juli from Kozy Words! I am so excited— and thank you Juli!!

The Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Answer all the questions down below
  • Link back to the creator: Ellyn @ Allonsythornraxx
  • Nominate 5+ bloggers you’d like to know more about, to do this tag

The Questions

What are you currently reading?

This is definitely not going to be accurate by the time this post goes up, but I’m currently reading The King of Crows by Libba Bray—meaning I’m FINALLY finishing The Diviners series!! I’m not very far into it as of now, but I am really excited to see how this story ends. I have been waiting months for my hold to come in from Libby, and now that I have it, I am going to devour it!

What’s your favorite “can’t leave the house” activity?

At the beginning of self-isolation, my favorite activity was hiking and baking. I was going on hikes pretty much daily. My dad, sister, and I would explore all of the parks and trails near us that we’ve never been to (we just moved here a little less than a year ago), and it was such a great experience. I was getting more fresh air than ever before, and I was feeling my best. Unfortunately, it is now usually too hot to go during the day, and no one in my family would wake up early enough to go with me in the mornings. So, now I mainly go on runs around my neighborhood or at the nearest track by me.

I also love baking, but that’s something that I’ve been doing less of once again. I think I just got bored of it after a while (oops 🙈) because I was making the same few recipes. I have to try out something new soon. Speaking of baking, I did a whole post where I tried different recipes from books, so check it out!

A book you’ve been meaning to read forever?

Umm… my entire TBR. There are honestly too many to name, so I’m not even going to try.

An intimidating book on your TBR?

Right now, I’m most intimidated by A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. I want to finish this series before the summer ends, but I keep putting it off. The book is just so long. Plus, I read the first two as audiobooks, so having to read the final one physically is worrying me a little bit.

I also have an entire post that just went up on Tuesday about books that I am intimidated by, so check that out, too!

Top 3 priority books on your TBR?

  • The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

Recommend a short book!

I can’t recommend just one because I’ve read quite a few that I LOVED recently, so here’s another list:

  • All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Recommend a long book!

This book isn’t really that long (498 pages), but I don’t read a lot of tomes. I’m going to recommend The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern because it’s one of my favorite (if not #1 favorite) books of all time.

Something you’d love to do while stuck at home?

I would love to start working more on my undergraduate honors thesis for school. I want to start the planning, researching, and early development of it because it would get me ahead once classes start in the Fall! I’ve already done a bit of outlining and research, but my goal for August is to do even more.

What do you plan on reading next?

Next on my TBR as of now is Sociable by Rebecca Harrington!

The Tags

I don’t like tagging people anymore but if you want to do this post, consider yourself tagged!

Are any of these answers the same as yours? Let me know! And tell me how you feel about any of the books I mentioned :)

Mid Month Writing Update

As many of you know, I am currently participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a month-long writing challenge where you choose a word-count goal and try to complete it by the end of July.

My goal for this Camp NaNo was only 15,000 words because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself or make myself stressed out by it. Things are actually going really well so far, and we are only halfway through the month!

I am so happy to say that as of now, I am nearly at my goal. I just hit 10,000 words today! In total, my manuscript is almost at 30k words, which is exactly where I wanted to be as of now.

I thought that for this post, I would answer some of your writing questions (which I asked for on Instagram & Twitter), so let’s get into those!

What is my brainstorming/outlining process like?

I got a couple of questions related to my pre-writing process, so I wanted to start with this! My ideas come usually start with one single plot point, and then comes the main character (I think, “What sort of person would get themselves into this situation?”).

From there, I create an outline. For my current work in progress, I followed the Save the Cat! Writes a Novel method, which is basically a series of 15 beats (or plot points). I HIGHLY recommend trying out this method, especially if you struggle with the structure of your stories.

My outlines are always a couple of pages long at least. I’ve had one project where the outline was, like, six pages long. I am definitely a plotter. I like to know where my novel is going before I start writing it, but I know that this doesn’t work for everyone.

However, I will say, usually about halfway through, the story takes a couple of different turns, and I stray from my original outline. At this point, I go back and fix my outline to match where the story is going.

What is my writing routine?

I definitely prefer to write in the mornings. For Camp NaNo, I have been trying to wake up around 5 am, then I meditate and stretch, before writing until 6:30 or 7:00. This is not the only time I write. In fact, there have been quite a few days where I was too tired in the morning, so I didn’t write until the afternoon or evening.

I want to develop a stricter writing routine, though, because I think consistency when drafting helps to get you into the mood and correct mindset for writing.

I tend to write in sprints, between 15-25 minutes long, with 5-15 minute breaks in between.

How do you develop your characters and get to know them?

This is a really fun question, but if I’m being honest, I don’t really know? I usually focus all of my attention on my main character, meaning the protagonist. I start by figuring out what they want, what they actually need, and what is standing in their way (more in a tangible way- money, an evil villain, geography, etc.). I also think of what their fatal flaw is- the thing in themselves that stands in their way.

From there, I write out their physical features, and assign them personality traits and interests. I also spend an ungodly amount of time picking their names, as this is the most important part of their character to me. I need to get it just right.

I also give them a bit of a back story- where do they live, who are their friends, where is their family from, etc.

I do a much simpler version of this for the supporting characters, mainly just describing their features and personality.

I think that the best way for me to get to know my character is just to keep writing them. The longer they spend on the page, the better I know them and how they will act. As far as developing them, I think that if you have a solid structure for your story, that should come naturally! Overtime, the obstacles and challenges your main character faces should shape them in some way, and overall change their attitudes and beliefs.

Character Aesthetic: Best Friend

Here is a little aesthetic I created for one of my characters. I’m not going to share too much else about her, but I think this fits her really well!

I hope this post gave you a bit of an insight into me and my writing! If you want to get more updates, I post them on Instagram and Twitter, so be sure to follow me on there.

If you’re participating in Camp NaNo, please let me know how it’s going for you (& good luck with the second half of the month- you got this!).

Anyway, I will see you all in my next post!

Books That Intimidate Me

I have a bookish fear, and that is a fear of long books. I don’t know why, but just seeing them on my shelves stresses me out, and I tend to put them off for a really long time.

Today I thought I would share a list of some of the books on my TBR that are really intimidating to me. If you’ve read and enjoyed them, please let me know! I need all of th encouragement I can get to finally pick these up.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life

I just purchased this book recently, and I knew it was going to be a long one. But now that it’s actually in my hands, I am terrified of it. I feel like it will take me a really long time to read, and that is stressing me out.

Luckily, this is one I know that almost everybody loves (despite it being a really sad read), so that is giving me some hope hahaha!

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina

Just hearing the name of this book truly gives me nightmares. Not only is it nearly 1000 pages, but it’s also one of those classics that everyone loves. Do you know how intimidating that is?? I feel like the English minor in me HAS to read and love this one.

I mean, the Goodreads synopsis calls it “the world’s greatest novel.” That is a lot of pressure for me. But, in all seriousness, I do think I will enjoy this one!

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

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I’ve recently been seeing many people talk about this book, though it has been popular for quite some time now. I’m mostly just intimidated by this one because of its size, but also because of the fact that it is classified as a horror novel.

I’m not one to be spooked too easily by scary books or movies (in fact horror is one of my favorite movie genres), but I do know that quite a few people have said this one has kept them up at night!

Dig. by A.S. King

Dig AS King

A.S. King is one of those authors whose work I know I will love, I just haven’t picked up  yet. I think the reason this one intimidates me is because a lot of bookish people I look up to give this one super high praise.

To most people, this would sound like a good thing, but I am afraid that I won’t love it as much as they do. Which would make me question my entire existence (not to be dramatic or anything).

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House

This book has been on my TBR since before it was released last year. I’ve owned it since pretty much the first month it came out, but I haven’t yet picked it up because of the mixed reviews it has received.

Some people love it, while others completely hate it. I obviously want to be one of the people who loves it, but that is never guaranteed. It sounds like a book I would really enjoy, but who knows?

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light

Finally, the last book on this list is here because not only is it the last book in a trilogy, but it is also the longest one. Reading the last book of a series you’re enjoying is always a little worrying because it can either make or break the entire series for you.

I thought the first two books were great, but what if I hate this one? Then this will be my last impression of the whole thing!! I’ll feel like I wasted my time if I am not satisfied by the ending. But, if I love it, it will make the entire read worth it!

let's chat

What are some books that intimidate you and why? Please let me know in the comments!

Jessica

July Bullet Journal Spreads 2020

I have yet another bullet journal post for you guys today, and it might be my favorite one yet. I think I finally found the perfect bullet journal layout for myself and I am SO excited to share it with you all!

Let’s just take a look!

First up is my monthly spread. I no longer make a big calendar on here because I never use it. All of my planning is done in my weekly spreads, and if I need to see a calendar, I use a digital one!

I do, however, have a section for my goals and habit tracking. In the past, I tracked so many habits (between 5-10), but I realized that I didn’t actually care about the habits I was tracking. For example, I was tracking the days I read and the days that I drank enough water, but I do those things every single day— I don’t need my habit tracker to remind me of it.

For this month, I narrowed it down quite a lot, as you can see. I am now only tracking the days that I go for a run and that I meditate because those are two habits I’m working on getting more consistent at.

Another spread that I think is extremely important is my expense tracking sheet. I like having a record of the amount of money I spent so I can budget better, and also just remember where my money is going, in case I need to refer back to it. I don’t always use my card, I use cash sometimes, so it’s easy to forget about small purchases. This is a spread I’ve shown before, but I added a little spot at the bottom to add my total spent and earned!

Going back to tracking, I also want to track the days that I write, but as it’s Camp NaNo this month, I made a whole separate spread for it, which you can see in the picture on the right. All I’m writing in each of the squares is the word count I reach each day!

To the left of that page, I have a Reading Rush spread, which is empty as of now because I am not making an official TBR for it. I’m simply going to write down the challenges and fill it in as I read!

Moving on, we have my weekly spreads! Here you can see a little bit of it filled out, to show you how I use it! The month started on a Wednesday, so I used the extra space I had on the left to write a little quote! In the picture under this one, you can see what a full week spread looks like, though.

For this month, I decided I wanted to use a vertical layout, as I had in a previous month, but this time, I made it a little shorter. Instead, I added a to-do list section so that I can easily jot down anything I have on my mind to do in a given week, as well as a meal planning section. I am trying to go as gluten and dairy free as possible this month (mainly to see if it improves my digestion), so I wanted to include this spot to track my food & how I feel.

At the top, I can write down either a schedule for myself, or specific tasks I need to complete that day. I also have a section for notes at the end, which I usually use to jot down things I need to buy, blog post ideas, and anything else that pops up in my brain.

Finally, on the last week’s spread, I had some room (ignore the white out, I made a mistake), so I wrote down my daily routine for the morning. This is something I want to stick to as closely as possible for the month of July, and so far, it’s been working really well for me!

That is all for my July bullet journal layout! I am not sure how I am going to make my wrap-up page look yet because it all depends on how much I read. Normally I fill one out as I go, but this month I want to create it afterwards.

What do you think? I know it’s simple, but that is how all of my spreads are for this year, and it’s what works best for me! I like the functionality of it more than the design :)

What are some of your favorite spreads to make?

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon // ARC Review

Rachel Lynn Solomon’s book ‘Our Year of Maybe’ has popped up frequently on my Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and Goodreads, and it’s been on my TBR for so long because of that. I had never actually read one of her books, though. Until last month.

And now I need to read the rest of her books immediately!

Today Tonight Tomorrow was a PHENOMENAL book. I ate up the story in a matter of two days because it was just so engaging and f u n.

Ok, before I gush about this book even more, let me tell you what it’s about…

Goodreads Synopsis:

Today, she hates him.

It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.

When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.

As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.

Review:

First, let’s talk characters- Rowan Roth is smart, loves to read and write, and has a bit of a self-sabotaging personality trait. She was so relatable to me as someone with very similar interests and school habits to her. Sometimes her thoughts were so frustrating because you wanted to just shake her and tell her its okay to honest with yourself. But I definitely enjoyed her character arc. She made mistakes but she learned from them and actively worked to fix them in the end.

Neil McNair was equally as entertaining. He had his own unique quirks (like wearing suits to school everyday) which I really enjoyed reading about. More importantly, we learn so much about him and his personal life. Throughout the book, we get to uncover so many different layers of him, and it made me want to give him the biggest hug.

Overall, I think the characters were done really well.

As far as plot, I thought it was so much fun. Basically, the book takes place over the span of 24 hours, so it is very fast-paced. I was flying through it, as I mentioned earlier. Basically, we follow Rowan and Neil as they team up to win a game of senior scavenger hunt. I think the timeline aspect of this was really well-done. It didn’t feel like it was being dragged on just to fill up space. Each page had a purpose and it moved the story along. I will say, some parts of it were a little predictable, but that’s something I don’t mind (unless I’m reading a mystery/thriller).

The book tackles topics such as antisemitism, violence and a parent in jail, poverty, sex-positivity, and so much more. I am in awe at how much depth and rawness there is in this story. Rachel was able to convey so much in such a short period of time. In addition to those topics, the story also captures my feelings of leaving high school so well- it’s scary, it’s hard, it’s sad. But it also means you are moving onto something new.

I also really enjoyed the setting of Seattle, too. Though I have never been to Washington, it has always been a bucket list trip for me. This book shows us so many different parts of the city in great detail— it almost felt like I had been there myself.

There was also mixed media scattered throughout the story- a checklist, text messages, emails, flyers, etc. This added a little something to the story, and it made me love it even more.

If you couldn’t tell already, I gave this book a 5/5 stars!

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop gushing about this story. Please, please, please pick it up– it comes out one week from today!

If you have read it, please tell me what your thoughts were!

I Took a Week Off of Social Media

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may already know that for the last full week of June, I took a break from social media. After watching Ariel Bissett’s video, my friend Olivia and I decided to take some time away from the online world for our mental health.

First, I think social media is a really powerful tool and it has so many benefits. I love social media, and I would never be able to give it up, BUT I think taking occasional breaks is important, too!

How did it go?

  • Truthfully, it was hard.
  • I chose the week I did because it happened to be the week I was going on a mini vacation to the Pocono Mountains- my parents rented a house on the lake so that we would get a break from the monotony of sitting home for months. I wanted to be present during this time and really enjoy my surroundings instead of being glued to my phone. Plus, I figured I would be a bit busier than normal, so it would be easier to get my mind off of my phone.
  • Day one, I woke up and felt super anxious because I almost always get DMs overnight, and I felt bad that I wouldn’t be able to answer the people who had replied to my story or asked me a question. I had a nagging feeling all morning. However, that was the same day we were leaving for the trip, so I was pretty busy with packing, grocery shopping, etc. After those initial few hours, it actually got a lot easier!
  • The second day was pretty good, and I figured the challenge would only get easier from there.
  • Boy was I wrong.
  • On the third day, I caved. accidentally. I was checking to make sure my blog post went up as scheduled, and I clicked on the link to my Instagram unintentionally. I checked my notifications, read my DMs, and left the app.
  • The next two days were alright after that… until I caved again on the sixth day. I checked my Twitter notifications and scrolled through my feed for a couple of minutes. Nobody’s perfect, okay?
  • I spent the last day off of social media until about 8:30 pm. I decided that was when I was going to make my return because there were some things I wanted to check online.

What did I learn?

  • I can get a lot done when I don’t spend 9+ hours on my phone a day.
  • Twitter can really bring my mood down.
  • I am much happier when I spend more time outside.
  • Social media is a much better tool when I use it consciously instead of spending hours mindlessly scrolling.
  • Leaving the house without bringing your phone? Freeing.

What did I accomplish?

  • I read 3 books and got over halfway through another!
  • I went kayaking and bike riding and paintballing and running. So. Much. Fun. And I didn’t feel the need to document it at all. I really lived in the moment.
  • I did…some…writing. It wasn’t as much writing as I had hoped, but I was still able to write a couple of chapters.
  • I worked on some blog/freelance related stuff and it felt SO. GOOD. It was stuff I had been putting off for quite a while.
  • I caught up with some of my best friends, and I reached out to others who I haven’t talked to in a while.
  • My screen time went from an average of nine hours a day to FOUR- i used my phone for reading e-books and audiobooks & taking pictures!

Final Thoughts:

I think this was a super important experience and I’m glad that I attempted it. I wasn’t perfect at following the rules, but I accomplished most of what I wanted to.

Going forward, I am definitely going to be much more intentional about my time online. I also want to take social media breaks more often (maybe once a week or so?).

Have you ever taken a social media break? What did you think of it and would you do it again?

If not, have you ever considered it? Let’s chat about it in the comments because I’m so interested in it now!