The [Instagram] Envy Is Real

Today marks the first time I’ll be doing Tuesday Truths, a weekly blog series that discusses some truths that I have learned as a blogger and instagrammer.

This week I want to discuss Instagram Envy. Specifically, in my case, Bookstagram Envy.

It’s tax season, and my finances are honestly not all that great. I work part time and definitely need to start looking for more work to start actually reducing debts and saving money. But this isn’t about that. This is about how my finances aren’t great and that’s a mixture of impulsiveness caused by mental illness, retail therapy, and constantly oggling all the pretty things I see on Instagram.

The thing with social media is that we are constantly bombarded by new shiny things to throw money at or else it will go away forever. The exclusives, the pre-orders, the bonus, the giveaways. It’s thrown at all any time we look at our screens and it can be hard to fight those shopping urges. It’s all fun and games to do impulse shopping unhauls, and it doesn’t matter if it’s books, or make-up, or clothes. It can really be anything these days. And I know for me it only seems to increase my habits when I see the habits of others.

I said in my March Goals post that I was going on a book buying ban, and I’ve broken that four times over already. And for what? For some pictures on Instagram and even less space in my tiny room already full to the brim with unread books.

It can be hard to keep your real life in line when your online life is thriving with others who may or may not be better off than you. I know that the bookstagrammers I follow are almost all married/engaged with full-time jobs and homes of their own. That’s a situation plenty of us would love to be in (even if you’re not looking to get married), and it’s something that is easily forgotten when you’re walking to the bookstore or even Sephora or online shopping at your fav Etsy stores when you work part time and want nothing more than to move out.

The reality is, trying to emulate those we look up to might only dig us farther down. Myself included. I know I would love to travel, to get more tattoos, to have an apartment and a cat of my very own again. But if I keep buying up every pretty book I see on Instagram, absolutely none of that is going to happen.

So what I am going to do about it? What can you do about it?

First, I’m going to be keeping a list in my phone of all the things I want to do with my life, and how much those things cost. New tattoo? $200-$800. New clothes? $50-$100 depending. Trip to New York? $1000. My own cat? $60-100 plus ongoing expenses. My own apartment? $1100 monthly before utilities.

With this list I’m going to really make myself think about how much longer I’ll need to wait to do all of these things.

Second, I’m going to start limiting my own screen time. Am I repeatedly seeing things that I want and feeling those impulsive urges to buy/order them? Put the phone away for at least 25 minutes. I’ve already cut down my show/movie watching time by cancelling my Netflix account (see more on this next week when I talk about being more focused), so why not try to limit my Instagram time if all it’s doing is causing me to spend money I don’t even have?

And lastly, I’m going to track my spending. Along with books, I am also a compulsive notebook hoarder, and with these dozens of notebooks I’m going to do things the old fashioned way and physically keep track of every penny I spend so I can see where it’s going and try to adjust myself accordingly.

It’s not easy to curb a retail therapy addiction, but there are ways to do it. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever had to really put a tight leash on your spending and what you did to help!


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Looking Back at Vintage Fantasy

Happy International Women’s Day!

In honour of the day, I wanted to take the moment to say I’m starting a new blogging series that’s focusing on female fantasy writers published between 1950 and the very early 2000s. This series will also be in video format (whether I do YouTube or IGTV, I’ve yet to decide)!

I’m going to be starting with The Elvenbane by two legends, Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey and I’m looking forward to discussing it in depth soon enough!

Do you have favourite female fantasy writer? What titles jump out at you the most? Or even better, what titles would you like me to discuss?

February Wrap-Up

February has been a bit of a rough month, but I’ve made it through and did a decent amount of reading at the same time!

While I didn’t meet my reading goal in terms of books I hoped to finish, and I also lowered my GoodReads goal from 100 down to 80, I’m proud of what I was able to read despite the things in my personal life I’m dealing with. Not to mention I did end up reading two out of three of my goal books (Six of Crows and Throne of Glass).

So far this puts me at 16/80 books read this year and I’d say that’s not too shabby!

How did you do this February?


Finished Books

  1. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  2. Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells
  3. A Victorian Flower Dictionary by Mandy Kirkby
  4. Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok
  5. the mermaid’s voice returns in this one by Amanda Lovelace
  6. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  7. The Strange Case of Moderate Extremists by Alexander McCall Smith

In-Progress

  1. Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James
  2. The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena
  3. Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Did Not Finish

  1. Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Coles
  2. Some Girls Bind by Rory James
  3. Limetown by Cote Smith

How Kaz Brekker Saved My Life; or A Very Personal Review of Six of Crows

While this blog post will also contain my review for Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, it will also contain subject matter some reader my find triggering. Therefore, there is a content warning for suicide and suicidal ideation.

Should you only want to read the review, simply scroll past the first section.


It has taken me a long time to get to reading the beauty of the book that is Six of Crows. With it’s beautiful cover art, and stunning black sprayed edges, it’s a treasure on my shelves even if only to look at. There’s no real reason why I haven’t read it before now, but I will admit to reading it now primarily because I was told I’d get more from King of Scars (Bardugo’s latest book in the Grishaverse) if I did. I went into it thinking I knew what I was signing up for: a teen version of Peaky Blinders with more diversity and a touch of magic. As usual, I got a lot more than that, but I wasn’t expecting just how much more I got.

As followers of mine may know, I lost my 12-year-old cousin a year ago to suicide and it’s something I’m not ashamed to admit I’m still very much struggling to handle. As someone who has suffered very serious and very chronic depression along with being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, suicide is something that is constantly haunting me.

Does this mean that I, myself, am suicidal?

At one point it did but I’ve gotten a little better at handling the dark days to the extend it’s more like intrusive thinking on it’s own rather than an impulsive urge to follow through on said intrusive thoughts. It’s background noise that gets louder on bad days, but still background noise. Since losing my cousin to something that I’ve thought about so intensly over the years, the noise is harder to quiet. Considering my life is not nearly where I was hoping and wanting it to be right now, it’s especially hard to ignore.

My day job is not ideal. The feeling of being a burden to those around me is suffocating. Being 24-years-old and not even really knowing who I am in my own head, let alone to the world around me, feels embarrassing when I see those around me who are younger and still more successful. These are things that make the noise loudest and sometimes it’s to the point where it’s hard to breathe.

In the past I’ve tried to keep thinking of Harry Potter or Game of Thrones or even hyper focusing on anime like Naruto, Bleach and Full Metal Alchemist for motivation to keep moving forward (a prominent line from FMA) but those things always taper out and fade away and I’m stuck scrambling to find something else to chase away the overwhelming pressure of depression.

So where does Six of Crows come in?

Right now.

The moto of the gang (essentially) run by Kaz Brekker is “No mourners. No funerals.” To paraphrase the book itself, this passes between members of The Dregs as “good luck”. But to me, it spoke to the background noise telling me “Hey, wouldn’t things just be easier if you stepped in front of the bus?” It told this voice, this noise, “No. There will be no mourners. There will be no funerals.”

6c413a0f076a683ae908f290fdbe95dbTo me, it’s a reminder of the hardships that come with death. It points at my cousin’s still mourning family and says, “Do you really want that to happen instead?”. There are many books I can get lost in for hours at a time to simply forget what’s going on around me or to help me ignore the storms of conflict that are raging in my head. No mourners. No funerals. can calm the anxiety that tightens my throat when the last thing I want to do is be a cashier. It can remind me that there are people who care about me without sounding patronizing. It’s a warm blanket in the rain that pushes me to make things better myself. And that’s what Leigh Bardugo has given me.

She has taken spite as motivation and given it a strength and a voice that I can hear in my own head and use with my own strength.

Mental illness is different for every person who deals with it, but that’s the thing. We deal with it. And sometimes it’s impossibly hard to just deal with something that makes us legitimately considering the possibility that ending our lives will make it easier for those around us and even for ourselves. Let that sink it. Death as something easier. Coping is hard no matter the healthy or unhealthy method being used, because coping isn’t a solution. But it’s something that can keep us going which is so important.

Therapy and medication are proven to help, but therapy isn’t always accessible and medication doesn’t always provide ideal help as often the side effects outweigh the positives. If you are capable of trying either of these methods, I encourage you to. But if you are unable to find at least one thing to keep you moving forward. It doesn’t matter how small that thing is or how insignificant you think it might be to someone else. It does not matter what it is long as it matters to you. For me it’s this quote. It’s not wanting to put those I care about through mourning and funerals.

So this is the story of how Kaz Brekker, the Bastard of the Barrel and a very seriously fictional character, showed me that spite and perseverance can be enough. That it’s okay if that’s enough. Because as long as there are no mourners and no funerals, everything will still be moving forward. And maybe that will be okay.

And, please, if you are depressed: tell someone. If you want to die: tell someone. If you have no one to tell, I will listen to all venting. Just send me an email. If you’re struggling, there is no need to struggle alone.


THE BOOK REVIEW

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk on my personal experiences coping with mental illness. If you skipped it, thank you for coming to this review.

Six of Crows takes The Grisha Trilogy to the level the world truly deserves. The third person perspective makes the narrative so much stronger and using what I’ve been calling “the A Song of Ice and Fire method”, switching between characters every chapter is great (and with a much more manageable cast size than ASOIAF).

The Dregs we meet in this book are Kaz Brekker – the ring leader and best known criminal in the slums of Ketterdam, Inej Ghafa – Kaz’s secret finder and Wraith of Ketterdam, Jesper Fahey – gunner, gambler, and secret Grisha, and Nina Zenik – ex-member of the Ravkan Second Army and known Heartrender. We also get to know the latest Dreg still proving himself, Wylan Van Eck – son of a promenant merchant and explosives expert, and Matthias Helvar – a Fjerdan Grisha hunter.

This band of misfits joins together for the biggest heist of their careers and wind up stuck in a trap bigger than they planned for.

I loved the way each character bonded and how their motivations were all so entirely different and yet they were still so supportive of each other. I loved how this book had my heart racing at every twist to the point that it actually took me almost three weeks to finish it (something unheard of when it comes to how fast I normally read).

The diversity of the characters and even how their different cultures kept clashing just made the world feel so much more real and alive than it did in The Grisha Trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a supporter of the original trilogy, but the growth in Leigh Bardugo’s writing is an absolute honour to see.

I do think that the best part of the book is definitely Kaz. I felt a real connection to him and his constant anger hidden behind fierce nonchalance and sass. I related to his dislike of being touched and appreciated that while his emotions changed throughout the story, that his ticks remained the same. He’s come to mean a lot to me, even if he is fictional.

While being very late to this party, I adored this book from cover to cover and once I have recovered from the ending, I look forward to the beauty that is my red sprayed hardcover of Crooked Kingdom that has been sitting on my shelf since release day.

Books to Read on Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day and, love it or hate it, there’s a lot going on today. I definitely fall into the later category myself. So whether you’re up for romance or in the mood to avoid it at all costs, I’ve come up with a list of books to read for either category.

Bring on the love!

Here’s a list of my top 5 favourite romance/romantic novels to read today.

5. One Day In December by Josie Silver
[ goodreads | review ]
Yeah, okay, this one is more of a yuletide centric book, but the love story crosses over ten years and that’s what makes it a great read for any time of the year. Definitely for fans of Love, Actually and also for those who want a real love story with a feel good ending

4. The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli
[ goodreads | review ]
This debut novel is about the difficulties of finding love when you’re both looking and not looking for it. It’s about culture pressure and the important of being yourself no matter what any one else tells you to be. A great read for those looking for a romance novel that’s not 100% about the romance.

3. When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
[ goodreads | review ]
Who doesn’t want some f/f contemporary on Valentine’s Day? A story of self-discovery in sexuality with some humor and delightfully witty banter, this is a fun queer read about hard working women who also just want to have fun and be happy.

2. A Date With Darcy (Bookish Boyfriends #1) by Tiffany Schmidt
[ goodreads | review ]
A YA retelling of Pride & Prejudice but with a bit of a twist. Despite having a 15-year-old protagonist, this book is definitely a relatable one to all ages and has strong feminist notes about being more than your partner and remembering that your opinion counts, especially when it involves the word “No.” Fluffy with a hint of drama to keep things interesting, this one caught me by surprise when I read it and loved it to pieces.

1. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman 
[ goodreads | review ]
Allow me to scream to the high heavens once again about how the book is almost always better than the movie. This phenomenal novel is a queer romance and a coming of age story all in one. Heartbreaking and beautiful as well, this book takes you to Italy and forces you to feel all of Elio’s vivid emotions to the fullest extent. You can’t go wrong with this book.

Down with Valentine’s Day!

And here are my top 5 books that are very much against this Hallmark Holiday.

5. The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman
[ goodreads ]
This is an incredible look at the birth of the novel Lolita and the very real and very traumatic events that happened to young Sally Horner. Despite how mezmerising and misleading Nabokov’s novel is, Weinman dissects just how horrible men like Frank La Salle (or his fictional counterpart, Humbert Humbert) truly are.

4. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler 
[ goodreads | review ]
An eerie narrative of why eccentric, Min, broke up with her popular boyfriend, Ed. This is a YA novel but written in such a memorably bizarre fashion that almost gives away Handler’s alter ego (as he is more commonly known as Lemony Snicket). A great break-up story with a twist.

3. The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion by Margaret Killjoy
[ goodreads | review ]
A Tor.com novella of magic and horror that brings out of the dark side of people and what they will do for power when it should belong to no one. Since it is a novella, this is a great book to bang out quickly and so atmospherically pleasing, you’ll completely forget it’s Valentine’s Day in the real world.

2. The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein
[ goodreads ]
Boarding school + mental illness representation + potentially vampires = this wonderful book that also has f/f undertones. Incredibly spooky (and so much better than the movie adaptation of it), this book is well suited to those who want a creep factor on Valentine’s Day.

1. All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
[ goodreads | review ]
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog recently, you’ll know I’m obsessed with this series. Want to forget about the real world and bond with someone fiction who also doesn’t care for humans? Murderbot is definitely for you. This novella series is so much fun you won’t want to put it down.


And there you have it! My list of books to read to either join in on or hide from Valentine’s Day. Personally, I plan to spend my evening binge watching some true crime documentaries (for anyone wondering, I’m eyeballing the Paradise Lost trilogy) since I’m not a fan of today.

Do you like Valentine’s Day? What are your plans for tonight? Let me know in the comments!


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Do I Have To? A reluctant reader’s guide to The Grisha Trilogy

With the excitement surrounding next week’s release of King of Scars, I’ve seen a number of people asking “Do I need to read The Grisha Trilogy first?” As a huge fan of Nikolai, my answer is yes, but the series is definitely not for everyone. So here’s an abridged guide to the books.

Shadow & Bone

Book one starts with soldiers Alina and Mal, best friends from their childhood in an orphanage, as they head towards a nightmare in the land of Ravka called “The Fold”. The Fold is a dark, dead sea of sand that’s populated by monsters called the Volcra literally made of shadow. When the army is attacked, Alina discovers she is actually one of the beings in Ravka known as The Grisha, people who have control over very specific elements of the world, but her power is the only of it’s kind. Alina can control light.

With her power being so incredible, it attracts the attention of The Darkling, head of the Grisha army. Their powers are the polar opposites, light and darkness, but Alina quickly becomes smitten with life as one of the Grisha and with The Darkling. The fantasy is broken, however, when Alina becomes aware that The Darkling’s only wish is to use her power to take over the world. She flees the castle and only narrowly avoids being caught when she re-crosses paths with Mal and he saves her.

This is where a fairytale comes to Alina and she decides to track Morozova’s beasts – rare creatures all over Ravka said to be amplifiers of unimaginable power to those of the Grisha. It takes forever, but Mal and Alina finally find Morozova’s Stag…only to have Alina decide against killing such a beautiful creature. Her mercy does not last long, however, as Mal and Alina are ambushed by The Darkling and his men. The Darkling kills the beast and makes Alina an unremovable collar, therefore putting her powers under his control.

Forced to follow The Darkling, Alina is brought back sound and into the Fold where her power is used to protect the ship from the Volcra. While inside, The Darkling uses his own powers to destroy the towns on the other side by expanding the Fold as well as pushing Mal off the ship to his death. In Alina’s pain, she realizes that by sparing the Stag, it has granted her the strength to break free from The Darkling’s hold and rushes to save Mal, destroying the ship as she does so.

Narrowly escaping The Fold, Mal and Alina seek to escape for good, using golden pins in Alina’s hair to buy their way across the True Sea to freedom.

Siege & Storm

Siege & Storm is Alina’s fight to really be-rid of The Darkling as she continues to hunt for the rest of the Morozova beasts. It is within this book that Alina learns The Darkling’s powers have changed since he was left at the mercy of the Volcra and he can now create Volcra-like creatures that can only be killed if Alina uses her power is a very specific form called The Cut. She and Mal are found and kidnapped by The Darkling and taken aboard a ship owned by the infamous pirate, Sturmhond, and his crew. The pirates have been hired and instructed by The Darkling to go into the icy northern seas to hunt for Rusalye, a dragon like sea serpent said to be the next amplifier.

After the dragon is caught, The Darkling is overthrown by Sturmhond and they are able to escape his grasp. Sturmhond then has one of his Fabrikators make a cuff out of the scales for Alina. The group then make their way back across the Fold and into Ravka, crashing near where the First Army has made camp. It is here that Sturmhond reveals himself to actually be Prince Nikolai Lantsov, the rumored bastard of the throne. Having achieved Saint status, it is a long journey back home to the castle for Alina, Mal, and Nikolai – who keeps saying that a marriage alliance between himself and Alina would be a wonderful thing and unite the First and Second (Grisha) armies. Clearly this is where Mal does not approve of Nikolai.

Returning to the capital ends up being not as easy as Nikolai planned, his elder brother being more determined to hold the throne than expected. Vasily’s true intentions come out during Nikolai’s birthday as he has made a deal to relax security posts around the nation of Fjerda and therefore giving The Darkling – who has been hiding there – the perfect moment to attack. Even as the two princes fight, The Darkling attacks, ruining any chance they had at fighting him off.

Nikolai escapes with the few people he can, while Alina stays behind to fight The Darkling and protect the remaining Grisha, things come to an explosive face-off that results in Alina using a power called merzost. While saving far more people than she could otherwise, merzost drains her of the majority of her power and turns her white. The loss of power weakens her body greatly and she is brought, along with other Grisha, underground to the White Cathedral where a cult-like leader known as the Apparat also holds his followers.

Ruin & Rising

The final book, we follow Alina on her hunt for the firebird as she seeks out revenge on the Darkling and hopes to restore the world alongside Nikolai, Mal, and a handful of other Grisha who escaped the attack. The hunt is a lot of walking around aimlessly on Alina’s part once she finally escapes the overbearing Apparat. At one point in their journey, The Darkling attacks the group and, as revenge for rescuing Alina, he uses merzost to infect Nikolai from the inside out, turning him into a Volcra-like creature himself.

In the aftermath, Nikolai is rushed back into uniform and brought to the remnants of Ravka’s First Army. He is able to take control and finally return to Os Alta to claim the throne, while a story spreads that he had been kidnapped and tortured by the Darkling. This is used to explain the dark scars on each of his fingers – actually marks left from where his talons had grown. After the rest escape, they make a plan to destroy The Darkling.

Alina and her group travel to the Fold to face The Darkling, but Alina knows she can’t defeat him without all three amplifiers. To be blunt here, I honestly can’t remember when, but at one point Alina realizes that the firebird is actually Mal and he would need to die for her to have the third amplifier. He convinces her to kill him and Alina’s power leaves her to manifest in any normal person surrounding her (think like how Buffy made a bunch of other Slayers at the end of the the show). While The Darkling is pissed that he no longer has his Sun Summoner, Alina uses the same knife she killed Mal with to kill The Darkling.

The new Sun Summoners destroy the Fold and Nikolai returns to normal at the death of The Darkling. Mal is brought back to life by two Heartrenders and Alina denies Nikolai’s final alliance proposal before “faking her death” and running away with Mal to live happily ever after while Nikolai – who everyone believes to have been tourtured and scarred by The Darkling – assumes the throne of Ravka.


So there you have it. You can also find more in depth information on Tor.com as they did a Grisha reread not too long ago.

The most important information about Nikolai can also be found on the Grishaverse Wiki page but I think I got most of the important details in there.


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January Start Up

WELCOME 2019!

With 2018 finally and fully out the door, it’s time to think about resolutions. I don’t like resolutions because those kind of changes-with-a-deadline never end up sticking and only prove to stress me out more than they should. So instead of “new year, new me”, my plan is to really set realistic goals.

  • I want to stop being so hard on myself all the time
  • I want to make more time for writing (and will be participating in Leigh Bardugo’s #BAYMTGO challenge this year)
  • I want to practice writing my first novel’s query letter every month until the manuscript is finished
  • I want to read 100 books
  • I want to do my best to stick to a set TBR each month
  • I want to conquer some series I keep putting off (Game of Thrones, Throne of Glass, and Outlander)

And with these resolutions, comes my TBR list for January! I don’t have a set order that I’ll be reading these in but these are the eight novels I’m hoping to read this month. If you want to do a buddy read for any of these, then just let me know!!

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • Slayer by Kiersten White (ARC)
  • The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli (ARC)
  • Rough Animals by Rae DelBianco
  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  • The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon
  • Strange Days by Constantine Singer
  • The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle (ARC)
  • (and if I have time to take part in the Buzzfeed Bookclub this month) My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Here’s to 2019 hopefully not being the dumpster fire that was my 2018. Here’s to making things better for myself and not putting so much energy into toxic people or relationships that aren’t going anywhere.