Oh Look, Another Dual Timeline Historical Fiction Book: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner Review

Portions of this review do contain spoilers but there will be warnings ahead of those sections if you want to skip them.

Despite how the title might make it sound, I’m a sucker for dual timeline historical fiction books. I enjoy the mystery and intrigue that revolves around the story that plays out in the past because of something another character has found in the present. They’re usually quick reads and I’ll probably continue to pick them up even with the issues that I do tend to have with them.

I find when it comes to these dual timeline books that the main character in the present day timeline is used to give some sort of conclusion to the character(s) from the past. The present day character tends to use this investigation into the past as some sort of distraction from events that are taking place in their own life. I don’t necessarily mind this but at times it can be jarring to be thrown from one perspective to another, especially because it also involves a time jump. When it comes to historical fiction I usually prefer books that take place entirely in the past without needing to time jump in order to learn the fate of the characters.

I wrote a review back in 2019 about the book A Fire Sparkling by Julianne Maclean which is written in a similar way and has more of my thoughts on books like this. Now let’s jump into the review for The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner.

First off, this cover is GORGEOUS which was a big reason as to why I picked it up. Definitely an impulse buy but the synopsis was intriguing too.

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course. Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

Besides the murder aspect of this I would also like to add trigger warnings for miscarriage, suicide, sexual assault, vomiting, and blood.

The Lost Apothecary, while containing darker themes, was a light read so as expected I flew through it. Another reason to this was the fact that I didn’t really enjoy the present day chapters that followed Caroline so I kept reading in order to get back to the chapters that followed Eliza and Nella in the past. I’m not a fan of plot lines that center around infidelity and while I understood why the author chose this to be part of Caroline’s story I didn’t enjoy it. I felt like Caroline was an awkward character in the way she was written and I don’t think she was as dynamic as Eliza and Nella were. Though I will admit that I didn’t particularly find any of them to be truly dynamic or unique characters. Nella had such a fascinating backstory and yet she was given a hardened personality that seemed to leave her unable to share her inner thoughts with even herself. I also found myself wanting so much more from Eliza because while I loved her determination she would go back and forth between being so obviously “young” to all of a sudden behaving in a way that contradicted this.

Just a heads up there will be spoilers in this next paragraph so if you’d like to continue with my spoiler free thoughts feel free to skip it!

The more I thought about Eliza the more I wondered how the story may have been written if she was aged up slightly, even just to 15 (she is 12 when the book begins). An aspect of this book was that Eliza gets her first period after her employer’s husband is poisoned and subsequently dies. She thinks that she has been possessed by his ghost and this is why she’s bleeding. It takes a majority of the book before she ever gets an explanation and while it broke my heart to see how scared she was I also felt that this was an odd plot line considering she otherwise acted so much older than she was. It didn’t even seem like just a difference of the times, Eliza was just oddly written. It was as if she needed to be a heroic character who could still be naive and romanticize the world since Nella was such a pessimist.

Despite not loving the present day chapters, the past chapters were really intriguing and I think the fact that the author is a historian played into the enjoyment that I felt when reading those portions of the book. At the end there is a section from the author about the historical aspects of the story. She gave context to some of the choices she made and I really enjoyed this! Whenever I read a historical fiction I tend to enjoy it even more when authors include resources or context because it allows people who are passionate about history to have a starting place to look into the real world inspiration for the book.

In terms of the plot, again I was intrigued from the moment I read the synopsis. However this was a shorter book and I thought that the balance of events was off. Both storylines took forever to develop to some sort of climax and then the ending felt rushed. It was as if the author had been planning on writing a book that was longer but had to fit it into a specific page count and instead of editing the beginning portion, she just cut chunks out of the ending in order to get to the conclusion in time. And as I had mentioned at the beginning of this post the ending of Nella and Eliza’s story completely hinged on what Caroline could discover in her own quest. I don’t want to completely talk down on this because I do find enjoyment out of reading books like this but it often just feels like a way to avoid writing a book that entirely takes place in the past.

The next paragraph contains spoilers for Caroline’s storyline so if you want to continue a spoiler free review skip to the next section!

As I’d mentioned earlier when discussing Caroline as a character I thought she was awkwardly written and I didn’t really enjoy her story. It focused heavily on infidelity and wanting children as well as regrets over life choices. I feel bad for talking down about these types of stories because I know that there’s an audience for them but it’s just not for me. And the more I think about the way her storyline ended the more I realize how weird the timing was. Her husband ingests an essential oil and ends up in the ICU during which time Caroline is accused of trying to murder him because her notes about Nella were discovered. The entire situation felt poorly handled by all parties and in the end Caroline’s husband who was just in the ICU is casually just going to hop on an international flight and leave. SIR???? IS THAT ACTUALLY A GOOD IDEA??? By the end of this whole ordeal Caroline also reveals that she is going to grad school in order to begin to live for herself again. I was just really confused by the timing because as someone who is also going back to school (granted not abroad and I’m just going to be finishing my undergrad) everything seemed so definite and in the end it was. It just felt like no matter what decision Caroline made she wasn’t going to fail in order to give her some sort of happy ending.

Alrighty, now that I’m done with that mini rant I will say that I did overall enjoy The Lost Apothecary. If you’re looking for a quick dual timeline historical fiction book I would definitely recommend giving this a go. However, if you’re not a fan of historical books that do have a larger focus on the life drama of characters instead of the actual historical context and events I would probably pass this book. This is Sarah Penner’s debut novel and I have to say that despite the issues that I did have with her work I will most likely pick up any future books she writes because I’d love to see what else she might come up with.

If you’re interested in picking up The Lost Apothecary you can find it at the following links:

Barnes & Noble // Indie Bound (for local indie stores) // Bookshop // Target

And with that, I hope you all have a great day and I’ll talk to you in my next post.

This Wasn’t the Post I Was Going to Make Today

As the title says, this wasn’t the post I had planned on making today. I had a review ready to go up but due to current events I’m making this post instead.

Trigger warnings for discussion of police brutality

On Sunday night in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota a 20 year old man named Daunte Wright was fatally shot by a police officer. The trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd last year, just entered its third week miles from where this shooting occurred.

I’ve heard the statement “this doesn’t happen in Minnesota” too many times because no matter how many times people want to play the “Minnesota nice” card it doesn’t matter. These things do happen and have happened because the system is racist and no amount of reform or retraining is going to fix that.

Last year, I went to work in the predominantly white Minnesota suburb that my job is located in. The store next door had decided to put boards on their windows because of the protests and all day I watched as random people pulled into the parking lot to take pictures. All day I listened to my own customers say, “oh my god did something happen next door?” Among these the other comments spilled out:

This doesn’t happen in Minnesota

I hope nothing happens here

I can’t believe what they’re doing in Minneapolis

The comments of concern all centered around the city, the buildings, the inanimate things that could be fixed, rebuilt, or weren’t harmed in the first place. Not about the life of a man that was taken.

Now, another man has lost his life. The claims of accidents and warrants leave a bitter taste in my mouth. A warrant is not a death sentence.

Police violence is a plague. I’ve experienced it and I still replay that experience on a near daily basis. The only answer is to abolish the police.

Daunte Wright leaves behind a family. Among them are his girlfriend and almost 2 year old son. Below are some of the ways that can help support them.

I’ll update this post at a later time with other resources but for now I’ll end with this. I’ll talk to you all on Thursday.

Update 4/14: Here is a link to an article from Bustle with action steps that you can take to help demand justice for Daunte.

Please Stop It With the Toxic Romances: A You Deserve Each Other Rant Review

***This post will contain spoilers for the book You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle***

Trying to gather my thoughts for this post is proving to be very difficult. I have six pages of notes that I want to pull from on top of other points that have popped up the longer I’ve been away from my initial reading experience. I read You Deserve Each Other this past fall and I still get angry every time I think about it or see it mentioned.

At the core, You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle is a toxic mess. It is hyped as an “enemies-to-lovers” rom-com story about two people who have fallen out of love and enter into a prank war. I think I’m also majorly in the minority with my views. This book currently has a 3.89 rating on Goodreads and a slew of rave reviews.

The synopsis really doesn’t even begin to describe the inner workings of this story. When I first started seeing people talk about the book it sounded like it might be about a couple with cold feet, nervous to go through with the lifetime commitment of marriage but neither wants to admit it so they try to pull away from each other. I was ready for the “pranks” that were supposed to ensue, ready for some complex and heavy conversations about relationships, ready for a candid look at a “real” relationship. But instead I was sorely disappointed and left questioning why so many toxic traits are applauded in hyped up romance novels.

One of the major flaws in YDEO is the fact that while being a story about two people, there’s only one perspective and unfortunately for the reader, that’s the inner thoughts of Naomi. Naomi is a highly flawed individual and outright toxic, her views are heavily laced with casual sexism and not only did she change herself in order to fit into the relationship, she also never communicated. If the author had intended for Naomi to be an unlikeable character who shows growth over the course of the story I think I would have enjoyed the story slightly more but in the end I don’t think that’s what the author had intended. Throughout the whole book I desperately wanted to be able to hear from Nicholas because when he actually was given the opportunity to speak his mind I loved it. I really didn’t think that any of the characters in the book felt developed enough for me to really understand who they were. I was hoping to learn more but the limited perspective that Naomi gave us kept that from ever happening.

In my opinion, YDEO is not an enemies-to-lover story. Naomi entered into a relationship with Nicholas and instead of communicating about the issues that she had and fostering growth, she changed herself and accepted a stagnant and mediocre partnership in which she felt insecure and eventually threatened. The pair rushed into the relationship and instead of, oh I don’t know, GOING TO THERAPY they eventually started this petty “prank” war in order to force someone to forfeit the relationship. I genuinely think that this would have had potential if it was written as a fake dating story and if it also brought in the perspective of Nicholas. I could totally see Nicholas and Naomi pretending to be getting married in some sort of scheme against Nicholas’ parents. The Rose family was absolutely deplorable and this clip from John Mulaney sums up my opinion about how I feel in regards to family and relationships.

I’m really tired of picking up books that are marketed as romantic and then they end up just glorifying toxic relationships and toxic traits. Naomi had such a black and white way of thinking that she often took her reactions to an extreme. At one point, Nicholas sent her a plant and instead of taking a moment to Google it or even simply ask him what was up with the plant Naomi decided that he absolutely had to be trying to murder her with a poisonous plant. She got so caught up in needing to dislike Nicholas that it took over her life. I don’t think that it was inherently bad that Naomi was so stuck in her current position but her stubbornness ended up leading to increasingly frustrating situations for her to end up in.

I’ll admit that there were some parts of the book that I didn’t hate which is why I ended up rating it two stars instead of one. In the end though I found YDEO to be yet another adult romance that glorifies toxicity in order to develop a plot. I felt like the characters were underdeveloped and the story itself was incredibly disappointing. I wrote a post quite a while ago about lack of communication within enemies to lovers books and after reading this book I think I need to avoid adult romances with this plot line for a while. I might need to step away from adult romance as a whole for now because I truly can’t understand how many toxic traits are played up as favored tropes. I don’t think it’s necessary to use these in order to create a story, there are plenty of healthy romances that could be entertaining to read. This is a big reason why I dislike the typical “third act breakup” that so many romances include. Conflict happens but oftentimes the extreme reactions could easily be avoided and it’s not that I find it unrealistic but a lot of times it’s just not healthy.

As is a very common opinion of mine, You Deserve Each Other had potential to be a much better book than it ended up being. I got caught up in the hype and was misled by the synopsis that was provided. It was a disappointing read and incredibly frustrating and it’s not something I would recommend picking up.

Well, love that reviewing again started off with a good old rant review! I just knew I still wanted to get this one posted so I figured it was worth it to finally get written up. I’ll talk to you all again soon with another post.

The Neverending Hiatus

I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back to the blog. The longer I went without reading and the longer I went without posting the guiltier I felt. I’ve never quite felt like I belonged in this community so I really considered just disappearing and not coming back. More than once I almost deleted everything.

I started this blog the summer before I went to college. I was 18, almost 19 and excited and anxious about the future that was ahead of me. I never expected to be where I am now and it took me way too long to start taking care of myself and doing the things that I want to do. I got really good at running away from the things I needed to confront and in the end it all caught up to me.

The funny thing about rock bottom is that you never really know what the lowest point is. At least that’s the experience that I had. And the not so funny thing about rock bottom is that being a pessimist makes it incredibly difficult to want to crawl out of the hole. For a really long time I wanted nothing more than to simply stop existing.

Over the years I’ve abandoned a lot of projects and the more I worked on myself the more I got sad about the idea of completely abandoning this blog. I started reading for fun again (ended up marathoning EIGHT of Sarah J. Maas’ books in a week back in March) and when I didn’t feel the looming pressure of having to rate the books and write reviews I actually started to miss blogging.

When it comes to my hobbies I almost always put too much pressure on myself. I need to be good at things, I need to monetize my hobbies, or my worst thought which is that my hobbies aren’t actually worth my time. I used to have so much fun writing blog posts. Some of my older posts like this one on Empowertising involved outside research and I remember how hard I worked on it and how excited I was to finally post it. I really missed that aspect of blogging.

I’ve felt completely lost and utterly stuck for so long. Doesn’t help that it feels like every time I make a bit of progress something else comes up that ends up knocking me further backwards. I’m trying to not get too discouraged because in the end I am finally getting back on a path that I’m excited to be on.

With that being said, I wanted to say that if I find the motivation (or someone to help me with it) my blog is going to get an overhaul in the near future. There’s a lot of housekeeping matters that I’ve put off for too long and I’d rather not dread writing posts because there’s stuff on the back end that still needs to get done. I’m not sure how active I’ll be but I’m looking forward to dipping my toes back into writing again.

In other news, I’m going back to school! I applied to a couple schools back in January after many months of stressing and deliberating over what I wanted to do with my future. The longer I waited the more anxious I got but I finally heard back from my top choice and my transfer application was accepted! It feels like a fresh start and for the first time in a very long time I’m excited. I won’t be starting classes until August but I’m a bit overwhelmed with how short that timespan feels anyways.

As my to do list gets longer I do have to question my want to start blogging again. However I think it’s finally time to end my seemingly neverending hiatus. Plus I should probably have something to do in my free time that isn’t rewatching clips of British panel shows…

If you’ve made it to the end of the post, what’s your favorite book you’ve read recently? I’ve been doing a mix of rereading old favorites and comfort books but also have picked up a number of new books that I’ve really enjoyed. I’m in the middle of reading four or five different books right now and if you have any suggestions for what I should pick up next I’d love some recommendations!

I’ll be back soon with another post and in the meantime I hope y’all are doing well!

Book Review: We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding

*** ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for honest review ***

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years it’s that relationships end. Romances, friendships, even acquaintances will fizzle, fade, or sometimes unluckily go out with an explosion.

Click the cover to head to the Goodreads page!

I’m not great with relationships of any kind and when I first read the synopsis for We Used to be Friends by Amy Spalding my heart hurt. It follows James and Kat, a best friend duo that met in kindergarten, as their friendship changes (and fizzles) over the course of their senior year of high school.

The pair are personality opposites but they’ve made it work. They’ve navigated life changes and growing up together and it seems like nothing could have broken them apart. The book opens with a chapter from James as she leaves for college and then the story unfolds in alternating chapters and storylines. James narrates her senior year from end to beginning and Kat from beginning to end. If you’ve ever seen the movie or musical The Last Five Years this book has the same sort of format!!

This was an easy five stars for me and I genuinely wish I had this story back in high school. It was extremely cathartic and had me reflecting quite a bit about a friendship that I had back in high school that reminded me a bit of Kat and James. I felt broken at times while reading this but I honestly appreciated being able to read a story from two perspectives because it reminded me that no friendship is one-sided and an ending friendship doesn’t necessarily stem from solely the faults of one person.

As a high schooler, especially a senior, you can feel on top of the world. Your future is bright and everything seems possible. Being a teenager is one of the easiest and hardest things to be because you can have your whole life laid out ahead of you and be none the wiser to all the changes that are going to occur. Growing up is intense and navigating the transition between high school and college can throw many obstacles in one’s path. James is a planner and thought nothing would change her 15 year plan and unexpected events in her family end up throwing her into a new mindset that she’s never had to deal with before. As her life falls apart she turns inward and begins to catastrophize the choices that she’s made and wants to make. In contrast, Kat is a bit of an eternal optimist, especially in regards to the people in her own life. She’s hesitant and anxious when it comes to changes but in the end all she wants is the best for anyone.

Despite being inexplicably linked, Kat and James were quite unique. Their approaches to navigating obstacles and changes were not only realistic but helped to illustrate how easy it is to allow differences to get in the way of friendships. Over the course of the book, Kat sees things falling together while James sees things in her life falling apart. The choices and events occurring in each of their lives caused a schism and the pair grew apart as neither girl truly acknowledged that they were both changing. Growing up is different for everyone and without realizing it, you can find yourself growing quickly apart from those “best friends for life”.

Kat and James are a bit of personality opposites, similar enough to make it work but when outside circumstances begin to come in between them it begins to cause a schism that ultimately changes their relationship entirely. Kat is a bit of an eternal optimist, using this to compete with anxiety about changes she experiences. James, on the other hand, experiences unexpected changes and ends up catastrophizing the events which leads to even more unexpected changes. As a teenager it’s easy to wish the best for life and to think that you have everything figured out. Being a senior can give you that invincible high on life feeling and having to accept the open endedness of the future is a struggle. It doesn’t help that high schoolers are immature, even those seniors that think they have it all figured out! When you begin to get caught up in your own issues, you can lose sight of what’s going on around you, often to the point of neglecting things you shouldn’t. I could see how people might look at Kat and James and see two immature girls and a very mismatched pair but friendship when you’re young is as easy as spending all your time together. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of effort if you’re lucky enough to go to the same school or live nearby. But being mismatched is what ended up leading to issues and that’s something that happens in many high school friendships.

Having a friendship end at any age is hard but when you’re in high school when things change with a “best friend for life” it can be absolutely heartbreaking. One of my favorite things about We Used to Be Friends was how open ended so many aspects of it were. Reminiscent of life itself it drove home for me the fact that there are no guarantees and there is always a chance for things to change. We want happy endings, we want things to turn out perfect, we want all of our plans to work out but that’s not something that we’re promised. This was a touching and realistic novel about growing up. It navigates those relationship changes and allows the reader to reflect on the choices that each character made. Friendships are a two way street and when you accumulate so many years with someone it’s easy to assume that nothing will ever get in the way of many more years. We might not all get the chance to reconcile or have the ability to make different choices. To put it frankly, losing friends SUCKS and this book illustrated an almost grieving process between a best friend duo. This is one of my new favorites and an easy five star rating at that. A highly cathartic read for anyone who has found themselves in a changing friendship I couldn’t recommend this more!

Spoiler-Free Review and Spoiler Filled Rave: White Ivy by Susie Yang

*** This post will contain spoilers for White Ivy, readers will be warned at the end of the spoiler free section***

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC!

Click the cover to be taken to the Goodreads page!

White Ivy is a spectacular debut novel from Susie Yang following Ivy Lin, a young Chinese girl growing up in the United States as she does whatever it takes to find status in a world in which she feels she never quite fits into. It’s a narrative of an adolescent wrestling with her identity and I was immediately struck by how engrossing this book was.

I grew up reading books that were usually outside of my age range and as soon as I started reading White Ivy it reminded me of some of the adult books I had picked up over my late elementary and middle school years. The writing fit the time period encapsulated in the book perfectly. I think the writing style was one of my main draws for this because it took me back to the early 2000’s and completely sucked me in.

It’s hit or miss how I end up feeling about novels with main characters like Ivy. She’s conniving and selfish and I continuously cycled between hating her and having a smidgen of hope for her. There were moments where I related to her and moments I pitied her and even more where I was in absolute disbelief of who Ivy was becoming as a person. The other characters in this book both infuriated and intrigued me and I was amazed at how easily Ivy molded herself to fit into the situations she was placed into. As her past and present begin to overlap and intermingle the emotional arc I went through had me reading as quickly as I could. Ivy was so filled with disdain for her past and her own family that made drastic choices to fulfill goals that she felt she had to reach. The inner wrestling she had to do made me want to reach through the book pages and shake her.

The plot was slow moving but as I read this in one sitting I felt so many emotions. It burned to read and while I tried to predict where the story arc was going multiple times when I finally did flip to the last page I was speechless. Each of the characters so clearly had their own motivations that even after finishing this book I can’t help but imagine what else might have been revealed if other characters had their own perspectives. Ivy was so biased and so consumed with her own need for success that her neglect towards pieces of her life outside of her romantic relationship was painful. I wanted so much more for Ivy but her ultimate decisions led to a shocking ending that I still can’t stop thinking about. This book was so different from any thriller I’ve read in a long time and while it wasn’t a flashy shocking book, it was uniquely shocking it it’s own way.

If you’re looking for a book that encapsulates a troubled girl who just wants success and in turn will do anything she can to reach her goals, I highly recommend this.

SPOILERS INCLUDED STARTING NOW, EXIT POST IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ THOSE 🙂

Okay, wow. This book!!! Like I had mentioned earlier the plot was slow going. I’m not good with literary terms so I don’t know if she’d be considered an unreliable narrator but she was so indecisive that I have to believe that in the end her mind was reeling.

As Ivy developed her relationship with Gideon I was so surprised by how the past came back into her life with her childhood friend. When they started up their affair I honestly was not surprised in the slightest. The more I thought about the way Ivy was living her life, the more I saw the comparison between the path that she took versus the one that her mother took. They both married the “safe” option after the untimely deaths of their more spicy flings (that was the worst way to describe this but I can’t think of anything else to say right now).

Ivy worked so hard to fit this “perfect” version of herself that she began to curate after coming home from China. The years passed by and yet she couldn’t move on from her childhood. The constant disdain for her family was exactly what led to her marriage and future which she resigned herself to after realizing that Gideon was gay. The murder part of the plot was not quite as shocking as it could have been, I knew that Ivy was going to do whatever it took to make sure Gideon didn’t find out about her affair. The realization about Gideon though actually made me gasp.

This book was so good at layering both the issues surrounding being out of place growing up but also the conniving nature of someone who will do anything to be successful. It was an amazing debut and I look forward to reading more by Yang!

Vote 2.0

The 2016 presidential election was the first election I ever voted in.

I posted this on Election Day and not to really go too deep but wow what a different person I was back then. But everything I said in that post still stands.

In 2016 I went to bed feeling hopeless and let me tell you, I’m fucking tired of feeling hopeless.

So I urge you all to vote. Make your voices heard. And if you’re too young to vote or are unable to vote for other reasons? Urge your family or friends that are eligible to go out and cast a ballot.

I’ve done my part. I donated to a lot of campaigns and my ballot was turned in a few weeks back. This was the first presidential election that my sister got to vote in and we turned our ballots in together.

Then
And now

If you need to know where to vote look here.

And if you’re concerned about your ability to exercise your right to vote, check out this website.

Reconciling With A Half-Lived Life

TW: Mental health, trauma, self-harm, suicide and suicidal ideation, abuse

As with most nights when I can’t sleep, I ruminate. I go over every aspect of every moment of my life and I can’t help but wonder how I got here. Sometimes it amazes me that I made it as far as I did before utterly falling apart but I think I should have known it was always only a matter of time.

I don’t have many memories from my childhood, I’ve locked them away along with most of my life but I do remember the stark difference of who I was from the beginning of elementary school to the end. I was obnoxious, I was the lead in the school plays and would memorize all the lines for the entire thing. I loved to research and devour new books. I would dream of acting and writing and I always raised my hand in class. And then things changed.

At home I was always told I needed to be quiet, always needed to behave, I had the highest expectations because I was the oldest and I was “smart”. According to my father I was going to be a doctor or a lawyer or anything that required a lot of school and would eventually make me a lot of money. At 9 I broke down crying and stopped sleeping at night because I was so scared that I would fail the standardized tests at the end of the year and that I would somehow end up not graduating high school (I never scored below “exceeds expectations” on these tests despite my crippling fear). In sixth grade I had a meltdown in front of my entire class, sobbing because I had forgotten an assignment at home, something I had never done before and I was terrified of the consequences.

The inside of my head was turmoil. Every thought was consumed by the way the clothes on my body felt, how the hair on my head looked, the exact positioning of every part of my body. And the thoughts that weren’t focused on myself ran in millions of different directions while I focused on everything and nothing at the same time. I turned every negative thought into a catastrophe and yet the only comments on my report cards were that I “was a pleasure to have in class” but my teachers “wished [I] talked more.”

The older I got, the more I struggled. Not only with school but with my own self-image and inner feelings of shame. I constantly carried with me the idea that I was never enough and would never be enough and no one ever told me any differently. I turned to self-harm to cope with the emotions that wanted to bubble out because I couldn’t risk letting the mask of what I thought was curated perfection slip. I began to lose my drive and my passion and I worried that my interests and dramatic tendencies, should they be revealed to the masses, would cause me to be ostracized, demonized, or just laughed at. Every statement said aloud would be rehearsed a million times, something that has followed me into adulthood. I started to just agree with everyone else and lose the bits of myself that remained truly me because I wanted nothing more than acceptance because I never felt truly accepted anywhere.

Looking back I always wonder why people told me I was such a good student. I was just really good at faking it. I only ever completed two books for English, relying mostly on Sparknotes and my skills at bullshitting. My nights would be spent watching Crash Course videos, cramming for assignments and tests that never really seemed to be done. I passed math and my first chemistry class with flying colors by writing formulas on my hands before every test. I only truly excelled in a few classes but I constantly felt like I wasn’t truly good enough to be good at anything and eventually my imposter syndrome lead me down a path of burnout and shame. Many nights I would openly sob over my textbooks wondering how I would ever have a future, begging and bargaining with the universe to end it all just to give me a bit of peace.

And yet I pushed on, terrified of what would happen if I ever admitted to pushing myself too hard or showing how deeply I was truly struggling. I eventually turned to communities outside of my home for support because there wasn’t anyone in my home that wanted to help. But I had spent so much of my life being threatened and punished for imperfection that I couldn’t truly ask for help because I couldn’t trust anyone but myself. The communities that I tried to find solace in also began to turn into something toxic. Recently stumbling upon the term “toxic positivity” I realized how much of my late teen life and now young adulthood was skewed by the idea that I am only the way that I am because I have simply not tried hard enough or prayed hard enough. That everything bad is in my head and I somehow have all the power to make it all better in the snap of some fingers or perhaps the wave of some wands.

College turned into the same nightmare of high school, overworking myself for the results that I was looking for and tumultuous relationships that began to cut me deeper than I could have ever expected. At the end of my freshman year of college I took a philosophy class and I cried every time I had to do the homework assignments because I couldn’t handle the thought of death… Funny how just a few years later I can hardly go a day without getting sucked into the void of existential nihilism.

After I dropped out of college in 2017 I worked so much that it took months before I felt the shame of my decision. There were many factors that went into dropping out and my therapist at the time and I discussed it extensively before I did it but I still feel the guilt of that decision to this day. By the end of 2018 I had fallen so hopelessly into a depression after years of making decisions for everyone else, constantly striving for perfection and failing, and a series of extremely toxic lifestyle and relationship choices that I truly felt like the most logical choice was to leave.

I don’t want to get into details but now nearly two years later I still can’t figure out why I am still here. As every thought process turns towards my mistakes and failures and the uncertainty of the future I get stuck wondering why I wasn’t “better” when I was younger because where I am sitting right now is so far off from where early elementary aged me thought I would be. Every time I seem to take a step forward, something else comes out of the shadows absolutely determined to drag me down. It’s a constant cycle that leaves me wondering at every fork in the road what could possibly be waiting for me should I make a decision instead of settling into crippling sameness.

Almost two months ago I was diagnosed with ADHD during an extremely bittersweet psychology appointment. How so much of my life was explained in 45 minutes and yet now I am left to cope with the consequences of my half-lived life. I have no sense of self, a myriad of comorbid diagnoses, strings of failures and shame following me since childhood, and still no hope for the future. To somehow look back at everything and wonder how I slipped through the cracks and figure out a way to move forward is not something I had expected to have to do. While my peers are all starting their lives and looking ahead to their futures I am looking into my past and trying to cope with everything that has turned me to this point. When I inevitably fall into a pit of despair I lose all interest and abandon things with ease. Projects never get finished, routines become meaningless, and all of my energy gets thrown into simply existing until the next day. These periods stretch on for so long and if I let my anxiety feed into it, sometimes I don’t want to allow them to ever end because I know how much it hurts to crash if I allow myself to feel good again.

Hopelessness comes easy and as I mentioned before, nihilism is the sweet spot in which my mind currently lives. My therapist told me that my thought process for decision making is exhausting and it took everything in me to not say that she should try dealing with being in my brain every single day for a bit then. It’s like no wonder I start off every meeting answering “How are you” with “I’m tired”. Every set back is something that makes me have to try ten times harder to fix it because if I can’t do everything perfectly, then it’s all wrong and while I usually do still try a bit, a lot of times I give up because it’s easier than letting everyone down again. If I’m just the failure now, the used-to-be golden child, then somehow maybe I can be myself again. I look back at my younger self and my heart breaks because I see every missed opportunity and every struggle that I faced and I wonder how everything would have turned out had I been diagnosed when everything started to change. The signs were so obvious, the genetic history is glaringly there, but I just have to accept that I adapted to survive and I figured out how to cope by myself and it’s hard to accept but I’m still here.

I’ve had to reconcile with a lot of things from my past this year, but it doesn’t make the future any easier. So that’s where I’m sitting at now. Finding purpose or drive for an uncertain future after living for so long always feeling less than. My life feels half lived, my brain stuck feeling terrified of making the wrong decision or letting down the people around me in case I don’t perform the way they expect a normal person to. It’s time I started to live for myself and stop feeling the shame that I have always felt for not being perfect. And I might still realize that life doesn’t really have anything great out there for me but maybe I just have to learn some things instead.

Followers by Megan Angelo: An Intriguing Novel on the Over-Trusting Nature We Have With the Internet (Spoilers)

Well that title was a mouthful, wasn’t it? I didn’t really know what else I wanted to title it. This post is going to be part review and part discussion so I kind of just word vomited what I thought was fitting.

Seeing as this is a blog post, on the good ole internet I guess I’ll start off with this question: How safe do you feel using the internet?

In recent years we’ve had increasing jokes about the “FBI guys” in our cameras, we’ve had plenty of conspiracy theories about tech (ALA Shane Dawson and many others), and Black Mirror has sprung plenty of discussions about the future of tech and the world.

Ever since my freshman year of college when I took a class called Media Literacy I’ve been somewhat skeptical of tech. But am I overly cautious? In short, no. In fact I think I could do a lot better with how I use technology. But I do things like cover my cameras, and I’ve slowly but surely deleted accounts of mine and limited what I do on the internet. At the same time though I still overshare. I have a TikTok account where I crack niche jokes about mental health and rant about my customers at work. I walk a fine line with my balance but as far as I’m concerned I’m fine with what I do on the internet.

Followers is a book that takes a look at this relationship that people have with social media and the internet. It’s intriguing and I think it had the potential to be very poignant and relevant but I didn’t love it.

Followers

Synopsis

An electrifying story of two ambitious friends, the dark choices they make and the stunning moment that changes the world as we know it forever

Orla Cadden is a budding novelist stuck in a dead-end job, writing clickbait about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Then Orla meets Floss―a striving wannabe A-lister―who comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they dream about. So what if Orla and Floss’s methods are a little shady and sometimes people get hurt? Their legions of followers can’t be wrong.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is based on a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.

Rating

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Review/Discussion

Followers reminded me of the celebrity centered books that I used to read as a teen. The peek into a seemingly glamorous life that so many people crave but this book took a modern spin with adding in the reliance on technology. I can see where the author was coming from, wanting to write a hard-hitting moralistic novel about how we trust the internet with so much and how it could eventually come back to bite us but it wasn’t overly impressive. As a debut novel, I thought that it had showed a lot of promise and if Angelo publishes something else and it sounded interesting enough I would most likely give it a chance.

As someone who is already skeptical about the internet this didn’t read as very electrifying nor did any of the events truly shock me. This was marketed as sci-fi but if I’m being honest, there wasn’t much about it that felt unrealistic. Sure there was technology in the future sections of the book that doesn’t exist but this book mostly centered about personal endeavors and tech critique instead of focusing on the technology itself.

I wasn’t a fan of either of the main characters. Orla and Marlow were both incredibly annoying in their own ways and I thought they were so wishy-washy and unremarkable that I was very quickly bored throughout. My main motivation to finish reading this book was to find out about the cataclysmic event that took place that caused such a strong before and after in the plot. If I’m being honest the event was somewhat unremarkable. Since I’ve grown up with the internet, I’ve done my fair share of oversharing, I’ve done my fair share of dumb things but so has most other people my age. The “current day” portion of the book took place in 2015 and 2016 and to read about what ended up taking place, this event known as the “Spill” I found myself rolling my eyes at how people reacted. From the description and the lead-up, it was obvious that the Spill caused a bunch of people to lose their lives thanks to good ole technology. What I wasn’t expecting was that these people were losing their lives to suicide. The Spill happened because some hackers, in an act of cyber terrorism, shut down technology and then turned on the citizens of the world by sharing their deepest darkest secrets that were on the internet with everyone.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think some of the things that I’ve done on the internet would be pretty humiliating if they got out but even if they got sent to everyone I’ve ever known I don’t think I’d ever kill myself over those things. And especially considering that the internet was down and barely salvageable in the aftermath of this I doubt anyone could use this information against anyone. The bullying could only happen in person, yes relationships could be ruined but if every single person was having their worst shared about them with absolutely everyone, why care? Maybe living the event would be different, or maybe if I was older than I am I would feel different but I’ve grown up with people oversharing. Hell, people share everything online now, people make tasteless jokes and there are hundreds of people making bank off of selling their nudes. So maybe I wasn’t the target audience for this book because I was bored! I didn’t care that all of these people had their lives destroyed by the internet. I do think that people 100% rely too heavily on the internet but I also don’t think that this book is as timely as one might think.

AAAAND now I feel bad for saying that I thought it was unrealistic that people took their lives for having their darkest shared to everyone… I swear I’m not trying to be a horrid person I just personally feel like a lot of people, especially my peers, would not feel the life ending need for these things to come out. I mean back in 2016 I was in college and was dating my first boyfriend. I think the worst that could be put out about me was the smutty fan fiction that I read but nowadays people are open about any and all smut they read, hell there’s even a read-a-thon specifically for reading smutty books.

The internet is a vast place. It is both a dark and light space and I think a lot of people could use some breaks from it from time to time. I think that Followers was a book that posed some interesting questions about influencer culture and the power that the internet holds but overall I was bored with it. This book was thought provoking and I think there is an audience out there for it but it just wasn’t the perfect fit for me.

 

Rant Review: Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (Spoilers)

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1)

Synopsis

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

Rating

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Review

I really wanted to love this book, I really did. So many people have raved about this book that I could not wait to get my hands on it. Which is why it took me by surprise when I read the first chapter and immediately wanted to DNF it. The writing felt so awkward to me and I was honestly shocked to find out this book takes place in the U.K. I know it doesn’t need to be explicitly said but I have no knowledge of Talia Hibbert or where she lives and so I guess I had book culture shock when Chloe was referred to as “love” on like the second page. Which is such a small critique but then it took me well over 100 pages to get into the flow of reading it. Now here’s the kicker for anyone who has followed me since last summer… This book reminded me of Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey and in case you don’t know, I actively despise that book. Well and truly hated it. So for this book to remind me of that, it’s highly disappointing.

The premise of this novel was so hopeful, it sounded so good. I was so excited to read about the representation and honestly, that chronic illness/pain and the rep for coping with abusive relationships were the only things that I liked about this book. As someone who has experience with both of these things I think that Hibbert handled it all really well and I appreciated that at least. I think if Chloe and Red had been “normal” people I would have rated this one star or I might have even gone through with DNF’ing this book before I got any substantial amount through it.

I think this book was dramatic smut hidden under the cutesy illustrated cover that leads readers to believe otherwise. I couldn’t see why Red and Chloe had any reason to get together other than for the convenience of it. Literally I felt like between the prologue to the first chapter I was missing an entire book… Or at least a few chapters. I have no idea who Chloe is, why her family is so rich they live together in a family home and Chloe and her sisters get monthly stipends. I don’t know what her relationship is like with any of her family members other than through extremely brief interactions. These brief interactions or introductions are how every single character in this book is treated. Even Red’s introduction was so brief I was taken aback. He was just there with no explanation and with absolutely no shock literally no explanation as to why the hell they hated each other in the first place. I can give a bit of leniency to not fully developing character back stories but even Red’s mother, who seems to be incredibly central to his life, gets one scene unless his finger tattoo that says “MUM” is brought up in conversation.

And now for the freaking romance. INSUFFERABLE, lackluster, instant, horrid. UGH.

I like fluff. I like cutesy. I like happy even when it is laced with pain. This was lust. Like I cannot bring myself to describe it in any other manner. One second they hate each other and the next second they are ripping each other’s clothes off. The first smutty scene took place in PUBLIC which is something that automatically gets many points taken off from any book. It’s not okay, it’s literally against the law. So keep it in your freaking pants and be on your way. Beds are far better for those sorts of activities. The other sex scene that drove me up the dang wall was the camping one. Of any place to have the first “all the way” scene to take place, why the HELL was it in a TENT. Who goes camping and thinks about sex??? Granted their camping trip was different and not as strenuous but STILL. TENTS ARE NOT QUIET. WAS THERE LITERALLY NO ONE ELSE AROUND??? I’m genuinely confused and concerned.

And in the end THEY SAID I LOVE YOU AFTER TWO WEEKS. Considering these are two deeply damaged (that’s such a bad sounding word but I feel it is the best way to put it) individuals I could not put the ending of this book out of my head. Talk about some instant fucking love. I genuinely could not understand the chemistry between the characters. I wasn’t a fan. I still feel like I don’t even know who either of the characters really are.
Oh and considering things started off early on with Chloe spying on Red through her window. Immediate anger from me. Spying, prying, peeping, whatever the heck you want to call it is never okay. It’s not funny, it’s not cute, it’s a huge invasion of privacy and should never be tolerated. Writing it into books (and now I’ve seen it in two highly praised novels) just lets it seem like it’s okay which it’s not and never will be.

I was so disappointed with this book. I had really high hopes and was let down entirely. It was underdeveloped and felt like dressed up smut which I have never been a fan of. I’m really glad I got this through Kindle Unlimited because I was originally planning on buying my own copy of this because I was so excited to check it out but I definitely dodged a bullet there.

If you’ve stuck around this long, does anyone have any good cute and fluffy recommendations for either adult or young adult romance/contemporary books? I’m on a kick and need some good ones to read to make up for this one!