In Celebration of Saying No

Surely I can’t be the only one who has a TBR that seems to be endlessly overflowing. There are so many amazing books out there just waiting to be read and I can’t help but accumulate books to read. They are my favorite sort of souvenir while traveling and I love to see them all lined up on my shelves. I love to find good deals at thrift shops which also doesn’t help my numbers. But lately, the sheer number has been stressful rather than exciting.

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I’ll be completely honest. I started my bookstagram account a little over a year ago and quickly started accumulating books faster than I can read. I don’t mean that to sound ungrateful or prideful in the slightest and I really have loved working with publishers. However, with the free publisher copies, came the self-imposed expectation to read and review them as quickly as I could. I quickly started reading mostly newer releases and reaching for whichever title had the most buzz. For me, that was a quick way to burnout on reading. I'm learning the hard way that super buzzed about books are not always my favorite and I never make my way to the backlist books I've been meaning to read. Now let’s factor in moving 2,000 miles away, packing up books, and losing storage space. I thought that I had majorly purged before we moved but upon seeing how much shelf space I actually had in our new apartment, I’ve had to purge even more. And we STILL have books overflowing in every room.

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The sheer volume of unread books has started to make me feel anxious. The last few years I’ve tried to pare down the possessions we own - not in an attempt to be a minimalist but rather to feel like there’s breathing space and less clutter in my life. Books have always been the exception but now it just feels out of control. And so I’ve been ruthlessly purging my books and trying to find as many Little Free Libraries as possible. I thought it would be sad but more than anything, it has been the most refreshing. I’m cutting down the number of unread books so that the titles I still have are ones that I’m TRULY excited to pick up and read. If I've owned it for more than two years and not once picked it up, that means it needs to go. I love having options but too much of a good thing has been getting me down. I’m reminding myself each time I grab a few more to pass along that if I ever want to read it again, I can get it from the library or buy it used. I'm slowly getting better at saying no; no to the thrifted books as well as publisher copies and to all of my unread books I tell myself that I might read one day but have never wanted to pick up. I've stopped requesting books unless they're titles I would start reading immediately and I'm trying to really make a dent in my unread books. I realize this isn’t true for everybody and in no way is this meant to be shaming. It’s just something that’s been rattling around in my head the last few months. I’ve been inspired by posts from Madeleine at TopShelfText as well as Anne Bogel about margin and self-care. Purging books, making space, and saying no have been forms of self-care for me in the last few months and I am loving it. I hope you find what works for you and OWN it. Happy reading!

A Place for Us

From Goodreads: A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia's, wedding - a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son's estrangement - the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.

In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family's past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent's faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals.

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I stayed up too late over the weekend finishing A Place For Us and nearly made it through the entire book without crying. And then I got to the last four pages and had a cry fest on my couch. 

Let me say that the writing is absolutely gorgeous. The majority of the book consists of nonlinear flashbacks but Mirza gives you enough information and detail to visualize where in the history of this family they take place. It could easily feel scattered but she keeps the prose fluid and always moving. There are leaps in time but I didn't have trouble keeping up in that sense. 

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This is a book I have a hard time professing love for, partially because I know how certain readers might be disappointed by it. It reminded me a lot of A Little Life in the sense that it's both haunting and beautiful, emotionally complex and incredibly simple. I'm doing my best not to spoil but please be careful if you've not yet read it. A Place For Us is a slow burn and the payoff is not in how the plot and story end, but rather, in experiencing the heights and depths of the intricacies of the human experience. It's a love letter to what could have been and the missteps along the way. Part four is where it all comes together and it's worth it to keep reading. This isn't a book to get lost in the plot and drama of one family. It's slow and nuanced and so full of tenderness and ache. I enjoyed the book because it made me feel something and it's one I know I will think of often. Part of me wants to hate it because I didn't get the resolution I wanted. All in all, I'm blown away by Mirza's debut novel at such a young age (27!). I would love to discuss if you've read this one - I'm definitely still processing. You can pick it up at your local indie bookstore or online from amazon.

Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours and Hogarth Publishing for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions my own. 

Us Against You

Happy pub day to Us Against You! I'm so excited it's out in the world for everyone to go out and buy. This was such an anticipated read for me and I'm so thankful to Atria Books for providing me a free, early copy. All opinions my own. 

From Goodreads: After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach. Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute. As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

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Oh my goodness. I'm honestly a little glad that I waited to read Beartown this year because it meant I got to read both Beartown as well as Us Against You pretty close together. I was simultaneously so excited as well as apprehensive. I finished the last page of Beartown in February and knew I'd already read my favorite book of the year. What if the sequel didn't live up to my expectations after Beartown? Would I be let down? Beartown easily earned it's place on my ALL TIME FAVORITES LIST and Us Against You is no different. 

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Us Against You starts out slower and Backman's cadence feels just a bit different but the story and emotions build in the same wonderful way. You meet both old and new characters and learn to love their quirks and struggles in a more involved way. What I love about Backman is how can wreck you with the mundane details of life and brilliance hidden within. This one is a slower burn but absolutely beautiful. If you want to fall in love with characters and a town and don't mind a little heartbreak, this one is absolutely for you. There were lots of tears and this is one I'll be re-reading in the future. I hope you love it as much as I did because this is one I can't stop talking about. 

Fingerprints of Previous Owners

Today I'm a stop on the book tour for Fingerprints of Previous Owners. Thanks TLC Book Tours for providing this copy. All opinions my own. 

From Amazon: At a Caribbean resort built atop a former slave plantation, Myrna works as a maid by day; by night she trespasses on the resort’s overgrown inland property, secretly excavating the plantation ruins the locals refuse to acknowledge. Myrna's mother has stopped speaking and her friends are focused on surviving the present, but Myrna is drawn to Cruffey Island's violent past. With the arrival of Mrs. Manion, a wealthy African-American, also comes new information about the history of the slave-owner’s estate and tensions finally erupt between the resort and the local island community. Suffused with the sun-drenched beauty of the Caribbean, Fingerprints of Previous Owners is a powerful novel of hope and recovery in the wake of devastating trauma. In her soulful and timely debut, Entel explores what it means to colonize and be colonized, to trespass and be trespassed upon, to be wounded and to heal.

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I was immediately intrigued upon hearing about this book. The topic in combination with perspective offered seemed right up my alley. That said, I had the hardest time getting into this book. The first chapter made me feel so disoriented and it was really hard to understand what exactly I was reading. I appreciate the authors research and willingness to explore such a weighty topic but I had a difficult time connecting with any of the characters or feeling invested in the story. I appreciated the concept of the story but the execution fell a bit flat. I had pretty high hopes for this one and overall, it missed the mark. It wasn't for me but I can see that others might appreciate it more. If you've read this, I'd love to chat!

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