Review: The Victorian and the Romantic - Nell Stevens

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My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Nonfiction, Memoir, History

Reading Challenge: 21 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis

In 1857, English novelist Elizabeth Gaskell completed her most famous work: the biography of her dear friend Charlotte Bronte. As publication loomed, Mrs. Gaskell was keen to escape the reviews. So, leaving her dull minister husband and dreary provincial city behind, she set off with her daughters to Rome. There she met a dazzling group of artists and writers, among them the American critic Charles Eliot Norton. Seventeen years her junior, Norton was her one true love. They could not be together--it would be an unthinkable breach of convention--but by his side and amidst that splendid circle, Mrs. Gaskell knew she had reached the "tip-top point of [her] life."


In 2013, Nell Stevens is embarking on her PhD--about the community of artists and writers living in Rome in the mid-19th century--and falling head over heels for a soulful American screenwriter in another city. As her long-distance romance founders and her passion for academia never quite materializes, she is drawn to Mrs. Gaskell. Could this indomitable Victorian author rescue Nell's pursuit of love, family and a writing career?
Lively, witty, and impossible to put down, The Victorian and the Romantic is a moving chronicle of two women each charting a way of life beyond the rules of her time.

My Thoughts

Here are the things I knew (or thought I knew) about Elizabeth Gaskell before reading this book:

  • She wrote some classic novels, including North and South (but I don’t remember any other titles)

  • She was an author in 19th century Britain

  • She wrote a highly controversial biography about her dear friend, Charlotte Brontë after her death

And that’s literally it. But there is so much more to her than what meets the eye. That’s sort of my favourite thing about history - oftentimes, some of the best figures in history are actually the most overlooked.

Nell Stevens told a (somewhat fictionalized?) autobiographical story about her troubles navigating the post-grad educational world as well as her romantic life while slowly building a strong friendship with Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell, a relationship that was unaffected by time or distance. I thought that her story was super relatable. She really showed the difficulties and awkwardness of academia, something I’ve grappled with since the moment I went into university. It’s a cut-throat world and from what I can tell, it only gets worse in grad school! Lol. But I found it relieving to see her fumbling around, uncertain of what she was doing or what she wanted. I also loved seeing the development of her relationship with Max, how she came into her own and found her footing in her own direction.

Most of all, this book made me really interested in the life of Elizabeth Gaskell. Do not believe what you’ve heard!! Victorians were not prudish, boring people. They could be very complex and saucy even. Elizabeth Gaskell was a married woman who was engaged in a flirtation with a much younger man whilst on a trip to Rome without her husband - quel scandale. It was actually so interesting to read about and I intend to read more about this fascinating woman in the future!

Have you ever heard of Elizabeth Gaskell?

Felicia x

Review: The Farm - Joanne Ramos

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My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Fiction, Dystopian

Reading Challenge: 20 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis

Nestled in the Hudson Valley is a sumptuous retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. In fact, you get paid big money—more than you've ever dreamed of—to spend a few seasons in this luxurious locale. The catch? For nine months, you belong to the Farm. You cannot leave the grounds; your every move is monitored. Your former life will seem a world away as you dedicate yourself to the all-consuming task of producing the perfect baby for your überwealthy clients.

Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines and a struggling single mother, is thrilled to make it through the highly competitive Host selection process at the Farm. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her own young daughter's well-being, Jane grows desperate to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she'll receive on delivery—or worse.

Heartbreaking, suspenseful, provocative, The Farm pushes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit to the extremes, and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.

My Thoughts

I gotta say, I feel like the description of this book was pretty misleading. I went into The Farm expecting a Atwood-esque dystopian story and although the characters did go through pretty demeaning and inhumane ordeals at Golden Oaks Farm, it was a far cry from the horrors of Gilead in my opinion. I just felt that this story didn’t hit the same note as the previous dystopian literature that I’ve been exposed to.

All in all, I thought this was an interesting novel. The characters were well-developed and I found the split narrative between Jane, Ate, Reagan and Mae told a complicated, yet fascinating story. Oh and don’t let the blurb on the back fool you - this book is not just about Jane. It follows the stories of several women from different classes, races and age groups. That was something I found sort of surprising about this novel was how they promoted it as being so focused on Jane, but the other women in this story were essential to the plot. They were simply not throwaway characters. If y’all have read my book reviews before, you’ll know how I love me some complicated female characters. I hate one-dimensional women in novels, and this was the exact opposite of that.

Honestly, this book was a bit dull though. It was still enjoyable, don’t get me wrong. It was just a bit slow. I kept expecting a massive WOW moment but to be honest, the climactic moment was sort of a let down in my opinion. The ending fell flat for me as well as it sort of simmered and very quickly.

But don’t let that dissuade you - if you’re not going into this with hopes of an intense, non-stop, can’t-put-your-book-down sort of story, then you’re good. You’ll probably love it. And I even thought it was quite good too!

What do you think about feminist dystopias? Are you into them or no?

Felicia x

Review: The Sun Is Also A Star - Nicola Yoon

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“Sometimes your world shakes so hard, it’s difficult to imagine that everyone else isn’t feeling it too.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Fiction

Reading Challenge: 19 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

My Thoughts —

Alright, so let me start by saying that I completely devoured this book. I gave myself about a week to get through it as I wanted to finish it before I left for my Florida trip but I literally completed it in 24 hours lol. So, I think it’s safe to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This was not the first Nicola Yoon book that I’ve ever read. A couple summers back, I read “Everything, Everything” which, at the time, was really talked about because it was being adapted into a film. When I first read it, I really enjoyed it but when I started reading reviews by other readers, I started feeling uneasy because there was a lot of talk about how it sort of took the subject of disability and sort of diluted it for the purpose of the plot. In spite of this, I had heard a lot about “The Sun Is Also A Star” so I decided to give it a go.

There were two main things I really liked about this book. The first was the discussion on immigration, and the other was fate. Honestly, both were really well done. I loved how the two main characters were both influenced by immigration and yet their stories and circumstances were hardly similar. I liked the dichotomy in their families, pasts and lifestyles as I think it greatly impacted their lives and their viewpoints. In terms of the fate storyline, my favourite aspect wasn’t even really how the idea of fate affected the main characters’ love story, but rather who they came across in their 24 hour trek across New York City. In their day together, Natasha and Daniel met or passed several people and it was so interesting to see how they played off of one another and how their interactions were so important to one another’s lives.

I really don’t want to give away any of this story. It honestly took so many sharp turns and I think that giving away one detail sort of spoils all the fun! Personally, I think that if you’re considering reading this novel, I’d wait until you have the opportunity to really devote your time to it! For me, reading this novel in a day helped with the general flow of the novel, although I know that doing so isn’t possible for everyone. I’d just make sure you have time to read this in big chunks because I think it makes it easier to follow the different storylines and keep track of all the characters!

Do you believe in fate?

Felicia x

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag 2019

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Hello my loves!

I know I say it every year and this is probably my catchphrase, but can you believe how quickly this year is going by?! It’s so cliche to say and I’m fully aware of it. But honestly, I can’t grasp that the first half of the year has gone by. How is it almost 2020? Wasn’t it just 2010? God help me.

Anyway, existential crisis aside, happy second half of 2019 everyone! If that’s a thing lol. Today’s post is going to be one that I did last year as well which I’m very excited about - the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag!! Woohoo! I love posting these sorts of blogs because it’s a good mini wrap-up of the books I’ve been reading because with the amount I’ve read so far these year, it can be hard to think of them all as a whole group. So this is a really good way to talk about them all at once!

Without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Best book you’ve read so far in 2019…

Y’all know how I am about making decisions… I am BAD at it. So I’m going to allow myself to give two books for this answer. That seems fair, right?! Okay, so the two best books I’ve read this year so far are Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid and My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows. They were both so incredible and energetic. Honestly, there was never a moment reading either of these books where I was bored or wanted to put them down. I rated both of them 5 stars and they fully deserved it in every way conceivable.

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019…

Okay, so I struggle to call it a “sequel” but as it is part of the Lady Janies trilogy, I’m going to have to say that My Plain Jane was the best sequel I read in the first half of the year. I didn’t really read many sequels in the first half of the year. I only read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (a classic, of course) and All For One by Melissa de la Cruz (which I did not enjoy sadly). I’ve wanted to get my hands on a good series but just haven’t found many that’ve caught my eye yet. If you have a good one, please let me know!!

A book you haven’t read but want to…

Y’all, I am so excited to read A Game of Thrones. You may know that I got really into the show this year and that I binge-watched it just before the series ended this past spring. I only just bought the first two books recently and I am so excited to jump right into these books! Obviously, I’ve heard very good things about this series and I really enjoyed the show on the whole. I wasn’t super keen on the final season, in particular the finale, so hopefully that will be rectified by George R.R. Martin in the final books?! While those books haven’t come out yet, I’ll definitely let you know what I think about the first two books in the second half of this year hopefully!

Most anticipated release for the 2nd half of 2019…

Oh my god I am so unbelievably excited for The Testaments by Margaret Atwood to be released!! It is coming out in early September and yes, I’ve already got it pre-ordered so it will be sent to me once it’s released which is very good news because I’ve got a crazy busy September! I read The Handmaid’s Tale about two-ish years ago and loved it. I’ve since started watching the show on Hulu and think it’s incredibly done. The whole concept of Handmaid’s Tale is just so freaking terrifying but I think everyone needs to read the book or watch the show because our world is headed in a direction where women are being stripped of basic civil rights and we need to see what happens when it goes too far. Feminists, non-feminists and those in between can learn a lot from this book. And The Testaments has been described by Margaret Atwood herself as the answer to the questions that readers have had about Gilead since the first book was released in the ‘80s, so I’m PUMPED.

Biggest disappointment of 2019…

Sigh. Y’all know this has to be All For One… I was so bummed with how Melissa de la Cruz chose to end this trilogy. The first book, Alex and Eliza, was such an enjoyable historical fiction for young adults. And Love and War was a little less amazing, but still good regardless. But All For One was just a whirlwind and not in a good way. It felt like the author had sort of gotten bored with the trilogy and just wanted to finish it as quickly as possible. Like, not only were the loose ends not strung together as is expected in most series ends, but it was almost like the author started up a whole new story with this third book. Not a fan.

Biggest surprise of 2019…

Honestly, the biggest surprise for me has been Women Talking by Miriam Toews. I wasn’t really expecting much, I just thought it would be an interesting read, and it seemed sort of out of my usual selection of books. But it ended up being absolutely incredible!! Honestly, this book totally messed me up. It was so shocking and horrifying and heartbreaking… But also extremely powerful and uplifting?? I’d definitely recommend reading it. And also it’s great to support a Canadian author!

New favourite author…

Taylor Jenkins Reid!! I really enjoyed reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six in this first half of the year. I’d definitely read more of her work in the future.

Newest fictional crush…

I loved Alexander Blackwood from My Plain Jane! So cute and charming. Love the archetype of grumpy men who are secretly soft and caring on the inside (ahem Luke Danes)

Newest favourite character…

A character I’ve been loving is Fleetwood Shuttleworth from The Familiars. Her character growth was pretty amazing throughout the book!

Book that made you cry…

Although I didn’t cry while reading them, the two that made me most emotional were The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton and Women Talking. Both handled very difficult subject matter and did a great job of it. But both broke my heart fully.

Book that made you happy…

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy!! Yay for body positivity!!

Favourite book to movie adaptation…

D’ya know what’s funny? I haven’t seen a book to movie adaptation yet this year! But the Little Women adaptation is coming out in December, so I’ll let you know what I think of that when it comes out.

Favourite review you’ve written…

My review for The Royal We [review] was my favourite to write! It was one of the longest ones I’ve written and as it was for a book I really enjoyed, it was so fun to chat about!

Most beautiful book you’ve bought this year…

It’s genuinely been a year and I still don’t know if this is asking about the cover or the story… Last year I answered for the story, so let’s go with the cover this year! The most beautiful book I bought was The Familiars. It has an incredible navy blue cover with lovely woodland creatures and floral decorations.

Books you need to read by the end of 2019…

I’ve got a ton of books that I own that I still haven’t read. A few of those are: The Farm by Joanne Ramos, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, The Huntress by Kate Quinn, and My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray.

I hope you enjoyed this little mid-year wrap-up!

Felicia x

If you fancy reading my book reviews from this year, you can find those all here.

And if you want to read last year’s Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag, you can find that post here.

Review: My Plain Jane - Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

“If there was something strange in your neighborhood, you could, um, write the Society a letter, and they would promptly send an agent to take care of it.”

My Rating: ★★★★★

Genre(s): Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling

Reading Challenge: 18 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

My Thoughts —

The Janies have released yet another retelling masterpiece. And reader, I loved it.

If you haven’t already read my review of My Lady Jane, which I posted last year, now would be a great time to do that! You can read that here.

Okay, onto the review! So, first thing to note is that you don’t need to read My Lady Jane before you read this book. In fact, you don’t need to read it at all - but you should! Because My Lady Jane was amazing and I love-love-loved it. But these books exist entirely on their own. The best way that I could explain the Lady Janies series is by comparing it to an anthology series like American Horror Story, where each season is about a different story and different characters. That’s what these books are. They’ve got a common thread (being about a Jane, whether fictional or historical) but they tell different stories and aren’t connected.

Unlike My Lady Jane, which was a historical retelling, My Plain Jane took on a fictional story - the Charlotte Brontë Gothic novel, Jane Eyre. Some literary purists would probably be really put off by a retelling of a classic, especially one that really changed the course of the novel, but personally, I thought it was so entertaining. The team of authors who jointly put together this book did such a fantastic job at creating a multi-faceted story that combined the original storyline of Jane Eyre with common Gothic era elements as well as contemporary ideas. In this book, just like in My Lady Jane, we saw previously overlooked female characters taking a stand for themselves which was so empowering and amazing.

Something I particularly enjoyed about this book was how Charlotte Brontë took a major part in not only the storytelling but also the plot. In My Plain Jane, Charlotte was a close friend of Jane’s from the beginning of the story and she became an integral part in the main character’s story. But, maintaining a bit of reality, Charlotte was constantly writing down notes about Jane’s life in a notebook to use for a novel, which would ultimately become Jane Eyre. On the whole, it made the story feel a whole lot personal.

And finally, just like in My Lady Jane, My Plain Jane had little author’s notes which was so funny and original. It felt like the authors were telling the reader a story in a more personal way, and that’s something I really love about their books!

All in all, an INCREDIBLE book. If you’re looking for some ghostly fun (maybe a good October read???), definitely check this out, especially if you’re into young adults novels. It’s well worth the 400-some-odd pages!

P.S. I have just found out from the Janies’ blog (here) that they will not only be releasing a third book of the Janies series, My Calamity Jane, but also another trilogy - the Marys!! Which will include a first book about my most favourite tragic lady in history, Mary, Queen of Scots! Can’t wait for her to get the justice she deserved.

Are you a fan of retellings?

Felicia x

Review: The Familiars - Stacey Halls

“If the Devil is poverty, and hunger, and grief, then yes, I think they know the Devil.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (Pendle witches), Fantasy, Paranormal

Reading Challenge: 16 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.

Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Rich and compelling, set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside (even woodland creatures, or “familiars,” were suspected of dark magic) by capturing “witches”—in reality mostly poor and illiterate women.

My Thoughts —

Following my trend of only reading historical fiction novels (seriously, will I ever steer from this genre?!), I picked up this book after reading a bit about it on Goodreads. I’ve never really learned much about the history of witchcraft before, all though I knew about as much as the average person knows and after taking a recent course on the Stuart rule in England, I got the gist that James I wasn’t a big fan of witchcraft (or what he perceived to be witchcraft) in his kingdom. Despite my lack of knowledge, I picked this book up as sort of a beginner’s crash course on the topic. And it ended up doing the trick - I’m officially ready to learn more about this fascinating period of history!

I really liked how Stacey Halls flipped the perception of witches on its head completely by suggesting that the witch hunt was more of a fight for power and an attack on the poor than a reaction to an actual threat of danger. In this book, Fleetwood Shuttleworth - a young noblewoman - finds herself smack-dab in the middle of the Pendle witch trial when she believes someone to be wrongly accused and takes it upon herself to try to uncover the truth. What she finds is a world unlike her own, especially in regards to funds - those accused of witchcraft are disproportionately poor. Through her search, she discovers not only the truth about those involved in the alleged crimes, but also about those closest to her. The idea that the accused were not actually witches, but poor women who were unable to defend themselves is extremely eye-opening about the witch trials in general and how we perceive them today. In that time, what was unusual was considered evil, and the innocent were often persecuted.

Additionally, the way that women were portrayed in this novel was especially interesting. In the early 17th century, women had no rights and no position in the home or in society. They were silent figures that followed their fathers and their husbands - whether those men were good and right, or not. Fleetwood, our main character, has had significant hardship in her life as a young woman. At only 17 years old, she has endured horrors worst than most have in a lifetime. But these things have not broken her down - in fact, they have only made her stronger. And her friendship with her midwife, Alice, only empowers her more. But it is the witch trials that really sends her into full-force. She knows what she believes in and she follows this, regardless of if it is what her husband or society expects of her. Because of this, she becomes a full-fledged heroine. Through her journey, she highlights the greatest abuses against women in the early modern times and it is immensely inspiring.

Perhaps what I found most intriguing about this book, however, was what came after the novel - the Author’s Note, in which it was explained that the characters were real people who lived in 17th century England. That Alice Gray was accused and (perhaps more bogglingly) acquitted of witchcraft. The reason behind this acquittal has not been determined, even now, several hundred years later. Being a history nut myself, I found this mystery completely gripping and had even more appreciation for Stacey Halls, who gave a story to a woman whose life is an enigma.

Are you interested in the witch trials?

Felicia x

Review: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald - Therese Anne Fowler

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“Won’t we be quite the pair? - you with your bad heart, me with my bad head. Together, though, we might have something worthwhile.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (1920s/Lost Generation), Fiction

Reading Challenge: 15 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

A dazzling novel that captures all of the romance, glamour, and tragedy of the first flapper, Zelda Fitzgerald. 

When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the "ungettable" Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn't wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. 

Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner's, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick's Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

My Thoughts —

My opinion completely changed over the course of this novel, in a way that has literally never happened to me before.

To me, it seemed like this book started off kind of slow. We see Zelda Sayre, young and fresh-faced southern girl, very naive about the world around her and even more full of spunk - much to her family’s dismay. In the final moments of the Great War, Zelda meets F. Scott Fitzgerald, a northerner that introduces her to a whole new world. The two fall in love and then embark on their lives together, first in Manhattan and then across the world. The early years of their lives are not nearly as tumultuous as the later years, so it’s sort of monotonous in the beginning as F. Scott Fitzgerald becomes quickly successful and the two ride on the money and fame that came along with it.

It’s not until about halfway through the book that things really start to take a turn and that the book begins to earn the 4-star rating I gave it in the end. The Fitzgeralds are not a couple to aspire to be, that’s for sure. In reality, if you’re familiar with the couple’s ill-fated romance, you’ll know that they both died quite young in the 1940s with Scott first dying of a heart attack and then Zelda dying of a fire in a mental hospital nearly ten years later. Zelda’s mental health condition during their marriage is well-known, with her going in and out of mental hospitals for years. But this book reframes her mental illness entirely. Diagnosed with schizophrenia after suffering from a mental breakdown, Zelda is constantly badgered by her husband and by psychiatrists to give up her aspirations of being a writer and ballet dancer, as these will inevitably be her downfall - it is only be accepting her role as wife and mother that she will be truly happy. But Zelda recognizes this as being wildly misogynistic and unfair. Despite the women’s rights movement being in its very early stages at that time, she knows women deserve a better place in society than what their predecessors were relegated to.

The tortured love between Scott and Zelda is absolutely fascinating throughout the novel as you wonder constantly if the two really loved each other or if they found comfort in each other and mistook that for love. Seeing the deterioration of their marriage and the unequal standards to which they held one another was entirely intriguing to read and I was completely roped in. And, last but certainly not least, I loved that this book focused on a real female figure who is so often overlooked in history because of the success of her husband - even though, as we learn in this novel, she was very much a part of his writing process and success.

Are you a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work? Did you know anything about Zelda’s story?

Felicia x

Review: The Lost Girls of Paris - Pam Jenoff

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“The truth is sometimes the very opposite from what you expect it to be.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (WWII), Fiction

Reading Challenge: 13 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

1946, Manhattan

Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a ring of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

My Thoughts —

Personally, this book wasn’t one of my favourites of all the historical fictions that I’ve read. I picked it up because it had a very similar premise to The Alice Network, in that it revolved around women who were sent undercover to Nazi-occupied Paris during WWII. While The Alice Network was about women who worked directly as spies, The Lost Girls of Paris was about women who were sent out as primarily radio operators. But I figured it would be quite similar in giving me the feeling that The Alice Network gave me.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. And there’s a couple of reasons why this book just didn’t really work for me.

Right off the bat, I had a really hard time getting invested in the characters. The story didn’t just focus on one character’s story, but instead several. So I couldn’t really get the characters straight at the beginning, especially as two of the character’s stories paralleled in time whereas the third character’s story was a couple years later. So mentally, I was having a difficult time discerning who was who and what plotline was going on when - if that makes any sense. Once I finally got a grip on that, the story had already long kicked off and so I wasn’t fully invested in the characters.

Also, I found it frustrating how simple things were and how easily things came to the characters. Obviously, yes, there was significant conflict which you can imagine in a story about women operating in Nazi-occupied territory. But for example, within three pages, a minor conflict was presented and solved. THAT. EASILY. It was really unsatisfying. As crazy as it sounds, I prefer to have a complex conflict that requires a lot of effort and time to resolve, rather than a knot that can be easily untied in a few paragraphs or pages.

Overall, on the surface, the book was entertaining! I enjoyed it for what it was. I think the main downfall here for me personally was that I read The Alice Network before this, and I unintentionally held Lost Girls to a higher standard because of it.

That being said, if you want to read my review of The Alice Network, you can find that here!

What historical fictions have you been loving recently?

Felicia x

Review: Daisy Jones & the Six - Taylor Jenkins Reid

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“I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse. I am not a muse. I am the somebody.”

My Rating: ★★★★★

Genre(s): Historical Fiction (1970s), Fiction, Adult Fiction

Reading Challenge: 12 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

My Thoughts —

You know when you pick up a book, read the first couple chapters, and just know you’re in for something good? That was this book.

Daisy Jones & The Six has easily become my favourite book of the year so far. It’s so exciting, and multidimensional, and just absolutely fascinating. I love ‘70s music so much. Some of my favourite bands and artists are from the ‘70s, including Fleetwood Mac. So when I started reading this, I immediately noticed the similarities between Daisy Jones and Stevie Nicks, and I think that made it all the more interesting for me.

I really liked how the book started off by already telling you that the band would break-up and when. You knew that the whole book would be a culmination of the tensions which would lead to this massive split in Chicago. I thought that was pretty interesting as then I spent the rest of the book trying to guess who or what would break-up the band. There was a lot of problems for and amongst the band members, so it was a massive guessing game trying to figure out what would be their ultimate demise!

There are so many topics covered in this novel. Overall, it’s about a band making music, bumping heads, and then eventually breaking up. But underneath it all, there’s addiction, love, heartbreak, family, grief, loss, abuse, abortion, and feminism. All wrapped up into one. The author touches on all these topics, weaving them into the storyline and using them to explain why the characters behave in certain ways. Everyone has a story behind their shiny surface. It was particularly interesting how when, for example, the author would have a character describe some event from the tour that shaped their lives forever, the other characters wouldn’t even know it ever happened. It goes to show how you can see someone every single day and think you know everything about that person, but you really don’t know them at all.

I absolutely believe this needs to be adapted into a film or a limited TV series. It’s all set up to be a mockumentary and the album lyrics are there, just waiting to have music added to them and be turned into an incredible soundtrack. It just seems to perfect to not be adapted. Plus, it’s a fairly original concept, different from the typical things you read or watch. Above all, I need the soundtrack to this more than I need air.

CW: drugs/addiction, abortion, abuse

Felicia x

Review: The Royal We - Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

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“I fell in love with a person, not a prince; the rest is just circumstance.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Romance, Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Reading Challenge: 6 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it's Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick's sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he's fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she's sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.

My Thoughts —

Warning: prepare yourselves for what might be my longest review yet!

If you know me, you know I’m massively into the British royal family. Or any royal family, for that matter. It’s not that I feel some intense loyalty to the royals, although I do think that as a Canadian, you sort of have an inherent respect for the monarch anyway. No, I just find monarchical rule utterly fascinating, especially now in the 2010s. It’s all so glamorous and yet you know how unglamorous it all truly is. It’s wild to me that as a society, we get so wrapped up in the romanticization of royalty. How we wake up in the middle of the night to watch Princes William and Harry get married, we follow their lives through the Internet or newspapers, we cling to their every move - even those of us who aren’t fans of the royals. And most of all, we all secretly want to know what exactly is going on behind the gates of the palace.

The Royal We actually bring us behind those gates and into the darkest, grittiest shadows of the palace. Mind you, it’s not quite the Windsors but it’s as close as any of us will probably ever get at guessing what their version of reality is.

I think this book’s cover alone tells a lot about our fascination with the royal family. Just by glancing at the cover, you recognize the faceless figures as William and Kate. Easily, too. Anyone who has seen anything about the 2011 wedding would recognize Kate’s gorgeous bridal gown and William’s scarlet uniform. The novel closely replicates the story of William and Kate, however with succinct differences. Namely that Bex - our novel’s complicated heroine - is an American student who has a hell-raising twin sister.

I completely devoured this book. It was dishy and romantic, including just the right combination of royal tradition and modern-day elements to make it realistic. In the past century, royals have truly become celebrities rather than divine rulers, and the authors really incorporated that cultural change. There isn’t a moment of Bex’s life with Nick, the handsome English prince, where she isn’t a subject of the nation’s fascination - and criticisms. I think the pressure of the paparazzi on Bex was hugely important, as that is a very real aspect of the lives of the women who have recently become romantically involved with the royals, from Diana to Kate and now Meghan.

One of the things I thought was most well-done was the timeline. The novel stretches over quite a long period of time, much like the real-life love story of William and Kate did. It follows the main characters through their final years of university, to their early adulthood and then to their mid-to-late twenties. For a novel that’s under 500 pages, it was an ambitious move but I think the authors nailed it! I was pleasantly surprised in that regard. I didn’t find it stretched on too long, or that it was choppy, or anything. It flowed very well and kept me captivated the whole way along.

The ending really took me by surprise. I won’t give anything away, but I didn’t see the ending coming and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I think it was effective but I’m not sure it’s the kind of ending I expect or prefer in a novel. It didn’t quite tie up the strings well enough for me. But for another reader, I think it’d be the perfect sort of ending.

Are you a fan of the royal family?

Felicia x

2018 Favourites

Hello everybody!!

As we’ve recently entered a new year, I thought that now would be the perfect time to look back on the last one and reflect on some of my favourite things from 2018! Although in the grand scheme of things 2018 wasn’t my favourite year, it was a really great year for entertainment and beauty products for me. I discovered a bunch of new things that I absolutely love which I can’t wait to share with all of you.

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BOOKS

1) “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn - This book was crazy good!! I didn’t know I needed a book about female war spies until I read this book and it only left me longing for more. [FULL REVIEW]

2) “Beartown” by Fredrik Backman - As this was the last book I read in 2018, I don’t have a full review up for it yet. But trust me when I say that this book is FANTASTIC. In fact, it may just be the best book I read in the whole year. [FULL REVIEW]

3) “My Lady Jane” by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows - I was a bit iffy about this one, but I ended up absolutely adoring it. It was a completely fictional retelling of the history of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days’ Queen. The fantasy elements were both tasteful and hilariously impractical at the same time. [FULL REVIEW]

4) “Under Rose-Tainted Skies” by Louise Gornall - Prior to reading this, I’d never come across a book that I connected to in regards to mental illness. But this one captured anxiety, and mental illness in general, in such a relatable and comforting way. I saw a lot of both my teenage and adult self in the main character, Norah. I really hope that other teens can read this novel and feel like they aren’t alone in the world! [FULL REVIEW]

5) “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell - I loooove Rainbow Rowell, and Fangirl perhaps only reinforced my love for her writing. This is easily my favourite of Rowell’s novels. I love how she represented fandoms and also encouraged aspiring authors to write fan fiction, as it’s such a great creative outlet! [FULL REVIEW]

6) “All We Ever Wanted” by Emily Giffin - Woww this book was insane. It took on such a powerful, contemporary issue. I really hadn’t expected to be as impacted by this novel as I was after reading it!! [FULL REVIEW]

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TV SHOWS

1) The Crown - Technically not a 2018 TV show, but this is one I binged - and loved - this year! I tried to watch The Crown for the first time in 2016 but never really got into it. When I tried to watch it again this year, I absolutely fell for it. Can’t wait for the new season to come out this year!

2) This Is Us - I feel like a lot of people can agree with me on this one. This Is Us seems like it’s stolen everyone’s hearts these past few years. It’s honestly such a heartwarming family drama - and we all know how I feel about family dramas!!

3) Big Little Lies - Again, this one didn’t come out in 2018. I read the book last year around the time that the show came out but I don’t have HBO so I had to wait for it to come out on dvd. FINALLY I got to watch this in the summer and oh my god I loved it so much!!!

FILMS

1) Love Simon - Is it possible for a movie to simultaneously warm and break your heart?? Cause this one sure had that effect on me. Personally I think this movie was long overdue, but I really hope that now this one’s come out, it’ll pave way for more LGBTQ films in the future!

2) Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again - I’ve literally waited ten years for another Mamma Mia film and I’m sooo happy that it finally came out. This movie was everything I wanted - comedy, amazing music, strong female characters, and a fabulous storyline!

3) Bohemian Rhapsody - Ohhh my gosh. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of a film about Freddie Mercury, and Bohemian Rhapsody surely did not disappoint. Rami Malek did such an excellent job as Freddie, I was truly blown away!

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MUSIC

1) Hamilton - Many of you probably already know that I’m 100% obsessed with the musical, Hamilton. Like OBSESSED. And have been for like three years. But this year, my obsession only strengthened because I found out that the musical is coming to Toronto in 2019!! So exciting!!

2) Shawn Mendes - Shawn Mendes released his third album this past May and I loved it. He’s one of my favourite artists, everything he puts out immediately grips my heart. I just love him. I think my favourite song on this album has to be Lost in Japan. Sooooo good. Can’t wait to see him live in concert this year!

3) 70s Music (Fleetwood Mac) - This past year, I got very into 70s music. I’m into old music as it is, but before I primarily stuck to 80s, 90s, and country music from the 60s (weird I know). But aside from my already steadfast love of Queen and ABBA, I decided to broaden my horizons a bit this year and got really into Fleetwood Mac, Elton John and Dolly Parton - all of whom I liked before, but now I totally love!!

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BEAUTY

1) E.l.f. Cosmetics Eyebrow Duo Kit - This has been one of my favourite beauty products for quite a few years, but I always have to mention it anyway. Considering how much I use eyebrow products, I can’t justify buying really expensive ones. But this is definitely the best drugstore brand eyebrow product I’ve come across!

2) Rimmel London Wonder Lash Mascara - I’ve been straight up obsessed with this mascara since I picked it up on a whim during the summer. It makes my lashes soooo bloody long and thick oh my goodness. I think the argan oil infusion really does a lot to help.

3) Too Faced Peach Blur Translucent Smoothing Finishing Powder - I was gifted this for Christmas last year and absolutely loved it.

4) Too Faced Just Peachy Mattes Palette - I picked this up this summer and am completely in love with it. I’ve been very into orange-y shades in 2018 (and into 2019 as well), so this was completely perfect for me!!

5) Colourpop Lippie Stix - The Colourpop lippie stix have basically been my go-to for lip colour in 2018. I love these so so so much. They’re perfect, long-lasting matte lipsticks and they come in soo many different gorgeous shades. The majority of the ones I have are dark reds or mauves lol.

What were your favourites of 2018?

Felicia x

2019 Goals

Hello my friends… Happy New Year! Welcome to 2019. The last year of the decade. I can hardly believe that it’s nearly the 2020s. It even looks wrong to type.

Last year, I wrote up a post about the things that I wanted to accomplish in 2018; goals that I was going to try my best to stick to as the year went on. I’ve never liked the term “New Year’s Resolutions” because I feel like it’s so heavy with negative connotations. Most times, we hold ourselves to extremely unrealistic resolutions and when we aren’t successful, we end up feeling so down on ourselves. But I do like the idea of setting goals and trying to achieve them. Goals are more flexible than resolutions, in that resolutions feel more like something you have to be working on every single day, whereas goals are more long-term.

So, without further ado, here are my 2019 goals!

Read 35 Books

Sooo this past year, I set myself a goal of reading 50 books… Unfortunately, I didn’t make it. Not even close haha. I ended up reading about 37 books - which is still a lot, don’t get me wrong!! I definitely learned a lot about time management this year. And with my anxiety so bad at certain points throughout the year, I often lost my drive to pick up a book and read. But this year will definitely be better, in that sense. Instead of holding myself to another unattainable goal, I’m going to try to read 35 books in 2019.

Do More Things That Scare Me

At the start of 2018, my anxiety held me back from doing a lot. In fact, for the past 6 years, it’s been holding me back. But by the end of the year, I finally started to get control over my life again. Now that I have more confidence and less anxiety, I definitely want to try to push myself to do more things that scare me, things that I usually avoided doing because of my anxiety. One of those things is going back on a cruise. The last cruise I went on a few years back was horrible because of my anxiety, but we have another one booked this year and I’m excited to step out of my comfort zone!

Be More Outspoken - In Life and Online

A side effect of my anxiety, one that has really bothered me for a long time, is the fact that my shyness causes me to censor everything I say. I’m always afraid of going against the grain, or opposing someone else’s thoughts, so I tend to just agree with other people or not speak out about my thoughts/opinions just to keep the peace. Which is so unhealthy and just downright annoying. In the New Year, I definitely want to make a change in that. I’d love to be more open, not only in the “real world” but online as well.

Self-Care, Self-Care, Self-Care

It took me about 19 years to realize that self-care is important. And I know that sounds ridiculous, but think about it. How often do you put yourself first? I spent years and years putting people before me, at the expense of my own self-health. This past year, I really started to focus on myself. Being healthier, taking care of my skin, making decisions that weren’t only benefitting people around me. There’s a million small things you can do to improve your own self-health! I’m definitely going to make a conscious effort to continue to care for myself in 2019.

Start Vlogging

This is something I tell myself that I’m going to do every. single. year. And I never do it. But this year, I’ve decided, is different. Before, I stopped myself from branching out into the Youtube world with vlogs because my mind and anxiety always acted against me. It’s hard to put yourself out on the Internet like that. Blogging is different; I know how to write and it’s comfortable. But I can’t forget my 2nd goal: stepping out of my comfort zone! I’m going to be doing a ton of exciting things this year and I’d love to share them all with my followers through a different format than just written posts.

~ What are your 2019 goals? ~

Felicia x