Books of the Month: May 2021

Apologies for the delay on this post, it was all written, I just got distracted by the book I was reading this week and forgot to post it! I actually really enjoyed all of the books I read this month; it was also quite a variety, from thriller, to historical fiction, to romance, to a web cartoon. I also somehow bought like 8 books last month? And had several come available at the library so it’s been quite the mad dash to get through my TBR.

The Push was a psychological drama about a mother who suspects there is something wrong with her first born daughter, but everyone thinks she is making it up. It reminds me a bit of Woman in the Window, where the female protagonist isn’t believed by anyone and is made to be crazy. I think this was a really well written book; it felt real and honest (as in, I’m not taking a chance and having children), and helps to pose the question, at what age do sociopaths start to show their true nature and what do we do about it…?

Lore Olympus (Season 1) is a Webtoon comic that I fell in love with this month. I’ve been very into greek mythology and this (modern?) retelling of the story of Hades and Persephone made me swoon. I literally gobbled up the comics, reading through season 1 in about 3 days. Would recommend if you want to scroll through something other than Instagram.

Circe was a fantastic book about the nymph daughter of Helios, who ends up becoming a powerful witch, exiled to her own island. Odysseus eventually ends up on her shores in his return home to Ithaca, for those who read The Odyssey by Homer. The story was about a powerful woman, coming into her own as a powerful sorceress who defies the gods for her own gains, which we love to see! *clap*

The People We Meet on Vacation was another Emily Henry banger. It was a semi coming of age story (IMO) meets romance about Alex and Poppy, who meet in college and become friends, traveling on vacation each summer. I felt it was a bit of a When Harry Met Sally* rip off and I definitely loved Beach People more, but Henry still wrote complex characters who had complicated backgrounds within an overall great story. I felt like it was also a coming of age story for Poppy, in a way that reminded me of Honey Girl. Also, loved the back and forth chapters that helped to better show more of Alex and Poppy’s pasts.

(*WHMS is quite literally one of my favorite 90’s rom coms, second to Pretty Woman, so I really wasn’t upset by this)

Milk Fed was a coming of age story about a twenty something living in LA, struggling with her body image, weight and mommy issues. I found it to be a bit triggering when she was talking about her eating disorder, but overall, it was an interesting story. I don’t think I would recommend this one to everyone but it was a very well written coming of age story.

We Begin at the End surprised me. It started off and I was very confused as to what was happening? But slowly, the story developed and I found there were really well written characters within a very complex story. It reminded me a lot of All of the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood, but with a murder investigation thrown in? The story follows the police chief, Walk as he tries to prove his friend’s innocence when someone in town is found murdered; there is a second plot factoring in a young girl and her brother as they outrun the sister’s past misdeeds. The two plots are woven into one another, of course.

Overall, I enjoyed all of the books I read this month, I would definitely recommend The Push or Circe the most. I’ve been on quite the Greek mythology kick these days and am currently reading The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (so close to being done and I already know it’s going to be my favorite book for June). Any book suggestions on this topic will be well received!

The Push by Ashley Audrain

Lore Olympus, Season 1 by Rachel Smythe

Circe by Madeline Miller

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

What did you read in May? Leave it in the comments, I’m always looking for recommendations!

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Books of the Month: April 2021

I had a slower reading month; I actually started two additional books this month but did not finish so I wasn’t able to get through as many as I have stacked next to my bed. I include blurbs about each at the end of this post, just for reference of why I stopped reading each. Both left me wanting more and I couldn’t ignore the heap of books that I knew would be more intriguing. So in an effort of self care I moved on and honestly don’t regret it. That being said, here are the books I did finish this month:

The Poppy War was a surprise for me; a coworker recommended it and to be honest, it’s not one I would have personally chosen to read, but I’m happy I did. In book one of a trilogy, Rin, a war orphan peasant, has landed herself in one of the most prestigious military academies in her land. While there, she learns the art of war, but also the art of shamanism. When war does break out, Rin must fight for her people and decide whether or not to work with her gods, even if it means total destruction. I really enjoyed this book and its strong female lead. The first chunk of the story was a lot of world building and slower to get through, but once war broke out, the story really took off. I can’t wait to read the next book in the trilogy!

Honey Girl was another surprise, I was expecting a romance and got a coming of age story that was really nice. Grace Porter has been following her plan for 11 years, strenuously working to get her doctorate in astronomy. Once she has her degree, she struggles with getting a job because of who she is, so she decides to run away… to find the girl she married in Vegas on a drunken night weeks before. It’s sweet and really hit a chord, I also remember being done with school and feeling this large emptiness and not knowing how to define myself. I wish I had turned to therapy during that time. Very cute and quick read!

The Lost Apothecary was good but I feel a smidge let down by the book? I initially heard about it from someone who hyped it up A LOT so I went into it with really high hopes; not to say it wasn’t a good story, but I just want to set that stage before I continue. The story was about a woman who uses her late mother’s apothecary to help other women kill men, for lack of a better description? I loved the story of women supporting women and the present day story woven in that had a modern scorned woman on a hunt to uncover the lost apothecary. It was a fun read and I didn’t see some of the twists coming?

The Four Winds was phenomenal. I’ve always loved Kristin Hannah’s stories; she has a wonderful way of weaving a beautiful story with rich characters together to make a great book. The Four Winds is about a Texas family during the Great Depression/Dust Bowl, who decide to migrate to California to save themselves. When they get there, they only find discrimination and unfair jobs. It made me sad to think that America has always been routed in capitalism and the fear of outsiders? I feel like you could change the characters to Asian or Mexican and set it in the present day and the major themes would still be present, which was something I kept thinking about as I progressed through the family’s time in California. A must read!

Beach Read was talented brilliant incredible amazing show stopping, please read this book ASAP. January, a heart broken and uninspired author, moves to her late father’s beach house for the summer while she writes her next novel. She starts a friendly bet with the author next door that eventually spirals into something more. It’s a classic rom com that mocks rom coms and happily ever afters throughout the story, but I really felt these characters had actual depth to them. It made me want to write a book? Also, the books they each wrote over the summer, where can I read them? They sound really good? Finally, if you need any other excuse to read this book, it’s full of Taylor Swift references, particularly the ‘You Belong with Me’ writing messages on notebooks for hot neighbor across the way, so.

The end KILLED MEH.

The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R.F. Kuang

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Beach Read by Emily Henry

If I had to recommend one book, and this is really hard, I would say The Four Winds but if you can’t handle a heavy book right now, or you’re a Swiftie like me, pick up Beach Read!

What did you read this month?

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Books I Wanted to Like and Started to Read but Didn’t Finish: April 2021

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I’ve been wanting to reread books we were forced to “read” in high school (aka sparknote) and I realized I wasn’t actually forced to read East of Eden but it sounded really good. It’s rated highly on good reads and I thought, ‘let’s do it!’ …but I found that Steinbeck’s writing still puts me to sleep after all these years. I couldn’t do it, and instead of forcing myself, I said ‘Goodbye John’ and moved on. Maybe another time.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I know somewhere, someone just flipped their computer off a table. I KNOW. I’ve had multiple people tell me Good Omens was an awesome book. I have seen the show and loved it (shoutout to Michael Sheen and David Tennant, also Jon Hamm) so I expected to love the book. I got about halfway through and just… couldn’t? I don’t know if it was the lack of chapter division? Or lack of Crawley and Aziraphale characters that are very prominent in the show? I could only read like 3-4 pages and I would call it a night. Seriously you guys, I spent like 10 days (1/3 of the month) trying to chug through this book and I only made it to when Armageddon starts happening. I decided to stop as there were other books I knew I would enjoy more. End of story, you can hate me if you want, but I stand by this.

In a (creative) rut.

pencil drawing, 2019 (pardon the nudity)

Over the past few years, I’ve been moving down a path where I’m doing less and less creative things. I used to draw and paint regularly, and for a spell, I was learning hand lettering, first on paper, then on iPad. I started this blog as a creative outlet, though I would never necessarily call myself a writer by any means. I guess you could argue that baking is a more creative hobby as well? I usually find I’m at my most happy, or peaceful perhaps, when I’m doing something that errs more on the creative side; however, it’s been harder and harder for me to want to choose to do those types of things. My sketchbooks sit collecting dust, paints drying up. I haven’t really baked that much either recently and I have definitely been slacking to write anything on here.

Perhaps I’m uninspired after a year of sitting inside my apartment? Perhaps I’m changing and no longer love the things I used to? I really don’t know.

watercolor bouquet, 2019

I started thinking about this because I found out about a co-worker’s side hustle (running an entire business, might I add) and as she’s not the first co-worker I’ve had that has a fully functioning side business, I can’t help but wonder where on earth she gets the time because she works more hours than I do most days. I certainly don’t have the time or energy to do anything creative like I want, let alone run a business after my full time job. But then I think about how today, I went to Target and came home to watch HGTV. I’ve been reading and staring at my phone (hi Zillow) for most of the day. On evenings during the week, after work, I usually make dinner and settle in to watch TV until I go to read before bed. After thinking about it, I guess, I do have the time to do something on the side as well, that be a hobby or a business, but when did I get so lazy? The thought of even doing anything other than laying here right now was exhausting. When did I become like this? Was it 2020? Or is it just being apart of our society, shifting more towards becoming mindless technology obsessed robots?

I kind of hate myself for it.

But I don’t hate myself, because 2020 was a year and we all need to recuperate from it. I also cannot compare myself to my coworker or anyone else because I’m on my own journey and I need to respect their journey. Perhaps I need to let go of things that aren’t serving me anymore, but I have to wonder if sitting in front of my TV like a mindless zombie might be what’s not serving me anymore. I did read 60 books last year, and I’ve already read 20 this year, so I’m not exclusively zoning out in front of a screen, but I do miss painting and drawing and baking. I do want to do these things as I do have plenty of time, but I find I’m unable to bring myself to do them and before I know it, a whole day is gone.

Digital handlettering, 2019

I decided to share some of my art here, which I never do, but it does look like 2019 was the last year I really got into my creativity. When I think about it, I lived alone and I had my dining room table (ahem entire apartment really) as a creative space, so I was always working there. I do wish I had a space here that I could go to and work; I keep trying to push my boyfriend to move into a bigger apartment so I can have access to something like that again but he’s not budging for a few more months (SIGH). I also used to take drawing classes when I lived in Columbus, but all the classes here in LA are too expensive. I need to find space and time to create again.

Has anyone else experienced this within the last year? How do you allocate your time, especially when you’re feeling too lazy to do anything other than binge another show?

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Books of the Month: March 2021

Whew, I read 8 books last month! Let’s see if I can remember them all….

This Close to Okay was okay? It was a very well written story about Tallie, a therapist, and a man she stops from jumping off the side of a bridge on night. The two eventually build a connection together over a rainy weekend, but I felt like the ending fell a bit flat? I don’t know, the end made me smile but it wasn’t what I was expecting to happen? Curious if others have thoughts on this one…

You’re the Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion should be required reading for literally everyone. This book details very real stories of real people who’ve had abortions in America, written by a abortion clinic doctor. It really breaks down each situation and the reasoning for the person having the abortion, as well as how the laws affected that situation, based on the state the person was living in, or had to travel to in order to have the abortion. Before reading it, I always said I was pro-choice, but I could never have an abortion myself; after reading it, I can no longer say for certain that in every situation, I would never have one. Abortion isn’t black and white, and the laws preventing it disportionately affect those of color and low income. It’s a really great book to read if you want to educate yourself more on this topic that shouldn’t even be a partisan issue.

What Kind of Woman was a beautiful book of poems. I loved Part 1 the most; ‘Moon Song’ and ‘To Take Back a Life’ were probably my favorites? Kate fully captured all the different facets of being a woman, from being a mother to a wife to single woman. I feel like I will come back to this book throughout my life and take different things from it each time.

Girl A had a good story, about a girl who was held hostage and abused by her parents, and eventually escaped, freeing herself and her siblings. The story jumps back and forth in time, from the past to the present, when the mom dies and the girl has to reconnect with her siblings as adults. It was a good story, I saw the twist coming, the end.

An Offer From a Gentlemen/Romancing Mister Bridgerton were books 3 and 4 in the Bridgerton series and, in my opinion, these books are getting worse and worse as they go on. These books were the love stories of Benedict and Collin respectively, and each man is kind of an asshole to their respective partners? They have horrible tempers (which is passed off as a ‘quirky/cute’ Bridgerton trait) and treat their loves with no respect while claiming they’re ‘protecting’ the women. Benedict basically kidnaps a woman and forces her to be his mistress, while Collin acts like a jealous child around angel of the whole series, Penelope, and is constantly calling out the fact that even he’s surprised he fell in love with her. I am no longer reading any more of these; overall would not recommend the series…

The Marriage Game was cute but I don’t remember much of it? It would be good to read on the beach. Layla has returned home after another bad breakup and failed career path; she goes on blind dates her dad has found for her online (they’re Indian, he’s trying to modern day arrange a marriage for her), but due to her dad’s heart attack, the dates are chaperoned by her hottie office partner and eventually, they fall in love. He’s kind of a dick to her, tbh? IMO she could have done better, but maybe I was just still salty after reading the Bridgertons

Calling Me Home tore at my heart strings. Isabelle, a 90 year old woman, asks her hair dresser/friend, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral all the way in Cincinnati from Texas. Along the journey, Dorrie hears the story of Isabelle’s life, specifically about when she fell in love as a teen with a black man during WW2, when Jim Crow laws were raging in America. It was beautiful and sweet love story and I would definitely recommend reading.

This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith

You’re the Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion by Meera Shah

What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer

Girl A by Abigail Dean

An Offer From a Gentleman (Bridgertons #3) by Julia Quinn

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai

Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Bridgertons #4) by Julia Quinn

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

If you read anything from this list, read You’re the Only One I’ve Told, and whatever you do, DO NOT read the Bridgerton novels. What did you read last month?

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Sincerely Seven: Week 10

Happy (almost) spring all! I know we’ve lost an hour but we get more DAYLIGHT and I am thrilled. I am not thrilled that we stayed up last night watching Outlander, so I went to bed later than normal, but had to get up at the same time because cat. Coffee is most definitely fueling me today, but when isn’t it? I also feel *disgusting* while I’m writing this, I made donuts this AM and already ate about three, so I should probably go for a walk, but I’ll more than likely lay here for the rest of the day..

Cereal Milk Donuts!
  1. I have been binging ‘Under the Influence with Jo Piazza,’ a podcast about mommy influencers, history of influencers, etc, and WHEW I would recommend. It really breaks down the influencer world in general, from the start and how it evolved over time, and I could not stop listening. I’m not a mom, but I do follow some influencers who are moms and it’s very easy for me to succumb to products that influencers suggest across the board.
  2. This weekend, I’m tackling donuts…. Cereal Milk Donuts to be specific (see above). It merges cereal milk from the iconic, Milk Bar, and the custard from Bread Ahead Bakery in London (they rose to fame in early quarantine for their instagram baking tutorials). You can find the recipe here. It is a bit involved and a 2 day process, so if you want a more no fuss donut recipe, try Erin McDowell’s recipe here (which is the base for the cereal milk recipe), SO easy and SO tasty.
  3. A friend shared this article with me this week, about Armie Hammer’s recent drama and his family’s legacy that led up to this point. You guys, it’s wild! It’s a longer read, but 100% worth it. The texts he apparently sent? Oof. Thinking about his wife (who seems lovely from Instagram) and his children…
  4. I’ve been seeing baked oatmeal everywhere, and I’ve never had, but these recipes look really yummy? I’ll have to try some this week, has anyone tried baked oatmeal?
  5. Loved this NYT opinion piece about Taylor Swift and her lyrics taking us back to nature. I loved even more that it was written by a 50 year old dad, proving anyone can be a TS fan. She is ~t i m e l e s s~!
  6. A fun article for anyone else missing Wandavision this week, Jac Schaeffer, director of Wandvision, explains how Kathryn Hahn was chosen for the role of Agatha. Kathryn Hahn has been a favorite of mine for awhile now (did you watch Mrs. Fletcher?), but I loved her in Wandavision! I also loved that the entire writing staff wanted her for the show. As they should!
  7. A nice reminder to get yourself into more ethical fashion habits, here are 5 reminders of things you can do to create a more sustainable closet. Follow my Poshmark closet here, and always remember to check Poshmark, The RealReal, thredup, etc for pieces before you buy new!

Hope you all have a lovely week ahead!

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Books of the Month: February 2021

Another four books for the month of February! I want everyone to know that two of the books I read this month feature cultures with arranged marriages, and for two weeks, I kept having dreams that my parents had arranged a marriage for me to random guys from my past and I had to return to PA to get hitched. It was SO weird and I kept waking up feeling angry and uncomfortable, but as a result, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the right and wrong of cultures/religions based in patriarchal origins where women aren’t deemed as worthy which angers me as a feminist, but also forces me to respect a religion’s doctrine regardless? I don’t know, I’m on the fence, any opinions welcomed….anyway, back to why we’re here…I decided to take it slow this month and not speed through my books, but rather enjoy the stories I read. I feel like that’s why these reviews ramble on a bit more than normal? I had a lot more thoughts about these books and I credit that to take about a week to read each, versus blowing through them in a few days.

With that being said, here’s what I read this month:

Followers was…good? There were kind of two plots going on, one plot that was really interesting conceptually, and one that felt reminiscent of a Freeform TV show (read: semi boring, sub par acting, but I would definitely watch it on Friday night while drinking wine and eventually fall asleep and not remember much of it the next day). The book toggles back and forth in time between present day and 2050, and goes into depth exploring how our present society values ‘celebrity’ and ‘social media’ and how that eventually results in a nationwide electrical shut down where everyone’s secrets are spilled and the society moves towards a government controlled internet. If you couldn’t tell, this was the part of the narrative that was really interesting to me, because if you told me this would all happen tomorrow, I wouldn’t be surprised? It felt very thought out and was the reason I kept reading this book, if I’m being honest. The main (Freeform-y) plot in the present day was about two girls, one in a Buzzfeed type job, the other an up and coming instagram influencer; together they plot the influencer’s rise to fame and then deal with the resulting outcome of their choices. The plot in 2050 was about how society has worsened thanks to the new internet and how people are seemingly more obsessed with social media and celebrity. The two timelines are connected. Next.

The Island of Sea Women was phenomenal. I am definitely biased because it’s historical fiction and you all know how I feel about historical fiction, but regardless, I do feel that it’s a well written book with well rounded characters and plot. It was also fascinating because it was about a part of history that I was honestly unaware of, so I learned some things along the way as well. The story was about the haenyeo women on Jeju island off the coast of South Korea; haenyeo women are sea diving women who come from a matriarchal society where the haenyeo are the breadwinners and the men stay home with the children (side note, why isn’t more fiction based in matriarchal societies? Even the patriarchy wins out in our fictional worlds? Bleh, on a feminist rant since it’s International Women’s month now). Overall, the story follows two girls has they grow up and become women during the time of Japanese colonialism in Korea, followed by American occupation and the fight against communism, all the way up to present day. It touches on friendship, loss and duty to family. In my opinion, add this to your TBR pile!

A Place for Us was a beautiful story about a Muslim Indian-American family, told from the perspectives of the mom, oldest daughter, youngest son, and dad. The author chose not to write from the second daughter’s perspective, which for some reason, has stuck with me. Why leave only her voice out of the family of five, and if not including her voice, why even have her character in the story at all? She always sort of felt like an afterthought to me and wasn’t part of the major plot, but I guess her presence was needed to separate the children to strengthen the story of the friendship between the sisters, forcing the son to be a lonely outlier. Anyway! A quick summary would be that it’s a story about the way parents pass on (force?) culture and religion to their children, and how children in turn, try to balance that with coming into their own persons. It touched on duties as children, duties as parents, loss, addiction, and love. It ended and I was weeping. Add to your TBR pile.

The Office of Historical Corrections was a series of novellas and short stories, and to be quite frank, I’m not recalling what the difference between the two is, maybe something about length? Regardless, I loved every single story in this book. Each one was better than the last, ending with a longer story (novella?) that strongly reminded me of The Vanishing Half. Most touch on race, but the author also touches on love and grief. I think my favorite was “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain”? I wish that story could have been a full length book, digging more into the characters and backstory, as well as what the future held for Rena and Dori. Very quick read, would also add to your TBR pile.

Overall, it was a good book month with only one book that I would pass on. If I had to choose one to recommend, I would chose The Island of Sea Women.

Followers by Megan Angelo

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

What have you been reading? I’m finally starting This Close to Okay, and You’re the Only One I’ve Told is ready for pick up at the library. Heading into March with determination to get through my ever growing TBR pile.

Sincerely,

Sara Ann