The Malus Domestica series from S. A. Hunt is one of my favorite scary series. It starts with Burn the Dark, followed by I Come With Knives, and The Hellion. This series is perfect for those who love their scary books to be on the extreme side, as in explosive action featuring witches, demons, and lots and lots of scary stuff. I don’t think I will ever get that cat scene out of my head.
This is also perfect for those looking for a trans author to read and follow.
What I loved about this series was all of the explosive action, followed by everything super evil you can think of. I may end up going back to read this series again.
This series is one you need to share with everyone who loves horror. It is really, really good.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets Stranger Things in award-winning author S. A. Hunt’s Burn the Dark, first in the Malus Domestica horror action-adventure series about a punk YouTuber on a mission to bring down witches, one vid at a time.
Robin is a YouTube celebrity gone-viral with her intensely-realistic witch hunter series. But even her millions of followers don’t know the truth: her series isn’t fiction.
Her ultimate goal is to seek revenge against the coven of witches who wronged her mother long ago. Returning home to the rural town of Blackfield, Robin meets friends new and old on her quest for justice. But then, a mysterious threat known as the Red Lord interferes with her plans…
[DISCLOSURE: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work.]
For over 50 years, the Diane von Furstenberg Wrap Dress has defied the test of time.
While curating the right pieces for your wardrobe that will withstand the test of time, you should add pieces from designers that have historically proven their ability to be fashionable over several decades.
Take for instance, the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress. In 1976, Cybill Shepherd wore the DVF wrap dress in the iconic movie “Taxi Driver.” The 1972 dress design is still going strong 50 years later. It is timeless. It is an investment piece you will not regret adding to your curated wardrobe.
The iconic dress comes in a variety of prices and styles.
When I first moved to NYC, one of my managers introduced me to the DVF dress. She picked up her dress from Ebay. She wore it through both of her pregnancies and many years afterward.
Keeping that in mind, I added the classic style, as worn by Cybill Shepherd, to my wardrobe, as well as a sleeveless version. That dress never goes out of style, no matter which pattern you get.
Warning for petite women: skip the maxi length dress (especially if there is a pattern), because the dress is very long and not easily hemmed.
[DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on any of the links below, I may receive a commission from the sale at no additional cost to you.]
Perfectionist Wannabe is getting a revamp this fall. Here’s what you can look forward to seeing from me and this site.
I’m back. This time, it is not temporary.
After spending the last eight months trying to create the site I dreamed of, I decided to abandon it and revamp this site. This is the only site making money from past content. I now know how to create what I want, so all I have to do is write and post. I don’t have to go through an error report from Google that is so long it makes you faint. Site maintenance may take up a lot of my time right now, but at least I get more of my time back to write and post content, as compared to the other site.
Last fall, I took a course at Conde Nast College in London. They showed me exactly how I needed to take my content and create something I am going to love as I go forward. I learned the business and marketing side of digital content creation for fashion brands, as well as for Vogue and other Conde Nast publications.
As I was going through old content to repurpose on this site, I was reminded that I need to do fluff pieces, because that is what generates money. But I also need to write the longer pieces that garnered most of my loyal followers over the years. Those are the pieces that reflect more of who I am.
With Meta’s new Threads, I can start building my new audience that I created through Instagram, and direct them over to this site, like I used to do with Twitter when I was writing about hockey.
So bear with me as I update the hundreds of articles on this site, create new content and fix/update things. For those who come here for the recipes, luckily, I saved a few of those at The Fashion Reader before I deleted the plugin here (oops!). But don’t worry. Those recipes will be back up soon. After all, this is where I go to find those recipes I love.
There will be one small change to the recipes. I HATE those long ass narratives people write before a recipe. I just want to get to the recipe already! So I’m only going to add a few words at the beginning and then you’ll find the recipe. You won’t even have to scroll down the page to get to the beginning of the recipe card.
If there’s a recipe you loved and can’t find it on the site, ping me, because it may not have survived the plugin deletion. Hopefully, I’ll have the recipe somewhere and can upload it for you.
So that’s housekeeping matters.
What’s New in My Universe
So my friend and filmmaker Edwin Walker messaged me last month asking me what was going on in my universe, because he sensed something was up. He was in the middle of an interview with The Boston Globe and he told them they needed to contact me. When he left a voice message on what happened, it was like he realized, the universe is strong around her. She’s working on something.
He would be correct.
I am currently working on two book projects simultaneously. I also started selling books online. Ends up, there are a lot of people out there willing to spend 3-figures on special edition books and autographed copies. So I’m selling my collection.
Between the day job, two book projects, Matthew’s Book Corner, and this site, I’m up to 5 of 7 streams of income. When I start clearing my closet, that will be the 6th stream of income.
I am at that stage in life when I feel like less is more. I have so much stuff. I am tired of carrying those things around with me in life, so I am letting it go. Maybe I’m just preparing myself for the next stage in life…my new journey. Getting rid of the things that clutter up that new path is important.
In the coming months, you’ll find an updated interview with Edwin Walker. We’re also working on a few different projects together, so stay tuned. It’s fall season, so it’s horror book season for me and many others. Each week, PW will be showcasing a new title or two you should get your hands on.
I started a new series on here that the Gen Z’ers (and a few Millenials) were asking me for, and that is an Adulting 101 column. I started them off with one that has been making the rounds: starting a Sick Day Pantry.
As for the fashion portion, I’ve been going back and forth with this topic for some time. There was something Conde Nast loved from the assignments I turned in and that was BOOKS + FASHION. They loved how I styled fashion pieces with books. It even got the attention of Instagram and they emailed me and said I needed to create more posts like that. Recently, I’ve seen Marc Jacobs post something weekly on what he’s currently reading. So yes, there is an interest in these types of posts, but I can’t tell you how much time goes into creating ONE PHOTO. That’s actually why I don’t do it often. [I have a lot of things to do!]
Going through what people are actually reading on this site when it comes to fashion, I’ve found that people want to know what to buy that is fashionable and worth investing in. As in, what will withstand the test of time? I’ve been working on my wardrobe for the last 20 years. I’ve picked up on a few things about what to invest in that will withstand the test of time. Some of those items I even picked up at a thrift store and it’s still going strong (and they’re over 50+ years old). The most important thing when building your wardrobe is learning what your style is. I have different versions of myself. I have the side that goes to premieres and red carpet events. I have the fashion industry side (which demands more couture and designer pieces). I have the everyday work, at home, and film festival wardrobes. So my closet represents me and the things I do, but it also allows me enough leeway to reinvent the look, so it doesn’t get boring. Accessories will always be one of the most important items you will ever add to your closet, but it is important to buy the right things, not the items that will be out of style in a few years.
There’s also been a request that I get in front of the camera more. Going back to how much time goes into that (and I have a lot of things to do), that is yet to be seen if I will do that. But talking to some of my actor friends, you may see them on this site wearing designer clothes and holding books, instead of me. Only time will tell.
So bear with me as this site gets a revamp. Content will be continuously flowing, and this space will be continuously evolving. It’s a post-pandemic world and my new universe means following my dreams.
Malice House by Megan Shepherd is the perfect horror book for those who love their horror mixed in with a little fantasy and supernatural.
For horror writers and artists of macabre, maybe our worst nightmare is seeing our work come alive and do what it was created to do: kill in the most gruesome of ways.
I received Malice House last year when I was in the middle of taking a course at Conde Nast College in London, so I wasn’t able to get to it then. When I finally sat down to read it last month, I sat there thinking, “Look at you, Megan Shepherd. Scaring the hell out of me was not what I was expecting from this.”
I love a good horror story, especially when I wasn’t expecting to be scared at all. For me, being scared all lies with me walking away and thinking about what the author just whispered to me in between those pages. Did I carry it with me, mull it over, and think, “Yeah, that shit was scary?” I did with this one.
The scare factor lies in those creatives (or those, like me, who are writing a horror romance novel) who would be petrified if their scariest creations came to life and they went on a killing spree and there’s no natural way to stop them. It is kind of like the Jason, Freddie Krueger, and Michael Myers genre where you can’t kill them. They’ll keep coming back.
So if that’s your kind of scare factor, this is your next read.
“One step away from our world lies another: a land of violent fantasies, of sharp-toothed delights. . . .”Of all the things aspiring artist Haven Marbury expected to find while clearing out her late father’s remote seaside house, Bedtime Stories for Monsters was not on the list. This secret handwritten manuscript is disturbingly different from his Pulitzer-winning works: its interweaving short stories crawl with horrific monsters and enigmatic humans that exist somewhere between this world and the next. The stories unsettle but also entice Haven, practically compelling her to illustrate them while she stays in the house that her father warned her was haunted. Clearly just dementia whispering in his ear . . . right?
Reeling from a failed marriage, Haven hopes an illustrated Bedtime Stories can be the lucrative posthumous father-daughter collaboration she desperately needs to jump-start her art career. However, everyone in the nearby vacation town wants a piece of the manuscript: her father’s obsessive literary salon members, the Ink Drinkers; her mysterious yet charming neighbor, who has a tendency toward three a.m. bonfires; a young barista with a literary forgery business; and of course, whoever keeps trying to break into her house. But when a monstrous creature appears under Haven’s bed right as grisly deaths are reported in the nearby woods, she must race to uncover dark, otherworldly family secrets—completely rewriting everything she ever knew about herself in the process.
[DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of review. The opinions expressed here are by no means influenced by the publisher or the author. This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on the link and purchase the product, I may receive a commission from the sale at no additional cost to you.]
The Nightmare Man by J. H. Markert was my first five star read of 2023. As a writer, I think this one scared me more than most horror books because the idea that your horror story could come to life scared the crap out of me. This scary story is for those who fear their own nightmares.
For parents, if you could find a way to save your children from having recurring nightmares, you would help them, right?
What appears to be a miracle for children to have their nightmares removed turns into a real-life nightmare for them as adults when their nightmares start hunting them. More and more people are found dead, and they all have one thing in common.
This debut made me such a huge fan of this author. Finding the next master of horror is a difficult task in and of itself. To find a story that just scares the crap out of you and it be delivered so well…I mean, how can you not become a fan?
I will say, I will be reading all of his books. His next book, Mister Lullaby, releases on November 21, 2023. That is a book I plan on adding to my collection alongside The Nightmare Man.
Blackwood mansion looms, surrounded by nightmare pines, atop the hill over the small town of Crooked Tree. Ben Bookman, bestselling novelist and heir to the Blackwood estate, spent a weekend at the ancestral home to finish writing his latest horror novel, The Scarecrow. Now, on the eve of the book’s release, the terrible story within begins to unfold in real life.
Detective Mills arrives at the scene of a gruesome murder: a family butchered and bundled inside cocoons stitched from corn husks, and hung from the rafters of a barn, eerily mirroring the opening of Bookman’s latest novel. When another family is killed in a similar manner, Mills, along with his daughter, rookie detective Samantha Blue, is determined to find the link to the book—and the killer—before the story reaches its chilling climax.
As the series of “Scarecrow crimes” continues to mirror the book, Ben quickly becomes the prime suspect. He can’t remember much from the night he finished writing the novel, but he knows he wrote it in The Atrium, his grandfather’s forbidden room full of numbered books. Thousands of books. Books without words.
As Ben digs deep into Blackwood’s history he learns he may have triggered a release of something trapped long ago—and it won’t stop with the horrors buried within the pages of his book.
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of a review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way by the author or the publisher. This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you.]
This morning, while I was outside with Matthew (the Maine Coon), I opened up my Notes app to jot down my to do list for today. Apparently, I haven’t used the app in some time because I found a note I left in there that I would apparently need the next time I opened up the app. It contained Anthony Hopkins’s “Powerful Words.”
It’s funny how the universe works, especially when it concerns matters of the soul. The note was something I left for myself because it concerned one particular person.
When I left the note for myself a couple of years ago, I was frustrated at the time. Things didn’t work out. The universe prevented me from doing the things I hoped to do (like move to France at that time). But now I see why the universe was stopping me. Certain things needed to happen first, and it had nothing to do with me.
The same quote kept popping up yesterday for me. It said that just because things don’t happen when you want it to, it doesn’t mean it is not going to happen. Things happen when the moment is right.
When I saw this note this morning, I had to say to myself this was never about me and how I felt. This was about the person I was thinking of when I saved it. The universe made sure I saved these words so I could share these words when the moment was right. The Universe is always making sure we find the right words when the people dear to our souls need to hear the Universe speak, especially when the Universe is working its magic.
ANTHONY HOPKINS – Powerful Words
′′Let go the people who are not prepared to love you. This is the hardest thing you will have to do in your life and it will also be the most important thing. Stop having hard conversations with people who don’t want change.
Stop showing up for people who have no interest in your presence. I know your instinct is to do everything to earn the appreciation of those around you, but it’s a boost that steals your time, energy, mental and physical health.
When you begin to fight for a life with joy, interest and commitment, not everyone will be ready to follow you in this place. This doesn’t mean you need to change what you are, it means you should let go of the people who aren’t ready to accompany you.
If you are excluded, insulted, forgotten or ignored by the people you give your time to, you don’t do yourself a favor by continuing to offer your energy and your life. The truth is that you are not for everyone and not everyone is for you.
That’s what makes it so special when you meet people who reciprocate love. You will know how precious you are.
The more time you spend trying to make yourself loved by someone who is unable to, the more time you waste depriving yourself of the possibility of this connection to someone else.
There are billions of people on this planet and many of them will meet with you at your level of interest and commitment.
The more you stay involved with people who use you as a pillow, a background option or a therapist for emotional healing, the longer you stay away from the community you want.
Maybe if you stop showing up, you won’t be wanted. Maybe if you stop trying, the relationship will end. Maybe if you stop texting your phone will stay dark for weeks. That doesn’t mean you ruined the relationship, it means the only thing holding it back was the energy that only you gave to keep it. This is not love, it’s attachment. It’s wanting to give a chance to those who don’t deserve it. You deserve so much, there are people who should not be in your life.
The most valuable thing you have in your life is your time and energy, and both are limited. When you give your time and energy, it will define your existence.
When you realize this, you begin to understand why you are so anxious when you spend time with people, in activities, places or situations that don’t suit you and shouldn’t be around you, your energy is stolen.
You will begin to realize that the most important thing you can do for yourself and for everyone around you is to protect your energy more fiercely than anything else. Make your life a safe haven, in which only ′′compatible′′ people are allowed.
You are not responsible for saving anyone. You are not responsible for convincing them to improve. It’s not your work to exist for people and give your life to them! If you feel bad, if you feel compelled, you will be the root of all your problems, fearing that they will not return the favours you have granted. It’s your only obligation to realize that you are the love of your destiny and accept the love you deserve.
Decide that you deserve true friendship, commitment, true and complete love with healthy and prosperous people. Then wait and see how much everything begins to change. Don’t waste time with people who are not worth it. Change will give you the love, the esteem, happiness and the protection you deserve.”
When the publisher first sent this book to me for review, I thought it was funny, because I am the black sheep of my family. I’ve even posted about it on my social media accounts. Usually, those who find themselves to be estranged from their families is because of their religious and/or political differences. Oftentimes, in America, both are synonymous with each other.
When I went into this novel, I assumed that this cult-like family would be Christian. Oh, imagine my surprise when the cult happened to be Satanists. Now, you have my attention.
After reading this book, I guess it doesn’t matter what religion you are from. All cults are the same. They have the same issues that affect families. People become brainwashed with scriptures as they learn how not to love the people they are supposed to love. That’s why there are black sheep out there. We know life was meant to be better than this. We deserve to be loved.
For those who are looking for a horror book featuring the Devil, this is your Perfectionistwannabe.com Horror Pick for the fall season. The ending is as epic as any ending you would expect from a book about the Devil trying to bring an end to the world.
A cynical twentysomething must confront her unconventional family’s dark secrets in this fiery, irreverent horror novel from the author of Such Sharp Teeth and Cackle.
Nobody has a “normal” family, but Vesper Wright’s is truly…something else. Vesper left home at eighteen and never looked back—mostly because she was told that leaving the staunchly religious community she grew up in meant she couldn’t return. But then an envelope arrives on her doorstep.
Inside is an invitation to the wedding of Vesper’s beloved cousin Rosie. It’s to be hosted at the family farm. Have they made an exception to the rule? It wouldn’t be the first time Vesper’s been given special treatment. Is the invite a sweet gesture? An olive branch? A trap? Doesn’t matter. Something inside her insists she go to the wedding. Even if it means returning to the toxic environment she escaped. Even if it means reuniting with her mother, Constance, a former horror film star and forever ice queen.
When Vesper’s homecoming exhumes a terrifying secret, she’s forced to reckon with her family’s beliefs and her own crisis of faith in this deliciously sinister novel that explores the way family ties can bind us as we struggle to find our place in the world.
Pub Date: September 19, 2023
[DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of review for this site. All opinions are my own and are in no way influenced by the author or the publisher. This site contains affiliate links. If you click on any of the affiliate links, I may receive a commission from the sale of the product at no additional cost to you.]
The temperatures are starting to drop. People are running to pick up their pumpkin spiced lattes. For us bibliophiles who love spooky season, we are looking for every new and old scary book we can get our hands on to commemorate every thing we love about fall.
To start off the spooky season, I have a new title for you that is set to be released on September 5th called The September House. This book is for all those who love the haunted house and murderous ghosts vibe. This is for those who love The Haunting of Hill House.
Throughout most of this book, you may think it is comical how an older couple with a grown daughter could purchase a beautiful haunted Victorian and not care one lick that it is haunted. The wife loves the house so much that she will put up with the blood running down the walls every September. She will tolerate all of the ghosts that look the way they did when they were murdered. She can even put up with the priest that comes every other month to sanctify the house from whatever evil lurks in the basement.
Even when her husband goes missing, she does not bat an eyelash that something could be amiss, because she has her dream house. She can live with the ghosts, so long as she has her perfect Victorian.
But things start to go all sorts of wrong when her daughter starts asking for her father. He has not returned any of her calls. She is getting tired of hearing her mother make up excuses on why her father won’t come to the phone or return her calls. So she decides to show up right when the September season is in full swing, when the house is at its worst.
As the daughter begins to think her mother is suffering from dementia and is seeing things, the police show up thinking that she’s killed her husband. Yet, the house decides to take matters into its own hands to prove that it isn’t just haunted, there’s an evil being living in its basement. It plans on killing everyone in the house.
As you read through this book, stick with it until the end, especially if you love the good ole gory stories. What may seem as all innocent and comical at the beginning, can turn into a complete bloodbath at the end.
That’s the part I was not expecting from this. You hope it will turn out that way, but you start to give up hope that it will. Maybe it is just a feel good kind of haunted house story. Oh no. It turns into a bona fide bloodfest horror story towards the end, sure to make any horror lover happy.
A woman is determined to stay in her dream home even after it becomes a haunted nightmare in this compulsively readable, twisty, and layered debut novel.
When Margaret and her husband Hal bought the large Victorian house on Hawthorn Street—for sale at a surprisingly reasonable price—they couldn’t believe they finally had a home of their own. Then they discovered the hauntings. Every September, the walls drip blood. The ghosts of former inhabitants appear, and all of them are terrified of something that lurks in the basement. Most people would flee.
Margaret is not most people.
Margaret is staying. It’s her house. But after four years Hal can’t take it anymore, and he leaves abruptly. Now, he’s not returning calls, and their daughter Katherine—who knows nothing about the hauntings—arrives, intent on looking for her missing father. To make things worse, September has just begun, and with every attempt Margaret and Katherine make at finding Hal, the hauntings grow more harrowing, because there are some secrets the house needs to keep.
Get Your Copy
The September House is out on September 5th. This book is the first in this year’s Perfectionist Wannabe’s Horror Picks for the fall season. There will even be a few witchy books (that may not be scary, but are excellent reads for those who love the season, but hate the scare factor). Stay tuned for more finds and suggestions from now until Halloween. Happy Haunting!
[DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of a feature on this site. All opinions are my own and are in no way shaped by the author or the publisher. This post also contains affiliate links. That means that should you purchase the book in the link, I may receive a commission from the sale at no additional cost to you.]
This story is not about Medusa. This is a story about Medusa’s sisters; and they have their own stories to tell.
Medusa’s Sisters by Lauren J. A. Bear is a retelling of the stories of the gorgons, the gods, and humanity during Ancient Greek times, but with a little spin. This story is not about the legendary Medusa. This story is about her sisters, Stheno and Euryale.
From their birth, these triplets became a part of each other’s fates, the good and the bad. They are not monsters born from Titans. They are born with the same shape as humans and the gods of Olympus. Only Medusa is mortal, while her sisters are immortal.
Stheno, the eldest, is their protector. Euryale, the middle child, is just a woman yearning to fall in love and to live in the world of the gods. Medusa, the youngest, is the one everyone loves.
As the sisters watch the devastation of Pandora’s jar to Zeus creating humans over and over again until he gets it right, they one day decide to join the world of the humans in Thebes. After Thebes, it’s Athens.
It is in the land of Athena that they meet their doom of not only Medusa’s demise, but their own. All three sisters turn into gorgons. This is where the true tale of Stheno and Euryale begin.
They watch as Perseus takes the head of their sleeping Medusa, unable to stop him. They witness Pegasus and Chrysaor emerge from her decapitated body. After Medusa’s death, Stheno and Euryale continue to live on their island of Sarpedon. This is where they plot their revenge.
If you are like me, you probably know the Clash of the Titans version of Medusa’s story. I did not know she had sisters who were also turned into gorgons after Poseidon raped Medusa on the altar of Athena’s temple. Nor did I know that Medusa was pregnant with Poseidon’s children and Pegasus was a result of that rape (or that Pegasus had a twin).
Also, I did not know that Orion is the son of Euryale and Poseidon. In other words, I learned a lot from this retelling. I fact checked a lot of the elements in the story I did not know about, and those facts checked out. Hollywood really changed the story of Medusa, and I am not OK with that.
Medusa’s Sisters vindicates Medusa and her sisters. They are the victims. This book uses the actual myth from the original stories, and it does not stray too far from it. I do like, though, the one change where the sigil of Medusa’s face on Athena’s shield isn’t meant to be looked at as Athena honoring Medusa. It is meant for the goddess to remember what she did to their sister. Euryale painted the sigil onto Athena’s shield so she would remember how she had destroyed the woman she loved, all because she thought Medusa betrayed her.
Within this story, is the story of Orion and his dog Sirius. Oh, how I loved their story. I loved the tale of a boy and his dog. The tears were flowing when Orion was killed and then the gods chose to honor him and Sirius by placing them in the stars above Sarpedon, so Euryale could see them every night. [I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.]
Even in great tragedy, there is beauty. In sorrow, we find healing, even from our own enemies. This book is a wonderful tale of sisterhood, motherhood, and family. It is a story of love, hope, and strength.
For those who love tales of Ancient Greece, you will definitely enjoy this story.
[DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of a book review on this site. My opinions are my own, and are in no way influenced by the publisher. Should you choose to purchase the book or the movie through one of the links in this post, I will receive a commission from the sale at no additional cost to you.]
This slow cooker Portuguese ribs recipe is my favorite ribs recipe. Cooking them in the slow cooker (aka crock pot) makes the meat just fall off the bones. That’s what I love about a good ribs recipe…the ribs just fall off the bone!
Another thing I love about this ribs recipe is that there’s a vinegary and spicy flavor to them. This is the only way I make ribs. No other recipes I’ve encountered can compare to this one. It’s been a tested and true loved recipe in my home. I’ve been making it since 2017.
Slow Cooker Portuguese Ribs
This is my all-time favorite ribs recipe. This spicy and vinegary recipe is a keeper. You'll love how the meat just falls off the bones.
Everyone needs a sick day pantry to prepare themselves for the inevitable: the day you feel under the weather.
Most people never think about preparing for their sick days at home when they plan for life’s little emergencies. They usually wait until they are sick to buy the things they need. They never prepare for the inevitable…the day they are sick. So why wait until you are sick to get what you need when you can just prepare your home for the sick day that is eventually going to come? You should have your own sick day pantry.
Sick Day Pantry
Just like you need to have your own food pantry for the basics you’ll need when you cook, you should also start a sick day pantry for the days you are not feeling well. You don’t have to have an entire closet filled with the necessities. You just need to make sure to have these items stocked in your home.
Where to begin? Start with a list. This is a list you can refer to as you slowly put together your pantry. You don’t have to accumulate everything in one shopping trip. Just keep your list handy and pick up the items you need every time you shop. Soon, you’ll have your own complete sick day pantry.
Each and every person is different when it comes to what they need to comfort themselves when they’re under the weather. Make sure all of your go to sick remedies are listed as a priority on your list to purchase first, before adding any of the other items to your pantry. For any prescriptions you need regularly, make sure to always have them at the ready.
SOUPS: Whether you prefer Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, broth, or your own batch, make sure your cupboard or freezer always has those sick day soups on hand. If you make your own, make sure to freeze a container of soup (and label it) each time you make a large pot of soup. Or if you prefer the soup from your favorite restaurant, order an extra one to add to your freezer. That way, you can have a variety of soups to choose from on sick days. Remember, you are building up your stock when you are healthy. You can still use these items when you are healthy, just remember to make it a habit to continuously restock every time you shop, order out, or cook.
COLD/FLU MEDICINE: Everyone has their own go to medicine. From NyQuil to Halls Cough Drops, make sure you always have it available. Keep NyQuil and cough syrups on the shelf and check their expiration dates. Do not refrigerate. For cough drops, the best ones that work instantly are the Ricola Lemon Mint drops. They’re also great to carry in your bag for those rare times you have a coughing fit when the entire room is quiet (think theaters, meetings, transit, etc.). We all know, that’s when coughing fits love to make their appearance.
PAIN MEDICATION: Make sure to keep a variety of pain medication in your arsenal, because not all medicine is one size fits all. From acetaminophen (Tylenol) to ibuprofen (Advil) to whatever works specifically for you, make sure to have a variety of pain medication on hand at all times. This includes pain relief medication like Midol for those who use it.
ALLERGY: Always have allergy medication. As we grow older, our bodies change. One minute we can eat a certain food, the next minute we are suddenly allergic to it. Always keep on hand the allergy medication that works for you. Benadryl may work for you, but Claritin and Allegra may not, and vice versa. Buy what works for you and your household. You may also have a need to keep an epi-pen in your arsenal. If this is you, make sure you have enough on hand in your home and on your person. [ALLERGY MED HINT: Having coffee with an antihistamine helps to stave off the lethargic reaction.]
FIRST AID KIT: A First Aid Kit is a must. It will have everything you can possibly need in case of a tiny emergency. If your kit does not include Neosporin, make sure to add it. [NOTE: Band-aids do not last forever. If you have 20 year old band-aids, it may be time to replace them.]
EYES: Do not wait until you are on your very last pair of contact lenses to see the eye doctor. I had to use one pair of contact lenses throughout the entire pandemic before I could restock. Not to mention, my glasses broke at the start of the pandemic. Lesson learned. Always have your yearly supply of contacts filled, along with contact solution and eye drops. Don’t have just one pair of glasses, have a backup pair, just in case something crazy happens like the world shuts down.
MEDICATED RUB: There are some people who grew up with the comfort of having Vicks VapoRub massaged into their chest or back when they did not feel well. Believe it or not, it’s not just for what ails you. It helps take the itchiness out of bug bites. Just apply it to the bug bite on your skin. For mosquito bites, in some cases, you may find the bite disappears the next morning. If a bug bite remains 3 days or more and it’s still swollen, see your doctor. Some bugs can carry infections that require antibiotics. For medicated rubs, the generic brands work just as well as the name brand. Also, tiger balm has it’s own magical properties. You can find tiger balm in Asian stores.
ELECTROLYTES: Gatorade, Propel, Pedialyte, electrolyte water, etc. should be added to your pantry. You may not think you’ll need this, but you do. It helps keep you hydrated, especially if you are vomiting or have diarrhea. Even if you’re a little under the weather, one glass a day (while you are sick) will help you mend faster. If you prefer all natural versions, try Ultima Replenisher electrolyte mixes. They come in a variety of flavors. Pedialyte also comes in liquid, powder, and popsicle form. If you have pets, electrolyte water can help them when they are sick. Some cats and dogs can have Pedialyte but check with your veterinarian before administering it to them. [NOTE: It is a good idea to have a myriad of options at home. You can easily take powder packs on the go, or keep them at the office. For those with pets, make sure to have electrolyte water and a bottle of Pedialyte. While vets recommend the no flavor Pedialyte, Matthew Lucifer (the Maine Coon – pictured) will only drink the flavor version. He refuses to drink electrolyte water. When your animals get picky, make sure you have options to see what will work.]
HONEY: Honey is excellent for treating colds, sore throats, the flu, and seasonal allergies. For people with seasonal allergies, you should look to purchasing local honey. Local honey comes from the bees in your area, so that means any pollen that could be affecting your allergies are being harvested by local bees. Many stores carry local honey. Just read the packaging to make sure it’s from someplace near you. For instance, if you are in California, you shouldn’t buy local honey made in New Jersey. That won’t help you. Buy only local honey from your neck of the woods.
Also popular for what ails you is Manuka Honey. This type of honey has a long list of benefits from supporting wound-healing and antibiotic-resistant infections to maximizing gut health.
Note that not all honey is made equal. There are a lot of counterfeit honey options out on the market (think molasses or brown sugar and water). Make sure you do your research before you buy honey. Fake honey won’t help you. For those with pets who suffer from seasonal allergies, giving your pet a tiny bit of local honey every now and again [one to three times a year] will also help them during allergy season.
LEMONS: Lemons are an excellent source of Vitamin C and flavanoids. A hot cup of water with fresh juice from a lemon and honey can help soothe a sore throat or a cold quickly. If you add lemons to your diet (either as a juice or using the peel in recipes), it serves as an antioxidant that helps prevent diseases and boosts your overall health’s wellbeing.
NATURAL REMEDIES: There are many tested, but true, remedies out there across the globe. If you have a go to natural remedy, make sure you always have those ingredients in your pantry/refrigerator.
One ingredient that is a MUST to keep in your pantry is cornstarch. It speeds up the clotting process. It is safe to use on cats and dogs when they are bleeding. This includes bleeding around their mouth.
TISSUES: You can easily buy a set of six boxes of tissues for a few dollars. You will thank yourself later that you have a back stock of tissues you can go through and you don’t have to use toilet paper, paper towels, or your sleeve when you have a runny nose.
VITAMINS: B12, C, D3, Elderberry, etc. are vitamins you should take regularly. But when you start to feel off, B12, C, D3 and Elderberry can all do absolute wonders to help you fight off an illness. Coupled with electrolyte water, soup, and rest, you’re sure to kick that sick feeling quickly.
COMFORT FOOD: Sometimes the only thing you want when you have the flu is orange juice and Oreo cookies (or maybe that’s just me). Whatever your comfort food craving is, there may be a chance you don’t want to keep these items stocked. Consider snack packs and as they start to reach their expiration either donate them to your office coworkers, give to the homeless, etc. After they expire, just throw them out (do not donate). For juices, you can freeze them as ice cubes and use them to liven up a drink or to have as popsicles.
Or you can do like I do with these two comforts. The second you feel off, buy them for that just in case this is the real deal. That way, you have them when you need them. If it’s not an illness, woo hoo! Oreos, mimosas and Netflix are in your future.
Other Items to Stock in Case of Emergency
Besides just the basics of cotton balls and cotton swabs, make sure to add these items to your medicine cabinet.
FOOT CARE: Corn removers, blister bandages, and moleskin tape (to prevent friction and blisters, as well as add extra cushioning for calluses and corns). Depending on what ails your feet, you may need additional items to help relieve your feet from pain. Everyone gets blisters every now and again, so make sure you have those bandages or moleskin tape.
HEATING PADS/COLD PACKS: If you use these, make sure to have them in your Sick Day Pantry.
HUMIDIFIER/AIR PURIFIERS: Having both are very important during sick days, winter months, and allergy season. Vornado makes excellent humidifiers, just make sure to add extra filters to your sick day pantry. The filters need to be replaced every 6 months. Or if you are a heavy user, you may need to replace it every few weeks. You’ll know by looking at the filters. The blacker they are, the sooner you need to replace them. For air purifiers, there are new models every year that outdo the next. Research the year’s best air purifier and go with whichever one suits your needs and budget.
MENSTRUAL CARE: Sanitary napkins, tampons, menstrual cups/underwear, always make sure to have a back stock ready for yourself and for guests. Also, make sure to have your choice pain meds, chocolate, and heating pad at the ready. [NOTE: Make sure to only buy organic. There are many menstrual care products that cause more problems than they do good. For instance, many tampons and pads on the market are designed to make you bleed more. Some products have been linked to infertility, cancers and miscarriages. There are some ‘organic’ brands that are not really organic. Go with brands like Seventh Generation and other similar companies. Online companies like Thrive Market and Grove Collaborative (both require memberships) help take the guesswork out of it for you and only sell items that are good for you and the Earth.]
ETC.: Grow aloe vera in your home. It’s a cactus, so it’s easy to maintain. It’s great for skin application from sunburns to using as an antiseptic on cuts. [Note: there are studies that do not recommend ingesting aloe vera long term. It’s excellent as a topical application, and should be used mainly for your skin. While there are benefits to ingesting aloe vera, there are many medical studies that do not recommend ingesting it long term.] While you can buy a bottle of aloe vera, having a living plant in your home and snipping only the little bit you need is far more eco-friendlier and better for the environment. You don’t have to worry about the plastic bottle or the product expiring. You can also freeze aloe vera leaves to prep for sunburns.
If you have a green thumb, try growing different herbs like mint, basil, lavender, marigolds (fights fever and treats acne), chamomile and others you might like to use in a tea or in your recipes. Even grow some cat grass or lemongrass for your cats to help them when they’re not feeling well. Make sure to always check if the plants are safe for your animals before growing plants indoors.
How to Stock Up
You do not have to stock up on everything all at once. Keep a list handy of items you need to add to your pantry and pick up an item each time you shop, especially when you see a good deal. Check sales in your area. Clip coupons. Use your saver cards. Buy generic. Also, don’t be afraid to buy some of these items at a Family Dollar or Dollar Tree.
Also, do not overstock items that can expire, especially if you do not foresee yourself using those items before the expiration date. Stock up on items that you will use regularly like cotton balls, cotton swabs, tissues, menstrual care items, and food you will eat whether you are sick or not. Even Gatorade and Propel expires, so make sure to not overstock on those items, unless you see yourself as using them before they expire.
Sometimes that deal of 2 bottles of NyQuil calls to you, but think before you spring for 2 bottles. If you are shopping for one, you will probably only use 1 bottle a year. That second bottle could expire before you even open it. Start shopping for the next bottle AFTER you open up a bottle and start using it.
If your company adds funds (free money) to an FSA/HSA card for you, or if you add funds to a card yourself, you can use the card to pay for many of these items to build up your sick day pantry. The CARES Act of 2020 expanded FSA/HSA rules to allow use of FSA/HSA funds on items such as menstrual care products. You will also find that these funds can be used towards OTC drugs, PPE, foot care, acne products, acupressure products, and so much more.
[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I received copies of the books contained in this post for purposes of review.]
September has a lot of great new book releases from true crime to historical fiction, to apocalyptic novels. Here’s what is on my radar this month.
Always the First to Die by R. J. Jacobs. A horror film actress returns to the manor where her first film was made, a place she swore she would never return to after the horrors that took place there. She is forced to return to the island to find her daughter as a category 4 hurricane hits, replaying the plot of the infamous horror film that made her famous. Releases September 13.
Children of the Catastrophe by Sarah Shoemaker. This historical fiction story begins in Smyrna, Ottoman Empire, 1908. Liana Demirgis is being thrust into the spotlight by her mother in order to find a husband. An arranged marriage is made between the Demirgis and Melopoulos families and Liana is wed to Vasili. We follow the couple’s lives as the massacre of Greeks and Armenians after World War I takes place. Paperback releases September 6.
Duet: Our Journey in Song with the Northern Mockingbird by Phillip Hoose. National Book Award and Newberry honor-winner Phillip Hoose dives into the history of the mockingbird and it’s present day use as the rallying call in the Hunger Games. This YA book uncovers the connections between humans and the mockingbird over the centuries from the White House to modern day books. Releases September 13.
Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade by Nancy Springer. Oh, I love Enola Holmes and she is at it again. This time, trying to keep a friend with dual personalities out of trouble, while her older brother Sherlock is tasked with bringing the girl back home. What trouble will Enola find herself in this time? Releases September 6.
Fall Guy by Archer Mayor. Book 33 in the Joe Gunther series. This one is for those who love detective novels. When the body of a burglar is found in the trunk of a stolen car, the Vermont Bureau of Investigation discovers evidence in the car linked to an old unsolved child abduction case. Joe Gunther leads his team on the hunt for this psychopath before he kills again. Releases September 27.
Harrow by Joy Williams. Her first novel since Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Quick and the Dead, Joy Williams creates an apocalyptic story about a gifted young girl who stumbles upon a resort filled with elderly inhabitants who want to violently punish corporations and those who created the environmental apocalypse. Releases September 14.
Monsters Born and Made by Tanvi Berwah. This is an incredible story that leads to complete doom every which way Koral turns. This new world was hard to understand in the beginning, but once the races begin, you get snared into its net and can’t help but hope that things will get better for Koral and her family. Will she win the race and help her family out of their ruin, especially when the entire world is stacked up against her? This South Asian inspired story releases September 6.
Nothing But the Night: Leopold & Loeb and the Truth Behind the Murder That Rocked 1920s America by Greg King and Penny Wilson. For my true crime lovers, I can’t sum this up any better than the actual synopsis. The synopsis alone makes my jaw drop. SYNOPSIS: Nearly a hundred years ago, two wealthy and privileged teenagers―Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb―were charged and convicted in a gruesome crime that would lead to the original “Trial of the Century”. Even in Jazz Age Chicago, the murder was uniquely shocking for the motive of the killers: well-to-do Jewish scions, full of promise, had killed fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks for the thrill of it. The trial becomes even more sensational by the revelation of a love affair between the defendants and by defense attorney Clarence Darrow, who delivered one of the most famous defense summations of all time to save the boys from the death penalty. The story of their mad folie à deux, with Loeb portrayed as the psychopathic mastermind and Leopold as his infatuated disciple, has been endlessly repeated and accepted by history as fact. And none of it is true. Using twenty-first century investigative tools, forensics, and a modern understanding of the psychology of these infamous killers, Nothing but the Night turns history on its head. While Loeb is seen as the architect behind the murders, King and Wilson’s new research points to Leopold as the dominant partner in the deadly relationship, uncovering a dark obsession with violence and sex. Nothing but the Night pulls readers into the troubled world of Leopold and Loeb, revealing a more horrifying tale of passion, obsession, and betrayal than history ever imagined. Releases September 20.
The Best Friend by Jessica Fellowes. For those who love thrillers, this book explores the friendship between two women. Friends at a young age, their story takes a dark turn after men come into their lives. Releases September 13.
The Deceptions by Jill Bialosky. This book qualifies for the tag of writing about strong women. As a woman’s life unravels at the seams, this teacher/poet spends her days in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sitting before the Greek and Roman gods. They come to life, forcing her to choose between myth and reality. This book is an exploration between ‘female sexuality and ambition.’ Releases September 6.
The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore. This retelling of Ivan the Terrible intertwines the tsar’s story with the mythical witch Baba Yaga. Yes, the witch who lives in a house with chicken legs. Part goddess and mortal, she is blessed with youth and a very long life. She is thrown into the tsar’s court to care for his ailing wife, Anastasia Romanovna, who is being poisoned by someone in the tsar’s court. The rumor is Ivan’s volatile behavior came from Anastasia’s death, thus beginning his reign of terror across Russia. This book intertwines the myths of the gods of old with the new Russia that formed as Christianity took over the land. Yaga faced more than just an irate tsar, she also faced an unknown evil that was taking over the land. Was this evil the workings of a madman or the amusement of the gods? Gilmore does an excellent job of making Yaga a participating spectator during this time in history. Yaga is an inspiring demigod, a heroine, and not just an ugly, old witch. Releases September 20.
When I first read a few years ago that women detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detention centers were being sterilized involuntarily, I thought that cannot be true. After reading “Take My Hand” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, I now understand the US Government has been using sterilization on the poor, especially on people of color over the last 100 years. And I’m mad as hell about it.
“Take My Hand” is a historical fiction novel loosely based on the 1973 Relf v. Weinberger case where two sisters, ages twelve and fourteen, were sterilized without their consent in Montgomery, Alabama by a federally funded agency. In this story, we follow Civil Townsend, a nurse hired by a clinic to help women and girls with their reproductive health. She believes that all women and girls should take care of their reproductive health. Her mission is to help them.
She is responsible for administering Depo-Provera shots to two girls living in a one room shanty where they live with their father and grandmother. They live in complete squalor.
The girls are ages 11 and 13. The youngest does not speak and has developmental issues. When Civil learns that the youngest has not even had her first menstrual cycle, she questions why the girl is required to receive birth control.
Her friend, Ty, informs her the shot is not FDA approved and causes cancer in animal subjects. This alarms Civil and she realizes this may be similar to the Tuskegee experiments. She decides to stop giving the girls the shots and either get them on birth control pills or altogether stop administering birth control to them since they are not sexually active.
But her supervisor is monitoring the situation and notices the doctored reports. She shows up at the girls’ home and gets dad and grandma (both cannot read) to sign a slip of paper to take the girls to the ‘clinic’ for their shots. At least, that’s what they thought they were signing.
When Civil visits to let the youngest girl know she got her into a special school, she discovers the girls were taken to a hospital to be sterilized. By the time she gets to the hospital, it’s already too late.
Ty’s parents are lawyers and decide to help the family get justice for what has happened. A young white man is assigned to the case to help them. It catches the eye of Senator Ted Kennedy and he brings the family to Washington, DC to tell a Senate committee what happened. The story makes national news and more stories surface from across the nation of women and girls forced to be sterilized by federally funded agencies.
Reports appear of mothers in the midst of childbirth forced to sign papers that will allow the doctor to sterilize them after the birth of their child. The doctors threaten to not deliver the child if they refuse to sign the papers. In California, doctors report that poor Hispanic women are forcibly sterilized. More and more stories come to light as to how bad the situation really is.
We have found that sterilization is the rule, not the exception. It is widely endemic in this country. It is a form of reproductive control.
Last year we did a survey and found that although two-thirds of federally funded clinics’ patients were white and only one third are Black, 43 percent of those sterilized are Black. A report from the United States government…found that between the summer of 1972 and the summer of 1973, twenty-five thousand adults were sterilized in federally funded clinics. Of these, 153 were under the age of eighteen.
“Take My Hand” is terrifying and shocking as you learn that this atrocity happened and continues to happen. This is a war waged against women, especially those who are poor.
Our bodies belonged to us. Poor, disabled, it didn’t matter. These were our bodies, and we had the right to decide what to do with them. It was as if they were just taking our bodies from us, as if we didn’t even belong to ourselves.
The fact that involuntary sterilization still occurs is unfathomable. How is it that an administration that is anti-abortion and pro-life is also pro-sterilization?
There’s also a conversation that underlies all of this and that is the importance of women’s sexual and reproductive health. Throughout the world, talking about any of this is taboo. From first periods to menopause, no one talks about women’s health. It is shunned. In some parts of the world, women and girls do not have access to sanitary napkins or tampons. Girls end up dropping out of school when they get their first periods, because they do not have access to something as basic as pads or tampons.
Sexual health is health care.
Women needed access to reliable birth control and information about their reproductive health.
One item that is very important to mention is that many of these women and girls felt like they had no choice but to accept sterilization. Those who accept government assistance (welfare, food stamps, housing, Medicaid) are subjected to constant government intervention. Government officials constantly came and went out of their homes. For some people, they were threatened that if they did not submit to sterilization, mandatory birth control, etc., they could lose their government assistance.
In some cases, people were not given the proper information on sterilization and Depo-Provera. They were not told that the surgery was not reversible. Side effects of Depo-Provera were not discussed. At times, clinics were not advised on the procedures regarding sterilization or the administering of it. Women and girls were not given alternatives to birth control. For thousands of women and girls, their right to have children was taken away from them without their consent.
That’s the most important thing here…their right was taken from them without their consent.
Women in prison as recently as 2006-2010 faced forced sterilization. Less than a hundred years ago, sterilization was forced on those institutionalized. Many women during that time were not mentally ill. A woman with irregular periods, or a woman whose husband wanted to rid themselves of their wife to marry another woman, could be institutionalized.
During the Trump administration, rumors of detained female immigrants who were forced to be sterilized made the news. But the only response became disgust, and then yesterday’s news.
The war on women needs to end. We don’t hear of men undergoing forced sterilization because they are poor or an immigrant. Their right to their own bodies is not under attack by the government. But for women, we are constantly threatened. It needs to stop. We need to stop being a taboo. Our reproductive health and overall women’s health needs to be considered important in the medical field. When I want to talk about menopause and what happens to the body changing, I need my doctor to be able to know what exactly that is and advise me on what to expect. When we are provided a vaccine, make it not just for men in mind, but women, too. Sanitary napkins and tampons should not be taxed. They are a necessity. It should be covered as a health need.
Why not provide adequate birth control to all women? There would be less abortions if women had the proper medical care and access to it. Give them other alternatives to birth control. Sterilization should be a choice, not something forced upon women by the government. Truthfully, I have to ask, why is the government so obsessed with controlling a woman’s body? Women must really scare them.
I have to say, this book made me mad. It is a difficult read, but necessary. Everyone needs to understand the way war is raged upon women, especially those who live in poverty and are a person of color. Women are not yesterday’s news. We are victimized daily in a numerous amount of ways, because we are women. It needs to end.
[All quotes are from “Take My Hand” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez]
[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of a review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]
As you can see, I haven’t done a lot of blogging during the pandemic. I really didn’t have much to share or talk about. It’s easier using Instagram, posting up a quick pic, some language and pressing send. Blogging (or just simply spending the time to write) takes a little longer. Frankly, I was just not in the state of mind to write until now. I want to talk about making small changes. It’s what we need right now as we move out of the pandemic.
I wanted to share what I’m doing in hopes that it will inspire others who are in the same boat as me.
Over the last few months, I’ve been making small changes to my life. I started off by upgrading my life, by giving myself permission to stop living like a peasant and upgrade to a life that’s more my caliber. It is so wonderful having an actual dishwasher, garbage disposal, washer/dryer, gym, and a place for Matthew to run around in. I guess staying cooped up in your apartment for over a year can help you re-evaluate your priorities. We now live in a Maine Coon sized home and frankly, Matthew never wants to leave to go running around outside. He’s perfectly fine running around inside the apartment. There’s more than enough space and high places for him to jump around on.
But if you are like me, the pandemic may have added a few pounds to your physique. Not like we needed any more weight on our bodies, right? For me, I gained 20 pounds. Now, before anyone gets on the whole body positivity bit, I did not need an extra 5, 10 or 20 pounds on my body. Gaining weight gave me health issues. Plus, I am in peri-menopause, so with my body changing, compounded by weight related health issues, AND the fact that over 70% of people that die from Covid-19 are obese, you can’t tell me to be positive about my weight gain. This isn’t about how I look. This is about how I feel living in this body. And I feel like crap.
Ok. Maybe it is a bit about how I look, but my health concerns outweigh my shallowness.
Throughout most of the pandemic, especially after putting on the 20 pounds in the first 6 months, I’ve suffered from really bad acid reflux. My hair was thinning and falling out. A wisdom tooth actually broke off. My body got weak from lack of exercise. I was getting UTIs more and more frequently (which ended up being hormonal issues). My anxiety was at an all time high (thanks to the anti-Asian sentiment in my neighborhood). I wasn’t doing so well.
In April, my landlord decided to evict everyone living in the building. This wasn’t a surprise. The building was slated to be demolished to make way for the new gentrified neighborhood. But contracts were held up and he decided to move to phase 2, renovating the building since he could no longer demolish it. I was given a year and a half notice, so it wasn’t any surprise. My landlord did ask me to return or move into the new luxury property when it opens. But after I heard what the town said about keeping the neighborhood white, I’m going to not move back there, since a lot of my anxiety stemmed from the anti-Asian sentiment I received after the lockdown happened in March 2020.
Since moving overseas was still not an option due to the pandemic, I decided to sign a lease for an apartment in a luxury building that caters to celebrities and athletes. I don’t regret this decision at all, because the whole premise behind upgrading my life was about changing my life one small step at a time…to give myself permission to live the life I’ve been wanting for such a long time, but was unwilling to give that life to myself.
The first change in this journey to upgrade my life was to move out of the place I lived in for 15 years and upgrade to something better. Upending my entire life helped to kick me out of that miserable pandemic funk and think about starting a whole new and better life. Next, I started decluttering my life and getting rid of the things that I no longer wanted to carry with me in life. I upgraded my wardrobe and my things. But still, I wasn’t completely happy.
So I targeted those unhappy parts of my life: 1. I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t writing. 2. This extra weight on my body doesn’t make me feel like I am me. I don’t recognize this person anymore.
So I decided to change that.
I am a big believer in taking a problem and putting it in a box. In one corner, you put the problem. At the opposite corner, you put the end result that you want. You throw the tools into the box and tell yourself, “Fix it.” So that’s what I started doing. I started fixing myself, one small step at a time.
Rebecca Roanhorse, author of “Black Sun,” shared her writing method on how she outlines using Scrivener. I’m not a fan of the Scrivener program, but I liked her concept. So I took how she outlines her books before writing the entire book out, and decided to do something similar, but on paper.
I love paper, so the idea of prettying up my work and using paper to outline my story helped me tremendously. Binders and note cards were ordered so I could start writing out scenes, because I think in scenes. I focus on one character and write out all of their scenes, put the note cards in a plastic sleeve, and organize the scenes in the binder that way. It’s been a tremendous help, especially since I feel like the beginning is going on forever in the book. Readers don’t like beginnings that go on forever. They want to get to the juicy bits quickly.
I will say that the strange thing about my universe is that I tend to call things into my life that I totally did not expect, but it’s really magical. When I write, I cast the character. In this case, I casted an actor that I believed embodied what I was looking for in this character, based on the roles I’ve seen him portray. So while my head is stuck in my book, writing out the scenes, what I wasn’t prepared to find was said actor sitting in our courtyard when I took Matthew outside to eat grass. I honestly do not know what to do with that knowledge. I’m just going to keep on writing, because that’s like the universe saying, “You’re doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing in your life. Keep going.”
I can honestly say that I have ideas and hopes of what my future will look like with these changes, but I’m always up for things going better than I planned, because in dreams, we cannot dictate what will happen in them. Crazy things happen all of the time within our dreams. So when you start living your dreams, crazy things will happen…like finding out the actor you’re currently writing scenes for lives in your building! Did not see that coming at all.
Mission Attainable: One Pound a Week
So now we are on to part two of my unhappiness and how I am changing that. I gained 20 pounds this pandemic and I honestly hate how I look. But what I hate more is how I feel. The crazy thing though is that I was vaccinated with Moderna. A side effect of Moderna is that it cures a lot of your health issues. I’ve experienced it and I’ve heard a number of people tell me the same thing. I haven’t had acid reflux since I received both doses of the vaccine.
I saw my doctor a month after my second dose. She performed every test there was, because we are looking for the second tumor in my parathyroid (we did find it, but it isn’t doing anything that requires removal). The blood tests came back saying there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. I just needed to lose the weight I gained during the pandemic and that was it. So Moderna fixed all of my ailments I was experiencing throughout the pandemic. It’s crazy. It even kind of offset the peri-menopause a little bit, which is really weird.
So now that I am vaccinated and have the all clear from the doctor, I can focus on weight loss. I will admit that I didn’t start right away. At first, we were going to go the medicinal route with weight loss. That ended up being a no go from the insurance company. So my doctor sent me a diet plan outlining my new way of life.
This diet is the same boring old diet that doctors have been recommending for decades. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish 2x a week, etc. Most people would just roll their eyes and then do whatever the latest fad diet is out there. BUT over the last 4-5 years, people who believe in science say to trust science. Trust doctors. Trust scientists. So this is where I say, it’s time to trust the doctors on this one. They’ve been using this same food model for decades. It must work, right?
I’ve been slowly changing my way of life, because my main concern now that my body is changing, is what exactly am I supposed to be doing? What am I supposed to be feeding myself? As my brother says, we can no longer procrastinate with our health. We have to do it now.
Where does one start in this battle to lose weight? Start small.
I believe that when it comes to losing weight, so many of us sabotage our own efforts right from the beginning. We think of the end game, the magic size or number and work like crazy to get to that number, but when it doesn’t happen fast enough, we lose hope and give up. Anyone can lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks. I’ve done it many times. But it doesn’t last.
So I decided to set a realistic goal for myself. Over the next 52 weeks (i.e. one year), I am setting a goal to lose one pound every single week. Not two pounds. ONE POUND.
You’re probably thinking that anyone can do that. That’s the point. It’s a realistic goal. It’s very different than saying, “I’m going to lose 50 pounds this year.” One pound a week is a more realistic goal, because it appears simple and easy. Fifty pounds is a lot of work. It’s a huge number. But one pound is attainable. The 50 pounds mentality is where we sabotage ourselves into thinking of how much work we have to do over the course of one year just to get to that goal. It sets us up for failure.
But one pound in one week? Sure. Anyone can do that. It’s easy to put in the work to do what it takes to reach that goal every single week. After a year, guess what? If you accomplish that weekly goal every single week, that’s over 50 pounds in one year. It’s the same goal, but realistically attainable. And you put in the work to get there without even realizing it.
Do you see how you can trick your brain?
So that’s my goal and plan over the next year. My aim is to lose one pound every week by doing whatever it takes to reach that goal. That means changing my health for the better by making small changes every week. So far, this plan is working.
Changes I’ve made to help me lose one pound every week:
Started going into the office 2x a week. After being sedentary for the last year an a half, all of the walking and the countless stairs are helping me to get some exercise 2x a week. Next month, it becomes 3x a week.
I started taking Matthew on walks in his stroller 1-2x a week. Thanks to the pandemic, people have been more accepting of animals coming into their businesses. Matthew loves when we go shopping, especially the Hallmark store that has his itty bittys.
Eat fish 2x a week.
Switch to whole grains.
Eat more fruits/vegetables.
Drink 8-9 glasses of water.
Stop ordering takeout.
Each week, I plan on making one positive change for my health that will not only contribute to helping me lose one pound a week, but will also help with my overall well-being.
A friend mentioned that eating out and delivery helped contribute to her pandemic weight gain and breaking from the eating out cycle is really hard, because it’s become the norm. I used to allow myself takeout on Fridays, but I always ordered a bunch of food and it ended up lasting until the next takeout Friday. Since I always keep a stocked fridge, all of the groceries were going to waste.
So I decided to make a change. I started budgeting my groceries to $100 every two weeks. Whatever I order, I have to use up during those two weeks. This is my way of consciously focusing on ending food waste in my own home. Since I’m focusing on choosing organic and pasture raised food, that means the food I have to consume is healthy and will help me towards my goal of losing one pound a week. I’m also saving money. I never budgeted before. A trip to the grocery store usually ended up being $300-$600, and then $50-$125 every Friday for takeout. Forcing myself to budget will save money in the long run…money that can go towards our new future.
This is where I go back and mention that problem box. In one corner is LOSE WEIGHT. In the opposite corner is WEIGHT LOST. What I’m showing you are all of the tools in that box being used to reach the end result. It’s not just about diet and exercise. There’s more to this than just that. There are a lot of facets involved in our unhealthy to healthy habits. This is about changing our lives for the better so that we can reach the end result.
The next small change I am going to make is to continue to declutter my new apartment and finish organizing everything. There’s so much stuff. I honestly do not know where to put everything. I also don’t like how this clutter is taking away from the luxury part of living. It’s time to let go of the old, so I can embrace the new. This falls under the mental health aspect of weight loss. I find that the way we live and what we surround ourselves in is indicative of the state of our mental health. To me, having a bunch of ‘stuff’ around us, not knowing what to do with it, is just like having a bunch of extra weight surrounding us and we don’t know what to do with it, yet all we keep thinking is…I WANT TO GET RID OF THIS!
So that’s what I plan on doing next. Decluttering and organizing. Getting rid of the things I no longer wish to carry with me in life, because I’ve changed my life for the better.
Stay tuned over the next year. I’ll be sharing my small steps and progress towards accomplishing my weekly goals. If you want more up to date information, follow me on Instagram: @michellekennethpw. You can find inspiration and ideas there, as well as a lot of books.
Today is my stop on the blog tour for Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley.
[Disclaimer: Please forgive me if this post isn’t fully coherent. I had two of my wisdom teeth removed a couple of days ago. I am still on medication and not fully back to functional.]
This is the third indigenous author I’ve ever read. I think it has more to do with a lack of indigenous authors than it does not seeking out their stories. I’ve become a loyal Rebecca Roanhorse reader over the years, and I will definitely be a loyal reader of Angeline Boulley’s books, because of the strong characters they build to tell their stories.
In Firekeeper’s Daughter, we are introduced to Daunis Fontaine, an eighteen-year-old mixed race (half white, half Ojibwe) young lady getting ready for her first semester of college. She is from a hockey town, well known amongst the die hard hockey fans, called Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan (it’s not Salt, it’s pronounced Soo). Her father, Levi Firekeeper, was a great hockey player until an accident ended his career. Both she and her brother (also Levi) are hockey players.
Her family’s past though is a little complicated. Her mother is from the richest white family in town. When she discovered she was pregnant, she went to tell Levi, only to catch him in the act of cheating. She ran off, he followed and got into the accident. Her parents sent her to stay with relatives in Montreal. When she returned with three-month-old Daunis, she discovered he was now married and had a son called Levi Jr.
Despite this unfortunate beginning for Daunis, her mother always made sure she had access to her Ojibwe family, no matter how much her GrandMary (grandmother) disagreed with it. Daunis grew up in two different worlds. One that was white and French, the other that was a part of the indigenous Ojibwe community.
I’m always a big supporter of stories featuring mixed race kids, because I am one myself. You’re always stuck between two worlds, and one side is usually unaccepting of the other side. You tend to be more assimilated into one culture than the other. But you’re always an outsider of both cultures, and never fully accepted, even though you do everything you can to be accepted.
Daunis here is in the same boat. She is a star hockey player, really smart, volunteers her time, a pillar in her community, and always looking out for her friends and family. She is literally a female warrior throughout this book, and that’s what made me love her character so much. They call this Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman).
When we enter Firekeeper’s Daughter, it is shortly after Daunis’s uncle dies from an overdose. Two months later, her GrandMary is hospitalized. Her mother takes off work to watch over her while she is in a long-term care facility, and Daunis decides to forego leaving home to attend college at University of Michigan so she can be closer to her family during this time. She decides to enroll in the local community college where her friend Lily will be attending, and then transfer to U of M the following year if everything gets better.
What Daunis doesn’t know is that her world is just starting to change.
It starts with a murder, then a suicide. Then she is roped into an FBI investigation where she is asked to become an informant to help them uncover where a strange strain of meth is coming from. All the FBI knows is that it has something to do with her small town, her community, and hockey. But how?
It is here that I would like to warn readers that there are content warnings for this book. Do not read if you are sensitive to any triggers, because to accurately tell the story of the Ojibwe people, the author had to talk about the things that happen in their community. It is not all fairy tales and happy endings…although, this one had a fantastic girl power ending.
Indigenous communities suffer from a higher rate of suicide among men than any other race in North America. They are plagued with substance abuse issues, drugs, and criminal activity. What broke my heart though is that this is a harsh wake up call for those who want to understand how people of color are treated in America, especially when a group of people face systemic racism and poverty. People are forced to do things that can destroy everything about the community they love, just for their own survival. And they don’t care who gets hurt along the way.
When I realized in the story who was behind the drugs, I kept thinking…no. Please, no. This will break Daunis’s heart. But if Boulley is going to accurately describe what was happening in her community, she needed to tell the truths that would hurt. But she helps the reader survive those heartbreaks by making Daunis a strong Ojibwe woman.
Daunis doesn’t let the evils of the world transform her or stop her from being her own true self. She builds strength by standing against the evils and standing with her community. When she stands with them, they stand with her. And that is a powerful message.
I highly recommend this book. It was a 21 Jump Street meets hockey in an Ojibwe community kind of story. It tells us about the horrors that Ojibwe women go through, as well as what their community is going through. Boulley wanted to remain as true as possible to their stories when she wrote this book. She enlightens the world with who the Ojibwe people are and how they are being destroyed, yet somehow she knows all too well they will survive together if they stick together.
For those hockey fans that still read what I write, this is a great YA novel to pick up. There’s enough hockey in this that will keep you intrigued. It will also remind you of the story of the Tootoo brothers (Inuit tribe). Both brothers were hockey players. One took his own life at the age of 22. The other went on to have a 13 year NHL career.
Allow me to introduce you to the second book I’ve discovered this year to make my list of Best Books of 2021: Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans.
What qualifies on this list of Perfectionist Wannabe’s Best Books of 2021? I don’t know. It is the same je ne sais quoi I saw in a hockey player when I watched him on the ice, that intuitive knowing that he was going to make it big in the NHL. It was that je ne sais quoi I saw and wrote about that gave a lot of kids their big shot in the NHL to prove to the GMs that I really did see something great within them. Many players proved me right, having long careers, even becoming captain of their teams. With books, there is no way to accurately define that je ne sais quoi. You just know when that feeling arises that this book is on a whole different level than the others.
For my second find of the year, I discovered this thanks to @berittalksbooks on Instagram. Her buddy read introduced us to this collection of poetry by Newark, New Jersey native Jasmine Mans, who is also the resident poet of the Newark Public Library.
I’ve read a lot of poetry over the years and I have not found any modern day poetry that has resonated within my soul the way Black Girl, Call Home has. That’s what makes this work so unique. Like Rumi, Byron and Yeats, their works survived for hundreds of years because they stirred your heart or resounded within your soul. They spoke truth to your core being. That’s what makes you grasp onto their words and carry it with you for the rest of your life.
In Black Girl, Call Home, I found my head shaking along with her intimate discussions regarding Kanye and her dire disappointment in what he could have been when he finally made it big. It was as if he betrayed everything he believed in…everything she believed in when she listened to his words when he first showed up on the scene.
Her words reside under your skin as you feel her kisses upon another woman’s skin. Your heart is yanked out of you when she describes what it is like to fall in love with someone who cannot love you back, because their kind of love is forbidden.
When she tells the story of her little four year old cousin and Michelle Obama, your hand will go to your heart knowing how beautiful and precious that moment means to all the little ladies who have finally found someone to look up to…someone that looks just like them. A little girl that doesn’t know much about the world, knows how important Michelle Obama is to this world.
This collection of poems by Jasmine Mans resonated deep within me. This wasn’t about relating someone’s story to my own story, which is what people look for in poetry. No. This was about feeling what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes. To feel that heartbreak. To feel that great love. To feel that want of someone you can never have, but you love them fiercely. To taste that potato salad at the community cookouts. To know how it feels to hear whispers of what boys say about rape. She opened the door to her soul and I saw everything she wanted to show me. This is Jasmine Mans.
That is what went into this je ne sais quoi to help me decide to add this book to my list of Best Books of 2021. I’ve read 38 books so far this year. Only two have been chosen so far.
I’d like to thank Berit and Berkley Publishing for allowing me access to this title.
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of review. This site contains affiliate links.]
You can order your copy and copies for all of your friends by clicking on the book below. This is a book you will want to add to your curated library. I have.
Book: The High-Rise Diver Author: Julia von Lucadou Publisher: World Editions Release Date: March 2, 2021 Rating: [usr 5][AMAZON]
The High-Rise Diver is the perfect book for lovers of Brave New World, 1984, and The Handmaid’s Tale. This book rises to the ranks of those amazing pieces of dystopian literature, stories you will never forget and refer back to for the rest of your life.
Imagine you live in a world of perfectionism. Society dictates your appearance (thin, beautiful and fit people), your mind (daily meditations to calm you), your activities (they select who you date or mate with), and your pay is determined based upon your performance (only good performance is compensated).
For those who want to eat junk food, have normal families, have fun, or be whatever weight they want to be, they live in the peripheries outside of normal society. They struggle to find meaningful work. There is no ability to rise up in society or make more money. They can’t live in nice homes, because they do not fit into society’s mold of perfectionism. Society stamps them with the label of rebels, vagrants, and terrorists.
In this story, we follow Riva, a young high-rise diver (someone who leaps from tall buildings – quite similar to aerialists in a circus) who has lost all willingness to function in society. She doesn’t want to train, work, or do anything, but sit in her apartment and stare into nothingness. She has lost all motivation to be a famous high-rise diver. Something inside her is broken.
We watch Riva through the eyes of Hitomi, a psychologist that is tasked to watch Riva and help her find a way back to diving again. If she doesn’t return, they will seize her bank accounts, kick her out of her apartment and force her to move to the peripheries. But Riva doesn’t want to return. She has no desire to take part in this highly successful and famous life anymore. She wants to be free.
But freedom is unheard of in society. Your entire existence is regulated by the society. To resist who you are is to rebel against society.
For Hitomi, there is something about Riva’s predicament that is familiar to her. It reminds her of unresolved issues from her childhood of a friend that was taken from her, a parent that has rejected her, and a parent that is not even allowed to parent her. She longs for that feeling of having a real family, one with a mom and a dad living together, raising their children, hugging and kissing them good night. She longs for just that comforting, familiar touch of love, something that society does not allow.
In this world, parents have nothing to do with their children beyond assisting in paying for their schooling to help them place well in society. Visits are rare. Love, or basically any emotion, is non-existent.
As Hitomi watches Riva through cameras setup in her apartment, she starts to become obsessed with Riva’s demise to the point she is destroying herself. First, it’s missing a meditation. Next, it’s missing a workout. Then, she starts thinking creatively. “Once you start with self-deception, it’s hard to stop.”
Can Hitomi save Riva? Or will Riva drag her down with her?
This book is one that will stay with you for the rest of your life the way 1984,Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale or Lord of the Flies will stay with you. These stories are the ones you will return to, because you can see society floating in this direction, or at least, you fear society will one day become this nightmare world. Then you will think back one day and say to yourself, ‘Remember when that author wrote about this? It was a prediction of things to come.’
I enjoyed this book and hope dystopian lovers will love this, too.
This book will be published on March 2, 2021. You can order your copy from my AMAZON SHOP.
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. This site contains affiliate links.]
On Instagram Live [Year of Me Challenge Video 2], I mentioned I would do a post on where to find products to beautify your flatlay photos for Instagram, so here we are. My first post in months.
To simplify everything, I’ve created an Amazon store that you can access here [AMAZON STORE] or in my bio on Instagram [@michellekennethpw]. In the store, look under “As Seen on Instagram – Backgrounds.” I added everything I spoke about in the video from pretty giftwrap paper to the foam boards to the photography background paper.
For those who were not able to see the video, that’s what this post is for. I’m going to share my tips on how to create the beautiful flatlay photos you see of food, books and various other products. Believe me, those gorgeous flatlay photos against gorgeous wooden floors are not really wooden floors.
Flatlay Photos Tip One: Giftwrap Paper
When I first started out doing flatlays, I used a lot of gift wrap paper I picked up from places like Paper Source or Papyrus. They have an array of beautiful one sheet paper that ranges anywhere between $5-$12 per sheet. Since I’m a lover of paper products, I would sometimes go in and peruse their selection, looking for the perfect backgrounds to use. It was my treat to self because the paper was just so beautiful.
Even something as simple as paint splattered on craft paper created interesting backgrounds for photos. While you could probably make this yourself at home, I’m not that talented. I purchased this from one of the Makers on Amazon.
One of the benefits to double-sided paper is that sometimes when you need just a blank background, but with texture, it serves as a perfect backdrop so you can add your own extras in the photo.
Ever wonder how people got their floors so immaculately clean EVERY SINGLE TIME they took photos using their floors as a backdrop? Or did you ever think, wow, they have incredible marble countertops? I swear I did every single time. Imagine my surprise when I learned their secret.
They were using Photography Background Paper.
There are various different floor backdrops out there. Most sheets of photography background paper are double-sided with two different backgrounds on each side. Costs for these sheets can range between $11 for a single double-sided sheet to $20-$40 for 2-4 sheets.
You can even find backdrops that can serve as a wall for pictures where you need a wall background for book stacks or just a clean back drop for regular non-flatlay photos.
They even have concrete floors for a more intriguing contrast.
I mean, have you ever seen a concrete floor so clean that you could eat off of it???
My favorite backgrounds though are for those who post about food. Not everyone is blessed with marble countertops. Yet, there’s a way to fake it.
For those who like a more wintry or darker background, they do have black marble countertop paper to use. I am considering trying the darker side of food photography later this year, but it might also work for those Instagram feeds that are a bit on the darker side.
Tip Three: Scrapbook Paper
I am relatively new to this tip. @notinjersey (Dara) was using a background I absolutely loved, so I asked her where she got her photography backdrop paper. Imagine my surprise when she shared it was scrapbook paper.
Scrapbook paper comes in varying sizes. I recommend getting the 12×12 (or larger, if that exists) for your flatlay needs. Each package contains 2 sheets each of multiple backgrounds. This may be the most cost efficient method for those just starting out or those who want to not invest a lot of money into this. I bought two packages of scrapbook paper and it cost a little less than $6 each.
For this photo for The Photographer, I used two sheets from the package I purchased.
In this photo, I am using only one sheet of the scrapbook paper.
Tip Four: The Extras for Flatlay Photos
For this tip, I want to give a shoutout to @stephsbooktherapy for this little tip. Go to her Instagram for a tutorial on how to use foam boards with your photography background paper (Tip Two).
I purchased two of the largest foam boards I could find on Amazon, but it ended up being too small. Steph informed me she had to get hers custom cut to fit the actual size of the photography background paper.
So since I’m stuck with these two boards that don’t fit my paper, I started using them for something else. I use them as a flat surface for photos. I can still lay the paper down on top of it or binder clip one side and tuck the corners down underneath my couch cushions (or have Matthew sit on one side of it to keep the corners from curling).
Since these are white boards, they can also help serve as a way to soften the photo or refract the light to brighten the photo. Just position the white board outside of the frame. You’ll be able to see the difference. Find the right spot with the light and then take your photo.
In the photo above, Matthew is sitting on the white board. You see how it brightened up the photo and gave him a softer look? No filter or adjustment was needed.
Truthfully, yes you can live without these boards, but if you’re serious about this, I think it’s worth buying a couple, or even getting them custom cut to fit the photography backdrops. It will just make your life easier when you go to photograph your flatlays. For Steph, she uses one board to create the wall, and the other to create the floor.
Here’s the shop [AMAZON] where you can find everything I’ve referenced in this post, including the white boards. You will not be able to find the actual gift wrap paper I’ve used in Tip One. I’ve listed similar items in the shop. If you love paper as much as I do, I recommend Paper Source and Papyrus to view their handmade collection.
Book: A Golden Fury Author: Samantha Cohoe Publisher: Wednesday Books Release date: October 13, 2020 Rating: [usr 4.5]
Happy Friday, Lovelies!
Fridays mean it’s movie night for me. It’s that little bit of normalcy I continue to do even though our world has changed. But instead of rushing home after work to watch a movie with Matthew, I spend all day watching movies while I’m working.
Hey, I can multi-task.
On today’s roster is last night’s episode of Supernatural (I’m going to miss this show so much), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Craft, and Trolls World Tour. I may sneak in a scary movie or a Disneyfied version of scary (hello, Freeform!).
I’ll also be monitoring Matthew. He’s not doing so well right now. We went to the vet on Sunday to get him ready for his pet passport application process. His allergies are horrible right now. He’s scratched off the right side of his face and scratched up his ears. His back paw is still hurting him from his allergies. So he had a bunch of tests performed on him, plus he got his medicine. Wednesday night, he snuck out and stayed out way past dark. He discovered that next door has small pine trees planted that he can play hide and seek in. I think he got bit by an insect, because Thursday night, his lip started bleeding.
This is something that happens every fall. He already had his shot for this on Sunday, plus he’s already on meds. I just have to soak up the blood when his lip bleeds, and then apply cornstarch to stop the bleeding. I feel so bad for him. Luckily, this isn’t as bad as previous years.
So on to the book review for “A Golden Fury.” Thank you, Wednesday Books for sending this title along to me. I love stories like this where a young woman becomes the last alchemist by creating the infamous philosopher’s stone.
Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.
While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.
But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.
What can I say? This had a very unexpected ending. I’m going along in this entire story thinking that this stone is so dangerous to create, yet it’s desperately needed to cure everyone in Thea’s life. And then the author does something I didn’t even ponder could happen. She doesn’t just do it once. She does it multiple times, so if you think the story will play out according to Thea’s plans…think again.
Honestly, I love when writers do this. As you read, the entire time you are wondering if she will be able to make the philosopher’s stone and save everyone. Will she go insane before the process is completed? Will the stone even work?
And then because the reader is so focused on this, when the author decides to throw a monkey wrench in there that we’re not expecting, the story becomes even more compelling and interesting, making you beg for more.
I will say that I hoped an unexpected love story would branch from this, but it never materialized. Cohoe had other plans for Thea in the love department.
I also kind of felt bad for Thea. She had a strange childhood. Alchemists as parents! Her mother is strange. Her father, well, that’s left to be seen what kind of dad he’ll be. But I felt bad for Thea that her mother couldn’t be a loving mother, because she was so super feminist for their time. It’s like being a loving mother worked against her idea of feminism. She wanted to spit on everything that was expected of women, including being a nurturing mother. Thea deserved a better mother.
I enjoyed this book. I was lost in the pages, waiting to see what would happen. Would Thea survive the madness of creating the philosopher’s stone? Would she find people she could truly trust that would not betray her? Those questions kept me entranced in the story.
I really enjoyed this. It was such a good story!
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links.]
You can purchase your copy of “A Golden Fury” at any of these approved PW retailers.
Book: When We Were Young & Brave Author: Hazel Gaynor Publisher: William Morrow Release Date: October 6, 2020 Rating: [usr 5]
Seven months of lockdown. Insanity, right? Like many others, I have had difficulty getting back into reading 10+ books a month. I decided to take a break from Facebook and attempt to not stay on Twitter too long, except to read the headlines, so I am not completely out of the loop.
I found that forcing that little break has allowed me to actually finish reading a few books on time. I’m also less anxious.
It took stepping away for a few days to see how crazy our world has become. So I’m going to focus on me and my life, because I can’t do the crazy anymore.
So that leads me to today’s new release from Hazel Gaynor. I read “Meet Me in Monaco” earlier this year and it was absolutely lovely. The whole story of Grace Kelly procuring a special perfume for her wedding, as well as a love story between the woman creating the scent and a reporter, was just sigh worthy.
When William Morrow reached out to ask if I would review this title, I did not hesitate, because Gaynor is a wonderful writer and spins such wonderful tales.
Their motto was to be prepared, but nothing could prepare them for war. . .
The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home sets her unforgettable new novel in China during WWII, inspired by true events surrounding the Japanese Army’s internment of teachers and children from a British-run missionary school.
China, December 1941. Having left an unhappy life in England for a teaching post at a missionary school in northern China, Elspeth Kent is now anxious to return home to help the war effort. But as she prepares to leave China, a terrible twist of fate determines a different path for Elspeth, and those in her charge.
Ten-year-old Nancy Plummer has always felt safe at Chefoo School, protected by her British status. But when Japan declares war on Britain and America, Japanese forces take control of the school and the security and comforts Nancy and her friends are used to are replaced by privation, uncertainty and fear. Now the enemy, and separated from their parents, the children look to their teachers – to Miss Kent and her new Girl Guide patrol especially – to provide a sense of unity and safety.
Faced with the relentless challenges of oppression, the school community must rely on their courage, faith and friendships as they pray for liberation – but worse is to come when they are sent to a distant internment camp where even greater uncertainty and danger await . . .
Inspired by true events, When We Were Young and Brave is an unforgettable novel about impossible choices and unimaginable hardship, and the life-changing bonds formed between a young girl and her teacher in a remote corner of a terrible war.
This book is absolutely marvelous and beautifully written. I fell in love with the book within the first 25 pages.
This book is told from two different perspectives: Elspeth, the teacher, and Nancy, the young student. Telling the story in this manner allows the reader to have a deeper understanding of the situation at Chefoo School.
There’s a teacher running from her past to heal her broken heart. There is a young girl who is forced to leave her parents for a British missionary school. The ones they love are both spirited away from them, and they must learn how to cope without them.
The teachers at this school teach the students how to be prepared. For the girls, they learn how to do this by being a part of Brownies (i.e. Girl Scouts). So when Japanese soldiers take over the school at the beginning of World War II and the Chinese servants are dismissed, the students and teachers pull their weight and make chores a game. They make it easier for the kids to want to help out. In fact, teaching this to the kids in the very beginning helps them in the coming years as they face one internment camp after another.
Before the gardener leaves Chefoo School, he gifts Elspeth nine sunflower seeds. A Japanese soldier (nicknamed Trouble) demands to see the package. In his evil manner, a seed is tossed out and he stomps it into the ground. But like a lotus flower extending itself out of the mud, that sunflower seed grew. It gave hope to the students and the teachers that despite their circumstances, something beautiful can still come from it. Life moves forward and blooms.
Those seeds become very important. They serve as markers on their journey.
After a year, the teachers and the 100 students leave Chefoo School for Temple Hill. It is at this point that I really felt worried for them. Where are they going? What is going to happen to them? Will they be ok?
Then there’s Trouble. In every war there are good soldiers and then there are the dangerous ones. Trouble is one of the dangerous soldiers.
The same group of soldiers follow them from one internment to the next. Home Run is probably one of my favorite characters in this book. The children love him and he does his best to do what is right, despite the circumstances. Why? Because he has young children of his own that he misses and these kids remind him of them.
One of the questions I had at the end of the book was what happened to Home Run after the war? What about his family? I would have liked to know more.
This book comes with content warnings. For those sensitive to rape or animal abuse, please note these warnings. Unfortunately, rape is systemic to war. If Gaynor had left this out of the story, I don’t believe she could have been 100% true to what happens to prisoners of war. She touches briefly on what happened to Chinese women when Japan invaded. It is a foreshadowing of what happens later on in the book.
Mind you, this is just a tinny part of what happens in this story. It is not the main focus. It does not go into the full details of the abuse, but it is there.
There are a lot of great quotes and lessons throughout this book. The signs of an excellent piece of literature is when you can find multiple moments that resonate within you. This quote above is my new life’s motto, taken from page 191 in the book.
So many historical fiction books out there focus on Europe during World War II. I loved that this one was based in China.
I enjoyed this story. Just wonderfully done. I highly recommend reading “When We Were Young & Brave” if you enjoy historical fiction. You’ll appreciate the new change in WWII scenery.
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links.]
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