Book Recommendations, Book Reviews

Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

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The only crime she’d ever commited thus far was being born.

Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope is listed on Goodreads as Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult so it seems a little confused. My copy I got from the library was shelved in the Adult section. I guess it’s because Jasminda, the main character, is 19 that confuses people. I don’t know. But it is a fantasy series that so far has two books and two novellas out, with two more books, at least, on the way.

So in this novel there is basically two races: Elsiran and Lagrimari. Basically Elsirans are white and don’t have magic and Lagrimari and Black and supposed to have magic. Their separate kingdoms are kept apart by a magic Mantle that sometimes cracks and crumbles. Then people slip through and there is war until the Mantle is sealed again.

Jasminda’s mom was Elsiran and her dad, Lagrimari, which is basically unheard of. And since she lives in Elsira, but looks Lagrimari and has magic as well, she has a very tough life. She just wants to live peacefully on the farm her father built, but with the government suddenly demanding back taxes that she can’t afford, she might lose her last connection to her family.

Until, she saves Jack, a handsome Elsiran soldier that stumbles upon her path. He’s on a mission to save the kingdom from an impending war, and Jasminda finds herself wrapped up in it.

Trigger Warnings: Racism, violence, attempted rape, and explicit sex scenes.

I love Jasminda so much. She is my favorite kind of female protagonist. Brave and smart, she fights and sticks up for herself and also solves the mysteries presented instead of not understanding even if it’s obvious. But she isn’t one dimensional. She cries when she is hurt, and is insecure, and feels guilty over her magic not being strong enough.

The romance is very sweet and lovely. It falls under the forbidden romance trope so kind of angsty too, but it doesn’t stop the book. I hate when characters spend pages upon pages mooning over each over even if the world is falling apart, but this doesn’t happen here.

Not only is this a book about Black characters written by a Black person, but there is also queer characters as well.

Normally, if someone says a book has a lot of political intrigue or whatever, I tend to shy away from it. I never thought it was something I liked, but I liked it in this book. I don’t know if that means I do like it or if this book is an exception. It’s something I will have to look into.

The world is immaculately created. I loved the little excerpts at the beginning of each chapter, and the history that always effected the main plot. The magic was simple but not everything needs to be complicated, you know.

Anyway, I gave this book five stars, and I’m very frustrated my library doesn’t have the novellas because I would read it right now if I could. I kind of feel like I didn’t do this book the justice it deserves, but it is hard to find the words when all I want to say is go read this book.

Book Recommendations, Book Reviews

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

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They said I was one thing. But I have changed my mind.

Robert Jackson Bennett might be a new favorite author of mine and that’s something I never say after reading one novel. But Foundryside was that good. It’s an adult high fantasy with steampunk vibes that involves ancient magic, humor, and amazing characters.

It follows former slave and current thief Sancia as she takes the highest paying and most dangerous job of her life. And this job completely changes not only her life, but everyone’s in this world. She teams up with the most unlikely people (including a talking key), and it is non stop action.

The world building is immaculate. The magic in this world is called scriving which is sigils embedded into whatever object (wheels, wood, weapons etc.). They basically convince they are something or should be doing something they aren’t. Like wood is steel so buildings are cheaper or wheels are moving so no need for horses to pull the carriages. This plays such a big role in the world (reference the talking key again), and there is a detailed history that plays a very important part of the novel.

The only problem with the world building, this is why I knocked off a star, is because of this magic system being so detailed and important the characters kept talking about it. And then things would be revealed that was completely confuse them because that isn’t how the magic is supposed to work. It would be a very big deal for the characters, but I felt nothing because I’m just learning about the magic as a whole. So I felt like I wasn’t connecting during these scenes. Does that make sense? I hope so because I don’t know how else to explain how I felt.

But the characters were amazing. I loved all of them. They were all multifaceted, and I miss them already. There is good rep as well with a gay male character and a female/female romance. I did try to find a review commenting on how the slavery was dealt with, but I couldn’t. I felt like it was dealt with well because Sancia doesn’t simply brush off her past. I would tentatively say she has some PTSD, but keep in mind I am white and don’t have PTSD so I could be completely off base.

This is the first book in a trilogy that I am definitely going to continue. Trigger Warnings though for graphic violence, a lot of blood, and death.

Book Recommendations, Book Reviews

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

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I don’t think you have to do something so big to be brave. And it’s the little things that are harder anyway.

Morgan Matson is generally considered a queen with writing summer YA reads, and Since You’ve Been Gone is a perfect example of why. This contemporary romance follows sixteen year old Emily after her best friend disappears only leaving behind a list of things to do. Lost, she decides to do everything in hopes it will bring her answers. Along the way, she makes more friends, a love interest, and begins to find herself and her confidence.

You know how people usually say there is the extrovert friend and the introvert friend? Well, Emily is the introvert friend to an extreme degree. She rarely does any talking, exploring, dating, and really anything on her own. Without meaning to, her friendship with Sloane had turned slightly toxic, and Sloane disappearing is quite possibly the best thing to happen to Emily.

I love the character arcs that take place in this book. Throughout the book Emily finds more friendships, better friendships, and I loved all the characters and personal growth that takes place.

There is a lot of tropes in this book. The list is a trope, and the coincidentally absentee parents is another. The list is usually one that I don’t like, and actively avoid but it worked for this book.

Overall, I found this to be a fun, lighthearted book that’s perfect to get you into a summer mood. I also heard these characters might pop up for a second in her book The Unexpected Everything so I know I will need to pick that up soon.

Book Recommendations, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

New Kid by Jerry Craft

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New Kid by Jerry Craft Cover
A black child drawing in a book.

New Kid by Jerry Craft is a middle grade graphic novel that follows seventh grader Jordan Banks as he enters his new private school. Not only is entering seventh grade tough, but having a new school in a completely different part of town, the rich side, while also being one of the few kids of color makes for a very tough transition. Jordan struggles between his two worlds while he simply wants to focus on his art.

This graphic novel is the first ever to win a Newbery Medal, and it is well deserved. First off, the art style is so pretty. I feel like sometimes art can get muddled, and sometimes make it harder to read but I didn’t get lost once. In this case, the art enhanced the novel. Also, Jordan’s own art was featured a lot which I thought was a nice touch. And it was different to the usual art of the comic much like a talented seventh grader would draw. It was a nice detail.

I loved Jordan’s parents, particularly his mom. She just wanted to baby him still even though he is growing up. I know seventh grade is a transition for kids, but I think it is for guardians too and I think this novel showcased that well.

I think all the characters really popped which is why I loved reading this graphic novel so much. It is so easy for side characters to fade to the background, but every character was well rounded, for better or worse.

Overall, this was a five star read for me. I think kids and teachers should read it so I hope school libraries are purchasing it. And in October Class Act is coming out. It follows Jordan’s friend, Drew, through eighth grade. I know I will be picking it up.

Five Sunflowers

Uncategorized

A History of Protesting

One thing I have learned throughout the years is that a lot people love to have opinions or make decisions even when they do not actually have knowledge on what they are talking about. It’s something I’ve never understood, but what I’m hoping is maybe at lease one person would be willing to read this and maybe change their opinions.

With everyone and their mother debating about the difference between protesting and rioting right now I thought maybe it would be prudent to take a look at three popular pieces of history for some context.

One protest that is almost always brought up, at least in the United States, and celebrated is the Boston Tea Party.

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W.D. Cooper’s engraving of Boston Tea Party

This is when The Sons of Liberty boarded three ships and destroyed forty-six tons of tea that today would roughly be $1,700,000. But, that is not all they did. The Sons of Liberty was a grassroots group that regularly used threats and violence to upset the British government and those in the colonies that were still loyal to them. Their first victory was when they threatened Andrew Oliver, the person who after the Stamp Act was passed, would be collecting the stamps into resigning. They burned a statue of him and also looted his house. When Governor Thomas Hutchinson wouldn’t denounce the Stamp Act his house was also looted and destroyed. When the Townshend Acts passed, they organized a boycott of British goods. If the local stores did not join in, the group would smash their windows and smear shit on the walls. And if they owners still didn’t comply, the Sons of Liberty would kidnap and tar and feather them.

The Rev Martin Luther King Jr stands with Jesse Jackson and other civil rights leaders on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on 3 April 3 1968, a day before he was assassinated.
MLK a day before he was assassinated

Martin Luther King Jr. is often called upon these days as a call for peaceful, nonviolent protests. And while for a time he did not understand rioting as a form of protest, he did change his mind before his assassination. I will let his words, that are so often misused, speak for themselves.

Let us say boldly that if the violations of law by the white man in the slums over the years were calculated and compared with the law-breaking of a few days of riots, the hardened criminal would be the white man. These are often difficult things to say but I have come to see more and more that it is necessary to utter the truth in order to deal with the great problems that we face in our society.

And honestly read this whole article on this topic because it is written way better than anything I can do.

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Some of the damage done during Holy Week Uprisings

So, after MLK was murdered what is now called the Holy Week Uprisings occurred across America. It resulted in 43 deaths, thousands of arrests, millions of dollars of property damage, and The Civil Rights Act of 1968. Dr. King had been advocating a lot for fair housing, and it was quickly passed during the uprisings.

No longer dismissed: Marsha P. Johnson and the Stonewall riots
Marsha P Johnson is regularly said to have throw the first brick at Stonewall

The last riots I want to visit is the Stonewall Riots. So, in case you didn’t know, during this time gay sex was largely illegal. Harassment of gay people was a regular occurrence and gay bars were considered a safe haven. Except, the police would then take over. Which is what happened on June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn. In a nutshell, police officers entered the bar to rough up and arrest people because, gay. It had happened before, but this time, people did not scatter. This time people stayed and expressed their anger. The police were forced to barricade themselves into the bar while 400 people rioted outside. They yelled. They threw things, and eventually set fire to the bar that was holding the police. Backup did show up and dispersed everything that day, but for the next five days riots continued. This was the first time gay men, lesbians, and transgender people united in protesting the injustice being done against them. It led to the formation of the Human Rights Campaign, and GLAAD, among many others, and is considered the starting point that led to the gay community getting many of the rights they have today.

These are only three pieces of protesting history, but I do think that knowing about some information that isn’t as often talked about is important, particularly now.

Lists, Personal, Uncategorized

What We’ve Been Enjoying Lately

Isis

Watching a Mexican Telenovela

I’ve been watching a Mexican telenovela called Como Tu No Hay 2, which is really silly and funny. It’s been super entertaining. I love that I’m not obsessed with it, so I can enjoy it for what it is and not suffer when characters break up or whatever. And, most importantly, I found a character who is exactly like my original character, Diego, who is my son. 

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Digital Drawing

I’ve gotten into digital drawing lately. I started it a while ago, but then stopped. I picked it back up again recently. It’s really fun for me. I’m still learning, trying to get better, but I think I’ve improved a little. Here are some examples of stuff I’ve drawn. 

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Rewatching The Office
How many times have I seen The Office? Probably over 100. It never gets old. It’s always awesome. And it makes me really happy to rewatch. Brings me so much comfort. 
Some Good News
 John Krasinski, from The Office, started a show on YouTube where he talks about good news around the world during this pandemic. It’s filled with wholesome content. I love John and I love his show. Recently, he got the entire cast of The Office to reenact Jim & Pam’s wedding dance. Always makes me cry, but good happy tears. 
Office Ladies Podcast
Another thing that relates to The Office. Do you see how happy The Office makes me? This podcast is hosted by Jenna Fischer & Angela Kinsey who were Pam & Angela on the show. They’re best friends, and they have all the behind the scenes scoop on the show. They go over every episode starting from the beginning, and they have cool guests come in. I love this podcast so much. It’s perfect. 
Writing Fanfiction
I started a new long Supernatural fanfiction. This one will be very long, and very angsty, but it’s been nice to write. I usually don’t write fics like this, so it’s a nice change. I’ve been writing it on my phone because my laptop sucks, but even then, I enjoy it. I hope when it goes up, other people will enjoy it too. 
Texting My Friends
I love texting my friends and seeing how they’re doing lately. I’ve texted people that I don’t talk to as often, and it’s always so nice to catch up. 
What We Do in the Shadows
This one should be higher up the list. I recently found the beauty that is What We Do in the Shadows, the movie by Taika Waititi, who is a fucking genius. I loved loved the movie. It’s full of vampires and dry humor. Then I realized there is a show by the same title, and it’s even better than the movie. So, yeah, this is my new favorite thing. It is absolutely hilarious. 
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Never Have I Ever
Mindy Kaling created this new Netflix show, which was so good. Mindy is my hero and she always makes amazing content. This show is about an Indian American teenager who is kind of wild but super relatable. I loved it so much. It’s so Mindy. 
Never Have I Ever (TV Series 2020– ) - IMDb
My Dogs
 I just love spending more time than usual with my dogs, Shrek & Fiona. They’re both really old, and they can’t really move around as much as they used to. But working from home has given me more time to spend with them. They can get annoying, but I love them with all my heart. 

Nicole

Video Games

I’ve always loved video games, but they’ve really come in clutch these past two months. Like many others, I’m obsessed with Animal Crossing New Horizons. I check in on my island everyday though I still don’t have cherries. Also, this past week I’ve been playing Rayman Legends with my boyfriend. The graphics are so bright and cute, and it is simply a fun game to complete.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons - WikipediaUbisoft - Rayman Legends

Streams

While I love games, there are some I hate to play but love to watch other people play. Particularly battle royal games and FPSs like Warzone and Valorant. I don’t know if this is from being forced to watch my older brother play when I was younger, but I love having a stream playing even if I’m doing something else. Right now my favorites are Jordan Fisher (Book people may know him as John Ambrose in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You on Netflix) on Twitch and Courage JD on Youtube.

Jordan Fisher Stars In CouRage's Music Video Remake of Ariana Grande's 'Boyfriend'
Courage JD (left), Jordan Fisher (right)

The Secrets of the Zoo

So I gave in and got Disney +, and my favorite series is both The Secrets of the Zoo and The Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa. Sometime it can be really sad (cause some animals do die), but I love seeing when they healthy, and the happiness of the zoo keepers and vets interacting with the animals.

Zoom

Like a lot people now, I’ve been using zoom, and I really like it. It is a lot more comforting now to talk face to face (kind of) right now. I use it with my mom, friends, even my therapist and psychologist. Which is so much better than simple phone calls. Am I the only one that has more trouble hearing on the phone than face cam? 

Writing/Researching My Novel

I thought I would be reading like crazy, and writing would be hard but it is the opposite. Writing has been a relief since before I had been struggling with it. And my research for this particular novel is so much fun.

Music

I forget sometimes how much I love music, and then when I remember I become obsessed. I will repeat three songs over and over again, one after the other, and never become bored. Right now I am loving Megan Thee Stallion’s EP “Suga”, the quarantine music Machine Gun Kelly is putting out, and Disney songs (particularly Aladdin’s “Speechless”, Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go”, and Frozen 2’s “Into the Unknown”).

Leslie Sansone’s Walking Videos

For the past week I’ve been on one of her walking videos, and I’ve been sleeping much better. I like them because they are easy enough when you haven’t been exercising, but they will still make you sweat and make you feel like you did a good workout. And, unlike a lot of workout vids, you truly don’t need any equipment to do them.

Leslie Sansone Mini walks 1 Mile Gentle Walk - starting easy after ...

ASMR

ASMR videos also help me sleep if my mind won’t shut up. Something about complete silence when trying to sleep that wakes me up completely. Some of my favorites are Peace and Saraity ASMR, Lynn Cinnamon ASMR Beauty, Silver Hare, and Soft ASMR.

Avator: The Last Airbender

I’ve never watched it before, but when Netflix up it up I forced my boyfriend to start watching it with me. And we love it. I’ve heard so much about it before that I’ve been wanting to see it, and this was the perfect opportunity.

7 reasons Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the best shows on ...

Book Reviews

Colorblind by Siera Maley – Book Review

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Have you ever considered the fact that maybe the goal of life isn’t to get through it as painlessly as possible?

This is one the sweetest books I’ve ever read that features two girls falling in love.

I was intrigued by this book when I read the premise. Colorblind follows a teenager named Harper who knows the age that everyone is going to die. She sees a number on people’s foreheads, and as far as she knows, there is nothing she can do to change these numbers. Harper couldn’t prevent her mom’s death, so she doesn’t allow herself to make friends since getting attached can be painful. She has a best friend,  Robbie, an older guy who has the same ability as her. They know each other’s death ages, but they won’t share it because they know no one truly wants to know when they’re going to die.

The book I co-wrote with Nicole features a character with a similar ability. I was drawn to the story immediately. Harper was such an interesting character. She was miserable with her life, super bummed out, and Robbie only bummed her out more. I found both of them so relatable with their grim views of life.

One day, everything changes for Harper. As she’s driving, a girl runs into the street following her dog who escaped from their leash. Chloe is a bubbly, happy, lovely person, and there’s an instant connection. Except, her number is 16, meaning she will die before the end of the summer. Harper tries to keep her distance, but Chloe is determined to be in her life. The two of them openly admit they like each other as more than friends, but Harper refuses to let anything happen between them to prevent getting hurt. But of course, things are never that easy.

Harper and Chloe spend the summer together, every day growing closer. And Harper leans to see the world with different eyes. She realizes her entire life she’s seen her life in black and white, but Chloe is allowing her to see it in color. I get where the title ties in, but I feel like it can be easily misinterpreted.

Colorblind is a stunning novel. I loved the ups and down. I loved the way Harper and Chloe connected despite being so different. I liked how well they complemented each other. This is a memorable story that I will remember for a long time.

4 stars

Personal

Marcus Parks is my Conscience

“Mental illness is not your fault, but it is your responsibility.”

Marcus Parks, who is the genius mind behind The Last Podcast on the Left has said this time and time again. Marcus, like me, is bipolar. It’s something he has to deal with for the rest of his life. It’s something he takes very seriously. And lately, thinking about him and that quote has kept me a bit sane.

I had a really terrible psychiatrist appointment this week. It made me feel like a piece of shit. Like a literal piece of crap that someone just dumped in the nastiest toilet. It made me feel like I was completely worthless. And I’m not even in my depressive mood at the moment.

You see, my psychiatrist’s answer to me asking if what I was feeling was normal was: I don’t know. She said I don’t know so many times that I just eventually shut up. That was the only answer she had for me. Am I really that insane? I don’t know. Is there something seriously wrong with me? I don’t know. Is this normal? I don’t know. Am I gonna be okay? I don’t know. Is my new dose gonna help me? I don’t know.

She didn’t know.

I get that my psychiatrist is human. And humans are not all-knowing. But you have no idea how detrimental it is to hear from your health care professional that there are no certainties. That there is no sympathy for your troubles. That there is nothing good in your future.

I walked out of that office feeling ashamed. I’ve never felt that ashamed to be alive, to take up a space on this earth, to inhale oxygen that could be used on a better, worthier person.

I have kept that feeling bottled up inside me. Why? Because my psychiatrist’s numerous I don’t knows have pushed me so far down that I don’t think anyone in my life actually wants to hear from me. I should not burden anyone with these pitiful concerns because I am not important. I do not matter to anyone. I am not the most important person in anyone’s life. Not even close. So I must deal with this on my own.

This has led me to make the decision to quit going to see my psychiatrist. And therefore, to quit my medication. I haven’t yet. You know why? Because of that Marcus Parks quote. Because I can’t get his voice out of my head. Telling me my mental illness is not my fault, but it is my responsibility.

I really hate this burden, though.

I want nothing more than to quit my meds, and succumb to the fucking mess that my brain will create. Whether that is a deep depression that leads to self-harm, or a manic episode that drives me to do things I will forever regret. I don’t care. I’ll take it. I’ll take it all over going back to hear her I don’t knows.

It is my responsibility. I know that. But I want so bad to shut up that voice. I want to let go. I want to go fucking nuts. I’m already halfway there. I’d rather take my chances.

But what if something happens? Quitting anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers cold turkey and just going out into society sounds kind of dangerous to said society. God knows what I’ll end up doing.

I don’t want to hurt myself, or anyone else. At least not now.

But I also can’t go back to hear I don’t know again and again and again.

I can’t keep doing this. I want to give this responsibility to someone else. I don’t want it to fall on me anymore.

Book Recommendations, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi review

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Sometimes you don’t even know how special you might be. Sometimes it takes moments of horror or happiness to, if you will, unleash that knowledge.

 

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi is the very first Riordan Presents book, and it follows Hindu mythology. Aru Shah is the twelve-year-old daughter of an absent mom who runs the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture. She’s also a big time liar. So when some of the popular kids in school call her out on a lie about a demon being in a lamp in the museum, Aru says she will prove it. To her surprise, when she touches the lamp an actual demon comes out and threatens to end the world. Apparently, Aru is a Pandava and it’s her and her new “soul sister’s” job to save the world. All the while Aru is still in her spider man pajamas. 

This is an absolute gem of a novel. So fun and heartwarming and funny and sweet. I love it as an adult, and I am certain I would have loved it when I was twelve. I remember wanting so much for protagonists like Aru at this age, and I’m glad that kids now have these characters to read.

I admit I know not a lot about about Hindu mythology, but that wasn’t a problem at all. The world is vast and rich and complex, but explained so easily and naturally. I was worried about getting the Gods confused, but I didn’t even need to check the glossary that is in the back of the book.

As always my favorite aspect was the relationships. In particular, Aru’s relationship with her mother. I loved that she wasn’t just an absent parent, and while she wasn’t along for an adventure, the fact that she could have her own fantasy novel is really cool to me. 

This is the first of four, and I’m very eager to get to the next book. A perk of not getting to the series when it first came out. Five out of five stars. Definitely a book everyone should read.

5 stars

Book Recommendations, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert Review

 

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Anyway, at some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.

Trigger Warnings: Sexism, mentions of rape, sex

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is an adult historical fiction set in New York City in the 1940’s. Vivian Morris flunks out of college and her uptight WASPy family sends her off to live with her eccentric Aunt Peg who owns a theater. The story follows Vivian as she experiences love, sex, and heartbreak throughout her life.

 

I can’t claim to have read many historical novels, but from what I’ve read this has got to be the most feminist, diverse one  and it really should be what some other books need to learn from. There is a f/f couple, a minor gay character, some minor POC (see not even a lot yet more than others in the same genre). It acknowledges casual sex, racism, interracial relationships, privilege and single motherhood.  It was so refreshing to read, and I appreciated it a lot. 

 

Every single character had depth and is complex. I felt as swept up in their lives as Vivian was swept up in NYC. She sews, and every time it went into her designing clothes and fabrics I loved it. She was so knowledgeable, and I loved the tiny details. I also felt like I have never read a 1940s book without it focused on the war. Because, while it was mentioned, it was not the central focus. And that ties into the fact that Vivian was an oblivious person, more interested in having fun than reading newspapers. I’m not saying that as a complaint either. I loved that Vivian was free and wild and wanted to be pretty and glamorous, and wasn’t ashamed of that. 

 

There was a lot to love in this book. And I had a great time reading it. I’ve never read Elizabeth Gilbert before, never had any interest really, but this book has changed that. I only knocked off a star because I felt like it dragged a little in a couple parts.

 

4 stars