Hey everyone! I’m back, and ready to play tag! If you spotted my last post a few weeks ago, I briefly mentioned that I had been AWOL for the last year – as a result of mental health, stress, and other reasons – but now I’m back! Sort of. I don’t know how often or how regularly I’ll be popping on, if ever, but I wanted to at least stay true and show myself for this particular tag.
My lovely friend Kate recently started a blog (and for that I am very proud), and the second she mentioned The Folklore Book Tag, I practically begged her to tag me in it so that I could take part. I love books, I love Taylor Swift, I love a good book tag, and I love foklore in particular, so I knew I’d have fun with this one! If you want to check out her post, please do! Her answers were an utter joy, and please don’t hesitate from giving Kate a quick follow too while you’re at it! Thank you Kate for the tag, and thanks ever so much to Ilsa for creating the tag in the first place!
- Link to the original creator: Ilsa @ A Whisper of Ink.
- Tag at least 3 people.
- Declare the rules and list of prompts in your post.
- Thank whoever tagged you and link to their post.
a book with an ending that left you speechless
The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #1)
I absolutely adore this series, and Patrick Ness, so I knew that not only did it have to make an appearance in this tag, but that it would be The One. The Chaos Walking series takes place in a world where there are no women – Sounds awful, right? Except, not quite. In a world of only men, where each man’s ‘noise’ (aka his thoughts) are projected to the world around him, our main character Todd Hewitt finds himself crossing paths with Viola Eade. Gasp! A girl! Not only are these stories told gloriously, with such a unique spin on the formatting of the book (between the noise that we can hear, and the book being written entirely using Todd’s own voice – mispronunciations and spelling errors included), but there are so many twists and turns, captivating characters, and moments that really make you gasp. I won’t spoil a thing, because this one really did shock me, but the first book ends with a huge moment that leaves you reeling and dying to pick up the next one.
a book that makes you feel happy and sad all at once
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
Most people will know of this story, one way or another. Whether you’re familiar with the book, the movie adaptation, or the musical adaptation – it’s fairly well known. Much like I mentioned with Chaos Walking above, this book is told in a particularly special format. Each chapter starts with ‘Dear God,’ as Celie – the protagonist – prays to a higher power and recounts her story (and then later changes as her letters and prayers begin to be directed elsewhere). Again, this is another story that focuses on a character with a particular lack of education, meaning Celie’s own voice is filled with misspellings and her own spin on certain words. While certainly not a happy book – Celie’s story is one of trauma and pain that leaves you aching for her – Alice Walker does such a gorgeous, heartbreaking job of telling Celie’s story, making us feel every inch of her pain and her suffering, that it’s impossible not to be floored and impressed by the narrative. Not to mention, the course the story takes, and the work that Celie puts in to finding herself, finding hope and developing a love for herself that she couldn’t find elsewhere is so inspiring and astounding, it’s hard not to have a happy little weep for her by the end of it.
the last great american dynasty
a book with a fascinating and extremely well-told story
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
This book is phenomenal. Evelyn Hugo is a Hollywood movie star, this book’s very own version of Audrey Hepburn or Judy Garland – only in the modern day, ageing and reclusive, out of the public eye. Evelyn has spent years evading the press and keeping in the secrets of her glamourous – and often times scandalous – past, but now she’s ready to spill it all, and who better to tell than Monique Grant; an unknown journalist with barely an inch of experience under her belt. Taylor Jenkins Reid expertly gives us a glimpse into Evelyn Hugo’s lifestyle from 1950’s Los Angeles right through to the 1980’s. We learn about every romance, showmance, and fauxmance that she experienced along the way, and each and every one of her deepest, darkest secrets. Dipping between the modern day and the past as Monique interviews her, I found this story so enthralling, and I never wanted to put it down. I adored the way that Monique found herself so intrinsically linked to Evelyn, despite never having met her before, and how with each fragment of the story that we learned from Evelyn, the closer we were to uncovering, how these new discoveries impacted Monique in such a personal way. Evelyn’s story is one so fascinating and so addictive that I wept my way through roughly the two thirds of the book.
Also. This remains the only book on goodreads that has a solid, consistent 5 star rating under the Friends Ratings and Reviews section.
a book you wish you hadn’t read
I’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson
Where do I begin? Listen, I’m well aware this is an unpopular opinion. I understand that everybody know adores this book and thinks that it’s God’s gift to this planet. But, I loathed it. I despised it with every single fibre of my being and it will easily go down as one of the worst books I’ve ever read. I found it genuinely intolerable. I feel awful even saying it, but it’s true. I understand that there are often going to be unpleasant themes in books, and when treated delicately and with a safe lens, they can be honest and empowering, but this simply wasn’t the case. I felt as though this book thought it was way deeper and far more eye opening than it was. But, just because a book deals with heavy topics and life and love and loss and trauma, does not mean that it’s being handled appropriately or in a healthy way. It was full of bizarre, useless metaphors that the author wanted me to find poetic, which I found utterly ridiculous instead. When every other sentence is a flowery, faux-poetic metaphor, nothing makes sense.
“All the hornet’s buzzed out of her. And there’s no spider to her at all.” – A genuine sentence from this book. Please don’t ask me what it means, because I have no idea.
This is a story that deals with a boy struggling with his sexuality, being severely closeted, and dealing with the repercussions of loving another boy so deeply closeted and suffering, a boy living with his own internalised homophobia – sounds angsty, realistic, and quite the read, right? Except – spoiler alert – they just… ended up together, even after the latter OUTED the former and put him through hell. It wasn’t healthy. It was… a mess, and gave off the impression that those who hurt us are forgivable and that the positive always outweighs the negative – but it doesn’t.
This is also a story that deals with rape, and a young girl struggling with the trauma and PTSD that comes with that. Only, well, she kind of doesn’t deal with that trauma. And, actually, has to team up with her rapist at the end of the book to save her brother (the boy struggling with his sexuality)’s life! Wow, cool, what a hero! Not to mention, the girl in question also is underage, while her romantic interest isn’t. And he even decides that they shouldn’t be together because of that very fact – but, y’know, they do anyway. He says she’s too young, she says she isn’t, so he says okay cool no worries!
Also, both Jude and Noah, the main characters in this book, where pretty abhorrent. Teens? Yes, fine. But, they were just not likeable at all Both of them behaved terribly, towards each other and other people, and even with any level of growth they might have endured, they were incredibly toxic and harmful to one another and I found it agonising to read.
my tears ricochet
a book that made you cry uncontrollably
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
If you haven’t read this already, what are you doing? Truly, wholeheartedly. Here’s the thing: It is not a black person’s job to educate us, make us walk a metaphorical day in their shoes, or create stories to allow us that window into their every day, their experiences and their trauma. It just isn’t. I remember reading something, perhaps on twitter, about how James Baldwin was this incredible and fascinating author, his life so full and vibrant and intriguing – an activist, a writer, and a black, gay man in New York City from the 50s onwards. He’s a man who had so much life and so much to offer, and he dedicated that time to teaching, to protesting, to writing until he could write no more. And everything he wrote kept to those particular themes: classism, masculinity prejudice, racism, sexuality and politics. Imagine, if you could, the wonders that we could have also received, also consumed, had Baldwin not needed to spend so much of his life dedicated to fighting these causes, to standing up against bigotry and hate?
I recently saw somebody say the same of Angie Thomas. Angie is such a delight, and over this lockdown period I’ve gotten such a giggle out of watching her Animal Crossing journey, and just in general I always enjoy watching her nerd out over books and pop culture, and seeing all the fun ways that these passions of her make appearances in her work. There is so much more to her, and to all black creators, than the pain and the angst and the trauma that is, often, just walking in their own skin and living as a black person. But people like Baldwin, Thomas, and so many other creators and activists use that pain and they use those experiences to create. They use their platforms and they allow us to project their voices in whatever ways that we can. The Hate U Give is such an incredible example of that. Starr is such a lovely, relatable, and downright fun character, but everything about her world has fallen apart, has been falling apart – as a result of violence, of police brutality, of the very things that black people fear on a day-to-day basis. This book highlights those struggles and experiences wonderfully, puts them into words in such a raw, painful, but honest and insightful way. But this is the thing, in spite of all of that, in spite of these teaching moments – this book, Baldwin’s work, all of it, it’s not for white people. It’s not. It’s for Angie. It’s for James. It’s for black people to be seen and to be heard, to see and to hear themselves, it’s for truth and honesty and for giving those experiences and those truths a voice and a platform and for putting them out into the world.
This book is a genuine mavel, and I think even if you’ve seen the movie – which is equally as astonishing – the book is well worth the read.
a book that feels like it was written for you
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letters to the World – Ashley Herring Blake
Man, I’ve really come to love a good middle grade read, y’know? And this was no exception. Ivy Aberdeen is a twelve year old struggling with her sexuality, and this book does a really phenomenal job of dealing with those struggles and her journey. That said, it’s not just about that. At the very start of the book, Ivy’s family are displaced after a tornado tears through their town and destroys her home. The five of them – herself, her parents, and their two infants – then struggle as they try to keep afloat, living out of just one tiny motel room. Ivy, who is somewhat of an artist, is then sent on a whirlwind (for lack of a better word) of emotions as a sketchbook filled with secret drawings that explore her identity goes missing, and sketches begin to show up in her locker. I found this book so gripping and so heartbreaking, and I spent the entire book feeling absolutely gutted for Ivy. With the harsh struggles of her sexuality aside, Ivy is going through something that so many people can relate to – both at the age of twelve, as well as later on in life. I really connected with Ivy and the sense of loneliness and uncertainty that she felt throughout the book. I absolutely sped through this read, getting through it in a day, as I really found myself stuck in Ivy’s head and really wanting to see her through this rough patch. Ivy spends the majority of the book feeling lost and hopeless, believing she has no place anywhere that she goes. She feels at a loss at home with her family – her parents distracted by the tragedy that struck them as well as the tasks of taking care of two newborns – as well as so deeply stuck inside her own head, trying desperately to find solace in a world that she believes doesn’t truly see her. I think that there are so many aspects of life, and our own identities, that can make us all feel like this from time to time, and this book expertly managed to explore Ivy’s sexuality, trauma, and her own anxieties and overwhelming mental health.
a childhood book that makes you feel nostalgic
The Stone Rose – Jacqueline Rayner
This is a pretty silly one, I’m sure, but I genuinely just love this book! I’ve been a huge Doctor Who fan since its 2005 reboot, and I used to religiously buy all of the novels that they would release. I own every single nine & ten book, and I got a little lost somewhere around the eleventh doctor, but I still love them. I have a few of the newer ones, and I’ll never fully let go of this show, or these books. The Stone Rose was an absolute all time favourite, though, and I used to read it over and over again. I had several copies, and even reread it last year. In fact, the first time I met my best friend, Jenny, in person – I gave her one of my copies, and we bonded over it. It’s really just such a special, fun book to me and it brings me joy to think about, and definitely was a staple part of my childhood!
a book that reminds you of summer
Under a Dancing Star – Laura Wood
This is a gorgeous, fun, and downright adorable retelling of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing set in the 1930’s. Much Ado is one of my favourites, and I was so thrilled to learn about this retelling. While the book itself is set in the summer, I also read it last summer myself, so it’s definitely got that great, sunshiney vibe for me. It’s such a delightful book that had me smiling and giggling the whole way through, and I never wanted to put it down. I read this in a flash and I would recommend it to absolutely anybody.
this is me trying
a book that deals with loneliness & sadness
The Space Between – Meg Grehan
I actually just finished reading this, and yet again Meg Grehan is an absolute gem. This, and her middle grade book The Deepest Breath, have been some of the loveliest pieces of work I have read. I’m very choosy when it comes to poetry, as I don’t always get it, but I find Grehan’s work so lovely and so natural, and both stories reeled me in and truly connected me to each of these characters. This book follows the story of Beth, a young woman who is suffering from debilitating depression and anxiety, and has resolved to never leaving her home, thus also developing a slight case of agoraphobia. Beth is insecure and self deprecating, so full of destructive thoughts and harmful behaviour. She sets herself the exact same routine every single day, down to falling asleep and waking up at the exact same time each morning and night. She is so dedicated to this life that she even finds ways to beat herself up and fall into these pits of despair should she even so much as accidentally wake up early. Beth’s whole entire life is rocked with the arrival of a puppy named Mouse and his owner, Alice, and what blossoms from these interactions was so gorgeous and so addictive. But, don’t be mistaken. Beth’s depression doesn’t miraculously disappear upon their arrival – it is constantly there, a reminder, a source of anxiety and often times creating a wall between herself and Alice. Grehan doesn’t shy away from the ways in which our own mental health can create barriers, and how shutting yourself off from the world in the physical sense can also result in shutting yourself off mentally, too. It’s such a gorgeous book and, tough as those first few pages were, I’m so happy I read it.
a book that gave you a book hangover
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzi Lee
I understand that Mackenzi has come under a lot of fire in the last year or so, for entirely valid reasons. Both from her treatment of trans characters in her writing, as well as her whole signing books debacle. I understand that completely, and I’m not endorsing her behaviour in any capacity with this answer. I don’t agree with it, or her, and I won’t encourage anybody to read, or buy, any of her work after the backlash she’s faced. That’s absolutely not my place to do so!
This, however, does seem like a fitting answer. I absolutely adored this book so much when I first read it. I fell in love with Percy and Monty instantly, both characters falling expertly into my absolute brand, both individually and as a duo. Accompany the two of these with a 1700’s style road trip, an exploration of racial prejudice and homophobia, Monty’s gorgeous sister Felicity, and pirates? Well, you’ve got me hooked. I truly became so enamoured with all of these characters and this book the second I picked it up. Not to keep repeating myself, but I truly couldn’t put it down, and I found myself struggling to find something that would even match up to it once I did get through it. Of course, I had the exact same reaction to the sequel, which went on to follow Felicity herself, had more pirates, and a whole band of wonderful female characters for me to attach myself to. Just, overall, I really adored this book and series.
a book that came into your life at the exact right time
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This book is GORGEOUS. GORGEOUS, I tell you. It made me laugh and smile and SOB my little heart out, but I loved it, and I needed it, honestly. I read this book about 3 years ago after being in such a painful book slump for years. An avid reader growing up, my mental health, school, trauma, and college all sent me in a bit of a spin and I found myself struggling to read even a single book. I had no interest or desire to read anything, and this book really helped push me out of my little dilemma. Admittedly, it’s possible that no book will ever quite match up to it, but it really was just a work of art.
a book with a female character you adore
Sara Howard from The Alienist – Caleb Carr
As far as books go, I’ve never really been huge on historical fiction. Or crime. Or Thrillers. Or Horror. These are all things that I enjoy in film and television, but not so much in books. And yet, The Alienist is all of these things, and I loved it. I adored it. I stayed up until 5 o’clock in the morning finishing it, and then attached myself lovingly to the tv series, changed my twitter handle to @schuylermoores, and never let go.
Sara Howard is such an astounding and wonderful character. Set in New York City in 1896, it’s a man’s world, and Sara Howard isn’t just living in it, she’s making it her own. She’s saying fuck your stereotypes, fuck the patriarchy, and fuck anybody who bothers to get in her way. She has absolutely no interest in abiding to societal rules for what a woman should be, and has every intention of working harder than every single man out there to get what she wants, and to prove herself, and be damned if she cares a single shit what any of the men around her think of her.
a book that is haunting
You – Caroline Kepnes
I imagine most, if not all, of you will have heard of You, and Joe Goldberg – be it from the book series, or the tv series, so I’ll spare everyone the painful recaps. That said, this book is astonishing. It’s obsessive in more way than one. Haunting feels like something of an understatement, to be perfectly honest. Even setting Joe’s murderous tendencies aside, this book is so haunting and real for numerous other reasons. Every inch of Joe’s psychosis revolves around the fact that everything must be exactly how he wishes it to be. He is so far gone, so deluded by his own warped sense of morality, that he’s lost all grip of reality and the truth that surrounds him. He condemns, belittles, and even murders people that he finds condescending, disrespectful, and… well, dangerous. And yet, everything that he despises in a person, he is. Everything that he spends the entire book criticising in others – in Beck, in Peach, in Benji and in Dr Nicky – is everything that he embodies himself. The narcissism, the condescension and self-righteousness, and the sleaziness; all of these characteristics are those of his own, and yet those are the leading factors in his blinding hatred for the people that Beck surrounds herself with. It’s impeccably done – both in book and in series – and the way that Joe’s unwillingness to see his own wrongdoings, while tearing people apart – both figuratively and literally = for mirroring those exact same traits is incredible.
And, honestly? The largest part of why this book is so haunting, why all of that is so heavy to take on, is because it’s real. It’s the guy you went to school with who still crops up on your facebook feed that shares ‘not all men’ posts but claims he loves women. It’s the coworker that mistakes a giggle for flirtation. It’s the regular customer who believes he’s your friend, and believes your professionalism and the kindness for which you are paid for means something more. It’s the stranger on the street who is personally offended that you didn’t smile at him, and weren’t flattered by his catcalling. There are countless Joe Goldberg’s everywhere you turn, on every corner, and they’re as inconspicuous as this one. They’re oblivious to the fact that they’re even a Joe. Are they gonna infiltrate your life and murder you like this Joe? Hey, probably not. But the entitlement is still there. It’s ingrained into so many men and into their every day, and they have absolutely no sense of right or wrong when it comes to basic consent and decency, mistreating women is so natural to them that it doesn’t even occur to them that something might be wrong.
a book couple that fills you with yearning
Charlotte and Jamie from A Study in Charlotte – Britanny Cavallaro
A modern take on Sherlock Holmes, this series follows Charlotte Holmes, a descendent of the man himself, and her best friend James Watson. Doomed to follow the paths of their parents, grand parents, and great grandparents, these two find themselves unwittingly thrown into a murder case that replicates one found in the very pages of John Watson’s stories from all those years ago. While you’d think the two of them have nothing better to be doing than saving their own lives and solving crimes, they still manage to find the time to fill me up with angst and yearning as I wonder just when the two of them are going to get their shit together.
a book character you’d die for because you love them so much
Harry Potter from Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Okay. I picked this one for a very specific reason, so hear me out. We’re all aware of the ways in which JKR has been making news for herself over the past few years. We’d be blind not to have noticed, and a bigot not to acknowledge it. It’s unacceptable, and there’s absolutely no excusing it. To stand with JKR in these times where she is using her platform to discredit and attack the trans community is despicable, and I will not stand for it, nor will I continue to support such violent and vicious beliefs from somebody that I once admired.
So, yeah, I can hear you all wondering why Harry? But, here’s the thing. These books have been a huge part of so many of our childhoods, and indeed helped shape so many of us in such magnificent ways. I know there’s often a lot of discourse – understandably so – that surrounds the concept of ‘separating the artist from the art’, and regularly that comes with the uproar of people saying you can’t support the art without supporting the artist. That’s true, it’s completely correct, and I respect that entirely, and I wholeheartedly stand with the trans community and only the trans community in this instance. I am, however, using Harry for this tag and here’s why:
Harry Potter is the victim of abuse. He is a boy who was orphaned from a young age and thrust into the home of a family who despised his very existence, tried to force him to be something – to be someone – that he isn’t, and who belittled and abused and bullied him for all of his childhood. They stifled him, lied to him, and tried to force him to repress the parts of himself that made him feel complete. Harry spent his entire life being abused, shot down, and attacked, and it only ever made him kind. Was he angry? Yes. Was he upset? Absolutely. Was he emotionally and physically exhausted? Completely. But all the same, it made him kind. He had outbursts, like we all do. Kindness doesn’t make you immune, it doesn’t mean that you don’t feel other things. But he remained kind, and strong, and forgiving, and protective. He put all of that strength and heartache into looking out for others, and making sure that they didn’t suffer in the ways that he had. Harry Potter would have – and, in fact, did – given his life just to ensure that no harm ever came to anybody else. All of this came from a boy who was bullied and abused for standing out, for not conforming, and for accepting himself for who he was. JKR built a world that literally taught all of us incredibly important lessons on bigotry and hatred, and the importance of accepting yourself and becoming who you are, and not who others want you to be. She built a world that shaped so many of us and allowed us to understand the importance of standing up to bigots and to understanding that just because somebody doesn’t look, or sound, or behave the way that you think they should, or the way that you want them to, does not make them any less real or any less important.
And, sadly, she doesn’t seem to practice the very ideals that her own books teach. And fuck her for that.
But Harry? Harry’s ours now. Harry, Luna, Newt, Neville, Teddy… all of them. All of those kids who were lost, and stifled, traumatised, picked on, and abused; they’re ours. She can’t take them from us. Nobody can.
a book that you thought you were going to love but didn’t
As I Descended – Robin Talley
I’m not sure if anyone will recall, but I actually wrote a review for this last year, and even still, I don’t think I can ever do justice to the absolute HORROR that I experienced when reading this. Again, another Shakespearean retelling, which we already know I’m a huge fan of, right? Sure! What more could I possibly want from a wlw retelling of Macbeth? Set in a boarding school? Spooky, gay, and a fun buddy read with my best friend from an author that we’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about? What could possibly go wrong, honestly?
Everything. That’s what.
This was, undoubtedly, the worst decision I have ever made in my whole entire 26 years and 11 months of living. It was mortifying. I can’t even put into words all the ways in which this book offended me, but I can share the list of triggers that I listed in my original review:
– slavery references
– homophobic slurs
– characters being outed
– self harm
And, when I say these triggers were featured, I don’t mean that they were there, you were mortified and of the rightful belief that they were wrong, and condemned – as much as you can condemn anything, in a Macbeth retelling. No, no. What actually happened was that all of these things happened with anybody even batting an eyelid. The vast majority of the things featured above were in no way actually relevant to the plot and in no way supported the narrative. It was just racism, homophobia, and all-out bigotry for the sake of bigotry. It was so ingrained into each character, as well as just the themes of the book itself, and all of it left such a sour taste.
After such a horrible experience with this book, Jenny and I did do a little more research into Talley’s work, and found a lot of damaging things being said about her work, the poorly showcased ‘rep’ that her books featured. On top of that, we found that Jay Coles – author of Tyler Johnson Was Here – once wrote a long twitter thread as a he read Lies We Tell Ourselves, and highlighted a lot of the racism that he encountered when reading the book. That’s only to name a few of the controversies found in her work.
(Apologies to anybody who might not be a Taylor fan. I wasn’t sure who to tag, and I figured a book tag with interesting questions might be a lot of fun regardless!)