Let’s Talk… OwlCrate

This is an unboxing of the August 2020 box. I am not sponsored by OwlCrate (but my love can be bought) and they did not ask me to do this. I am doing this purely because I love books, subscription boxes, and giving you guys the inside skinny on whether you should buy this or not. All opinions are my own.

I’m not sure when I first heard about OwlCrate. It may have been Instagram, it may have been Facebook, but eventually I started seeing enough ads that I figured I would give it a shot. I have talked about many subscription boxes (see this), but I never took the plunge on this one. When I did, I initially was put on a waiting list which only made me miss one box. This August box is the first OwlCrate I have ever received.

Firstly, the packaging is adorable. While I wouldn’t rank it as high as Once Upon a Book Club, I think the packaging (due in large part to the owl tracks along the side of the box, which are not pictured) is far and above Unplugged Book Box, Uppercase, and Book of the Month. I think it is on par with the Bookish Box, although I could be swayed into thinking it is better. Not the point, but I’m super excited!

Picture 1: While I know that this might not be super exciting for most people, I literally said “whoa” as I opened it. Such a beautiful pen, and I almost don’t want to touch it because I don’t want to get my fingerprints all over it.

Picture 2: I am not a pin collector, but I have noticed that this is a VERY popular gift in these types of subscription boxes. It is an incredibly beautiful pin, but it will probably be going into my bowl of collected pins. Not my type of gift, but still really cool.

Picture 3: I was today years old when I learned that I suck at taking pictures of bandana. Would you have guessed that’s what that is? It is silk, and it seems like very high quality. I actually have been telling myself that I need to get bandanas (’cause my quarter life crisis is real), and this is more than I could have ever hoped for!

Picture 4: Okay, this is the clear winner for me! I love me a book sleeve, and it is so incredibly pretty! You can bet your bottom that I will be using this in the very near future!

Picture 5: I will say that I definitely was not expecting a clipboard. While it is the size of a smaller wordpad, I am excited to use this. While sometimes it seems like I talk out of my butt on this blog, I actually take a lot of notes about things to talk about, so I will definitely be using this.

Picture 6: Inside the bottle is pushpins, which I don’t use that often. HOWEVER, they suggested that once the bottle is empty, to put fairy lights inside which I AM HERE FOR. So, this will be in my new set-up, but sans pins.

I haven’t read this book yet (obviously, Elizabeth, since you just opened the box), so I’m going to post the synopsis as available on Goodreads:

The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.

Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens–and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.

This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy. 

If you are looking to buy it and are confused because it is not purple, it is the same book! OwlCrate’s exclusive version has the purple cover, and all the pages are purple gilt edged, which makes the book look more spooky. While I am, admittedly, not a huge fantasy person, I am excited to give this one a chance, purely because it is so beautiful (yes, I judge books by their covers, sue me).

One of the reasons why I have limited the amount of subscription boxes I am still subscribed to is due to the number of gifts I received that I never used or knew what to do with. There are upsides and downsides to be subscribed to these types of boxes, which leaves me in a tough position. I feel like once my three month period is up, I probably will not renew. I am at a point in my life where I really need to downgrade (ew, am I getting old?), so I don’t necessarily think I need all of the items that are given in the box. HOWEVER, I cannot explain to you how surprised (in the best way) by this box. Compared to other boxes I have gotten, this box has A LOT more items that are more my style. So I leave the ball in your court, dear reader. You can get your own OwlCrate at owlcrate.com starting at $29.99/month, and let me know what you guys think!

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Demon Next Door by Bryan Burrough

https://www.amazon.com/The-Demon-Next-Door/dp/B07NDJJL1F

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 12/27/19-12/30/19

How I Found It: Audible

TW: this book discusses rape, murder, and victim blaming.

In this retelling of his classmate’s crimes, Ryan Burrough delves into the history of Danny Corwin, a serial killer from Temple, TX. During the year of 1987, Danny Corwin raped and killed 3 women, as well as attempted to murder after raping 2 other women. This read is really dense, and there are A LOT of details packed into those 3 hours. I love learning about serial killers (I know, that is creepy), but this definitely isn’t a read for everyone! I would give this one 3.5 out of 5 stars because it isn’t the easiest thing to listen to.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

How I Read It: Print/ Audiobook

Dates Read: 9/8/20-9/13/20

How I Found It: It’s Fredrik Backman

TRIGGER WARNING: There is a lot of talk about suicide in this book. There is also a specific scene where a suicide takes place. That scene is referenced throughout the entire book. Read at your own discretion.

Okay, so I may or may not be a total fangirl for Fredrik Backman. I also may or may not have his future books set as a notification (speaking of, WE ARE GETTING ANOTHER BEARTOWN NOVEL!!!!!! I mean, come on, I deserve to be excited about this!), so I purchased this book long before this quarantine happened. I have reviewed all of his other works (If you would like to see my other reviews for Fredrik Backman, you can click this link) before on the blog, so I am not going to go into a whole lot of detail about why I love his books, but I will try to leave my fangirling at the door and give you my thoughts on Anxious People.

On the night before New Year’s Eve, a bank robbery turns into a hostage situation. Well, not at the bank, at an apartment showing across the street from the bank. And really, it wasn’t a robbery because nothing was taken. And really, the robber doesn’t want anything other than to be able to leave, so is it really a hostage situation?

Throughout the entire story, we get to meet the strange cast of characters as we try to piece together how and why all of this is happening. With new surprises on every page, we take a deep dive into suicide, love, pizza, and friendship.

So here’s the thing about this story, I’m being purposefully vague. Within the first 20 pages, you already have 3 major revelations, and those revelations only become more convoluted as you read. And while I will say that I don’t think this is the best work that Backman has written, I will 100% encourage you to read it.

Which leads to why I say it’s not the best. Backman has always had a way of focusing on one character and having the story revolve around them. The only example of him not doing so would be the Beartown series, where he had different characters form the plot. In this book, he used the characters in a way to skew the plot, which has a purpose in the book, but is difficult to follow. And while he has a wit that I will never be able to fully comprehend, I personally didn’t find this book as entertaining to read as some of his other works.

HOWEVER, this book serves a purpose way above just the story. This book will make you consider what love means. Through 3 (maybe 4, maybe more) relationships, 3 families, and 9 people stuck in an apartment, we learn a lot about what you do for the people that you love, and what happens when we try to fight for the right to love. This book will go into survivor guilt, and how hard it is to recover feeling that you could have done more. This book will go into drug addiction, and how hard it is to love someone with a drug dependency. This book will go into death, and how we struggle dealing with grief. This book has so many real-life connections that give the reader a place to start thinking about what all of this means (P.S. This is characteristically Fredrik Backman. If you think that is cool, read his other works, please. He is my favorite author for a reason).

I personally would give this book a high rating, probably a 4.5 out of 5 stars. I would say for those that are debating reading this book, this book is an open door into mental health. If you don’t know how to say how you feel, there is probably a character in this book who you can relate to. If you need someone to root for that is like you, read this book. It’s a little bit of a maze, but it’s worth it.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 3/4/20-3/6/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

This book marks off the “A Book With a Flower on the Cover” badge on the 40 Book Reading Challenge from Once Upon a Book Club

Trigger Warning: This book does mention anxiety, depression, grief, and sexual offenses. If any of these are triggers for you, read at your own discretion.

When you first look at this book, you might think that this is an average length book. But if you choose the audiobook (and you become a connoisseur of audiobooks to know the average is between 12-14 hours), then you realize that this book is super short. I chose to read this book purely because I only needed a book for 2 days of work and this book was the right length for that predicament. I wasn’t expecting to completely fall into this book, but as soon as I got home (and thankfully it came in the mail that morning), I kept up reading it just to find out what happens to Casey.

Casey is a struggling writer. After working on her book for 6 years, Casey is trying to reach the end. But with a looming debt and a minimum wage job, she is just getting by. At a party, Casey meets Silas, another aspiring writer who has a very similar attitude towards the world. But when he disappears before their first date, Casey meets Oscar, an established writer whom is a widower with 2 sons. Soon, Casey finds herself in the middle of the two men, and as her personal life is growing more complicated, her mental health is continuing to fall apart around her.

I don’t know if I have ever really talked about it, but I really want to be an author one day. My biggest issue is that while I have ideas that I fleshed out, I was taught as a science major to not be flowery. And I don’t know if you know this, but novels are focused on flowery language. So, yea, I’m not getting very far. But it was cool to feel like I was writing a novel by reading this book! I don’t think that the mentions were too far for the book, but there were a lot of literary references that I just don’t know.

I did think that the mentioning of mental health issues were really nice. As someone who has gone through the process of grief, I thought that she described something that was very similar to my experience. I have not experienced anxiety in the same way as described, but I also know how similar those feelings are for other people whom I have talked to about their anxiety, so I do think that this book could be a good discussion starter about mental health.

Despite all the extremely positive ways I have described this book, I don’t know if this is a re-readable book. I also have this reticence to rate this book too high, so I am going to go with a 4.25 out of 5 stars, but I could see that value changing plus or minus .5 stars depending on my mood. What I’m trying to say is I have no idea what I’m doing anymore and I am just trying to keep up appearances, but it is getting harder and harder for me to rate these books.

But anyway, if you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Majesty by Katharine McGee

How I Read It: Print

Dates Read: 9/7/20

How I Found It: Continuation in Series

This is a review for the second novel in a series. If you haven’t read the first novel, this post will contain spoilers. If you would like to read my thoughts on the first book, you can see my post here, otherwise please read this review at your own discretion.

So here’s the thing, I just reread the review for American Royals since this is its sequel, and I am kinda disappointed with how I handled it. I definitely could have been more verbose about the book, so I’m going to be giving a much more detailed account of my reading experience.

So this story (and American Royals, since I described it so badly) is told from 4 women:

1) Daphne Deighton: The high-profile socialite ex-girlfriend of Prince Jefferson who is trying to rekindle her relationship with the prince in order to become a princess. She is willing to fight dirty, including using her romantic counterpoint, Ethan, to ruin Jefferson’s relationship with Nina, pushing him into Nina’s arms. When Daphne’s childhood friend, Himari, recovers from her coma (which Daphne caused, mind you), Daphne thinks that she got away with everything she did in order to get the crown. But karma finds a way of catching up to you.

2) Nina Gonzalez: Following her split with Jefferson followed by the death of the King, Nina is trying to be respectful for her grieving best friend. But soon Nina is back into the public appearances as Samantha’s best friend, but that still is a complicated part of her life. When Nina and Ethan connect for a school project, they start to develop a relationship. Since Ethan is Jefferson’s best friend, and Nina is Jefferson’s ex-girlfriend, things get complicated FAST. But juxtaposed with the reader’s knowledge that Ethan was talking to her for the sake of Daphne, it becomes a trainwreck of a situation that we know will be really bad, but we can’t look away.

3) Samantha Washington: Following Beatrice’s engagement to Teddy, Sam is looking for any way to not be the perfect heir. She ends up meeting Marshall, the heir to the Duke of Orange, who she forges a fake relationship with in order to make Teddy jealous. But soon, their relationship becomes more and more real, causing heart confusion. As Sam struggles with the new responsibilities as the heir, she is trying to find her place within the family, especially as a sister to Beatrice.

4) Beatrice Washington: Now that she is the queen of America, Beatrice is expected to marry her fianceé, Theodore “Teddy” Eaton. Following her breakup with her Revere Guard (the Secret Service of the monarchy), Connor, Bee finds herself falling for Teddy. But Bee is reminded at every turn that she is a woman as a monarch and that she will be a better monarch if she was married. Struggling to find her place as the monarch, Bee reveals more of herself to Teddy, causing them to fall more and more everyday.

Since it’s been a solid 7 months, which also included a pandemic, killer wasps, and protests, I reread American Royals to try and refresh myself with what happens. It took me a solid 3 days to get through the book (keep in mind that rereading books means that normally I can speed-read through books), with times where i felt like I read 50 pages in 2 minutes, and other times where I only picked up the book again because I wanted to finish. Now that I have the power of hindsight, I can tell you that I think that American Royals is a book that I really enjoy, but it isn’t a book that I could imagine picking up and rereading often (though I will definitely reread it if there ends up being a 3rd book, which I don’t think will happen, but I’m here for).

I read Majesty in one day. I didn’t feel the need to put down this book as often today, and that’s crazy because I had many things I also needed to get done around the house today. I think that the first book is great when you are just falling in love with the characters, but is hard to reread because once you know kinda the arc of the characters (assuming you remember them, which according to my friends, they normally don’t remember the books they read? Are they okay?), the characters are hard to re-fall in love with, if that makes sense. Since this was the first time reading Majesty, I think it was incredibly easy to find myself drawn in to all of these characters. I cannot guarantee that it would be this easy to delve into this story now that I know what happens in this story. And I’m not sure if anything I just said in the last two paragraphs made sense, but essentially, I’m not sure that these books are totally rereadable.

I was slightly disappointed that this book was not as stylistically marked as the first book. While I first book was red, white, and blue, this book was just blue. There also was not a crown embossed into the hardcover, which I’m embarrassed by how badly I wanted these markers. But I also realize I sound like a petulant child that didn’t get my way.

Quick spoiler warning: I truly would love for there to be a third book. I think now that Daphne is now completely alone, I would love for her storyline to progress. I also think we could know more about Nina’s break from Ethan and how that will change the dynamic in their relationship. Plus, I really like Marshall and Teddy, so sign me up for more Washington sisters love.

And we are back. Okay, so I rated the first book at 3.75 out of 5, and I think that the second book is better, so I am going to go with a 4-4.25 out of 5 for this book. I think this book has more of an ending, it flows better, and it’s connections between characters is much stronger.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

How I Read It: Audiobook/Ebook

Dates Read: 2/5/20-2/25/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

After almost a month, I finally finished this book. Set in the 1800s, this book follows Bridie as she tries to find a missing child who also happens to be a mermaid. For the record, maybe we should stop writing books about mermaids in the 1800s because both The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock and this book had to be some of the worst books I have read. Here’s the thing, I have already let you guys know that I am not a historical fiction type of girl. But even so, there needs to be a level of writing where you can actually understand what is happening. When I think back on what happened, I truly think the plot could have been okayish, but I found myself zoning out all the time while listening to it. After reading it in ebook form, I realized that an audiobook made the writing style worse, but it still was easily distractable.

Bridie gets called into a missing child case. She meets a ghost named Ruby who is from her past. And because why not, they start to fall for each other. As Bridie investigates the disappearance, she finds herself in a really dark situation involving kidnapping, murder, and robbery. Oh and we keep going back in time to when Bridie was a child because the guy that bought her when she was a kid (I know, right?) had a creepy son.

Has anyone else notice that I have gotten worse at writing synopses? I have only been doing this for a year, but I still think I was so much better when I first started. Did this turn into a therapy session? Maybe. Okay, I think that this book isn’t as bad as The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, so I am going to give it 2 out of 5 stars, but I really recommend that if you do want to read it, you shouldn’t read it through an audiobook.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

#BlackLivesMatter

Black Lives Matter - Wikipedia

Look, I’ll be honest, I suck at running this blog. But I want you all to know that I very much care about the unrest that is going on not only in my country, but around the globe. From the start of this blog, I have avoided saying those 3 words together because I didn’t grow up in an area where that rang true. Coming from an area where there is an active KKK in the next town over, where Confederate flags hang freely from businesses, and where Trump held a rally for the 2016 election, I believed that “all lives matter” but didn’t really understand what I was saying until college.

Now an adult, I still believe that all lives matter, but let’s be real, black lives got the short end of the stick. #blacklivesmatter is not about saying “all lives don’t matter, only black”, but by saying “yes, all lives matter, but black lives are systematically torn down and maybe we should fix that”. So I encourage you to support this movement, to support your fellow man, and to support this movement.

I will never understand what it is like to be black. I will never understand the atrocities they face on any given day. I will never understand, but I will stand beside them and continue to amplify their voices.

To help in any way, here are places that you can donate to:

https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Print

Dates Read: 2/29/20-3/4/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

This book marks off the “A Book Written by an Author From Asia, Africa, or South America” badge on the 40 Book Reading Challenge from Once Upon a Book Club

For over a year, I have had this book in my to-read pile but never really saw it as something to pick up and read. Looking for a longer book to listen to, I selected this one on a whim, and was surprised that I really wanted to know what happens between listens, which goes to show kids, get outside your comfort zone every once in a while.

Shalini is trying to deal with the death of her mother and decides to go and find the man who was friends with her mom when she was younger. By the way, I don’t think I could have used the word “her” any more times in that sentence. Anyway, she travels to a warzoned part of India to find this guy, and she ends up finding and staying with his family. I mean, a lot more happens and we learn a lot about what it was like in these parts of India between the army and the militants, plus how men were snatched and forced to join the army, so there is a lot of background and connections that were made during this time, but mainly it is about the people that we meet and about where we feel like we belong.

Normally, I advocate for reading a book instead of listening to it, but as someone who is unfamiliar with Indian names and places, it was convenient for me to hear those pronunciations. It is difficult to switch between the two, so if you start butchering the names/places in your head, then it can be difficult to connect that to the ones being read to you. I also really liked the voice of the actor that read it.

I thought the overall story was extremely interesting and the characters were super complex and intriguing. I liked Shalini, although she was a complete idiot at the end of the book. I appreciated the ending of the book and how that connects to the whole story and its complexity. Trying not to give away too many spoilers, I do think Shalini gave up too easily, but I also wasn’t in that situation and probably can’t give a real analysis of what I would do.

The writing style is a little hard to get into, but once you are in, you are all the way in. Considering this book is out of my comfort zone, I was extremely happy with picking this book up and continuing to read it. I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I would definitely recommend it for someone with an interest in reading about emotional friendships and about army/militia relationships in India.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

I owe you all an explanation

Okay, I’ll admit it, I have been completely absent from this site. As I have mentioned before, I am from the United States, and if you are aware of what is going on in this country right now, sh*t hit the fan. With the recognition of COVID-19 coming into the country, the country essentially shut down. But I work in conjunction with veterinary sciences, so I was deemed an essential employee meaning that while everyone else was sitting at home trying to figure out how they would pay their bills, I had to work overtime hours in order to get everything done. I am so sorry if any of you needed this site to provide a distraction, but with federal relief coming back in, I should be able to be more available. With all that being said, this past month has probably been the hardest month for me to read. And while I had a little bit of a safety net when it comes to posts, that safety net is pretty much exhausted at this point. So bear with me, we will get through this, but for at least the month of May, posts are going to only be up on Mondays. But I promise that I will be working to change that soon. Thanks guys, I love you, stay safe, and I will see you all soon!

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 3/8/20-3/10/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

As many of you have probably figured out, I’ve spent my fair amount of time in the grieving process. And while many people think that the process is linear, sometimes you find yourself zigzagging through missing to forgetting to loving to hating to acceptance to completely falling apart. Grief, for a lack of a better word, sucks. And I don’t know how else to describe that feeling. But this book shows that grief is not easy or linear, and that we have to find ourselves in order to get through it all.

Lydia Bird is supposed to marry the love of her life, Freddie. At least, she was until he dies in a car accident on her birthday. Now Lydia is forced to live in a world without Freddie in her life. Weeks after the accident, her mom convinces the doctors to give her sleeping medication. Lydia learns that whenever she takes the sleeping pills she is transported into an alternate universe in which Freddie is still alive. But soon those lives begin diverging more and more, forcing Lydia to come to terms with her awake life and her asleep life.

Told over 2 years, we watch Lydia’s life fall apart and slowly piece back together. I will say that I completely called at least the main ending within a few pages of the book, though a wouldn’t have been able to call other things. I don’t know if that says more about my experience with romance novels or the writing style of the book (and also I’m not sure if this is super transparent to other people), but if you were hoping for a surprise ending, this isn’t the book for you.

I did really enjoy this book, and I could totally see myself picking it up again later, but I also felt like there were parts of the book where I didn’t like Lydia that much. Even though I could relate with her about most of the grief experience, she made some weird choices that I don’t fully get. But here’s the thing, we all go through life different, and that’s the purpose for reading, to see how other people experience things.

Silver has a really nice writing style that is beautiful and funny, and will keep your interest throughout the whole story. Even in really dark moments, she still finds a way of adding a comedic moment to ease some of the tension. She also doesn’t make take away from the sadness, anger, or just raw emotions of those feelings, either, just finds a way of breaking them up with some relief. I, personally, would rate this book 4.75 out of 5 stars, and I will totally pick this up in a year or two to read again.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!