mental health awareness month!

Happy Mental Health Awareness Month! And Foster Care Awareness Month! this is one of my favorite months out of the year because not only is there a greater focus on taking care of yourself and others, but the weather starts to give you a bit of a boost into taking care of you, too (even in Seattle)! ☀️

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this month, i’m trying to focus on the above stack of books for various mental health themes. i talk about each of these books in my youtube video here! i’m hoping to be posting a variety of mental health themed videos throughout May (which, i know, doesn’t seem out of the norm for me) but i’m hoping these videos will go one step further than i have in previous videos. i hope you find any of them useful ☺️

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what are your plans for MHAM or FCAM? any particular books you would recommend? i’m especially looking for more in the foster care/adoption realm, for any age. please let me know if you know of any!

until next time,

B.

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poetic justice

Let’s just start with the reality that my relationship with poetry is complicated. On the surface, I can identify when I am connecting with a poem. It touches me in a way that difficult to articulate– it is visceral and familiar. It’s usually painful, or validating to a previously felt pain, at least in my experience. My question to you is, have you ever had a person in your life that has changed the experience of something for you? What I more directly mean is, my admiration for poetry was built upon by the influence of another person; a person with whom I am no longer connected with, leaving me feeling utterly conflicted about my relationship with poetry.

This collection of poems, in particular– Helium by Rudy Francisco… These poems on their own are enough to leave you in tears. Talk about a visceral experience. Rudy paints pain in a way that makes me feel like I’ve lived through it myself, in that moment, regardless of my own experience. His words coloring my perspective in ways I didn’t know possible. Rudy has the capacity to bring about that feeling– you know the feeling — like a cold sweat all through your body, but not sweat. Emotion. Feeling. Most closely feels like goosebumps, and yet, that doesn’t quite encapsulate the depth of the experience. The power in his words, his voice– you can feel him. That friend introduced me to Rudy Francisco, and in my opinion, utilized a similar approach when presenting their own poetry in front of an audience. I found myself absorbed in the words, cautious of their weight, and fearful of the depth at which this person could feel. Scared because I knew I felt feelings with similar depth, and felt this impending doom, like what kind of tumultuous storm would we inevitably face together?

Don’t let me fool you, while this loss falls on both sides of blame, I would be lying if I said I didn’t hold more of it. Life is strange. One moment you think you’ve found one of the only humans on the planet you can trust your whole self with, and the next you find yourself dissociated on a long drive home, contemplating how things got to this point. Shouldn’t I have seen this coming? I never let myself lean into the reality of our experiences. Never wanted to acknowledge the intensity of any moment. Was afraid to let go of all that I knew for something so unknown, so risky, and just as erratic and unpredictable as myself. Sometimes I watch their poetry as a reminder of the things I’ve done, or maybe should have. Sometimes I watch it when I’m angry– to let myself feel it. Sit in it. Stew in it. And then let it all go. Sometimes I watch it when I miss them.

While none of this is the fault of the poetry,  I can’t help but wonder what role it had in encouraging me to trust myself. Trust them. Give in to what will happen. Allow myself to get swept up in the whimsy of it all. Let myself daydream. Feel it all. Lean in to my truth. To what could be.

Do these words really carry that much meaning? Or are they simply words? Is this just another form of entertainment? Meant to evoke all the daydream-able feelings about relationships, love, loss, life, etc? Is it just meant to numb my mind enough to escape the present moment? Or is it all real? These questions felt too much to hold, and letting go felt like the safest, reasonable, and realistic option. And isn’t that just me? Always go with the realistic plan. Risk is for the things that only impact me. I couldn’t possibly allow someone else to get swept up in the violent storm that is me, my mind, and my choices. Though, that’s not what poetry would have told me.

Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better. What a fitting title. This collection encapsulated every element of angst that I have been looking for. I had found myself in words again. A similar full body experience, with the realness of trauma, family, life, love, friends, change, self. That self reflection piece is what keeps me coming back to poetry. What keeps me leaning into the discomfort that has been left behind. This collection by Madisen Kuhn reminds me how much I do, in fact, need to get better. That all the shame, rage, and inferiority I feel in regards to my past are real, and that I can move on from them.

The thing is, I know it all. I’m not a good friend. I can be, sure. And I’m not. I’m a flake. Plans are the bane of my existence. I struggle to be the one to initiate real plans. I almost never reach out to start something. A conversation. An invitation. Anything. I open up in a way that gives an illusion of depth, and never really gives up my whole, true self. While I’m always honest, I’m skillful in omitting the all the ugly parts. I’ll make you laugh. Make some self deprecating remark to redirect what is happening. I’ll give you pieces, and never the whole.

And yet, I think about people all the time. I wonder if their plans worked out. I worry about what is happening with them, if they’re happy, etc. Make up stories in my head. Weave poetic elements from what I read into my mind and give myself the illusion of this beautiful experience that only exists there. The only individuals exempt from such curse are the people I’ve held close for so long. The few friends I’ve had since high school that know me enough to hold my boundaries with me. I’ve always said I’m striving to do better, and now I know that was also a story I was telling myself, and letting those close to me believe and tell with me. My most familiar performance was in aligning the perfect apologetic words to result in this false sense of confidence in our connection. Leaving you feeling like the risk is worth taking. Like emotions are real. Like poetry is worth listening to. While I’m still off floating in my head. Worried about the next time I’ll have to pick up all the pieces I just shattered and haphazardly glue them together. Wondering at what point the pieces stop sticking, leaving me in the rubble.

I’ve been in the rubble for a while. And to be honest, I needed to be there. If I’m being truly honest, the cost wasn’t worth it. I’ve forever lost that friend. And while I have worked to accept it, I’ve also hurt many people, a few in particular that stand out, and I’m not willing to put anyone through that experience again. All this time I thought the small gestures of healing I allowed myself were enough to maintain an effective connection to people I care about most. They weren’t. I’ve spent a long while processing the events that led me here. Accepting such events. And now I’m ready to let them go and grow. And I’m sorry.

I’ve accepted the justice of my decisions. And I’m going to continue reading poetry. Someday soon the words won’t be painful. They’ll just be real.

 

Until next time,

B.

january 2019 wrap up

2019 has started off strong, already! I attribute this strong start to selecting my first read, Pages For You by Sylvia Brownrigg, which is a book I’ve been waiting to read for some time, now. The month of January was stressful– full of change, new beginnings, transitions, with bits of overwhelm sprinkled throughout. Because of this, I leaned into books I knew I would love… books featuring queer characters, books about topics i’m passionate about, a memoir (because you know I can’t resist), books targeting social justice, and books I’ve held on to for some time now. These books definitely helped me through. If you’d like to watch me chat about these reads, you can find my youtube video HERE.

Pages For You by Syvia Brownrigg |

This is easily going to be one of my favorite books of 2019, and I’m not just saying that because it was the first. I knew when I bought this in 2018 that I was going to enjoy this one, and it exceeded those preliminary thoughts. This book grasped me with each element, starting first with characters. I enjoyed each character in this book, no matter how small their presence.  The two main characters, in particular, were intriguing, dynamic, and interesting throughout. Flaws and all. Just so good. I also loved the university love trope that went on here, with the added intrigue of an age difference. It just gave me all those good feeling love feels. Worth picking up, for sure, and I will follow up with Pages For Her as soon as I get to it… because that is definitely coming soon.

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren | sent by Algonquin Books for review

Ahh, Sugar Run. How I wanted to love you so, and yet, I cannot. I’ve already squawked on every social platform about how I may have set up this book for failure, but hear me out– a book should be able to stand on its own, regardless of the wonderful book I read before.  In all honesty, this book wasn’t awful. It held up, and I just wasn’t left with any long lasting impression. I wasn’t attached to any of the characters, the story was loose and, at times, hard to follow, and ultimately just felt a bit slow. I did enjoy the different elements of culture, SES, relationships, setting, experience, etc. Ultimately, I could see some people enjoying this; it simply just was not for me.

The Elephant In The Room by Tommy Tomlinson |sent by Simon Books for review

Even just typing that title brought back all the feels. Something I haven’t shared is that when I was in second grade, I had a teacher that, in front of the whole classroom, mimicked me, specifically the way I walk, which she felt was stomping and on my toes, and said “Brittany, what is wrong with you? You walk like an elephant!” I was humiliated. The use of the word “elephant” in the context of a human is heartbreaking and judgmental. Tommy takes this realness, adds his human, authentic approach, and carries this delicate balance of self deprecation, healing, and social norms. Throughout this book, I found myself identifying with Tommy on a lot of levels, specifically surrounding the messaging from those around us, and the impact that has on our perception of ourselves. I have a unique relationship with my body, and hearing Tommy’s truth was inspiring, hopeful, and most importantly, real. I will forever be looking out for more works by Tomlinson in the future.

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

Why did I wait so long to read this? The question I will be asking myself repeatedly after having read this book. This book is spectacular. Baldwin’s writing is timeless, full of life, authenticity, and realness, digestible, and valued. The unfortunate piece of this story is the truth surrounding the racial profiling and wrongful incarceration. This story is not the last of its kind, and has continued to present itself in literature, and life, since this book. That haunting reality that we continue to face and experience today is what makes this story so heartbreaking. The relationship aspect, alone, is troubling, as the truth of wrongful family separation, trauma, and attachment is impacted by this arrest. Beyond that, the racial trauma throughout the book is felt, and leaves you sitting with the troubling truth that things haven’t changed. It’s not enough to say they need to. We need action. We need more than saying we need action. And I’m grateful these books continue to highlight this importance.

My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame |

Hands down my favorite manga– I mean it. I read a manga last year that I loved. And this statement still stands. This story– the characters, the art, the familial representation, cultural representation, queer representation– I’m here for ALL OF IT. I purchased volume 2 immediately when I finished volume 1. What got me was the intense sense of emotion that came from this story. The art, the characters, the interactions– you could feel it all, and it was just right. It didn’t go beyond anything it needed to be, it felt honest, sometimes sad, sometimes hopeful, complex, and sometimes just real. I will be recommending this one for a while, and will follow up with volume 2 feelings, ASAP.

 

That’s all I’ve got for you this month! Stay tuned for some fab February reads, coming soon!

until next time,

B.

beginning of the year BOOK HAUL

hi everyone!

2019 has had a bit of an up and down start for me. we moved to Seattle mid-December, and all of the change, transition, etc. that comes with that has had moments of getting the best of me. however, i’ve still been reading, and have gathered up many books that i am looking forward to this year.  and it is only just the start!

i filmed a youtube video HERE where i talk about said books. and i would love to know if you have read any, or if you plan to, so that we can chat about them!

stay tuned– january wrap up is coming soon!

until next time,

B.

top 8 reads of 2018!

now, i don’t normally do these, because it usually feels impossible. this hear, however, is different from the rest. i’ve enjoyed so many wonderful reads this year, and immediately felt that some of them are stand out reads.

below you will find my ‘top 8’ list! these books may not have necessarily been published in 2018 (though some were), but were books i read and adored in 2018! enjoy!

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All The Ugly And Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

this book is not for everyone, though i wish it was. it has elements of relationship in it that i feel could be alarming for some, but i found to be touching, tragic, and worth understanding. i felt like i waited too long to read this book at the time i read it, and it immediately became one of my favorites of the year.

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And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell

this book left me laughing out loud, crying for the constant unexpected trauma women face simply by being women, and in awe of such wonderful writing. i have since learned that others do not find and humor in this book at all which is a shame, as i find the author to have stunning wit and description that hits the nail on the head. i couldn’t put it down, and plan to return to it for a reread sometime soon. this copy was kindly provided to me by Little Brown.

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Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba

wow, is every book i read not for everyone? because so far i’m 3/3. this book is written in such a beautiful, floaty, and dreamlike way, while describing some pretty horrific incidents. one of my favorite books of translation this year, and almost immediately a new favorite author. i went out and bought several of his other books, and feel no regrets about it. since reading this, others have extended thanks for the recommendation, and seem to be impressed by his writing, as well.

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This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

ahhh, here we go. this is one for everyone, and should be! this is now one of my top five forever favorites. this book tackles a topic that receives such little representation, in my opinion, which is the family perspective and experience of a transgender youth. it depicts desire to understand, confusion, heartache, unconditional love, protection, and all of the complexities that already live within family love. it is a wonderful experience worth having. i also listened on audio, and loved that experience. i felt i was being read a story (which happens in the book at times) and it was magical.

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In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

eeeek! the fourth book in the wayward children series! it did not disappoint. this book covers the experience of The Goblin Market, and is absolutely beautiful, tragic, and deep. i was impressed with this one, but are we really surprised? this is easily my most anticipated book release, always. this copy was kindly provided by Tor Publishing.

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Bird Box by Josh Malerman

if you like creepy/scary/thrilling in any capacity, big or small, you will love Bird Box. you will also likely blow through the whole thing in one evening… yes, i am speaking from experience. kindly gifted to me by Jenna from @jennareadsbooks on instagram, she warned me that this would be a winner, and it definitely was. it was also just released as a netflix movie! give them all a shot. you won’t be disappointed. but read the book first!

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All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

the best memoir of 2018, and i can say that, because i love soooo many memoirs. this one was beautifully written, and depicts the experience of adoption, specifically the impact of cultural differences within adoption, and navigating the desire to know something more about your family. this was such an honest, well done experience that gives insight into the complexities of such a delicate experience. 10/10 would recommend! thank you to Catapult for kindly providing me this copy.

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

where do i even begin? i talked about A Little Life at length on youtube here! with that, this is now my new, number 1 favorite book. it is horribly traumatic, gut wrenching, and heartbreaking in a way i didn’t know a book could do to me. it is also the most beautiful story of unconditional love, friendship, and connection. it’s lengthy, and a commitment, but one worth making. please be prepared for several triggering experiences through the book (self harm, sexual abuse, physical abuse, etc). it’s a tough one, and one that i recommend at a time that it can be tolerated and held, rather than making one feel worse.

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those are my top 8 reads of the year! i’d love to hear if you loved/didn’t love any of these, as well as what your favorites are!

until next time,

b.

books i hope to read in december!

as many of you know, i’m moving in december. this complicates things on all levels, but especially with my reading hopes. that being said, i still chose some books that i’m hoping to keep with me through the move, and to remind me to pause and take care of myself. i made a video about these that you can find here, as well as in the photo below!

see any you loved? let me know! i’d love to know your thoughts!

until next time,

b.

what i read in november

I recently shared with you all five reviews from books I was really enjoying in November, and now that November is complete, I’ve got a full video for you, talking about all the books I read! You can find that video here!

Really intrigued to hear your thoughts on any of these! Please let me know if you’ve read any of them, or if you’re planning to. Lets chat!

until next time,

b.

recent reviews

if you follow me on other social media platforms, then you’ll know I recently read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and I am still simmering with how I want to write that review. I just have too many feelings to sort through, and am too afraid to spoil it for anyone else. however, since reading A Little Life, I have read a few others that I absolutely think are worth looking into. here are a few I would recommend:

1. The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman

not a great photo, but I listened to this on audio, and didn’t snag any great photo of that. this book gave me all the Stand By Me and The Goonies feelings… you know, just a solid group of friends that have been through a lot with each other, from a young age. you get to experience this group of 6 friends from their younger years, to adulthood, due to an unfortunate tragedy within their friend group. in processing both this tragedy and the past, more truths are unveiled, which brings about greater understanding, heartbreak, and resolve. I absolutely loved the experience of this book, including all of the hard to hear experiences and processing. this friend group is one worth delving into, and I highly recommend it.

2. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

had the amazing opportunity to read this as part of a book swap with Katie from @girlaboutlibrary, which was an experience I vlogged and posted about here!

this book was such a lovely experience of grief, loss, existential dread, resolve, and finding yourself. I know, ‘lovely experience of grief, loss…’ how?! I truly think that while the topic of losing someone you love (in Ted’s case, his beloved dog, Lily), this book has a way of comforting you through the whole process. you’re not just experiencing loss… you’re experiencing Ted, and his whole context. the magical realism aspect really brings about a whimsical way of coping that I hadn’t experienced in previous books I’ve read, and I really valued that. Another solid choice with all of the feels.

3. Pulp by Robin Talley

I’m really hoping this book is on people’s radar! the experience is so different from other books i’ve read! how can I best describe this… let’s start with Abby, a teen living in Washington, D.C. in 2017, coping with the recent break up with her girlfriend, and attempting to write a lesbian pulp novel, becomes completely immersed in the life of an author from the past. cut to the 1950’s (as the book does every other chapter) where we follow the life of Janet, also living in Washington, D.C., though at a very different time. Janet is exploring the feelings she has towards her friend Mary, and has also become completely absorbed in lesbian pulp novels, and attempts one of her own, as well. the dual experiences is one of the most incredible time shifts i’ve ever read in a book, and I loved all of the history and reality you experienced by reading it. in effort not to spoil anything, i’m going to stop here. you’ve got to read this book, especially if you’re a fan of queer lit!

4. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I have to be honest, I did not think I was going to like this book. I was intrigued, and hadn’t read Taylor Jenkins Reid before, but knew she was a well loved author. I was grateful BookSparks shared this one with me, as I know it is so incredibly sought after, and wanted to give it a fair shot. holy moly, I’m so glad I did.

I ended up really enjoying the interview style, the depth she achieved for each individual, and the feel of the whole experience– like I was there to witness it all. totally caught me by surprise and had me hooked, especially through the end. you go through this book with the band, thinking you’ll get to understand and experience their whole lifestyle, but it ends up being so much more than that. this is the book to acquire in March 2019… for real. such a great journey this book takes you on. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

5. Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

this book is short, yet powerful. it is filled with weighted intensity that stems from the devastating impact of a terrible wound from war. told from the point of view from his friend, and closest partner while deployed, you get such an interesting insight to what is happening, told neither from Eden or Mary, his wife’s, perspective. faced with tough decisions, the repercussions of the past, and the unknown of the future, this little book is a book worth reading. feeling grateful to aaknopf for sharing this with me.

those are a few of my recent reviews! stay turned for my November wrap up to see the rest of them on youtube!

until next time,

b.

recent booktube videos!

hi everyone!

for those of you who don’t know, in addition to bookstagram and wordpress, I also create youtube videos on booktube!  I wanted to share with you the last few videos I uploaded, in case you may be interested.

you can find my Finally Fall Book Tag video here!

you can find my 25in5/8inBoo reading vlog here!

you can find my september book haul here!

you can find my september wrap up here!

if you have a booktube account, i’d love to see some of your videos!  please comment your channel link or youtube name on this post so that I can come find you!

until next time,

B.

fall reads!

this fall season has felt different to me. i’m much more motivated to read some of my own backlisted spooky reads, and have been flying through them quicker than i had anticipated! in previous years, i always get so excited for october thrillers and horror reads, and never have enough time for them. this year, i’ve committed to not making that mistake.

i filmed a video on my booktube channel that you can watch here that covers each book i’m looking forward to!

i’m interested to know if you’ve read any of them, and how you felt! i’m currently on and off with I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, simply because it scares me so much that i’m afraid to be home alone or wake up to use the restroom in the middle of the night. i’m going to need to absorb that one slowly.

until next time,

b.