my top ten books of 2020!

Hi friends!

I hope you’re having a lovely end to your December!

I’m back today with another installment of Top Ten Tuesday, a series of prompts hosted each week by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s theme is “Top Ten Books of 2020.”

I read so many new authors and amazing books this past year, and I can’t wait to share them all with you! From gods to spies to JELL-O and mushrooms, these ten reads had the funniest imagery, the fluffiest romances, and the most striking themes. Though they all hold my heart, I’ve ordered them down from 10 to 1. For suspense purposes.

Let’s get to it!

10 | Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

I got to re-read Americanah for school this year, and the experience reminded me once again of how much I adore Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s writing (and her cameos in Beyonce songs!) The book follows the life of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman living in the US, and her love affair with her childhood friend. Adichie writes with the length, excitement, and betrayals of a sprawling epic, yet Americanah is simultaneously relatable, raw, and timely. So good!  

9 | Layoverland by Gabby Noone

Beatrice Fox deserves to go straight to hell. At least, that’s what she thinks. On her last day on Earth, she ruined the life of the person she loves most–her little sister, Emmy. So when Bea awakens from a fatal car accident to find herself on an airplane headed for a mysterious destination, she’s confused, to say the least. Once on the ground, Bea receives some truly harrowing news: not only is she in purgatory, but she has been chosen to join the Memory Experience team. If she wants another shot at heaven, she’ll have to use her master manipulation skills to help 5,000 souls suss out what’s keeping them from moving on.

There’s just one slight problem. Bea’s first assigned soul is Caleb, the boy who caused her accident, and the last person Bea would ever want to send to the pearly gates. But as much as Bea would love to see Caleb suffer for dooming her to a seemingly endless future of listening to other people’s problems, she can’t help but notice that he’s kind of cute, and sort of sweet, and that maybe, despite her best efforts, she’s totally falling for him. And to make matters worse, he’s definitely falling for her. Now, determined to make the most of her time in purgatory, Bea must decide what is truly worth dying for–romance or revenge.

I LOVE this book. Gabby Noone is such a funny, talented debut author, and I adored her take on purgatory and the afterlife: an airport terminal whose residents reside in an outdated hotel and who have no choice but to eat food covered in JELL-O. The book, (like Noone’s amazing twitter feed) is goofy yet clever, and the caring yet fraught relationship between the protagonist and her sister was a true highlight. Layoverland is the best — no book this year has made me laugh more! 

8 | The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

A German soldier risks his life to drop off the sought-after Enigma Machine to British Intelligence, hiding it in a pub in a small town in northeast Scotland, and unwittingly bringing together four very different people who decide to keep it to themselves. Louisa Adair, a young teen girl hired to look after the pub owner’s elderly, German-born aunt, Jane Warner, finds it but doesn’t report it. Flight-Lieutenant Jamie Beaufort-Stuart intercepts a signal but can’t figure it out. Ellen McEwen, volunteer at the local airfield, acts as the go-between and messenger, after Louisa involves Jane in translating. The planes under Jamie’s command seem charmed, as Jamie knows where exactly to go, while other squadrons suffer, and the four are loathe to give up the machine, even after Elisabeth Lind from British Intelligence arrives, even after the Germans start bombing the tiny town…

Elizabeth Wein is a master in making me cry. Her thrillers (including Code Name Verity) deal in courageous young women who fly planes, learn code, and dance with danger during WWII. And Wein’s latest novel, The Enigma Game, is no exception! It follows three points of view: Louisa, a Jamaican orphan living in London; Jamie, a flight-lieutenant at the onset of the war; and Ellen, a volunteer at an airfield who comes from a family of Scottish travelers. I loved the focus on these varying perspectives, and Wein’s writing and research are always on point. The book is so engrossing, and it places a strong emphasis on friendship and courage. Plus, it takes place in the winter!

7 | Rebel Spy by Veronica Rossi

Rebellious Frannie Tasker knows little about the war between England and its thirteen colonies in 1776, until a shipwreck off her home in Grand Bahama Island presents an unthinkable opportunity. The body of a young woman floating in the sea gives Frannie the chance to escape her brutal stepfather–and she takes it.

Assuming the identity of the drowned Emmeline Coates, Frannie is rescued by a British merchant ship and sails with the crew to New York. For the next three years, Frannie lives a lie as Miss Coates, swept up in a courtship by a dashing British lieutenant. But after witnessing the darker side of the war, she realizes that her position gives her power. Soon she finds herself eavesdropping on British officers, risking everything to pass information on to George Washington’s Culper spy ring as agent 355. Frannie believes in the fight for American liberty–but what will it cost her? Inspired by the true “355” and rich in historical detail and intrigue, this is the story of an unlikely New York society girl turned an even unlikelier spy.

Speaking of cool girl spies, another book I adored this year was Veronica Rossi’s (fittingly titled) Rebel Spy. Rossi tackles the story of the agent 355, a woman operative during the American Revolution whose true identity is currently lost to history. Yet in Rossi’s book, 355 is Frannie Tasker, a poor immigrant girl already caught up in the intrigue of a stolen identity. This book definitely snuck up on me; I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did! Yet the central romance was WINNING, the plot exciting, and Rossi’s writing and research sensitive and interesting. 

6 | The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.

The Downstairs Girl was SUCH a good book, it led me to go and read every other novel Stacey Lee has ever published. It chronicles the life of Jo Kuan, a young woman of Chinese descent living in Georgia in the mid-19th century. Jo, having taken on the role of lady’s maid for a vain white society belle, finds creative solace in the mantle of “Miss Sweetie,” a newspaper column she pens anonymously. Lee’s novel addresses important, weighty topics such as racism and poverty as well as intersectionality and cultural heritage, and it’s also SO sweet and heartwarming. As Jo learned to harness her words and find her courage, I couldn’t help but cheer! 

5 | The Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt

In The Queens of Animation, bestselling author Nathalia Holt recounts the dramatic stories of an incredibly influential group of women who have slipped under the radar for decades but have touched all our lives. These women infiltrated the all-male domain of Disney Studios and used early technologies to create the rich artwork and iconic storylines that would reach millions of viewers across generations. Over the decades–while battling sexism, domestic abuse, and workplace harassment–these women also fought to influence the way female characters are depicted to young audiences.

Based on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents, The Queens of Animation tells the story of their vital contribution to Disney’s golden age and their continued impact on animated filmmaking, culminating in the record-shattering Frozen, Disney’s first female-directed full-length feature film.

I don’t read too many nonfiction books, but Nathalia Holt may have convinced me to pick more up! Her book (its full title is Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History) is a fascinating look at the work of women animators, artists, and writers at Disney Studios throughout the 20th century. Holt writes with the descriptive flair of fiction, yet her research and factoids don’t shy from the truth of life working at “the Happiest Studio on Earth.” Plus, the book highlights so many of my favorite things! (Animation! Feminism! History! So cool.)

4 | Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Guys, this book was WILD. I read it in one sitting (there were just so many twists! and turns! twists *and* turns!!) and I still think about it so, so often. Mexican Gothic details socialite Noemí Taboada’s experience visiting her cousin at a decaying English mansion in the Mexican Countryside in the 1950s; while there, she discovers that the family her cousin married into is rather sinister, haunting dreams and shunning the outside world. The book is a brutal, suspense-filled takedown of eugenics, racism, and privilege, and it also features romance, folklore, and *great* clothes. Silvia Moreno-Garcia rules. 

3 | The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Ruta Sepetys is another new favorite author I discovered in 2020! I ended up reading all of her published books this year, but The Fountains of Silence stood out to me most. Taking place in Madrid during the rule of dictator Francisco Franco, the book takes a look at the lives of various young people, both from Spain and from abroad. Sepetys wrote the book in a style I love (multiple points of view + short, poetic chapters? Yes, please!!) and I loved that the central romance was slow, sweet, and striking. The novel celebrates human connection in a time of strife, and it might just make you cry. (In the best way possible!) 

2 | Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia features on this list more than once (deservedly so!) but I had to talk about Gods of Jade and Shadow, which has become one of my favorite books EVER. The novel draws on indigenous Mexican folklore, following 18-year-old Casiopea Tun after she releases a god of death from captivity and travels across Jazz Age Mexico in search of magical, ancient relics to restore his power. The book has one of the LOVELIEST romances/friendships/general meaningful relationships I’ve read (it so reminds me of this quote from director Hayao Miyazaki) and, no lie, I tear up whenever I think about it. Gods of Jade and Shadow is the best! 

1 | All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family.

Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas.

But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever.

This book. This book!! I had read Julie Berry’s other works (Lovely War and The Passion of Dolssa are flippin’ amazing) and loved them, but I was SO struck by the poetic nature of All the Truth That’s In Me. The action takes place in a nondescript Puritan-esque setting as we follow Judith, a teenage girl who was captured, lost her ability to speak, and then escaped and returned to her village. Berry styles the book with a second-person narration, as Judith – isolated, ostracized, and seemingly without a voice – addresses the son of her kidnapper. The plot is dark, but the book is not without moments of lightness. Courage, feminism, and found family are central themes. It’s more beautiful and poetic than I can describe. 

(It also has some of the most dissonant covers ever, but don’t let that scare you away! Be wary of bad taglines!!) 

Have you read any of these books? What was your favorite 2020 read? I’d love to know! ❤ ❤

xx

lulu

hippopotami, spice girls, drums, and candles? my current holiday playlist!

Hi friends! 

If you read my last post, you may remember that I have been crossing my fingers all week for a snow day. And it appears the forecast has looked favorably upon me! It’s 10:00 AM and I am currently at home in my pajamas and *not* in math class. Yay!!

To celebrate this auspicious day, I’m sharing with you my current holiday playlist! I tend go hardcore when it comes to Christmas music (come November 1st, my Spotify is a magical-winter-wonderland-tinsel-snow-fest-of-fun!) and I am so eager to share some of my fave songs with you all. 

Happy listening! 

i want a hippopotamus for christmas – kacey musgraves version

My *favorite* Christmas jam, and one that is in constant rotation on my phone. I can’t even explain it’s appeal. Do I want a hippopotamus for Christmas? No. But do I blast this song morning and night, October to January? Yes. 

sleigh ride – the spice girls version

Another half-serious favorite Christmas song! The Spice Girls spend 60% of the recording talking about football and arguing whether or not Christmas is worth singing about. (It is, apparently.) A true masterpiece.

let it snow – valerie june version

I was lucky enough to see Valerie June in concert a few years ago, and I’ve loved her music ever since! (If you haven’t heard her work before, I so recommend listening to her Tiny Desk Concert; it’s fantastic.) Her version of “Let It Snow” is folksy and whimsical and the perfect accompaniment to a cup of hot cocoa.

little drummer boy – leslie odom jr version

I swear, Leslie Odom Jr has the most soothing, comforting voice in the world. All his holiday songs are worth a listen, but his version of “Little Drummer Boy” is extra catchy thanks to the uber-talented kids of the Mzansi Youth Choir, who feature on the track! Their parapapampams are amazing.

christmas is all around – BAILEN version

I only saw Love, Actually for the first time this year (I know, I know!) but the storyline with Bill Nighy’s aging rock star instantly became my favorite. Here, the sibling-trio BAILEN transforms the film’s catchiest tune into an indie jam just right for the holiday season.

the longest winter – hadestown cast featuring amber gray

This next song has a very accurate title for what has been a very long year! Hadestown is one of my favorite musicals at the moment, and I love the cast’s entire spin-off holiday album. “The Longest Winter” — featuring the raspy, lovely voice of actress Amber Gray — is a soothing standout.

cross you off my list – lola kirke

What’s Christmas without a sad, seasonal break-up song? Lola Kirke’s original holiday tune is a bit spunky, a tad snarky, and oh-so catchy. She may want to to cross her ex-love off her list, but you should definitely keep this song on yours!

christmas island – ella fitzgerald version

ELLA! The true queen of the holiday season. Any holiday song of hers deserves a shout-out, but I especially love her version of “Christmas Island.” It’s perfect for those time when you just can’t take the winter weather anymore. (Fittingly, my preferred method of listening to this song is with a mini space heater at my side.)

the boar’s head carol – the young tradition version

“The Boar’s Head Carol,” according to Wikipedia, is “a macaronic 15th century English Christmas carol that describes the ancient tradition of sacrificing a boar and presenting its head at a Yuletide feast.” The Young Tradition’s version, recorded in the 1970s with the help of musicians Shirley and Dolly Collins, is perfect for when you want your holidays to be both medieval *and* folksy. Cheers.

ocho kandelikas – idina menzel version

We finish off today’s post with Idina Menzel’s version of “Ocho Kandelikas,” a Ladino song celebrating Hanukkah which was first written by composer Flory Jagoda in 1983. The beat of the song is *so* good, and it makes me want to get up and dance every time I hear it!

That’s how I’m currently filling my playlists with cheer! I’d love to know: what songs are on your holiday rotation at the moment?

xx

lulu

top ten books on my winter 2020 – 2021 tbr list

Hi friends!

I hope you’re all having a ~dazzling~ December! I myself am currently in my last week of school before winter break. It’s a slog, but there *is* a possibility of a snow day on the horizon. Huzzah! 

In the moments when I haven’t been catching up on school work or obsessively checking the weather (forecast, don’t fail me now!), I’ve been making a list of all the books coming out soon that I’m most excited about. It’s quite a long list! 

Fittingly, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt (from That Artsy Reader Girl) is Books on Your Winter TBR shelf. For my take on the theme, I’m featuring all the new books from this winter that I absolutely can’t wait to read. Some have been released already, and others are still on their way. All of them seem super cool. 

Happy TTT, everyone — let’s get to it! 

december releases

[1] A Wolf for a Spell, Karah Sutton’s debut novel, has so many things I love. (Adventure! Folk tales! Multiple POVs!) Telling the story of a wolf, a witch, and a village girl who work together to save their land from a wicked tsar, the book draws on the myth of Baba Yaga and adds a body-switching twist. It sounds thoroughly magical!

[2] Heiress Apparently follows “the fictionalized descendants of the only officially recognized empress regent of China.” I love me a good Princess-Diaries-esque book, and Diana Ma’s debut sounds like wildly good fun. Early reviews compare the novel to a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie (amazing) and also praise its commentary on racism in the film industry.

[3] A Universe of Wishes holds a hallowed spot at the top of my holiday wishlist, and I so hope to read it before the end of this year! The collection comes from We Need Diverse Books, and it features short stories from a large collection of own-voices YA authors. I’m especially excited for “The Takeback Tango” by Rebecca Roanhorse!

january releases

[4] Percy Jackson imbued in me a lifelong enthusiasm for all things vaguely mythological, so it’s no surprise that I am super duper flippin’ excited for Lore, Alexandra Bracken’s upcoming take on goddesses and curses and prophecies. (Also, how cool is that cover?!)

[5] One of my favorite aspects of The Hate U Give was Starr’s family, especially the dynamic between her parents, Maverick and Lisa. Angie Thomas’ upcoming prequel, Concrete Rose, follows Maverick as a seventeen year old, giving readers further insight into life in Garden Heights. Concrete Rose is an “exploration of Black boyhood and manhood,” and I can’t wait to see the heart, humor, and poignancy with which Thomas tells this character’s story.

[6] When I was younger, I adored Kirsten Miller’s Kiki Strike series and its cast of crime-fighting girl scouts. Don’t Tell a Soul, Miller’s new standalone novel, is a bit darker than the beloved series of my youth; it follows a teenage girl, Bram, as she stays with her uncle in a Gothic, haunted manor. Highlights include ghosts, curses, and creepy thrills. Downsides include a severe lack of girl scout cookies.

february releases

[7] Charlotte Holmes is my fictional bestie, so I will automatically read anything by Brittany Cavallaro. But her upcoming novel, Muse, sounds fascinating in its own right! It’s an alternate history in which America is a monarchy, war is on its way, and a World’s Fair is about to take place. Intrigue!!

[8] We’ve talked about books with witches. We’ve talked about books with gods. How about a book with witches *and* gods?! The Witch’s Heart, Genevieve Gornichec’s February 9th release, reimagines Norse mythology, following a witch named Angrboda who becomes entangled with the god Loki and with a fierce huntress, Skadi. It sounds messy and magical and just like the kind of book I’ll love!

[9] Gita Telease’s 2019 historical fantasy, Enchantée, ended up being one of my fave books of that year. The sequel, Liberté, dives further into the French revolution, mixing history with its unique magic system and sweet (yet complicated!) love story.

[10] The last book on my list is another debut novel; this one comes from Namina Forna! The Gilded Ones centers around Deka, a sixteen year girl who joins an army of “near-immortals with rare gifts” after she becomes ostracized in her village thanks to her magical, golden blood. The fantasy novel has a BEAUTIFUL cover, and early reviews praise its characters, writing, and handling of racism and eugenics. It also sounds feminist and cool as heck. I’m so eager to read!

Which releases are you looking forward to this winter? I’d love to know!

xx

lulu

Top Ten Holiday Books! {Top Ten Tuesday | December 8}

Good morning, friends!

It’s been quite a while since my last Top Ten Tuesday post, but today’s theme seemed like the perfect time to get back into the list-making groove. This week’s prompt, which comes from That Artsy Reader Girl, is “Holiday/Winter Freebie.”

(Freebies *and* holidays! Two of my favorite things! Together!!)

Since I’m very much in the spirit of the season, I’ve leaned heavily on the “Holiday” portion of the prompt. The books below feature oodles of winter-y cheer, quite a few ghosts, and plenty of snow. Let’s discuss!

[1] I love the Greenglass House books for so many reasons. Not only do these cozy middle grade mysteries remind me of childhood favorites like The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Red Blazer Girls, they also take place at a rustic winter inn on the top of a mountain at Christmastime. There’s frequent descriptions of cocoa and cookies. Amazing!!

[2] Main Street was one of my absolute favorite book series when I was younger, and I’ve especially always loved the third installment, ‘Tis the Season. Following the lives of four best friends living in the fictional (and adorable) town of Camden Falls, the book is a lovely ode to the strength of community and friendship.

[3] The Vanderbeekers books are all really stinkin’ cute, but the first one, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, gets 10,000 extra coolness points because it takes place at Christmas. I so, so encourage you to spend part of your holiday reading with Isa, Laney, Oliver, Jessie, and Hyacinth as they attempt to save their Harlem brownstone from a curmudgeonly landlord before New Year’s Day. It’s great fun!

[4] I received The Afterlife of Holly Chase as a gift a few year’s back, and it was such a good, fluffy, holiday read! Cynthia Hand transports the Scrooge story to the modern day, centering her tale around Holly Chase, a spoiled teenage girl who has an unfortunate run-in with death. Ghosts and romance abound!

[5] My friends, Royal Holiday has it all. Scones. Romance. Christmas. References to my fave, Meghan Markle. Need I say more?

[6] The Mother Daughter Book Club was my sister’s favorite series growing up, and I have super fond childhood memories of it as well! The fifth novel, Home for the Holidays, sees the titular book club tackle the Betsy-Tacy series. There’s plenty of friendship intrigue, literary incite, and holiday cheer. Also, the in-person cover glitters.

[7] If you, like me, enjoy a good dose of Regency-era holiday fun, I heartily recommend Cindy Anstey’s 2018 novel, Carols and Chaos. There’s both carols *and* chaos. What a book!

[8] Guys, I talk about Little Women a lot. (On this blog. In life. In college interviews. Everywhere!) Is it my favorite book? Probably! Do I read it every year at Christmas? Yes! Did I spend a significant portion of last year’s Christmas strategizing when I’d get to see the Greta Gerwig version? You bet! Anyway, it’s totally a Christmas book.

[9] My family and I watch The Polar Express movie every year on Christmas Eve, so both the original story and the film hold a special place in my heart (uncanny valley eyes and all…) The 1985 picture book has beautiful art and a story that never fails to make me cry.

[10] The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories is a new addition to my holiday reading this year, as I picked it up just last week! I’m quite enjoying the collection so far, which features stories from authors across centuries. The first one, a short tale by Hans Christian Anderson, is about an insecure, worrying fir-tree. Relatable. And Christmas-y!

Books are one of my favorite ways to get into the holiday spirit! What are some of your favorite winter-y reads?

xx

lulu

it’s a marshmallow-winter-wonderland-desktop-download-extravaganza! | literary holiday wallpapers

Hello, friends!

Thanksgiving has passed. There’s frost on the ground. Tonight, I will watch the last episode of this season of the Great British Bake-Off.

It is now, officially, the holiday season.

As you might have guessed, I ~love~ the holidays. (It’s the best time of the year! I practically run on hot chocolate, Ella Fitzgerald is always on the radio, and everyone wears turtlenecks! The chicest of clothing!!) 

Today, I’m kicking off this most wonderful season with some literary-inspired desktop wallpapers. These downloads feature wintery and Christmas-y quotes from three classic books, and I hope they help get you into the joyful spirit as well.

So, grab your turtlenecks, and let’s get to it!

download here: desktop | iPhone

This first wallpaper features a paraphrased quote from one of my favorite childhood book series, Anne of Green Gables. Specifically, we’re looking at Anne of Avonlea, the second installment, in which our heroine has taken up teaching in her beloved Canadian town. Having awoken to a lovely wintery dusting, Anne marvels at the transformative nature of snow:

She had a good sleep that night and awakened in the morning to find herself and the world transformed. It had snowed softly and thickly all through the hours of darkness and the beautiful whiteness, glittering in the frosty sunshine, looked like a mantle of charity cast over all the mistakes and humiliations of the past.

Anne of Avonlea

I am 100% sure Lorelai Gilmore would approve of this quote.

download here: desktop | iPhone

Little Women is a stealth Christmas book, in that it takes place across all seasons but its best scenes (I think) are set during the holidays. This paraphrased quote comes from one of those scenes:

The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned, and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting.

Little Women

I once took a Which Little Women Character Are You? quiz and gasped in both awe and horror when it revealed I am a combination Jo-Amy. I hope this wallpaper, unlike that experience, helps bring some cheerful tranquility to your hours of screen time.

download here: desktop | iPhone

We round today off with a quote from Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There. Lewis Carroll’s Alice books defy all logical holiday characterization (besides unbirthdays, really) but this quote seems fittingly dreamy for upcoming December days:

“Do you hear the snow against the window-panes, Kitty? How nice and soft it sounds! Just as if some one was kissing the window all over outside. I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

Through the Looking Glass

Enjoy your last days of November, friends!

xx

lulu

P.S. these are the fonts I used to make today’s wallpapers: Astida, MADE Barista, MADE Sunflower, Torches. Check them out, they’re super cool! (:

poisoned apples and clockwork hearts | a mini book review + desktop wallpaper!

Happy Sunday friends!

I hope you’re enjoying all the lovely things that late fall has to offer: fuzzy socks, warm tea, gingersnaps, the start of plaid skirt season, the works! My mind, per usual, has jumped straight to the holidays (A Very Kacey Christmas plays in an eternal loop on my Spotify account) but I am enjoying these last tastes of fall as well.

Autumn, after all, is one of my favorite times of year to read fairytales! With an abundance of spooky forests, magic lore, and gruesome-yet-beautiful imagery, folklore retellings always seem to feel at home in the brisk fall air. My latest read, Poisoned, certainly does! Jennifer Donnelly’s newest book has Grimm-style gore, plenty of kindness, and a heroine whose clockwork heart charmed my own.

Once upon a time, a girl named Sophie rode into the forest with the queen’s huntsman. Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new-fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight. When they stopped to rest, the huntsman pulled out his knife . . . and took Sophie’s heart.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Sophie had heard the rumors, the whispers. They said she was too kind and foolish to rule — a waste of a princess. A disaster of a future queen. And Sophie believed them. She believed everything she’d heard about herself, the poisonous words people use to keep girls like Sophie from becoming too powerful, too strong . . .

With the help of seven mysterious strangers, Sophie manages to survive. But when she realizes that the jealous queen might not be to blame, Sophie must find the courage to face an even more terrifying enemy, proving that even the darkest magic can’t extinguish the fire burning inside every girl, and that kindness is the ultimate form of strength.

Goodreads

Jennifer Donnelly is such a talented writer, and I always marvel at the command of language she displays in her books. Poisoned — like Donnelly’s 2019 output, Stepsister — is a refreshing take on a classic tale; it both celebrates and subverts the beats of the Grimm Brothers’ Snow White. It’s feminist and folksy! A winning combo!!

In honor of Poisoned, I’ve created some desktop wallpapers with a favorite quote of mine from the book. You can check out the wallpapers and download them below!

Desktop Wallpaper Version 1

Desktop Wallpaper Version 2

iPhone

To make these wallpapers, I used the font Bevalonia. Download it here!

Have a fantastic start to your week, and happy reading!

xx

lulu

book review | Broken Wish

Hello, friends! This review contains very mild, very vague spoilers.

I hope you’re all having a fantastic Sunday! Some highlights from my weekend have included making Orangette’s amazing caramel blondie recipe, laughing/crying at Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me, and getting into the Christmas spirit with playlists and gift guides (it’s never too early, y’all!!)

I’m taking a break from eating raw cookie dough and avoiding essays, though, to pop in here with a book review! I’ve been in a fantasy, fairytale mood as of late, and so today we’re going to take a look at Julie C. Dao’s Broken Wish, the first book in a new series. Let’s get to it!

1865. Hanau, Germany.

Sixteen-year-old Elva has a secret. She has visions and strange powers that she will do anything to hide. She knows the warnings about what happens to witches in their small village of Hanau. She’s heard the terrible things people say about the Witch of the North Woods, and the malicious hunts that follow. But when Elva accidentally witnesses a devastating vision of the future, she decides she has to do everything she can to prevent it. Tapping into her powers for the first time, Elva discovers a magical mirror and its owner—none other than the Witch of the North Woods herself. As Elva learns more about her burgeoning magic, and the lines between hero and villain start to blur, she must find a way to right past wrongs before it’s too late.

Julie C. Dao is one of my favorite authors of recent years! Her books often reimagine folklore, imbuing classic tales with new takes on unsettled magic and complicated love. So, it’s fitting that she wrote Broken Wish, the first in a series of four books to be written by four different YA writers, with each installment taking place in a different time period but all dealing with the same family curse. I thought the novel was an exciting, Grimm-inspired kickoff to the venture, and it felt perfect for the autumn season!

Though it features superstitions, witch-trials, and false pretenses galore, Broken Wish is simultaneously such a cozy, warm book. Dao’s characters show their love for one another through baked goods (I approve!) and the novel’s sensory descriptions of molasses cookies, ginger cakes, and steaming tea are truly lovely. The settings, descriptions, and character relationships are where the book shines. Overall, Broken Wish is the literary equivalent of a delightful fall bonfire (with magical s’mores!) 

Dao has had great success in writing protagonists with diverse personalities. Her debut novel, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, chronicled the rise of a ruthless, fascinating queen, Xifeng, who couldn’t be more different than Broken Wish’s perpetually optimistic Elva. Yet Dao excelled in writing both girls; I loved the fact that Elva grew as a character without losing her positive, genuine nature. Dao’s books feature women who are outwardly strong, inwardly brave, and everything in between, and I’m here for it. Feminist fairytales rule. 

On that note, Broken Wish honors classic folklore, but it also celebrates people who don’t fall under historic fairytale archetypes. One of my favorite characters in the book was Cay, Elva’s younger brother who adores embroidery, exploration, and farm work. His versatile personality reflects one of Broken Wish’s strengths: the novel finds humanity in characters whom traditional fairytales may have been left one-dimensional.

I say cheers to complex witches, heroines, sorceresses, and mortals, yes?

xx

lulu

October Book Round-Up

Hi friends,

I’ve missed you all!! My school transitioned to hybrid learning this past month, and I’ve been adjusting to the new schedule. I’m happy to have found some time to blog though — there’s lots to catch up on!

It snowed where I live this past weekend, and, while I have been listening to Kacey Musgraves’ Christmas album on repeat for weeks already, I was not prepared for such a drastic change in weather. So, today — though turtleneck sweaters, chocolate cream pie, and boatloads of cranberry sauce are on the horizon — I’m going to revel in orange leaves and wicked spells and take a look back on my recent October reads. We’ve still got spooky witches and magic doorways to talk about!

You can check out my October reading round-up below. Be sure to let me know what you’re currently reading or what you’ve finished, too! Recommendations are always welcome.

I continued my love affair with Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s work this month (I have her entire bibliography on hold at various libraries!!) with the 1920s-set Gods of Jade and Shadow. The book honors and incorporates Mexican folklore, and its central relationship is so lovely, I haven’t stopped thinking about it for weeks. Plus, the clothes are super glam.

My birthday was in October, and I was lucky enough to receive some new books as gifts! Among these was Leigh Bardugo’s The Lives of Saints, which has beautiful art and prose (though I would expect nothing less from everyone’s favorite witch-aunt/author!), as well as Alice Oehr’s The Art of Cake. I definitely recommend learning the history of the Grishaverse and croquembouche all at once — it’s a fascinating (and tasty!) endeavor.

I got into the spooky spirit this Halloween season with Seanan McGuire’s delightfully-weird Wayward Children series! The first two novellas, Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones ask what happens to children after they return from magical realms and fantastical worlds. The books are fast and insightful, heart-warming yet dark. They’re also totally worth your time.

Finally, I finished things off with Julie C. Dao’s latest offering, Broken Wish. It’s the first in a series to be written by four popular YA authors, and I loved how Dao both paid tribute to classic fairytales and crafted an original, feminist-tinged story. Curses and witches make for perfect October reading!

What books did you read last month?

xx

lulu

Currently Loving | September 28 – October 4

Hello!! 

Long time, no see, friends! I hope you’re all doing well and having a lovely weekend!! 

School started up for me over these past couple of weeks, and I’ve been a bit slogged down with homework and extracurriculars. I’ve so missed blogging and chatting with you, though, and I’m eager to get back into a writing routine! (And a reading one! I fear for the fate my 2020 book challenge.) 

Today, I’m sharing a list of some of my favorite music, shows, books, and recipes as of late. Check them out below! 

The Great British Bake Off | GBBO is peak television. It has everything I look for in a show: puns, sweets, banter, random relaxing shots of wildlife, the works! I’m loving the newest season; come Friday evening, you’ll definitely find me in my living room, cup of tea in hand, yelling about florentines. 

Baking with fall flavors | Speaking of baking, I have been taking advantage of the season and trying out loads of new recipes! Apples, pumpkin, and cinnamon are some of my favorite flavors to bake with, and I love how cozy my kitchen feels after making a batch of scones or cookies. Smitten Kitchen’s Apple Breakfast Granola Crisp (pictured above) is my go-to morning meal right now, and I’ve also tried out these apple muffins from King Arthur Flour and the Apple Pecan Snacking Cake from Flour Bakery. This week, I’m looking forward to taste-testing some white chocolate apple scones. Apples, galore! 

Enola Holmes + Maleficent: Mistress of Evil | During the week I tend to be busy with schoolwork and college apps, but, on the weekend, I look forward to family movie nights! Recent picks for films have been Millie Bobby Brown’s Holmesian romp, Enola Holmes, on Netflix as well as the second Maleficent installment on Disney Plus. Both were great fun – historical mysteries and fantasy magic perfectly complement October’s spooky mood!

Rebel Spy | I’ve been lucky enough to read some top-notch books over the past couple of months, but none surprised me as much as Veronica Rossi’s Rebel Spy. Telling the imagined backstory of the woman spy “355” during the American Revolution, the book is engrossing and suspenseful. Plus, it features a squeal-worthy love story! I can’t wait to check out Rossi’s other works.

Islander Cast Album | I miss theater quite a bit right now, and cast albums are always in my regular rotation on Spotify. At the top of my list at the moment is the music from Islander, a two-person musical which played at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in the UK last year. My sister got to see the show in person (lucky duck!), but I’m still loving the folksy, mythological tunes from the comfort of my couch. 

Have an amazing week!

xx

lulu

Spooky Schools, Folklore, and Books About Books: My Most Anticipated Autumn Releases!

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you’re having a lovely day.

I go back to school next week, and while I’ve been busy gathering supplies and finishing up my summer work, I’m excited to settle in to a routine. And, alongside school, the fall season brings with it plenty of fun things: apple pie, my birthday (!!), and new books! Today I’m looking ahead to the rest of autumn, and I’m highlighting the books coming out that I’m most excited for. Check them out below!

Where Dreams Descend came out at the end of August, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. So, I’m including it in this round-up as well! Not only does the novel have a truly gorgeous cover, it also features magicians, a circus, and elements of Moulin Rouge and Phantom of the Opera. Magic + theatrical France is a winning combo, I think.

I’m looking forward to new releases from some of my favorite authors! The Lives of Saints is at the top of my wishlist, as it comes out right before my birthday. Plus, I think Leigh Bardugo is at her best when crafting short stories. Julie C. Dao and Jennifer Donnelly are publishing new fantasy titles as well: Broken Wish promises witches and curses in 19th-century Germany, and Poisoned looks like a deliciously wicked twist on Snow White. 

Continuing the folklore theme, The Forest of Ghosts and Bones and A Girl is a Body of Water have both caught my eye. Lisa Lueddecke’s standalone fantasy draws on the myths of Hungaria, and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s latest novel is a feminist coming-of-age “rich in the folklore of Uganda.” I can’t wait to read both!

When it comes to the fall, I’m always on the lookout for a good ~spooky~ book. A Deadly Education, about a magical boarding school with no teachers, seems to fit the bill.** As does These Violent Delights, a version of Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai and featuring a mysterious “monster in the shadows.” Intrigue and twists are sure to abound!

Finally, I don’t pick up too much contemporary YA, but This is All Your Fault seems like my kind of read. Diverse, feminist characters? Friendship? A bookstore?! All my favorite things.

Which releases are you most excited about this fall? 

xx


lulu

**Update as of October 2020: I still have not read A Deadly Education, but I would be remiss if I did not address other bloggers’ justified complaints regarding the book’s poor depiction of nonwhite characters and cultures. (Asma’s review on Goodreads lays things out well.) The book is no longer on my TBR list. If you do choose to read the novel, I urge you to do so with a critical mind.