‘Loveless’ Is the Celebration of Friendship the World Desperately Needs Right Now

“I’ve learnt some Things. Like the way friendship can be just as intense, beautiful and endless as romance. Like the way there’s love everywhere around me — there’s love for my friends, there’s love for my paintings, there’s love for myself.”
Alice Oseman, Loveless

Alice Oseman’s most recent novel, Loveless, didn’t make me squeak, ship or root as much as her other works have, but it did give me a very powerful reminder.

I am a huge fan of Oseman’s flawless stories of love, friendship, identity, youth and everything in between. Ever since beloved booktuber Kat from paperbackdreams was crying on main for the millionth time because of Alice Oseman’s second novel, Radio Silence, I knew I had to give this author a try.

So I read Radio Silence and it really did it for me. The commentary on being academically bright and forced into a specific educational path by obsolete social expectations spoke to me on many more levels than I thought possible. 

I reviewed Radio Silence already and you can read there in more detail why I think it’s an exquisite YA story.


After Radio Silence I binged nearly all of Oseman’s other books, but for some reason, I never felt compelled to pick up Loveless until only recently. And boy do I regret that now.

It’s no news that Alice Oseman is known for the wide representation they always prioritise in their works. From amazing representation of sexuality to race to mental health to educational and intellectual preferences, chances are you will identify with at least one of their characters.

Now that I’ve read the entirety of the osemanverse, so everything she has ever published, I can safely say I strongly relate to Tori Spring from Solitaire and Heartstopper, probably the most of all Alice’s characters. However, I have found myself in Nick Nelson’s journey to discovering his sexuality (Heartstopper), in Frances Janvier’s educational aspirations (Radio Silence) and in Jason Farley-Shaw’s kind and reserved romantic spirit (Loveless).

But all of Alice’s stories up until Loveless had some kind of love story at least going on in the background that I always rooted for. Well, enter Georgia Warr, our aromantic and asexual main character.

Alice Oseman is also aro/ace so Loveless is very much based on their experience in a world where this particular sexuality is seldom known or spoken about, making those who identify as either one or both aromantic/asexual feel inadequate.

Our protagonist has never had a real crush, never dated, never kissed anyone and now she is a university student, she tries her hardest to find her match. The only problem is that physical interactions make her severely uncomfortable and she seems to not be able to have any romantic feelings for anyone.

“Friends are automatically classed as ‘less important’ than romantic partners. I’d never questioned that. It was just the way the world was. I guess I’d always felt that friendship just couldn’t compete with what a partner offered, and that I’d never really experience real love until I found romance.
But if that had been true, I probably wouldn’t have felt like this.”
Alice Oseman, Loveless

The story is a candid but difficult one of self-discovery, as Georgia finds out she is aro/ace and begins to embrace her sexuality.

The main idea of the story is that, although we’re raised to believe romantic relationships are the main way to be happy in life, other relationships are just as, if not more important.

Although I’m not aromantic, nor asexual, and unfortunately know no one who is, it was refreshing to watch Georgia give everything to strengthen and cherish her friendships, once she accepted she didn’t need to look for a romantic partner in order to be happy.

I think I’m not the only one who has felt lost after a breakup and only found solace in the company of their closest friends and family. And although I am in a happy, stable relationship, the connections I have with other people I love are just as important and should never come second to my romantic relationship.

Loveless is a celebration of powerful connections and unromantic love, and I can see how it can make a significant difference in the lives of those who identify as aromantic/asexual. But even if you don’t, you will find great value in Alice Oseman’s novel, much like in everything else she has written. 

It’s not only about being able to relate to the main character, it’s about learning to understand how different people identify and how they feel, and about learning to nurture your other relationships.

Have you been checking up on your friends lately?


Eliza Lita is a freelance writer based in the UK. She covers books and reading, fitness, lifestyle, and personal development. Please consider signing up for a Medium membership through her referral link for more of her stories.

This Violent Fantasy Is The Best Book I’ve Read In 2022


Fantasy has been one of my favourite genres for as long as I can remember. I love getting caught up in the rich and imaginative worlds, losing myself in the pages for hours at a time. 

Some of my most beloved books include fantasy classics such as The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien. There’s something truly magical and breathtaking about them.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang was first published in 2018 and received wide praise for its brilliance as a debut novel. The story is inspired by Chinese history, particularly the Second Sino-Japenese War, and tackles the gritty reality of warfare, addiction, and empire — all with a fantastical twist.

I knew the book would be a five-star read after a mere 50 pages. That’s how good it is. Now, I’m quite an easily pleased reader but not every book joins my exclusive group of all-time favourite reads — and this one certainly does. 

It knocked my socks off, and it will be hard to top. I feel a little sorry for the book I pick up following the trilogy as I’m not sure how it can compete. 


The Poppy War follows Rin, a war orphan from the rural Rooster province, who stuns everyone when she aces the Empire-wide test for talented youth and secures herself a spot at the elite military academy, Sinegard. 

The threat of war from their neighbours, the Federation of Mugen, looms over the country, but Rin’s life is further complicated by her newfound connection to the mysterious pantheon of gods.

The characters are well developed, the dialogue is witty and quick, and you’ll be sure to feel every emotion under the sun. The world-building is immense — Kuang paints a truly unique environment with an impressive magic system in place. 

I studied military history at university, so combining my love of fantasy with my interest in the subject matter made this book an instant win for me. However, as the plot might suggest, I will warn any future readers that it is very dark, very gritty, and very gory. 

Kuang doesn’t hold back or shy away from difficult topics, so just be aware before you get stuck into reading it.

The Washington Post and The Guardian actually featured the book in their best picks for 2018, noting that though it “begins as a familiar enough coming-of-age adventure in a magical China, [it] builds into a scorching, ultra-violent portrait of war’s horrors.” 

Ultra-violent is definitely the keyword here, but Kuang does balance it out with humour, strong character relationships and moments of tenderness. 


The fantasy genre isn’t for everyone, and quite often the books are giant in comparison to some of their peers in contemporary literature or thriller, for example. 

However, The Poppy War — though a whopping 544 pages — is a real page-turner. I devoured it in days. Always thinking about it, always itching to pick it back up. The sign of an incredible book.

The good news is that if you love the book, there’s a whole trilogy to dive into. Finish The Poppy War and quickly grab the sequels, The Dragon Republic and The Burning God, because I assure you, you won’t want to stay away from the world for long. Kuang also released three additional short scenes on her website, allowing us insight into a different character’s perspective.

It was also announced at the end of 2020 that the TV rights for the trilogy have been picked up by Starlight Media, whose previous credits include Crazy Rich Asians and Midway. Whilst seeing the books on screen is still likely a way off, I can’t wait to see what they do with this thrilling trilogy.

And if you do end up loving Kuang’s work like I do, she’s got a new book coming out later this year. Babel, a dark academic fantasy set in Oxford, is set to release in August 2022 and is sure to be as immersive and brilliant as The Poppy War trilogy.


If you liked this story and want to read more, why not take out a $5 Medium membership using my referral link. You’ll support my writing and many other writers out there!

How This Hidden Gem Stopped Me in My Tracks and Why You Should Read It

I love finding new writers. Don’t you?

I especially enjoy it when the writer is my age or older. Gives me hope, don’t you know? (I was born in 1965, the writer was born in 1957.)

Books are so good for us for so many reasons, but I think the most significant is that they teach us empathy. 

We imagine what it’s like to be something other than ourselves. 

The main characters are girls in their late teens. One is black and experiences racism, and the other has to live with an abusive father. Education and upbringing limit both girls. 

I’m a white, college-educated male. (Plus, I’m old.) 

I scoffed a bit as I read this book. I didn’t believe in the character’s actions. I couldn’t imagine them doing or not doing the things asked of them in the plot. 

I caught myself, though. I reminded myself that I wasn’t a 17-year-old black girl living in the deep South in the 1920s. So, how the heck would I know what she would or would not do? 

The other girl is 16. She’s forced to drop out of school. Her mother has passed away, and she lives with an abusive father. She ran away with a traveling musician at the age of 15. The book opens with her returning home. 

It’s hard not to get frustrated with her lack of confidence and unwillingness to try new things. 

But for me, at least, it was easy to remember that I’m not her and have no valid basis for judging her actions. It was cool to just sit back and learn, and not judge. 

What an incredible gift. I couldn’t put the book down, but I also learned what life’s like for other people. 

Background 

There is a lot of chatter about this book on the internet. 

It’s a USA Today bestseller. 

Google returns 4,320 hits when you search for the title. Dig a little, and you’ll find many sites that loved the book. 

The Country Bookshop said it was the #1 best-selling paperback of 2021. (Okay, you caught me. The Country Bookshop is in North Carolina, and surprise, the author, lives in N. Carolina. But still…) 

Look at what Publishers Weekly has to say. 

“Remarkable debut…. [a] nearly flawless tale of loss, perseverance, and redemption.” — Publishers Weekly, STARRED review


A plot summary from the publisher

Set in 1920s Mississippi, this debut Southern novel weaves a beautiful and harrowing story of two teenage girls cast in an unlikely partnership through murder — perfect for readers of Where the Crawdads Sing and If the Creek Don’t Rise.

Ada promised herself she would never go back to the Trace, to her hard life on the swamp and her harsh father. But now, after running away to Baton Rouge and briefly knowing a different kind of life, she finds herself with nowhere to go but back home. And she knows there will be a price to pay with her father.

Matilda, daughter of a sharecropper, is from the other side of the Trace. Doing what she can to protect her family from the whims and demands of some particularly callous locals is an ongoing struggle. She forms a plan to go north, to pack up the secrets she’s holding about her life in the South and hang them on the line for all to see in Ohio.


What did I think? 

Books that entertain and teach at the same time are all too rare. 

For that reason alone, it’s worth your time. 

The main characters are believable and likeable, so much so that I, a person who has nothing in common with them, loved the book. 

I would be aghast if you read it and didn’t care about the ending. 

Surely there must be some faults in a first novel? 

The middle of the book is all about character development, and I guess some of you might find that boring. 

It’s not; internal struggles, conflict, and growth make for absorbing reading when you like and care about what happens to the characters. 

I predicted the last conflict in the book. But, I certainly didn’t anticipate the resolution.

I listen to books while riding a spin bike. The ending was so good that I listened to the rest of the book after completing my ride while standing in the cold basement in my sweaty workout clothes, putting off my shower until I finished. 

Read this book! It has my official seal of approval, and I guarantee it will leave you satisfied. 


Hey! If you liked this review, think about following me. I’m mighty close to the magic number of 100 followers, and it’d be cool to tell people that I’m a blogger. Plus, I promise to follow you back. 

‘Death and Croissants’: The Thriller That Makes You Laugh Out Loud

Listen to this review via the Coffee Time Reviews Podcast:

Disclaimer: Please note I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

When I spotted Death and Croissants on the Duckworth Books Spring Catalogue, I knew I had to read it one way or another. What an ingenious title.

When I got it in the mail, it definitely did not disappoint. Ian Moore’s Follet Valley mystery was my first book of 2022 and it definitely got me out of the inevitable New Year’s reading slump.

I loved almost everything about it: from the setting to the two protagonists, to the intriguing plot. Anything to do with France is a win for me. So when I saw the blurb and realised Death and Croissants is a great Englishman in France kind of story, it was an instant coup de coeur.

French is my favourite language and I studied it extensively for most of my life, including the culture, cuisine, history and geography of France, for a complete and complex understanding of the subtilities of the language.

I’ve lived in the North of England for five years now and I’ve become very familiar with the British culture, notably their famous or, rather, infamous, dry humour becoming one of my favourite things about the Brits.

So Death and Croissants is the perfect crossover of the two foreign cultures I love and understand the most.


From the Publisher

Richard is a middle-aged Englishman who runs a B&B in the fictional Val de Follet in the Loire Valley. Nothing ever happens to Richard, and really that’s the way he likes it.

One day, however, one of his older guests disappears, leaving behind a bloody handprint on the wallpaper. Another guest, the enigmatic Valérie, persuades a reluctant Richard to join her in investigating the disappearance.


What I Loved About the Book

Ian Moore’s mystery is described as “the most hilarious murder mystery since Richard Oseman’s The Thursday Murder Club” and for good reason.

I laughed out loud so many times while reading it. And I think that’s what I loved the most about this book. 

Genre crossovers have become really popular in the bookish world in recent years. But combining comedy and crime fiction is a proper ambitious feat, so all the more praise to Monsieur Le Moore for bringing it to life.

I absolutely adored Richard, with his ridiculously monotonous life, his constant moodiness and his love for vintage movies. Valérie’s tumultuous and glamorous entry into his life becomes all the more necessary, therefore.

Valérie is a true character who ticks all the stereotypes of being French. Her entire existence is the most À la française thing I’ve seen in modern fiction. With her carefree demeanour, her adventurous spirit and her effortless attractiveness, complete with her ridiculous dog, Passepartout, Valérie is one of the most absurd and charming characters I’ve seen in a while.

Despite their differences, none of these characters takes themselves too seriously, a trait I’ve noticed in all the side characters too. And the lightness of the book comes from that: you’re supposed to take everything with a pinch of salt.


What I Didn’t Like

I mentioned at the beginning of this review that I loved almost everything about this book. That almost comes from my slight disappointment with the mystery side of the plot.

While I enjoyed Richard and Valérie’s adventures in uncovering just what had happened to the mysterious Monsieur Grandchamps and Richard’s beloved hen, Ava Gardner, I had trouble buying the story.

This wasn’t such a big letdown, though, because I enjoyed myself copiously while reading the book, so I didn’t mind that the mystery felt a bit weak. There were times when the plot felt like it was retelling one of Richard’s old secret agent movies, but somehow I can’t fault it too much because it worked as a whole.

The humour, the setting, in rural France, and the absurdity of the entire story, made me think less harshly of how the mystery finally unfolded.


All in all, Death and Croissants proved to be a great reading experience, an effective way to defeat a reading slump and a hilarious little mystery with ridiculous characters. If that sounds like your cup of tea, I’d definitely recommend it for a light read.

The paperback version of Death and Croissants comes out on 1 April.

‘Expectation’ Validates All the Ugly Mistakes of Adulthood and Not Being Able to Avoid Them

It took me months to read Expectation.

Not because it’s not good but because it’s difficult. Not complicated, but difficult. Like eating a heavy chocolate cake, this book can only be consumed in small bites that you savour, otherwise, it will make you feel overwhelmed.

If you’re a woman, it hits particularly hard.

The way the characters develop with age and all the pressures they have to bear is a little too relatable for comfort. That being said, I’m glad I powered through those moments because the book rounds up to form a candid and human picture of adulthood, very appropriate to the life stage I’m at right now.


From the Publisher

What happened to the women we were supposed to become?

Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry — and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.

Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?


My Thoughts

Anna Hope built the story in a way that mimics life itself as the reader advances through the book. When you read, you feel everything from hope, empathy, heartache, frustration, fear, stress (what a unique feeling to be triggered by a book), forgiveness and finally acceptance.

The dreams, the spontaneity of youth, the potential of time stretching out infinitely ahead, the carelessness, the safety of making mistakes, all get ground to dust as the three main characters get older.

The profound exploration of womanhood and friendship is truly at the centre of what makes Expectation so good. Hannah’s frustrations about struggling to become a mother, Cate’s post-natal depression and constant doubt that she deserves to be where she is, and Lissa’s tight clutching at straws as she tries to come to grips with her changing beauty in middle age are all very human, very common struggles women face as they get older.

I thought the male-female relationships in the book also shined, particularly through the humanity of the characters. Everyone in the novel is so relatably flawed that you can’t help but root for all of them. No one is glorified and no one is antagonised, they’re all average people living average lives and trying to be happy. We need more books with average characters.

I could go on and on about the characters and the symbolic of their relationships. The book explores different kinds of generation gaps, as well as grief, parenthood in its many forms, single-parent families, and the idea of not wanting children.


‘Expectation’: An Excellent Analysis of Womanhood

Anna Hope excels in her subtle but strong portrayal of womanhood in its many complex forms.

From motherhood, to career life, to marriage, to the status of daughter, sister or best friend, Expectation is a realistic and hugely complete representation of what it means to be a woman.

The friendship element is the key theme of the book, but its true potential shines as it branches into other aspects of life and in how it explores each woman’s feelings about the lives of her other two friends.

Hannah, Cate and Lissa all want something the others have, from children, to beauty, to careers, to relationships. As women, the pressure to have it all figured out and do it well as we age is a lot heavier and the consequences feel a lot harsher when we inevitably fail to be the perfect mother, wife, friend, and daughter.

It is therefore human and justified to long for things other people have that you lack, a feeling that has been always vilified especially in women. The misogynistic stereotype that women are mean to each other and envy other women is largely based on the very common and natural instinct to feel frustrated when others have what you need.

The way Anna Hope explores this theme and makes the reader strongly identify with it, helps reshape our mentalities and encourages us to be kinder to ourselves and to those around us.

I gave it 4/5 stars.


Eliza Lita is a freelance writer based in the UK. She covers books and reading, health, fitness, lifestyle, and personal development. For more of her stories, please consider signing up for a Medium membership through her referral link.

A Powerful Act of Reckoning and the Forgiveness of Betrayal

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Bloomsbury India. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

One of my 2022 reading resolutions was to read more books by women. Considering that March 8 is International Women’s Day, I seem to have been solely picking women’s writing this month. 

One of these was ‘The Apology’ by Eve Ensler. Back when I first came across it, I remember it was the author’s name that struck me — like many others, I had of course heard about The Vagina Monologues. I stayed my eyes to not skip over the synopsis and I knew then and there that it would take me as much courage to read it, as it had taken Ensler to write it.


Synopsis

If I still haven’t convinced you enough, here is a synopsis from Goodreads:

Like millions of women, Eve Ensler has been waiting much of her lifetime for an apology. Sexually and physically abused by her father, Eve has struggled her whole life from this betrayal, longing for an honest reckoning from a man who is long dead. After years of work as an anti-violence activist, she decided she would wait no longer; an apology could be imagined, by her, for her, to her. The Apology, written by Eve from her father’s point of view in the words she longed to hear, attempts to transform the abuse she suffered with unflinching truthfulness and compassion and an expansive vision for the future.

Remarkable and original, The Apology is an acutely transformational look at how, from the wounds of sexual abuse, we can begin to re-emerge and heal. It is revolutionary, asking everything of each of us: courage, honesty, and forgiveness.

On the Essay, Closure and Ensler’s Writing

I stand by what I have said before: There is something undefinably wholesome and at the same time, real, in the reading of essays.

There is a surety of an end and for a person like me — the existence or the acknowledgement of an end is very important. The closure is very important to me and for the longest time it had felt that essays, even though short and often led me on rambling trains of thought, came with a definite full stop.

As I write this, I am also forced to acknowledge this similarity for my deep-rooted need for the acknowledgement of an end. A closure. This work, after all, is as much a deliberate execution of the same need (by the writer) after all. What is it about this closure that buoys us? 

That leads us forward and yet, the lack of which, does not let us move forward in life. Does a closure really work? And just in case one doesn’t get it, is it possible to move on eventually? After possibly a long time? Or do you waste your whole life pining for it?

Ensler’s writing is… beyond words. Was it because of her clear voice or her scope of imagination that let her write this apology as her father, to her, that made it so profound and striking in its transparency?

On Trust and the Breaking of this Fundamental Bond

Trust is one of the fundamental pillars of any relationship. A break of this trust almost always proves detrimental to the enduring strength of this formation. Sometimes, I think rarely though, repairs are possible. But one may argue based on their experiences (and maybe mine too), is it really possible to go back to how it was?

More often, however, the shattering of trust equals a lifelong and forever shattering of that relationship. What remains is a perverse disjointed bond that does no good to either party.

In Ensler’s case, this break or breach of trust comes from a person who is supposed to be outside of the bounds of such questions. A father or a parent for that matter is one who essentially brings this child into the world. They are both a part of each other, biologically and genetically. What happens when this bond is destroyed? 

In such a case, the child’s entire belief system is upended. Their world tilts unnaturally so much so that it is no longer makes sense. Nothing makes sense. If you cannot trust your parent, who can you trust? If a parent breaks your trust, won’t that mean that the entire world too will break it? What is real and what is an illusion? Nothing is absolute anymore.

The Importance of this Apology

This apology, therefore, is a powerful act of writing.

In the first place, it is Ensler acknowledging what happened to her, and how it changed her. It is an acknowledgement of the structure of her being, or rather the history of her personhood.

Secondly, it is her giving a chance to her abuser to tell his story. Doesn’t that say a lot about the journey Ensler herself had to make, in order to reach space when she feels ready to acknowledge her abuser’s history?

Thirdly, does it also not show how immense Ensler’s own sense of forgiveness is? It is not easy to forgive one’s abuser. It is not easy to give them a chance to tell their story. It is easy to say that that is letting them give a mere excuse.

Lastly, through this powerful reckoning, Ensler herself is getting the chance to get the closure she has needed all her life.

Verdict

I think that reading ‘The Apology’ is not an easy task. Prepare yourself, consider the trigger warning. It is so sad and at the same time, so potent. It is raw and I was full-on sobbing at some points because I could, unfortunately, relate to some emotions and experiences. 

I annotated the heck out of it — the margins are scribbled with black ink, and I have run out of one flap of page stickers. I am wrecked but I am also in a better position regarding my own trauma.

Overall, it is a book I definitely recommend because ‘The Apology’ is so much more than just a daughter asking her father for one. It is so much more than a daughter who was abused by such a central figure in her life. It is so much more than being a victim. 

It is dealing with the aftermath and the trauma. And it is also a lesson of being able to understand, To forgive: both oneself and another. It is about overcoming and moving forward. It is about finding closure.


If you liked this…

If you liked this book, or are looking for more along similar lines, you could also check out My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. For personal reasons, I do club them together. However while ‘The Apology’ is mostly a non-fictional piece, My Dark Vanessa is a work of fiction.


Nayanika Saikia graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and was also a Dean’s List student. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree and is also a Booktuber and Bookstagrammer. She can often be found on her Instagram account Pretty Little Bibliophile

You can support her by Buying Her a Coffee or by using her Referral Link while getting a Medium membership!

This Is What People Want to Know About Reading Right Now

The topic of books and reading is my main niche because it’s so juicy.

Not only does it come naturally to me to write about it, since I’m a huge library mouse and I read all the time, but you can do so much with this topic, aside from recommending or reviewing books.

A while ago, I wrote an article answering the all-time top Quora questions on the topic of books and it was very well received.

As a books and reading journalist, and the editor of a publication for book reviews, reading tips and reader stories, I feel confident doing this again.

So this time, I’ll be answering five of the most popular questions on the topic of reading, which have been asked in the past week.


Is your habit of reading related to growing up in a house with books?

My personal experience would indicate that that’s the case indeed. My mum, especially, is a huge bookworm and has always inspired me to read more. I grew up not only surrounded by books but also with bedtime stories every night.

Until I started reading books myself, my mother would always read me something before bed. From fairytales to short children’s books, and even mythological stories, I remember being fascinated by the process of reading in itself.

But, to answer the question in a more objective way, this is a case of the mere-exposure effect, a psychological phenomenon that makes people develop tendencies for certain things if they’re familiar with them.


What book life lesson can you share with the world today?

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Miralles and Francesco Garcia is one of the few books that changed my life almost entirely.

The lesson I’d like to share here is that everything you do in life, even the smallest actions, count towards a purpose. And as long as you have a purpose, you will be fulfilled. You just need to open your eyes to your own purpose.

It doesn’t have to be a hugely meaningful purpose. Taking a break for a day is a purpose. Cooking a healthier dinner tonight is a purpose. Taking a nap is a purpose. Taking a deep breath right now is a purpose.

This change in mindset gave meaning to everything I do and helped me see the more hidden aims of my every action.


If a book is old (decades), then does that mean it’s not relevant anymore?

I personally don’t believe so. And I think many people who specialise in literature would also disagree.

Some old books can become obsolete, yes, and some of them do perpetuate mindsets and practices that would be frowned upon nowadays.

But old books are valuable in how they speak of the past from the point of view of the present, and there is also a lot to learn from the writing styles of the past.


What is your favorite sentence in a book?

A bit self-indulgent, but I had to include this question. 

My personal favourite sentence in a book is from Korean poet Ko Un’s collection Time of Dead Poets: 

Every wave is the tomb of a wave and the womb of another wave. — Ko Un


Do you feel committed to finish every book that you start? Why, or why not?

I don’t know who needs to read this, but it’s time we overcome the determination to finish books even if we don’t want to.

There are so many books out there and the mere thought I’ll never get to read all the ones I’m interested in makes my heart squeeze. I stopped wasting time on finishing books I don’t enjoy a long time ago. It’s not necessary and serves no purpose.

If you don’t enjoy a book, just leave it. Embrace the power of DNF-ing. Find something better.


Are you a passionate reader? How would you answer these questions?


Eliza Lita is a freelance writer based in the UK. She covers books and reading, fitness, lifestyle, and personal development. For more of her stories, please consider signing up for a Medium membership through her referral link.

This Book Made Me Laugh at My Mood Disorder

TW/CW: mentions of mental illness

Bipolar disorder is no walk in the park, and I speak with the expert authority this mood disorder has given me. As if it takes an expert to know that. 

Bipolar disorder brushes nearly everyone that has ever lived because this consuming illness directly affects our relationships. An episode causes a spiral up or down, or seemingly straight into another dimension, and the collateral damage caused to everyone and everything around seems inevitable. 

But it’s not. It doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to live like this. 

Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life by cartoonist Ellen Forney was published the year I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. This is my most shining example of a godsend, ever. 

In short, Rock Steady kept me functional (I won’t go so far as to say stable) and sane (for the most part), even when I was unmedicated. For me, a little cocktail of psych meds is necessary for stability. Functional was a refreshing change of pace compared to the complete chaos that was my life before I found this book or knew I was bipolar. 

This is the bipolar guidebook to stability, but the information provided in this book is invaluable for any mood disorder.

We don’t achieve stability — arrive at it — and then have no need to work anymore. Stability is hard-won from life-long effort. Once we understand and accept this, we’re ready to receive the help we need.

The only constant is change, [and the] task of maintaining stability is never a done deal.
 — Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life, Ellen Forney

If you read this book:

You will learn the basics of self-care to manage a mood disorder

This wouldn’t be a very good self-help book if it didn’t teach you the tools to help yourself. As this is my absolute favorite book about self-help and bipolar disorder, I guarantee the basics of self-care are abundant.

The entire book is a targeted approach to self-care as a means to manage a mood disorder. Forney created a catchy acronym to describe her mental health philosophy, which is that “self-care entails a wide, interlocking, life-spanning range of essentials.” The system is called SMEDMERTS!

Sleep
Meds
Eat
Doctor
Mindfulness
Exercise
Routine
Tools
Support system
 — Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life, Ellen Forney

The first five chapters provide tons of information about how to live the SMEDMERTS system. After the basic principles of Forney’s mental health philosophy, you’ll find chapters on therapy, coping tools, insomnia, and medication management. 

The SMEDMERTS system is a holistic approach to managing bipolar disorder, although this strategy can be used to manage any mood disorder. Once you have down the basics, it’s time to consider the possibility of an episode.

You will learn how to face down a bipolar episode

An episode is any prolonged state of mind other than stability — depression, mania, and the lesser-known mixed episode when symptoms of depression and mania occur at the same time.

Forney uses intuitive analogies to describe the progression toward an episode. She details several common triggers for an episode and provides coping tools to combat each one. 

This chapter helped me recognize triggers I didn’t even realize were aggravating my disorder. It also validated me that, yes, it actually does make sense that losing sleep causes me to need less sleep, among other strange symptoms common in bipolar disorder.

We need to be able to predict, recognize, and prevent or stop an episode while there’s still time to check all the gauges, make a plan, take those steps, and/or get help.
 — Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life, Ellen Forney

You will find resources

The book in its entirety is an invaluable resource. Forney provides resources for finding support, but she goes beyond compiling a list of impersonal websites. There are lists of books, movies, and music, all curated by Forney herself, to make us feel seen, heard, and valid. 

Forney addresses ways to navigate the coming out process and how to squash stigma. There is an illustrated Mood Disorder Hall of Fame that includes dozens of celebrities. There is a resource for every need in this book, short of the vital things a book cannot give you. For what a book cannot give, Forney teaches you how to get it.

You will laugh…a lot

This graphic self-help guide is authentic. What makes this book so funny is Forney’s candid and transparent perspective of bipolar disorder that is so relatable. 

The comics that serve as personal narrative give you a glimpse into the psychotic hilarity that is bipolar disorder. Forney comedically humbles without degrading herself with such poignancy that I can’t help but feel light-hearted every time I open this book. 


It can be hard to see the bright side of a mood disorder, especially in the midst of a depressive episode. Rock Steady is an all-encompassing guide to living life with a mood disorder to the fullest without losing your sense of humor along the way. 


Connect with me across platforms 🙂

Other articles that may help you manage bipolar disorder:

A Reading Slump Antidote: 7 Fast-Paced Books to Get You Back on Your Feet

We always jump into the new year with a tremendous sense of hubris or resignation. By March, the true colours of our endeavours become undeniably apparent. January is the time for overambition, eagerness, and golden-hearted delusion. 

By the Spring, we see clearly just how serious we were about our resolutions. How’s your sleep schedule? How’s your exercise regime going? Rest assured, I’m mostly lecturing myself here.

My Storygraph account knows better than most the vicious cycle of my overreaching in terms of reading. I idolise the idea of being well-read, knowing a little something about everything, and putting myself in the shoes of hundreds of different walks of life. 

There, I consistently start the new year with the aim to read more. I’ve since come to the realisation that 100 books in a year may be a short-sighted prediction on my part. I’m an intuitive reader, I follow my mood, and my attention span works in bursts rather than a consistent flow. 

However, I do try my before to read more than the year before. That means that I need to dig myself out of the reading slumps that feel like a never-ending onslaught of ennui. Sometimes the thought of reading makes my eyes roll to the back of my head, especially when I’m preoccupied with other things. 

There is a myriad of articles that give tips on how to avoid a reading slump, and one day, I might throw in my two cents on the matter. But for now, I’m sharing seven books that yanked me out of my reading slumps and brought back my mojo. 

1. ‘The Dangers of Smoking in Bed’ by Mariana Enriquez

Short story collections are often a quick fix to a reading slump as they’re fast-paced enough to catch your attention without demanding too much commitment. 

This Argentinian collection of short horror stories may be what you need to get you reading again. There really is nothing like morbid curiosity to launch you into a book.

What happens when an act of cruelty causes a curse on a town? What can become of a woman who develops an all-consuming fetish for heart conditions? 

How do you explain the actions of two superfans who can’t bring themselves to part with the rockstar that they idolise? On an expectedly urban landscape, the supernatural intertwines with the natural, the political, and the human. 

Enriquez makes the horror of ghosts, ghouls, and banshees inextricable from those of the body, eroticism, and human morality. 

2. ‘Babette’s Feast: Anecdotes of Destiny’ by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)

Art and reality overlap with each other in beautiful and unexpected ways in Karen Blixen’s collection of short stories. Babette’s Feast: Anecdotes of Destiny tells the story of a decadent banquet brought about by Babette, the French housekeeper of a devoutly Protestant Norwegian family. 

 It tells the story of an English accountant whose disdain for fiction drives him to recreate an old sailor’s tale. It tells the story of an actress, Malli, who rescues her cast and crew from a shipwreck before her performance of The Tempest, in which she would play Ariel.

Blixen tends to get to her point relatively speedily in comparison to many of the big names of 20th-century literature. Regardless, each story packs a punch in its message and has its own thought-provoking message. 

Sometimes you just want a story about stories, about the creative process and the surprising consequences it can cause. This book made me fall in love with literature in a brand new way by giving me a brand new approach to consuming art. 

Our closeness to art can be frightening or disturbing, but Blixen demonstrates just how essential it is to the human condition. If anything will remind you why you want to read, this is the book for the job. 

3. ‘Lanny’ by Max Porter

Short stories aren’t the be-all-end-all of reading slump antidotes. A fast-paced, gripping read is what plunges people back into the literature they love. Lanny is a folksy but refreshing novel on the dwindling English countryside. 

When the precocious and creative Lanny moves to a twee English village with his parents, to whom the other residents suspect. 

Dead Papa Toothwort is the shapeshifting entity that scours the village and influences everything that lives in it, from the animals to the people. The village belongs to him, the current residents, and the long-passed generations that lived there before. 

This includes Mad Pete, the artist that teaches Lanny art twice a week upon building a friendship with his mum. 

Dead Papa Toothwort has awoken from a long sleep and is listening to all the goings-on in the village, taking special notice of Lanny. Although not as short-lived as the previous short stories, Lanny is a fast-paced, otherworldly saga that pulls you into the weird and wonderful magic of the forest.

4. ‘Giovanni’s Room’ by James Baldwin

Giovanni is dying. David blames himself, but we don’t know why. James Baldwin’s novella, Giovanni’s Room, is narrated by David, an aimless American in Paris, who is awaiting the return of his possible fiancée, Hella. While he awaits her answer as she mulls the question over in Spain, his head is turned to an Italian waiter, Giovanni. 

Giovanni is a young, hotheaded yet disenchanted man who left his hometown with unspoken grief under his belt. He lives in a cheap, tatty room where he and David spend most of their time together. They met each other through the dodgy older men who also have their eyes on Giovanni, Jacques and Guillaume. 

Upon Hella’s loving return, David has to decide which path he’ll pursue, one of social acceptability and family, or one with which he is truly enamoured but demands social alienation? 

Baldwin is a painfully expressive writer who perfectly captures the isolation of life away from home, while yearning for a life that you can never have. Baldwin crafts complex, if at times cruel, characters who reveal the tragic reality of a life forced in the shadows. 

5. ‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation’ by Otessa Moshfegh

As I say, I’m an emotionally intuitive reader. Sometimes I neglect my reading because my mood has no interest in anything at all. The thought of lifting a single finger fills me with indignation at the harshness of this world. 

The only way that I was going to pick up a book was if I could live out that feeling vicariously through a character with more destructive tendencies.

Our unnamed protagonist, a wealthy, beautiful New Yorker, has decided to sleep for a year. Resting on her parents’ inheritance and the rent of some tenants somewhere, she is living on takeaway and a litany of sleeping pills with the aim of resetting her mental health, or her ‘melancholy’. 

To the superficial glamour of 2000s diet culture and news of the world, we are met with complete apathy. 

Our languid leading lady is too pretty to notice the constant bombardment of fad diets and sex tips which are tearing her best friend, Reva, apart. She’s also too rich and lonely to feel attached to the unfolding of world events. 

Reva and her situation with her toxic Wall Street banker are the only people she has in the world. She’s sleeping until Summer 2001, but what kind of world will meet her when she finally decides to participate again?

6. ‘The Vanishing Half’ by Brit Bennett

Two sisters escaped from the small town in the American Deep South which is surrounded by hostility and racism. One has returned to her mother with a child and no husband. 

The other has married into the white suburbs and is passing as a white woman. Nobody knows her secret and she has not spoken to her sister in years. 

When two cousins meet by chance, the family secrets begin to unravel. Every detail is another layer in the complex dynamics of a household that has faced a myriad of traumas that only the small town understands. 

As the new generation tries to reunite the fragments of estranged women, decades of unspoken struggle and resentment come to the surface. 

Bennett’s style is great for those trying to get back into reading as her description is kept to the point without too many detours. You can be sure that every single page is relevant and has some heartwrenching detail lurking inside. 

7. ‘Death by Scrabble’ by Charlie Fish

If you’re really not in the mood for commitment, there’s still something out there for you. Death by Scrabble, although a little self-explanatory is the shortest story that I’ve given 5 stars. 

With only about 4 pages under its belt, Charlie Fish has written a masterclass in tension-building. We know only two things: a man is playing Scrabble with his wife, and he hates her. While not quite naturalistic, we see the very real undercurrents of an unhappy marriage with unpredictability in every paragraph. 

How ‘Mindful Moments for Busy Moms’ Gave Me Back My Sanity

TW/CW: mental illness/mental health disorders

Seriously. I treat this book like some children of God do the Holy Bible; I pour over it at times, and other times, I get busy and let it collect dust. Then I wonder why I feel so lost. Then I remember my book and begin again.

Recently, I’d lost track of it because I still had some things in boxes from my move. Luckily, it emerged one day not long ago, and I’m having a wonderful time revisiting its pages.

The timeless clarity of the message is right in the title: Mindful Moments for Busy Moms: Daily Meditations and Mantras for Greater Calm, Balance, and Joy.

This book really is divided into mindful moments, and each moment grants you a little wisdom. Mindful Moments for Busy Moms by Sarah Rudell Beach has become a valuable resource for me as a mother, and in all honesty, I do my best to use its teachings in all my relationships.

I can use what I’ve learned from this book in all my relationships because the universal message being taught is unconditional love for self and others. This book teaches you how to live your best life just by keeping your cool and staying in the moment. Easier said than done, as you may have guessed, so let’s dive right in.

This book is geared toward mothers with younger children, but I highly recommend it for any mother that is looking for any part of what’s promised in the title.

There’s only one reason this book gave me back my sanity: it doesn’t leave anything out. I’ve never found another book on mindfulness, nor motherhood, that touched on every need I had, and yet the language is so clear and concise.

This book truly is for the mother. You won’t find information about what stage of development your child “should” be in; you’ll find out how to be at peace with yourself and your child as you are right now.

This book truly is for the mother. You won’t find information about what stage of development your child “should” be in; you’ll find out how to be at peace with yourself and your child as you are right now.

There is a brief introduction that defines mindfulness and discusses why mothers need it. Beach states that while it’s not necessary to read the chapters in order, beginners in mindfulness should start with the first chapter before exploring the others.

The chapters are titled as follows:

  1. Begin — Mindful practices
  2. Starting the Day — Morning practices
  3. Nurture — Mindful motherhood
  4. Sustain — Mindfulness throughout your day
  5. Support — Mindfulness for difficult moments
  6. Together Time — Mindfulness with your kids
  7. Savor — Mindful appreciation
  8. Close of Day — Evening practices

You will not feel alone after reading even a fragment of this book. Beach touches on everything I could think of, except the specific challenge of parenting with mental illness. While chapter five discusses mindfulness for difficult moments, someone who lives and parents with mental illnesses might need a more in-depth investigation to really feel seen.

If you are the parent reading this who struggles with mental illness, please know that I’m right here with you — I didn’t even get my bipolar diagnoses until my mid-twenties after my son was born. I still recommend this book for you, along with this article if you need a parenting pick-me-up.

The more we practice pausing, the better we will get at it. The more we practice being fully present with our breath, the better we will become at being fully present with our children.
— Sarah Rudell Beach

Beach also teaches that, “It’s okay to not love every minute of it.”

This is a book that can be utilized by the beginner or the advanced mindfulness practitioner. The introduction and first chapter guide anyone new to mindfulness, and all of the mindful moments that make up the book are so unique and grounding, even the experienced practitioner’s interest will remain piqued until the end.

Every page is beautifully designed, containing two-three engaging and validating bits of information or mantras.

When you allow someone, even a book, to create a safe space for yourself, healing just might begin to take place.

Validation is a huge aspect of Mindful Moments for Busy Moms. The tone in the book is all about meeting you where you are. When you allow someone, even a book, to create a safe space for yourself, healing just might begin to take place.

This book helps me find my own strength and sanity any time I feel they’re lost to me. I’m reminded that it’s okay to have a hard time and not love every moment of motherhood. I’m reminded that even mothers who don’t have mental illnesses feel inadequate and insecure.

I’m reminded I’m not alone, nowhere close. Neither are you. If you have a hard time remembering that, I wholeheartedly recommend Mindful Moments for Busy Moms.