Juliet the Maniac by Juliet Escoria || ARC Review

Date Published: May 7, 2019
Genre: Fiction
Number of Pages: 320

Synopsis

A shockingly dark, funny, and heartbreaking portrait of a young teenager’s clash with mental illness and her battle toward understanding and recovery.

Ambitious, talented 14-year-old honors student Juliet is poised for success at her Southern California high school. However, she soon finds herself on an increasingly frightening spiral of drug use, self-harm, and mental illness that lands her in a remote therapeutic boarding school, where she must ultimately find the inner strength, and determination, to survive.

Review

I am still slightly confused if this was a fiction novel or a non-fiction memoir. Is it something called Autofiction?? It’s noted as a fiction novel honing in on mental health.

To me, this wasn’t a memorable book — There were a lot of drugs, fighting with parents, and suicide attempts. It felt redundant. You could feel the story happening and honestly, I wasn’t surprised when her parents dropped her off at a school in the woods.

I feel bad for disliking Juliet the Maniac because it does fall into the strange auto fiction realm meaning that this is Juliet’s story with some artistic range. I feel bad rating someone else’s trauma and experiences? This is the first time that I feel weird about it.

Additionally for a book like this, you really shouldn’t judge the book by its cover. It’s not the warm, fuzzy young adult novel you would be expecting. I also don’t remember thinking this was a funny novel — Juliet’s story was just intense.

I’m rating Juliet the Maniac as a solid 2 out of 5 stars.

Well, Maybe I Found My Words.

But more and more frequently, I find myself at a loss for words.

Hence the amount of time since my last post (whoops). Back in May I got an email from Tumblr celebrating that my account had been opened for nine years. That obviously peaked my attention, so I went on a deep dive into my younger life throughout the end of high school and into college. It had the typically re-blogged pictures and also a boat-load of writing about the current events in my life.

I think that part of being young and truthfully not knowing anything, you feel like everything is the end of the world. I don’t quite know when that flip switched because I no longer feel like every day events are the end of the world nor do I feel like my life is regularly imploding.

But I will say, the one thing that I found the most interesting about past-Alexis is the brutal honesty that came with my thoughts. I guess at the time I wasn’t afraid to voice my opinion, but I was also younger and didn’t know as much about the world. I loved the beauty in the pictures and the simplicity in the words. I still really love to look back at that account because it still is and feels like a piece of me.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. Fearless. I remember the time when I was fearless and I could conquer every task that was put in front of me regardless of every thing else. I think part of what extinguished the fire in my soul has been the waiting on my clearance (almost 30 months and counting..) Reflecting on it, I feel like I lost a piece of myself in the process. Hanging on, waiting for them to say “yes, here it is.”

At the beginning of 2019 I said that my word of the year was intentional and I’m not quite sure if I’ve been living out that word to the extent that I wanted to. I want to make intentional choices and to have intentional friendships. I want to keep my promises to others + myself.

This is obviously still going to be a blog about books, but it also says right in the name, Arguably Alexis. This is the place for my thoughts on books and my journey in life.

Here’s to turning 25, getting engaged and to figuring out what I want this crazy life to be.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis || Book Review

I’m going to be honest: I got this from NetGalley within the last couple months. I’m unsure how because it was published over a year ago. Technically it could’ve been an advanced reader copy, but I’ve been seeing this self-help book on the shelf for so long, I don’t personally feel like I can classify it as an “ARC.”

Date Published: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Self-Help/Non-Fiction
Number of Pages: 240

Synopsis

With wry wit and hard-earned wisdom, popular online personality and founder of TheChicSite.com founder Rachel Hollis helps readers break free from the lies keeping them from the joy-filled and exuberant life they are meant to have.

Founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com and CEO of her own media company, Chic Media, Rachel Hollis has created an online fan base of hundreds of thousands of fans by sharing tips for living a better life while fearlessly revealing the messiness of her own. Now comes her highly anticipated first book featuring her signature combination of honesty, humor, and direct, no-nonsense advice.

Each chapter of Girl, Wash Your Face begins with a specific lie Hollis once believed that left her feeling overwhelmed, unworthy, or ready to give up. As a working mother, a former foster parent, and a woman who has dealt with insecurities about her body and relationships, she speaks with the insight and kindness of a BFF, helping women unpack the limiting mind-sets that destroy their self-confidence and keep them from moving forward.

From her temporary obsession with marrying Matt Damon to a daydream involving hypnotic iguanas to her son’s request that she buy a necklace to “be like the other moms,” Hollis holds nothing back. With unflinching faith and tenacity, Hollis spurs other women to live with passion and hustle and to awaken their slumbering goals.

Review

As I mentioned in my disclaimer, I have zero clue how this was still on NetGalley as an advanced reader copy… But I saw it and I had heard some people ranting and some people raving about it, so I wanted to give it a shot. Truthfully, I had never heard of Rachel Hollis before (even when I was hearing the name of her book). I have no idea that she was an internet sensation or that she ran a lifestyle blog. It was just the title of the book that drew me in. Like girl — wash your face; get up off the floor and do the damn thing.

“Someone else’s opinion of you is none of YOUR business”

Rachel Hollis, Girl, Wash Your Face

I’ll admit that I was given a bit of a heads up about the faith aspect of Girl, Wash Your Face. I don’t know if it would’ve caught me off guard if I hadn’t been warned, but the messages she speaks about transcend the boundaries of individual religions.

I had just a few small issues with Girl, Wash Your Face. The first (and most major) issue was that the editors didn’t seem to place all of the stories so well throughout the book. There were several pieces that seemed out of order that could’ve easily been fixed by rearranging chapters. It would’ve also removed some of the repetitiveness of Rachel’s ideas.

The second issue that bothered me was Rachel Hollis’ “I’m so awesome. This worked for me so it’s going to work for all of you” vibe. As a motivational writer, I completely understand the need to put her best self forward to influence her readers, but at the same time it often came off as pushy and inauthentic.

I’ve discussed in-depth some of the motives behind this book with some of my close friends. There were some resounding pieces that stuck with each of us that I believe should be noted for you!

  1. If we make promises to other people, why can’t we keep promises to ourselves? If you set a goal for yourself, you are promising yourself that you are going to accomplish that task. Maybe its a goal as simple as drinking 100oz of water a day. When you don’t keep up with a goal that you’ve set forward for yourself, you are breaking a promise to yourself.
  2. Remember that you as a human are doing awesome. You cannot base your day on every little thing exceeding expectations. You don’t have to love what you’re doing every second of every day, but remember that you are human and you are doing your very best.

My biggest take away was the promises you make to yourself are the promises you should keep. Typically you make promises to a friend, you keep them. Why is it so easy to break a promise to yourself?

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Colored: the unsung life of Claudette Colvin by Emilie Plateau || ARC Review

Date Published: April 17, 2019
Genre: Graphic Novel/Non-Fiction
Number of Pages: 134

Synopsis

Based on the book “Noire” by Tania de Montagne

A few months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, kicking off the U.S. civil rights movement, making headlines around he world and becoming an enduring symbol of the fight for dignity and equality, another young black woman refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was the wrong person at the right time, and so History did not choose her. Her name was Claudette Colvin and this is her story.

Review

Colored: the unsung life of Claudette Colvin isn’t a book that I would usually pick up from the library, but when I was scrolling through NetGalley, the title of the novel caught my eye. As a graphic novel, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of storytelling with pictures versus words. 

Every student in the United States who has passed middle school has heard the name Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., but has anyone ever heard of Claudette Colvin? This is one of those moments where I feel that our education system has let down the students. Why is it that we only hear the names of one or two influential African American individuals, when there is clearly a larger story?

Colored: The Unsung Life of Claudette Colvin gives us a beautiful, and heart wrenching story of a young 15 year old African American woman who was raised by her family in Montgomery, Alabama. Claudette attends school and follows the rules of transportation just like all her classmates, but when confronted to give up her seat to a white man, she says no because she has paid her ticket just like everyone else. This sets off a cascading series of events where she is arrested and is tried as an adult for her crimes.

The story of Claudette Colvin is told in a simple way; one that would easily transcend high school classrooms around the country. The graphics further provide a sense of the feeling from the time, that you can’t understand from the words on the page. The graphics are able to provide a glimpse into the history of the moment – the police pulling Claudette off the bus, Rosa Park’s receiving national attention for not giving up her seat on the bus, the men taking over the boycott. 

The introduction to Claudette’s story takes the reader to a place where you are supposed to leave your environment and focus solely on the story of Claudette. Emile Plateau instructs the reader to take a deep breath and envision yourself moving from your location through time and ultimately ending up in the 1950s as a colored person from Alabama. That imagery takes a hold of the reader – especially one that has learned about United States history and segregation in the South during that time. 

Another key piece of history that is shown through Claudette’s life is how the men of the 1950s believed that they were better equip at handling the legal problems of the African American population. The story shows how they did not fully explain what was happening in the courts to the women and discarded the women who were no longer necessary to their court case. 

How many of you have heard of Mary Louise Smith or Jeanetta Reese? How many of you have heard of Claudette Colvin? 

Colored: the unsung life of Claudette Colvin was simple and powerful. I would recommend to anyone interested in another truth of history.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

AMC Stubs A-List || January through April

Last year I hoped onto the MoviePass train. Full steam ahead, I loved it. Originally I could see any movie that I wanted to, as many times as I wanted to see it for a yearly flat rate. As many people know MoviePass completely flopped in the later half of 2018 — it became more strict, had limitations, changed their rules of viewing, etc. It was a pain in the butt. Slowly but surely I stopped using MoviePass and I missed going to the movie theater on a random Tuesday evening. It was nice to have an activity to do outside the house that wasn’t costing an additional amount of money every week.

So in late December, being fed up with MoviePass and searching for something new, we found out about AMC Stubs A-List. It has been INCREDIBLE. Similar to MoviePass, I can see any movie that I want – and it started out with a limitation of 3 movies a week, which works out great because I can’t watch that many movies in a week (I’ve only used all three once!). I can also watch movies in any of the 600+ AMC theaters across the United States.

So far it’s been a truly awesome experience and I’ve seen SO many movies that I likely wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

  1. Aquaman – December 30, 2018
  2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – January 1, 2019
  3. Vice – January 5, 2019
  4. Ralph Breaks the Internet – January 9, 2019
  5. Mary Poppins Returns – January 19, 2019
  6. Glass – January 27, 2019
  7. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – February 9, 2019
  8. What Men Want – February 10, 2019
  9. Isn’t It Romantic – February 17, 2019
  10. Fighting With My Family – February 21, 2019
  11. A Star Is Born Encore – March 2, 2019
  12. Captain Marvel – March 7, 2019
  13. Green Book – March 9, 2019
  14. Us – March 22, 2019
  15. Five Feet Apart – April 6, 2019
  16. Shazam! – April 10, 2019
  17. Pet Sematary – April 22, 2019
  18. Avengers: End Game – April 25, 2019 (upcoming!!)

So as you can see, I watch on average one new movie every week! I made a goal back in January to see 30 new movies during 2019. This goal was to include other movies that were released in the past that I just never took the time to see, but I’m going to hit 30 new movies released in 2019 which is pretty neat to me.

Does anyone else use AMC Stubs A-List? How many movies have you seen so far this year?

The Eighth Sister by Robert Dugoni || ARC Review

Date Published: April 9, 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Mystery
Number of Pages: 437

Synopsis

Former CIA case officer Charles Jenkins is a man at a crossroads: in his early sixties, he has a family, a new baby on the way, and a security consulting business on the brink of bankruptcy. Then his former bureau chief shows up at his house with a risky new assignment: travel undercover to Moscow and locate a Russian agent believed to be killing members of a clandestine US spy cell known as the seven sisters.

Desperate for money, Jenkins agrees to the mission and heads to the Russian capital. But when he finds the mastermind agent behind the assassinations—the so-called eighth sister—she is not who or what he was led to believe. Then again, neither is anyone else in this deadly game of cat and mouse.

Pursued by a dogged Russian intelligence officer, Jenkins executes a daring escape across the Black Sea, only to find himself abandoned by the agency he serves. With his family and freedom at risk, Jenkins is in the fight of his life—against his own country.

Review

Last year I was introduced to Robert Dugoni when I received a copy of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell from NetGalley. Looking back at my review I was entranced by the way Dugoni wrote, so I was excited when I saw another novel pop up written by him.

There are two very different parts of this mystery thriller. The first half of the novel we follow Charlie Jenkins as he travels into Russia in order to work in undercover job for the CIA. He’s provided information by an individuals who he believes is working for the CIA and it’s in order to provoke a response to find a worm within the agency.

The second half of the novel was more of a courtroom drama. Charlie Jenkins makes his way back to the United States and escapes Viktor Federov, but finds that he has a new enemy — the US government. There has never been a US citizen who has successfully defended themselves in a court of law against the US government when it comes to a treason and espionage. Will Charlie be able to prove his innocence? Is Charlie innocent?

I found the first half of the novel harder to get through than the second half, which was incredibly surprising to me. I wasn’t expecting it to be 50-50% spy novel and courtroom drama. From the synopsis, I was thinking it would be more of a complete spy drama where he still had to deal with the consequences when he finally made his way back to the United States. However, when he hits US soil, the entire viewpoint of the story changes and it’s the US vs Jenkins.

But here’s the thing: I picked up the novel thinking it was going to be a spy drama the whole way through and I was excited about it… only to figure out that I really didn’t enjoy the first half of the novel.

I like Dugoni’s writing style — his characters jump off the page and he takes the time to fully develop them throughout the course of each book. I was pulled in with the concept of these sisters operating in Russia and the backstory to find out who the sisters are and what their lives were like. However, the biggest disappointment for me was that it stopped being about the sisters! How are you going to name the book The Eighth Sister and then completely dodge the rest of the story about them….

Rating

I’ll give The Eighth Sister a rating of 3/5 stars. I imagine that this will become a series of novels about Charlie Jenkins and I’ll likely give the next book a shot.

⭐⭐⭐

Three Little Lies by Laura Marshall || ARC Review

So I have to admit that I am very behind on reading this Advanced Reader Copy of Three Little Lie by Laura Marshall. I received it from NetGalley after it was released last September, but I have no good excuse for why it took me so long to get to it.

Date Published: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Thriller
Number of Pages: 352

Synopsis

When Sasha disappears, Ellen fears the worst. Then long-buried secrets resurface, Ellen realizes she may not know Sasha — or what she’s capable of — at all.

2005: 17 year old Ellen falls under the spell of glamorous newcomer, Sasha. As Ellen is welcomed into Sasha’s family, she doesn’t see the darkness that lies beneath their musical, bohemian lifestyle. At a New Year’s Eve party, events come to a dramatic head, resulting in a court case (in which Ellen is a key witness) that means family life at the Corner House will never be the same again.

2018: Now 30, Ellen and Sasha are still entwined in each other’s lives and sharing a flat in London. When Sasha disappears, Ellen fears the worst. She has gone missing like this before and the police won’t take it seriously, but long-buried events in their shared past mean that Ellen has good reason to be frightened – not only for Sasha, but also for herself. Finding out the truth about what really happened on New Year’s Eve twelve years ago puts Ellen in terrible danger, and forces her to confront not only the past, but how well she really knows her best friend.

My Review

This was the novel that I needed to get me back on my reading game. Three Little Lies was a quick read. I started at around 9:45 AM and was finished by the time I went to bed in the evening after working a shift at the bar. This was the first novel that I’ve read by Laura Marshall. I enjoyed the pace of the story and how she developed her characters, especially the storyline of Ellen. I was impressed by the way Ellen’s perspective changed throughout the novel — a once loyal best friend learns that maybe her best friend isn’t exactly as she always seemed. You can see how friendships and family’s shift in times of grief and tragedy.

Three Little Lies touches on a tough topic, but it was handled well. Seeing the perspective of a mother in the courthouse watching her child sitting on the stand was stressful for me as a reader. Reading Olivia’s thoughts as she hears all of the terrible things her son, Daniel, is accused of, really brings to light the struggle of family trust. Do you always believe your child? Or do you believe the law? How do we know if the criminal justice system is flawed?

I will say that the reason I wasn’t completely blown away by this book is because the ending fell flat to me. As a reader, I was trying to guess how it was going to end, and Laura Marshall was able to pull off a huge twist — but then there were more pages to the novel and it didn’t end as strong.

Overall, I liked this book. I’m going to check out Laura Marshall’s other novels as well because I enjoyed her writing style and the flow of the novel.

Rating

⭐⭐⭐

Working back into the Reading + Blogging Universe (IMWAYR #32)

Hi there readers. It’s been quite some time since I’ve taken the time to sit down and write. This is mainly due to the lack of reading that I’ve been doing, but also due to the lack of reflection going on in my life.

I’ve spent the last month and a half in this book-less trap. My goal of reading one book from my own bookshelf each month placed me in a challenging position because the first two books I picked up from my shelf in January and February I just could not get through. I was feeling defeated. And then I was behind on reading books that I loaned from the library… and it was honestly a downward spiral. So, I chose to not read. I actively made the choice to leave the books on the shelf and not subject myself to more personal annoyance.

Honestly though, I think it was for the best. Yesterday I picked up a book for the first time since the very beginning of March and I demolished it. I tore through the pages of Three Little Lies by Laura Marshall like I needed the words in my lungs to breathe. I don’t remember the last time I finished a book in less than 24 hours. It’s been a while…But it was the perfect novel for me to pick up with its suspenseful background.

So I would like to say that I’m back — but we all know how life goes. I don’t want to be frustrated with my passion for reading. I don’t want reading to feel like a chore because it takes the enjoyment out of the relaxation time. I’m hear to remind you that it is okay to take a break and focus on other aspects of your life. It is okay to remove the general annoyance and return to your passion when you are ready.

I think I’m ready. Without placing too much pressure on myself, my goal is to get through my remaining NetGalley reads in April. There are four books on the list, so it’s possible to read one a week (if my heart desires). We’ll see what happens.

I hope all is well.

What I Read Last Week

Three Little Lies
By: Laura Marshall

What I’m Reading This Week

The Eighth Sister
By: Robert Dugoni

Maid by Stephanie Land|| ARC Review

Date Published: January 22, 2019

Publisher: Hatchette Books

Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir

Synopsis: Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich. 

“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”

While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.

While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.

Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the “servant” worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children.

Thoughts + Feelings: Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mothers Will to Survive was incredibly frustrating to read. Stephanie Land was dealt challenging cards in life. She became pregnant in an abusive relationship, left that relationship without a steady income, struggled to find affordable housing, entered into more unstable and unreliable relationships, continued to make poor choices with any extra source of income, and so on and so forth.

I was really looking forward to reading this memoir because I was expecting to learn more about the profession of being a maid — crazy right? I was disappointed in the lack of story revolving around being a maid.

One piece of the story that has stuck with me is that Stephanie didn’t appear to fit the “stereotype” of the individuals we associate with needing to go to the government for help. Often times we jump to conclusions about individuals who use government services, although the services are there for a reason and there is absolutely nothing bad about utilizing the services that we have provided to us. It was a big check to my own privilege – things can happen to anyone; it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like or where you’re from.

However I was left with quite a few questions… Why does Stephanie have zero savings? Why does she buy herself a $200 diamond ring when she receives a $4000 tax refund instead of moving herself and her daughter, Mia, out of an apartment with black mold??

I tried not to judge while reading the memoir because each person gets to make their own decisions and its hard to say what choices you’ll make when faced with a challenging question. But there is also a point where you have to stop and reflect on your choices in the moment and figure out what the heck you’re doing.

I originally rated this book as an average novel, but now I feel like it was 2/5 stars. While I understand that this is representative of Stephanie Land’s life, she was repetitive in her novel and quite irresponsible with her child. I hope that as her success takes off, both as a student and a writer, that Stephanie has learned how to manage her time, money and lifestyle.

Rating: ⭐⭐

The Sky Alone for Us by Kristin Russell || Book Review

Date: January 8, 2019

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary

Synopsis: In Strickland County, there isn’t a lot of anything to go around. But when eighteen-year-old Harlowe Compton’s brother is killed by the Praters—the family who controls everything, from the mines to the law—he wonders if the future will ever hold more than loss. Until he meets Tennessee Moore.

With Tennessee, Harlowe feels for the first time that something good might happen, that he might’ve found the rarest thing of all: hope. Even as she struggles with the worst of the cards she’s been dealt, Tennessee makes Harlowe believe that they can dare to forge their own path—if they only give it a shot.

But as Harlowe searches for the answers behind his brother’s death, his town’s decay, and his family’s dysfunction, he discovers truths about the people he loves—and himself—that are darker than he ever expected. Now, Harlowe realizes, there’s no turning back.

A powerful story of first love, poverty, and the grip of the opioid crisis in the rural South, Kristin Russell’s gorgeous debut novel asks a universal question: When hope seems lost, are dreams worth the risk?

Thoughts + Feelings: My thoughts about A Sky Alone for Us is complicated because Kristin Russell was attempting to tackle some very difficult issues: grief, the Opioid epidemic, police corruption. Like I said… complicated. For a young adult fiction novel, Russell tried to throw so many different issues into a 330ish page book and she wasn’t quite able to execute tackling these issues to the extent that she was hoping to hit.

The book opens with Harlowe Compton’s brothers murder on the front porch of their trailer. Immediately we’re thrown into the complex nature of small towns in rural Appalachia. We learn about the Prater’s and their control of the town, including the major source of work (mining) and the police force. No one wants to stomp on their toes or it’s possible that your family will be left without income, or worse.  

The most redeeming quality of A Sky Alone for Us was the support system that Harlowe had built around him in the wake of his mother’s drug addiction, his father’s absence and his brother’s death. His support system was built around the Draughn’s (family friends), but also the small-town members including the woman from the grocery store and his new neighbors, Tennessee and Omie. I have a hard time classifying this as a romance novel in any capacity, but there are small moments of friends, love and intimacy between Harlowe and Tennessee. This was another piece that seems thrown into the novel and didn’t quite work. 

Like my review, this book was all over the place. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 Stars; Average)