Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII by Gareth Russell

Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII



Color me impressed by this book.

It takes Catherine Howard, a woman who has been maligned by historians throughout the years, and turns her into a fleshed out person while not absolutely boring me in the process. Russel claims that she wasn’t ditzy, wasn’t stupid, and she had a very set personality. He also believes that Catherine never committed adultery with Culpepper, a theory that I’ve heard before.

While I’m still not buying the last half of that (because I think that there might have been something physical there and it wasn’t all just words or lies), I really found myself liking this Catherine. She was interesting. She had a personality. She wasn’t some little girl that Henry took an interest in, but really a woman who could have been a great queen because she was brought up in nobility. In some ways, she reminded me of myself. A penchant for getting things right, for not wanting to embarrass herself in front of everyone. And she got upset when someone did embarrass her in any way.

Russell structured giving her personality around explaining the history of her family and the times that they were in, showing how one influenced the other. I thought it was a bit heavy on explaining the history of those around her as opposed to her personal history, which is why I rated it four stars. Having read about this topic quite often, it just felt like but I also learned a lot more about foreign policies and specific family members she had that weren’t key players in the story that is usually presented about her life; that she had sex before Henry, cheated on him, which then led to her death. And that’s all her life amounted to.

In short, this book was beautifully written (seriously, it was for a history book) that challenged what has been said about Catherine Howard both in the past and now. He directly challenges quite a few theories and addresses various things by showing the logical conclusion. He shows what evidence is disregarded to get to those theories, then comes up with his own. That’s quite difficult to do since Tudor history is so talked about.

I found this to be a very refreshing book, one that I want to own and come back to one day to have a closer read.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)


2/5 – DNF

We were going to do a joint review, but decided against it so I’m posting my review here.

This didn’t work for me. Simple as that, really.

I love heist books, but this one lacked in something specific. Aka, this heist. This epic heist. I was over halfway through the book and the heist hadn’t even started yet. To tell you the truth, I could barely describe the plan of the heist or what it was for anyways. Why? Because it took so long. I’d go ages without hearing about the heist, which is why I’m using the word so much in my review. It was present, yet not. Which is hard because this book is focused around six people who do this.

Now, the plot lacks, but the characters were good. At least, I found them interesting. But then I got tired of hearing Inej pine about Kaz, Kaz hint at his past without giving me anything new each chapter he had, Matthias hate Nina, etc. It got repetitive. While they had developed pasts and this is a long book, the pages weren’t used to develop them or the plot. It felt like I was reading the same chapters over and over again.

So, basically, not for me. I’ve read heists books that were just as long (even longer) and used the pages perfectly. One day I might come back to this to see if my opinion changed, but for now this is how it stands.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

The Astonishing Color of After



CW: suicide, grief, and depression

Buddy read with Melanie @ meltotheany and Yusra @ themysticmango!

Is it sad that I didn’t think I would like this book? No, I’m serious. I didn’t think I would. I even chose it for my Book of the Month in March because it sounded interesting but I wasn’t convinced that it would be good for me.

Boy was I wrong.

I think that this is probably one of the most beautiful and poignant book I’ve read so far this year. It’s definitely in my top reads of this year, even this month. The writing for it is amazing. The story connects deeply on so many levels. The characters are imperfect and incredibly real.

This is the story of Leigh, a girl whose mom commits suicide and then turns into a bird, guiding her to reexamine her life. She travels to Taiwan to meet her grandparents for the first time, all in search of her mother and what she might have meant in her suicide note.

It’s told through flashbacks to Leigh’s life, her mother’s life, and her grandparent’s life. It tackles the issues of being an immigrant perfectly, of parents wanting to forget the old ways and their families at home. Having looked at immigrants and religion, I know the pattern. Usually, the kids want to go back and relearn the old ways that their parents shrugged off to live a fully American life. That’s what Leigh experiences; that desperate want to go back and discover her heritage while her mother just wants to forget.

The book also gives a gorgeous look at the stigma of mental illness. The different treatments her mom tries to battle her depression, how she sunk away, how it was hidden from her because it was considered “too much for a kid to understand,” and how it inevitably caught up with all of them before they realized what was happening.

While I am rating it five stars, I do have some issues with it. I wasn’t a fan of the magical realism side of things. I loved the bird and the metaphor of it. Religion was blended perfectly to make the religion real and active in the world. But, I didn’t really like the joint flashbacks and how Leigh had flashbacks to things that weren’t her own. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to believe it was going on.

But, that’s minor. That’s very minor. I was so caught up in the story that it didn’t impact my reading. I might have rolled my eyes a little bit or felt a bit like it was a convenient plot device, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and consider it one of my favorite books of the year so far.

Down the TBR Hole

Happy Royal Wedding Day, all! (Okay, it’s just me, then.) Whether or not you tune in, I hope you have a great Saturday!

Down the TBR Hole is a meme created by Lia @ Lost in a Story.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?


Wow I was angsty as a teen. Damn. This sounds like the ultimate teen angst book and that is not my life anymore.

Verdict: GO!

Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present

Chantel, if you read this tag I’ve done, this book sounds like the one for you. It gay and it’s nonfiction. This sounds a lot like another book I read in the past about Victorian friendships and romances between women.

Verdict: Keep

The Diary of Jack the Ripper

Almost 100% sure that I own this book. But I know that it likely isn’t real and that there have been confessions after the fact that it was forged. Still, it sounds fascinating and it’s a big chunk of modern Ripperology…

Verdict: Keep

Kleopatra (Kleopatra, #1)

I think that I’d rather read Margaret George’s book first. That sounds a lot better than this one.

Verdict: GO!

The Painted Girls

It sounds like it could be good, but I’d rather hear more about it before going and reading this. So…

Verdict: GO!

Gone with the Wind

This is kind of a classic that I would like to at least attempt because it does sound interesting. It’s a real American classic about what happened during the Civil War, after all.

Verdict: Keep

Little Women (Little Women, #1)

This is another book that I have in my head as “I should read this but do I really want to?” And the answer is no. Not really. It sounds boring and like it’d kill me with how perfect the whole thing is.

Verdict: GO!

Les Misérables

Another one that I actually want to read. Not because of the musical, actually. I thought that was pretty boring tbh. So, I want to read it because it genuinely looks like a good classic.

Verdict: Keep

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Can you tell that I was on a classics kick when I was adding this set of books? Not apparent to you? Well, this is one that I genuinely want to read AND have managed to get around reading spoilers of so it didn’t ruin my experience.

Verdict: Keep

A Room with a View

Yet another classic! And one that I want to read. I probably added it because I loved Forster’s Maurice (which is a fantastic novel, btw) and yeah. So I’ll read this one day.

Verdict: Keep


Last TBR: 2093

Books kept: 6

Books removed: 4

Current TBR: 2089

IT ACTUALLY WENT DOWN. Hopefully this trend stays the same!

Thanks for sticking around for this bimonthly tag! I hope you all actually have fun seeing what I added to my TBR in high school and never got around to reading.

First Lines Friday

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Caidyn will be in blue.
Chantel will be in purple.

TW: suicide

My mother is a bird. This isn’t some William Faulkner stream-of-consciousness metaphorical crap. My mother. Is literally. A bird.

I know it’s true the way I know the stain on the bedroom floor is as permanent as the sky, the way I know my father will never forgive himself. Nobody believes me, but it is a fact. I am absolutely certain.

This is a book I’m currently reading, one that people really love. (Literally, it has a 4.2/5 on GR. That’s pretty high.) And it’s a gorgeous book. Seriously. It’s YA and I like it. Someone call anyone who can help or explain.

The book is…

The Astonishing Color of After

I’m not loving this book, but I am really enjoying it. There are elements that I don’t like but, to me, they’re very minor things that I just don’t think work for the story. But, they’re not bad elements. If you want a book that portrays the effect of suicide, the stigma of mental illness, grief, and the desperate need to discover more about your family history, I highly recommend it.

A man in a blue coat crossed the common, and Deborah craned her neck to glance through the window. No, not the recruiter; no need to worry. She turned back to her weaving; the broad room on the ground floor of the Sproat Tavern was empty and silent. Another row of fabric emerged as she worked her shuttle through the wool. 

I know that was pretty short but honestly, I’m just glad to briefly talk about this book. I first heard about it on Jackson Byrd’s Youtube channel. Go check him and his Ted Talk out, he’s a transman and his videos have a lot to do with him being trans. Which I like. This book came from a recommendations video in which he talked about books about trans people. 

Now, this is also a historical novel set during the Revolutionary War, but I love the idea of queer stories from history being told. It’s one of my favorite things. 

This book is…

Revolutionary by Alex Myers

revolutionary cover

You guys, this book sounds fucking awesome. Alex Myers, the author, is not only trans himself, but he is a descendant of Deborah Samson who is the protagonist of the book. Imagine writing a novel about someone who was part of your bloodline who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Revolutionary War. That sounds pretty fucking cool if you ask me. I’m excited to read it as I’ve had it on my shelf for awhile and sounds right up my alley. 

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers



CW: family death, genocide, rape, and child soldiers

I think the hardest thing about this book is that I don’t know what to say about it. It was a good book, excellent at times. It hit me hard with what happened and what they went through. Yet, I felt like the writing could have drawn me in more and made me feel even more deeply with Loung Ung and what she went through.

By no means am I saying that this is a bad or unimportant book. As someone who had only heard the name “Pol Pot” in passing and had no idea what he was connected to, this book taught me more than I thought I would ever know about what happened in Cambodia.

This book is told from the perspective of a five-year-old. That was a double-edged sword. While I appreciate the ignorance and how true the author stayed to how she felt or what she knew — not what she remembered plus research to make it more polished — it also made it harder for me to get into. It took me the longest time to get into the book because I felt a disconnect between Loung and myself.

It follows her story carefully for the next four years, taking her from education camps to labor camps to a camp training child soldiers to fight against the Vietnamese (called Youn in this as a derogatory term). It follows her through the loss of family members, too. Their family of nine was whittled down to five. And then further because Loung went to America with one of her brothers.

Being someone incredibly close to my immediate family (for me, that’s my mom and dad), I can’t imagine how that felt and how to go through that in your formative years. The constant fear and starvation, knowing that you could be killed for no reason at all. It’s something that I can’t comprehend entirely.

So, while this book is a very important book — and I know that many Americans are as ignorant as I am; we talk about the Vietnam War but never the Cambodian genocide — I felt disconnected and apart from it for a while. I wanted it to have an emotional impact like The Best We Could Do, but it never got there for me.

Podcast review: Heaven’s Gate

Image result for heaven's gate podcast



TW: mass suicide and willing castration

I find “cults” interesting. (I’ll get to why I put that word in quotations in a moment.) I find their beliefs, their leaders, their followers, their operations, etc all fascinating. They captivate me and have since the Manson family. I read a huge book about Jim Jones and the path to Jonestown that was very impressive and fit my needs. I definitely thought about cults in the way that I’ve always been taught via the media.

Then, I took a course on New Religious Movements. We talked about Heaven’s Gate and other alien cults, but mainly this one. Because my professor wanted to challenge us and the way we thought. Before all of that, he explained to us what cult means in an academic way. Literally, it just means that it ascribes to the beliefs of a specific religion (i.e. Christianity) and then is a very different sect with different norms and beliefs.

That’s all it is.

No brainwashing. No mind control. Nothing.

That’s what most academics think about when they talk about cults. Now, some academics have tried to change it to the more modern/media inspired definition. But, I don’t think it works and I like the original definition best despite the connotation.

I really wish that this podcast had taken those definitions into account because while it was so even-handed when discussing the difficult sides of this religion (and I will call it a religion because that’s how people involved viewed and view it), it fell into the same trap of using the non-academic definition.

And, this podcast was super even-handed. It could have blasted Ti (Bonnie Nettles) and Do (Marshall Applewhite) and their beliefs and made a mockery of those involved. But it never forgot that real people with loved ones were still there. I loved being able to hear from old members who didn’t go to the next level (i.e. suicide) with the rest of the class because it gave such a unique insight into what was going on.

What this podcast comes down to, for me, was a way to help cement my thoughts that this wasn’t a cult in the modern sense. It was a cult in an academic sense, but everyone was there willingly. People left and did leave from its inception to when the tragedy happened. Everyone there wanted to be there. They genuinely believed Do because most of them were people who were religious seekers and already had been exposed to ideas like this. People who didn’t want to commit suicide didn’t and they left.

I definitely would recommend this podcast for those who want to know more about Heaven’s Gate. The religion’s website is also still up. It’s very interesting to look at and read articles off of, so if you’re interested the link is here. This podcast is great for those who know things about it already and those who know basically nothing besides the name, but it has a bias where it wants you to think about this as a cult in the non-academic sense.

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

The Unbinding of Mary Reade


1.5/5 – DNF at 36%

TW: homophobia, transphobia, and sexism

Thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy! This did not affect my rating/review.

Well, no one is more disappointed than I am. I thought that I would love or, at least, really enjoy this book. But I didn’t.

This book is a retelling of Mary Reade’s life. It’s well-known that she dressed as a male after her older half-brother died and her mother needed more income. This book takes that and then expands it to encompass a girl who is very masculine (in some ways, reminded me of my transman experience) discovering that the world isn’t accepting of her, along with discovering her sexuality.

It’s told through flashbacks to 1717 and further back to show what happened in Mary’s life. What brought her to 1719 where she’s on a ship and meets Anne Bonny where, obviously, a romance develops.

But… I didn’t like it.

For a book about pirates, it was so dreadfully boring. It was dull to the extreme. I was tired of reading about pirates not doing anything. Literally, any time in the present (aka 1719) was filled with Mary and Anne’s relationship, with basically involved hashing out the same things over and over again. Which got boring.

Then, the flashbacks were full of Mary pining after two people (one man, one woman) and trying to figure out who she is.

While I really enjoyed the discovery part of it — because, it reminded me of that conflicted feeling of being trans; which is why I’d call Mary queer with both her gender and sexuality — it got dull after I realized it was going to be repeated over and over again with the same things coming up.

It didn’t help that I didn’t think that Mary and Anne’s relationship was convincing. It sort of just happened after there was very little chemistry between them. The chemistry set in more after they were together. And, well, I didn’t think it worked.

The writing was bland, the characters never stood out, and I didn’t like the slightly anachronistic feel I was getting from it. Sadly, it felt like the book was going to get a bit better where I DNFed it, but I couldn’t bring myself to keep reading and trying it. I could barely remember what I read each chapter because they were so alike.

In other words, a book that wasn’t for me.

Blocsar Award

Okay so we got nominated for this AGES ago. But we’re here now. We’re totally here doing it.

Thank you so much to Catherine @ thisisoneforthebooks for nominating us! We’re totally shocked and honored.

This special award by Ultimatetravel is to nominate all the bloggers that have been working hard for our entertainment and fun. The categories are for the best Travellers, Writers, Poets, Artists, Beauticians, Photographers, People-who-help-others-through-their-experiences-in-life, and many more.

But, onto the questions!
Caidyn will be in blue.
Chantel will be in purple.

When did you start blogging?

We started back in March of last year, so we recently celebrated our one-year blogiversary!

Just as Caidyn said, March of 2017. We created the blog in one afternoon and we’re still going strong a year later.

Why did you start blogging?

Because of Chantel. I’ve tried to blog numerous times but I never got into it. So I’d quit and delete the blog.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up a blog on my own, we had already started our two-person book club so working together and keeping each other in check.

What is your blog about?

I don’t even think we know.
It started as a book club thing (which, really, is only the two of us so is it really a club?) and then morphed into something insane. Especially with our bickering.

Primarily we talk about books, but we’ve also branched out to other things we like such as movies, tv shows, podcasts, and music. Mostly it’s just a place for us to rave about our favorite things.

What’s your favourite quotation?

Mine is from The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. I know I’ve posted it on here before, but I can’t remember what.

I like to imagine the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and types of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.

When Caidyn was a depressed teenager, that quote really spoke to him.

Mine is from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee which we both read last year.

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” 

It was definitely a favorite quote from a book I grew to love.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

London. 100% London.

I don’t go on holidays.

Are you the type of person that meticulously researches a holiday trip or do you just go with the flow?

Depends! I prefer going with the flow and having a rough idea of things that I want to do/see, then check those off as I go through the trip. But, I want to meticulously plan things like cost, where I’m sleeping, and safety of where I am.

I would definitely plan out where I’m going to sleep and eat but other than that I would probably go with the flow. 

What means of travel do you enjoy the most?

Airplanes. Especially first class. Because you get free booze and comfy seats.

I really enjoy driving as long as there are frequent breaks for longer rides. 

What’s your favourite colour and why?

Blue! I like lighter shades, but I also like dark blues as well. Yellow used to be my favorite color, but we got a dog named Blue and I kind of latched onto that.

I couldn’t tell you, honestly. I really like navy blue, red, and purple. I’m not sure why but I usually latch onto those colors. 

What are your hobbies?

Reading, blogging, gramming, working, rewatching TV shows. Oh, and learning languages. I love that hobby.

Reading, watching tv and movies, listening to music, and writing. 

What’s your favourite type of music?

Alternative. So, think of twenty-one pilots (which aren’t my favorite), My Chemical Romance, Panic! at the Disco, etc. I also love rap, classical, and basically anything else.

I’m currently listening to Britney Spears greatest hits. No joke. I love a lot of music, but I’d say my favorite is most likely going to be 90’s pop music. Good times. 

Now, like usual, we’re not going to nominate people because we think everyone we follow or who follows this deserves it! If you want to do this, feel free to!!

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard, #3)



TW: attempted rape, death, and murder

Well. That was a disappointment.

I gave Red Seas Under Red Skies five stars because I had been so taken in by the characters and the plot and everything about it that I hadn’t been able to believe it. And now, after reading this since February, I’m kind of disappointed. The last 100 pages were fantastic and the first 100-200 pages were great, but the middle really lagged.

This is basically going to be a list of things I wished had been different.

I wish that Sabetha had been introduced before this. She’s been hinted at for two books and this was it. And she didn’t impress me, nor did the relationship she had with Locke. As another reviewer said, they never exactly had chemistry on the page. A whole lot of tension, but convincing romance? Nope.

I really wanted her to stand out like the female characters from Red Seas but she didn’t. And I think that it would have been better if she had been in previous flashbacks from other books so we could get a taste of her character before she was there on the page. Get a taste for their relationship, too.

Because, I have to say, the flashbacks didn’t help much. They were mainly combative and not the type of relationship that I really root for. And that was the same case in the actual story. They seemed to hate each other so much that it never convinced me to root for their relationship. I wanted them to either shut up and get over themselves or fuck like bunnies until it was all done and exhaust each other.

Then, the plot. It was weak. The flashback’s plot was a bit stronger, but not by much. It was stretched over nearly 700 pages and there weren’t enough twists and turns to make it stay interesting for me. The twists came from Sabetha and Locke’s frustrating relationship… but they weren’t really twists since it was the same song and dance over and over again.

While I did enjoy this, about half the book could have been edited and cut out to make it a stronger plot that was actually focused on the political intrigue that was at the heart. Seriously, I forgot about it because it was so nonexistent, which reminds me of how Six of Crows was totally about a heist but 50% into the book the said heist never had started.

This is a great series, but this is also the weakest book in it.