When Holidays Are More Than Home and Happy

I believe that everyone remembers the first time they were asked to step outside their own experience of the world and realize that life weaves itself differently for every new person who enters it. The first time I realized my life wasn’t everyone’s “normal” was the first time I had a friend who wasn’t looking forward to going home for the holidays over winter break – because their aunt would drink too much, because their family was complicated, because mom and dad would fight, because there was a good chance half their siblings wouldn’t show up.

In the midst of a season that is designed to cater to families, couples, home, cozy, and happiness, this moment is for those for whom holidays hold a tinge of sadness alongside all the magic. Maybe you just need a reminder to take the time to care for yourself. Maybe you need someone to emphasize that it’s okay to hurt and it’s okay to take the time to protect yourself.

If your holiday means putting some distance between you and the system you grew up in, know that you’re attempting to do one of the hardest things in the world and it’s okay that it’s hard. Families form us and they can also hurt us, and sometimes one of the best things to do is step back, step aside, and make sure you’re surrounded by people who love you even if they’re not the people who bore you. This is true and valid even if the hurt stems from a place filled with the best intentions. Sometimes the people who love us can so badly want the best for us that the way they try to get there seems cloudy.

If your holiday feels like a time when you surround yourself with people who aren’t safe or don’t really know you, whether that be sexuality, gender identity, religion, or just the general existential crisis, take a breath. If you don’t like the way your life is going, take a breath. If you’re not sure you’ve made the right decisions or you’re just generally overwhelmed with how the heck you got to where you are now, take a breath.

Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling. It’s okay to process through your feelings even if you can’t articulate exactly why they’re there. It’s okay to allow yourself to work through hurt, anger, pain, frustration, betrayal, and grief. It’s equally okay to put those feelings aside until you get through the weekend or the season.

Feel free to set boundaries. You don’t walk to talk about politics? Step out. Family asking questions you don’t have answers to? “I’d rather not discuss that right now, thank you.” Situations you’re already aware might lead to complete and utter chaos? Communicate where your lines are. Communicate areas that are safe. And feel free to step out or step away or leave completely if that’s required once those lines are crossed.

Check your feelings with people who are outside the system. Shoot a text to a friend and ask if you’re really the worst person in the world, because chances are it’s very likely that you’re not. Sometimes we need an outside voice to speak truth into a pattern we’ve been living out for years – and sometime it’s nice to have all those suspicions and hurt feelings we’ve been stomping down validated. Even if it’s just to hear “they shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry.”

Finally, for those in the midst of dark, overwhelming, heavy, big feelings. Please stay safe this holiday season. Know that that’s exactly what it is – a season. It, this, those feelings, and this chaos will pass as long as you continue to wake up every morning and keep breathing. And if it gets exceptionally overwhelming, here are some numbers for people who are there literally just to talk and encourage you:

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433

Hearing & Speech Impaired: 1-800-799-4889

National Runaway Safeline: 1-800-786-2929

The Trevor Project for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth: 1-866-488-7386

Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

I’ve always felt like I’ve had a safe home to go back to for the holidays. Sure, we have our issues (and even that can feel overwhelming sometimes), but I’ve never questioned my family’s love for me. It still rocks my mind that this isn’t the normative experience, and I’ve always wondered what I can do to help.

Grab a friend. Bring them home. Keep your phone close for those who need help. Validate, validate, validate. Encourage those who are taking steps towards healing. And love those around you like crazy. This season is magic, and everyone gets to be part of spreading that magic.

Just remember that this season wouldn’t be anything without the people you love. And remember there’s always someone out there who loves you, even if it’s family that you chose not family you were given.

And us little witches are always here if you need to rant, vent, or cry. OR CELEBRATE THOSE STEPS TOWARDS BRAVERY.

We love you, beans! Merry OFFICIAL Christmas season.

-B-

April’s Annual (Bookish) Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again- the biggest shopping weekend is on the horizon and absolutely everyone I know is having a sale of some sort. It’s absolute chaos and totally counter-intuitive to the #bookstagram FOMO I have been trying to ignore. Will my steely reserve I’ve been building up break this weekend, or will I hold true and not spend a penny? (That’s totally rhetoric, you know damn well, I’ll break…)

Without much more yabbering from me, let’s just get into the meat of it all- THE GOODS. Below is a list of (some of my favorite) small businesses with the perfect gifts for book lovers of all kinds, included with their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale information (if available).


The Melting Library, my favorite candle making boss babe- so naturally she’s at the top of the list, I realize that’s all bias, but I am writing this so it’s full of bias and I have no shame in forcing my favorites into your faces.

A (primarily) bookish candle company that has celebrated it’s third anniversary this year, Raquel is constantly striving to bring you creative, one of a kind ideas. This Holiday season she has created  several new scents and even a bookish candle advent calendar (yeah, you heard me).

24 Days of Litmas is a tealight signature The Melting Library scent for every day of the holidays, and with a LIMITED quantity available… May the odds be ever in your favor.

 Along with her classic Christmas/Holiday collection (complete with new Wizard themed candles, and all the glorious alliteration she is becoming known for) she has recently introduced wood wicks to her line of candles, and they are as dreamy as they look, I can promise you that. Hand poured into amber colored jars, wood wicks provide that aesthetically pleasing crackle while also maintaining a classic look that appeals to any decor or style. 

The biggest sale of the year is this Friday, so if you’ve been dying to get your hands on a TML candle, I would say now is the best time!

Keep up to date with The Melting Library  on Instagram

Little Inklings Designs, home of the Always Fully Booked planner.  Megan is one of the most hard working individuals I know, and one of my favorite humans on this planet. Again, my bias is showing, but I warned you so-

Megan originally was known for her bookmarks and word art, but last year after her search for a planner yielded no results that suited her, she created her own with a twist unique to her and the book community. Always Fully Booked sold out fast, and people were still clamoring for it. She also created A Novel Companion, an undated, smaller version of the planner. Following huge success last year, she is back again this year with an even BIGGER and BETTER Always Fully Booked planner.

Pre-orders are already closed, but BUT there will be a LIMITED amount of the planners available this Friday, November 23rd, at MIDNIGHT EST. There will also be a small restock of the Novel Companion. Once both have sold out, they will NOT be restocked. These planners are themed with the book lover/ Bookstagrammer in mind, but work equally as well as a daily planner.

Along with the restock of planners, Little Inklings is also releasing three new mug designs. Black Friday sales include 20% off  ALL bookmarks and a LAST CHANCE section of retired products returned at a deeply discounted price.

Little Inklings Design is also on Society6, where you can find Megan’s designs on a whole boatload of products (like one of the softest throw blankets I HAVE EVER SNUGGLED UP WITH IN ALL OF MY LIFE).

Keep up to date with all Little Inklings Design news on her Instagram.

That’s Sew Tiff is a magical unicorn, and I am saying that because it is true but also because I have been writing this post over the span of several days and hours and sometimes I get loopy- just go with it, Tiff is a magical creature.

Tiff creates mug rugs. What is a mug rug you ask? A rug… for your mug! They are everything I didn’t know I needed until I started buying them and haven’t been able to stop. They come in many patterns and varied sizes, and often will match seasons or current holiday themes. That’s Sew Tiff will have a small restock this Saturday, November 24th  (good luck ).  

Follow my unicorn on Instagram for sneak peaks and restock information

There are many ‘book sleeve’ makers out there, and everyone has their favorite for one reason or another- MY favorite is Joyce at Pages Remembered. Hand made page keepers in various sizes and patterns that are truly hard to resist.  You can also request additions like button closures, or ribbon (tied to close).

Her creative brain also came up with bookmark keepers- which, if you are anything like me, even a little, is something you need and you didn’t even realize it. Not only are they perfectly sized for an excessive bookmark collection but can also be used for pens, (pencils, markers, etc.) and honestly anything else your brain can think to stash inside. This is including the page keepers, not necessarily just for books, I’ve used my own for planners and notebooks, tablets. 

Pages Remembered Black Friday weekend sale information is as follows:

Follow Pages Remembered on Instagram for updates

Andi, owner of Book Balm is one of the hidden gems out there: 
handmade lip balms made with all natural beeswax, sheabutter, and coconut oil. I was lucky enough to win a giveaway a while back for her Hogwarts House sampler set.

Poured in small batches, they maintain a high quality, smell and taste wonderfully, and add a creamy smooth finish to your lips. The full size balms are packaged in neat, compact tins that can go anywhere with you.

Hoping to add add a few new listings in the near future (do follow her for updates!), she is having some fantastic sales this weekend on current stock:

  • Black Friday (Nov. 23) all product is 20% OFF
  • Small Business Saturday (Nov. 24), store wide 30% OFF
  • Cyber Monday (Nov. 26), 25% OFF on all

No coupon code needed for the above sale dates. Not shopping this weekend? Save 20% on orders with coupon code HAPPYHOLIDAYS20 between December 1st and December 10th. Book balms are the quintessential stocking stuffing, for book lovers and non book lovers alike.

Keep up to date with Book Balm, follow on Instagram!

Kit Cronk Studio is the company of an Australian based graphic design artist I fell in love with when I discovered her wood pins, which I am forever obsessed with. A myriad of products with designs for any kind of book lover. Art prints, notebooks, note cards, mugs and newly added temporary tattoos! Many are limited in quantity, so if you see something you like, #treatyoself, as they say. You can use DRINKSTEA10 on your order to save 10% at checkout.

In addition to Kit’s regular product, each month she creates a Limited Edition design/mug that is only available for the current month. November’s design is Court of Terrasen, in honor of the release of Kingdom of Ash and the end of the Throne of Glass series.  

FOR ONE WEEK ONLY (beginning November 22nd), it has been announced that previous month’s Limited Edition mugs are coming back. Designs inspired by Six of Crows, Narnia and more.

While Kit cannot guarantee Christmas delivery, the cut off for orders is November 30th, if you wish to receive it by/around the Holidays. From personal experience, Kit ships fast, but has no control over the postal system- and ya’ll know how crazy the end of the year can be for shipping, not to mention it’s primarily international shipping (as I can assume the majority, if not all of you, reading this are based in the USA/Canada).

BONUS: You can get FREE shipping on orders over $30AU using ISHIPIT at checkout! 

Stay updated with Kit Cronk Studio by following on Instagram

I cannot have a holiday gift guide for bookworms without including Hey Atlas.  Hey Atlas is run by Cade, who is just one more incredible human who shares their talents with us (it would be such a shame if they didn’t to be honest).

One of my favorite products is the desk (or shelf, wherever) calendar, which is a fantastic gift/stocking stuffer for anyone (not just book lovers). 

The 2019 Hey Atlas Calendar features all of the exclusive monthly designs! (December is still top-secret!)

 Get your  2019 Calendar here.

In addition to the calendar, there are journals, bookmarks, stickers, pins, and more. I can say that my Hey Atlas beanie is worn almost non stop all winter. Cade just announced that you can now PICK YOUR OWN QUOTE on a beanie, too!


For updates on all Hey Atlas Creative, follow Cade on Instagram


There are so many more amazing small business that cater to the book lover in us all, here are just a few more:

I wish I could keep going, the amount of talented makers out there is overwhelming (which is AWESOME). I hope you’ve discovered at least one new shop here, I love sharing and supporting small and independent businesses.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, holiday weekend!

Never Have I Ever, Kennedy Fox Edition

new release mockup 4

Happy Release Day to Kennedy Fox and Falling for the Playboy! You can read my early review of Falling for the Playboy here.

If you don’t know who Kennedy Fox is, here is the short version: Brooke Cumberland and Lyra Parish joined together to write under the pseudonym Kennedy Fox, and for a while remained a secret until coming out of the Author closet last year (August 2017). They have written 12 books together as the KF duo, and have so much more planned for the future. Specializing in baby fever and Harry Potter references (my official tag line for y’all now, get use to it, LOVE YOU), they write contemporary romance with a bit of angst and drama. Alpha males and the women who put them in their place. Consistently improving their craft, I look forward to what they bring me in 2019.

You can keep up with them on all their social media accounts for fun updates and shenanigans :

WEBSITE | NEWSLETTER | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

But for now, NOW, we celebrate Olivia and Maverick’s ride of a lifetime (wink!) with a fun (and totally dirty) Falling for the Playboy inspired game of Never Have I Ever, accompanied by Taylor Swift .gifs (because Kfox are total Swiftys).

source1

Never have I ever written a sex scene based on my own experiences
Brooke: I have, I’m sure!
Lyra: I have, I think. Can’t recall anything specific though.

Never have I ever fantasized over my own characters
Brooke: This seems awfully personal, April. But I’m gonna have to say never.
Lyra: Never. Now actors, that’s a different story.

Never have I ever wanted to kill off one of my heroes
Brooke: Never!
Lyra: I have. But it didn’t happen.

source

Never have I ever Googled myself more than 5 times
Brooke: I have, mostly early in my career tho.
Lyra: Never. LOL! I’m not that important.

Never have I ever broken the law
Brooke: Well, is it breaking the law if you didn’t get caught? LOL! Just kidding. But yeah, I have.
Lyra: I have. Every single day on my way to work.

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Never have I ever had a piercing in a place hidden by clothing
Brooke: Never. I’m boring.
Lyra: I have. Let your mind wander.

giphy

Never have I ever lied about my age
Brooke: I have, probably when I was younger though and thought being older was cooler.
Lyra: I have, we used to underage drink at a karaoke bar.

Never have I ever gone on an extended (more than a day) road trip
Brooke: I have! My family and I used to road trip to Nebraska all the time to visit family when I was younger.
Lyra: I have! I usually do once a year. 10 days was the longest!

Never have I ever sent a sext
Brooke: Pff Did that yesterday.
Lyra: I have, I’m sure. Can’t recall anything though.

giphy2

Never have I ever talked in my sleep
Brooke: According to my husband, I have.
Lyra: I have. “In my life, I only want one.”

Never have I ever broke the no fraternizing rule
Brooke: Well crap. I have totally. I married my boss which was obviously a big no-no.
Lyra: Never. Because gross. None of my bosses have ever been attractive.

Never have I ever sung karaoke
Brooke: I have totally. Didn’t say I was any good tho.
Lyra: I have. And I kill it. Every. Single. Time.

giphy1

Never have I ever had sex in a public place
Brooke: Does in a car in a parking lot count?
Lyra: Never. I’m too much of a square.

Never have I ever done some thing Vegas that STAYED in Vegas
Brooke: errr I have. Maybe. Fight club rules.
Lyra: Never. Never been to Vegas.

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Never have I ever wanted to rewrite the ending of a book
Brooke: Yes I have, but only because it ends up messing up with the next interconnected book and sometimes I go back and wish we didn’t put ourselves in that position. However, it’s always worked itself out 🙂
Lyra: I have. That’s why I don’t like rereading my old books.

tenor


Falling for the Playboy

Never trust a man who gets paid to take off his clothes for a living and then uses it as a pick-up line to get girls in bed with him.

That should’ve been enough for me to call in sick that day.

I’ve worked with male cover models like him before and they’re all the same—smooth-talking, sexy as sin, egotistical know-it-alls who think they’re God’s gift to women—all traits I know to steer clear of. 42374121

Assisting authors comes with many perks—reading on the job, using my organizing skills on a daily basis, drinking coffee by the gallons—but Maverick Kingston barges into my life and demands more than I can handle.

When we’re forced to road trip across the country together, he pushes every boundary I have and rearranges my thoughts on playing it safe. And when he “accidentally” drops his towel, he makes it very clear what he’s offering and proves he’s packing more than abs of steel under his clothes.

Working with him was brutal, but falling for him was unexpected.

And playing by the rules will be impossible.

AMAZON US: https://amzn.to/2QhgFhq
AMAZON UK: https://amzn.to/2AM15Fe
AMAZON CA: https://amzn.to/2D7vL5A
AMAZON AU: https://amzn.to/2z6BLJ5

#poetryisnotdead

To define poetry is to limit its infinite potential. There is a bit of poetry in all of us, in the way we move, in our words, our actions and reactions, in the bottom of the well of thoughts  hidden in our minds. Poetry is all around us.(@drinksteareadsbooks)

Instagram has an insanely huge poetry community, and while it is rife with criticism and plagiarism (an unfortunate by-product of any creative, artistic community), it is by far one of the most inclusive, supportive communities that I have found myself following, and a part of.

I have always had a connection with prose and poetry, specifically free verse and narrative. There is catharsis to scribbling out thoughts and feelings, unedited in notebook after notebook, on scrap pieces of paper, unsent letters. Finding a poet that speaks to your soul, is like finding a piece of it that was missing.

and if your gift is to make people. feel.
something. do not cover that in
apology. do not lie. to accommodate
others’ fear of feeling.
– nayyirah waheed.

It is so easy to criticize free verse (and short) poetry, the style I most am drawn to, because it follows no rules, but that is why I find it so captivating. With so few words, someone can crawl inside you, and leave an imprint, forever changing the world around you. 2018-11-13 19_03_32-Nicole Lyons (@nicolelyonspoetry) • Instagram photos and videos

My favorite contemporary poet is Nicole Lyons , and it took me some time to find her but undoubtedly I have kismet to thank.  Her words often fuel my spirit and are the embrace I need on days I feel like the strength inside of me has all but depleted. She also inspires me to write, something I stopped doing too long ago and didn’t realize the gaping chasm it left behind needing to be filled.

I recently reviewed Nicole’s latest release, Blossom and Bone:

Before you even climb inside of Nicole’s words, the Forward written by Candice speaks to all of us. Those new to Nicole and those wrapping her words around them like a well worn blanket.

Nicole is my favorite contemporary poet, for her words speak to me on a level none other has. It is difficult to review pieces of Nicole’s work individually, as they are written in such a direct way and yet, they are so empathetic that you can interpret them with your own soul.

No matter what you’re going through, there is a part of Nicole that will speak to you. Blossom and Bone is no different. Her third published book, and full of the unique tone that is all her own. Her poems are stories to be told (The Keeper of Time, Under The Sycamore), are anthems to be shouted (Battle Cries Blaring) and an embrace when you are clouded in your own darkness (I Won’t Always Be Me).

Nicole is a force, and Blossom and Bone is another raw, heart stealing edition of her power.

Without Nicole, I would not have had the pleasure of becoming enamored with Alfa Holden (alfa.poet), another force on Instagram who has also recently publish a book, Amid Thirsty Vines, her fourth collection of poetry.

 

 

Both of these women are incredible, yes, and there are so many more poets out there, some more known than others, some truly hidden gems, all equally deserving of praise. Below are just a few, skimming the surface of talent that surrounds us, vulnerable portraits of artists who paint with words.

  1. Leah J Stone
  2. charlie.brown.writes
  3. Jacob Lee
  4. K.R. Cash
  5. J.R.Rogue
  6. Jon Lupin
  7. Tyler Knott
  8. Rose
  9. Natalia Crow

And do not mistake that vulnerability for weakness, because it takes an immeasurable amount of strength and a kind of bravery to put your own soul on display for the world to consume.

Some of my demons left me,
some are just asleep.
A few always travel with me,
others haunt me from the deep.

The little ones are charming,
they are allowed to stay.
The big ones tear me up inside,
I just wish they’d go away.
– Natalie Crow

Early Review: Falling for the Playboy by Kennedy Fox

I have read every book Kennedy Fox has written, and I will continue to read every book they write. Even if they have baby fever and make so many Harry Potter references it makes me groan (WITH LOVE of course).

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Falling for the Playboy is their newest release (November 15th) and in typical Kennedy Fox fashion, it busted my slump, made me giggle and swoon. The second book in their Bedtime Reads series, standalone, full-length novels that reads fast (think: insta-lust) with plenty of romance, steam, and fun.

“What about the rules?” she asks, sitting back on the bed. Pulling the blankets down, I slip between the sheets. “If you learn one thing before this trip is over, Olivia, it’s that I don’t play by the rules.”

Olivia and Maverick are complete opposites, and of course, this is why they work so well together. Olivia, who is so organized she probably alphabetizes the canned goods in her pantry, and Maverick, who lives with no regrets: Forced together on a road trip, Miss Priss and the Playboy push each other and eventually steam roll down boundaries set up to safe guard their hearts. Both Olivia and Mav (that’s his nickname now, I said so) have a sad story lurking, making it hard for both of them to take that leap- though Mav surrenders first to his feelings and really? It’s fucking adorable, and I was full of fluttery feelings.

I could love her if she’d let me. If she’d tear down her walls and let me inside, I’d give her everything.

2018-11-12 10_59_28-Kennedy Fox 🦊 (@kennedyfoxbooks) • Instagram photos and videos

Rachel Meadows, Olivia’s employer, is a bitch. But I like her, she provides character growth for Olivia and truthfully? As selfish, and demanding and critical and overbearing (and and and), I low key want to know her story.

I liked seeing Vada and Ethan again (Falling for the Bad Boy), it’s always fun revisiting past characters, even briefly, and I cannot wait for Falling for the Cowboy– the third and final in the Bedtime Reads set.  Why? BECAUSE WE’RE GOING BACK TO THE RANCH- if you’re a regular Kennedy Fox reader, you know where that is. If you have no clue what I am talking about, start hereand you’re welcome.

Olivia Carpenter is my girl, and I’m going to do whatever’s possible to prove it to her.

Final thoughts? I loved Falling for the Playboy. I enjoyed far more than I did Falling for the Bad Boy (which wasn’t bad, I just didn’t connect to the story or the characters as well as I did with Olivia and Mavvy-Mav). One thing to remember? The Bedtime Reads are supposed to be short and sweet, so to speak. So yes, lust and love happens fast, and there is much less drama (if any), there isn’t much for the couple to fight against except their own fears which are typically easily overcome. Basically, as I mentioned, the perfect slump busters. Kennedy Fox has a certain kind of charm to their writing and even when sweet and funny aren’t your style (I admit it, I like to be emotionally and mentally tortured while reading romance)- they still find a way to hook you in, and I ain’t even mad about it.

You can pre order Falling for the Playboy on Amazon here

You can stay up to date on all things Kennedy Fox here, here, and here.