Just a couple weeks ago, I posted about how all my favorite books are about grief and loss (check it out here, in case you missed it), so it should come as little surprise that I was drawn to Brother by David Chariandy like a magnet. I had seen the below trailer and just knew that I NEEDED to read this immediately.
Brother is one of those quiet but impacting books. It wins you over with descriptions of daily life, slowly building up to the devestation you are bound to face all the while accompanied by the inner turmoil of the narrator. Most stories about grief are that way, I think. Slow, deliberate, but crushing.
Experiencing loss is such an intimate thing and can look so different for everyone. Some people can’t let go and there’s a question in there somewhere of whether they should. Grief, for many, feels like something to wallow in alone, but can also be a beautiful, albeit sad, forger of bonds. Switching between past and present, I often found myself tearing up the most at the moments about the people that remained. I can’t quite put into words why that need for community in our direst moments was so hard hitting, but it speaks to something deep inside me.
If I could change one thing about the book, it’s that I’d probably add one more chapter. It doesn’t necessarily need it, but I would like to have it for personal closure.
I think this story, despite being set a couple decades ago in Canada, is unfortunately still very timely and something many people are confronted with. I also believe that it will translate powerfully on screen.
Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Grief books and I just work.
Now, if you didn’t believe what I had to say above, you just watch that trailer and tell me this story won’t rip your heart out. I already recognized so many scenes from the book in the brief sequences we got to see here. The fact that Lamar Johnson, who just delivered another heartbreaking performance as someone’s brother on The Last of Us, is just the cherry on top. I will be seated when the movie releases later this year!
Did you read Brother or do you think you might want to check out the book/movie in the future? Let’s chat!
Are really ALL my favorite books about grief and loss? Well, no. That was a gross exaggeration in order to make the title of this post a little more clickbait-y. But that doesn’t change the fact that A LOT of them are and since I’ve promised a post like this for almost a year on social media now, I thought I should finally go ahead, sit down and actually write it.
First, I want to manage expectations! Not all of these books will necessarily be tearjerkers, not all of them will have grief or loss as a main theme, but simply as some aspect of the story. I’m going to try and do my best to categorize everything in a way that makes sense to you all.
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Page Count: 336 Release Date: November 23, 2021
*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*
CW: loss of a loved one, parental abandonment, grief
Love, Lists, & Fancy Ships is Sarah Grunder Ruiz’ debut women’s fiction/contemporary romance novel. However, while the cover looks very sweet and fun, I’m very glad I knew going in that grief would be a central aspect of the book. As my reading list tends to show, I gravitate towards books that deal with loss and the handling of grief quite regularly, so I was pleased to see how it was dealt with here. It’s a topic that can easily become overwhelming, but while the sadness was always there as an undercurrent, there were so many beautiful and upbeat moments in the story to balance it out, so it never felt too heavy. I can confidently say that I can imagine everyone who has suffered a loss in their lives, finding Love, Lists, & Fancy Ships deeply moving and relatable.
We start off with Josephine Walker aka Jo at her job on a charter yacht. It’s such a fun setting, but what I enjoyed even more than that were the characters that gradually got added. You could feel the history Jo has with each individual as they felt fleshed out and real. There wasn’t a single person I didn’t like to read about. Nina is the kind of ride-or-die best friend one can only wish for. Alex is the kind of love interest you really want to root for, because he is kind and funny and charming and definitely also hot. He’s one of the few romantic leads where I didn’t have to constantly shake my head in disappointment about the choices he made. However, the romance doesn’t actually always take center stage, as the familial relationships with the nieces, daughters and sisters are just as important. It definitely felt like a well-rounded cast!
Jo makes it her priority to be the fun aunt, to distract everyone from the never ending sadness, which backfires on a few occasions. Still, the bucket list was a fun addition, especially when the gang got creative in how to tick off the last few items before time ran out.
The things I didn’t love so much about the book where all very me-problems. For one, I could not handle the Chris Evans disrespect. While Zac Efron gets celebrated (in an ironic way or not), Chris Evans gets described as old and gross. There’s literally only a six-year-age-difference between the two actors, but okay … guess I’m an old millennial myself at this point. Then there was an airport run, which I’m never a fan of, but most of all, I was bugged by the way Jo’s blogging experience was described. It’s very rare that a personal blog with, how can I put this, infrequent updates gets such a big following within less than a year that she’d get multiple concerned emails for not posting. It honestly didn’t feel very realistic to me, while everything else in the story had an authentic vibe.
Overall, I really enjoyed this journey! I felt close to the characters and shed tears on several occasions, while I also laughed out loud more than once. I was especially excited when I saw that my copy included a teaser chapter for a potential sequel with Jo’s best friend Nina as the narrator, set two years after Love, Lists, & Fancy Ships ends. I’d be so here for it! (And book 3 could be about Britt and RJ … just saying …)
Fazit: 4/5 stars! A really beautiful exploration of grief, without ever getting too heavy.
Have you read Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships? Do you want to? Do you like books that are partially set on boats? I’m kind of digging that, to be honest.
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 432 Release Date: August 10, 2021
*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*
CW: loss of a loved one, mention of substance abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence
Every time Jeff Zentner writes a book, he puts his whole heart in it. He manages to create beauty even in the saddest of moments and oh, sad moments there always are! Whatever he writes, it just touches your soul, your entire being and won’t let you go for a long time afterwards. So, it should come as no surprise that I keep seeking out his books despite the emotional punch they pack, because they fill me with such a complex set of emotions.
In the Wild Light introduces you to Cash and Delaney, although the story is told from Cash’s perspective. Neither of them had an easy life and even when good things finally start to happen, it’s hard for them to come to terms with the fact that they deserve this goodness. In an odd way, I found that entirely relatable. I may not have faced their particular struggles, but as I continued reading, I found more and more of my own scars represented in the story. As the cast grew, I started to fall in love with all of them and would be elated to meet any one of them (with one exemption) to welcome them as a friend into my life.
This book is for everyone who has ever lost a loved one. It’s for people who have had to leave others behind in order to grow, while still holding a heart full of love for them. It’s for those who doubt that they fit in, that they deserve the good things life offers them and that there are others looking out for them. It’s for people like me, who have left part of their heart and soul in different places around the globe, tying them to friends and family and places. In the Wild Light is for those always running hungry, only ever sated by words.
This book is a reminder of the ties we share with the family we are born into and the one we chose for ourselves, even those we were separated from. It shows the importance of having people in your life that actually care to help you realize your full potential and celebrate you as the person you are. And most of all, In the Wild Light is an ode to having the courage of seeing the beauty and light even in moments of darkness.
“You are not a creature of grief. You are not a congregation of wounds. You are not the sum of your losses. Your skin is not your scars. Your life is yours, and it can be new and wondrous. Remember that.”
In the end, In the Wild Light might be my most favorite by Jeff Zentner book to date. I cried, I laughed, I felt my heart warm at the lives of these incredible characters. I’m at an utter loss for words to describe just how much this book meant to me and how much I will cherish it moving forward. Even though I could have done without the romantic sub-plot, because I really believe this story didn’t need any romantic undertones, I can only recommend it to anyone who is willing to go on an emotional journey about loss and belonging, family by blood and the found kind alike.
Fazit: 5/5 stars! I don’t give a 5-star-rating lightly anymore, but with this book the decision felt easy. It was so worth the read!
Have you read any other books by Zentner? Do you plan to? My reviews for The Serpent King and Goodbye Days are still available (just click on the titles).
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count: 386 Release Date: May 4, 2021
*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*
CW: loss of a loved one
Sometimes a book comes around and it just sweeps you off your feet. The Summer of Broken Rules was definitely that for me! It’s not easy for a story to be fun as well as moving, but somehow this one struck the perfect balance and just made it an incredibly engaging read.
You meet Meredith and you can easily relate to her. I think anyone who has ever lost someone close to them understands the way you yourself get lost in your grief. Every corner you turn, you see that person and remember how things used to be, but can’t be anymore. The Summer of Broken Rules managed to make this story a beautiful exploration of grief, while also the journey of reemerging from that cloudy haze that comes with loss, without it ever feeling too heavy. I may have shed a tear or two, but I laughed and smiled even more.
From the get go, I was just in love with the setting. I haven’t been on a vacation in forever and definitely have never been to Martha’s Vineyard (it feels like a rich people destination in my head and I cannot explain why?), but I could almost feel the sun on my face, smell the ocean breeze and couldn’t shake that odd feeling when you just know it’s unavoidable to get sand everywhere. Add to that a huge group of relatives and friends, where you sometimes lose track of just how you are related, but you know you are family either way because of the shared bonds and you have captured my heart. At times, I had trouble following the who’s who, but never when it came to the important players.
When it comes to the love story, I thought it was interesting how easily I was swayed by Wit. Many times, I have complained about insta-love and insta-lust, but somehow the connection between Meredith and Wit just felt natural. You basically just follow them through the course of a week, but every interaction felt authentic and made me root for them rather than roll my eyes at their quick attachment.
I’d also like to praise that there was a discussion, albeit brief, about how Meredith tends to latch on to her love interests and detach from her friends as a coping mechanism for her grief. Having scenes with that as a context puts them in a different light and, in this instance, makes them work all the better. With the characters being aware of how fast things are developing and even questioning their behavior, I thought it was refreshing. In the end, it didn’t change how I felt about them though and I was happy to see them grow together through the hurdles they had to overcome.
I can’t say I’ve ever been as competitive or invested in a game as the entire extended Fox family is when it comes to “Assassin”, but what a treat it was to follow them for a week. As serious as they take it, it also created some hilariously brilliant moments and I understand how it became a tradition for them. It’s almost something you’d want to revisit yourself every year to see how everyone was doing, which was why I was so grateful for a little epilogue from the future!
As a final note, this was my first time reading a book by K.L. Walther, but I heard that there are lovely little easter eggs to her previous novel “If We Were Us”. I adore when authors put in those tiny references for readers and it has me very tempted to check out her debut novel.
Fazit: 4/5 stars! Fun and moving – a great summer read along the lines of Morgan Matson books!
Could you see yourself picking up The Summer of Broken Rules? What are some summer reads you enjoyed a lot? Let’s talk!
I know we will all be feeling the hole that WandaVision leaves in our TV schedules (read my Spoiler-filled review of the finale here). There’s nothing really quite like it out there at the moment, but I still think I can come up with some good alternatives and complementary TV shows and movies. This is not a definite guide and I’m sure there’s more and possibly better recommendations out there, but I hope you will find something to dive into here!
Want more of Elizabeth Olsen dealing with grief?
I think this show went under a lot of people’s radar, but it’s actually phenomenal. Sorry for Your Loss follows recently widowed Elizabeth Olsen and her close family as they deal with the doubts, anger and repercussions of losing a loved one. You know how good she portrays this particular emotion already if you have finished WandaVision, so why not hurt alongside her some more?
Need another unusual TV show focusing on female leads and relationships?
WandaVision, in my humble opinion, had a lot of great women front and center and I think it’s so important to show healthy female friendships and relationships, which is why Dollface, a fun and quirky show came to mind (it did get an extra plus point for featuring our Darcy Lewis – Kat Dennings). After a break up, Dennings’ character realizes she has neglected all her friends and now feels the need to reconnect with them. She is guided through that journey by a cat-lady (as literal as cat-lady can get).
Wish Jimmy Woo was the love interest in a movie?
I know a lot of you have fallen in love with adorkable FBI agent Jimmy Woo, portrayed by Randall Park, over the past couple of weeks. He’s been in business for quite a while, but why not watch one of his recent movies where he gets to be the main love interest? I know I loved seeing it! So, check out Always Be My Maybe and swoon some more with me.
Could do with a show that has the potential to confuse and emotionally touch you with a possible multiverse?
Usually, I like to say as little as possible about the OA, because it’s such a special and unique show. Unfortunately, it was cancelled before its time, but still gave us an amazing two seasons and ending on a mindblowing meta ending.
This show is for you if you don’t mind slow storytelling that focuses on characters and that always leaves you with more questions than answers. I don’t think I can say more.
Something really meta where the characters are in a TV show?
Dramaworld could possibly serve as a little palette cleanser after WandaVision. I loved how Wanda’s reality celebrated TV and there are many shows that do something similar, but I also like when people “stumble” into shows and then have to pretend to be characters. This is exactly what happens in Dramaworld, which is a very short, fun 1-season-show with a bit of an open end and a strong KDrama inspiration.
Just want to prepare for the next Marvel project?
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier starts in two weeks (March 19 to be exact), which gives everyone enough time to catch up on any missing Marvel projects. I know that WandaVision has drawn a new crowd to the Marvel universe and sometimes left them confused when references weren’t understood due to lack of prior knowledge of the universe. I doubt The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will be as intricate and theory-inducing as WandaVision, but just in case, now is the time to rewatch or get aquainted with the material.
If you are like me and you do not have the stamina to go through all of this again, there are neat short videos on Disney+ labeled Marvel Studio Legends that recap the arcs of the characters.
I want to apologize for not including anything specific to Teyonah Parris in this post! I have seen some of her work, but nowhere near enough to know what to recommend yet. I fully plan on doing a deep dive into her filmography and can’t wait to see her again in Captain Marvel 2. Although, let’s be real, Monica Rambeau deserves her own spin-off!
What did you think of this list? Would you like to watch anything on it? Does something come to mind you’d recommend after WandaVision? Let’s talk!
I hope by episode 8, you kind of know how things work on here, but just in case this is your first time stopping by (hi, by the way!), the following post is intended to be read after watching the show, because it includes SPOILERS! (If you haven’t seen it yet and you can, watch it with tissues!)
What was it about?
Agatha takes Wanda on a trip down memory lane to discover how the Westview anomaly was created.
When WandaVision calls an episode “Previously On”, they do not mess around. For the longest time, we have been waiting to find out what happened, how Wanda got into Westview and how the hex started. Well, this episode delivered in every possible way.
Before we get into Wanda’s history though, we learned a bit more about Agatha. The episode starts all the way back in Salem in the year 1693. You might presume that it’s part of the witch trials, with last week’s reveal about Agnes/Agatha’s real identity, but on the contrary. Agatha isn’t on trial because she is a witch, she is trialed by her coven sisters because she is using dark magic. In an intriguing show of power, she absorbs her coven members energy, remaining the sole survivor instead of the victim, showing that despite her claims of wanting to be good, she has great potential for evil. As a final act before stepping away from the corpses, she grabs the (to us) now all too well known brooch from her mother’s coat.
Fast forward a couple centuries to modern day Westview and Agatha is still as power hungry as ever. She is amazed and intrigued by Wanda’s sheer power, but also confused by her lack of knowledge and training. Agatha is sure that Wanda is a witch too, an unwilling one who doesn’t want to share her secrets, but a witch nonetheless. So, in order to learn how she created the Westview hex in a matter of moments, when it took Agatha ages to learn even simple transformation spells, they start exploring Wanda’s memory (again, unwillingly, since Agatha is holding the twins hostage).
What follows is a walk through the years, bits and pieces of Wanda’s life that shaped her. A lot of Marvel fans know about these moments, as they have been discussed in previous movies, but they have never been shown with such detail. While I understand that maybe not everyone was interested in seeing this breakdown of her life, I think it was necessary to portray that the true villain in Wanda’s life is grief and her inability to deal with it and/or catch a break from it. Let’s take a look at what we learned:
We start with Wanda’s childhood in Sokovia. They didn’t have much, but they were a happy little family, finding an escape in Western media while being on the brink of war themselves. This is what confirmed where Wanda’s love for sitcoms comes from – nothing bad ever happens in them, or at least it’s all good by the end of the episode. The trauma from hiding under a bed for two days because they thought the Stark Industries missile would go off, while the TV was still running in the background was powerful imagery. The loss of her parents in the process the start of all of Wanda’s grief.
Agatha already suspects that Wanda had powers at that age, but if so, they were dormant and didn’t have anything to do with the missile not going off.
Next comes the Hydra complex that gave Wanda her powers. Her and Pietro were the only ones who could survive the tests, even if no one in the facility understood why. When faced with the infinity stone, she saw her future self (at least it looked like a typical Wanda costume) and it awakened and amplified her internal powers. Since Pietro is not a witch though and also gained powers, it could mean that the infinity stone triggers latent mutant genes? Just like Wanda’s magic (fueled by the infinity stone) triggered Monica’s powers? If we are going by the comics, this is a wrong assumption, as Wanda and Pietro are not technically mutants, but the MCU has treated their backstory differently, so who really knows?
After losing her brother, Vision was her comfort at the Avengers complex. I found Wanda’s accent to be very slight in that particular memory, considering that the Sokovian incident had just happened and she was still new to the team, but memories can trick you like that, I suppose. I always adored their little moments in the Avengers movies and this was another example of why their interactions are so precious. Vision could pull her back from the brink of despair, which is foreshadowing for why losing him as well was so harrowing for her.
The next memory seemed like the most key one to me. Hayward has spun this narrative of Wanda going on a bender and stealing Vision’s corpse, when none of that is the truth. He LET her into the S.W.O.R.D. headquarter, he denied her simple request of giving Vision a proper funeral and antagonized her by insinuating that she had ulterior motives. Vision is nothing but a weapon to him and I did not appreciate his tone towards Wanda. But what is most important is, Wanda left without Vision’s body. She was distraught at seeing him dismantled, but when she touched him, she couldn’t feel him. Another beautiful and heartbreaking callback to Infinity War, where both Wanda and Vision stated that the magic/powers of the other could never hurt them, because they always said “I only feel/see you”. But now, there was nothing of her Vision left to feel. If your heart didn’t break at that, I don’t even know what to say.
Afterwards, she calmly left, the footage of her going rampage in the lab clearly being faked. Instead, she went to Westview, where Vision had previously bought property for them to grow old on. I wish they had had a chance to do that. As she drives through town, we see the many faces of the “characters” of her own sitcom, the real citizens of Westview. The town is quaint, but it’s just a town, nowhere near the paradise we got to see before. And then Wanda can’t hold in her grief any longer and she does not just create her perfect little world, but she also creates Vision – a massive show of power and another answer to one of our many questions! Vision’s corpse is not pupeteered by Wanda, instead she re-made him.
It’s only after that display that Agatha finally lets her leave this maze of memories. It’s the cries for help from her twins that bring Wanda back to reality, her children the one thing she still cares about more than anything. They are held hostage as Agatha says the words I have waited for for the longest time! We finally, finally, finally get the official name reveal for Wanda, when Agatha explains that the power Wanda possesses should be impossible. It should be nothing more than a myth. But Wanda wields chaos magic and that makes her a SCARLET WITCH!!!
I hear the people who think this episode included a lot of information that was already previously covered in the movies, but when did we ever get a chance to see it with Wanda’s eyes? To feel her pain penetrating ever cell of our bodies, drowning us in the sadness she feels with her? I thought that this was an incredible show of how powerful emotions can be. How dangerous they are if not dealt with. Even Agatha said that Wanda was dangerous and that woman was holding kids hostage while saying that.
But is Agatha really a villain? In the opening scene, she said she could not control these dark powers when she pleaded with her coven. Maybe, in the years since, she found a way to control it and is now not willing to let another powerful witch go rampage on the world. While she was accompanying Wanda through her memories, she was sympathetic, albeit still very straight forward with her comments. She seemed more curious in figuring out what she was dealing with rather than wanting to do any of this herself. Sometimes it even sounded like a tinge of worry for Wanda. I’m sure it will be resolved like many other things next episode.
Now that we know real magic is involved, it seems all the more logical to have a Doctor Strange appearance in the finale, ultimately tying this show to the Multiverse of Madness. I cannot wait!
Lastly, it looks like post-credit scenes are back for good! Once again, I just really want to punch Hayward, because he is such a massive liar. All this time, he had Visions body. All this time, he made Wanda out to be the villain when he was truly the evil one. Bringing the Vision’s body back online worries me. It can’t have his mind, that’s in Westview with Wanda … I think? Who’s to say that Hayward has any kind of control over this version of the Vision’s body? Danger lies ahead. It also eerily feels like all those theories thinking that Hayward is Ultron or controlled by him make sense. His animosity after Wanda’s betrayal understandable, his lack of faith in humanity and heroes also very on brand. It would be in tune with the animated version, so I’m curious to see if that will actually be true.
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 288 Publishing Date: June 6, 2017
*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*
This beautiful tale, told in the alternating POVs of former friends Rachel and Henry, was simply EVERYTHING I could have hoped for. I wept through the majority of it and by the end, I was simply in love with the book.
Words in Deep Blue is a love story, but it’s also about loss and grief. It’s about family and time. It’s about all the things we might not appreciate enough while we have them. And it’s a story that will have you falling in love with books all over again. There are countless references to classics as well as contemporary fiction. I am a person who always keeps her books in meticulous condition, but this made me want to write in the margins, underline quotes I saw myself in and write letters to strangers. The fact that it’s written not only in prose, but that we also get to see some of the letters and notes that are exchanged and where they are left is something I simply adored.
It was so easy to connect to the characters, even the secondary ones. They are not perfect, sometimes even flawed to a point where I would call them immature, but they are incredibly real. Their feelings were all out there and you were with them each step of the way. I just wanted to hug them, comfort them, cry with them or point them in the right direction.
In addition to everything I’ve already mentioned, the secondhand-bookstore setting is the perfect place for every bookworm out there. It almost felt like a character in itself, because it had so much life in itself. So much history. I would gladly pick up any future book Cath Crowley will write and for the record, I really want a Letter Library in my most frequented bookstores.
Fazit: 5/5 stars! I just want to buy this book a dozen times, write letters and leave them for strangers to be found.
Are you interested in reading Words In Deep Blue? Have you heard of it before?