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Rackers

your feelings are valid

The phrase ‘your feelings are valid’ may sometimes feel tone-deaf or boring, because why would they not be valid? Isn’t that intrinsically what the human experience is based upon? Why would your feelings not be valid? But in many ways, we may minimise our own feelings in the way we talk to ourselves, or others use language that makes them seem unjustified.

Life, the world and your place in it can be often be more than confusing. You can easily squash what you are feeling down to a pulp, because you’re trying to overcrowd your mind with the idea of gratefulness. That what you’re feeling doesn’t matter so much because you could be feeling much worse. You’re being irrational, over-reactive, paranoid. You may convince yourself that it’s your mental illness talking, or that you don’t even have grounds to feel the way you feel at all without working through the why and trying to understand where it is coming from. Everything you are feeling is worth giving your attention to, because it has grown from somewhere and is worthy of being felt, and being worked through.

Your feelings can often seem invalidated by what someone says to you in response to you sharing what you feel — even if they didn’t mean to do so — (ie. ‘don’t worry, it’s not that bad), or filter into your subconscious from posts floating about on social media about finding the good in everything.

Feelings are not able to be right or wrong. Feelings just are. They are natural sources of information for your brain, and should be treated as so. If you ignore them, try to suppress them, or try to replace them with something else as an easy fix, they will only work their way back in a different way and often in a more intense way.

If you do not allow yourself to feel your feelings, to validate them or to allow yourself to work through them, the stitching on your old wounds may come undone unexpectedly. The pain feels fresh, almost new, as if you had not healed at all. And the process of healing begins all over again.

It’s okay to feel angry at the state of the world, at other people’s opinions. You are completely justified in feeling upset, confused, anxious and unsure. The most important thing to remember is that your feeling, though, is not a reflection on the situation itself; it’s a reflection of what’s going on inside of you as a result of the environment and the state of your mind. Work with yourself in understanding them, rather than against yourself. Allow yourself to feel whatever comes your way; your feelings are valid.

Categories
Rackers

march reading

I read significantly less this month than last, due to a busy start to the work month which, luckily, set me up enough for this current crazy time we’re living in. I found myself gravitating more towards watching Stan to drown out the thoughts and everything going on in the world – almost to numb my brain – but it felt good to get more into the groove within the last week of the month and read a few books – two of which were un-put-downable. Make sure to take care of yourself in a time like this, whether that’s with a good book (perhaps one of these or january + february reading!), walks, streaming shows, creativity or talking to a pal.

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway

The Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin, the boldest of four artistic sisters in a family living in genteel poverty, knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, the boy next door and her first love.

When Charlie proposes instead to a woman from a wealthy family, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up and turns their story into fiction, obsessively rewriting a better ending. Though she works with newfound intensity, literary success eludes her–until she attends a salon hosted in her brother’s writer friend John Hopper’s Fifth Avenue mansion. Among painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under the handsome, enigmatic John’s increasingly romantic attentions.

Just as she and her siblings have become swept up in the society, though, Charlie throws himself back into her path, and Ginny learns that the salon’s bright lights may be obscuring some dark shadows. Torn between two worlds that aren’t quite as she’d imagined them, Ginny will realize how high the stakes are for her family, her writing, and her chance at love.

I am still unsure how I felt about this book. I loved it first because of its title; I mean, New York and artists? My whole dream. I got even further sucked in through the blurb, because I love me a bit of historical fiction. I think the issue was it was such a slow burn; the beginning of the book felt tiresome as all she did was pine after the man who wasn’t going to marry her, and the second half was a surprising sort of thriller-esque take. It touched upon different socioeconomic standings and the importance that held, particularly back then, but you could also parallel it to now and how the wealthy show in different ways; it also shone an interesting light on how often women were looked over, even in the art scene, because they were mostly considered nothing more than house wives.

I do think, though, if you are into historical fiction and are after a relatively light read, this is your go. The second half of the book makes it far more compelling.

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

What happens when your best friend becomes your worst nightmare…

Having reached a dead end in Boston, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs a change. When she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who is moving to rural Pennsylvania, Leah decides to join her. But their fresh start is quickly threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah helps Detective Kyle Donovan to investigate her friend’s life for clues. But with no friends, family or digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Forced to question her version of reality and to save herself, Leah must uncover the truth – no matter how dark or terrible it may be…

The PROSE!!! Megan Miranda is a beautiful writer, and had me admiring her words even in the midst of a thriller. I stopped myself many times throughout the book because she crafted such riveting prose. Honestly, for that alone, this book is worth the read.

The premise of the story was well worth it, too. I had convinced myself I knew what was going on in the first few chapters, and then I was thrown off; only to be thrown off yet again. You truly did not know who to trust. The back stories gave more light into what was happening in that moment, and in the end, all the threads were woven together. Definitely, highly recommend.

The Boy Who Fell to Earth by Kathy Lette

Meet Merlin. He’s Lucy’s bright, beautiful son – who just happens to be autistic.

Since Merlin’s father left them in the lurch, Lucy has made Merlin the centre of her world. Struggling with the joys and tribulations of raising her adorable yet challenging child (if only Merlin came with operating instructions), Lucy doesn’t have room for any other man in her life.

By the time Merlin turns ten, Lucy is seriously worried that the Pope might start ringing her up for tips on celibacy, so resolves to dip a toe back into the world of dating. Thanks to Merlin’s candour and quirkiness, things don’t go quite to plan… Then, just when Lucy’s resigned to singledom once more, Archie – the most imperfectly perfect man for her and her son – lands on her doorstep. But then, so does Merlin’s father, begging for a second chance. Does Lucy need a real father for Merlin – or a real partner for herself?

I only semi-liked this book. I wasn’t sure if it was because I haven’t experienced a life like hers; single parenting a child on the spectrum, let alone parenting at all. Of course I have no idea how much of a bitter taste I would have in my mouth if my husband left me because of our child. This being said, though, none of that has ever hindered my enjoyment of a book before. Much of the fiction I have enjoyed reading is about women in their 30s and 40s, navigating life, love and their careers.

I ended up disliking too many of the characters, except for Merlin (her son), and Archie – though I disliked Archie for much of it because she made sure to paint him as ultra bogan to a point of disbelief. The protagonist, Lucy, is constantly bitter and angry at the world but never seems to want to take advice to help herself.

I think there were just too many metaphors and bitter one-liners throughout; like, no one is even that witty all of the time, so you could tell the author was banking them up over time and wanted to lay them all out for a laugh. That’s the thing – many were funny, but there were just too many lined up in a row.

In saying this, I cried at the end and felt there was some sort of justice, so perhaps it was just a bumpy ride to get to a lovely destination. I would be interested to know the opinion of this book from anyone who has dealt with divorce, single parenting and parenting a child on the spectrum.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

EVERYONE’S INVITED.
EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.
AND EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT IT.

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

!!!! This was truly one of the best suspense/mystery/thrillers I have ever read. I bought it because it was only $0.99 as an ebook – I wasn’t particularly intrigued by the blurb, but it was so worth it and I would pay more just because I enjoyed it that much. I read it all within a day because I didn’t want to put it down. It had me jumping conclusions, playing guessing games to see if I could figure out the ending before I got there, convincing me I had it figured out well before – then throwing another spanner in the works, starting again and doing that tenfold. It even has you assuming it could have been the least suspected person, because there are no limits to the secrets among them.

A PSA: probably don’t eat much while reading if you have a weak stomach; my peanut butter toast was not as thoroughly enjoyed after reading one of the paragraphs about hunting animals.

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book review Rackers

january + february reading

I feel like I have been catching up on all the reading that fell on the wayside last year. I was prioritising work over literally everything for a long time, and fell behind in everything else; so I made a vow to myself to take time to do what I love to do most: read.

Biographies

Happy Never After by Jill Stark

Jill Stark was living the dream. She had a coveted job as a senior journalist, she was dating a sports star, and her first book had just become a bestseller. After years of chasing the fairytale ending, she’d finally found it. And then it all fell apart.

You know those books that come to you at a point in your life where you’re like holy shit, I needed that. Almost like it was destined. Happy Never After was one of those for me. The reviews for this book aren’t stellar, but I think it almost perfectly shows how the anxious mind will jump from thought to thought with seemingly no connection. Stark wrote of continuing to feel distant, lost and didn’t beat her anxiety and depression purely because she achieved a lot and ticked many career boxes; she also spoke to a few experts about the rise of the wellness industry and getting caught up in the world of comparison, social media, filtered life & distractions.

Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

This is the story of Bri’s journey through the Australian legal system; first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge’s associate in both metropolitan and regional Queensland-where justice can look very different, especially for women. The injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history, one she’d vowed never to tell. And this is how, after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.

Quite a harrowing read, and honestly can be quite triggering in some parts for those who have experienced sexual assault. But I definitely think it’s a must read. I cried many times throughout this book and even after I had put it down. Strength in the face of adversity, while also being informative on the shortfalls of the justice system in our country. It didn’t just give an insight into working in the justice system, but the emotional turmoil that comes with it while working through personal trauma.

Gulpilil by Derek Reilly

It’s been almost fifty years since a teenage David Gulpilil illuminated screens worldwide with his breakout role in Walkabout. It was one of the first times we’d seen an Aboriginal person cast in a significant role and only four years after Holt’s referendum to alter the constitution and give Indigenous people citizenship and, subsequently, the right to vote.

Gulpilil quickly became the face of the Indigenous world to white Australian audiences. Charisma. Good looks. A competent, strong, mysterious man starring in films ranging from Crocodile Dundee to Rabbit-Proof Fence.

But what has marked Gulpilil, despite his fame and popularity, is the feeling that he’s been forever stuck between two worlds: a Yolngu man, a hunter, a tracker, who grew up in the bush in Arnhem Land outside any white influence; and a movie star flitting from movie sets to festivals.

Able to exist in both worlds, but never truly home.

I first remember seeing David Gulpilil in Crocodile Dundee where he played the charming and playful Neville; but he has played many more nuanced and interesting characters in stories worth telling about Indigenous Australians. This biography dove into his complicated life and what it was like to be in the spotlight and living in a certain privilege from his career among white people, compared to his place at home with his tribe – and the feeling of not really belonging in either one. We still have a long way to go in understanding the culture of Indigenous Australians, and I find the insight into Gulpilil’s life – after being in both worlds – a perfect opening.

Historical Fiction/War

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, code name Alice, the “queen of spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

When I first read about this book a while ago, I found it intriguing (fascinated by War stories), but the moment I read about spies I was slightly turned off. Every time I hear the word spy, I think of things like Mission Impossible and that’s just not ma thang. I was so off. It was slightly based off a War Hero, dubbed the Queen of Spies, Louise de Bettignies and her network – The Alice Network. It followed two women, one during the World War I who is within the network, and another just after World War II who is in search of her cousin. They come together and the story weaves around their two lives and intertwines them in a way you don’t expect. It was beautiful, it was heart-wrenching, and it was one of the best war books I have ever read. You need to read it.

Thriller/Mystery

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

I read this because I saw agirlandgrey was reading it, too, in one of her gorgeous Instagram posts and I know she has great taste in mystery/thrillers. It was set in New York, so I was instantly sold, but I spent the entire time while I was reading it (all in pretty much one sitting) guessing what was going to happen next, then thrown completely off course. It was an interesting take on classism, as well, and Sager expertly wove it into the story without making it obvious.

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.

But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.

This came up as a suggestion to read right after I finished Lock Every Door, and I think I was even more enthralled with this than the former. This was a WILD ride. Twists and turns every which way and yet, STILL managed to surprise you with the ending. I bought this book (for only $1.99!) at 12:30pm and finished it by 8pm. My favourite thing about this genre is that (when written well), they are easy enough to read and the plot twists make you want to continue reading. I can’t say I was entirely happy with the ending, but Fisher surprised me with it, so props for that.

The Man She Married by Alison James

Since Alice’s fiancé walked out on her, she never thought she’d meet ‘The One’. But all that changes when she meets Dominic. Handsome, charming and kind, Alice can’t believe her luck when he proposes a few months later and moves into her West London home.

Three years on, Alice’s catering business is thriving and she is married to a man she adores. So when she sees that little blue line, it should be the happiest moment of her life: they’re going to have a baby. But then the police knock on her door and Alice’s whole world is turned upside down… Dominic is dead.

Distraught, Alice goes to identify the body. There’s no doubt that it’s her husband. Yet when his estranged brother comes to view the coffin, he insists the man lying there is not Dominic. Alice refuses to believe it at first, but when confronted with irrefutable proof, she finally has to face the truth: The man she married is not the person he said he was. And if he lied about that, what else was he hiding from her?

I found this one as I was still trolling for mystery/thriller after still reeling from Lock Every Door and The Wives. The plot is given away pretty early on, but James still writes in a way that makes you want to keep reading, because you need the answers on how they got there in the first place. It starts with the protagonist having to identify the body of her husband; and while, yes it is Dominic Gill, she has another man claiming to be Dominic Gill’s brother… and the dead man is not him. The book takes you on a ride through past and present getting answers, and you put the story together by part in the telling of Alice (protagonist), and Dominic (dead guy). It was good, not fabulous, but an interesting and easy read nonetheless.

The Strangers Wife by Anna Lou Weatherley

Beth and Cath are leaving their husbands.
This is a story about two very different women.
One is wealthy and having an affair with a man who gives her the kind of love that her cold, detached husband does not.
One is living hand to mouth, suffering at the hands of a violent partner who would rather see her dead than leave him.
You may think you know these women already and how their lives will unfold.
Beth will live happily ever after with her little girl and her soulmate.
Cath will go back to her abusive husband.
And these two women will never cross paths.
But you will be wrong.
On the 3.15pm train from London to Bristol, Beth and Cath are about to meet and discover they share one shocking thing in common.

This was a fascinating look at how abuse can be perpetrated in extremely different ways by very different people. Beth and Cath come from incredibly contrasting worlds, but both needed to escape their respective worlds. As they meet by chance, they weave their lives together and work on ways to get out of the situations they are in. There are quite a few plot twists thrown in, and the story is told well as you are constantly wondering who will get caught and what will happen next. The detective is set on getting answers no matter what. I quite enjoyed this one, another one I finished within 48 hours.

All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell

In Richmond, Virginia, young lovers are dying. So far, four couples in the area have disappeared, only to be found months later as mutilated corpses. When the daughter of the president’s newest drug czar vanishes along with her boyfriend, Dr. Kay Scarpetta knows time is short. Following a macabre trail of evidence that ties the present homicides to a grisly crime in the past, Kay must draw upon her own personal resources to track down a murderer who is as skilled at eliminating clues as Kay is at finding them.

This was a really interesting and really well done mystery. Patricia Cornwell is well established in the mystery/thriller genre and this is the first I have read of her. The protagonist – Kay Scarpetta – is a forensic medical examiner, but takes much of this murder mystery into her own hands as she realises the people around her were willing to brush it under the rug to avoid scrutiny. The end shit me, to be perfectly honest, but Cornwell is definitely an author to read if you want some thrillers with a little more gore and explanation of the crime, rather than the typical whodunit of just following clues.

Love/family + friendship

Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

It’s been seven years since Holly Kennedy’s husband died – six since she read his final letter, urging Holly to find the courage to forge a new life.
She’s proud of all the ways in which she has grown and evolved. But when a group inspired by Gerry’s letters, calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, approaches Holly asking for help, she finds herself drawn back into a world that she worked so hard to leave behind.
Reluctantly, Holly begins a relationship with the club, even as their friendship threatens to destroy the peace she believes she has achieved. As each of these people calls upon Holly to help them leave something meaningful behind for their loved ones, Holly will embark on a remarkable journey – one that will challenge her to ask whether embracing the future means betraying the past, and what it means to love someone forever…

Have you seen all over the interwebs that there is likely to be a sequel to the movie PS: I Love You? Well, this is that. The actual book version. Naturally, I cried a lot. Cecelia Ahern is probably my absolute favourite author. Her writing is imaginative and immersive, and if you haven’t before, you need to read If You Could See Me Now. But Postscript is beautiful yet again in the way Ahern deals with grief (although, sometimes her writing in this book seems a little too pretty and easy for my liking, because grief is the furthest thing from pretty), and what it’s like for people who want to leave the world ensuring the people around them feel their love.

On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

Evie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. It’s the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she’s become her twenty-seven-year-old self and the door won’t open.

Evie’s soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy. For Evie, this means unburdening herself of the three secrets that have weighed her down for over fifty years, so she must find a way to reveal them before it’s too late. As Evie begins the journey of a lifetime, she learns more about life and love than she ever thought possible, and somehow, some way, she may also find her way back to her long lost love…

This story is told from the perspective of someone who has just passed away, and the things she needs to settle before she ‘moves on’. It was a really sweet read, at times hard to get through because of the unrealistic set within the realism. If you are able to let yourself get lost in magical realism, it is a beautiful story about souls getting reconnected. While the idea is lovely, it’s quite simple writing and honestly, executed quite poorly – I still think it’s a nice one if you are looking for an easy, romantic read.

The Return of Norah Wells by Virginia MacGregor

One ordinary morning, Norah walked out of her house on Willoughby Street and never looked back. Six years later, she returns to the home she walked away from only to find another woman in her place. Fay held Norah’s family together after she disappeared, she shares a bed with Norah’s husband and Norah’s youngest daughter calls Fay ‘Mummy’.

Now that Norah has returned, everyone has questions. Where has she been? Why did she leave? And why is she back? As each member of the family tries to find the answers they each need, they must also face up to the most pressing question of all – what happens to The Mother Who Stayed when The Mother Who Left comes back?

What does family mean? This novel is a touching look into what makes a family – and whether someone can fit back in after walking away. It’s told through different characters’ voices and their respective feelings when it comes to welcoming Norah back, or wishing for her to go away again. I found this compelling and finished it over two days – literally did nothing else because it’s a huge ass book – but it was written so well that it made you not want to put it down. Though, I should warn you, there is a death – and you’re going to be shitty about it.

The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns

Little secrets grow up to be big lies…
They’ve been best friends since their sons started high school together, and Felicity, Emma and Neve share everything … or so they thought.

But Flick’s seemingly perfect marriage hides a shocking secret which, with one word, threatens to destroy her and her family’s happiness. Emma is in denial about a potential custody battle, her financial constraints, the exhaustion she can’t seem to shake off and the inappropriate feelings she has for her boss. And single mum Neve is harbouring a secret of her own; a secret that might forever damage her close-knit relationship with her son.

When the tight hold they have each kept on their secrets for years begins to slip, they must face the truth. Even if that truth has the power to hurt the ones they love, and each other.

Perhaps some secrets weren’t made to be kept.

I am still SO torn about where I sit with this book. I enjoyed reading it, and liked some characters more than others, but there was one storyline that really. fucking. annoyed me. Without giving too much away, this novel touches on an adult – who has been married for years – who is transgender and is ready to transition. I understand the point for the partner, who feels betrayed, because this part was kept from them for all their years of marriage. But it felt so selfish that I just wanted to yell at her; not once did she even try to think about how her husband felt all those years, trying to squash the real part of him. Then I would swing back and try to see it from her view, because yes it would hurt to feel as if your partner didn’t trust you for such a long time to tell you what he was feeling. AH. Knowing all of this, though, perhaps the author did a good job because it made you think and wonder what you would do if you were in that situation – for each one – as they were all keeping secrets and dealing with hard battles.

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

Four friends . . .
Joni, Deb, Eden, and Trina have been best friends since high school, sharing a bond that has seen them through their teenage years and into adulthood. But now, time and circumstance is starting to pull them apart as careers, husbands, and babies get in the way. As their yearly vacation becomes less of a priority—at least for three of the women—how can Joni find a way to draw the four of them back together?

Four secrets . . .
During a laughter and wine-filled night, the women dare one another to write anonymous letters, spilling their deepest, darkest secrets. But the fun game turns devastating, exposing cracks in their lives and the friendships they share. Each letter is a dark confession revealing shocking information. A troubled marriage? A substance abuse problem? A secret pregnancy? A heartbreaking diagnosis?

Five letters . . .
Late on one of their last nights together, after the other three have gone to bed, Joni notices something in the fireplace—a burnt, crumpled, nearly destroyed, sheet of paper that holds the most shattering revelation of all. It is a fifth letter—a hate-filled rant that exposes a vicious, deeply hidden grudge that has festered for decades. But who wrote it? Which one of them has seethed with resentment all these years? What should Joni do?

The Moriarty sisters definitely have the same type of tone and writing style. Reading Nicola’s work reminded me a lot of Liane’s, but the ending felt a little forced and rushed, since we spent the whole book wondering who bloody wrote the fifth letter. It was a surprise, though, so I’ll give it that – I wasn’t expecting the end, and I think it portrayed well how little things in childhood can affect someone for their entire life, and perhaps not all young friendships are made to withstand adulthood.

Fantasy-ish

Elixir by Hilary Duff

Clea Raymond has felt the glare of the spotlight her entire life. The daughter of a renowned surgeon and a prominent Washington DC politician, she has grown to be a talented photojournalist who takes refuge in a career that allows her to travel to the most exotic parts of the world. But after Clea’s father disappears while on a humanitarian mission, Clea’s photos begin to feature eerie, shadowy images of a strange and beautiful man—a man she has never seen before.

When fate brings Clea and this man together, she is stunned by the immediate and powerful connection she feels with him. As they grow closer, they are drawn deep into the mystery behind her father’s disappearance, and they discover the centuries old truth behind their intense bond. Torn by a dangerous love triangle and haunted by a powerful secret that holds their fates, together they race against time to unravel their pasts in order to save their lives—and their futures.

Did YOU know that Hilary Duff had written a novel?! I consider myself a rather big fan of Hilary; most of you know by now the anecdote of my scrapbook filled entirely of Hilary when I was young… so you can imagine my surprise when I stumble across a book written by Hilary Duff in 2010. Noting, however, that it was written with Elise Allen, so we won’t know how much of the writing pull Duff really had. It’s marketed as Young Adult fantasy-ish, which is pretty much my jam. I’ll admit, getting into it I struggled; I mean, there was this 17 year old with prominent parents, who was home-schooled and had this bestie who worked for her and he was a 20 year old with a doctorate? But, also, remembering the idea is coming from a celebrity who wouldn’t have ever really had a semblance of normal, and also worked on projects like Cadet Kelly and Agent Cody Banks. In saying this, after the second chapter, I was hooked. It was a really creative story and I finished it all in one sitting; there are two more books to the story and I may read them soon, but it didn’t reel me in enough to care. The idea was there, the execution maybe not so much.

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Rackers

homemade cashew milk

*buy these rings through the shop

I have been on the search for an alternative milk for my coffee for probably about three years. I enjoy almond when I go out, but I have never quite managed to master making a good almond coffee at home; also it is impossible to make almond milk creamy???

In walks — the wonderful cashew milk. An incredibly simple recipe to follow for all of your creamy nutty milky needs.

  1. Soak 4 cups of cashews in the fridge overnight (12-24 hours)
  2. Drain cashews & rinse all the way through
  3. Put in your blender:
    your cashews
    3 cups of water*
    2 tsps vanilla extract
    2 tbsps honey
    pinch of sea salt
    optional: 3 dates or dash of cinnamon
  4. Blend for 3 minutes on high or until all mixed together!

Magic! Voila! Creamy cashew milk!
*blend with more water if you prefer it less creamy

This should keep for at least four days and makes quite a bit to cover your coffee & cereal for a few days ☕️

 

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Rackers

A Not Very Definitive List of Christmas Movies to Watch on Netflix

Surprisingly, even someone like me can max out on Christmas content. I sat down and watched these over the course of a week. That’s right; 25 Christmas movies within the span of one week in early November. Now, I can’t rank these. I adored *most of* them in different ways, and shed many a tear over almost every one (though I’m not sure that says much, I cry in TV ads). In the week and a half since my Christmas binge, I have since turned to mysteries, war and thrillers… that is how much I maxed out.

Anyway, here goes the Not Very Definitive List of Christmas Movies to Watch on Netflix, 25 movies for the 25 days of Christmas!

Christmas Inheritance

I went into this preparing for a really shit plotline and to cringe my way through. Considering pretty much every Christmas movie has the same plotline, I wasn’t surprised by this one either; but I actually l o v e d this movie. It helps that I love Jake Lacy. A young, naturally ambitious (duh, it’s a Hallmark Movie) woman has to go to a small town to deliver a special Christmas card to her dad’s former business partner before she can inherit the family business. A snowstorm hits the town so she’s stuck there… and I can almost bet you can guess the rest. Still recommend though, for a classic feel good Christmas film.

A Dog Walker’s Christmas Tale

Ok, but not only dogs… Aaron Samuels from Mean Girls. Another white rich girl! She starts walking her neighbour/family friends’/fellow rich people’s dog for some extra cash money as she’s maxed out her probably really high credit card. She meets *Aaron Samuels* at the dog park, he wants to save it from developers because good guy, and… does she change her self-centred ways to help the dog people? If you’re not already sold on dogs and Jonathon Bennett (Aaron Samuels) – his acting is actually quite good and I had a few giggles.

Santa Girl

Santa’s daughter (yes, daughter) wants to experience college in the USA (because, obviously, the States are the centre of the world…/sarcasm) before she… dundundun… takes over the family business and marries Jack Frost Jr. Honestly, why am I going into these with pre-judgements? Also, why do I keep forgetting that I absolutely love all things Christmas, no matter how cringe? I really liked this. It was like, the ultimate Christmas vibe (naturally, it’s all about the Claus’), and the elf who joins Santa’s daughter is really cute and a fabulous character.

Let It Snow

Look, as you can probably imagine, I’m a sucker for a good Young Adult novel… thus John Green (I have also just finished binging Looking for Alaska). A make of one of his books, it was a heartwarming journey of navigating the step from teenagehood into adulthood and figuring out who you are, who you love and what is most important in life. 

Merry Kissmas

Another blondie… in a loveless relationship. She then kisses a stranger (??) under a mistletoe, coincidentally bumping into him the next day because he’s catering her fiance’s new ballet, duh. Who will she choose… the fiance she no longer loves, or the good looking stranger? More dogs! And another hunky dory lead actor! I remember watching this last year, and I thought I hadn’t liked it… and I either forgot it, was in a shit mood when I watched it last year, or became even more of a hopeless romantic within the past year. 

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

This is not the one of the same name from 1998. This one has James Brolin and Mena Suvari, and it was actually quite cute. Jackie hasn’t seen her dad in a few years since her mum passed away, and all of a sudden, he pops up around Christmas. Her cute kid takes an immediate liking to her Grandpa and convinces him to stick around for celebrations. Her dad throws everything up in the air when she’s so used to planning!!! Oh no!!! Shall we learn the importance of love and family again? (No, but really. I liked this a lot and would bring it around again for Christmas vibes).

Angels in the Snow

A couple who have been together for years are fighting. They seem to be falling out of love. Their kids are shitheads. They head out of town to their new (fucking huge) “cottage” out of town, and a snowstorm hits, leading another holidaying family to show up and ask for shelter. Plot twists. Appreciate life. I cried.

A Christmas Prince

Have we got another ambitious young woman??? Chasing her work dreams… having to choose between love and work?!?! A journalist is sent to a small European country (where coincidentally, they all speak English), called Aldovia (shockingly similar to Genovia?!), to get a scoop on the Prince who is set to be King. Ok so I put this one off for so long. Like, I don’t know what it was, but there was something about it that just told me I wouldn’t like it. I think Prince’s annoy me? Cause they’re all ‘Hey I hate this job but gosh I just have to do it because *obligations*’ and I’m like fuck get some agency outside of your family hey. BUT! Here I am learning not to judge a movie by it’s cover, because that was legit the whole storyline; like this guy had his own agency and needed to make the whole Becoming King situation for himself. Plot twists everywhere, I actually really enjoyed it. 

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

They started this one…by literally casting a different person as the father, and made the classic “I feel like a brand new person” line, which gave me awful flashbacks of That 70’s Show trying to replace Topher Grace. A year after love found love found love, they are going to marry but!!! She’s wondering if she can really be Queen! Also, the money in Aldovia is shockingly scarce… is it an insider job? Will she be able to use her journalistic skills (because journalism is the same as detective work, duh), to discover what’s going on? What will happen?! I enjoyed this less than the first, but it was still sweet and had it’s feel-good moments.

The Spirit of Christmas

Christmas, ghosts, mystery AND love?! A lawyer is set to inspect an inn to sell, but the inn is haunted. Haunted by a ghost who is cursed (because being a ghost isn’t enough of a curse), where he turns into a human in the 12 days before Christmas. Does the (yet another white blonde) ambitious woman fall in love with the handsome ghost? How do you navigate that? Will they find out how he really died? SO MANY QUESTIONS, and they are all answered, in this wonderfully weird Christmas movie.

Once Upon a Holiday

A princess…yes, another one, from a weird not-real small country, is visiting New York during Christmas, and escapes! Because she wants to be normal! A lovely, tall man saves her from thieves and he takes her on a tour of ‘his’ New York. All these princesses want is a normal life, y’all. Why can’t you give it to them?! And why is it ALWAYS Christmas that they manage to throw a spanner in the works and fuck shit up. Like princess girl you know you have shit to do and people to please. Can’t you disappear in, like, July? Anyway, despite it being yet another predictable plotline, it was also enjoyable. Love and normality wins again, pals. 

Christmas with a View

A celebrity chef starts working at a ski resort (imagine Gordon Ramsay, except better looking and not like him at all), and a romance blossoms between him and the resort restaurant’s manager; who naturally has goals bigger than being a manager at a small inn. *Gasp!* Will he help her chase her dreams and find love along the way? This was feel-good, love all around, hurrah Christmas. Watch it.

The Holiday Calendar

A young woman. A photographer with big dreams. A not very supportive family, except her Grandpa, with whom she inherits an antique Advent calendar… But wait! It predicts her future! This is up there with one of my favourite Netflix Christmas movies, which proves my Not Very Definitive List, since I have it so far down. Full of magic, love and family… what more could ya want?

A Wish for Christmas

A shy, talented woman (another Mean Girls comeback – this one starring Gretchen Wieners!) who allows people to walk all over her at work, until a big asshole steals one of her campaign ideas. She meets ye olde Santa Claus, who she thinks is just a fake Santy but of course it’s real Santy, cause Santy’s always around when you need him. Anyway, she wishes to gain the courage to stand up for herself. Does she discover that she had that courage all along? The magic of Santa!

The Christmas Chronicles

Siblings who slightly hate each other are stuck together on Christmas Eve, as their mum has to work – so they make a scheme to catch Santa Claus in the act. The dingbats didn’t think that far ahead, cause then they mess up Santa’s ride, and they must help save the day with Santy and his elves! (The elves are super cute). This stars Kurt Russell as Santa, so he’s a lil bit sassy still with the Santa magic, and a cute little surprise in who is Mrs Claus at the end.

The Princess Switch

Vanessa Hudgens does a Lindsay Lohan, where she plays both the leading parts. A baker meets a duchess who looks JUST LIKE HER (shock!), and they decide to… switch places?! And then… they fall in love with the respective men in each others’ lives? A wild ride. Shockingly bad, it’s so good.

You Can’t Fight Christmas

A very serious businessman, who doesn’t really care about Christmas, is set to eventually inherit his grandfathers’ hotel. He meets the decorator for the hotel who has mad Christmas fever (her and I are soul sisters). They are very different people… but will very serious businessman find love for Christmas… and for her? A VERY good looking cast, a sweet premise, and yes… good enough for your Christmas film binge.

Miss Me This Christmas

Based at the Chesterton, just like You Can’t Fight Christmas. It’s all set at the same time!!! They have some of the same scenes! WIld! I thought I was having deja vu; so you can watch these in succession. A couple, who both love Christmas, got married on Christmas six years ago. But, their love has been lost, and they decide to divorce… the date their divorce is final? You guessed it, Christmas. It’s a bit of a silly competition between a couple who are breaking up and use other people to make each other jealous, but you know?? Occasional giggles, so maybe worth watching? I dunno. It’s okay. 

How Sarah Got Her Wings

Just like Heaven vibes. A woman dies (I didn’t really spoil anything, it happens within the first five minutes), can’t get let into heaven until she’s earned Angel status; she’s sent back to earth to see if she can set things right. Big plot twist at the end! This wasn’t my top pick, but also…still good enough for the Christmas binge.

Christmas Survival

Christmas time comes with a family who come together on their parents’ farm for celebrations. Scandal, affairs and family fights – a more realistic version of Christmas time with family. I’m not really sure what I thought of this movie. I zoned out more than three times, so I think that says enough. It was ya typical wild family ride, as they try to navigate Christmas day when they all struggle to get along.

48 Christmas Wishes

Two junior elves misplace a town’s letters to Santa and set out to retrieve the missing wishes. Why are all the parents dead in these Christmas movies??? This was actually quite cute though. Acting was not fab but they’re kids and I can’t act, so I’m not really in a place to judge. V family friendly and one if you actually wanted a movie full of Christmas magic. I cried so many snot tears at the end of the movie.

Holiday in the Wild

Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis. What a pair. Ok so this comes up under Christmas when you search it in Netflix… And it’s? Hardly?? A Christmas movie??? Kate goes to Africa after her husband ends their marriage, and she falls in love with Africa and helping wildlife… does she find human love too?! It was also one of those movies that has a buttload of potential as the premise is beautiful, but never quite reaches it. Casting is stellar, though. So if you just need a fix of Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis, this movie is it. 

The Angel of Christmas

A budding young writer. Ambitious, of course. She has her chance at writing an actual newspaper article! So she decides to write about a Christmas ornament, an Angel, that is a family heirloom. She meets an artist along the way… is the magic of the family Angel real?! A bit of history, a bit of mystery, a bit of Chris…tery; all the ingredients for a sweet film.

Pottersville

A local businessman runs around town at night in a gorilla costume, and townsfolk think they saw Big Foot. This brings much needed tourists to the town. Shocking and gross Australian accent – there’s a point to that in the end though. Odd characters and town. Very fitting for supporting small and supporting your community! They also sold it as a Christmas movie, but it was just set around Christmas and didn’t really have any cheer. It was WEIRD. It’s kind of cute and weird so maybe a movie for another time? But not for Christmas.

Christmas Wedding Planner

A budding wedding planner, planning her cousin’s wedding. Cue, private investigator rocks up, ready to find out the secrets of the groom. But, also! He’s the ex boyfriend of the bride! Will he fall in love with the wedding planner? Will he ruin the wedding? Is the groom hiding anything? Holy shit. This sucked. Like, sucked so bad I almost wouldn’t recommend it. But… maybe you need to experience it for yourself?

You can also find other Christmas classics like Miracle on 34th Street, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Elf, and Shrek the Halls!

 

 

 

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The One with Christmas

A List of Christmas Holiday Episodes from Our* Favourite Shows

Our, meaning Rackers…

Friends

Season 1, episode 9. The One where the Underdog Gets Away

Season 1, episode 10. The One with The Monkey

Season 2, episode 8. The One with the List

Season 2, episode 9. The One with Phoebe’s Dad

Season 3, episode 9. The One with the Football

Season 3, episode 10. The One where Rachel Quits

Season 4, episode 8. The One with Chandler in a Box

Season 4, episode 10. The One with the Girl From Poughkeepsie

Season 5, episode 8. The One with the Thanksgiving Flashbacks

Season 5, episode 10. The One with the Inappropriate Sister

Season 6, episode 9. The One Where Ross Got High

Season 6, episode 10. The One with the Routine

Season 7, episode 8. The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs

Season 7, episode 9. The One with All the Candy

Season 7, episode 10. The One with The Holiday Armadillo

Season 8, episode 9. The One with the Rumour

Season 8, episode 11. The One with the Creepy Holiday Card

Season 9, episode 8. The One with Rachel’s Other Sister

Season 9, episode 10. The One with Christmas in Tulsa

Season 10, episode 8. The One with the Late Thanksgiving

 

Gilmore Girls

Season 1, episode 10. Forgiveness and Stuff

Season 2, episode 10. The Bracebridge Dinner

Season 3, episode 10. That’ll Do, Pig

Season 4, episode 11. In the Clamor and the Clangor

Season 5, episode 11. Women of Questionable Morals

Season 6, episode 12. Just Like Gwen and Gavin

Season 7, episode 11. Santa’s Secret Stuff

A Year in The Life: Winter

 

Will & Grace

Season 2, episode 7. Homo for the Holidays

Season 3, episode 8 & 9. Lows in the Mid-Eighties

Season 4, episodes 9 & 10. Moveable Feast

Season 4, episode 12. Jingle Balls

Season 5, episode 11. All About Christmas Eve

Season 6, episode 10. Fanilow

Season 7, episode 10 & 11. Queens for A Day

Season 7, episode 12. Christmas Break

Season 8, episode 9. A Little Christmas Queer

 

New Girl

Season 1, episode 6. Thanksgiving

Season 1, episode 9. The 23rd

Season 2, episode 8. Parents

Season 2, episode 11. Santa

Season 3, episode 10. Thanksgiving III

Season 4, episode 9. Thanksgiving IV

Season 4, episode 11. LAXmas

Season 6, episode 7. Last Thanksgiving

Season 6, episode 10. Christmas Eve Eve

 

Merry Most Wonderful Time of the Year Everyone!
Remember to be kind, this time of year is difficult for many.
& don’t forget to support small this Christmas!

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still me, jojo moyes

Still Me is the third book in Jojo Moyes Me Before You trilogy. If you haven’t read the books, you likely know the story from the incredible (acting, and to look at, let’s be real) casting of the movie adaptation for Me Before You. From a mixture of Game of Thrones, Hunger Games and Harry Potter — with Emilia Clarke at the helm as Louisa Clark, we watch as she falls in love with her client Will Traynor, played by Sam Claflin. (And then some cheeky appearances by Neville Longbottom, aka. Matthew Lewis as Louisa’s boyfriend).

Still Me follows Louisa Clark through moving across the seas to, nothing but, New York City (because how else are you supposed to find yourself unless it’s on the other side of the world, in a big city? Duh). She leaves her wonderful, beautiful paramedic boyfriend back in London, so naturally that throws a few curveballs into the mix; especially when she meets a Wall Street social climber who looks awfully like someone from her past. Moyes has an incredible way of painting New York through Louisa’s eyes, the socialite parties with her employer, the extravagance of living on Fifth Avenue, as though you almost feel like you’re there… I could picture the exact buildings she was talking about, and imagine myself running (struggling) through Central Park alongside Lou.

I devoured this in almost on entire sitting. In less than 24 hours, I went along the ride with Louisa Clark for (I assume) the last time, and one of much self-discovery. I think it’s underestimated how much one can lose themselves in the midst of grief, and just how important it is to be able to get back to yourself – let alone to define what yourself really is. For me, it was one of those books that you go to put down so you can go about your daily routine, but you pick it back up immediately, thinking just another chapter…

In reviews, you can see that people often come back to the idea that Moyes shouldn’t have written another book. That her protagonist, Lou, didn’t need her story to be continued after the heartbreak of the first story. But who are we to say where a character’s story should end? And if an author thinks there is more to tell, then there is… It’s their world, after all. As with the character of Lou, life continues on after the shittiest times of our lives, and perhaps Moyes wanted to gift her readers’ the happy ending; which is entirely her prerogative.

If you decide to go into it, go into it lightly. It is not as heart wrenching as it’s predecessor, and arguably that is one of the best things about it. This was a light, easy read and painted a picture for those who decide to live boldly and *find* themselves in the process. While the narrative jumped, it was occasionally corny, and it definitely pulled in some very well-used tropes; I still highly recommend it.

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graduated

Last week, I graduated from University; thus closing a long chapter in le ~ book of life ~. It took me five and a half years, a small sabbatical, a switch in degrees, and many last minute assignments to get that beautiful piece of paper. I walked out with a Bachelor of Writing, majoring in Creative Writing, and in Literary Studies. So, basically, I walked out of there with a piece of paper that says I can write and read.

Finishing my degree has been more to me than just being able to get a job in… Writing. Is that even a thing outside journalism/before getting ‘properly published’? Ah, the ever elusive Arts degrees. It’s been about a commitment to what I want out of my life and in a career. People ask what difference it makes now; I already have established myself in business, as an artist, and in a writer in my own right. What are you even going to use it for? Well… Writing, duh.

Studying writing changed the way I saw it; the art form, but also the thought that goes into which word you use, the structure of your sentence, and where exactly to emphasise.

Welcome to the real world… except, wait a minute? I have been living in it. Because living as a student is just as valid as your job taking up most of your week.

I have seen things take the rounds on the socials in saying that tertiary education isn’t necessary to get where you need to be, and is a whole lot of unnecessary debt. Isn’t that just a whole lot of subjective bullshit? Does that not depend entirely on where someone wants to be? And… hang on… is it not my debt? You’re not paying it off, darls.

There was something I read just the other day, that said you should build a business rather than get a degree. Sure, if you have a business idea and no desire for more education? Go for it. If you are going to Uni in hopes of figuring it out along the way, perhaps taking time away from study is the path for you. But you wipe out the myriad of careers that require the study. From communications all the way to doctors. And the Arts degrees are as valid, it all coming down to where the individual wants to end up. Also… saying this denies that we are all cogs in a machine, and honestly, you have to face that fact while we live in a capitalist society. That there will be people who have to be employees, rather than employers. And that there are people who want that.

I am speaking to you from both ends of the bat: starting my business was the best decision I made for myself, in terms of what brings me finance and freedom to do what I love. But going to University refined skills I need to succeed in the field I desire. Why can’t I have both?

A simple message to end on: stop trying to dictate how you think others should live their lives because you are insecure about your own decisions. Literally, just… live and let live.

Soiya Uni *cheers*

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the human condition

The more you think about it, the more you spiral; the more you tell yourself to stop thinking about it, the more you think about it.

The human condition is weird. We all have something wrong, whether it is classed as a mental issue or not; no one is perfect and no one is normal (so stop thinking you are, you big loser). We have a tendency to forget that everyone around us are also fighting battles; perhaps you are at a peak in life where everything is running smooth, or perhaps it only looks like that on the outside as you battle invisible things.

Some of you may simply be coasting through; nothing too bitter of substance is plaguing your mind, you are just here. Going through the motions until the next big thing happens.

In moments of absolution; where we feel as if nothing could be better or nothing could possibly get worse, we seemingly forget the literal billions of other souls going through their own. That because you just had the Really Bad Thing happen to you, your life is infinitely worse than that of your friends, or of the person sitting next to you on the train. Conveniently forgetting that, yes, perhaps in this moment, your life could not get harder; but in doing so, you provide your ego a feeling of Otherness. A feeling that you are different from every single person on earth. That you are alone.

It feels like we’re all talking about it but no one’s listening. We’re all masking our pain, our thoughts and ourselves to placate everyone else. It gets to certain times of the year and we ask a little more because it’s talked about more, because it’s advertised, because we have to be told to care. We share a post, we tell people we’re there, and yet… it’s falling on deaf ears. Because even if you show or tell someone you’re there, they’ll only believe it if they want to.

Actions speak louder than words, yet we forget that we are all trying to wade through each day while stuck in our own little world. That sometimes perhaps you need to allow space for people to realise what they have in you. No one in this world understands themselves 100%, and yet we put heavy expectations on those around us to understand every need we have. When we’re in our darkest moments, our brains forgets the feeling of happiness (it’s Science), and you may not know how you will react to the emotions coursing through your body. Whether it’s a gut-wrenching cry, or yelling at someone you love, or simply shutting everyone out. We know this about ourselves, and yet; we don’t afford the benefit of the doubt to those around us. We won’t speak up and yet we expect our loved ones to come to us when they are in the midst of a breakdown.

Why are we making it harder for each other to speak up? We unintentionally shut people out because we feel misunderstood, or we’re afraid to lay ourselves bare. We are creatures of habit, and of comfort. Recoiling at the idea of something new, even if that newness is friendship, contentedness, or love in its many forms. Sometimes it’s easier to stand alone, with no one to lean on and no one leaning on you, because it’s safer. Less variables. Less likelihood of hurt, shame, heartbreak. But that makes the human condition even harder. Throw away your expectations, and be there. For your people, and for yourself. But don’t only talk; listen.

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Rackers

How To: Look Good Naked

How to look good naked, a step by step guide by Rackers:

  • Take your clothes off.