Heartbreaking Universe

Photo credit: Aditya Vyas on Unsplash

Reviewing Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore today. The first little bit will be a spoiler free review, talking about the movie in general and then I will dive into a fully fledged spoiled review. I will definitely include a spoiler alert before I start talking plot points. Be warned, there is a high probability this will turn into a rant.

There are two ways to watch the movie. One is to watch it by itself, as a stand alone series and the second is to watch it in the context of the Harry Potter universe. If you are a fan of the Harry Potter series, grew up with it and are able to separate these movies – good for you! I am honestly jealous.

First things first, the Secrets of Dumbledore is better than Crimes of Grindelwald by a lot. This part of the review is spoiler-free and also more accurate if you are watching this movie without the context of the Harry Potter universe. It is an okay movie. The visual effects are amazing, all fight sequences are beautifully shot and it is a well paced movie. Mads Mikkelsen is great as Grindelwald – I may be biased here because I really like Mads Mikkelsen in villain roles. He was great as Hannibal. Honestly, those are the only positive things I can muster up about the movie.

I grew up reading Harry Potter and used to be a huge fan. It has gotten me through some really tough times, it taught me about inclusion and has been like a security blanket for me. It all came crashing down when the author came out as a TERF. In retrospect, I should have seen the signs but I guess I was just blind. It was a heartbreaking moment. It took a lot out of me to find a way to separate the books from the hatred. It isn’t easy because it would be one thing if the series had ended in a completely – however, JK seems adamant on dragging out the Harry Potter universe until its death. Constant tweets, retcon and video games keep it in the public eye. All these cash grabby techniques are annoying at the least. Anti-trans is now combined with anti-Semitism – the new game about defeating a ‘goblin rebellion’ is problematic in more ways than one.

The natural question here is, why did I go watch the movie? I was sort of forced to. Some friends really wanted to watch it and I couldn’t get out of it for different reasons. I am hoping this review can help you if you are curious but have no interest in watching the movie. As mentioned earlier, it is almost impossible to separate the Fantastic Beasts from the Harry Potter universe because of all the forced connections they keep making in the movies. I am also going to be very nitpicky – I used to be super fan. I was on a Harry Potter fan panel at comic con so yes, it might be a bit much, I might be taking this a bit seriously but whatever. A lot of my life is spent with fictional characters and they become important to me.

Spoiler Alert – Plot points and nitpicking begins here.

The movie starts with retcon’d relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. On the one hand, I am glad they made their very non-platonic relationship obvious but it just felt like too little, too late. Lets get the little inconsistencies out of the way first, shall we –

  1. They use a Portkey to transport from point A but arrive via Floo powder in point B.
  2. There is a lot of magic performed out in public around muggles – is the American Statute of Secrecy different than the British?
  3. Some of the magic makes no sense: this one witch is able to magically change not just her clothes but also Jacob’s?
  4. Albus and Aberforth have way more of a relationship than we were led to believe in the original.
  5. WHY THE HELL IS MINERVA MCGONAGALL A TEACHER ALREADY?
  6. There is a fake Azkaban called Irkstarg or something – no information about it is given.
  7. Albus can create illusionary settings like in Inception – what?
  8. The Room of Requirements just appears without all of them imagining the same thing.
  9. Killing curse didn’t kill a beast entirely – it was still groaning…
  10. ABERFORTH HAS A SON (it is Credence, what the freaking hell!!)
  11. There is one leader for the entire magical world? Since when?
  12. Two movies were spent with Grindelwald manipulating Credence but in a matter of minutes, Credence’s loyalties are turned.
  13. What happened to Dumbledore’s flamboyance?
  14. There is a forced emotional scene between Aberforth and Credence and it ends with “Always” – come on!!
  15. Dumbledore’s and Grindelwald’s wands meet like in Harry Potter – there was a very specific reason for it.
  16. Jacob’s wand is fake – it is just a stick.

The worst of all is the main conflict in the movie is so ridiculously solved. The three movies were all about how Dumbledore can’t fight Grindelwald because of this ‘blood oath’ they had taken as lovers. If either of them tried to attack the other, the blood oath would kill them. But by the end of the movie the oath is just… broken. Without any consequences. Grindelwald aims his wand to kill Credence and at the same time Dumbledore aims his wand to protect Credence and their wands meet. There is a short scuffle and the oath just shatters. Apparently it is fate? What a let down!

However, the ‘scuffle’ was actually very well shot. I enjoyed the chemistry between them in that scene. Although, Grindelwald has the freaking elder wand so how is he unable to subdue Dumbledore? I can let this one go because Dumbledore is a very powerful wizard.

There were some funny moments, not laugh out loud but puff of air funny. There was one scene in particular that I really enjoyed. They need to make decoy suitcases to protect a certain beast. One is filled with pastries, another filled with the monster book of monsters and a third filled with bludgers. Once opened, they start replicating like the items in Bellatrix’s vault. This, I thought was super fun and cool.

I am being forced to include this in here by my partner. He insists this is the most unrealistic aspect of the movie. They travel to Bhutan in the third half of the movie. If you have been to Bhutan you would know that they believe penises are sacred/good luck – it represents a certain magical monk and also fertility. The walls in Bhutan are covered in penis art. There is an entire tradition revolving around this when someone buys a new house. There isn’t a single penis in the movie. I did try to tell him that they were in the ‘wizard’ part of Bhutan but he wasn’t convinced. He says people need to know.

Bottom line – there are two more movies and you really aren’t missing much. You could probably watch it when it is eventually released on OTT and on a lazy Saturday when you aren’t in the mood to do anything.

Have you seen the movie? Are you going to see it? What are your thoughts about Harry Potter? Let me know!

Anything can be funny

Review and spoiler alert for Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I have not read their other works and didn’t really know what these essays were about. I never expected to have so much in common with Samantha Irby! (I am obviously very flattered). I never thought I would find so much solace in finding a piece of me in this incredibly witty book. But I do and I did. This book is hilarious, I was straight up laughing – real laughing, not just a puff of air. The humor is unexpected and delightful. From the dedication to the acknowledgment, the jokes are non-stop. Some are subtle, just casually strewn in and some quiet elaborate.

This review is not humorous because I am just not a funny person. I like to think I have a good sense of humor but I can’t tell a joke to save my life. Below you will find some serious talk about underlying themes, topics and issues talked about in the book. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the author did a great job with how they tackled chronic health issues, racism and poverty as funnily and poignantly as they did.

It was a very nice change of pace to read about some very serious issues in a dark-humor setting. I learned a lot, laughed even more and cried a little bit. If that doesn’t make a great book, I don’t know what does.

Here’s the thing, I did not grow up poor. Neither was I rich. I grew up in a very typically average middle class family in a third world country. I don’t claim to know the struggles of being an orphan or poor or black in America. That’s not what this is about. My childhood was traumatic, I am fat, I have a chronic illness and extreme anxiety. These are some overarching themes in the book that made me feel seen. This is what representation should look and feel like.

Maybe I am naïve to think everything in the essays is real, I am pretty sure it is – it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, someone out there (someone as brilliant as Samantha Irby no less) has had these thoughts and feelings even if it is just a part of their imagination. I am not questioning their experiences or claiming they are untrue – I am just saying for me, it doesn’t matter. I am able to relate and appreciate either way.

Let’s talk about some of my favorite essays. If you are short on time but want to read some, these are the essays I would strongly recommend.

Hung up! – from casual straight people racism to gun-toting maga idiots. Honestly, I had not realized how much casual racism exists in American culture and have only recently been educating myself. From nonchalant talk of ‘ghettos’ to curly hair unprofessionalism; from being denied AirBnB reservations to white women marveling at the fact that you can read (in my case, people seem fascinated with how well I speak English. Do you know India was ruled by the British for over two centuries? Like we don’t go to school on elephants). Going from that to scary fascists who might shoot you just for existing.

I was going to say Love and Marriage but since I am picking my favorites, I am going to have to go with Are you familiar with my work? – This is one had me in splits. I am sure it is flattering to be confused with Roxane Gay but pretty sure that would get old real fast.

My absolute favorite is A guide to simple home repairs. I don’t own a home, never have and never will. I refuse to buy real estate for many reasons. Mainly, I would feel nailed down, caged sort of. I prefer being able to up and move to another country as easily as possible, if I wanted to. However, I didn’t even know half the things that goes into owning a home. I am going to print this essay out (credited of course) and give it to people who seem entitled to give me their constant advice about real estate.

Hello, 911? This essay is pretty much my anxiety in written form. There are some different ways that I particularly experience anxiety. Yes, I do the thing where I imagine the worst possible outcome for every situation – but I also continue to validate this when one of those outcomes is true. I mean, it is just simple probability. If I imagined everything that could go wrong, some of it will go wrong at some point. I am learning to unlearn this terrible habit. Most of my day is spent in a flight, fight or freeze state. I am not only constantly second guessing myself but when I do experience moments of self-confidence and do something, I end up obsessing over it for hours. This spike in adrenaline is associated with panic attacks and this is why I just can’t get on rollercoasters or watch scary movies or river rafting – it’s just not fun for me. I am conditioned to or rather, I have conditioned myself to this association. Second hand anxiety is a real thing. I do get anxious for the protagonists in movies or TV shows, for strangers on the road, for fictional characters in books. It definitely is exhausting.

Oh also, I did get this book from the library but I intend on gifting it to one of my friends! I am so glad I stumbled upon this book. I thoroughly enjoyed myself! Have you read anything by Samantha Irby? Are you going to? Let me know!

Of Juxtapositions and Oxymorons

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Book Review for The Doctor and the Saint: Caste, Race, and Annihilation of Caste by Arundhati Roy and Tales of Nevèrÿon by Samuel R Delaney. As usual, spoiler alert in place for both of these books. If you intend on reading either of the books, stop here, bookmark this page and come back when you are done.

This review is NOT intended to compare the two extremely distinct authors nor the books. This review is my point of view, my thoughts and my opinions alone. You are welcome to click off if anything seems not to your liking.

Background on why these books and why in this combination. A few years ago, I realized that my reading habits were exclusively housed in the fantasy genre and more so in the YA fantasy genre. I decided that it was time to expand my bookshelf. Ever since, I have been trying to incorporate different genres, authors, countries and eras. It was one of the best decisions of my life. I have learned so much and I can feel my brain expanding covering up some of my blind spots that I would never have had otherwise.

It isn’t easy, however, to branch out of your comfort zone and commit to reading a book that you probably will have no interest in. Luckily, I know myself pretty well and am able to pick out books I know I want to learn from or is a topic I care about. I have had a few duds on the way (looking at you The King of Kahel) but for the most part I have really enjoyed this journey.

I try to pick a book I really want to and a book I really should, to read simultaneously. This way if one of them is not really doing it for me, I can take a break with the other one. It is also fun reading different styles of writing and storytelling at the same time.

Never before have I read two books that are stark contrasts yet vaguely related. I also did not expect to enjoy Delany as much as I did or be disappointed in Roy as much as I was. It was fascinating reading these two books together though. Social commentary hasn’t changed much in the past few decades probably because the world seems to be going backwards rather than becoming more tolerant.

I enjoy Roy’s works – a lot. I devoured The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and can’t get The God of Small Things out of my head even after all these years. I have heard very good things about her non-fiction narrative works. I was very excited to read The Doctor and the Saint. Perhaps my expectations were misplaced, I was hoping for a logical comparison of India’s two greatest leaders during the Freedom movement. Both had very distinct styles of rebellion, different causes and fundamentally different ideologies. Obviously, neither of them are perfect and depending on who you ask, they are going to pick a side. I was prepared for a somewhat biased discourse. Instead, what I got was an all out attack on the Saint and next to no analysis on the Doctor. Don’t get me wrong – my loyalties lie with the Doctor just as Roy. However, I was hoping for an in-depth analysis of how their ideologies affected the Freedom Movement, the impact of their involvement and how it shaped Independent India.

To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

Delaney however, absolutely blew my mind. Something about their writing style is so captivating; I was mesmerized by the world building, invested in the characters all the while very acutely aware of the social commentary. The story telling is amazing and the writer successfully brings all the stories into a full circle – which is no easy feat considering each story is a different part of the world and a different set of characters. At no point does it feel preachy and the commentary is so effortlessly woven into the story telling that it doesn’t feel jarring at all.

It was an absolute pleasure reading my first ever Delaney and you bet I am going to get my hands on some of their other works.

Let it Go!

Spoiler Alert: This post may contain spoilers for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Crimes of Grindelwald

This is not a book review but more of an author review. It is also a plea to my childhood hero to stop!

I am a huge Harry Potter fan. So much so that I was on the panel for Harry Potter Fandom at ComicCon. I grew up with the books and if you have seen my previous posts, you will know the series means a great deal to me.

Growing up, I admired J. K. Rowling. Her effortless portrayal of strong independent women was not only fascinating but also inspiring. She stood for feminism and encouraged young girls to follow in Hermoine’s path.

Over the years, the author has given us a lot of insight into the characters. Some heartbreaking like McGonagall’s past; some fairly obvious (to me, at least) like Dumbledore being gay and I have enjoyed each of these tidbits. They added depth and new dimensions to the characters I already loved.  It had always been fun discussing new information suddenly thrust upon us decades after our favorite series had ended.

But guess what? Too much of a good thing is bad! It all started with the fateful Cursed Child. ‘Disappointed’ would be an understatement. Cursed Child was one of the most sloppily written, money-grabbing piece of work I have ever read. To those of you that are going to jump at me and say she never wrote it, here’s what I have to say – signing off on that garbage was just as bad. Not only was it completely inconsistent with the characters we have come to know and love, the plot was ridiculous. I see the irony in calling a work of fantasy ridiculous but that’s exactly my point!

I have since come to forgive her for Cursed Child. But did it end there? If only! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was acceptable but the casting of Johnny Depp is inexcusable from someone like J. K. Rowling. I was heartbroken that my hero, the one that stood for feminism and for women’s rights would allow a wife-beating abuser like Johnny Depp to star in one of the most prominent roles in her new franchise. A franchise which, by the way, is nothing but a ploy at making money.

If FBAWTFT was acceptable, Crimes of Grindelwald was awful. I am not going into detail about everything I think is wrong with the movie. It has been covered in many articles, besides that would take up almost two posts. I will, however, say this – there is no such thing as course correcting once a series has ended. It is important that J.K. Rowling accept the lack of representation (coming out and saying Hermoine is black or Dumbledore is gay AFTER the fact, doesn’t count). She needs to stop trying to “correct” her mistakes in Harry Potter. Nobody is perfect and one of the things that makes harry Potter so great are the flaws.

Whatever it is that J.K Rowling is trying to do with Nagini, having McGonagal teach at Hogwarts when she would have been 8 years old, Nicolas Flamel, problems with the Elder Wand and all the other million things that ruin the Harry Potter canon, needs to stop. We also do not need to know about wizards pissing themselves on the reg. So, can we please let Harry Potter go. Stop messing with our childhoods. Please, just stop it!

The Power in your Hands

Spoiler Alert for The Power by Naomi Alderman : If you haven’t read the book yet please stop here, bookmark the page, read it and come back. Or if you like spoilers, please go ahead.

Let me first explain the photo displayed above. From where I come, patriarchy is rampant and the only value a woman is given is based on how successful her husband is. Without a marriage, most of her accomplishments will remain unappreciated. Growing up, I associated Mehndi (henna) with weddings. It is tradition for the bride to adorn her feet and hands with Mehndi. When I turned 23 and my parents started to bring up the topic of marriage and such, I wasn’t ready. To their credit, they did not start badgering me about it until I turned 26. At this point, I started to resent weddings and everything that went with it. This was a big deal for me because my secret ambition is to be a wedding planner when I grow up. I realized however, it wasn’t Mehndi or my parents that were causing my resentment. It was the system and the patriarchal culture that required a woman’s worth to be tied to a man.

After 3 years of debating and fighting, my parents finally have given up on the prospect of me ever being married. I have since decided Mehndi will be my symbol of the power I yield as an independent woman who doesn’t need a man to validate her.

Let us move on to the actual review of the book. Now, is a book really good if it made you extremely depressed? I think it is, because it must have been written well to incite such a strong emotion in the reader. In my last post, I talked about the best book I read in 2017. (If you didn’t read my last post, it was The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy). The Power by Naomi Alderman was the best book I read in 2018. I hated that book, only because of how accurate I thought it was in it’s depiction of a dystopian future.

If you are a feminist, like I am, you have, no doubt, daydreamed about what it would be like if the patriarchy was flipped on it’s head. What if men and women switched places? If the power lay in our hands, what would the world look like? One of the reasons I hated the book is because it shattered my bubble, it was a rude awakening to reality, my daydreams turned into nightmares.

Naomi Alderman’s writing style is pleasing, she knows how to write a story and most important of all, she knows how to captivate her audience and make them feel. For days after the book, I kept trying to find flaws in her argument, to find a way to avoid the dystopia she predicted. I could not! I was distraught. Did this mean, there was no point in our fight? Would we be committing atrocities against men? We would not! The point of feminism is not to rule over men! My fight isn’t against men – it is against patriarchy, toxic masculinity, this notion that somehow women are an inferior species.

The Power is a difficult read. But it is a very important book. If you meet men that do not believe in feminism or are the poster child for everything wrong with this world, I would have them read this book. Maybe if they read about what happens to women everyday in today’s world as happening to them, maybe then they will open their eyes and aid in our fight to smash the patriarchy.

P.S. I apologize if this post was more rant than review. I think The Power is a great food for thought and these ideas are worth discussing.

Books I could re-read forever

Kicking off with books I could re-read forever. This is definitely a long list and so I am limiting myself to 10 books; also, because I recycled this idea from a post from last year found at That Artsy reader Girl Top Ten Tuesday – Books I could re-read forever.

To avoid making this a ridiculously long post, I will try to reign in my excitement and stick to a paragraph per book (except for the first one).

Every book is a new world. I have lived and died many times over, in many worlds

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com

My top ten – used the TurboCollage Lite app

Looking back at the books I have read brought back a lot of fond memories. Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Books I Could Re-read Forever.
SPOILER ALERT: I have tried to not give away too much about the plot. I accidentally might have and so this is a cautionary spoiler alert.

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Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

On top of this list is definitely Harry Potter. I could and have re-read the entire series many times. I even own the audio books. I listen to them when I have trouble falling asleep. Harry Potter, honestly, is my go-to series. I read it when I am sad, happy, angry, whenever. I am from the generation that grew up reading the books. My mom bought me my first one when I was twelve and I immediately fell in love.

A lot of my life revolves around Harry Potter, to be honest. It is not only my security blanket but I weirdly draw strength from Harry’s world. I know in my heart, no matter what happens, nobody can take this away from me. This series represents so much more to me than just books; it has been a ray of light in my darkest hour. I can always count on losing myself for at least a few hours with Harry, leaving all my troubles behind.

I am a nerd, I own it, I love it, it’s who I am. Sci-fi and fantasy stories are mostly what I live for. I am not usually a big fan of non-fiction. However, I am trying to expand my horizons. This is why I joined the Read Harder challenge, it forces me to step out of my comfort zone. Reading non-fiction isn’t technically ‘stepping out’ of my comfort zone. I will read pretty much anything but I tend to stick to sci-fi, fantasy, murder mysteries and thrillers. I can’t resist a good story.

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Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna

I found this book by complete fluke. I had no idea what to expect – I don’t judge a book by it’s cover. This book blew me away. I will be honest, I wasn’t stoked by her writing style as much as I was about her story-telling. The story spans a few generations and is so beautifully told that it evokes emotions you normally wouldn’t feel for fictional characters. The most interesting thing I found about this book, however, was how my perspective changed when I read the book at different phases of my life. As I grew older, it wasn’t just about an epic romance; it was also about the fate of rape victims in India, of rape itself and how no one can ever predict how what life may throw at you next.

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The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Oh! How I love this book. This is one of those ‘food for thought’ books all while being one of the most intriguing stories I have read. It’s fascinating how all the different short stories come together and are connected while being seemingly disconnected. I would describe this as the Black Mirror of books. It is also kind of a cheat to add this to this list because you can always pick and choose only a select short stories to read without having to read the entire book. Of all the short stories in this book, my favorite is ‘The Exiles’. It gave me the chills.

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The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This was the best book I read in all of 2017. I read 17 books and this one easily takes the cake. Her writing style is so unique, I literally have no words to express how much I enjoyed it. I will try because this is a blog post about books. I visited Kerala when I was in undergrad and have a lot of malayali friends. I spent four years surrounded by their rich culture. Reading this book, somehow, brought back all my memories from that time. I will say this, I did not enjoy the end. She added a little bit of an ‘after story’ to the novel and I could have done without it. It seemed to me she added that part only for the sake of increasing her sales and it was definitely disappointing. Apart from that, this book was a delight. I will read this again except the last part.

On a side note – her latest book Ministry of Utmost Happiness seemed dull in comparison. If you plan on reading this book, I would suggest reading Ministry of Utmost Happiness before this one because it will not live up to it’s predecessor.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Enough has been said about this classic by a lot of people. There is nothing I can say to add on to that. This is my favorite classic of all classic literature. I am a sucker for epic tragic romances, what can I say?

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Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

My love for Geek Love is a mysterious one. I have never been able to understand what exactly it is about this book that I love. I guess it classifies as a tragic romance but it is so much more than that. Frankly, her writing style isn’t outstanding, the story itself isn’t new and the characters aren’t special but put all that together and you have this amazing, haunting read. I have thought long and hard about why this book is so appealing to me. I really think it might just be that I picked this one up when I had been feeling like an outsider. It was a time in my life I did not think I belonged anywhere. I am definitely not comparing myself to carnival folk, I do understand their struggles are great. I think at that time in my life I was able to relate to their feeling of discrimination and abandonment.

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Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

How can I call myself a nerd and not include Lord of the Rings in this list? This series is here on it’s own merit, though, not just because I am a nerd. I don’t think I need to say anything about them. If you haven’t read it, it is the gospel of fantasy books everywhere. I have never read any other book that is so immersed in it’s world and so detailed. I also strongly believe this is the only book-to-film adaptation that does any justice to the story (extended version of course).

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A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

I enjoy a murder mystery more than the average Joe. Agatha Christie is my favorite thriller genre author. Her mysteries are so well thought out. I would say, the one problem people usually face while reading her books is that there’s a lot of detail about the setting. She can easily spend three pages describing a room. Now, that is not everybody’s cup of tea. It doesn’t bother me that much. In fact I enjoy it, it helps make my imagination that much more accurate and clear. Why this book in particular, you may ask. This was my first ever Agatha Christie book. It has sentimental value. I do prefer the plot of ‘Cards on the Table’ but in my opinion, this is the mystery you can read over and over again without ever losing interest.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Five words – it is a feminist classic. Bonus – there is also a tragic romance.

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Tell Me Your Dreams – Sidney Sheldon

Before you judge me, hear me out. This is a guilty pleasure. I picked up Sidney Sheldon during my mid-teens. I must have read over half of everything he has ever written. This is the pizza of books. Is it good for you? No. Is it entertaining? Oh, definitely. I could re-read this book a million times because who doesn’t love pizza?


I hope you have enjoyed my list of books I would re-read forever. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have read any of these books or if you think I would enjoy some books that you have read.

Check out my Goodreads for books I am currently reading.