BOOK SERIES REVIEW: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Series Rating: Five star rating represented by five bumblebees (5 out of 5)

 

Cover of The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, depicting a ship with red sails riding a wave on a black background

Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.
As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

I loved this book so, so much. The premise is promising and the author delivers a riveting adventure. I loved the unique take on time travel, a ship not only sailing through space but also through time. The pacing was exactly right for me, diving straight into the action. The plot moves along quickly, but leaves room for world-building and introspection.

The Temptation is crewed by a diverse cast of characters that I immediately fell in love with. The crew consists of half-Chinese Nix, her father Slate, Kashmir, a boy rescued from a mythical place, ex-buddhist monk Rotgut, Bee, a black African gay woman, and arguably her ghost wife Ayen. They are such a wonderful found family and I was so invested in every single one of them.

But the character I loved most of all was, of course, the main character Nix. Her narrative voice is clear and strong, even when she goes through patches of doubt or existential angst. She has encyclopedic knowledge of history and mythology, and is mostly in charge of picking where they will Navigate to next. Her dream is to learn to Navigate through space and time herself and to set out on her own, but she is struggling with making a decision that would mean leaving behind her father and her home, the Temptation. Nix is a conflicted character, but she has a good heart and wants to do what’s right, even if it means self-sacrifice.

Nix’s conflict also extends into her love life. Kashmir has been her best friend and travelling companion for years, but she toys with the possibility of a relationship with a new arrival in her life. Although I’m not usually a fan of love triangles, this one was actually not that bad, and blessedly mostly void of jealousy. I could even see Nix, Kashmir, and Blake in a poly relationship, but alas, I didn’t get an OT3 ending.

In The Girl From Everywhere, Nix learns to navigate her relationship with her father, blossoming love, and eventually time and space. While this first book in the series is packed with action, it also largely acts as a set-up for the sequel. The ending is very open, so I was glad I was able to delve right into The Ship Beyond Time.

Cover of The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig, depicting a ship with red sails on a cresting wave on a white background

After what seems like a lifetime of following her father across the globe and through the centuries, Nix has finally taken the helm of their time-traveling ship. Her future—and the horizon—is bright.

Until she learns she is destined to lose the one she loves. To end up like her father: alone, heartbroken.

Unable to face losing Kashmir—best friend, thief, charmer extraordinaire—Nix sails her crew to a mythical utopia to meet a man who promises he can teach her how to manipulate time, to change history. But no place is perfect, not even paradise. And everything is constantly changing on this utopian island, including reality itself.

If Nix can read the ever-shifting tides, perhaps she will finally harness her abilities. Perhaps she can control her destiny, too.

Or perhaps her time will finally run out.

Again, I was engrossed in this book from start to finish. Heidi Heilig is an amazing writer, and in The Ship Beyond Time she masterfully interweaves history and myth in a fascinating story.

Pulling on the Breton myth of Ker-Ys, Heilig creates a fantastical setting for the crew of the Temptation. I wasn’t previously aware of this somewhat obscure myth, and finding out more about it was really interesting. I love both history and mythology, and this book asked a lot of questions about what makes something history or myth, and what that means for the characters’ identities.

In her quest to figure out changing history, Nix again grapples with herself and with what’s right. Even though she is originally driven to Ker-Ys by selfish motives, her drive to do the right thing and to help others always wins in the end. I really like characters discovering power and its ensuing possibilities, and grappling not only with whether or not they can, but also with whether or not they should.

In this book, we also got some insight into Kashmir’s thoughts via a few chapters from his POV scattered throughout the book. At first, I wasn’t too thrilled about this because I thought the POV shifts would be regular and I wanted to stay with Nix, but the author managed to intersperse Nix’s narrative with the perfect amount of Kashmir chapters, and I ended up loving them, too.

I only wish that there had been better queer rep because the only queer character having lost their spouse, though remaining married to their ghost, tastes a bit sour with the lack of overall wlw representation. Bee’s and Ayen’s relationship is incredibly sweet, but it would be improved by both of them being alive. It’s also a shame that there wasn’t any disability rep, unless you count Slate’s addiction.

Ultimately, though, this series so well-written and filled with things I love (history! mythology! heists! found family!) and the POC representation was so good that I really can’t envision giving The Girl from Everywhere anything but the full five stars.

Have you read The Girl From Everywhere? Did you like it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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BOOK REVIEW: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Rating: Rating of three-and-a-half out of five stars represented by bumblebees (3.5 out of 5)

 

Cover of Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann depicting a black girl with a beautiful big afro

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Let’s Talk About Love is Claire Kann’s debut YA novel featuring Alice, a black asexual biromantic girl, as the lead. It’s this promise of amazing representation that made me pick up this novel, even though I don’t usually go for non-speculative YA. It’s not that I don’t like or respect the genre, but I tend to not enjoy it as much as speculative fiction. I just don’t get as easily invested when the stakes are interpersonal relationships rather than, say, the fate of the world, but I don’t feel like that’s a shortcoming of the genre.

However, I did feel like the drama in Let’s Talk About Love was sometimes overly manufactured, to the point where it honestly didn’t make sense to me. This especially goes for the conflict between Alice and her almost life-long best friend Feenie. Feenie’s issues with Alice seemed completely unreasonable to me, but that’s not how they were treated, which was confusing and frustrating.

In addition, the narrative voice tried a tad too hard to be whimsical, while missing the mark on humour for me. I was still able to enjoy it though, and I ended up being very invested in the outcome of Alice’s relationship with Takumi. And most importantly, the asexual representation made me feel so seen and understood.

I’ve never in my life read a book with an asexual main character whose asexuality was spelled out so explicitly. Although it irked me that the author chose to include objects and animals under aesthethic attraction, there were other passages that made me feel so happy. There is some ace-phobia that’s also intertwined with racism and the hypersexualisation of black women, but it is made clear that those attitudes are ace-phobic and racist. That doesn’t mean they might not still be upsetting for some people, hence why I’m including this warning.

Ultimately, though, I found this a heartwarming read. Let’s Talk About Love is going to be so important for so many asexual kids out there, especially asexual black girls, and just for that I’m glad it exists even though it didn’t tick all the boxes for me personally. And now I’m going to leave you with my absolute favourite passage from the book that may or may not have made me tear up a little.

I want someone to give me flowers and take me on dates. I want to fall in love and wear a giant princess dress at my wedding. I want to have a happy ending, too, and all that other magical stuff. I want what books and TV and the world has promised me. It’s not fair that I should have to want sex to have it.


Cover of If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann featuring a beautiful fat black girl with braids

Also, there’s good news for YA lovers: Claire Kann has another YA rom-com featuring a queer fat black girl and a baking competition, If It Makes You Happy, coming out in June 2019. It sounds great, so I’m definitely considering giving it a read.

2019 Reading and Blogging Goals

Happy 2019, everyone! This post is a little late because my start into the new year was rather slow and miserable due to a chronic illness flare-up. I’m doing a lot better now, so I thought I’d share my 2019 goals for this blog!

My main goal for this year is to read as much as possible. I completed my 2018 Goodreads Challenge of 55 books without much of an issue, and since I’ve also taken up book blogging, I want to up the ante for this year’s challenge. I’ve set my goal at 75 books with a tentative stretch goal of 100.

I also want to continue to try and read more broadly and diversely. The library membership gifted to me by a generous friend last year will definitely help with that. However, I also want to delve into the world of ARCs and review copies so I can read and review books when they come out without having to wait for my library to acquire them.

Since I can’t afford to buy any books for the foreseeable future, I’ve also created a Book Wish List for titles my library doesn’t own or that make more sense to read as physical copies (i. e. graphic novels). I’d be infinitely grateful if anyone would like to purchase something for me off my list, and of course if you would like a review for something you got me, just drop me a note and I will do my best to make it happen!

Speaking of reviews, I’m going to try and write a review for most of the books I read if not all. And that brings me to my blogging goals!

I started this blog in November 2018 and I’m still trying to find my footing with regards to content and tone. I want this blog to be a positive space and resource which means I’m going to have to rein in my snarky tendencies. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any negative reviews or rants, but the main focus will be on things that I enjoy and think you will too.

Health allowing, I’m going to try and write at least one blog post per week, and more if I can. Most of these will probably be book-related, though I do want to try and produce more disability-related content as well. I am a little scared of splitting my content down the middle since I know that might make it more difficult to gain a solid readership, but the book blogging world can be an ableist sphere, and I really want to challenge that and make it a more inclusive space for other disabled people. So far, I only have a couple of half-baked content ideas, so if there’s something in particular you’d like me to discuss, drop me a comment or come chat to me on Twitter!

I’m excited about sharing the new year with you all and growing with the challenges it will bring.

BOOK REVIEW: Brooklyn Brujas Series by Zoraida Córdova

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Córdova

Rating:

Five star rating represented by five bumblebees

(5 out of 5)

Cover of Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

I was chosen by the Deos. Even gods make mistakes.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo she can’t trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.

I first read Labyrinth Lost in May of last year. I finally got around to reading the sequel, but since I couldn’t remember much from the first book, it seemed like an opportune moment for a reread.

The main character Alex is a bisexual Latinx girl, and like most of the main cast she is repeatedly described as dark-skinned with unruly hair. It’s great representation, and it’s well-written, with an engaging plot and a relatable main character. Even though in the beginning Alex makes a couple of unsympathetic choices, she more than redeems herself in the course of the book.

According to my Goodreads review from last year, I docked half a star for what I then perceived as an unnecessary love triangle. I like to think that I’ve become (and still am becoming) a more nuanced reader, and I definitely had a more nuanced read on that this time around. There is an underlying possibility of a love triangle and it is clear in the text that Alex is attracted to Nova, but I feel now that more than anything it serves to establish Alex’s bisexuality rather than to create unnecessary tension. She’s very obviously in love with Rishi, her best friend, who is also a queer girl of colour. Their relationship is adorable and delightful, and it’s so gratifying when they end up together.

The most important bond in Labyrinth Lost however is between Alex and her family, her mother and her sisters Lula and Rose. Like every family, they have their conflicts, a lot of them based around their magical heritage and the absence of the girls’ father after his mysterious disappearance. There is some very realistic bickering among the three sisters. However, they are incredibly close and protective of each other, and would go to the ends of the world for each other — which Alex actually ends up doing. The prevalent themes in this first book of the series are accepting power and finding love, embedded in the context of family and Latinx magic traditions.


Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) by Zoraida Córdova

Rating:

Five star rating represented by five bumblebees

Cover of Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…

Bruja Born was an incredible read. This second book of the series is told from the point of view of Alex’s older sister, Lula, the stereotypical “pretty one.” She has the gift of healing, and even in the first book, her warmth and unconditional love for others shines through. I love Lula’s narrative voice even more than Alex’s.

At the beginning of the book, she is still healing from the trauma of being imprisoned in Los Lagos, and struggling with depression and her father’s unexpected reappearance in her family’s life. After she and her boyfriend almost die in an accident, she tries to save Maks by healing him and by calling on treacherous powers. She causes an outbreak of casimuertos, and ends up having to race against time and her weakening body to fix her mistake.

I’m usually a slow reader, but I inhaled this book in the span of two days. In Bruja Born, the author introduces some new players, such as the Hunters and the Thorne Hill Alliance. At first I felt like they were kind of ushered in, but it ended up being a neat expansion of world-building after the first book was mostly set in a different realm. I actually preferred the stronger urban fantasy vibes of the sequel.

Watching Lula grow and heal and learn to let go was a wonderful journey. I fell more in love with all three of the bruja sisters and their unique strengths with every page. Lula, Alex, and Rose are all brave and amazing in their own ways, and I love how inseparable they are. Bruja Born was one of my absolute favourite reads this year, and I legitimately cannot wait for the third book to come out, which will be about the youngest sister Rose and the mystery surrounding their father.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Library Book Wish List

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To learn more about Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly book meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, click here.


These days, I get most all of my books at the library, which sometimes means a bit of a longer wait, but I also get to recommend pretty much any book for purchase. I have accumulated quite a list of recommendations, so for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday I’m collecting the books I’m most wishing my library will get asap!



#1 Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10) by Ilona Andrews

Kate Daniels is my favourite urban fantasy series, and one of my favourite book series, and I cannot wait to finally be able to read the highly anticipated conclusion. I’ve been invested in this series almost since the first installment was published, so it’s been a steady companion for many, many years. All I’m saying is, no one had better die.

#2 Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

This is a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy with a Native American protagonist, which are all things I love.

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Doesn’t it sound amazing?

#3 Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers #3) by Becky Chambers

The Wayfarers series is one of the most diverse series I’ve ever read with regards to sexuality and gender, and it has so many found family feelings. The author really knows how to make me feel all warm and fuzzy, so when I pick up one of their books I know it’s going to be good.



#4 We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

This is fantasy set in a world inspired by ancient Arabia, which is exactly my cup of tea. It’s the author’s debut with an expected publication date in May 2019, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it comes out.

#5 Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha #1) by Tasha Suri

This is another fantasy debut with a really cool setting. It’s Mughal India-inspired and the summary sounds fascinating. I just love fantasy with a non-Western backdrop, mythology, and gods! This has already been published, so hopefully my library will purchase it soon!

#6 The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

I’ve been seeing a lot of reviews of this book in the book blogging community, and it’s made me so curious to read it. It sounds like such an epic sweeping story about war and survival, and it’s apparently inspired by real historical events, which being a bit of a history nerd makes it even more appealing to me.

#7 Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) by Ben Aaronovitch

This is another one of my absolute favourite series, and I’ve been yearning to read the sequel ever since it came out in November. I’m so completely hooked and in love with the characters; sitting down with a Rivers of London book feels like coming home.



#8 Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

I don’t often go for non-speculative YA, but an updated take on classic romantic comedies about queer girls with a brown girl protagonist was always going to snag my attention.

#9 Marriage of Unconvenience by Chelsea M. Cameron

I have never read a book summary that sounded more like fic or more delightful, so I’m just going to leave you with the summary:

Lauren “Lo” Bowman is in a bit of a pickle. She needs money, like ASAP. She lost her job, the rent is due, and her car needs repairs. Problem is, the inheritance left to her by her old-fashioned Granny has one stipulation before she can collect: she has to be married.

Let’s just say suitors (of any gender) are not knocking down her door. And then Cara Simms, her best friend from childhood that she’s recently reconnected with, pours her heart out and confesses that she needs money to pay for grad school. Lo has a completely brilliant idea: they should get hitched.

Not married married. Like, fake married. All they have to do is play the part for the lawyers, get the money, and then get the marriage annulled. Easy as hell.

Well, it starts out that way, but being fake married feels a lot like being real married, and Lo is flipping out. She cannot be falling for her best friend. Can she?

#10 Squee From the Margins: Fandom and Race by Rukmini Pande

As someone who has been moving in fandom spaces for over a decade now, and someone who is constantly trying to learn more about inclusivity and accessibility in online fandom (and all aspects of life), I’ve been waiting for this book to come out with much excitement. The author is a friend of mine, and I know she’s incredibly smart and insightful, so this is bound to be a very interesting read.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR? What’s on your book wish list? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Rebel of the Sands Trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton

Rating: Rating of four-and-a-half out of five stars represented by bumblebees (4.5 out of 5)

 

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic.  For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.

Amani Al’Hiza is all three.  She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

The Rebel of the Sands trilogy was hands-down one of my favourite reads of 2018. I had been meaning to read it for absolute ages, and it was an incredible read with fast-paced action set against a fascinating backdrop of a desert country teeming with ancient magic. I’m always a sucker for fantasy based in non-Western mythology, and the author’s world-building really did the setting justice.

I also love a girl who is good with a gun and quick with her tongue, so the main character Amani was an absolute delight. It’s not always easy to make a character who can’t keep her mouth shut sympathetic, but the author definitely succeeded. In general, the writing was engaging, and the twists and surprises just kept coming. If you’re looking for a series that will keep you on your toes, Rebel of the Sands is for you.

So why is my rating not five stars if I loved this trilogy so much? The reason is the lack of queer representation and the unsatisfactory way disability representation was handled. My discussion of both issues includes spoilers up to the very end of the trilogy, so if you haven’t read the series yet and want to remain unspoiled, skip ahead to the last paragraph.

I enjoyed the main m/f relationship in the first book, but as the series progressed, the romance lost its shine. After initially getting together, Amani and Jin spent the better part of two books in a will-they-or-won’t-they state that really made me question whether Amani was even in love with this guy anymore, especially since she spent far more time thinking about another female character, Shazad, than she ever did about Jin.

Amani keeps expounding on all of Shazad’s admirable (read hot) qualities and her beauty, describing her as “breathtakingly gorgeous”, and not only do they share sleeping quarters but also clothing. They seem to always know what the other is thinking, understand each other without words, always look to each other, and when they’re reunited after being apart, it always reads something like this:

And then she saw me and that sloppy smile broke over her face as she closed the distance with a hug. I felt my own arms, like they were finally untethered, fling themselves around her.

I don’t know about you, Harold, but I personally think they’re lesbians. Not convinced yet? Maybe this will do the trick:

Shazad appeard next to me […] Neither of us spoke or broke our pace as we came together, like two currents merging into a river.

And when it’s time to choose who she wants to receive a Djinni’s gift of survival, transferred by a kiss, Amani of course chooses… Shazad.

We’d made a habit of saving each other, Shazad and I, of having each other’s back. Except I couldn’t watch her back on the battlefield this time. And she couldn’t save me from my fate.

“Yeah,” I said, leaning toward her, looping my arm around her shoulders. I leaned my head against hers and dropped a quick kiss on her cheek. Like a gesture between sister […]

Except we weren’t sisters. We’d chosen each other. And now that I’d given her that kiss from Zaahir, and the promise of a life longer than this battle, she wouldn’t be coming anywhere with me.

I was internally screaming during this entire scene, and the screaming mostly consisted of make Amani kiss her girlfriend on the mouth, you cowards! I could go on indefinitely. Don’t get me wrong, I loved their friendship, but they had such chemistry, and I do feel like not making them girlfriends is a huge missed opportunity.

The only other relationship that could be read as queer is that of two background characters, Imin and Navid, both of whom end up dead. Imin is a shapeshifting demdji, meaning they can take any human form, which could have been an interesting exploration of gender if the author had taken a less binary approach to it. When Imin takes “the form of a man”, they are referred to by others with he pronouns, and when they take “the form of a woman”, they are referred to with she pronouns. However, there was no indication that Imin’s gender actually changes along with their physical form, but even so matching the character’s pronouns to what gender they are perceived to be peeved me as a non-binary reader.

The disability representation was decent in quantity but lacking in quality. I do have to give props to the author for including a character who was disabled from birth, which is still shockingly rare in disability representation. Tamid was born with a twisted leg and walks on crutches, and later uses a prosthesis when part of his leg has to be amputated. Unfortunately, Tamid ends up being a morally ambivalent and vindictive character, which is not a problem in itself, but equating disability with villainy is an all-too-familiar harmful trope that we could all do without for a while.

I was similarly unsatisfied with the fact that another amputee character who was missing fingers used her gift for illusion to hide her disability. Hala had also escaped an abusive marriage, only to be later killed in a way that felt unnecessary. Additionally, the main character Amani is also temporarily disabled and repeatedly incapacitated by chronic pain. However, she is cured of her pain in the grand finale of the series, another popular trope which takes away from disability representation. END SPOILERS

All that said, I still enjoyed the series a lot. I flew through it at unusual speed and could barely put my e-reader down. Considering I often have brain fog and concentration issues, it says a lot about Alwyn Hamilton’s writing that I was hooked on Rebel of the Sands from beginning to end.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ways to Motivate Yourself to Read When You Have Depression

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To learn more about Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly book meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, click here.


Reading is one of my favourite things in the world, and it almost always makes me feel better. However, depression can make it excruciatingly hard to motivate myself to pick up a book, if I’m even able to read at all, what with my other conditions like brain fog and fatigue. There are some things I’ve found over time that really help to motivate me to read and to stay reading in spite of depression. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday was a freebie, so I’ve collected some tips for you if you’re struggling in a similar way.

Asian woman with bright eye shadow reading a book with a light blue cover, overlaid with the words


#1 Don’t beat yourself up

This one might be obvious, but it’s also really important. I know it can be frustrating when you miss a day or two of reading, or even entire weeks, but it’s not a failure. Some days you’ll be too tired, stressed, or sad to read. That’s okay. The goal is to enjoy reading, not to read every day without fail. And just because you didn’t read yesterday, doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a book today.


#2 Recognise your avoidance behaviours and stop them

When I’m depressed, I tend to fall into patterns of not really doing anything for long stretches of time, like refreshing Twitter over and over, playing games on my phone, or watching YouTube video after YouTube video, but without really enjoying myself. When this happens, I have to make a conscious effort to stop drifting and to make myself read (or whatever else it is that needs doing). Observe yourself, figure out what your own avoidance behaviours are, and consciously try to influence them. This can be really hard at first, but it gets easier with practice. It’s worth putting in the effort in order to be able to surface from your aimless depressed haze to do something that actually makes you feel better.


#3 Avoid distractions, but remember to take breaks

If you know you get easily distracted, don’t read on your phone if you can avoid it. In fact, if you’re able to, turn it off or turn on airplane mode. Try to make your reading environment as free of distractions as you can so you can fully immerse yourself in your reading. However, remember that it’s hard for your depressed brain to focus for a long amount of time, so don’t be afraid to put your book down for a few minutes, do some stretches, go to the loo, and rehydrate. Ignoring your body’s needs for too long will only make you feel worse, so try to find a balance that works for you.


#4 Make reading part of your routine

black woman with glasses and natural hair reading at a cafe table

If you’re able to, replace another activity at a certain time with reading. If you watch YouTube videos in the morning while drinking your coffee or if you spend your commute on your phone, consider whipping out your book instead to get in a little bit of reading time. It doesn’t have to be long, but I find it helps me to get going when I have a specific time to get out my book and just settle down for a couple of chapters. A good time to do this is when you’re feeling relaxed, which for me personally is breakfast time. I drink my tea, snuggle my dog, and do a bit of reading. Knowing that I made progress on my book in the morning allows me more peace of mind during the day, but your mileage may vary with regards to what time works best for you.


#5 Be okay with only reading a little

Sometimes all the reading I do in a day is one short chapter before bed before my sleeping meds kick in. And that’s okay! Again, the goal is not to read as much as humanly possible, the goal is to be able to pick up your book and enjoy it for even a short while. So you “only” read for ten minutes? That’s ten more than zero minutes. You’re “only” reading comics or graphic novels? That’s still reading! You’re reading! Success!


#6 Do not read (too far) past your bedtime

Asian woman lying in the dark with a

I know it can be incredibly tempting to just stay up and finish your book when you’re really into it in the moment, but I personally recommend not doing it. It’ll cause your sleep schedule to get out of whack, which will probably make you more depressed and unlikely to read. Instead, save your momentum to keep going the next day! It’ll be easier to pick your book back up again if you’re dying to know what happens next.


#7 Have your next read lined up before finishing the last

This is in the same vein as the last tip. Whether I’m reading a series or a stand-alone, I always give some thought to what I’d like to read next before I finish, so I can have the sequel or a new book ready to go as soon as I’m done with my last read. Making sure you have your next read downloaded to your e-reader, or in your bag if you read on your commute, or next to your bed if that’s where you do your reading makes it so much easier to pick up the next thing. Personally I even like to go so far as to open the next book I’m reading as soon as I’m done with the last, and sometimes that means I immediately get sucked into my next read. No in-between-books slump for me! If you’re someone who reads multiple books at a time, this will obviously be less of an issue, but this could really help any of my fellow one-book-at-a-time readers out there.


#8 Give yourself permission to not finish a book

Have you ever found yourself pushing through a book you hated just because you feel the need to finish it, becoming more and more reluctant to pick it up as you go along? I’m definitely guilty of this. Here’s the truth: whether or not you finish a book doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make the time you’ve already spent reading it a waste of time. You know what would be a waste of time though? To keep reading a book you’re not enjoying just because you feel you have to. When you’re depressed and motivating yourself to read is a struggle in itself, don’t make it harder on yourself. Put that terrible book away and delve into something more enjoyable.


#9 Get an e-book library subscription

I know this is not possible for everyone, hence why I’m putting it at the bottom of my list. If you have free access to a library and/or can afford the subscription fee, get an e-book subscription. This will allow you access to a free or unexpensive never-ending supply to books that you do not even have to leave the house to schlepp to and from the library. And the best part is that if you’re struggling to finish a book in the allotted time, you can put your e-reader in airplane mode and keep it on there for a couple of extra days to take the pressure off. Don’t tell anyone I let you in on this top-secret trick.


#10 Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

Person with colourful bracelets holding an e-reader, legs stretched out in front of them

You’re not making progress with a book as fast as you’d like? You’re not on track to finish your Goodreads Challenge? You’re not reading as much as you’d like to? Stop, take a breath, and remember that this is not a competition. Like I said under #1, you’re reading to enjoy yourself. When you put too much pressure on yourself with arbitrary reading goals, it can suck all of the pleasure out of reading and make you feel like a failure, which in turn will make you want to read even less. Cut yourself some slack and get to reading when you can. And lower that Goodreads Challenge goal to a number that’s feasible at your own reading speed, instead of whatever number you think you should be able to read in a year.


I hope some of these tips were helpful for you. Let me know what you think in the comments, and please leave any further tips that you might have for reading while depressed or chronically ill down below as well! Happy reading!