Honeymoon reads

Ahoy, mateys. Now that the wedding is done and I never have to plan anything ever again, I am back to my normal level of stress – and my normal level of reading. In the week running up to the wedding and the week after, I actually put quite a dent in my TBR pile. Pre-wedding, I needed to distract myself from worrying about all of many terrifying ways in which everything could go wrong. Post-wedding, I spent a lot of time travelling with my new husband (!!!!!) – first we flew to L.A., and didn’t even end up sitting together on the plane, FYI, and then we drove to Corona, California, to visit G’s family there. We also took a three-day vacation-within-a-vacation to Las Vegas so I could live out my Sharon Stone fantasies, which was a 5-hour drive each way.

So I spent a lot of time reading, both physical books and ebooks. Actually,  ebooks were a lifesaver on this trip. I jumped from one book to another, and if I’d packed everything I ended up reading, I would have definitely been over the airline’s allotted weight for checked luggage, considering I spent about 2 million dollars on souvenirs at Disneyland.

Anyway. Here’s a few of the books I read, and what I thought of them, with bonus WWDITS gifs, because why the hell not.

1. Normal People by Sally Rooney

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Hated it. Over-hyped hipster nonsense. Wasn’t even well-written.

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Rating: 2/10

2. The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Dolnick

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So slow and sooooo forgettable. No ghosts OR notebooks, wtf.

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Rating: 2/10

3. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins


I’ve had this one for ages. It got so many positive reviews from people whose bookish opinions usually align with mine – and it has library in the title – but I was just never in the right mood to start this one, until suddenly, I was. This book did NOT disappoint – it was weird and interesting and different from anything else I’ve read. It was also a hell of a page-turner. My new hubby was a teeeeny bit sulky that I was spending more time at the Library at Mount Char than I was with him 😉 Anyway, I strongly recommend this one, but it’s quite dark. Even I had to put aside a few times, and that’s kind of impressive.

Rating: 8/10

4. The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai


Loved this one. Another library book – this one about a librarian accidentally kidnaps a kid and goes rogue. Overtones of Russian-flavoured nostalgia, which is 100% my jam.

Rating: 9/10

5. Cottonwood by R. Lee Smith


I mean, was there any question that I was going to go on my honeymoon and NOT read the greatest love story every written about a human woman and an insectoid alien occupying an unabashed District 9 AU? No. No there was not.

Rating: 10/10, obvs.

Adios, chicitos. Next up, a monster review of a monster book that is, alas, not actually about monsters.

– xo, R

Nonverbal Referral: Okay okay okay okayyyyy

No time for actual words, I am losing my mind, someone send cake or a teeny tiny mushroom sprite who can grant wishes and plan weddings.

Today I’m nonverbally reviewing Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, which pretty hyped in my gothy little neck of the bookstagram woods.


The Summary Heist:

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.

For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs—particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.

The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?

A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the “primitive minds” of our ancestors. 

Sounds good, right?

The Nonverbal Referral:

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Pleasantly surprising! Can’t ask for more!! That’s it, that’s the review!!!

To quote the amazing and witty blogger that is myself, back eventually with actual words.

– xo, R

No thank you please

Hey hey, my tender chicken dumplings. Did you know it’s possible for a (generally) sane, (relatively) even-tempered, (ostensibly) rational adult, human woman to have a nervous breakdown over 3 yards of tulle? IT’S TRUE, don’t ask me how I know.

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As you can see, I’m on a reading and blogging roll, thanks to the INDESCRIBABLE STRESS I’M UNDER. Silver linings, etc.

Today, let’s talk about a book by a new literary “wunderkind” (ugh). It’s Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. Prepare to get salty!


Cover Talk

Hate it. That colour is offensive to my artistic sensibilities. And one of those women is missing a shoulder, mate.

The Summary Heist

A sharply intelligent novel about two college students and the strange, unexpected connection they forge with a married couple.

Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed, and darkly observant. A college student and aspiring writer, she devotes herself to a life of the mind–and to the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi, her best friend and comrade-in-arms. Lovers at school, the two young women now perform spoken-word poetry together in Dublin, where a journalist named Melissa spots their potential. Drawn into Melissa’s orbit, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband. Private property, Frances believes, is a cultural evil–and Nick, a bored actor who never quite lived up to his potential, looks like patriarchy made flesh. But however amusing their flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy neither of them expect.As Frances tries to keep her life in check, her relationships increasingly resist her control: with Nick, with her difficult and unhappy father, and finally even with Bobbi. Desperate to reconcile herself to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, Frances’s intellectual certainties begin to yield to something new: a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment.

Robyn Says

No no no no no. Did not like AT ALL. This was basically my literary hate fuck. Pretentious beyond description. AND WHERE WERE THE QUOTATION MARKS?

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A bunch of rotten, poorly crafted characters, created with the mistaken belief that flaws equal depth and complexity. A nothing plot. Bloodless, half-assed writing. Enough occurrences of the words socialism and communism to make me want to blind myself. A maybe-baby-turned-diagnosis-of-endometriosis sub-plot. Stereotypical views on millennial conceptions of sexuality. Shitty sex scenes. God, burn this fucking book and scatter the ashes to the winds. Fuck me, can we stop with this shit? Halfway to thinking that the fastest way to become a literary success is to scrawl a few poorly punctuated, carelessly written stories about miserable people bumping gentialia and being miserable together. I HATE IT.

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Best Lines


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Fancasting couch


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Book Boyfriend material


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One (1) out of 10 literary “wunderkinds” ew gross ew ew ew

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– xo, R




Greetings, internet-lings. Yes, I am back on the blogging bullshit, witness me, etc etc. Things are happening, and as always, I keep a tenuous grip on sanity by shoving as many words-units in front of my eyeballs as possible. And aside from the usual personal woes and worries, we’re in the middle of a weeding blitz at work, and it is the WORST. I hate getting rid of books, even when they’re not my books (a thought so ghastly I refuse to even acknowledge it).

Today, I’m talking about a book about one of my favourite topics: books. It’s The Library Book  by Susan Orlean.


Cover Talk

Boring? Classy?? Both?????

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The Summary Heist

On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

Robyn Says

I don’t even know what to say. This book is amazing. I loved the double narratives: the mirco level investigation into the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library’s central branch, and the macro level story of libraries, from their beginnings as private lending collections to the monumental industry shift that occurred in the 19th century, to the strange, ever-evolving role they play in modern society. Orlean touches on so many different topics and yet somehow, the entire book feels perfectly cohesive.

And it is stunning prose. She is an amazing writer, with a gift for describing the institution of the public library in a way that feels at once familiar and fresh. My favourite passages were the ones that described the peculiar, almost magical atmosphere of the public library, which is somehow exactly the same no matter which library you go to.

I mean, obviously, I’m incredibly biased. This book was basically written for someone like me, who as a child saw the library as a safe haven, a refuge from the chaos of an abusive household, a place to get books, which were the ultimate form of escape from a troubling reality, and then grew up idolizing (and idealizing) the public library as a sacred space, and who even now, working in the library profession, when all illusions ought to come crashing down, remains blessed with a wholehearted belief in the  indisputable importance of the library in any healthy, functioning society.

But it’s also just a really fucking awesome book. and if you’re reading this blog, you must have some appreciation for books and libraries, or else why would you even be here dude, and so I say to, GET THEE TO THE LIBRARY.

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READ. IT. It’s a book about books, what more do you want?

Best Lines

Every single line of this book was amazing. Some favourites:

“The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them. It is where we can glimpse immortality; in the library, we can live forever.” 

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“All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here I am, please tell me your story; here is my story, please listen.” 

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It wasn’t that time stopped in the library. It was as if it were captured, collected here, and in all libraries — and not only my time, my life, but all human time as well. In the library, time is dammed up–not just stopped but saved.” 

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“People think that libraries are quiet, but they really aren’t. They rumble with voices and footsteps and a whole orchestral range of book-related noises—the snap of covers clapping shut; the breathy whisk of pages fanning open; the distinctive thunk of one book being stacked on another; the grumble of book carts in the corridors.” 

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“The publicness of the public library is an increasingly rare commodity. It becomes harder all the time to think of places that welcome everyone and don’t charge any money for that warm embrace.”

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Fancasting couch

Los Angeles Central Library

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Book Boyfriend material

Mary L. Jones, City Librarian and HBIC

Mary L. Jones

Basically she pissed off  her board of directors, who then decided to fire her and replace her with a man. She wrote the following to her mentor, Melvil Dewey : “I am asked to resign to make way for a MAN.” When she was fired, she refused to resign or surrender the keys to the library, saying : “At first it was my inclination immediately to yield to the request relayed upon me by the president. But, upon reflection, I have concluded that it would not be fitting for me to tender my resignation as the head of a department where only women are employed. When such a resignation is tendered solely on the grounds that the best interests of the department demand that its affairs no longer be administered by a woman. Ever since the adoption of the present city charter, the library has been presided over by a woman with a staff of assistants composed exclusively of women.”

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Nine and a half out of 10 books about books about books about books about –

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Sometimes, I tell my fiance that I love him more than books… and sometimes, I tell the books I love them more than… er, as much as my fiance. Yes. “As much.”

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– xo, R

Beets. Bears. Babushakas?

Zd… zdrast… zdravstvuyte (yeah I googled it), comrades. How goes it? I myself am scrambling to assemble the most gratuitously purple wedding since Barney married Mrs Barney, and to put it lightly, I am 👏 losing 👏 my 👏 motherfucking 👏 mind 👏


Today I’m reviewing a book that’s been at the top of my tbr forEVER but which only just this week I felt ready to pick up. It’s Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, the first book in the Winternight trilogy. Let’s boo boo.

Cover Talk

Ah yeeeeeeeeeeeeeah buddy. That’s the good stuff right there. On the left is the Amerian cover, and on the right, the UK cover. I actually think they’re both great, and in different ways, both very fitting for the story being told. My soviet ass is slightly more drawn to the UK cover, because of course.

The Summary Heist

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Robyn Says

Oh boy, where do I even start? I could, as always, sum up in my feelings in a single gif:

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It’s good, guys. It’s so so so so good. Strong characters, strong plot, uber-strong writing – there really isn’t anything missing. But the best part, for me, was the atmosphere. You guys know I’m a sucker for anything Russian-y, but that often tends to be Slavic fantasy or reinterpreted myths. This is close to the latter, but because it’s set in medieval Russia. it feels different from anything else I’ve read. Every time I had to put the book down to, you know, do life stuff, I was disappointed, and my head definitely stayed in Vasya’s world, even if my actual body was stuck irl like a loser.

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Also, Arden did a fantastic job with the mythology. The textual records for pre-Christian Slavic mythology are almost nonexistent, and what we do have is often contradictory and never simple. Somehow she managed to wrangle domovoi, leshiye, and rusalkas into a cohesive mythos, and I salute her.

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So yeah, I am besotted, BESOTTED I SAY. This book was all my feminist Slavic fairy-tale dreams come true. I am about to read the second book in the trilogy, The Girl in the Tower, and I can’t wait for a certain someone to kiss a certain someone else WINK WINK.

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Read it NOW. This has the rare READING ROBYN GUARANTEE.

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The Reading Robyn Guarantee

Best Lines

Sooooo many good lines in this book, you have no idea. Of course, one of the stand-outs is Vasya’s feminist manifesto:

“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.” 

But another favourite comes from Mr Frost magic tutorial, and might actually be my new morning motivation quote:

“You are too attached to things as they are,” said Morozko, combing the mare’s withers. He glanced down idly. “You must allow things to be what best suits your purpose. And then they will.” Vasya,” 

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Fancasting couch

Young Vasya – Disaster Girl

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Older Vasya – Eleanor Tomlinson

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Dunya – me in 10 years

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Konstantin – the guy who looks like that cat

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Morozko – Oscar Isaac without a beard??? I dunno, this one stumped me fam

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Solovey –  this guy

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Book Boyfriend material

The rusalka, that bitch was cold.

Good Night Sticker by Alexandra Dvornikova


10 out of 10 (yes, I said it) grumpy little domovoi hiding under the table, doing all your mending, you ungrateful bastards.


Man, sometimes I wish I could just pick up and run away to a secret little cottage in the Russian wilderness, with only  my cats and my books and the domovoi to keep me company. I would plant a field of sunflowers around the house, and the flowers would keep out any strangers who wanted to disturb me. I’d paint the door blue for luck, and hang crystals in the windows like a basic bitch. I’d have bees for honey, and in the summer the bears would bring me fish from the river. When I got lonely, I would visit Baba Yaga cause that bitch has allll the tea.

– xo, R

P.S. the stunning gifs are from a Russia-based artist named Alexandra Dvornikova, everything she makes is BEAUTIFUL. You can follow here on tumblr here.

Reading Read GIF by Alexandra Dvornikova


Nonfiction Benediction: All Hail the Queen

Hey hey heyyyyyy. Yes, it’s me, the queen of sporadic book-blogging, how goes it? I myself currently hate everything and everyone (except you, dear reader, of course). Feeling very The-Second-Coming-y if you know what I mean. MOVING ON.

Today I bless your eyeballs and brainballs with some Quality Content: another entry in the Nonfiction Benediction series, focusing on the Queen Herself, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, first of her name, a.k.a. Queen Bey. YES GOD. The book is Queen Bey, a collection of essays edited by Veronica Chambers.

You ready? (I don’t think they ready) (sorry) (not sorry)

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Cover Talk

Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinteresting. I mean, yes, gorgeous, flawless, Bey in a beautiful gown, but also, in another way… hm. I mean, it’s Beyoncé, any picture they chose would have made a beautiful cover, but I think they could have gone farther. This feels kinda flat, no? And she is anything but flat.

The Summary Heist

Beyoncé. Her name conjures more than music, it has come to be synonymous with beauty, glamour, power, creativity, love, and romance. Her performances are legendary, her album releases events. She is not even forty but she has already rewritten the Beyoncé playbook more than half a dozen times. She is consistently provocative, political and surprising. As a solo artist, she has sold more than 100 million records. She has won 22 Grammys and is the most-nominated woman artist in the history of Grammy awards. Her 2018 performance at Coachella wowed the world. The New York Times wrote: “There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year or any year soon.” Artist, business woman, mother, daughter, sister, wife, black feminist, Queen Bey is endlessly fascinating.

Queen Bey features a diverse range of voices, from star academics to outspoken cultural critics to Hollywood and music stars. Essays include:

“What Might a Black Girl Be in This World,” an introduction by Veronica Chambers
“Beychella is Proof That Beyoncé is the Greatest Performer Alive. I’m Not Arguing.” by Luvvie Ajayi
“On the Journey Together,” by Lena Waithe
“What Beyoncé Means to Everyone,” by Meredith Broussard with visualizations by Andrew Harvard and Juan Carlos Mora
“Jay-Z’s Apology to Beyoncé Isn’t Just Celebrity Gossip — It’s a Political Act” by Brittney Cooper
“All Her Single Ladies” by Kid Fury
“The Elevator” by Ylonda Gault
“The Art of Being Beyoncé” by Maria Brito
“Getting, Giving and Leaving” by Melissa Harris Perry and Mankaprr Conteh
“Beyoncé the Brave” by Reshma Saujani
“Living into the Lemonade: Redefining Black Women’s Spirituality in the Age of Beyoncé” by Candice Benbow
“Beyoncé’s Radical Ways” by Carmen Perez
“Finding la Reina in Queen Bey” by Isabel Gonzalez Whitaker
“Beyoncé, Influencer” by Elodie Maillet Storm
“The King of Pop and the Queen of Everything” by Michael Eric Dyson
“Style So Sacred” by Edward Enninful
“The Beauty of Beyoncé” by Fatima Robinson
“Because Beyoncé.” by Ebro Darden
“King Bey” by Treva B. Lindsey
“Meridonial: Beyoncé’s Southern Roots and References” by Robin M. Boylorn
“B & V: A Love Letter” by Caroline Clarke 

Robyn Says

Full disclosure, I loved this book (and not even because my fiance got it for me, which generally increases my enjoyment of a book). I was not initially a huge Beyoncé fan, although I’ve followed her career from Destiny’s Child on. But when Lemonade dropped, my mind was blown. Grown-up Beyoncé, artistic, powerful, angry Beyoncé – she’s definitely one of my role models, so I was really keen to read this, and to my surprise, I was not disappointed.

Of course, it is a collection of essays from different writers, which means that the quality of writing varies, and that some essays will be of greater interest than others. I definitely had my favourites, and there were a few I skimmed, but overall, I loved the attempt to explore Beyoncé’s evolution and impact on many different levels, in a nonlinear and inclusive fashion. Having many different contributors serves to emphasize just how far-reaching Beyoncé’s cultural influence is.

A few of my favourite pieces were: “Beychella is Proof That Beyoncé is the Greatest Performer Alive. I’m Not Arguing” by Luvvie Ajayi (agreed), Beyoncé the Brave by Reshma Saujani, and “The Art of Being Beyoncé” by Maria Brito. My favourite piece of all was “The Elevator” by Ylonda Gault – I’ve been fascinated by what happened with ‘a million dollars in the elevator’ ever since the TMZ video hit the internet, and this essay delved into the debacle in a thought-provoking and poignant manner.

The reason I gave this collection 5 stars on goodreads was because when I read the last page and closed the book, I felt like my understanding Beyoncé as an artist, performer, and cultural figure had grown. And I felt like I could take over the goddamn world. 


Read it. It’s Beyoncé, dammit.

Best Lines

Yeah, I definitely did not take notes. In my defense, I was sick, and I am also incredibly lazy.

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Fancasting couch


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Book Boyfriend material

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Nine out of 10 baseball bats (yas girl)

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I could probably communicate entirely in Beyoncé gifs. Who needs words when you have a literal goddess to express literally any emotion for any situation you could possibly imagine? And there is only one song that makes me feel better when G pisses me off: 

Amen, B.