Your Bookish Heart: Where to Donate Your Books this Holiday Season

Muse Monthly Holiday 2016 Where To Donate Your Books

 

The spirit of giving shouldn’t be limited just to December, but people are always in a more charitable mood at this time of year. And it’s a great thing, because there are so many wonderful programs that need your help.

Here at Muse Monthly we believe in the power of literature as a learning tool. Reading can help you expand your vocabulary, visit far-off lands, learn about new cultures, and stretch your brain to new ideas and concepts. But more than anything, reading helps you empathize – it helps you understand people, their struggles, their emotions, and their choices. Books can help educate, end the cycle of poverty, and change communities.

But of course, not everyone has access to books, and therefore these learning tools are out of reach. That is why we encourage giving your unwanted or used books to one of these wonderful programs that helps bring the joy of reading to the world.

 

HousingWorks Bookstore & Cafe, NYC

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookworm

HousingWorks is a program in New York City that helps those living with HIV/AIDS get healthcare, find housing and jobs, and legal assistance to ease the hardship of living with the illness. HousingWorks has both a Thrift Shop and a Bookstore/Cafe in Manhattan which is run by volunteers and stocked by donations. 100% of the proceeds go towards their efforts helping people living with HIV/AIDS. Beyond being one of the most beautiful bookshops in the city, HousingWorks is filled with kind people, and does a world of good for the community.

Send donations to: 126 Crosby St., NYC, 10012 Attn: General Donations

 

Prison Book Programs

From Orange is the New Black

This may seem like an unusual choice, but prisons are one of the best place to send your book donations. Of course, there are restrictions, but this can really be a situation of books saving lives. Not only are you promoting education and literacy, but you’ll also be providing some much-needed escapism to those in an unfortunate situation. Of course, there are some guidelines, but this may be a good idea if you’re looking to donate textbooks, especially for legal studies, languages, or test prep.

There are several book donation programs for prisons, as prisoners typically cannot receive donations from an individual. These programs vary from state-to-state so I’d suggest doing a bit of research before sending them off, but here are just a few:

Donate
http://www.booksthroughbarsnyc.com/
http://prisonbookprogram.org/
http://www.wpbp.org/
http://lgbtbookstoprisoners.org/

 

Children’s Literacy Programs

Michelle Obama reads The Cat In The Hat

Michelle Obama reads The Cat In The Hat

You know it. I know it. We all know it. The books we read as children are the ones that truly stick with us, and reading is a formative part of our education. Who would we be if not for books?

It is so important for children to have access to books, but of course, not everyone has that luxury. Children who are homeless, living in shelters or group homes, or are living in areas without libraries are depending on your donations. This is a great opportunity to clear out old baby books, or send over a bunch of your favorites that you think another child would enjoy.

http://www.milkandbookies.org/about/ (does a variety of work to promote childhood literacy, family time, and foster a love of books)
http://www.projectnightnight.org/ (for homeless children 12 and under)
http://www.pajamaprogram.org/ (for children living in poverty, living with homelessness or in shelters, foster care, or are victims of abuse & neglect)

 

International Programs

Sometimes our hearts can extend overseas, and children across the world need books as well. Donating to programs with international reach means not only are you changing a child’s life, but also the life and the wellbeing of a community. The US has a literacy rate of 97.9%. Other countries are not so fortunate. We have to remember that we are a global community, and that every little bit helps us move forward together. If you’re looking at the bigger picture this season, here are some programs to take a look at:

https://www.roomtoread.org/ (works to provide education for young girls – nearly 800 million people are illiterate and two thirds are women and girls)

https://www.booksforafrica.org/ (provides books to school libraries, orphanages, adult literacy programs, and community centers in Africa)

http://www.intlbookproject.org/ (promotes literacy in underserved areas of the world, domestic and international)

 

Your local school or library

Schools and libraries are where it all begins. When I was younger, my mother took me to storytime at our library, a place where the children of the community could come and love books together. I remember being told I was trying to check out too many books at school, I remember having girl scout meetings in the library, I remember checking out books on Egypt and the Amazon and Cryptography and Nellie Bly and so many other subjects.

If you’re a reader, I bet you have memories like this too.

Giving to your local library or school ensures that your love for reading goes right back into your community. Schools and libraries are the front lines for education, literacy, imagination, and growth. Give that gift to another budding bookworm, and change a life forever.

 

I always find it hard to take books off my bookshelves, but it’s easier knowing that my books will be going somewhere they are truly appreciated. Please consider donating to any of these wonderful programs this year, and spread the joy of reading.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood: Review

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood Muse Monthly book review

I want to share a little story about how this epic partnership came to be. Even before Muse Monthly officially launched, I knew I wanted to do author curated boxes. It was something I could only dream about, and had a wishlist of people I wanted to work with. But of course, when a business is young, you have to stay reasonable. No one knew about Muse Monthly yet, and there was no way someone who had published several award-winning novels would want to dedicate any time to a new subscription box.

After our collaboration with V.E. Schwab (which happened because I asked her through instagram), I felt a little more confident in asking my publishing friends if we could do something similar again. I asked who had books coming out that might be interested, and a few names were tossed around, Ms. Atwood’s being one of them. Never in a million years did I think she’d agree to it – but they asked, and she did.

Of course, it helps that she’s a tea lover.

I feel so grateful to Ms. Atwood for taking time out and signing bookplates, choosing a tea, and writing a lovely letter about her book to our faithful subscribers. This collaboration was beyond a dream come true.

I knew Hag-Seed was going to be a fantastic read. The Tempest was the first Shakespeare play I ever read, so I feel a lot of attachment to the story. It was assigned my eighth grade year and I remember being swept up by the magic, by spirits and monsters and revenge. It is one of Shakespeare’s best.

Ms. Atwood has taken the tale and not only modernized it, but presented it in a way that feels so real and concrete it is impossible not to flip eagerly through the pages. Her take on the Tempest changes Prospero to Felix, an artistic director for the theater, who is usurped and fired by his co-worker, Tony. Felix, devastated to lose his job after also losing his wife and child, Miranda, takes a job teaching Shakespeare in a prison. Here, he is able to use his talents and bring his production of the Tempest to life.

Atwood presents a meta-theatrical version of the Tempest – a play within a play, echoing aspects of the original play. The creation of theatrical magic is paramount in Atwood’s version, primarily present in how the prisoners bring the play to life with limited resources. Atwood brings The Tempest into a real world; the prison becomes the island, betrayal is bureaucratic. Atwood expertly writes the themes reflected on multiple levels – the ‘real world’ finding echoes in Shakespeare’s text, as well as the play being mirrored by the characters. She writes with an expert intricacy, and creates an intense revenge plot that makes Hag-Seed a real page-turner.

The Gentleman by Forrest Leo – Review & Playlist

The Gentleman by Forrest Leo book review Muse Monthly

The Gentleman was one of those books that came along to me as an underdog. A lot of the time when I’m choosing a book, there are a few options for each month, but one stand out. Then, like this month, there were a lot of books that seemed exciting but were just not right for some reason – either the story just wasn’t as compelling as I’d hoped, or it’s too similar to something we’ve done before. And then something different, something I would have never thought to look at will emerge from under my disastrously large To Be Read pile, and it will be perfect. A diamond in the rough.

And that’s what we do over here at Muse Monthly – we’re all about finding that hidden gem.

And The Gentleman was just awesome. It’s a fun, easy read, which we all need sometimes. We all need a laugh, especially when the real would can be so stressful.

What stands out for me about The Gentleman is how easily writer Forrest Leo captures the style of Victorian literature. The narrative voice of lovelorn poet Lionel Savage is strong throughout, colored by the sassy footnotes of his fictional editor. For someone who enjoys the anachronism, it was refreshing to read something so wonderfully stylized. And the story itself brought to mind the best of adventure stories – Around the World in 80 Days meets the tales of Allan Quatermain meets Doctor Faustus, with hilarious mishaps and trysts along the way. It’s safe to say, you’ll never read another book like The Gentleman. It’s nerdy and weird and funny, and best read with a lovely cup of tea – or maybe a glass of wine.

The Muse by Jessie Burton – Review & Playlist

The Muse by Jessie Burton Muse Monthly book review

So I will admit that I was a little hesitant to pick this book up, simply because of the title. Cuz, you know. It’s a bit too obvious a choice, right? But I’m so glad I did, because I was really blown away by how perfect this book was for Muse Monthly. It was just the right thing at the right time, and everything seemed to fit together so well. I was looking for a book that not only had a great story with historical elements, but also shown a light on the complexities of women – and The Muse does just that.

If I had to pick a single word to describe this book, that word would be ‘passion’ – and we talk about passion in lots of different ways. We can talk about the obvious – about passion between people and of people, about lust and the many facets of human affection. We can talk about passion turning to obsession. We can talk about the dangers of passion, and how quickly it can become desperation. We can talk about Odelle and the slow burn between herself and her Mr. Scott, about passion that builds slow and steady as someone’s walls come crumbling down. We can talk about passion that is immediate and intense, like when Olive sets eyes on Issac like he’s a target. We can talk about passion in secret, passion that hides away, that comes through in stolen glances. And we can talk about passion that leads to heartbreak, and the tragedy of Theresa wanting what she can’t have.

But at the same time we can also talk about passion as it relates to art, and an artist’s passion for their work and for creating. I think the story of Olive’s talent having to be hidden away due to her family circumstances is a compelling one when we think about the lengths she took to get her work seen. We still live in a world that can be difficult for women who make art, and many women (famously JK Rowling and and the Bronte sisters) adopt male personas to sell or market their work. It is this act that causes the lives of two families to intertwine and tangle. But did she have another choice? At the same time we also have to talk about Marjorie Quick and her passion. The enigmatic Quick is the point around which the story spirals, and we see her careful passion for art and her work, as well as the secrets and lies that she has built her life upon. And Quick showcases another important aspect of the story – a support for other women, and the importance of female friendships and the relationships between women in the novel.

The Muse is a novel that a reader can easily get wrapped up in. The writing is intense and realistic, and the story unravels in the most brilliant way. It’s exciting to follow the lines that connect people through history, and Jessie Burton does an amazing job of showcasing all the passions of a full life.

Binge Life: 10 TV Shows We Love To Marathon

Muse Monthly Doctor Who Stranger Things Parks and Recreation Broadchurch Jessica Jones Buffy the Vampire Slayer Chef's Table Sense8 Narcos Long Way Round

I love good TV just as much as I love good books – it’s all about the telling of a great story. And I don’t think I’m alone in loving shows that are best viewed all at once instead of on a week-to-week basis, aka the Binge Watch. Here are some TV shows we love to watch over and over again!

Doctor Who

I am a huge Whovian – as evidenced by the very prominent Bad Wolf tattoo on my clavicle. It’s the best show in the world. It’s got everything you want – adventure, action, aliens, romance, snarky wit, social commentary, David Tennant, history, Shakespeare, and so much more. It’s the longest running show for a reason. Best show of all time. Anyone who says differently can fight me.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things is a new release on Netflix and it is excellent. The story centers around the disappearance of a young boy in a small town and the weird events that take place afterwards. Superbly acted on the part of Winona Ryder and the young actors in the show, it’s good and weird and creepy and totally engaging. Once you start watching, you won’t want to turn it off. But also, keep the lights on.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Rec is my favorite show. Parks and Rec is the show that I watch when I have an anxiety attack. It’s familiar and comforting and funny without ever making jokes at someone’s expense. Parks and Rec is about friendship, hard work, and a group of weirdos just doing the best they can. This is a show that is nothing but pure joy from start to finish.

Broadchurch

I’m not usually one for detective stories, if I’m honest. It’s hard to find police procedural shows that are really well written and intriguing, that don’t have a predictable ending. Broadchurch is not only a masterclass in emotional range from David Tennant and Olivia Colman, but a police drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you love it, also check out Happy Valley on Netflix.

The Marvel Shows: Jessica Jones & Daredevil


So I eat up everything Marvel spits out, but these Netflix-exclusive shows have just been mind blowing. The writers have done a really great job of going in depth with well-known characters, and I always love shows that are gritty and emotional and have expertly choreographed fight scenes. I want to especially mention Jessica Jones and it’s perfect depiction of an abusive relationship. And, you know, more David Tennant. I can’t wait for Luke Cage and Iron Fist, and then the Defenders!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The best female led-show ever. Buffy defines the “strong female” trope. Buffy is funny and emotional and action-packed and smart. What isn’t perfect about Buffy? Nothing. That’s what. Nothing. Buffy is perfect. Fight me.

Chef’s Table

Besides being pure food porn, Chef’s table is a beautiful exploration of the creative process. The show features an in-depth profile of master chefs all over the world, delving into how their lives are woven into their craft. It’s beautifully filmed and absolutely engaging from start to finish.

Sense8

Sense8 is another Netflix exclusive, like Stranger Things, that kind of came out of left field. I was told by a friend to watch it and was immediately hooked. It’s such a wonderfully diverse and inclusive show, and a story about beautiful souls helping each other and falling in love and banding together to fight the bad guys. What really makes this show is the cast’s chemistry. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Narcos

I really love stories about criminals. I love when a well told show or novel makes you think about the world from a different perspective, especially if said perspective is that of the ‘bad guy’. The story of Pablo Esobar is really fascinating, and this show is so tense and thrilling that I couldn’t look away, even when the violence got out of control. Plus, there’s Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook. Mmmmhmmm.

Long Way Round / Long Way Down

The concept: Ewan MacGregor and his friend Charley Boorman drive on motorcycles around the world. The reality: Ewan MacGregor and his friend Charley spend 9 episodes being total goofballs while taking their motorbikes from London to New York – as the title so aptly puts it – the long way ’round, through Siberia. And then they do it again and travel from London to Cape Town, South Africa. Both series are hilarious and heart-felt, and have gorgeous views of their travels. It’s a really good watch, and you’ll totally fall in love with Ewan and Charley’s friendship.

What shows do you love to marathon? What Netflix gems do you recommend to all your friends?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – Review & Playlist

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi novel book book review Muse Monthly subscription box  Ghana

Okay, okay yeah, I know. It’s not a beach read. But bare with me, okay?

I go through a lot of books before making a choice for each month. Sometimes it’s 3, sometimes it’s more like 6. And sometimes, rarely, there is The One. Sometimes there’s a novel that is just the choice, the only choice, the most epic and brilliant thing I’ve read, head and shoulders above the rest. It’s like the clouds part and a choir of angels descend.

Homegoing was definitely a ‘choir of angels’ moment. It’s an expertly woven tale of a family separated – two half-sisters at the start and their subsequent sons and daughters. Each chapter is a unique history, bringing us through time on two different continents. Through Gyasi’s storytelling, we as readers are absolutely transported. Homegoing gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “take a walk in someone else’s shoes”.

Gyasi has really written an epic of the black experience in America and beyond, a full-bodied story of humanity, each generation individual and rife with problems unique to the characters and their respective time periods. Each story stands both on it’s own and as a collective, creating an intricate puzzle of a family tree. It is a story of slavery, of racism and oppression, of loss and love, of family. But most of all, it is a story of resilience.

Since each chapter is a new person’s story, Gyasi has risen to the challenge of completely fleshing out these characters within a shorter time span. There is a sense of pride in these characters – even through hardship, their conviction remains strong, they remain truthful to themselves and their people even when they are being taken advantage of, and a lot of advantage is taken. But they remain, throughout all that, rooted in themselves and their families. There is always a sense of moving forward, and while where they came from is always important, never are they stuck.

I think there’s a lot we can take away from Homegoing, as readers. Personally I love books like this, where I get to experience a life (or in this case, several) that are so radically different from my own. It’s important to let literature open us up in this way – to open our eyes and our hearts to new experiences and new worlds.

And I want to thank Yaa Gyasi for doing just that.

Forever Recommend: Books to Live and Die by

Books Muse Monthly Book Recommendations Harry Potter JK Rowling A Clockwork Orange  Anthony Burgess The Secret History Donna Tartt One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez Everything is Illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer Stardust Neil Gaiman

 

Every bookworm has suffered the same question: “What’s your favorite book?”

What, like, of all time? You want me to pick one? Impossible.

For people who really love books, giving one single favorite is akin to climbing Everest. It’s easier to say, give a favorite one from each category, or favorite from the last year or so. We need a bit of a narrower category to really give a good answer. But give a favorite in the whole history of literature, out of everything we’ve ever read in our entire lives? Yeah, no. Can’t do it.

And being that I work with books, I get asked for favorites and recommendations quite a bit. People come to me when they need something new to read all the time….alright, alright, fine. Sometimes I give them without being asked. You know you do it too! I can’t help it, I love talking about great books.

So I’ve put together a list of my Forever Recommendations – books that I will tell everyone to read no matter what, books that changed my life and I think will enrich yours, books that occupy a special place in my heart.

the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Because honestly, if you haven’t read Harry by now, what have you been doing with your life?

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

This one is definitely not for everyone. You might be aware of the famous 1971 film adaptation and it’s iconic outfits, and if so, you’re probably aware that it’s an incredibly violent story. It very much centers around the nature of violence and human depravity, so it can be a very difficult read at times. That being said, I’m a sucker for great use of language, and Burgess did something revolutionary with A Clockwork Orange. The story is told in a mixture of cocky English, Russian, Shakesperian English, and slang to form a dialect unique to this story alone (well, this story and maybe Russell Brand). To me, the inventiveness of the narrative is what makes A Clockwork Orange stand out. If you’re okay with a little blood, this one is a must read.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History is one of those ones I almost don’t want to share. It’s like when you love a band and then they go mainstream, and you get really possessive and spiteful of ‘new fans’. And I am a jealous person by nature so I want The Secret History to be mine, but that’s not really how books work. So, read it. It gave me goosebumps and heart palpitations and the proverbial feels. Just fuck me up, Donna Tartt. Fuck. Me. Up.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude is gripping from the first sentence. It’s a book that will not only make you think, but will make your heart race and your soul ache. Marquez is a master of language and story, and if you’re someone who likes things a little bit weird and mystical and wild, this is definitely something to pick up. One Hundred Years of Solitude is also my first recommendation for anyone who likes fantasy and wants to get into something a little more adult, or who wants to try reading a book in translation for the first time. It’s an epic story, and one that I will champion until the day I die.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

So I’ve talked a bit before about how if a writer is really good, I fall in love a little bit. Well, Jonathan Safran Foer is the love of my damn life. I love him, I love him, I love everything he does, I am absolutely mad for him. I will read everything he produces forever and ever. I have stopped strangers on the train because I saw they were reading his book.  Really, read everything by JSF, but I recommend this one first because it was my first one, and because it made me cry in my university library in front of a whole load of people. So, there’s that.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Neil is another great love of mine, a fantastic and epic love that has taken me to so many new worlds and new adventures. Neil is a perfect human being in everything he does, and has produced such a wonderful body of work that it’s hard to pick just one favorite. Again, Stardust was my first, and as a child of fairy tales, it’s my go-to Gaiman. It’s a beautiful story about love and destiny and magic, and it absolutely cannot be beat when it comes to adult fairy tales. Read everything by Neil Gaiman, but if you need a starting place, this one won’t let you down.

Of course, I have many more favorites, including ones I’ll never admit to. My bookshelves are overflowing with books I have loved and given myself to, so these are just a short selection. But there is something about each of these that touched me, that infected me, that became part of me. And I’ll love them until the very end.

What are some of your forever recommendations? Share the book love!

#BOOKSTOUR: Tour Manhattan’s Independent Bookstores!

A good bookstore is a sanctuary – it’s the smell of paper, crowds around tables of bestsellers and staff recommendations, the feeling of being surrounded by stories and like-minded bookworms. There’s just something so special about a tiny spot (or a big one!), where the staff knows their stuff and the walls are lined with beautiful books, and maybe you find a quiet corner or a comfy chair to tuck in to and curl up with a new story. There’s nothing like a good bookstore, and certainly nothing like going home with a bag full of new things to read.

New York City – and Manhattan especially – is delightfully filled with bookstores, and considering how hard it is for indie bookstores to stay open against the corporate competition these days, Manhattan has done surprisingly well at keeping the culture thriving. I set out with Phoebe Lett of the New York Times and Olivia from RainyDaysCoffeeandBooks to tour the best of Manhattans indie bookshops, all the way from the upper east side to Chelsea on the west side.

Eight stops. One Day. Here we go!

Rizzoli, 1133 Broadway
Rizzoli Bookstore Mahattan Independant boosktore Muse Monthly books tea DSC01918

Our first stop was Rizzoli on the East side. Rizzoli was quiet at 10am, and so beautiful that black and white floor spoke to my minimalist heart, and the store was just so elegant all around. It has a great selection of fiction and non, but I think the strength here was the Art and Architecture sections. There were so many beautiful books to look at! Plus, the staff was so sweet and helpful. This is a great stop for your lunch break!

Books of Wonder, 18 W 18th st
Books of Wonder bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Independent Muse Monthly

Books of Wonder bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Independent Muse Monthly

Books of Wonder is a specialty children’s bookstore and a hotspot for the YA crowd – with author signings and readings for children of all ages (there was a super cute storytime for the youngins going on when we were there), Books of Wonder is definitely a place to hang out for a long time. While the selection is extensive, what I love most about Books of Wonder is the featured vintage and first editions along the back wall. I love old books and Books of Wonder has a fantastic selection of classics – everything from the Wizard of Oz to Harry Potter. It’s truly breathtaking.

The Strand, 828 Broadway

The Strand Independent Bookstore New York City Manhattan Union Square Muse Monthly books bookstore bookshop bookworm DSC01926

The Strand is Home. The Strand is the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. The Strand is three floors of pure joy. Boasting 18 miles of books, the Strand has literally everything you could ever possibly want and more  – including rare, vintage, and first editions, the Strand is just….heaven. Just heaven. It doesn’t get better. I could just live and die here.

Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe, 126 Crosby St

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookwormHousing Works Bookstore Cafe bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookworm
(featuring Phoebe’s come-hither look)
Housing Works is another one of my personal favorites – it’s a beautiful bookshop specializing in (100% donated) secondhand books that doubles as a charity – along with the thrift shop next door, 100% of Housing Works profits go towards helping those living with HIV/AIDS and homelessness in New York City. Housing Works works to provide Heath services, job training, and housing resources for those who need it, and work tirelessly to advocate for these people. The bookstore & cafe hosts all kinds of events – readings, musical performances, parties, and even Literary Speed Dating for Queer Ladies – all to help raise funds for this wonderful cause.

McNally Jackson, 52 Prince St

McNally Jackson bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookworm McNally Jackson bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookworm
Right around the corner from HousingWorks is McNally Jackson – a two floor bookstore with a beautiful cafe attached – seriously, that ceiling. There are books hanging from the ceiling and lining the walls. It’s so beautiful. McNally Jackson has become a recent favorite for one reason – not only do they have a large fiction section, but it’s divided up into regions, so you can find American fiction alongside African, Asian, Indian, Australian, and more. To someone who loves books in translation, it’s such an amazing find. It’s a great spot to find something new! Pick up something just because it looks cool, grab yourself a coffee and a muffin, and dive in.

Bookbook, 266 Bleecker st

Bookbook bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Greenwhich Village Muse Monthly books bookworm Bookbook bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Greenwhich Village Muse Monthly books bookworm

Bookbook is (as you might be able to tell from the name) a super cutie-pie bookstore in Greenwich Village. It’s tiny and full of best sellers and classics – plus they have a sale table out in front, which is always a good thing to have. It’s such a small space but there’s lots to look at, and we had a lovely conversation about poetry with some fellow shop goers, and then Phoebe read Kipling to us from the floor. Beautiful.

Three Lives & Co, 154 West 10th Street

Three Lives and Company bookstore bookshop Manhattan New York City Independent bookstore Muse Monthly books bookworm Three Lives and Company bookstore bookshop Manhattan New York City Independent bookstore Muse Monthly books bookworm

Okay so Three Lives & Co is honestly gorgeous. It’s pretty much a closet, but it’s one of those bookstores you walk in to and it smells like books and it looks like your dream library, and so you can’t help but fall in love a little bit. It’s got a great selection of new releases and travel books, but what really caught my attention was the lack of a YA/Children’s section. Three Lives definitely strikes me as a shop for someone who might be a bit of a lit snob – you know, the tweed jacket with elbow patches type. Aka, me. Yeah, I’m that kind of nerd.

192 Books, 192 Tenth Ave

192 Books bookstore bookshop Independent bookstore New York City Manhattan Muse Monthly books bookworm 192 Books bookstore bookshop Independent bookstore New York City Manhattan Muse Monthly books bookworm

We arrived at 192 books just as the beautiful afternoon sun was starting to stream through those big windows, flooding the shop with light. It was an enchanting effect, and we took the opportunity for lots of photos. 192 Books is small, but the place is literally stacked floor-to-ceiling with awesome things to read. It’s the type of place you could spend some time digging through stacks and piles to find something different and exciting. The staff were delightful and all too happy to chat about their favorites. I definitely recommend coming here towards the end of the day, and then finding a coffee shop nearby with outdoor seating to tuck in with your new find.

It was an exhausting day, but one I would gladly do again – I’m such a bookstore junkie that this tour was a dream come true for me. I’ve found several new favorite stops, and I’m already dreaming about going back for a visit to spend some more time among the stacks.

The 100 Year Miracle by Ashley Ream – Review & Playlist

The 100 Year Miracle by Ashley Ream book review tea Muse Monthly bookworm subscription box
It is, primarily, a story of hubris.

The 100 Year Miracle begins with Dr. Rachel Bell, a member of a small research team who have set out to study the Artemia lucis, a small sea creature that glows a bright green during it’s mating period, which lasts for five days every 100 years, only around an island off the coast of Washington. Dr. Bell, however, betrays her research team to conduct a study of her own – investigating the mythical painkilling properties of these sea creatures in order to cure her chronic pain from a childhood accident.

The story has a very mystical quality – because of the nature of these sea creatures that anchor the story, the tone is set that we are witness to something strange and delicate, something otherworldly and mythical. And indeed, Dr. Bell’s research about these creatures involves Native American folklore surrounding them, which is what sets her on her quest. According to the stories she’s found, the people native to the island used the Artemia lucis as both painkiller and hallucinogen, and as a way to access the spirit road. It is clear that these creatures are not to be disturbed, however, Rachel’s quest leads her down a destructive path. When she meets Harry, a resident of the island who is also suffering from chronic pain, she begins to unlock the powers of the Artemia lucis despite the negative effects it begins to have on her and those around her.

However, Rachel’s obsession is, on one level, understandable. It’s a very human thing to want the pain to stop, especially if it’s a pain that’s been ailing you for the majority of your life. It’s very human to get greedy with it, to become to single-minded that we fail to see the chaos that is happening on the other side of our blinders. I’m sure that a lot of people with chronic illnesses – especially illnesses that effect who we are as people and take away parts of us that we value – would jump at the chance to find a painkiller that would make it stop, even if that painkiller comes with some pretty intense side effects. It’s a matter of the good outweighing the bad, or rather, it’s a matter of priority.

And maybe Rachel’s ego gets in the way a bit. Maybe she goes overboard, and certainly there are ethical issues involved with her research and the disturbing of the Artemia lucis’ mating season. But would any of us be any different, given the chance? It is so easy to access those darker parts of humanity – the parts that allow us want to play God, to be selfish to the point of destruction. It’s a thin line between ground-breaking discovery and dangerous obsession.

Ream does an incredible job of showing us something mythical being torn apart and analyzed, being overtaken by human egoism and destroyed. It’s important to look at nature in this way – as something not to be disturbed – and to recognize how our human greed can effect the lives around us.

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes – Review & Playlist

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes, Muse Monthly May

I think it’s a sign of a good crime novel that the story makes you very, very, intensely uncomfortable.

I will admit that crime and suspense is not my area of expertise. There are people – my mother is one – who eat up crime dramas and police procedurals. And of course, there are plenty out there to consume, but for some reason I tend to avoid things that are too Law & Order, as they seem to be all the same.

However, y’all know I cant resist a sociopath.

I love fucked up people doing fucked up things, I love reading stories about the build up before someone snaps, I especially love when said sociopath has intimate medical knowledge and is fascinated by dead bodies. That, to me, is setting up for an incredible story that will keep me on the edge of my seat. I am the person who cheers for the bad guy.

And Teo is all those things – he begins by saying his best friend is the cadaver they practice on in medical school, that he feels isolated from his peers until he meets Clarice. Of course, like any person who is unfamiliar with, well, people, Teo misconstrues Clarice’s flirtations and becomes obsessed with her to the point of kidnapping her with the intention of making her fall in love with him. Now, I’ll point out that for the first maybe third of the novel, I am all for this. I want to see Teo go crazy, I want to see him keep Clarice drugged and tied to the bed, I am all for him telling people that they’re dating, they’re engaged, I am all for him lying to both of their mothers and digging himself into a deep, chaotic hole that he’ll never be able to get out of. I just can’t wait for all of the madness to unfold, you know?

But I slowly stopped cheering for Teo and cheering for madness. I began to get panicked, to be worried for Clarice and wishing for someone to come along and save her, or better yet, for her to find her own way out somehow. And this is due to Montes’ masterful writing. Slowly Teo becomes more and more despicable, even for me. Slowly we start to see the depths of his depravity and the extent of his misogyny and homophobia, which transforms from slightly cringeworthy to throw-the-book-out-the-window very quickly. Frequently Teo comments on how disgusting Clarice is for wanting to kiss girls, how she is better at cleaning because she’s a woman, he calls her his ‘Lolita’ (which is a huge red flag), and it gets to the point where you can’t wait for this motherfucker to meet his end.

And…well, you’ll get there.

But the truth is, Perfect Days defied all my expectations. Not only was it expertly written and deliciously creepy, but the twists and turns are expertly navigated to tear up your emotions.

Just make sure no one is in the way when you throw the book across the room.