Last Minute Christmas Present Ideas

  1. Books! (Of course!)
    • Ok to be fair, this can actually be a pretty hard present to buy, BUT here’s how you can tackle it and find a story that can change someone’s life! (Or at least entertain them for a week!)
    • First ask them what they like to read! (Or check their goodreads or their bookshelf!)
    • If you really can’t figure out, and don’t want to guess, just get a bookstore gift card!
  2. A Useful Present
    • When I say this I mean it’s something the person you’re buying for is actually needing something and either haven’t bothered to buy it or hasn’t wanted to treat themselves to something!
    • This can be as little as some homemade cookies to chapstick to something like a mini trip to somewhere they’ve always wanted to go to.
    • These tend to be the kinds of presents I go for, but as a college student I keep the budget a little lower and try and pay attention through the year and keep a little note on my phone to see who needs/wants what! (plot twist My initials are SC so … I guess I am Santa Claus!.. but you know, low budget santa claus for sure)
    • Somethings to keep in mind! Think about where the person is in life! (Aka have they just moved? are they also in school? have they been missing home? So they may not have said they NEEDED something but this can give you some context into what they might need even if they haven’t asked!)
  3. Stress Relief/ Self Care
    • I mean… most people get stressed so it never really hurts to buy a couple face masks and set up a mini at home spa day!
  4. Time!
    • Although I LOVE finding someone the perfect present, sometimes the best present is just giving someone your time! Put that phone down and talk! One of the largest things I’ve learned since going cross country for college is that family time can be hard to come by as you get older so it’s nice to spend time with family around the holidays! (And yes conversations might turn into arguments, but that’s just family!)
  5. An experience!
    • This isn’t usually in my budget so I avoid it, BUT if you can afford experiences memories can be amazing gifts!

Here’s just a list of things to spark some ideas:

  • 2020 calendar (they sell bubble wrap calendars which are pretty cool!)
  • 2020 planner (I love the ban.do planners!)
  • A water bottle (s’well has amazing ones, but if you don’t like that metallic adjustment period go for a glass one! like this: https://www.urbanoutfitters.com/shop/printed-glass-water-bottle?category=SEARCHRESULTS&color=095&quantity=1&size=ONE%20SIZE&type=REGULAR (A gorgeous urban outfitters glass and pressed flower bottle!)
  • Home decor (be sure to account for their taste!)
  • A puzzle! (Super fun for the family to do throughout winter break!)
  • Does this person have any pets? (Target usually has some really cute festive pet items!)
  • Subscriptions! (Help them out with netflix, spotify, or go for something more physical like a subscription to their fave magazine! There also amazing subscription boxes! (book ones too!))

Hoped this helped! Happy holidays and don’t stress too much about presents and focus more on spending quality time with quality people! (even if that means just yourself!)

Red, White, & Royal Blue

Cover of Red, White, & Royal Blue

Title: Red, White, & Royal Blue

Author: Casey McQuiston

Series: Standalone

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, New Adult

Pages: 421

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic. 

Review: What started out as a 1 star read turned into 5 stars. This book was amazing. I had a VERY slow start. It look me almost a full month to crawl through the first half of the book, not because it was bad, but because I just couldn’t get attached to the characters right away and all the politics made it harder for me to fall head first into contemporary romances the way I usually would. However, I stuck it through and for the last 50% of the book, I could NOT stop reading. This was the kind of page turner that kept me up all night even though I was exhausted. In fact, I haven’t stayed up to read a book in a while so the fact that this book that I thought I didn’t like turned into such an amazing read, I was ecstatic. I will probably continuously gush over this book forever. If you’re looking for an amazing romance with a full range of emotions, this is the book for you!

Cover: ★★★★★

Favorite Quotes:

  • “Sometimes you just jump and hope it’s not a cliff.”
  • “He’s spent too much of his life talking, talking, talking not to know the signs when someone doesn’t want to hear him anymore.”
  • “You’ve always had a choice. Perhaps today you’ll make the right one.”
  • “History, huh”
  • “and the whole world watched, an history remembered”

We Are All Greta: Be Inspired to Save the World

Title: We Are All Greta: Be Inspired to Save the World

Author: Valentina Giannella, Manuela Marazzi (Illustrator)

Series: Standalone

Genre: Nonfiction, Enviroment, Climate Change

Pages: 128

Publisher: Laurence King Publishing

Rating: ★★★★★

*I received an ARC of  We Are All Greta through Netgalley , but this in no way affected my honest opinion about the book.*

Synopsis: “Follow in Greta Thunberg’s footsteps and join the global mission to save our planet from climate change. With in-depth text and data, this necessary and timely book will answer readers’ questions on what climate change means, what its consequences will be, and what must be done to protect our world.”

Review: Such an amazing and quick read that everyone should pick up to get a start with helping the environment! Greta has shaken the world and is such an amazing leader. This book helps give some quick and easy tips that ANYONE can integrate into their lives!

Some easy tips as provided by this book!:

  1. Drink tap water and carry your own bottle.
  2. Waste no water
  3. Rediscover bars of soap (Lush carries good ones! for shampoo and conditioner as well!)
  4. Give bamboo a try too
  5. Let’s all go on a plastic-free picnic (with no waste)
  6. Walk, cycle, and use public transportation
  7. Store food in glass and ceramics
  8. Be switched on about turning off lights and air-conditioning
  9. Cultivate your garden
  10. Explore the recycling center

All of these quick tips are amazing! Since I live in NYC for school, I love that I can walk just about anywhere (versus at home in the suburbs where lots of driving is required). I also love using the offcents app which is made to help people carbon offset their modes of transport. So, by walking I can offset any car trips I have taken. Though offsetting my plane trips is taking awhile, you can also pay a small fee to offset your carbon footprint too!

I’ve always had an interest in helping the environment, but I’ve always wanted to do more. Greta is so empowering. Youth is often portrayed as naive, and because of that, the voice of youth is simply taken as background noise. Greta has changed that. Not just for youth, but for anyone who has dedication and a message.

This is such a quick read and if you want to help better the environment with just a couple small changes in your routine you should definitely check this book out!

Cover: ★★★★★

Favorite Quote:

  • “All children ask questions – it’s their job, they have to understand how things work in the world.”

The Guinevere Deception

Title: The Guinevere Deception

Author: Kiersten White

Series: Camelot Rising #1

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance

Pages: 352

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Rating: ★★★★☆

*I received an ARC of The Guinevere Deception through Netgalley, but this in no way affected my honest opinion about the book.*

Synopsis: From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes a new fantasy series reimagining the Arthurian legend, set in the magical world of Camelot.

There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

*THE FIRST BOOK IN THE CAMELOT RISING TRILOGY*

Review: I really enjoyed reading this and it was an absolute page-turner, but before I delve into all my favorite parts, I have one note. The ending of this book left me with a LOT of questions and felt rushed? I understand there are still books to come which will probably answer these questions, but it felt like the story ended too soon (but that may simply be because of how involved I felt while reading). Anyways, moving on to all that I did really enjoy!

The whole premise of an Arthurian retelling threw me off at first because I don’t know much of the stories besides the absolute basics, but I very quickly fell in love with the whole world of Camelot.

The character development was beautiful. Also very mysterious and left me wanting to know WHAT IS REAL?!? ARE MY THEORIES CORRECT? (and I had a LOT of theories while reading this.

Overall, this was a great start to a series and definitely left me wanting the next book to come out ASAP!

Cover: ★★★★★★★★★★+ IT IS STUNNING

Favorite Quotes:

  • “There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl on the cusp of womanhood.”
  • “If any stars winked a warning, she did not see it through the sparks the fire sent heavenward.”
  • “Her smile was like a reflection, too. Not quite real. They offered her hope and beauty in return for a deception.”
  • “Pain is often the price of pleasure.”
  • “Plaiting hair is magic. That is why men cannot do it. It is women’s magic alone.”
  • “She did not like the idea of being confined in her dreams.”
  • “In the quiet stillness, she suspected, even a city could feel like a forest.”
  • “Anything with a purpose to obscure could not help but real in equal measure.”
  • “Even mountains do not want to be unmade.”
  • “There was a dangerous magic in pretending. Pretend long enough, and who could say what was real?”
  • Someday it might dry up, but the water would flow elsewhere. It could not be unmade.”
  • “Why do people get bored with peace?”
  • “Keeping secrets is like a thorn beneath the skin. You can get used to it, but it is always there, festering.”
  • “Women are strongest when bearing one another’s pain. We each take a little on ourselves. No one dies, and we all heal together.”
  • “But fear and violence are powerful weapons; people are so accustomed to them that they respond instantly.”

Batman: Nightwalker

Batman Nightwalker cover. Batman logo in front with yellow glow behind. In the shadow behind is Bruce Wayne.

Title: Batman: Nightwalker

Author: Stuart Moore (Adapter) , Marie Lu (Author), Chris Wildgoose(Illustrator)

Series: standalone

Genre: Young Adult, Comic, Graphic Novel, Superhero

Publisher: DC Ink

Rating: ★★★★★

*I received an ARC of Batman: Nightwalker through Netgalley, but this in no way affected my honest opinion about the book.*

Synopsis:

” This action-packed graphic novel based on the New York Times bestselling novel by Marie Lu transports readers to the shadowy gates of Arkham Asylum, where Gotham City’s darkest mysteries reside…and now it threatens to imprison young Bruce Wayne.

A new ruthless gang of criminals known only as Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham and the city’s elite are being taken out one by one. On the way home from his eighteenth birthday party, newly-minted billionaire Bruce Wayne makes an impulsive choice that puts him in their crosshairs and lands him in Arkham Asylum, the once infamous psychiatric hospital. There, he meets Madeleine Wallace, a brilliant killer…and Bruce’s only hope. Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel, but is he convincing her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees?

Illustrated by Chris Wildgoose and adapted by Stuart Moore, this graphic novel presents a thrilling new take on Batman before he donned the cape and cowl.”

Review: First of all, I have to admit, I know practically nothing about Batman, so this is my first introduction into this narrative. However, I love Marie Lu and comics so I was still super excited to get an advanced copy.

I have to say, for someone who loves Marvel and hasn’t given Batman a chance, this truly blew my mind. I am fully invested in this story and absolutely loved it. Batman always felt like an adult, so starting at a younger age really had me feel more connected.

Not to mention, the plot and art were absolutely phenomenal and I was constantly flipping the digital pages. With just a couple hundred pages, I am now fully invested in all the characters and their future so you can bet I’ll be waiting for more!

Cover: ★★★★★

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A Sparrow’s Roar

Title: A Sparrow’s Roar

Author: C. R. Chua, Paolo Chikiamco

Series: standalone

Genre: Graphic Novel, Action, Adventure

Pages: 160

Publisher: BOOM! Box

Rating: ★★★★☆

*I received an ARC of A Sparrow’s Roar through Netgalley, but this in no way affected my honest opinion about the book.*

Synopsis: “A Knight’s tale about duty, duels, driving your sister crazy…all while trying to save the country from a secret that threatens to tear it apart.

When a seemingly harmless prank goes wrong, knight-in-training Per of Esterpike watches her sister Elena, famed hero and leader of Lions, murdered by a barbarian horde set on wiping Esterpike off the map. Together with Elena’s second-in-command Amelia, Per must impersonate her sister and travel to Unity’s capital to convince the Generals of each city-state to provide aid against the oncoming horde. But as Per moves forward on her quest, she comes upon a conspiracy that might just threaten Unity itself!

Join writer and illustrator C.R. Chua (Adventure Time Comics) and writer Paolo Chikiamco on Per’s grand adventure all about strength, swords, and sisterhood.”

Review: This was a super action packed quick read with an amazing art style. Although I don’t quite fit the best audience/reader for this plot (sorry I wish I enjoyed action more!), I still found the sisterly relationship incredibly sweet.

The world itself is pretty intriguing and because the story itself was so short, I would love to see and learn more about it!

Cover: ★★★★★

The Stars We Steal

Title: The Stars We Steal

Author: Alexa Donne

Series: Standalone

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Pages: 400

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: “Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin? 

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself failing for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.”

Review: A cute, romantic, quick & easy read! It felt like a beautiful contemporary/romcom wrapped in a sci-fi novel. 

I was already hooked by the synopsis because I’m a sucker for a good romance and this gave me vibes from the selection series and matched series. So if you loved that vibe definitely pick this one up!

Also, the lgbtq+ representation was cool to see! I felt less forced which made it feel more natural especially since it’s not marketed as some lgbtq+ novel. Though such a story with an lgbtq+ lead character would also provide such a unique twist in their world that emphasizes marriage and ranking so much. 

Also loved that the main character is a brainy, curvy girl! 

Ultimately, this is the book for you if you want to feel some romantic tension. It’s like a romcom in words and you’ll be whisked away on a starry, romantic rollercoaster.

Cover: ★★★★★ (gorgeous!)

Ashlords

Title: Ashlords

Author: Scott Reintgen

Series: Untitled Duology #1

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 368

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Rating: ★★★★★

*I received an ARC of Ashlords through Netgalley, but this in no way affected my honest opinion about the book.*

Synopsis:Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders–skilled at alchemy–who must compete at The Races–the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.

Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they’ve raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.

Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That’s all legal and encouraged. 

In this year’s Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest–a champion’s daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary’s son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?”

Review: What a creative and original author. I started as a Nyxia fan and was in awe of Saving Fable and Ashlords is just another amazing addition to all the books Scott Reintgen has written!

As usual this world he created is amazing! With Ashlords and Dividians and phoenix horses, I could not stop reading. His books have finally drawn me out of a reading slump! 

Besides the amazing setting this novel is placed in, the three main characters are crafted so skillfully and help bring unique perspectives on what could have been too narrow of a view. (Like a fantasy version of youtuber?! genius!)

As someone who loves a good romance there wasn’t much in this novel, but you won’t even miss it with all the action going on. (This is pretty hard for me to enjoy a romance-less novel so trust me when I say it’s quite the page turner.)

Cover: ★★★★★

Favorite Quotes:

  • Each light is a sun. To each sun, planets. To each planet, moons. How endless it all is. …”
  • “a man who’s been struck by lightning always thinks it’s likely to happen again”
  • “My mother like the moon, bright and beautiful. My father like the stars, scattered in the dark backdrop of her radiance. Always so different, always inseparable.”
  • “Sometimes a blank slate is better than a broken one.”
  • “The best way to weather a storm is to become a mountain. –Dividian proverb”
  • “He wants what he would never give.

Saving Fable

Title: Saving Fable

Author: Scott Reintgen

Series: Talespinners #1

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Rating: ★★★★★

*I received an ARC of Saving Fable through Netgalley, but this in no way affected my honest opinion about the book.*

Synopsis: “Side characters can be heroes too in this charming and fast-paced adventure that is The Land of Stories meets The Phantom Tollbooth!

Indira has been a character-in-waiting her entire life. So she can’t believe her luck when she’s finally chosen to travel to Fable and study at the renowned Protagonist Preparatory, a school known for producing the best heroes.

But Indira’s dreams of achieving hero status don’t exactly go as planned. A failed audition lands her in the school’s side-character track, and her best efforts to prove advisors–famous characters like Alice from Wonderland and Professor Darcy–wrong are constantly sabotaged. Indira is starting to feel like an evil antagonist might be to blame.

As the danger spreads, Indira discovers all of Fable is under siege. With her friends Maxi and Phoenix by her side, she pieces together clues that will reveal who is behind the dark magic threatening them all. But the more Indira uncovers, the more doubt she feels about her place in this world of stories. After all, can a side character really save the day?

Review: I’m so grateful to get a copy of Saving Fable. When I first read the synopsis I was already so intrigued. Wondering who I was in my own story was something I often did and sometimes still do. Am I the main character in my own life? What if I’m just a side character? Scott Reintgen tackles these questions in the most beautiful and creative story.

Saving Fable might be classified as a middle grade novel, but I think it can truly be a novel for all ages. The message it sends it beautiful and thought provoking. I can imagine it as an amazing movie and though it is a standalone novel I can’t even begin to imagine all the other stories that could exist is this wonderfully complex and creatively original world.

This might just be one of my favorite books of all time and I definitely a book I wish I had when I was younger. It was beautifully written with an engaging plot, relatable characters, and a captivating world. I literally cannot praise it enough!

Cover: ★★★★★

Favorite Quotes:

  • “To all the heroes who started out thinking they were side characters.”
  • “Every cage has a key.”
  • “‘I just jump?’ ‘Only if you want to fly.'”
  • “You are small by comparison, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
  • “There are no fair trades between dreams and the waking world. After all, no one wants to trade flying for morning breath.”
  • “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.”
  • “Loyalty leads to bravery. Bravery plants the seed of self-sacrifice. And self-sacrifice is the highest call of every character in every story.”

glasses and acne: some of my longest relationships

Glasses

I have worn glasses for more of my life than I haven’t (a total of about 12 years now?!). Over the course of all these years I have analyzed and thought about their role in my life (besides … helping me see of course).

Everyone has asked me, since really before I even started if I wanted to get contacts. No, I don’t, let me show you why

Image result for rachel friends scared of eye drops gif
Rachel would be me

Contacts are terrifying okay?! Besides, most people get it for convenience, but for me it would only ruin my day.

For a while I did want contacts though. Just a few moments, because I realized I attached them to my identity and I was worried. As someone with an identical twin sister (who doesn’t really wear glasses), I was the twin who wore glasses. Wearing glasses was part of who I was.

I hated when people asked for me to take them off so they could see how similar we looked. At the time I thought I was scared of them seeing me without glasses, but I realized it wasn’t that (that wouldn’t make sense anyways since I literally just looked like my identical twin). I realized how since my vision is pretty bad, I couldn’t see people’s eyes and see where they were looking. It was vulnerable knowing I was being analyzed when to me the whole world was fuzzy.

However, things have taken a turn. No I didn’t get contacts, but I did have a change of heart/mind. I no longer see myself as someone who wears glasses. And yes, I still depend on them to see, but I don’t depend on them for anything else. While the rest of the world may still see me as the girl with glasses, I simple see through them (literally).

Acne

While I’ve had glasses for the majority of my life, I’ve also dealt with acne for about 8 years?! It has been a crazy journey, and while I lived it, it honestly felt normal, but looking back I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself and let me explain why.

  • I never felt like I had to cover my acne to feel comfortable with my skin. (Yes I didn’t like that I had pimples, acne, and scars, but I never wore makeup except for special occasions (prom, photoshoots, things like that).

MY SKIN JOURNEY TIMELINE

  1. Teenage Acne: It all started around the end of elementary school through middle school. This was the phase of horrible cystic acne mainly on my forehead. Also, a horrible stage of picking and popping because I didn’t know better.
  2. Adult Acne: This was from high school through… now/ sorta of a year ago. This consisted of a pretty clear forehead but now pimples on the cheeks and jawline. These were very stubborn and got pretty bad around 2 years ago. (I didn’t even realize how bad until I checked old photos.)
  3. Curology: OK HEAR ME OUT THIS IS NOT SPONSORED THIS IS JUST ME LEGITIMATELY LOVING A PRODUCT. I’ve been using Curology for over a year now and I saw amazing results after 3 months. Which may sound long, but keep in my I’ve had acne for yearsss, and after trying so many products this has truly changed my skin for the better. I still have redness and old scars but I really have never seen my skin as healthy and happy for as consistently as this!

After going through all the pain of acne for years, I’ve been able to look back and really appreciate what I’ve gained from the experience.

  • I learned to be more comfortable with my appearance. Even when I had a bunch of acne on my face I didn’t feel not like myself.
  • I’ve found skin care to be an amazing way to self care.
  • I’ve learned to let my skin breathe and keep it healthy and as a result makeup is truly just something I feel like is a fun thing and not something I depend on.

“And in the death of her reputation, She felt truly alive.”

-Taylor Swift