July 2018 TBR


In an effort to finish what I start, I’m posting my July TBR of books I have a genuine craving to read this month. Here’s the list and why:

📕  When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri (re-read):  Last month I read the love between straight-girl Katie and out-the-closet Cassidy, and I think I fell in love with it. I say I think because while it kind of ventures into cliches at times, I just couldn’t help swooning over this book. It’s just fun in a way that’s sugar sweet, and you need a book like that sometimes. After reading the first few pages again, I feel those same feels all over again (and catching a couple of details I missed the first go-round).

📕  One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus:  I’ve been waiting for months for this through my library. I mean, months. So yes, I have to read this now. The title speaks for itself.

📕  Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis:  Tiffany Sly moves in with her father after her mother passes – but is he really her dad? With her mom gone, Tiffany has to discover her past while navigating new surroundings. Already 30 pages in, I’m enjoying this. And it ‘s due back to the library in two days.

📕  Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead (July Summer Readalong @browngirlreading):  Sag Harbor is a book I bought a while ago, and Didi at BrownGirlReading is hosting a summer readalong, so I want to finish it this month. Seems appropriate to read a coming-of-age novel of black teenager set in the Hamptons in this sweltering July heat.

📕  Insatiable Appetites by Fiona Zedde:  I want to finally complete this book, because it’s been in my Goodreads queue since February as “Currently Reading.” So it’s time. Also reading the previous short story in the How Sweet It Is series from Fiona Zedde. Insatiable Appetites is the fifth. It follows black lesbian friends and their (steam) relationships.

📕  Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake: A couple months ago, I read Ashley Herring Blake’s Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, and loved that book. Blake’s writing is so compelling, and it made me want to read all the things she’s written. Her newest books is set to be just as poignant (and will probably make me cry again).

Will I finish all these this month? The mood reader in me hopes me.

Dewey's Readthon · Readathons

Happy Dewey’s Readathon Day – Opening Post

dewey4-18picHappy Dewey’s Readathon Day! Here’s my opening post.

What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I’m located in North Florida, where it’s sunny today.

Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Two books I have to mention are Never Have I Ever and Would You Rather by Katie Heaney. The first follows Katie’s real-life experiences with never having a boyfriend; the latter book discusses {spoiler alert} her coming out as a lesbian. So clearly these two titles have to be read back-to-back, and I’m here for it.

What snacks are you most looking forward to?
Funyuns…oniony goodness. And, as always, coffee! I’m anticipating a Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks iced coffee run sometime in the afternoon. I also plan to lay by the pool, taking in this lovely sunshine.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Rena, a lover of coffee, cats, and of course reading and books. I love participating in Dewey’s Readathon twice a year, even if I don’t read as much as I would like.

If you participated in the last readathon, what’s the one thing you’ll do different today?
Read smaller books. I also made an outline of what I want to read, so I can pace my time and narrow down what exactly I want to get to today. Let’s see if I, a big mood reader, can stick to this plan.

Bookish Stuff

2018 Reading Challenges, Maybe


Earlier this week, I posted my 2018 Bookish Goals earlier this week. Of the challenge-based goals, I listed the 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge, #readingblackout featuring books by African-American authors, and one reading challenge that has a list of specific prompts – the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – which I do every year. I love list-oriented book challenges that have me filling up my own notebook with suggestions and stalking the library to complete the tasks.

So I’ve found other prompt-driven reading challenges that I’m also not officially planning to participate in. Here’s a few of them, and if you want to join in, I’d love to know.


Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge has 24 prompts that not only allow me to read outside my comfort zone (a western, a book about nature?), but also promote diversity: a book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa); a mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author; a romance novel by or about a person of color. This is one I definitely do alongside POPSUGAR because, lucky for me, a lot of the prompt from both are similar.

Hashtag:  #ReadHarder


Lesbian Book Bingo is a challenge I stumbled across the other day, and it’s for avid readers of lesbian fiction. All 25 books read for this list must have at least one main character who is a woman who loves women. There’s also chances to win e-books, paperbacks and audio books. This is right up my alley because I read a lot of lesbian fiction, but I’m most excited about the prompts: Butch/Femme; Friends to Lovers; Enemies to Lovers.

Hashtag:  #lesbianbookbingo


The Free Black Women’s Library Reading Challenge 2018  has 30 reading prompts that celebrates personal and political book written by and about Black women. Some of the challenges include reading a LGBTQ book that is fiction, poetry or short story collection, a book by a revolutionary/freedom fighter/political organizer or abolitionist, and a book that centers friendship between women. Books by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Octavia Butler respectively are also prompts. Share your reads and opinions on social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads), using the hashtags to connect with other reading.

Hashtags:  #TFBWL2018 #TFBWLReadingChallenge #BlackWomanBibliophile #BooksbyBlackWomen

Are any of these challenges calling your name? Let me know in the comments. ☺️

Bookish Stuff

My 2018 Bookish Goals

Y’all, 2017 is a wrap! I think I had a good reading year. I read 87 books total, and I’m hoping to do more, both with my reading and this blog. On this note, here’s my bookish goals for 2018. 😀

Re-read one book a month

So me and re-reading are acquaintances, at best. Generally, reading a favorite book again produces slight anxiety for me because I’m always afraid that the book won’t give me the same feels. Yet in 2017, I managed to revisit about six books: Passing for Black by Linda Villarosa; Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh; Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume; Wet Moon, Volume 1 by Sophie Campbell; Jem and the Holograms (Vol. 1) by Kelly Thompson; and A Deeper Love by Shonia Brown. Most were as good as I remembered, with the exception of Are You There God (nostalgia is such a tricky thing). So this gives me hope that the book magic will be still there in my monthly re-reads in 2018.

Read five previously reviewed Sistahs on the Shelf (#SOTS) books
Speaking of re-reads, I especially want to return to the books from my long-time blog, Sistahs on the Shelf, and write “Rewind Reviews” on titles that I read ages ago. I haven’t discovered too many new-to-me black lesbian authors as of late, so why not take a trip back to the books that I began my website with.

Read one new #SOTS book a month
I would also like to discover and read a new-to-me #SOTS book a month.

Balance own books vs. library at 50/50
In 2017, my balance of #readmyowndamnbooks vs. the library was about an even split. I’m happy that I used my library (and so was my wallet), because it allowed me to read all the new books and backlist books that I wasn’t sure about. Now I want to tackle more of my unread physical books that are all over my house, the ones I was so excited about once upon a time.

Read one #readingblackout book a month
Denise D. Cooper from ArtBooksLive is hosting a year-long reading challenge to read books by African-American authors only in 2018. This is a really easy one for me to do, but I would like to read two #readingblackout books a month, particularly ones that have been on my shelves for a while. I’m also contemplating a month of #blackout reads.

Keep up with monthly book themes
Last year, I loosely challenged myself to read books based on a monthly theme, and it really worked for me. It’s how I managed to read a bunch of memoirs in April (Faith Evans’ Keeping the Faith was my favorite) and created my own #MaupinMay, where I read 6 out of 9 books in the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin. I want to do it again, also loosely, without a lot of planning.

Do the 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge (and finally finish all challenges)
For the past three years, I’ve done the PopSugar Reading Challenge, and every year I get closer to finishing it; I completed 77% of the goals this year. It’s really just a fun way to challenge myself, and read books out of my comfort zone. I also love to make and track lists (it’s the nerd in me ☺️). Here’s hoping in 2018 that I finish the whole list.

Complete the 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge
I’ve set my Goodreads Reading Challenge to 50 books, which is the same number I’ve accomplished since 2014. It’s doable, and is a good marker for me.

Stop worrying about page counts
I’ve always wanted my yearly page count to average around 300 pages. In 2017, I came close to this target at 263. I was doing this goal mostly to ensure I was reading longer books, which I tend to shy away from. Next year, though, I not sure if I want to track this number so closely. I just want to read what I want to read, even if the book is only 100 pages (and it’s good).

Read 5 classics
Okay, this is a goal I make every year, and fail at miserably. (Jane Eyre has been in my currently-reading queue on Goodreads since 2016. 😧) That’s why I’m  challenging myself to only five classics this year; if I do more, that’s great. I’ve been eyeing Jane Eyre (I’m going to finish it!), Pride and Prejudice, My Antonia, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (since I loved her Joy in the Morning so much last summer), and a re-read of Wuthering Heights so far.

Read 5 novels featuring black gay men
My reading has been so women-centered lately, and I miss reading fiction about black gay men, mostly in the vein of E. Lynn Harris, James Earl Hardy and Stanley Bennett Clay. There’s quite a few of these books in my library that I’ve been neglecting, so I want to get those read. Fiction by black gay male authors has always had a special place in my heart.

Year of an author
I want to select one author’s catalog to read from start to finish. I almost did it in 2017 with Armistead Maupin (only have 2 books left). I haven’t decided on an author yet, but I’ve narrowed it down to Gloria Naylor, Benilde Little, Terry McMillan, and E. Lynn Harris. Accomplishing this will mostly be re-reads for me, since they are a few of my all-time favorite authors. If you have any other suggestions let me know.

Publish a blog post weekly
Okay, so this will be the hardest challenge, but it’s something I really want to do at least once a week. I’m feeling motivated to write, and the only way to make writing a habit is to do it as often as I can. I also want to do more personal posts, and I can’t wait to get started.

What are your new year’s reading resolutions for 2018? Any thing you want to do better or not worry about this year?

Rena Rambles

Goals and Slumps?


Last week, I was attempting to write a Monthly Wrap-Up post for October (let’s overlook that it’s still not up) and mulling over reading only five books last month. I wanted to read more.

My Goodreads reading challenge – 50 books – has been met. Since 2014, I’ve  always set my GR challenge to 50 as a target I can reach without a sweat. It also helps me compare how well I’ve done  from year to year.

In my head, though, I have a personal goal of reading 100 books. It’s simply my own arbitrary number I look at as a feat, a figure I’ve quietly wanted to achieve. a round figure that means something to just me. Don’t ask me why. It still tears me up to this day that I almost had it in 2014 when I finished Saga Vol. 4 on Dec. 28, knowing it was impossible to read any more during the hectic holidays. 99 books!! 99 books!!! So close!!!

As of this post, I’m at 76 books. 24 more if I want to meet my personal goal, which I don’t think is going to happen. I’ve been in a reading slump for two weeks (jeez), and I haven’t been feeling compelled to read, read, read like I normally have. I will say Armistead Maupin’s Logical Family, my latest read from a favorite author, has helped because it’s so compulsively readable.

I’m not beating myself about not meeting my goal or not reading as much as I want to, because I know these things happen. But it does nag me. It also makes me analyze what’s going on with me when I can’t keep my head in a book. Right now, life is  going to be frenzied with the holidays coming up again, but the one thing I try to carve out is time for reading. It’s my happy place, when I can get into it.

Do you beat yourself up when you don’t read as much or don’t meet your goals? Do you have any tips for reading slumps?

Who Am I

Bookish Confessions #1


These are my confessions…

Bookish Confession #1: I miss writing reviews.

I never thought I’d admit that, because for a while, blogging felt like this pressure to produce all the time. I just wanted to read a book and not think about how to I was going to frame a review, how many stars I would give, who would read my review – all before I’d even finished a book. I’ve done this for over a year, and it felt GREAT. Like breathe of fresh air.

During this time, I’ve read a lot of really good books, ones I wanted to sing praises for or just complain about. And that’s when I began to miss blogging. So I’m back for now.

Bookish Confession #2: Reading is a solitary act for me.
Despite what I just wrote above – wanting to share my thoughts on the books I read, which is true – it reinforced that reading, for me, is a solitary activity. I enjoy jumping in a book without reading the synopsis or consulting Goodreads first, and I love when I find a title nobody has read but me – and then putting people on to it afterward. I think that’s why group reads never work for me…and why I never read the assigned reading in high school. 

Bookish Confession #3: I’m a monogamous reader.
That’s right. I said it. I can only read one book at a time. When I try to juggle more than one, I never finish reading any of them, and I typically gravitate to one over the rest. When I read, I have to be singularly focused. Shoot me.

Bookish Confession #4: I’ve become a book snob – slightly.
I’ve never been one to knock people on what genres they prefer. That’s not my bag. Read what you want. Yet I noticed my reading tastes have changed slightly. For example, urban fiction or straight-up erotica just doesn’t do for me anymore. I still read it occasionally, but now I’m drawn more to historical fiction.

Bookish Confession #5: I like big books and I cannot lie. (I’m sorry – I couldn’t resist 😞)
In another turn of events, big books are garnering my attention. Normally the books I read are between 300-400 pages, but lately I’ve been craving massive books, ones with longer story arcs that I can immerse myself in. The next one I want to dive into is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I’m scared, though – not because of its size, but the heavy subject matter.

Bookish Confession #6: I can’t leave the bookstore empty handed.
So, like most bibliophiles, the bookstore is my happy place. It’s where I go when I have a bad day, or just want to chill out and relax for a few hours. And I seldom leave without purchasing something – even if it’s just a coffee or bookmark (I love bookmarks). When I leave sans purchase I feel odd.

Bookish Confession #7: I don’t do Booktube because I’m plus-sized.
This a personal one. I totally would have a Booktube channel if I wasn’t so insecure about my chubby face. Yes, I am aware there are plus-sized Booktubers, but I’m just not in the headspace to be on camera. Maybe I’ll get there one day (and I’m slowly working on my fitness, as well).


Review: This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

thisisjustmyfacegabby1I’m kicking myself.

I don’t know why I waited so long to read Gabourey Sibide’s memoir, This is My Face: Try Not to Stare when it was published in May. I guess I was waiting for the exact right time to dive in. How ironic, though, that I ended up reading it for the Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon this past weekend. But I was ready for it.

And it did not disappoint at all. I looooooved it.

I was excited when I heard she was writing a memoir, because I’ve always rocked with Gabby, even before she was on Empire or before her inspiring weight loss. Seeing her in earlier interviews discussing a career in phone sex or her obsession with Beyoncé and *NSYNC made me realize she’s a bubbly, bright woman. In her memoir, she brings this same spirit. Gabby touches on the usual subjects found in celebrity memoirs – her upbringing, surviving her teenage years, making it into the entertainment business, dating – but she brings a perspective you don’t see very often – from a plus-size black woman’s point of view.

Gabby’s candor in sharing her life is remarkable, funny and so heartbreaking. She has the confidence to talk honestly about the imperfections and misconceptions about who she is, something I wish I had. Gabby admits that she’s funny and cool, and sometimes a bitch – but only she’s allowed to call herself that. You bet’ not.

While her story did jump around bit, what I love most about This is My Face is that it spoke to me on so many levels. I could relate to people making comments about my weight that they think are good-intentioned.  Or sweating not only because of anxiety in social situations but because I’m winded from the walk in. Or not having the best fashion sense or debating over what to do with my hair.

I swear, Gabby is my best friend in my head.

So many women of all shapes and sizes can see themselves in her journey from a depressed young teen to the self-assured woman you see today. She’s still not perfect, but she’s confident in a world dominated by social media and bullies, the right kind of look, and the dismissal of black women in a male-dominated entertainment business. She realizes how fate allowed her to become Gabby the actress, but hard work has made her flourish.

Because of that, I’ll be forever rocking with her.



Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date:  May 1, 2017
Pages:  256