When We Were Infinite, by Kelly Loy Gilbert // Thoughts & Ramblings on a New Favorite

It’s been a long time since I last read a book that left me feeling viscerally changed. That is, until I finished reading When We Were Infinite a few days ago.

Sitting in the back of my family’s minivan, hurtling down a highway in Tennessee as rain pounded the windshield, I just stared at the blank page at the end of the book and thought- about the novel and the characters, yes, but also about how my life would never quite be the same now that I had read it. I could tell that the emotions I’d felt and the thoughts provoked by what I’d just read would be staying with me for a long, long time.

I’ve always read only recreationally, but ever since I started blogging and especially as I’ve become more involved in the world of Goodreads and ratings and reviews and to-be-read shelves and releases, I’ve become a much more critical reader. I no longer rate a book only on my enjoyment, but I’m also considering so many other factors as I read: do I truly like the characters? Am I bored at all? Is the writing exceptionally good?

Within the last year, I’ve found myself rating very few books five stars, and often I’ll already be thinking about the rating I’m going to give a book as I’m reading. (This might be unhealthy reader behavior.) When I was about a fourth of the way into When We Were Infinite, I knew it was going to be five stars. When I was halfway through When We Were Infinite, I knew I was going to need to talk about this book with someone, anyone. By the time I finished it, I knew that writing a blog post solely about this book was non-negotiable.

I’ve (much to my dismay) abandoned my blog terribly over the last school year. I wish I could attribute it to just being busy, but I know the reasoning lies much more with a lack of motivation or compelling content to blog about. But after finishing When We Were Infinite, I was overflowing with motivation and a desire to get all my thoughts out about this novel. Even if they’re scattered, even if this post isn’t as formatted as I normally would want and doesn’t follow the patterns of my ordinary content (something that caused me a lot of anguish over whether or not I should even post this), I ultimately decided that this is my book blog and there is no right or wrong way for me to talk about a book I truly loved (with no spoilers). So, here’s me doing just that- and thank you for being here. :’)

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Why Can’t I Stop Falling in Love With Fictional Characters? // An Exposé of Yours Truly

I don’t think I’m alone in the feeling of falling in love with fictional characters...

…or at least I hope I’m not. I’m not just talking about falling in love romantically, either. There are so many different ways that I can fall in love with a character. Sometimes, yes, I want to be with them, but sometimes I want to be them. Sometimes I wish I could be their best friend and sometimes I wish I could be a part of their family- no matter how it happens, I fall easily for people who are nothing more than just words on a page.

Just because I want a reason to talk more about the characters I *love* and because I’m interested to know if I’m the only one who finds themselves in love with fictional entities, I decided this would be a good idea for a post. I’m expecting to fangirl a lot in this because once I start talking about my favorite characters it takes a lot for me to stop. :’)

But someone please stop me once I mention Richard Campbell Gansey III for the 1000th time.

*clears throat* But anywayyy, I’ll be discussing a lot of different types of love and I hope that it will be able to give you some recommendations of what you should read if you’re also looking to fall in love with a new character. Onto the post!

I fall in love with characters because they exceed my standards.

This is going to be an ode to Emma Mills and Maggie Stiefvater for writing boys that actually have made me cry because of how much I wish they were real. I am well aware of how much I’m living up to being a teenage girl right now by having written that sentence, but I am entirely okay with it because of Gansey and Gideon Prewitt and August Shaw and Harry Potter and- I’ll cut myself off there.

I lose pretty much of semblance of my sanity when I think of any of these three characters because I just think about how sweet, chivalrous, and intelligent all of them are, and then it makes me happy. Plus, the fact that none of them are actually *perfect* and they all have their clear flaws, and yet they STILL just continue being their unproblematic, caring, thoughtful selves. I’m sorry, but it is entirely unfair that they have the audacity to be fictional and not real.

Maybe I should blame it on the fact that most fictional boys I fall in love with are written by women. Or maybe I should blame it on how they’re written by adults who might not know how teenage boys actually act. Or (and probably the most likely) I just haven’t met enough boys to actually find one who lives up to the high standards set for me by all of these fictional characters. Whatever the reasoning, I cannot stop falling in love with these boys that are decidedly not real because they very much so surpass all the qualities of boys that are in fact real.

Books Mentioned: Foolish Hearts, Famous in a Small Town, The Raven Boys, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I fall in love with characters because I wish I could be their best friend.

I could go on and on about how much I want to be with Gansey (except I mostly just want him to be with Blue, you feel?) or anyone else, but at the end of the day, the strongest love I’ve ever felt before is the love I have for my friends. On a much smaller level, I feel a lot of that same platonic love towards characters that I just know I would be best friends with.

I think one of the fictional characters I’ve fallen platonically in love with the most is Anne Shirley. I know I’ve mentioned this many times before, but my idealistic self can imagine nothing better than to grow up alongside Anne in Avonlea. Running through flower fields, naming every animal and bush we encounter, braiding each other’s hair. Anne is such a kindred spirit. Her fiery temper and wit would balance out my wide-eyed, sweet disposition and we’d be an unstoppable pair.

My list of characters I would want a best friendship with goes on. What I wouldn’t give for study sessions with Hermione Granger, to eat a waffle with Nina Zenik, to spend a day solving puzzles with Reynie Muldoon, or even bake cupcakes with Lara Jean Covey. I’ve fallen in love with these characters because I can truly see myself being friends with them, and I would give anything to be able to dive into their worlds and live a day alongside them.

Books Mentioned: Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Six of Crows, The Mysterious Benedict Society, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

I fall in love with characters because they make me want to a be a better version of myself.

You can learn way more about yourself from a book than you might think. Reading isn’t just going on the journey of a character, you’re going on the journey with the character. I may sound like an overzealous elementary school librarian saying that, but hear me out. As a reader, you to live through the main characters and maybe even realize that you’re capable of what they’re capable of, too. At least for me, my goals always seem more attainable if I’ve seen someone else reach them, too.

Whether you watch your dreams play out directly on page, like with a character getting the scholarship they wanted or spending their time volunteering or getting the role in a play or in a more abstract sense, like watching a character learn to love themselves and their talents, you can vicariously live through the characters. For me, this helps motivate me to be a better version of myself- maybe one that my favorite character would be proud of. If they can do it, I can.

I fall in love with characters because I want to be a part of their family.

I could write a whole post on fictional families that I love (and maybe one day I will). Family relationships are something that I think most books are lacking in, so when I do find a novel that explores family relationships, I’m automatically interested. When it turns out that this family is close-knit, boom, I’ve fallen in love.

Okay but?? How am I supposed to resist a family that enjoys eating waffles together and invites all their friends over for meals and has so much for love for every single last sibling, no matter how young? Am I not supposed to instantly fall in love simultaneously with every March sister because their sister dynamics are perfect? How would I ever be able to resist a forged-together found family entangled with whimsy and magic and love?

The answer is, I definitely cannot resist any of those. Which is why I so often find myself falling in love with fictional families. Just give me the sibling relationships and parent-child bonds and found families and dare me not to fall for them.

Books Mentioned: The Boy Who Steals Houses, Little Women, The House in the Cerulean Sea

I fall in love with characters because I get emotionally attached way too easily.

I’m really calling myself out with this one, but it couldn’t be more true. In real life and with books, it does not take a lot for me to become emotionally attached to someone or something. What can I say, I’m a sensitive enneagram type 2.

This is why I end up rating a lot of books based on how connected I felt to the characters- because if you can get me attached, I am attached. This is also why I cry a lot while reading (and while watching shows or movies) because I get very invested in my characters and whatever happens to them. Needless to say, if I get emotionally attached, I am in love and I will not stop talking about a character. I’ll probably make a Pinterest board and then make it my singular personality trait on my blog.

My peak emotional attachments belong to: the Golden Trio, the gangsey, and pretty much anyone from Percy Jackson. I would say I’m especially attached to characters if they are associated with a nostalgic book or series for me, but to be honest, Gansey is proof that I can become attached at any given moment. :’)

Books Mentioned: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Raven Boys, The Blood of Olympus

What I’ve learned about myself from this post is that I’m probably unhealthily in love with way too many characters at this point. Can you blame me, though? Sometimes I can’t get over how lucky we are to have so many books with so many characters in existence- even if it’s only fiction, they give me so much comfort.

Thank you so much for reading this post! I hope that you could be led in the direction of some new characters or that this provoked some thought on why you love (or don’t love) characters. I’m thinking of all of you, and hoping that you’re staying safe and healthy even with everything going on in the world right now. I’m trying my very best to not disappear off the face of the blogging community again, so it’s with true hope that I say I’ll see you all again soon. :))

Why do you love characters? Do we share any of this is common? Can anyone else not go three sentences without mentioning Gansey or is that just me? I would love to talk to you in the comments.

Credits for image in my featured image >> Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Blogger Origins Part II // Four Stories of Bloggers Joining the Community

I’m back again to spread some appreciation for the wonderful people that are bloggers.

All the way back in August, I published the first segment of a new series on my blog called Blogger Origins. Despite the fact that it has taken me *much* too long to continue on with this series, I’m very excited to actually be posting a part II of it today! (And I apologize for once again semi-disappearing from the blogosphere and for the extreme delay in continuing with this series. I blame it on schoolwork and my bad habit of spending more time thinking about my blog than actually blogging.)

To provide a little background on what Blogger Origins is, it’s an idea I had last summer when I became curious about how people found the book blogging community. I think this community is an amazing place, so it’s always being intriguing to me how we all ended up here by chance. This series is essentially just me featuring the stories that bloggers have been so kind as to send to me in an effort to show appreciation for and spotlight the amazing bloggers that exist. My hope is that you find these stories just as interesting as I do, and that you find new bloggers to follow!

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The Evermore Book Tag // Taylor Swift Made My 2020 (Again)

It’s been almost three weeks now, but I still can’t wrap my brain around the release of evermore.

I haven’t fully recovered from the surprise release of folklore months ago, and now we have evermore too? Not only do I feel as if we’re undeserving of this incredible music, I’m surprised my heart survived listening to 15 new Taylor Swift songs. I’m completely in love with the new album and will be talking about how much I adore every song for the next decade or so- meaning, when I got tagged for the evermore book tag, participating in it was absolutely mandatory.

It warmed my heart so much to be tagged by Rhi, Aria, and Lauren for this tag, because I’ve loved talking about Taylor with all of them and it especially meant a lot that they still thought of me even though I haven’t posted on my blog in upwards of four months. Thank you so much you wonderful humans- please go read their posts and visit their lovely blogs. <33

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An Update On My Summer Bucket List // In Which I Watch Marvel Movies, Read, & See the Sunrise

Well, summer is over.

Part of me is sad about this, because my days spent reading and blogging as I pleased are over, and I’ve already returned to the routine of (online) school, dance, and with that comes stress. But I’m also very excited for fall to come soon and for the semblance of normalcy that’s already returned to my life with school and everything else. Summer being over means we’re making our way through 2020!

This summer will probably go down as one of the most abnormal summers of my life? Usually I would spend it reading, hanging out with my friends, possibly traveling- and yes, I did a lot of reading, but nothing else went the way it normally would have. I was able to spend time with friends outdoors occasionally, but I didn’t go anywhere and didn’t venture out of my house very often at all.

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Despite the setbacks and social distancing measures, this summer was not without its highlights: my whole family was at home, so we got to spend quality time together. I also had (almost too much) free time, and got to spend more time relaxing and doing things that interest me than I normally would.

At the beginning of summer (when I was naive and thought COVID might actually get better instead of worse where I live) I made a summer bucket list, so this is going to be my follow-up to that! I looked back at these goals a little bit, but not a lot, so I’m actually very curious to see if I mostly achieved them or mostly failed.

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5 Stories of Bloggers Finding The Blogging Community // Blogger Origins pt. 1!!

Hi, friends! Welcome to my newest feature on the blog, Blogger Origins.

I am way too excited for this post because I don’t think I can ever truly talk about how much I love the blogosphere and all the bloggers that are a part of it. Blogging takes so much time, dedication, and passion, so any chance to promote or show love for my fellow bloggers is a chance I’ll take (psst you can also vote in the Book Blogger Awards right now to show your appreciation for bloggers!).

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A combination of my desire to promote bloggers and my curiosity about how people found the blogging community culminated in the creation of a new series on Purely Olivia: Blogger Origins. Essentially, each post in the series will feature a handful of bloggers that have been kind enough to send me a short summary of how and why they started blogging.

My hope with this series is that you can not only find new blogs to follow and enjoy, but that you also might find it as interesting as I do to see how everyone’s blogging journey has come about! What I love is that everyone’s blogging origins are different, but somehow we were all led to connect here, and that’s pretty amazing.

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An Update on My 5 Star Predictions! // Exposing My Skills As a Psychic (7 Months Later)

Way back in January, when the world wasn’t turned upside down, I made some five star predictions.

I like how my January self thought that I would do an update post on what I ended up thinking about the books in March, and here we are in August and I just now finished reading them all (I think that’s fairly representative of 2020)…but even though it took me much longer than I thought to read them all, I did it within the year and I guess that can be some sort of accomplishment!

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I haven’t looked back on this list in a while, other than to occasionally see what books I still had left on it, so this post is basically going to be testing just how psychic my January self was. Or at least how well I know my reading tastes. (Although a fun fact is that my friends always joke that I’m psychic because I have pretty good intuition and I also somehow always manage to guess what song is going to be played right before it comes on, but I’m no Adam Parrish).

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July Recap // ft. Lots of Reading, Sunsets, & Folklore (+ Ask Me Questions for a Q&A!)

It’s August, my friends!

I’m not sure why, but I’m actually so happy that we’re officially in August of 2020. I think part of me thinks this year is going to drag on forever, so making it to another month feels like an accomplishment. We’re also a little bit closer to fall now, my favorite season- and the return to school (and dance for me) is here, too. I usually dread August, but I’m trying to go into this month with as much positivity as possible.

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Even though I didn’t really do much at all in July, because I had absolutely no commitments and the COVID situation where I live just keeps getting worse and worse, I still…did things? I might have not traveled anywhere or even left my house more than a few times, but I still had a productive month in the sense of reading and accomplishing some personal goals.

I’ve noticed in the past that July is always one of my more productive months in terms of blogging and reading, probably because it’s a full month of summer vacation for me and I usually don’t have any plans. Adding that to me being in quarantine (is it even still quarantine? I don’t know?), and I had even more free time on my hands! This resulted in worse mental health, but more free time spent on my hobbies and goals.

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The Folklore Book Tag // In Which I Love Taylor Swift and Reading Way Too Much

Taylor Swift released a new album, and in conclusion, I am not okay.

I don’t exactly have the words to explain my happiness when I found out about the surprise release of Folklore, but I won’t lie, there were tears. Taylor Swift has been my favorite artist since her debut album released and I spent hours laying on the floor next to my CD player memorizing every song, and while I’ve loved everything she’s put out, this album has a special piece of my heart.

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I could go on and on, but the lyrics (her best ever), storytelling, and genre (indie folk/soft pop/alternative?!) could not be more perfect. It’s genuinely my favorite album yet and!! I haven’t stopped listening to it or screaming about it since it released. So you can imagine my excitement when Ilsa created The Folklore Book Tag, and now I can talk about the album here while also talking about books!!

A major thank you to both Ilsa and Rhi for tagging me- I’ve loved talking about this album with both of them so far, so this was especially happy.🤍 I’m very much looking forward to talking about the songs, sharing my favorite lyrics at the end of each song, and tying them back to books using Ilsa’s prompts!! (Also, I will be using the graphics she created, so a thank you to her for that too.)

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Mini Reviews From Quarantine Pt. 2 // The Second Installment of Me Crying Over YA and MG Novels!

I’m back again with more mini reviews!

As I’ve said a few times, one of the good parts about quarantine for me has been getting back into reading frequently. I didn’t realize quite how much I’d gotten out of the habit of reading consistently until I recently looked back at some monthly recaps from late 2019 and saw that during the school year I sometimes…didn’t read anything at all the whole month.

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Knowing that I’ll probably be in a similar situation like that again (though at this point, I would welcome in-person school stress, knowing my school will probably be online for the foreseeable future), I’m trying to take advantage of all my free time to read as much as possible! That’s resulted in me having read a lot of books that I would very much like to scream about and recommend to you.

To follow up with my first mini reviews from quarantine post, I’m going to be reviewing (in a bullet point fashion) some more books I read so far during quarantine! I’m unfortunately very behind on my reviewing, so these are mostly ones that I read in May but I will be doing more to talk about ones I’ve read in June and July as well.

I’m writing this post while absolutely freaking out about Taylor Swift’s surprise announcement of her new album, Folklore, coming out in (at the time of me typing this) around six hours, so I feel kind of like I’ve just had ten shots of espresso. Hopefully my nervous and excited energy translates into enthusiastic reviews and not rambling, muddled ones??

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