Right in the feels: What the hell is this?

Here’s the deal: I read a lot of fluff.

I read to enjoy what I’m reading, to fall deeply in love with the characters whose heads I’m in, whether they might be nice people or horrible ones.

But I have noticed something about my reading recently: I’ve given more books four and five star ratings on Goodreads this year (and it’s barely half over) than I have in years past. Part of that can probably go to selection: I’ve spent less time reading (or continuing to read) books that I only have a vague interest in. Sure, I still read The Heavy Stuff on occasion, because I’m interested in them, too, and I have been known to give it four and five stars, but somehow I feel…a stronger attachment to every book I read.

Have increased empathy and sensitivity transferred themselves somehow to my reading to the point where I can’t pull myself out of it? I still read critically, of course, and will quit books if they involve plot points or squicks that turn me off or away. But I still find myself dropping into books and coming out so emotionally affected, and I don’t know why. As an older reader, what gets me so emotionally attached? Why does my empathy make me such a sap? I have read a couple books that have either given me such joy, or broken me so much, that I suffered some serious, severe book-hangover. The inability to move on isn’t old; I recall dwelling on things in the past. But to be so mentally incapacitated as to not be able to concentrate on something else as I tried to begin something else? That’s new. 

I dunno. Maybe it’s been there all along and I just haven’t been selecting the right books. Maybe a switch turned on when I turned 31 and now I won’t be able to escape it.

…Whatever. Time to go find some self-published, underdeveloped romance to edit in my head as I’m reading* to get over the emotional turmoil that was Gena/Finn.

*I am not saying all self-pubs are like this! I have read some great ones! I have just also read some that would have been awesome if they had just had more editing. Which I might try to get into…

May Wrap-Up: This Time, Blame the Library

Books and Beethoven-2

Books read in May: 11

My own damn books: 1

So yeah, I didn’t do so well last month.

I have this bad habit, that I’m working on breaking. Some days, I will look at the New and On Order page on my library’s website. I’m on that website all day, so it feels like an extension of my work. But I look at those lists, and I find books that I’ve heard of, or find very interesting, and I place them on hold. Most, I add to my For Later shelf, but there are still going to be books that I want to read immediately. I don’t pay much attention to their release date, I just know that when they’re On Order, they might have already come out, or they might be coming out in a few months.

I wait.

And then I have three books on the hold shelf. Three days later, I have two more. The next day, there’s another. Nothing, for two months, and then this deluge of reading material just pours itself onto me.

I do all the bad things. I leave things on the shelf for as long as possible, trying to get through the other books, hoping no one else is frantically watching the books’ availability like I have been known to do. I finally check them out and then keep them as long as I can. I might even renew one or two of them.

There are still too many.

I try one, and 15 or so pages in I just don’t care. That one is going back in the morning. I read the first 50 pages of another, and then read the first 30 pages of yet another one. I plow through a couple, and plod through another.

I’m trying.

And then I signed up for Take Back Your Shelves Readathon like I was actually going to have the time between Mayhem rehearsals and mandatory social activity to read over Memorial Day Weekend. I got a couple chapters in, and that was it. That was it. What the hell happened?

I guess I should mention what books I actually read?

Completed:

Paper Girls – Enjoyable, but I’m not sure if I’ll continue. It’s weird, but I haven’t figured out if it’s weird in a way I enjoy, like Y: The Last Man, or in a way I don’t, like Phonogram.

Love, Lies and Spies – LOVE. Adorable. I have only picked up two Swoon Reads titles this year, but between Victorian spies and Victorian X-Men, I’d say they were successful choices.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK STOP READING THIS AND GO FIND ITI am sure I would have devoured this book in print, once I got moving (I tried it several years ago and couldn’t get into it, but I’d only read a few pages), but I absolutely adored it on audio. Lin-Manuel Miranda narrates magnificently, Benjamin Alire Saenz writes amazingly, and Ari (the narrator) is an angry puppy I want to hold and coax to comfort.

Simple Jess – This was not technically a library book, though it was borrowed (and that was how I remembered that some kindle titles could be loaned!). This is an older, pioneering-age small town romance and Jess, our hero, is cognitively disabled. And adorable and wonderful. His heroine isn’t anything to shake a stick at, either, in personality or mettle.

The Crown – That’s it. It’s all over. No more Selection. I think. The outcome wasn’t a surprise, but it was still darling to read.

The Dream Thieves – After finishing The Raven Boys near the end of April, I immediately put all three of the Raven Cycle books on hold at the library. Wouldn’t you know it, Blue Lily, Lily Blue came up first. So of course I had to buy The Dream Thieves. I don’t think it’s my favorite of the four; BLLB has that honor, but there were some great things happening in that book.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue – Like I said, I think this is my favorite of the Raven Cycle. Not just because darling things happen, but there is so much incredible character development, and even with a horrible ending, I was thoroughly satisfied.

Abandoned:

The Stone Prince – Intriguing premise, execution sucked. Noped out halfway through and didn’t care.

Still Working:

Lois Lane: Double Down – I got this early in my stack and just wanted to be reading Raven books and couldn’t keep to it.

Bloodline – Same with this one. But now I can focus, cause Leia is badass and Claudia Gray writes circles around most people.

Feminism is for Everybody – I am deliberately going slowly on this one. It needs a lot of chewing.

Busted – I started reading this one at lunch on Tuesday and was really invested and then The Raven King came up on my holds. Obviously I dropped everything.

So that was my May. The only book I own and completed was bought because I didn’t feel like waiting to come back in the cycle of Ravens.

Pitiful.

June will be better.

I…think?

April(ish) Check-In: Readathon and Colleen Hoover

Copy of Books and Beethoven-3

Books read in April: 18
My Own Damn Books: 13
Not bad!

I participated in the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon on April 25, which helped me move along with getting things read—though it was really more about getting library books read when I had been vaguely avoiding them. I got two of the three trades that I’d checked out from the library read, and a couple of my own books.

I will refrain form further gushing about Hamilton and declaring Garcia Marquez just too weird for me. There are other things to discuss.

LIKE COLLEEN HOOVER.

HOW DID I NOT KNOW HOW MUCH COLLEEN HOOVER WOULD INVADE MY SOUL?

I read the entire Slammed trilogy in five days, and after a week off for Readathon and other endeavors, I was surprised to find November 9 waiting for me on Overdrive. I knew only one thing about Colleen Hoover before I decided to pick up Slammed: she wrote Angsty New Adult Fiction that also had poetry.

God. Damn.

There is a certain method of putting together words and sentences that makes it so your reader can’t look away. Even if they’re rolling their eyes and slapping foreheads, that reader will keep going. What, it’s time for bed? Let me find a good place to stop. What, it’s two a.m.? All good, I finished it.

The book that actually inspired me to pick up Slammed, which has been sitting on my bookshelf for a year or so, was You Know Me Well, by David Levithan and Nina LaCour. I had a slow start of it, but I needed something to read on a flight and it was the perfect thing to get myself absorbed into. These were kids I wanted to know, whose stories I buried myself into while also attempting to distract myself from the northeastward winds making the plane rock back and forth below me. It was an eARC but this is a book I will probably buy and read again in segments when it actually comes out.

(Apparently I’m working backwards.)

The project I started at the beginning of the month, eschewing the majority of books at the end of my March Check-In, was to go to the bottom of my Kindle app and just start reading. This is what brought me to such gems as Irresistible Forces, in which a financial advisor propositions one of her clients into a week at a “procreation vacation” because she wants a baby with no strings; or A Touch of Greek, where Poseidon’s bad boy son Triton gets flung out of Olympus and can only get his powers back when a human woman falls in love with him for his personality instead of his looks.

I’ve had an influx of library books come in (no #smashyourstack for me :() so I had to take a break from that effort, but I hope to continue to find some fun stuff in my five year old kindle books.

I’ve yapped enough. Time to get more reading done, and maybe write a few things for other people.

 

Wrap-up: My Second Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon

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My alarm went off at 4:30 on Saturday morning, and to no one’s bigger surprise than mine, I was wide awake. I put on comfy clothes, got my stack together, grabbed my snacks and store-bought Starbucks drink thingy, and got settled on the couch. Hubs was still asleep, obvi, so I didn’t put on any music or turn on the tv for reading company. It was just me, one lamp, and the darkness. I did some tweeting and instagramming, and then 5:00 hit.

[stack]

It was time to read.

I’d fallen asleep Friday night trying to finish Cecilia Ahern’s Flawed, which I’d been iffy about earlier in the week and all about by Friday night. So that was my first readathon completion.

If there was one thing I learned from the last Dewey’s, it was that while reading comics is a great idea in theory, it’s super mentally exhausting. My brain can only intake so much in a 24 hour period. BUT! I had some comics that I wanted to get through, so the plan was to alternate between comics and prose.

I started reading Gene Yuen Lang et. al.’s new Superman trade right before sunrise. It’s no surprise that the art was absolutely perfect; but the current DC universe outside of the connected Batverse is…odd. I don’t read continuously, so I spent most of my reading just learning what the characters were like in this iteration. Call me a purist, which is weird because I love non-canon more than the average person, but it feels really weird to read about a Clark/Superman and Lois who are actively not together, and are perfectly fine with that. A lot happened, but I didn’t get a lot out of it. I did however make a discovery about my own internal voice:

Just me? I dunno. I watched the animated series well into my teens, and he has a very distinct voice.

Back to prose.

Before this weekend, I had never read any Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have been vaguely interested, but was intrigued when I read the blurb for Memories of My Melancholy Whores somewhere, and had been keeping my eye out for a copy, which I found a couple months ago at Bookmans, my favorite local chain ever. It’s really short and straight fiction, so I figured I could get through it pretty quickly. I did, for the first 94 pages… and then…the mailman woke me up.

If having a dystopian society, Superman, and a weird old man in my head when falling asleep can do one thing, it’s give you weird dreams. I won’t go into detail, but I’m sort of sad I woke up when I did, because now if I find myself being chased around a never-ending train in an underground tunnel (also never-ending, I think?) I don’t know how I’ll win.

I got right back into it after some phone-scrolling and more fake latte drink, and man. Garcia Marquez is weird. And this particular book doesn’t even have magical realism. But the writing is gorgeous, even in translation, so maybe I’ll try something longer.

In need of something completely different, I moved on to We Are Robin.

God. Damn.

That was definitely the highlight of my comics reading this year. I didn’t know any of these people, but I was immediately emotionally involved in their story. This diverse group of young people with diverse problems, different backgrounds, attitudes, and strengths. I will probably collect this one.

I had to take a break three issues into We Are Robin to go to Mayhem rehearsal, which was all kinds of great. But that’s another story for another day. I will mention, however, that I stopped for a giant cold brew at Starbucks, and my Starbucks is apparently one of the ones piloting beer and wine + small plates? It’s weird, but we’ll see how it goes.

Back from rehearsal with soda and more snacks, I went back to the Robins, who did not disappoint in their final issues. I was just sad that there wasn’t more.

After I was done with that, it was time for the central focus of the night: Hamilton: The Revolution. Being the complete libretto of the Broadway Musical, with a true account of its creation, and concise remarks on hip-hop, the power of stories, and the New America  (yes, that is the full title of the book. The chapter titles are equally wonderful and hilarious). Jeremy McCarter’s skillful essay writing contrasted perfectly with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s annotated libretto, and both were equally effective at making me severely emotional.

Photos are everywhere, and they include production photos, backstage candids, those amazing portraits you might have seen on Facebook and Twitter, and all kinds of other things. As someone who has been and will continue to be unable to see the stage play in its current form, these photos not only expanded my experience of reading the book, but also will continue to influence my listening to the cast recording. I’m listening to it as I write, actually. Right now. There is one particular photo of Anthony Ramos as Philip Hamilton pointing his pistol in the air, and he just looks so young and afraid; I won’t be able to forget that. (Nor will I be able to forget the next several pages, covering the next few songs. The essay before “It’s Quiet Uptown” was incredibly moving; I couldn’t continue immediately. Yes, I cried. That was not the first time while reading, and it wasn’t the last. But I laughed too, sometimes just as hysterically, so we’re good.)

I took a break around 9 because I realized I hadn’t had any real food all day, and I didn’t want to get anything on my book.

I finished Hamilton around 2, and was totally emotionally wrecked. But I wanted to continue with the readathon, so after a bit of reflection, writing my reviews on Instagram, Litsy and Goodreads, I wondered what I might be able to handle reading.

I started out with Virgin, since I had added it to the original stack as fun prose. I wasn’t digging it, so I sort of did some page hopping, and set it aside. I really wanted to do just prose, so I didn’t try Lumberjanes (also, since it was already 2AM, I didn’t think I had capacity for reading visually). This is the third readathon (first Dewey’s, then 24in48) in which I have added Lumberjanes to my stack and then not gotten to it. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Instead I broke out the iPad and scrolled until I found something that looked fun.

I started reading about a girl who somehow ended up on a desert island with five celebrities, and then, once again, I woke up. I’d fallen asleep on the couch, and it was almost five. I rolled myself to bed and got some real sleep.

THE END.

Numbers:
Books completed: 5
My Own Damn Books: 3 (yay!)

March Check-In: I read some stuff

Copy of Books and Beethoven-2

Books read in March: 10
My Own Damn Books: 3

Whoops.

March began with my library ordering all of the Captive Prince series. I had been hearing lots about this series, more and more, so obviously it was time to put it on hold. And I just…blasted through the whole thing in the first third of the month. I had lots to say, pretty much immediately after I finished the first book, and the remainder of the trilogy did not disappoint. Now I’m just sad C.S. Pacat hasn’t published anything else. Though I might see if she’s working on something on the interwebs.

Then, I got back on the horse with Uninvited. I had started reading it several weeks ago, and was incredibly captivated by the writing and the concept: in the incredibly near future, a scientist will isolate the gene that distinguishes someone capable of homicide. Our heroine learns that she has it, thanks to getting “uninvited” (because rich kids don’t get expelled) from her school. And society as a whole, really. Horrible gets worse when something any person would do gets taken out of proportion. And then the shit really hits the fan.

Cover of Uninvited

I was hooked. I devoured the rest of it as quickly as I could and immediately looked on the library’s virtual side to see if they had the second one (it’s a duology) so I could start reading immediately.

They did!

Unleashed was not quite as good, partially because it became a very different storytelling animal. It was still set in the same universe, but Davy was not at the center of the thing anymore. Instead of a Hunger Games-y damn the man kind of story that you would expect after the first book, it becomes more of a When She Woke “it’s all personal” kind of deal. And there’s a lot more of the romance that I can’t help but compare to the Russiaverse in Claudia Gray’s magnificent A Thousand Pieces of You. Maybe that’s why I found myself so attached to it; that book was one of my favorites of last year.

Generally speaking, I really enjoyed them, even if it meant the first half of the month only involved me reading one of my own books.

When I finished Unleashed, I was in that rare state of invigoration where I needed another book immediately. So I chose to pick up Kiss Crush Collide (the second of my books that I read this month).

Boy, am I glad I paid less than a dollar for that book.

I didn’t bail, but only because I was hoping for much more of a revelation+character growth, neither of which was determinate at the end. Okay, maybe there was a little bit of growth. A very little bit. But I hated the main character more often than I liked her (she was given a car for her birthday that she refused to drive because she doesn’t like having to do things that she doesn’t do well, so she either walks places or makes people drive her places and pick her up. What?), and her love interest (with whom she cheated the whole time on her dillweed boyfriend…who was STILL her boyfriend, dick or not) stole cars for a living. I mean, he was a valet at a country club, so why not take everyone’s cars for joyrides, right?

Right.

Once I finished that (it was thankfully an easy, quick read), I decided to try a few more things from my physical and virtual shelves. I started a lesbian office romance, an erotic dystopia, a James Baldwin passion play, a historical romance, and a stripper romance. I have not finished any of those.

I did, however, read the second trades for two of the three DC titles I’m reading right now: Batgirl and Grayson (the other one is Gotham Academy, which I adore but haven’t gotten around to reading just yet). Babs I got from the library, and Dick (and Jim, and Juan) were a quick and easy read at B&N on one of my “I need to not be in the house” days. They were fun.

Cover of Batgirl vol 2Cover of Grayson vol 2

Finally, I decided to pull an Alice Clayton book off the shelf. Wallbanger was a definite hit for me and I’d bought The Unidentified Redhead from BookOutlet for pennies. The thing that all the books I’d started didn’t have, but this one did? Fun. I apparently needed some fun.

 

Cover of The Unidentified RedheadAlice Clayton is the queen of fun. The Unidentified Redhead hits all my buttons: nearly angst-free, meet cute, precious love, side splittingly funny, stupid jokes, corny dorky heroine, and a bit of a cinderella feeling (the tag in Goodreads for a book like this is “star and commoner”). Add hot sex, and I’m all there.

Needless to say, once I finished the first one, I needed the next in my hands.

I put it on hold at the library (I also own the third one but BookOutlet is weird like that), but had to wait a couple days to get it, so was productive at other things without spoiling my readerspace for Claire and her Brit.

That one got consumed pretty quickly, and I immediately moved on to the third.

The Redhead Plays Her Hand has been placed on the back burner, as my brain has been occupied by other things. I’ll finish it soon, but it wasn’t going to happen in March.

Going into April, here’s what’s on my incomplete list:

The Redhead Plays Her Hand by Alice Clayton (paperback, mine)
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (ARC, mine?)
Too Close to Touch by Georgia Beers (paperback, mine)
Blues for Mister Charlie by James Baldwin (paperback, mine)
Beyond Shame by Kit Rocha (kindle book, mine)
Down To You by M. Leighton (iBook, mine)
You Know Me Well by David Leviathan and Nina LaCoeur (eARC, mine?)
Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins (downloadable audiobook, library)

(Also, I had a Monday off for Cesar Chavez day and it happened to coincide with 10 dollar bag day at the Friends of the Library book sale. Did you know that when the majority of the books are paperbacks, you can get nearly 30 books into one of those reusable bags? Willpower, what’s that?)

Have you been getting my prayers, Hypatia?

Horrible stories with amazing music

From Carousel

WARNING: SO MANY SPOILERS

Not so much horrible as in “badly told”, like, say Love Never Dies or Batman vs. Superman. More like, this is horrendous, why would someone write a musical about this? Take, for instance, the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein. You’ve got The Sound of Music,, an uplifting story about an Austrian family escaping Nazi Occupation. And then you have the musicals R&H based on 20th century plays like Green Grow the Lilacs and Liliom.

That’s Oklahoma and Carousel, you guys.

 

Oklahoma-DVDcover Carousel_film_1956

I grew up on these musicals. They both had the honor of having Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae as their stars, so my mother and I watched them constantly on the weekends. I didn’t really pay much attention to them as a child; they had great music.

Enter adulthood (I was probably in my early twenties), and my first time watching Carousel since I was eleven or twelve.

From Carousel
Here is Billy and Laurie (shit, is she Laurie or is Laurie in Oklahoma?). The night they meet, singing “If I Loved You.” Basically, they’re both in a bind and decide the best way to get over the fact that they’ve both gotten fired is to go get married.

Saywhatnow?!

I have since watched it several times, and I just can’t get over the fact that this is a show I’ve watched since birth. I can only say the only reason my mother let me watch a movie about an abusive asshole of a man who fell on his own knife (TUCKED INTO THE FRONT OF HIS PANTS! Billy Bigelow is not very smart) while trying to get money for his unborn child (his heart was in the right place, I guess?) was the music. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is probably her favorite song, ever, so take the good with the bad, huh?

I don’t know what to say about Oklahoma. The music is catchy, I guess, but it might have just been force of habit. The love story is cute, and the ballet is beautiful. Until it’s destroyed by the dark imagery of Jud Fry. The sexual predator. No, seriously. Even if what was left in the 1955 movie was more of a Rebel Without A Cause-style misunderstood antihero, Jud Fry was intent upon committing sexual violence. Rod Steiger might not have been able to pull it off, but here’s the song they cut, performed fantastically by Shuler Hensley:

Yeah. It’s probably best I didn’t grow up listening to that song. Though learning “I Caint Say No” as a child was probably not the best thing for my development, but you know.

Lest you believe I am prejudiced solely against good ole R&H, let’s talk Fiddler on the Roof.

Topol always reminded me of my dad growing up. He’s always had the beard and they look the same when they smirk. I dunno.

I turned this movie on just a few hours ago during the denouement. The townspeople had already been informed that the Tsar has evicted them. They have already sung “Anatevka.” Tevye and his family are packing things up to leave. He has already said “Maybe that’s why we always wear our hats.” All of the happy times have ended. The Russian Jews are leaving the Ukraine. They are moving west, some to Palestine, some to Europe, some to America. Their children may suffer persecution and prejudice to an even further extent than they might have ever seen in the Ukraine. We don’t know. Hope is gone, all is lost. The wandering people must wander again.

THIS IS HOW THIS MUSICAL ENDS.

At the beginning, Tevye and his family are happy. Poor, but happy. Based on Sholem Aleichem’s Yiddish stories (which I have not read…bought twice, but never picked up), Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of Tevye, Golde, and their three eldest daughters, each finding romance in their own way. Each romance takes a little more out of Tevye, until he just can’t take it. Beyond even this, the period is a rocky time for Jewish communities in what is now the Ukraine. The wedding celebration of the eldest daughter is interrupted by a needless (though thankfully bloodless) pogrom. While revolution sparks in other parts of the kingdom, military-sanctioned violence towards Jews becomes more of a thing. And, well, I’ve already told you where that leads.

The difference between Fiddler and the R&H gems of the forties, of course, is that the shit that sucks is shown to suck. Oklahoma and Carousel are both these cheery movies (both involving deaths! Caused by the main characters! Nobody dies in Fiddler!) that end happily, with themes that nobody should ever want instilled in their children. Mrs. Bigelow apparently can’t be happy for the fifteen years after her husband dies, until a ghost whispers into her ear. And Curly and Mrs. Curly are “Soon to be livin’ in a brand new state”, after a citizens’ court decides that Curly is not guilty of killing a man who “fell on his knife” because he’s supposed to get married and the judge is too far away. Or something.

It takes a village to hide a murder, you guys.

These are just the three that I have been thinking of, out of many many awful stories featuring beautiful music, mainly because I watched Carousel on a whim a week or so ago and had that same visceral reaction that I always forget about. But I always come back to it, mainly for this:

I could listen to that a million times, no matter how misogynist it is.

Sigh. Musicals, man.

Challenge Check-In #1: Clean Your Reader

Books and Beethoven

There are ten days left in the Clean Your Reader Challenge, which was for the first quarter of 2016. Because my combined collection of unread ebooks numbers in the several hundreds, My goal was to clean up my Nook app, which was only about 15 books strong in the unread category.

I’m down to 2! Woohoo!

But this isn’t because I’ve been reading them. I did read a few. But I took my own advice about weeding (or in this case, archiving, because I still feel weird straight out deleting them) and got rid of several that were no longer interesting to me. I was also honest with myself about whether I would want to read them in the future.

So basically, I Kondo’ed my Nook app.

I read the descriptions of books that I had bought years ago. Sometimes, I even read the first chapter; Sovay, for instance, had a really interesting premise, but really polar reviews on Goodreads. So I read the first chapter. Bored. To. Tears. Bye bye, Sovay!

When I’d finished, I was down to six books that I really thought I might be interested in reading. And I was finally able to sit down and read Uninvited. Varying circumstances made it so it took me several weeks to get through the first fifty pages (ugh. Deadlines.), but when I started reading it in earnest again, there was nothing that could stop me.

Well, besides sleep and dinner plans.

(But seriously. I will have to write a whole post just breaking down my feelings on Uninvited and its sequel, Unleashed.)

When I went back to visit the app once again, I took a good look at the five books remaining. And did more of that book-Kondo thing. Do I really have a strong desire to hear this story? Have I tried before and made the decision to come back to it? Maybe someone told me I had to read it?

I archived a couple more, and now I’m down to two unread books on my Nook app, which I am definitely going to read this year, but probably not by the end of March. Both are kind of intense looking and I plan to spend the next ten days enjoying some superfluff.

So I would call this attempt at Clean Your Reader a draw. It wasn’t a total bust; I cleaned it out good. But it wasn’t a win, considering I only actually read two of the books.

Next stop, iBooks.

What was it I said the first time?

Oh right. Hypatia help me.