#Diverseathon 2016

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I mean, most days are diverseathon for me, but I knew I needed to be involved in this, to use what little voice I have to say “yes, this matters to me.” I tend to make allowances for friends, acquaintances, coworkers, who toe the line of “I just read what I want to read; I stick to my preferences”—mainly because these aren’t usually people who aren’t willing to read books from diverse voices when so inclined, regardless of topic.

But I do care, you know? The various twitter and youtube exchanges that led to the development of this particular hashtag and movement are just the tip of the iceberg, and I feel helpless sometimes in trying to show my support for other black women who are leading the way and speaking out when I can’t find the words. If I can do this little thing—read diversely for a week and tell people about it, encourage them to do the same—it will be worth it moving forward. I can hope that at least one person at least got the impression that something is worthwhile about reading diverse voices.

TBR

#Diverseathon is going on across social media from September 13-19. That’s pretty soon. The organizers have already amassed an incredible document of book recommendations, which you can add to!

If all goes right next week, here is what I’m planning to read (with a bit of a head start, cause you know, it’s the weekend):

photo of my book choices for #diverseathon
Choices for #diverseathon

I’m working on Marie Lu’s The Rose Society right now, so when I’m done with that I’ll move straight to Out of Darkness, since it’s a library book. The rest are a combination of books I’ve been planning to read (or have started reading) or that I am anxious to read, like in the case of Black Panther. Want to put these on your TBR? Here are the Goodreads links:

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Kingsway West #1 by Greg Pak

The Moor’s Account  by Laila Lalami

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Behrouz Gets Lucky by Avery Cassell

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Keep Me In Mind by Jaime Reed

The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi

Dunbar: The Neighborhood, the School, and the People, 1940-1965 by Aloma J. Barnes

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

Obviously, even getting through a third of these in eight days is kind of pushing it, but I will read directly from this stack for that time period.

Are you participating in #diverseathon?

Oh hey, it’s September!

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So I dropped the ball a little bit in keeping up, but I joined an informal blogathon with some fellow Book Rioters and I’m going to do my best to post more, at least once a week. I started out with my New To Me review of Fangirl, which I enjoyed but didn’t love. My Trello board is chock full of ideas about books, music, and all kinds of things between, so look out for some fun stuff this month.

July/August Reading

I read stuff in July and August. Some of them were even my books. There were a lot of books from the library though, including The Young Elites, which was probably one of my highlights. The protagonist is actually a villain, which, come on! That’s not common. She has a darkness inside of her that she fears, but is not afraid to embrace when she needs it…which of course causes her to make devastating mistakes.

No wait. The highlight of August was the end: A Torch Against The Night, which managed to be even better than its predecessor. I still can’t put together words about this book. I just sort of gesture excitedly towards the cover as a sign that people should read it.

Ah hell, there were so many amazing things in the past couple months. Check out my Goodreads to see all of it. Here are my top…fifteen…of July and August:

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Hegelson

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur by Amy Reeder et al

Kindred by Octavia Butler

I’m sure that at least once, each of these five books have just been THIS BOOK, for varying reasons. While Written in the Stars was one of those that made me want to stop to sob for a bit (but I couldn’t because I needed to know), Geek’s Guide was one of the most delightful novels I’ve read in a while. Gena/Finn was a pageturner in a different kind of way; the alternative method of writing made the story fly by, and the character development was impressive, considering there was no true “inner voice”. Moon Girl. What can I say about it? Lunella is the girl everyone wants to be. I can’t wait to read more (I know I could if I just read floppies, but I will trade wait for the next).

A Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai. My review for this was one word: YOWZA. The flames, they just continued to grow. Awesome people, sex positivity, and a lady billionaire? You know I was there.

Wild Child by Molly O’Keefe. More flames. (Fiyah fiyah fiyah.) Also, effing ADORABLE. Strong women, acknowledgment of problematic relationships, family dynamic, growth, wonderfulness, and fiyah.

A Fine Bromance by Christopher Hawthorne Moss. This book was an Important Book. How many YA, male-male relationship novels will you find in which one MC is probably Ace and one is trans? Writing is iffy, but the central story is solid.

More Than Comics by Elizabeth Briggs. Comic con romance? Comic creators? Addressing women in comics? Hot sexy times? Sweet romance? Interracial couple? Yeah.

Marine Biology by Gail Carriger. Werewolf. Merman. Mystery. Sweetness. Ridiculous and adorable.

A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean. Puns aren’t the only thing Sarah masters. This adorbs story about a Scottish duke who learns he has a ward just a little too late made me laugh out loud and get choked up. Self worth, personal growth, and a whole lotta UST (and…ahem..RST) round it out.

Saga, Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. This got me through a bad reading slump in the middle of august. It was great to dive back into the world and see what was happening in their lives. Still sad about LC, though.

Steady Stroke by A.M. Arthur. I requested this book on Netgalley because I’m a sucker for musicians and hurt/comfort stories. It did not disappoint. Also, slight spoiler: MC2 is Muslim. This isn’t very common, especially in M/M romance. Also, with the exception of Keeping An Important Secret When You Shouldn’t, it’s precious and adorable.

General Misconduct by L.A. Witt. Like Steady Stroke, this was the second book in a series of which I haven’t read the first. Ah well. This was the second novel I read in as many days in which a young military person got involved with the kid of a superior officer. This one was better. And in Okinawa.

United by Melissa Landers. This is the third book in a trilogy I accidentally fell in love with last year. Alienated had been sitting in my Nook app for however long when I finally decided to read it, and it was insanely timely, compelling, and sweet. This one finally came out and did not disappoint in the least as a conclusion. I kind of hope she’s not planning to add more (like some people, ugh) because I liked the ending. It ended. No need for any more.

I’ve already got a list of great stuff in September (I’ve read a couple already, thanks to that first-week-of-the-month trip). I promise that I will actually wrap up next month! And write lots before then😀

What were your favorite summer reads?

New to Me Review: Fangirl

I was in DC visiting family and friends last weekend, with a detour up to Philly for an amazing Jewish-Indian secular wedding celebration. When I stay with my mom, one thing we usually end up doing is watching Harry Potter Weekend together (it’s been going on that long). I was enjoying the movies (we were on Chamber of Secrets) but I found myself itching to do what I usually do when I have Harry Potter on at home: read. I have too many damn books in my possession to sit around and read fics (and man, was that a rough cold turkey addiction rehab), but I wanted to read something that reminded me of it. Thankfully, I’d brought my iPad to DC with me, and had something in my possession that I’d been avoiding for years now, afraid of disappointment.

Enter, Fangirl.

16068905It’s always interesting to read a book where the world in which the protagonist lives bears some similarity to your own. I discovered fanfiction (before I knew that’s what it was called) as a 16 year old, and was pretty buried in it for the next several years. So what if it was for Pride and Prejudice instead of Harry Potter, whose fandom community I didn’t really join until well into my twenties (after a leap to Twilight fandom in grad school and MCU, James Bond and Sherlock fandoms in the earliest parts of my professional life). I was that person who tried to read a thirty chapter AU story before getting started on a Comp Lit paper. I carried a notebook to class, to lunch, even to Italy, to work on chapters of my endless (and to this day, incomplete) masterpieces. I know how much something like that can take over your life, so you want to read fic always, instead of a Murakami novel you don’t really understand in a class you probably should have waited a year or two to take.

Okay, so. Fangirl.

There are a lot of things I don’t enjoy about Cath. It’s not the anxiety; I get that so much. I never had it at a level that needed medication, but I get not wanting to address it and finding methods of coping instead. And I get being afraid you’re going to develop something even more unmanageable. My grandmother had severe manic depression; in my teens and early twenties, I watched myself constantly, worried about the range in my moods and actions, afraid the onset would hit—it was particularly bad in the earliest days I was on birth control, because I was extremely affected by the chemicals, and didn’t understand why the fuck I was having a severe emotional breakdown every Wednesday night.

Right, we were talking about Cath.

I can’t put my finger on just what it is that makes me not enjoy her as a person…her disregard for her own surroundings, maybe. The narrative didn’t really approach her educational activities beyond the Fiction-Writing class to any extent, but it seems like she was hardly working hard enough on her other classes to make it. I know not every detail can be addressed, but this was a campus novel. How did she write thousands of words a day (sometimes?) and still pass the other four classes she was taking? Who knows. Did she have an academic advisor? An RA? Other teachers (besides the Psych one) who cared as much about her wellbeing as her seemingly-oblivious Teaching Artist Professor? This Campus Novel felt like a lot of campus and very little college happening on Cath’s part. Levi, of course, seemed pretty fucking invested in graduating, but maybe it only manifested in him because “he’s older” as was said ten thousand times.

I did appreciate Cath’s growth, though, and acknowledge that it happened, even if it was at the VERY END. It couldn’t have gotten any closer to the end before she had her moment of self-realization, which she didn’t even come to herself.

So I don’t get Cath. Maybe I’m just at the wrong end of Millennial-hood to understand her point of view. I do get, however, how Levi has surpassed so many others as Book Boyfriend Extraordinaire, perfect in his imperfections. The extreme extrovert to counter Cath’s anxious introvert. He would drive me to drink in real life, but he’s a darling man to pull off the page.

What this book did do for me is get me inspired to be a little manic—not in the acual Art Avery I have a mental illness way, just in the go-for-it-write-write-write kind of way. Even on paper, the sensitivity and enthusiasm is catching. I want to write All The Things: all three novels I’ve started in the past few years, a few posts for B&B, a screenplay, a script, a letter, anything. Cath gives me the itch to write again, and it’s kind of nice.

And dammit, now I have to read Carry On.

 

 

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

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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

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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.

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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!)