November Wrap-Up: Thanks, I guess?

Oh look, it’s December!

November was an interesting month. I finished a few books, but left many more incomplete or barely started. I spent Thanksgiving and Black Friday putting more words to paper than I had the entire rest of the month; and I was so worn out I couldn’t stick to anything else, really.

I “discovered” a new author, though I own four of her books. I’ve been collecting Courtney Milan’s books for years, but when I went about writing a historical romance series list and realized I couldn’t include hers because I couldn’t explain what made them different, I knew I had to remedy that.

And holy crap.

Not only does the Brothers Sinister series take place in the Victorian era instead of Regency, but her characters are witty and smart and have a much more worldly point of view than our favorite regency dukes and their heroines. Even the necessary duke wishes the aristocracy didn’t exist. Sadly, the second one got caught in my slump, but I don’t plan on abandoning her ever. I’ll make it back soon.

Other highlights from October and November:

The Soldier’s Scoundrel  – One of the nice things about M/M historical romance is the breadth of types you discover. Even in Regency and early Victorian stories, these gentlemen are often middle class and lower gentry. It’s refreshing.

Princess Princess Ever After – I can only squee. It’s soooooo darling and wonderful. If only there had been more of it. There needs to be a grown up version.

Beethoven’s Hair – After several years of meaning to read it (since I did work a floor below where the titled lock of hair lives now) I finally got around to this. It works works as a science book and a biography, as it alternates between describing Beethoven’s life and the story of the lock of hair, which they used to potentially discover the origins of many of his health problems.

The Accidental Movie Star – This one surprised me! It had been sitting in my kindle app for however long and I finally decided to try it out, completely expecting it to be one of those mediocre badly-designed-covered self-pubs that I find myself interested in. But no! I was almost immediately emotionally invested.

Under a Painted Sky – YA friendship-centered historical fiction about a Chinese-American girl and an escaped slave pretending to be boys? Yes, please.

The Midnight Star – This was the final book in the Young Elites trilogy and whoo doggie. Danger ahead.

Keeping Her Secret  – Cute and sweet, and bonus music!

Romancing the Inventor (with bonus review on Women Write About Comics!)

Goldie Vance – I haven’t been reading a lot of comics recently, but I’m glad I picked up this one.

Inferno – Once I discovered they’d continued the Robert Langdon film series, I realized I probably needed to read this. I had hate quit The Lost Symbol about 150 pages in, but it doesn’t seem to matter for continuing with the series. And Inferno was the book that brought me back into Dan Brown discipleship. Florence, Dante, Mystery, and Unexpected Twist Endings are all things that will make me either hate or love the shit out of a book, and this one managed to get me to go in the direction of the latter. If only the movie had been so kind.

The Boy is Back – This is the one book in Meg Cabot’s trilogy of nostalgia (she put out new adult books in the Princess Diaries universe and the Mediator universe this year, too) that I made it through and enjoyed. It helped that it wasn’t really part of a series; it was a completely new book with new characters, just done in the same tradition as the other Boy books.

Truth or Beard – Surprise book of the year, you guys! The Winston brothers are my new favorites. I am kind of waiting for the series to be done to continue, though. Just in case.

Four Letter Word  – J. Daniels is a new favorite. I was intrigued by the premise of this book: woman calls BFF’s cheater married boyfriend to curse him out and ends up calling the wrong number, and then starts a phone relationship. Talk about a twisted meet-cute, right?

Exit West  – So I was a featured Riverhead Loves Librarians librarian a while ago and a few weeks after that posted, my interviewer told me she’d be sending me something she thought I’d enjoy. Little did she know how much I would, and how I wouldn’t be able to finish a book again for a week.

Matilda  – Until I got to this one! Which I finished in a few hours. It helped me get closer to completing the Read Harder challenge, both as a book published in the decade I was born and a book that was adapted into a movie (I love the narrator of the book, but I like the way they expanded the movie’s plot).

November was also a heavy music month. Tucson Masterworks Chorale did two Austrian Masters concerts, featuring Mozart’s Somemn Vespers and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, which is one of those that I unapologetically geek out about. My favorite movement is one with a million words that I still remember after doing it in 2008 with Symphony Silicon Valley, and I had been jonesing to do it again for years.

Mayhem did our usual second Sunday of the month, and I didn’t completely fail, which is always nice. Also, I found a new wig in the box that I will fight to use in every show. I might have to get my own, but I dunno. It’s a nice wig. Who knows how expensive it’ll be.

But it contributed to an awesome Captain America costume:

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photo c/o Tracy Lester

I musically ended November with a Messiah Sing-In, which reminded me that, with the exception of the Hallelujah Chorus and Part Three, I don’t actually know The Messiah. So it was…interesting…to sight-sing all those runs. Someday I’ll be forced to actually learn it and then I will be….UNSTOPPABLE!

Or something.

So yeah, I’ve got a little less to deal with musically this month, but I’m still not ready.

Business as usual.

I Can’t Even Keep a Straight Face…

Books and Beethoven

…Except it’s not happy laughter.

The last post I wrote was October Goals, in which my first goal was “get better at this.”

Ah ha. Ahahaha. Ha. Ha.

…Ha.

I had determined that not only would I try to keep up with what had become monthly check-ins, but I would produce regular material, about reading, about singing, about whatever might have come up.

I can’t blame anything but myself.

October was insanely busy, and I bit off way more than I could handle in varying commitments. You know that overwhelming feeling of having so much on your mind you can’t say anything at all? Yeah, even if I’d had the time to write for anyone besides the sites I have a byline for, I wouldn’t have been able to put any words together that would be anything close to interesting.

So, now that December is closing in, here are my goals for the rest of 2016:

  • Pull one post idea from my Trello board to write about (there are about 489, so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue)
  • Recap November and December in books and music
  • Maybe write a little bit about my first viewing of Smallville and how I have been really good about waiting until I finish to look for OT3 fanfiction
  • End of the Year State of the Blog, including a wrap-up of my not-so-successful #readmyowndamnbooks campaign, and my inability to complete the Read Harder challenge.

Yeah. As my offline bookish, musical life continues to be overwhelming, I’m just gonna do my best to keep this up.

I say that every year.

October Goals: Get Better At This

This blog has been sporadic since I combined the backlogs of my two established blogs. I have been relatively okay at my monthly check-ins, but I haven’t been keeping to it as I should. The least I could do is a couple times a month, yeah? After the #blogathon my fellow Rioters and I challenged ourselves to before September began, I see that I can do more, and I can be more. I just have to figure out how to do that.

With that in mind, here are my blog goals for October:

  • Write more about music. The past several months have only had a few cursory references to music things, and I’ve put the ones I’ve considered on my Trello board and then done nothing with them. I made this a books AND music blog because I was having trouble maintaining a pair of blogs about different things, and now it’s just become a books one.
  • Don’t wait until I have writing mania to write. I’ve been writing in bursts instead of sitting down to write a little on the regular, and that has made my blog even more sporadic than it could be. If I don’t have ideas, don’t write, but I need to do habitual writing instead of that All The Things writing that I talked about at the end of my Fangirl review.
  • Plot out a writing plan for when I know I’ll be available and home. October is going to have quite a bit of outside activity for me, so I need to legit make the time. Cause I suck at keeping habits. The fact that I can form sentences is amazing.
  • Listen to the Trello Board. I make those things to keep my ideas, not send words into empty space. There are some blog topics that are probably fully written in my head but haven’t made it onto paper/screen yet. Just cause I’m lazy.

And then, of course, there’s always #readmyowndamnbooks, which I have been supremely failing at thanks to my own incapability to stay away from the library. (Not only do I work there, but I habitually check the new materials to do some of my work, and end up putting things on hold…and sometimes I just go after stuff that I know I’ll want to read. I wrote all about it on Book Riot a couple months ago.)

Basically, I need to figure out a way to read, write, clean out my DVR, watch new things that show up on Netflix and Amazon, go to choir, go to Mayhem, see new shows, and learn existing music all at the same time. My life would be so much more efficient that way.

Ugh. Here goes.

After I finish this book I’m reading.

And finally catch up on Supergirl.

And watch Luke Cage.

After rehearsal and performance at Tucson Pride tonight.

Woof.

September is Finally Over

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Books read in September: 7
Books started but not completed in September: 10
Books-I-Own completed in September: 3

Oh my GOD, September.

This month was not good for my reading. Part of it was circumstantial: The first three books I read this month were on planes, and therefore read very quickly; otherwise, everything took much longer for me to read, either because I was working on other things (like that initial #blogathon weekend where I made it through writing three posts here), or because I…couldn’t. There were nights I scrolled through Twitter for hours, or watched hours of tv. There were days I read a few dozen pages of multiple books and then just went to bed. I tried to do #diverseathon. I “succeeded”, but not nearly to the extent that I’d planned.

25256386I don’t know what kind of overwhelm I’m going through this month. Part of it, I imagine, has to do with the intensity of the few books I am making it through. Out of Darkness, for instance, is one of those books that is not difficult to read, but is tragic and terrible in its beauty. I only took three or four days to read this, but I didn’t pick up another book for two days after I was done. A whole weekend, gone.

I willingly cleaned the bathroom instead of reading that Saturday. I went at the tub with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with one hand and focused on a menial task in the silence, not even an audiobook or Hamilton keeping me company.

Reading such a dark, hopeless book right after finishing Marie Lu’s The Rose Society, the second book in a dark fantasy trilogy that, as many second books do, left me in a place of darkness and uncertainty, was probably not the best idea. But when someone tells you to read it immediately (and you got it from the library and need to give it back soon after) you read it, reset be damned.

Yes, I usually reset after reading something dark and unsettling. It can be the short version of my longer reset post-Out of Darkness with a little tv, a little writing, or some mindless SM time. Or it can be a couple days reading an adorable story with a guaranteed HEA and a promise of witty barbs and clever quips. I made the mistake of not doing that and suffering severe book hangover for the next week.

28450966I did end the month on a happy note, though. Liz Braswell’s As Old As Time, the third book in her Twisted Tales series finally showed up on my holds list on Friday, and I read the whole thing on Saturday. I was not disappointed; in fact, I think even without my much closer connection to Beauty and the Beast, I was more satisfied with the way this book played out than A Whole New World, the first in the series. I still haven’t gotten around to Once Upon A Dream…I have an ARC, which I grabbed after getting crosseyed trying to make it through the formatting issues with the eARC, but I wasn’t drawn in the way I was with the other two. And now…I don’t know if anything she writes can top As Old As Time.

And Braswell even got better at showing the development of love, as opposed to AWNW in which Aladdin and Jasmine have three conversations and then magically he’ll do anything for her…which…um…actually…

Hey, I guess that’s technically canon. Shoot, that’s actually better than the development of their relationship in the movie, founded on three conversations throughout.

I dunno.

27214426This last week has involved a lot of stops and starts, including Behrouz Gets Lucky, which has become my Long Read. It’s a very intense read, not just because of all the very dirty sex but because the language is dense and the chapters are long. I should be able to finish it in another few sittings or so, which is amazing considering how small the book looks from the outside.

But for now, I’m working my way into October with The Soldier’s Scoundrel, a book that will not mark off any checks on any of my reading challenges, but will do me a hell of good.

To Sum Up:

Books Completed:

Tell Me Something Good by Jamie Wesley
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Love On My Mind by Tracey Livesay
The Rose Society by Marie Lu
Out Of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
As Old As Time by Liz Braswell
Batgirl, Volume 3 by Cameron Stewart et al
The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Books Carried into October:

Behrouz Gets Lucky by Avery Cassell
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
A Change Of Heart by Sonali Dev
Beethoven’s Hair by Russell Martin
The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi
The Tiger Claw by Shauna Singh Baldwin
The Soldier’s Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian

Books Set Aside:

Into White by Randi Pink
DC Trip by Sara Benincasa

We’ll see what happens as I move into October. I’m trying to read more backlist and fewer of the ARCs that are strewn about my house, but if the books from this year are the happier ones in my unread collection, those are the ones that will be read.

Or maybe I’ll just read the rest of the Wallbanger books. I finally got the second one, which was all that was holding me back.

 

#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.