Ending on a high note: Favorites 2016

We’re coming upon the end of 2016, and with it, the one-year anniversary of my return to blogging. After about a month of writing on my old blogger site, I transferred everything over here to Books and Beethoven and determined that I was going to write more about both reading and music, which each hold high points in my life.

I lost momentum over the summer, but I’m determined to try again—new year, new me and all that. I started using a planner, and I’ve got a great Trello board for all of my writing plans.

I can do this.

Earlier today, Sarah asked the BR blog support group what our blog resolutions were, and I really had to think about goals that I might actually be able to keep up with. (If you remember, I wrote a whole post about goals for October, and then didn’t write anything until the end of November…)

Here was what I determined:

  1. More straight reviews of books and music
  2. Regular check-ins for Read Harder 2017
  3. Regular check-ins for Read My Own Damn Books 2017
  4. More writing about music as I encounter it

I will try my best to pull that off. If nothing else, monthly check-ins will continue, and random mental meanderings about music and books will come up.

Right. Favorites.

Here are some of my favorites of this year, in books, music, film, and TV. I’ll post a regular December wrap-up in the next few days, but I wanted to get this one out of the way when I was thinking about it.

Favorite Book Published in 2016

the-geeks-guide-to-unrequited-loveHands down, no question:

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash.

This book was just adorable and heartwarming. I loved the voice, and the characters, and all of the geeky goodness in this three-day story that takes place over the course of New York Comic Con.

Favorite Backlist Book Read in 2016

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

I started reading this in 2012 after it started getting peppered with seals from ALA and all the rest of the book people. I got a few pages in and just wasn’t into it. But I needed a book to listen to and this one was available at the library, so I went for it.

What magic I had been missing. Lin-Manuel did a perfect narration, bringing to life the type of prose that I occasionally just don’t process the same when I’m reading it.

Favorite Read Harder Challenge Book

30688435So I didn’t actually complete the RH challenge, but I got close, and came across some really good books because of it. There are a lot of books I would have read anyway, but Exit West was one that I probably would have put on my Want to Read list, never to be seen or heard from again. It takes place in an unnamed country, but sounds like it could be the Middle East (and the author is from Pakistan, so it’s not a far leap). I probably wouldn’t have read this book if it hadn’t been dropped in my hands by someone from Riverhead Books, but I’m so glad I did. It doesn’t come out until March, so  I was glad to be able to read it so early, but I want to talk to people about it!

Favorite Read My Own Damn Books Book

The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan is the second book in the Brothers Sinister series, and it is Historical Romance Perfection. It’s Victorian instead of Regency. The hero is a duke’s “natural son” with severe political aspirations, and the heroine is an heiress who will do anything to inspire disinterest (and even dislike) in gentlemen who need to marry for money. And the secondary romance is the sweetest.

It does things with stuff.

Goodreads tells me I added this to my to-read shelf in July of 2013, and Amazon says I bought it March of 2015. It was time. (I also owned the first one. Which I also read. It was wonderful, but this was so much better.)

Favorite Movie Seen in the Theater

MOOOOOAAAAAAANNNNAAAAAAA

I saw so many good movies this year; all of Disney and Pixar’s contributions were excellent. Rogue One was perfect. Loving was magnificent. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was tons of fun. But Moana was all of these things, not to mention it had amazing music (also written in part by Lin-Manuel Miranda) that I went home and downloaded and still can’t get enough of.

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Favorite New TV

Shadowhunters.

No, really. Seriously.

It took all the good parts of City of Bones and made them better. The writing improves as the season does, and Dominic Sherwood is a very attractive Jace. And of course, Malec. All the Malec. I can’t wait for it to come back; except now that I don’t have a DVR anymore I’m not sure how I’m going to work my way around that.

exclusive-first-look-of-malec-shadowhunters-season-2-01

Favorite Hulu/Netflix TV

Luke Cage was magnificence personified. I’m looking forward to more Defenders TV.

And I finally got around to watching Season 1 of Crazy Ex Girlfriend and it was worth it to just binge. I am in love with Rebecca Bunch (and Rachel Bloom). Also I bought the season one soundtrack and will never be able to watch Frozen without hearing “I Gave You a UTI”. Thanks, Hans.

Also, I’m four seasons into Smallville and I can’t look away.

Favorite Popular Music Discovery

Post Modern Jukebox is definitely the royal music maker of 2016. They were around before this year, sure, but this was the year they made it on my radar to the point where I had PMJ music playing in iTunes. Some of their covers are songs I know better than the originals, like Radiohead’s “Creep”. Man, that song.

Favorite Musical Theater Discovery

Waitress. I really loved seeing the long performance on the Tonys. Jesse Mueller is fantastic, and it was fun to watch Sara Bareilles glide in on her piano. (And the album is only 5.99 right now, what!)

Favorite Classical Performance

There were only two for me this year, and it was definitely the Fall performance of the Haydn Lord Nelson Mass and Mozart’s Solemn Vespers. I’ve done both of them before and preparation for this one really tightened up my knowledge of them. Also, they’re both just magnificent pieces of music.

Favorite Song of 2016

Is it any surprise that it’s “How Far I’ll Go”?

 

 

What were your favorites this year?

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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.