This Year In Books (and Beethoven)

So hey.

The last time I posted on this blog was in August. My 2016-in-review post came up on my On This Day on Facebook this morning, and I’d made such marvelous plans for this blog. And then my brain just didn’t make it work.

The year got away from me, and it sucks, but I don’t see it getting better anytime soon. I hope to check in every once in a while, but 2018 is the year I’m supposed to be easing up on the extra commitments, so you might not hear from me very often.

So, what did happen this year?

I upped my game as a professional book person:

  • I completed a full year of twice-monthly Kissing Books newsletters (my Book Riot romance-focused newsletter, which is going weekly in 2018. I’m not freaking out; you’re freaking out
  • I started a column on then-Women Write About Comics, now-Bookmarked, which just as quickly ended as the Bleating Heart Press became one of those commitments that I sadly brought to an end this year
  • I’m sure there’s other stuff but I can’t think of it right now.

I read a bunch of books.

Even if it was far fewer than I read when I was doing the Goodreads Challenge, not adding that number was probably the best choice I made a couple years ago. I don’t have that number corralling me into reading when I don’t have the brainpower or energy for it, or pushing me to finish things I’m not loving just to have completed them. I still didn’t read all the books I’d hoped to, and whole swaths of books weren’t read because I had to focus more on romance than ever before, but I read a lot.

I finally made my chorus goal.

I have talked about my chorus performances here in Tucson, and this was the year I decided to audition for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus again, after my first audition when I first moved here went nowhere. (It was a terrible audition; I wasn’t completely prepared and I wasn’t in full voice because I hadn’t adjusted to the climate yet.) I still did some squawking, but I also brought my repertoire with me, which included two of the three masterworks they would be doing this season.

It’s fun rehearsing Bernstein’s Kaddish with people who haven’t made it through the complete product yet, because I was totally there five years ago. It doesn’t really sound right until you’re performing it with the orchestra, with the adrenaline of a full performance moving you along. It’s not quite the “Resurrection” symphony, but it’s hella high on my list of favorite things to perform.

I got better at being ridiculous.

I did some wild things in my musical comedy group. My next show is bound to be the most ridiculous I’ve been, but finding new and interesting purposes for the Belle dress I bought has been fun.

I finally caught up on Supergirl. Well, what’s on Netflix anyway.

I mean, I watched a lot of TV this year, which is why I didn’t make it to 200 books, probably, but Supergirl was one of the last things I did tv-related this year, so it really stands out for me. By the time I made it through Season 2, the first five episodes of Season 3 were gone from the CW app, so I’ll have to wait for the rest of it to show up on Netflix, during which time I will probably go in search of AU Kara/Mon El/Lena Luthor fics, because I am that person who just wants the three of them to love each other and be happy and be together.

Okay. Books.

extraordinary union

My favorite book of the whole year? An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole. I have touted this book far and wide, telling everyone about it, recommending it to people interested in historical fiction, or spies, or just looking for a new book to read. No one has come back and said they hated it. I (UGH) still haven’t read the second in the series, A Hope Divided, and now she’s got a whole new Avon series that I’ll have to get reading so I can squee about her continuing rise to romance royalty.

This book takes the cake for multiple reasons. First, look at that cover. When was the last time you saw such a magnificently crafted image of a black woman in a historical setting? A brown skinned, brown-eyed black woman? It’s a big deal, especially as we continue to hear about cover images for mainstream publishing in which the cover model was digitally altered to look more like the characters in the book.

Then, of course, there’s the story itself. Elle Burns is our heroine, the spy with an eidetic memory, currently pretending to be an enslaved person in order to gain pertinent information in the household of a Confederate senator. And the hero is a Scottish-American posing as a Confederate Officer who actually works for Pinkerton. Between them, there is intelligence, and witty banter, and amazing chemistry, and some pretty hot sexy times. Even with a mixed-race couple in the 1860s, though, this is no fantasyland. There is darkness, and there are intense hardships. Even then, you know that it cannot end with one of the two of them dying, or without the hope of them being together at the end. That’s why I love romance.

in other words lahiri

The last book I’ll finish this year is Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words (In Altre Parole), which is a fascinating read. It is a combination of memoir, travel narrative, and short stories, all written by the author in Italian, and translated by a different translator back into English. Lahiri’s reason for this is fascinating and totally understandable: she thought if she was the one who ended  up translating it, she might end up trying to improve the prose as it changed into English. Cool, huh?

I’m not done yet, but I hope to be by the end of the year. It’s been lots of fun seeing where my Italian is still good, and what words I’m not sure I ever knew—like sidewalk, how did I never know the word for sidewalk?

Either way, I’m glad I finally picked it up, and can maybe even include it in my Read Harder list.

Which I didn’t finish. Yeah. No Read Harder completion star for me.

I come to the end of 2017 with three Read Harder tasks incomplete:

  • Read a nonfiction book about technology
  • Read a book published between 1900 and 1950
  • Read a book I’ve read before

I definitely don’t have any books that will cover all three of those, and I’d like to try to get all three done sometime early next year. So even though I won’t have finished Read Harder in 2017, I’ll get the challenge completed…someday.

I like the Read Harder 2018 challenge, but don’t know if I’ll manage to complete it. I’ve already got my list of potential books, but you know how that goes.


And now, looking at the bottom of the page, BOY has this gotten long. I’m gonna stop now.

See you in 2018!



Ever After Box, four months in

photo of unboxed Ever After Happy Birthday Box

I subscribed to the Ever After Box in early January, having always been interested in the idea of subscription box, but in search of something that I would actually like every time.

Of course, if I had just googled “romance subscription box” I might have discovered it a little sooner. I might have even known it existed, but hadn’t decided to actually try it out until they announced their one-year anniversary box.

Because we all know what I really need is a regular source of books coming in every month.

But I tried out the first box, which included a couple books that I wouldn’t burn and some adorable little extras. There was a romance reading journal that I’d love to try out someday. Because I’m also good at maintaining journaling habits. (I’m not.)

photo of unboxed Ever After Happy Birthday Box
Image c/o Ever After Box


I still haven’t read any of those books, but I decided, hey I like it, I’ll just go ahead and get the three month subscription.

I skipped the March box, which was the shapeshifter box (and now I’m sort of regretting it because I have found a recent renewed interest in shifters), so in addition to the Happy Birthday box, I have also gotten the Fairy Tale box, the Librarians in Love box, and the Badass and Beautiful box, which I thought would involve more romances featuring superheroes, I’ll be honest.

But at least I got this cute little thing:

photo of Jess wearing a Wonder Woman bracelet
I might have put this on immediately after pulling it out of the box.

I like this box. I really do. Ever After Box, LLC is also run by women of color, which is another thing I really like about it. But the boxes don’t always reflect the company’s diversity, and three of the boxes have all included one book I currently own, with the fourth including one I’d already read.

But I really like this box and want to support my lady authors of color.

I guess I could just buy their books?

I have a while yet to continue being torn, until it really comes down to when I need to make a decision. The next box is one I was thinking of suspending anyway (Cowboys), so maybe I’ll do that and keep an eye out.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for an update on my reading life (and a million excuses for why I haven’t been writing as much!)

LWIMusic (Cause Reading Sucked)

Like really sucked. I had to read a book for a paid review that I wanted to murder by the time I finished it. Maybe not to the point of burning a book (I…might have done that once) but I spent the whole week trying to get through it, and then taking the bitterness and making it into real words. *Shrug*

I started a bunch of books the week before last and didn’t get through them, so maybe this week will involve a little of that (though I have another book to read for the same publication, so who knows). I just tried reading Speak Gigantular for the fourth time (and even then, I was only on the third story) and gave up. It’s going back to the library.

SO yeah, all kinds of book woes.

Instead, let’s talk about music!

I mean, this was one of my tweets last week:

We had our first rehearsal for March’s show last week, and the theme is Page to Stage. It’s gonna be hella fun, even if I’m not in most of the show (since I’m also rehearsing with two different choruses—the second was just because they’re doing Faure’s requiem and I can’t live if I know there’s a group performing it and I’m not in it).

So anyway, getting our music for that rehearsal spurred me to do a back-to-back watching of A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Sequel. It got too late to watch A Very Potter Senior Year. I love StarKid so much, even though (ahem) I had never watched either of these and still haven’t seen Senior Year. I’d heard plenty of the music, of course, since more than half of our cast is very big on HP.

Not familiar with this magic morsel of marvelousness? Here’s the opening number of the original:


(Turn on autoplay in youtube to watch the whole thing!)

Meanwhile, anytime I drive my husband’s car, I listen to the Broadway station on the preset page he made for me. They played one of Josh Groban’s songs from The Great Comet (AKA Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812) and it was REALLY GOOD. I mean, I love Josh’s voice, but I remember his acting chops of long ago. Just from listening to this one song, I could tell they’ve improved. (Also, I’m really glad he’s not singing weird pseudo pop anymore.) I can’t wait to see the show.


Another thing I’ve been doing this week? Discovering deep cuts in my iTunes. It’s like meeting a friend for the first time. Like, I say I love Imelda May, and I have all of her albums, but I tend to mostly listen to Tribal. But “End of the World” from her first album came on while I had iTunes on shuffle, and I fell in love. I didn’t play it on repeat like I have been known to do, but…you know, there’s still time.


Other rediscoveries included David Bisbal’s “Digale,” which. Goddamn.


But, you know, I have 4,500 items in my iTunes library, so it’s no surprise there are things I might have only listened to once (like right now it’s playing “General Zod” from Man of Steel because hubs auto buys Zimmer soundtracks and I tend to steal them). I’ll do more to not skip things that I should know at least a little.

This is already getting long but there’s one more thing that happened this week: They announced two of the people cast in the live-action Lion King. I’m happy to hear they got James Earl Jones back, but the casting of both him and Childish (ugh, really) means something very significant: this is going to be more of the cartoon than the Broadway show. And that sucks a lot. Not that I don’t love the animated feature, but the musical is so much more grand, and lush, and…well. African.

Lebo M., an exile from South America, helped write some of The Lion King (the chants, mostly) and then became pretty much the man in charge of turning a relatively musically flat cartoon into a 2.5 hour stageplay. He extended “Circle of Life”, wrote some amazing chants and choral pieces, and helped Tim Rice and Friends work on the solo songs that bring depth to the characters and breadth to the story. Songs like “They Live/He Lives In You” and “Shadowlands” and (sobbing) “Endless Night.” (Keep in mind, the musical version was written after Apartheid was dismantled and all of that Zulu music is joyous AF.)  The Lion King is still running on Broadway (it opened in 1997) and has been on multiple national tours. So yeah, there are people who couldn’t get to New York who have been able to see it, but it still doesn’t have the reach that putting it to film could. The fact that neither of the announced actors has the singing chops necessary to do the additional music provided them in the stageplay indicates that Disney is not going that route.


What have you been reading and listening to? I think I need to do another Romeo and Juliet adventure to clear my head before I try anything new.


LWIBooks: Eh. (February 14, 2017)

Last week wasn’t much of a book week for me. I mean, I read stuff, but I didn’t finish a lot. Combination of having a ton of things to do in the evenings and just being exhausted. But Nevertheless…


Books Completed

29496435Here We Are, by Kelly Jensen et al. This fabulous essay/art/poetry/etc collection was fantastic and everyone should read it. Everyone.

Joyride vol 1by Jackson Lanzing et al. Eh. I finished reading it. I don’t think I’m intrigued enough to keep up with it.

You Can’t Touch My Hair (And Other Things I Still Have to Explain), by Phoebe Robinson. THIS BOOK. THIS. BOOK. Phoebe Robinson has that capability to toe the line between hilarious AF and Serious Shit magnificently. I listened to it, which is definitely the best way to consume this book, but I also have a paper ARC and I will cherish it for the rest of my days (if I loan it to you, you had better give it TF back).

The Perfect Play, by Jaci Burton. Goddamn. I finally finished this book, and made the mistake of reading the excerpt from the next one…and now I have to go spend a couple hundred dollars on all of the books in this series. It’s that good. Also, goddamn. They have so much sex. Take a couple breaks, folks.

Books Started

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. This book has been killing my soul and I can only consume it a bit at a time.

And yeah, that’s it.

I’ve got some *super secret book reading* to do this week, but maybe I’ll finish THUG and get something else on my TBR completed.

Still haven’t started Hidden Figures yet…




LWIBooks (and the week before, and the week before that): February 5, 2017

I’ve fallen behind!

The first week I skipped LWIBooks was because I was at a library conference when I would usually be writing it. I did get some writing done, but that was mostly for Kissing Books and several thousand words I was inspired to write after a freak incident in my hotel room that will never see the light of day.

Then, I decided to pick up LWIBooks the next week, also talking about the library conference, but I got distracted by…something?

So now, I have three weeks to cover, and it’s going to be a fast one, because I’ve definitely picked up after several weeks of slumpy-ness.

Books Completed

Oh man, did i finish some awesomeness. I also walked away from a book that was totally not happening, only to find redemption in a book with similar tropes that were addressed in a much better packaged way.

27248383First Position, Melissa Brayden

An adorable lesbian romance about ballerinas. BALLERINAS.

PerfectCecelia Ahern

I picked this up at ALA on the last day and might have started reading it on the exhibit floor. I finished it on the flight home. Some people have their hesitations about Flawed, but I was instantly drawn in to both books in the duology.

Let it ShineAlyssa Cole

The Juneteenth anthology has been sitting on my kindle forever. I started the first book and kind of stalled, so I hadn’t made it to this, the last story. I went to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights while I was in Atlanta,29522514 and just needed to read this when I was done with Perfect. They actually kind of went well together.

Size Matters, Alison Bliss (DNF)

I have been on a fat heroine kick lately, and this one was one I’d seen at the library and been drawn to because of the cover. If it had been an amazingly well written book that featured a heroine with super super self-esteem issues, I might have moved forward. If it had been a less-badly-written book about a heroine with self-esteem issues and a guy who wasn’t a constant victim of foot-in-mouth disease, I might have moved forward. Honestly, I was all for seeing where the story went until the hero, having offered to drive the heroine home the first night they met, discovered he couldn’t wake her up to get directions, took her to his home instead, and then took her dress off while she was still unconscious. Sure, he slept on the couch, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t do that.

Whoops. That was a lot.

Beast, Pepper Pace

This book was less-than-stellarly written, but I loved it anyway. The characters are both cinnamon rolls I want to hug and keep in my pocket and they have some serious body issues between the two of them. But they also know how to love the right fucking way. There are other real-life things that are addressed in the book relatively well, but it all ends happily.

30166695Breathless, Beverly Jenkins

Bev can do no wrong. That is all.

This Song is (Not) for You, Laura Nowlin

I saw this book on one of the ALA book lists (Stonewall? Rainbow? Can’t remember) and knew I needed to read it. There are two teens who won’t admit they’re in love with each other and then in walks a third who doesn’t feel sexual attraction towards anyone but really comes to love these other two people. Yeah, you know I was all over that.

The Lawrence Browne Affair, Cat Sebastian

Soldier’s Scoundrel sequel starring the dashing young Georgie? Yes. Please. Also, our Mad Earl isn’t mad at all, he’s just…sciency. And anxious. And a little agoraphobic? Okay, maybe a lot agoraphobic. Still adorable as hell. And there’s 30226770totally a scene that came right out of Beauty and the Beast.

TreasureRebekah Weatherspoon

Precious baby butch falls for stripper and then runs into her in comp-sci. Adorbs. And at 103 pages, I didn’t even feel like it was too short.

If The Dress Fits, Carla de Guzman

Oh man, this book. I want to marry this book. I will correct its grammar every once in awhile and maybe throw out a fact that it got wrong, but I will love, honor, and cherish this book for all the days of my life.

Still Working

Goddammit, I’m still working on The Perfect Play. To be fair, I haven’t picked it up really since the last time I talked about it, but it’s going to make perfect game-day reading. It will probably be in place of the Super Bowl, if I’m honest. I feel no inclination to turn it on while hubs is at work, and I can watch the halftime show tomorrow.

I’m also still working on Joyride. I picked it up to finish yesterday and ended up finishing two ebooks I’d started and set aside instead.

I’ve abandoned the other football books I started. I’ll try to read them again eventually.

Picking Up Soon

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t given up on Hidden Figures. Not because I don’t have it sitting right there on my bookshelf, but because I’ve been more interested in the fluffy happy stuff recently (I wonder why). Otherwise, I have no idea where I’m going bookwise in the near future. I borrowed Dangerous Curves Ahead from the library and might read it, or I might just take it back and find something on my TBR shelves, which are sinking into the floor with things I want to read. (And unfortunately, or fortunately, whichever way you want to look at it, I still want to read them all; my last weeding was a few weeks ago and I only pulled out five or six things.)

What are you reading? What have you enjoyed recently? I’ve managed to add a few things to my Read Harder list, but I’m kind of falling behind.


LWIBooks: January 16, 2017

Last week sucked for me, reading wise. I worked on a couple books but didn’t finish much—though what I did finish was pretty darn great. I saw a few movies and reestablished a few head canons, discovered something I want in book form, and got stuck in a Read Harder rut.

I went to the movies twice this past weekend, and watched a movie that hubs saw without me but knew I would want to see. That movie? The Accountant. And now I want a romance featuring someone modeled off of Chris getting a HEA. Is that too much to ask?

I also saw A Monster Callswhich, jeez. I remember why I didn’t get far in the book. But the movie was beautiful and heartbreaking and incredibly well done and acted—though now we know Sigourney Weaver’s weakness: British.

That same day, I saw Singin’ in the Rain for the first time in a theater, and the spectacle is just magnificent on a big screen. If you’ve got the time and the chance to see it when it plays again on Wednesday, take it. I’ve seen bits and pieces in the past few years but it’s been awhile since I’ve watched it all the way through, and boy, is that OT3 there. I thought it was just me when I was younger, but that was before I discovered fanfiction; and the last time I looked on AO3, there was nothing there. Well, now there is, and over the past 24 hours I’ve read nearly all of it. (I will probably write more thoroughly on this after I’m done.)

Okay, on to books. The reason for this post:

Books Completed

26114524The Only Thing Worse than Me is YouLily Anderson

love Much Ado About NothingLike, probably more than I do Pride and PrejudiceSo when I realized in the first chapter that this was going to be a YA retelling (because that was left out of the blurb! Who leaves that out of the blurb?!) I became even more excited about what this book would be. It had already drawn me in with supernerds who were also super geeky. The snappy dialogue and excellent transference of the plot—while still making it different enough that you weren’t sure how things would go down—won this one for me, and I am eagerly awaiting Anderson’s second book (THIS WAS HER DEBUT, WHAT, AND SHE’S A LIBRARIAN, WHAT) that’s based on The Importance of Being Earnest. If she writes a YA version of Design For Living, she will go down in history as my absolute favorite person putting words together on the planet.

Pumpkin Rolls and Porn Sounds, Kris T. Bethke

This was a cute little novella that was the perfect length to read while twisting my hair on Saturday. Will, a young professional, is drawn out to a meeting at the PFLAG chapter his mother started. She wants him to hear a speech by Joshua, who owns a bakery. Diminutive Will is not usually attracted to big, hairy men, but something about Joshua draws him in. The writing is a bit juvenile sometimes, but it touches on some great things, particularly supportive families and body image in men.

Under Rose Tainted Skies, Louise Gornall

I DNFd this book. I was sad to; the narrator, Norah, is an awesome person and her love interest sounds cute, if troubled. Norah’s mother is great, and the other people that I encountered in the 40 or so pages I read before I stopped were very interestingly written. But Norah has Agoraphobia and Severe Anxiety Disorder, and she is very well written. I’ve been pretty high on the Empath scale this week, and her very extreme anxiety was making my (much lower scale) anxiety and neurosis much more palpable. I actually spoke the words “you know I like having the bedroom door open so I can hear if someone breaks in while we’re sleeping.” Not that it’s ever happened, or that there is a high chance of it happening, but my usual “is the door locked?” followed by my checking three or four times before being able to sleep, wasn’t enough. (This is not the full extent of how anxious this book made me, just an example.)

Still Working

8341567Running InterferenceElley Arden

I don’t know if there’s something about the writing or my reluctance to read second-chance stories, but this one is slow going. I was really excited about the prospect to read about a world in which a women’s professional football league existed, but the other stuff is not making me anxious to pick it back up.

Getting InsideSerena Bell

Okay, maybe what’s really going on is that there’s too much football in my life right now.

The Perfect Play, Jaci Burton

Or maybe not because I was going at this one like gangbusters until I got distracted by Don, Cosmo and Kathy. (Also, see that cover? I bought that one in print.)

Picking Up Soon

30251383Hidden FiguresMargot Lee Shetterly

 I haven’t forgotten about this one, but I’ve been out of the nonfiction mood.

Joyride, Jackson Lanzing et al

I need to get back into comics. This one looks hella fun.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 2, Amy Reeder et al

Luella is my must-buy trade girl. I can’t wait to sit down and savor it.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Angela Carter

I’m doing a group read of this with some of the folks at WWAC, and I finally got it from the library. I think I’m really only going to do one at a time, so I had better get started!


Also, because this is going to be available this week!


And now I’m going to go finish reading all that magical fanfiction and get lost in the Tucson Festival of Books panel schedule. Sweet Christmas.


LWIBooks: January 9, 2017

Last week was the first of January. I made some good progress in reading, discovered some things, and saw a movie that pushed a book up my list.

Books Completed

An Unseen Attraction, KJ Charles

Actually, I finished this one in December but never posted about it. This one comes out in February and I can’t wait for more people to be talking about it. I continue to play into the hands of non-male, potentially non-queer authors writing M/M romance but hers are just SO GOOD. And this one is no different, with Clem being darling, Indian, and cognitively disabled/neurodiverse in the middle of Victorian England. Also this one sets up the scene for a series that takes place during the Great London Fog and that is one of those phenomena that I’m fascinated by.

Roller GirlVanessa North

This book covers two slots in the Read Harder challenge: LGBTQ+ romance and book about sports. I’ll still be reading other books in both of those categories, but I wanted to get this one read because I’d seen it around a lot.

The Hating GameSally Thorne

I’ll tell you a secret: I picked this book up immediately when I saw it…on the ARC cart…months before it came out. And then I never read it. Why did I never read it? It was so much fun. Also, this one covers a Read Harder category: Sally Thorne’s debut novel.

Beauty and the Wiener, Casey Griffin

It was cute, but it wasn’t as cute as the first one. Ah well.

Insert Groom Here, KM Jackson

The hype for this one (including the blurbs on the book cover) made it seem like it was going to be much funnier than it actually was, but I still enjoyed reading it. If only I hadn’t spent half the book trying to figure out Aidan’s racial ambiguousness…

Currently Reading

Getting InsideSerena Bell

I’m intrigued by the premise of the first female coach in the fictional pro league and the player she has to deal with, but so far it’s been pretty putdownable.

Ashes, Laurie Halse Anderson

I picked this one up back in December and haven’t picked it up for awhile; maybe it will be one of my books for next week.

Picking Up Soon

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesLouise Gornoll

I got this one from Netgalley quite a while ago and its release date is coming up. No recollection what it’s about but I remember being really interested.

The Only Thing Worse Than Me is YouLily Anderson

Once again, I’m going to try to read my physical TBR from the beginning, and in my case that means alphabetically.

Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shatterly

Except I really need to get on this one. I’ve had it for months and had planned on making it through before I saw the movie, which I saw Saturday night.

Ah well.

Also, just because I just found it, I’m going to be watching this trailer over and over.

What’s been on your radar recently?