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!



RDL: Beyond the eCourse

(Oh look, a post!)

Earlier this year, I completed an ALA eCourse called “Rethinking Digital Literacy.” If you read my posts during this time, you might be interested in this one. It’s mostly a follow up of that one.

(If you’re a regular follower and thought you might finally see something about books for the first time in months…sorry? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

Now that I’ve changed my position title to reflect my actual goals as an employee of PCPL (Digital Literacy & Learning, Online Resources Librarian), I have started to work my way down the line of tasks I set for myself at the end of RDL.

The first task was to draft a Digital Literacy Framework. I pulled ideas from several of the resources we were provided during the course, and a few others I found on my own, and have mostly made it through an initial draft. We’ll see what happens when it’s done.

The second task was to start a Digital Literacy themed blog series on my library’s website, and I’m happy to say that the first post went up today!

Some brainstorming with my officemates led me down the path of creating meaningful posts that hearkened to pop culture style, so it’s totally full of memes (thanks, Doug Belshaw) and has a clickbait style title.

Whatever, I had lots of fun.

Future topics include online searching, digital citizenship, and critical thinking in the digital world, and I’m super excited!

I’ll do some crossposting on occasion, but mostly I’ll be adding each one to my RDL page with links to the origial post on the library website.

(Also, feel free to peruse the rest of the online content while you’re there :D)

Digital Literacy 4lyfe! (or whatever the kids say nowadays.)

RDL Week 3 Part 2: Digital Literacy in “Digital Natives”

How do our evolving definitions of digital literacy change or remain the same as a result of our exposure to the varying thoughts offered about digital natives?

The concept of a digital native is interesting, but I’m glad it’s evolved over the past decade and a half. The idea of a “native” anything being completely fluent in something right out of the gate is kind of amusing if we look at it from any other point of view. In the United States, we can say that anyone born here or brought here as a young child is probably a native English speaker. Yet many of us don’t have a full grasp of the language until well into our teen years. I once substituted for a “Spanish for Native Speakers” class in the high school where I formerly worked, and these students had to really learn to read and write in a language they grew up speaking, without all the idioms and potential misuses of the language that happens in regional family vernacular.

With that in mind, my initial definition of digital literacy, “an ever changing consideration of sociocultural understanding regarding technologies and the uses of those technologies across an individual person or larger group’s life and experiences,” can probably still stand. In our various readings the idea of a Digital Native has not completely been debunked; it’s true that there are now multiple generations in which the use of technology and its outputs is nothing unfamiliar. But these digital natives are not automatically digitally literate, and they need to be aware that they are not. It can’t really be said better than Apostolos Koutropoulos summarizes at the end of “Digital Natives: Ten Years After”:

Learners don’t know what they don’t know, but if they come to the table from a position of superiority, like they are better than the so-called immigrants, they lose an opportunity to learn something that they don’t know that they don’t know, something that may be beneficial to them.

No matter what generation you were born in, the concept of digital literacy must remain the same. The definition that I produced at the beginning of this course supports the concept that digital literacy is fluid, depending on an individual’s circumstances and understanding—and that includes their age and socioeconomic status.


RDL Week 1: Diving Into the Digital Literacy Pool

In my other life, I am a living, breathing librarian. I’m taking an ALA eCourse called Rethinking Digital Literacy to Serve Library Staff and Users. Here is where I will post a few responses and other “extended learning” assignments over the next month.


A condition, not a threshold.

On this particular day of the year, one can’t help but think of Doug Belshaw’s consideration of cultural literacy as it comes to digital literacies. “May the Fourth be with you” is definitely a meme that some understand and some don’t. Are those people “digitally illiterate”? Of course not. But they are conditionally out of the know for a particularly large moment in time.

It had been a while since I looked at the American Library Association’s official definition of Digital Literacy: “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” On the other hand, Belshaw is more into the idea of digital literacies: plural, context dependent, and socially negotiated. These two ideas don’t have to be mutually exclusive, as the former definition is more of a lofty pedagogy-style learning goal while the latter idea has more of a basis in action/reaction. Taking the idea that “those who will be most successful are those who embrace new ideas and adapt fluidly to new situations”, it’s good to think about how to get people to that openness, or at least thinking about finding it.

The most important thing to know is that digital literacies change over time. And we have to keep up with them, and change with them if necessary.

At my library, I am directly involved in developing an effective learning culture within the organization as well as building core technology competencies and the learning/training/staff development opportunities that go with those competencies. These things are all related, and can be supported by the ideas presented in this first week of digital literacy understanding. Belshaw’s concept of taking a person’s interests, and using them to guide their intrinsic motivation to become whatever version of digitally literate we consider to be the best one can definitely be utilized in those situations. But at the end of the day, our hope is that those interests are simply to learn more, as a learning organization, so that we can adapt as our customers do.

There’s lots to think upon here, including the vocabulary that can be used, definitions to latch to, and practices to consider taking up. As we move forward, I hope to come to a clearer understanding of how that might look for my library’s staff and our customers.  


RDL Week 2: What Others Have Developed

In my other life, I am a living, breathing librarian. I’m taking an ALA eCourse called Rethinking Digital Literacy to Serve Library Staff and Users. Here is where I will post a few responses and other “extended learning” assignments over the next month.

This week, we began by watching this video:

Upon finishing, we were asked to reflect on the following question:

What specific, identifiable digital skills and tools are they developing and using?

Here are a few that I can come up with after an initial viewing of the video and reflection:


  • web design
  • video design
  • wiki design
  • newspaper layout
  • broadcast recording
  • internet searching
  • web 2.0 media
  • social media


  • video conferencing
  • video recording
  • SMART boards
  • video design software
  • layout and publishing software and hardware

These are just initial reflections on one viewing. Do you see any others?

EDIT: I was looking through some work-related presentations and realized that there were key skills I neglected to mention, which are also part of digital literacy: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, project planning, creativity, curiosity, and initiative.


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


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.


Favorite New TV


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.


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?


May Wrap-Up: This Time, Blame the Library

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?


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.


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.


June will be better.