September Wrap-up!

I have blogged almost not at all this month, and while I wish I could have done more I feel okay with this. I’ll talk about that more later — for now, let’s get into what all I read in the last month!

Reads for September

Here’s all I read in September:

That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger — 5 of 5 stars

Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens anthology (ARC) — 4 of 5 stars

Zora & Me: The Cursed Ground by T. R. Simon — 5 of 5 stars

Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella — 5 of 5 stars

Black Panther: The Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith — 5 of 5 stars

Carrie by Stephen King — 5 of 5 stars

Sadie by Courtney Summers — 4.5 of 5 stars

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman — 5 of 5 stars

Salt by Hannah Moskowitz — 5 of 5 stars

One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock — 5 of 5 stars

Trans Teen Survival Guide by Owl and Fox Fisher (ARC) — 2 of 5 stars

You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino — 5 of 5 stars

Big Words Small Stories: The Missing Donut by Judith Henderson (ARC) — 5 of 5 stars

I Am Small by Qin Leng (ARC) — 5 of 5 stars

Sleep, Sheep! by Kerry Lyn Sparrow (ARC) — 5 of 5 stars

The Adventures of Wilhelm: A Rat’s Tale by Maria Ritter (ARC) — 2 of 5 stars

The Spy With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke (ARC) — 5 of 5 stars

 

Reading stats:

  • Number of books read: 17
  • Number of nonfiction books: 1
  • Number of ARCs: 7
  • Number of books by marginalized authors: ~11
  • Number of library books: 3
  • Number of books that WEREN’T part of my monthly TBR: 1

I am very happy with how well I stuck to my TBR this month! The only book I read that wasn’t on my TBR was Carrie, which wass a reread for me as well, but I’ve made peace with it because I reread it for a special side project that will be completely worthwhile when I finish it.

I am less happy with my blogging and review-writing for this month — and by that I mean my lack thereof. I have a BUNCH of ARCs I need to review now, and I’m planning to put a concentrated effort on writing them in October!

On The Personal Side…

I turned 24 in September, and it has been a wild month ever since then. I got my driver’s license the day after my birthday, somehow passing my test on the first try.  Despite it being almost three weeks since I got my license, I’ve only driven by myself twice in the meantime, and only about a mile away both times. I still feel a bit awkward driving places by myself and I’m working on building my confidence up, but I’m working on it. Also, because I’m in Oregon I was able to get an “X” gender marker on my license! I’ve been waiting to change my gender marker since that option was legalized literally days after I got my learner permit, and it feels really satisfying to have it be a reality for me now.

The Monday after my birthday, I said goodbye to my job of the last four years (which I already miss a ton), and on Wednesday of that week I started my new job as a high school librarian! I really lucked out on all fronts with that job — it came at exactly the time I needed it to, the people are great, and I’m doing pretty much exactly what I want to be doing with quite a bit of control, and I really love it. The only thing that could be better is the pay, but I’m getting paid a little more than I was at my old job and I have more than double the hours, and I’ll be able to live with it. For my first post-college job, I am really lucky with what I got.

I feel like I’ve been thrown into growing up faster this month, and I surprisingly feel pretty okay with this. It’s been cutting into my free time (and my blogging time) and it’s been overwhelming at times, but I feel things starting to mellow and level out as the days go by. Things feel like they’re starting to come together for me, and while I still have quite a ways to go I’m feeling much better about the way things are going for me. Things are looking up!

Also, if you like my content, there are new ways in which you can support me now!

The best way to support me is by becoming a Patron on my new Patreon page! My Patrons will be receiving lots of bookish and cat-related content from me and my cat, Coco, so please check it out! We really appreciate it!
https://www.patreon.com/librarybenni

If you’d prefer one-time or occasional donations, that’s okay too! I have both a Ko-fi and a Paypal.me set up, and you are welcome to use either, if you wish! (Coco had a $450 vet bill in September and I’m struggling a little with paying it off, so a little extra help would be VERY appreciated.)
http://ko-fi.com/librarybenni
http://paypal.me/librarybenni

Rather support me with items rather than with cash? I have an Amazon wishlist, too! There are both fun things and necessities on this list, and I’d love to receive any of them!
http://a.co/arrvEe3

The last couple months have been kind of rough, so I really appreciate any support I can get!

How was your September? What are you looking forward to in October?

September Preorders!

Oh, do I have preorders this month! I actually have several physical books for September, which is quite a change from the rest of the year. Usually I have trouble telling myself to get ebooks instead of physical books, but I’ve been pretty good at buying ebooks this year. I think I have a good mix this month, and I’m excited.

Here are my September picks!

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 9/4/2018
Format: Kindle
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/1250105714

I have heard so many amazing things about this book! (Check out my friend Taylor’s review here!) Several people I trust have been squealing about this one, and so I’m excited for it as well.

Soft on Soft by Em Ali

Cover placeholder from Goodreads
Cover placeholder from Goodreads

Release date: 9/10/2018
Format: Kindle
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Soft-Em-Ali-ebook/dp/B07GL135XS/

Cats? Anxiety? Queer fluffy romance? Yes, please! I love Em, and I’m really excited to read zir new book!

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 9/11/2018
Format: Hardcover
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Summer-Bird-Blue-Akemi-Bowman/dp/1481487752/

My birthday book for this year. 🙂 I loved Bowman’s first book, so this one was an easy choice for me. (Also, how gorgeous is that cover?)

You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 9/25/2018
Format: Hardcover
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/You-Dont-Know-Everything-Jilly-ebook/dp/B078TJPKYN/

After GEORGE, I am super excited for Gino’s next release! Deaf rep in books, especially middle grade, is also a big draw for me.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 9/25/2018
Format: Hardcover
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Absolutely-Remarkable-Thing-Novel-ebook/dp/B0796DR2XV/

Hank Green’s debut strikes me as odd and quirky, and I’m intrigued. I’ve heard good things about this one so far, so I hope it lives up to expectations!

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 9/25/2018
Format: Hardcover
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Blade-So-Black-L-L-McKinney/dp/1250153905/

I’m a sucker for Alice in Wonderland stories, and this urban fantasy retelling sounds amazing. And that cover is perfect.

What September releases are you excited for?

September To-Read List!

Remember how I said that I usually don’t do TBRs? I found last month’s TBR so helpful that I’m going to try to keep doing them for a while! I don’t know if I’ll keep this up indefinitely, but I have a LOT of books to read and this has at least been helping me stay organized.

I’m looking at my TBR not as a to-do list but as a menu of options I can choose from to read. I think that’s taking the pressure off of me quite a bit — and it allows me to not feel quite so guilty for not finishing every single book I have on my list.

August TBR Stats

Pile 1: #SummerOfPLL Reads
Amount completed: 6/9
Carrying over: 0

Pile 2: Library Books
Amount completed: 8/8
Carrying over: 0

Pile 3: ARC August!
Amount completed: 5/18
Carrying over: 12

Non-TBR Books Read: 1 (not including the ARC I read before I made my TBR)

I finished all of my library books! I also finished all of the main Pretty Little Liars books, but did not get to the companion ones and I’ve made my peace with that. The ARCs did not get the attention they needed in August, so they’re getting bumped forward to September!

September’s TBR

Pile 1: New Books

I have a lot of books that I’ve preordered or purchased while they were discounted on Amazon and haven’t read this year, and I feel really bad because I really want to read them. So, my first target area for September is filled with them!

  • Pride Must Be A Place by Kevin Craig
  • Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi
  • Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid
  • The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotic by David Arnold
  • The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse
  • Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  • #murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil
  • If Only by Jennifer Gilmore
  • To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin
  • The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
  • Life Inside My Mind anthology
  • We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
  • Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi
  • The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
  • Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
  • Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen
  • Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
  • That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger
  • Sadie by Courtney Summers
  • Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
  • You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino
  • A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
  • Soft on Soft by Em Ali

Pile 2: ARCs

This pile has two parts: the ARCs that I’m carrying over from August, and the ARCs that are new to the September pile.

Sub-pile: Carryover ARCs

  • Disbanded Kingdom by Polis Loizou
  • Rules of the Ruff by Heidi Lang
  • Love Letters to Jane’s World by Paige Braddock
  • The Adventures of Wilhelm: A Rat’s Tale by Maria Ritter
  • The Lost Art of Reading by David L. Ulin
  • The Splintered Light by Ginger Johnson
  • Big Words Small Stories: The Missing Donut by Judith Henderson
  • The Ghost Road by Charis Cotter
  • Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon
  • Unbroken Anthology
  • Black Diamond Fall by Joseph Olshan
  • Trans Teen Survival Guide by Owl Fisher and Fox Fisher

Sub-pile: New ARCs

  • Sleep, Sheep! by Kerry Sparrow
  • I am Small by Qin Leng
  • How to Read Donald Duck by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart
  • Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • Unwritten by Tara Gilboy
  • Histories of the Transgender Child by Julian Gill-Peterson
  • The Spy With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
  • Salt by Hannah Moskowitz
  • The Chaos of Now by Erin Jade Lange

Pile 3: Library Books

You know that thing where you finish all of your library books and go to the library to return them and then somehow walk out carrying more library books? Yep, I did that. It’s okay, though — libraries are GOOD!

  • One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock
  • Book Scavenger: The Unbreakable Code by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
  • The Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella
  • Black Panther: The Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith
  • The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
  • Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America by Nathaniel Frank

Do I think there’s any possible way I’m going to finish all of these in September? Pfft, no… There are 53 books on this list! My goal is to try to give myself options while still reading the books I actually need to read, and I think this does that, right?

What are you hoping to read in September?

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors from 2017!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is new-to-me authors from 2017! Admittedly, most of the authors I loved from last year were new to me primarily because of my reading slump from the several years before it. Because of this, there are A LOT of authors that could qualify for this list, and it’s hard to pick just ten. Here is my list:

10.) Sarah Glenn Marsh
Book read: Reign of the Fallen

Image of book cover from Goodreads

I primarily placed Marsh as number 10 on this list rather than higher because this is a 2018 release that I read JUST before 2017 was up, and it hasn’t been released yet! My review of Reign of the Fallen will be up next week, so be sure to watch for it!

9.) Kathryn Ormsbee
Book read: Tash Hearts Tolstoy

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Ormsbee wrote some wonderful asexual rep complete with relationship drama and an accidental viral sensation! Tash Hearts Tolstoy drew me in, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

8.) M. Hollis
Books read: Ripped Pages and A Night At The Mall

I received ARCs for both of these shorts, and I was not disappointed! Ripped Pages in particular was a favorite of the year for me, and I highly recommend it (AND A Night At The Mall) if you haven’t read it yet already! M. Hollis is a talented writer, and I can’t wait to see what else she has in store.

My review of Ripped Pages

My review of  A Night At The Mall

7.) Adi Alsaid
Book read: North of Happy

noh

I have a couple more of Adi Alsaid’s books on my iPad, and after reading North of Happy I’m definitely going to be reading them in 2018! His writing sucks you in and doesn’t let you go, and I loved it.

6.) Alex Gino
Book read: George

Image of book cover from GoodReads

I didn’t know just how much I was in need of some happy trans rep until I read Gino’s book. Now I need more of it. A LOT more of it. Gino’s writing is entrancing and easy to read, and I’m excited to see what they have coming up next.

My review of George

5.) Nic Stone
Book read: Dear Martin

Image of book cover from GoodReads

Nic Stone will take your heart, break it into pieces, and take a hard look at the realities of this world. If you haven’t read Dear Martin yet, get on it!

My mini-essay about Dear Martin

4.) Francesca Zappia
Book read: Eliza and Her Monsters

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Very few times has anxiety rep hit me as hard as Zappia’s did. It’s raw and honest and so, so relatable. I cried while reading Eliza and Her Monsters, and I think I needed to.

Review of Eliza and Her Monsters coming up next!

3.) Angie Thomas
Book read: The Hate U Give

Image of book cover from Goodreads

You can’t not go through 2017 without at least hearing about Angie Thomas. And if you haven’t gotten around to reading The Hate U Give yet, you should really do that. This book should be required reading, in my opinion. I have Thomas’s next book On The Come Up on my preorder list, and I’m excited for it!

2.) Becky Albertalli
Books read: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited

Becky Albertalli wrote some of my favorite reads of the year (even if I was a TAD late coming to Simon vs.). This may be an unpopular opinion, but I actually enjoyed Upside more than Simon vs. (and that was already a high bar); Molly Peskin-Suso was one of the most relatable characters I have ever read, and she spoke to me like few have ever done before. 2018 is going to be a big Albertalli year with TWO new editions of Simon vs., a paperback of Upside, a new release with Leah on the Offbeat AND a new release with What If It’s Us co-written with Adam Silvera, AND the LOVE, SIMON movie. Are you excited? I’m excited.

1.) Adam Silvera
Books read: More Happy Than Not, History Is All You Left Me, and They Both Die At The End

It was admittedly very challenging to pit Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera against each other for the top two spots, but Adam took the spot primarily because 1.) he visited my area in December and I got to meet him, and 2.) I read THREE of his books while I only read TWO of Becky’s. Adam made me cry on MULTIPLE occasions this year with some of the best mental illness rep I’ve read, and then I got a hug at the end of the year so it was all good. Have I mentioned that I’m excited for What If It’s Us yet? The release date is too far away…

My review of They Both Die At The End

 

My top 10 new-to-me authors of 2017 are ones that are probably going to stick with me for a long time, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store in the future!

What are some of the best new-to-you authors you read in 2017? Let me know in the comments!

 

How Reading More Diversely Broke My Reading Slump

I loved reading as a kid. New books were the most exciting thing in the world for me — during Scholastic Book Fair seasons, my mom would buy up all of the books that I said I wanted, and then she’d keep them hidden in a cupboard and give them to me every so often throughout the year. Barnes and Noble’s summer reading program was exciting because I could get a brand new book at the end of it, and all I had to do was read! I spent countless hours volunteering in a small library when I got a little older, and During those childhood and early teen years I couldn’t get enough of books.

Something changed during my late teens.

During my early teens I didn’t know I was going to end up being a bi, demisexual, non-binary, neurodivergent, disabled* person. That was a scary thing to start figuring out as a teen because I lived in a rural, conservative community with conservative parents and no real support in that regard. All of a sudden, I found myself wanting books that represented my newfound queerness especially, and yet I learned that getting my hands on them was exceedingly difficult. I got tired of all of the white allocishet abled characters and their white allocishet abled romances because the only thing that I had in common with them was that I was white.

I still had my books and I still collected new (mostly used) ones, but from the ages of about 17-21, I almost entirely stopped reading. I didn’t make a lot of time for it, it didn’t feel fun to me anymore, and yet I still liked the idea of it. The idea of reading good books sat so well with me that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in libraries. I felt at home surrounded by books, but I couldn’t get myself to read them.

In early 2017, I made a concentrated effort to read more diversely, and my world expanded. I found bi characters who understood me so well that I couldn’t stop grinning. Trans characters who knew how I felt so much that I cried. Characters with OCD who understood what was going on in my brain so well that I had to sit back and just let that fact sink in.

I didn’t just find characters like me; I found characters that weren’t. Even though I could no longer relate to those white allocishet abled characters from my early teens, it’s still a fact that I know far more about that culture than I do other cultures I don’t share. I read more books by Black authors. Latinx authors. Jewish authors. Muslim authors. I fell in love with these characters, and while these books didn’t make me an expert by any means, they did help me grow as a person. They got me outside of myself and into the shoes of others, and I grew more empathetic than I’ve ever been in my life.

Diverse books made me feel excited about reading again. I feel alive when holding one in my hands, and I feel so much more deeply when I read than I’ve ever felt before. Despite being a full-time graduate student with three jobs and hardly any time to breathe, I’ve managed to read 91 books so far this year, and I am well on my way to finishing 100 before December ends. Without diverse books, I don’t think I would have even managed half of that this year. Not every book I read WAS diverse (I’m still on a quest to finish every Stephen King book, I did a Harry Potter re-read, and I read quite a few Lurlene McDaniel books for the Hey Lurlene! podcast this year), almost all of my favorites were by diverse authors about diverse characters, and the excitement I felt while reading those stories kept me wanting more. I’ve pre-ordered and bought more new books this year than I ever have in my life, and all but one of those books was diverse. I found my happy place while reading again. I found that spark.

Part of me wonders whether I would have had such a long reading slump at all if I’d had access to diverse books earlier in my life. I can’t say for sure, but the genuine happiness I feel while reading these books now is something that I probably could have used as a teen. If I were to give my teen self a gift, I’d give them a letter saying “yeah hi YOU’RE NOT CIS OR STRAIGHT FIGURE IT OUT ALREADY” and a box of my favorite diverse reads from this year. I’d like to think that I would have turned out just a little bit happier.

Books I’d include in the box to myself (in the order in which I read them this year, and linked to either my review or the book’s Goodreads page):

These books brought joy back to reading for me. I wish teen me could have had them.

 

*I still have trouble claiming the term “disabled” for myself, but I’m figuring that one out.

**If you’ve read my review then you’ll know that I didn’t think TATWD was THAT great for a YA novel, but the OCD rep in this book hit me so hard that I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to my past self. It would have done wonders for me.

Review: George by Alex Gino

Image of book cover from GoodReads
Image of book cover from GoodReads

Title: George

Author: Alex Gino

Category: MG Contemporary (LGBTQIAP+)

Publisher/Date: Scholastic/15 August 2015

Edition: Hardcover

Pages: 195

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24612624-george?

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0545812542/ref=x_gr_w_glide_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_glide_bb-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0545812542&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/george-alex-gino/1121103289?ean=9780545812542&st=AFF&2sid=Goodreads,%20Inc_2227948_NA&sourceId=AFFGoodreads,%20IncM000004

BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part. . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte – but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

This is one of those books that I wish I had had growing up. That feeling of knowing what you’re interested in but not being able to share those interests because you’re afraid of what everyone else will say about them is difficult; it’s far more difficult when gender expectations are what’s keeping you from sharing them. Coming out can be absolutely terrifying, and George managed to capture that beautifully while also telling a charming tale about friendship and family.

I want to talk about my other two favorite characters in this book first, though — Kelly and Scott. At such a young age, having some sort of support system can make a HUGE difference for a trans kid, and I fell in love with these two characters because they almost immediately decided to help George be who she wants to be however they can. It can be difficult for cisgender people to understand what it is to be trans, especially if they’re young and haven’t had any exposure to openly trans people in their childhood, but once Kelly started to realize what George meant when she said she felt like a girl, she decided to do her research so that she could understand her friend better! The exchange between these two ten-year-olds when George confirmed she was trans made my heart melt. Even before that, when George said she wanted to try out for the part of Charlotte in the play instead of the part of Wilbur, Kelly hardly questioned it before deciding to help her out. I really admired Kelly’s enthusiasm within the friendship and how she encouraged George to be comfortable in who she is. The friendship dynamic between these two was just perfect, and I smiled at every George and Kelly scene there was.

I have a similar appreciation for Scott. Having supportive family members can be even more important than having supportive friends, and with her mom’s initial negative reaction to her coming out, George’s older brother, Scott, managed to make that home life just a little more bearable. Scott isn’t perfect. He doesn’t really understand what it is to be trans, and one of the first things that comes into his head is wondering if George wants to have genital reconstructive surgery, which kind of misses the point a little bit. The thing is, though, even though he doesn’t fully understand, he’s still accepting and willing to learn. Through this, Scott manages to make George’s home environment more comfortable for her to live in, and that can be crucial when other family members aren’t supportive. When you come out as trans, it can take people a little bit to get used to, and after knowing George all her life, Scott’s got a certain image in his head of what his little sibling is like. Knowing that there’s an open willingness to change that image of George in his head is wonderful, and seeing how George felt more comfortable after her brother had talked to her was really sweet.

Finally, I want to talk about George herself. I loved seeing her blossom from a questioning person to a more confident trans girl. Being yourself can be so hard when teachers and parents disapprove of your interests, and George managed to get across those feelings of inadequacy and rejection beautifully. She started out as someone who was afraid of showing who she is, and she grew into someone who is able to put herself out there without worrying too much about what other people think. Perhaps most importantly, I think George can bring young trans readers hope — she can tell them that a rejection isn’t the end of the world and that they can find their place. Life isn’t always that easy, but it’s wonderful to see trans people in literature who are genuinely happy and more fulfilled by the end of the book.

I think children, teens, and adults alike would all benefit from reading this book. It’s pretty short and quick, and it packs a lot of heart into the pages. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars