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 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?

August (and July!) Preorders!

I forgot to make a preorders post for my July preorders, so I’m just going to do both here in one post! And my August preorders aren’t even on my August TBR… Oy. (I’ve been good about preordering ebooks instead of physical books, though, so at least I’m not taking up more physical shelf space.)

Anyway, here are my July picks!

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

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

Release date: 7/10/2018
Format: Kindle
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Fawkes-Novel-Nadine-Brandes-ebook/dp/B077CXZGHB/

I need more dark magic books, and this one looks really, really good. I have high hopes.

If Only by Jennifer Gilmore

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

Release date: 7/31/2018
Format: Kindle
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/If-Only-Jennifer-Gilmore-ebook/dp/B071JLP74C/

The narrative structure of this is intriguing, and I really love teen pregnancy books for some reason, so I’m excited!

Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen

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

Release date: 7/31/2018
Format: Kindle
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Lovely-Dark-Deep-Justina-Chen-ebook/dp/B0756KZPPF/

This cover is lovely, and I’m really intrigued by the photosensitivity rep. I hope it’s good.

 

And here are my August picks!

Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert

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

Release date: 8/7/2018
Format: Kindle
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0785LQ7NH/

This book has the teen pregnancy storyline that I love AND it combines it with another one of my favorites: teen musicians. I can’t wait.

#MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil

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

Release date: 8/7/2018
Format: Kindle
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/MurderTrending-Gretchen-McNeil-ebook/dp/B077XMXRN6/

I first heard of this book through a library webinar, and I was instantly intrigued. I hope it’s a little bit scary. I like scary stuff!

Our Stories, Our Voices Anthology

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

Release date: 8/14/2018
Format: Kindle
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Our-Stories-Voices-Injustice-Empowerment-ebook/dp/B075RSWTSY/

I really love essays, and this anthology has them from some of my very favorites. Yes, please!

To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

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

Release date: 8/21/2018
Format: Kindle
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Be-Honest-Maggie-Ann-Martin-ebook/dp/B078X23DCX/

This book has been all over my timeline on Twitter lately, and I’m really excited about it. I hope it’s as good as people have been saying it is!

 

Are you preordering anything this month? Let’s talk in the comments!

ARC Review: Dark Screams: Volume Ten edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

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

Title: Dark Screams: Volume Ten

Editors: Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Category: Adult Horror Short Story Anthology

Publisher/Date: Random House (Hydra)/13 March 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35669193-dark-screams

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Dark-Screams-Brian-James-Freeman-ebook/dp/B072SSVKBF/

Simon Clark, Clive Barker, Heather Herrman, Wrath James White, Marc Rains, Lisa Tuttle, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch unleash the terrifying truths behind love, loyalty, and obsession in a sextet of twisted tales presented by preeminent horror editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. This book has content warnings for violence, war violence, death, child death, gun violence/shootings, and homomisia.

After really enjoying the ARC of Dark Screams: Volume Nine a while ago, I was really looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much as I’d enjoyed the previous volume in the series. I feel like this was largely because the first story of the anthology, “Bastion” by Simon Clark, took up a full 50% of the length of the entire anthology, and I didn’t care for it at all. It felt under-developed for its size, and I thought that a lot could be cut out of it without harming the story at all. If it really wanted to be something of a longer length, it could have gotten made into a novel with deeper character development and more worldbuilding. For its size, that story fell really flat with me — I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and there wasn’t enough explanation behind the war that was going on that these children were fighting for me to care. If a story is going to take up a full half of an anthology then it really needs to be something that shines, and this one didn’t do it for me.

I did enjoy several of the other stories; “The Woman in the Blue Dress” by Heather Herrman was a standout for me that was really creepy and connected with me really quickly. Likewise, “Seven Years” by Wrath James White was hard-hitting and powerful, and I really enjoyed it.

I didn’t run across any stories in this anthology that I truly disliked, but there were more stories that I felt ambivalent about than ones that I really enjoyed, and that was a bit disappointing. This anthology is a pretty quick read, and there are several stories that I would recommend. If you don’t like Simon Clark’s story, though, you might feel a bit disappointed with this one.

Final rating: 3 of 5 stars

ARC Review: Queerly Loving #2 Edited by G. Benson and Astrid Ohletz

Image of book cover from Queer PackTitle: Queerly Loving #2

Editors: G. Benson and Astrid Ohletz

Category: Short story anthology (LGBTQIAP+)

Publisher/Date: Queer Pack/15 February 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38217839-queerly-loving

Queer Pack: http://queer-pack.com/books/queerly-loving-anthology-volume-2/

In part two of Queerly Loving, our authors bring you short stories with characters across the fantastic queer spectrum, with endings that will leave you warm and smiling. Trans love interests, demisexual characters trying to find their way in the world, bisexual characters dealing with a heartbreak in the best way, and lesbians on escapades.

Dragons roar into life, dystopian futures unfold, mermaids enjoy space voyages, and modern-day adventures will curl your toes and make you cheer. There are first kisses, friends that are like kin, and aromantic characters discovering their place among a queer-normative family.

Get ready for your queer adventure. 

I received an eARC from M. Hollis, one of the authors in this anthology.

This book promises queer, and it gives you queer. Every single story in this anthology was wonderful for me; a few stand out for me more than others, but I loved every tale here. You get a cute mix of genres in this anthology; there’s fantasy, post-apocalyptic, contemporary… There’s a little bit of something for everyone here.

There is a huge variety of types of queer characters throughout these stories; I loved how there were several nonbinary characters who used gender neutral pronouns other than they/them, and I loved how there were clearly-transitioning trans people as well. There are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual characters, among others; if you’re queer, chances are that there was at least one character somewhere in this anthology you could relate to. Because the authors themselves are all queer, a lot of care was clearly taken to make the queer representation in this book as wide as possible.

Though I loved all the stories in this anthology, I had a clear favorite: “Kin, Painted” by Penny Stirling. This story uses body painting as a metaphor for asexuality; the characters in the story all regularly adorn their bodies with painted designs, but the main character had tried many types of paint and could not find something that worked. Despite the paint not feeling right to them, they have to deal with people who do paint themselves telling them that they just haven’t found the right paint yet, and this leads to them experimenting with other types of art forms. The metaphor in this story really worked for me and the writing here was rich and detailed, and I just loved it.

Other highlights of the book include, dragons, pirates, mermaids, and supportive friendships (not all at the same time). There is so much to work with here, and all of these stories are excellent. I loved this anthology, and I’d really recommend it.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC Review: Dark Screams: Volume Nine edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

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

Title: Dark Screams: Volume Nine

Editors: Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Category: Adult Horror Short Story Anthology

Publisher/Date: Random House (Hydra)/9 January 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34884588-dark-screams

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Dark-Screams-Nine-Kelley-Armstrong-ebook/dp/B071RB1D9H/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513315767&sr=8-1&keywords=dark+screams+volume+9

Kelley Armstrong, Stewart O’Nan, Taylor Grant, Jonathan Moore, Peter Straub, and Lee Thomas weave six hair-raising yarns proving that appearances can be deceiving—and deadly—in this horror anthology assembled by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

Overall, this was a great anthology! I love a good horror short story, and there were a bunch of them here. My three favorites:

  • “Invitation to the Game” by Kelley Armstrong was a VERY strong start to this anthology. The pacing was perfect, and the use of power imbalances was extremely powerful. I am so glad they put her story first in this collection.
  • “The Dead Years” by Taylor Grant was just creepy. It’s a story of lost love and doppelgängers that ends up being somewhat sweet with a huge dose of terrifying.
  • “Torn” by Lee Thomas tells the story of the aftermath of a young girl’s disappearance. This story was a bit longer and more of a slow burn, and it’s engaging through every page. (This story debatably has a “punishment for being gay” aspect to it; I don’t believe any homomisia was intended, and I still haven’t quite decided how I feel about this particular part of the story, but it could potentially be off-putting for other queer readers. There were also a couple of racial microaggressions; they didn’t feel that big to me while I was reading, but because I’m white I am not in a position to make that call.)

Overall, this was a solid anthology with some great stories that are worth reading.

Final rating: 4 of 5 stars.

ARC Review: Nevertheless, She Persisted edited by Mindy Klasky

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

Title: Nevertheless, She Persisted: A Book Café Anthology

Editor: Mindy Klasky

Category: Adult Science Fiction (Anthology)

Publisher/Date: Book View Café Publishing Cooperative/8 August 2017

Edition: ARC/eBook

Nineteen stories of triumph in the past, present, future, and other worlds.

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Those were the words of Mitch McConnell after he banned Senator Elizabeth Warren from speaking on the floor of the United States Senate. In reaction to the bitter partisanship in Trump’s United States of America, nineteen Book View Café authors celebrate women who persist through tales of triumph—in the past, present, future, and other worlds.

From the halls of Ancient Greece to the vast space between stars, each story illustrates tenacity as women overcome challenges—from society, from beloved family and friends, and even from their own fears. These strong heroines explore the humor and tragedy of persistence in stories that range from romance to historical fiction, from fantasy to science fiction.

From tale to tale, every woman stands firm: a light against the darkness.

I received an ARC via LibraryThing. Content warnings for Mindy Klasky’s short story “Tumbling Blocks” for graphic depiction of rape of a teenager, and for Sara Stamey’s short story “Reset” for graphic depictions of domestic violence.

This anthology was just okay to me. It’s partially that the stories just weren’t to my taste, but none of them really stood out to me in particular as my favorites. I enjoyed many of them while I was reading, but out of nineteen stories I can really only tell you about a couple of them because the rest were kind of forgettable.

I felt largely disappointed for the lack of intersectional perspectives in this collection — while there are a couple of Jewish authors and one of the story featured polyamorous f/f characters (in a story that was just… weird…), as far as my search skills could tell me, all of the authors were white. In fact, there were more stories written by white men in this collection than by women of color (there was ONE story by a white man, but one story by a man is still more than zero by WOC). As an anthology that is marketed as an anthology of stories about women overcoming challenges, there is a huge lack of stories by the women who face the most discrimination in our current society.

I also really want to bring up the racism present in Irene Radford’s story “Den of Inequity.” This is a quote from the story (content warning for child rape mention):

“And these?” Angela spread three more photos in front of us, all men, different ages, different races, different economic groups determined by expense of haircut and clothing.

“Sorry. We get a lot of people through here, regulars as well as strangers. I don’t remember any of these men.” But the ancient Asian man wearing elaborate silk robes brocaded in gold resembled someone who had stumbled through the door and straight into the fire without bothering with a drink. He’d been convicted of raping eighteen children; five of them died. He couldn’t live with his crimes (addiction) any longer and sent himself straight to Hell. Almost a redeeming act, except he’d taken control of his death and not left it to the big man upstairs.

The middle-aged black man in a well-made off-the-rack suit had drunk his fair share of special beer, sobbing about the people he’d made homeless by embezzling their mortgage payments to the bank he worked for. Gabe had set him straight and told him how to set up a trust fund to repay those he’d duped.

Ariel had taken care of the blond man with slightly up-tilted eyes suggesting Slavic origins, who’d fallen into the trap of selling drugs to young teens. She’d found the right rehab and job training for him and ordered him into volunteer work helping the people he’d lured into the downward spiral of drug addiction and escalating crimes to pay for them. (44%)

First of all, it’s PRETTY obvious how the white man is treated here compared to the “Asian” man (whose actual race is never specified) and the Black man. The white man here had “fallen into [a] trap” while the men of color are responsible for their crimes. The white man is obviously not at fault here, according to the story, while the men of color are clearly fully responsible. The contrast here is stark and it pulled me out of the text.

Here’s a fun fact: this “Asian” man and Black man are the only “Asian” and Black characters in the entire anthology that are specified as such. Not just men. All characters.

The men aren’t the only ones who are treated like this in this story; a Mediterranean woman is described as having “olive skin and dark, exotic beauty” (45%). Considering women of color to be “exotic” is a common Western maneuver to “other” them, as they are essentially being told that they are strange compared to “non-exotic” (read: white) women. This minor character, as far as I can tell, is the only non-white woman present in the anthology outside of the “Past” section, which are all stories set centuries in the past.

When you’ve got nineteen stories in an anthology about empowering women, your only depictions of people of color should not rely on negative depictions and stereotypes. As individual stories, many of these stories are quite good; “Unmasking the Ancient Light” by Deborah J. Ross and “After Eden” by Gillian Polack (both of whom I believe are Jewish — kind of shows how much I felt intersectionality was needed in this collection) were clear standouts to me.

The individual stories in this anthology themselves, for the most part, were not the problem for me. The problem I had was how the collection was presented together. It’s not a bad thing for a feminist anthology to have stories about white characters; it is a bad thing when almost all of the characters are white. This anthology rang a little too “white feminist” for me, and it could have been done better.

Final rating: 3 of 5 stars