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?

Top Ten Tuesday: Queer Couples!

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 a love freebie, and so I’m choosing to focus on queer couples from my 2017 and 2018 reads this week! Here are my favorites:

10.) The Peskin-Suso Moms, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Cassie and Molly Peskin-Suso’s moms are on the shortlist of my favorite book parents ever, and while they weren’t main characters I still felt that they deserved a place on this list.

9.) Andrew and Rusty, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

Andrew and Rusty didn’t have a perfect relationship in the hospital, but I really loved how their relationship played out later. Had we seen more of the healthy elements, I would have put them further up on this list.

8.) Ramona and Freddie, Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Overall I really loved Ramona and Freddie; Ramona was still figuring her sexuality out, and Freddie tried to support her as much as he could. They’re lower on this list because Freddie’s ignorance bugged me a few times, but overall I really liked them.

7.) Echo and Zara, Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

Echo and Zara had quite a bit going on behind the scenes (pardon the pun) during their relationship… They weren’t perfect, but they had great chemistry and were a nice pair.

6.) Odessa and Meredy, Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Odessa and Meredy had an adorable hate-to-love romance. They had several issues to start with, but their bonding and chemistry was really touching.

5.) Alice and Takumi, Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Alice and Takumi are just adorable. They were really sweet together and made a solid effort to figure out how to make the relationship work as well as it could for them. They were respectful and very, very sweet.

4.) Grace and Eva, How To Make A Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

Grace and Eva’s chemistry captivated me from the first page they shared together. I loved all of the sneaking around into lighthouses and the bonding they did through their struggles in their lives.

3.) Taylor, Theo, and Josey, 3 by Hannah Moskowitz

Best. Trio. Ever. Did I want to be there with these three wonderful characters as their story progressed? Yes. Yes I did.

2.) Simon and Blue, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Is there really any question about this one?

1.) Rufus and Mateo, They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

Rufus and Mateo stole my heart and then made me cry. Thanks, Silvera.

Who are your favorite queer couples in books? Let me know in the comments!

Review: You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon

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

Title: You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone

Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon

Category: YA Contemporary

Publisher/Date: Simon Pulse/2 January 2018

Edition: Hardcover

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30339479-you-ll-miss-me-when-i-m-gone

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Youll-Miss-Me-When-Gone/dp/1481497731/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515399866&sr=8-1

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/youll-miss-me-when-im-gone-rachel-lynn-solomon/1126512010?ean=9781481497732#/

Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters. 

This book has content warnings for suicidal ideation and self-harm.

Wow. I don’t even know where to start with this book. I’ll just go with the words “exceeds expectations” and then try to work from there.

The tension in this book is so thick that you could cut it with a knife. The dueling points-of-view between the twins shows just how much they misunderstand each other, and while it feels frustrating while you’re reading it it also makes their worlds make that much more sense to you. That’s kind of the point — they don’t understand each other, and they don’t know how to interact with each other because they don’t understand each other’s wants and needs. It’s a tense and complicated relationship, and it worked so well.

loved how central the family as a whole was to the story. Ima and Aba were caring and supportive, and while they didn’t always understand their children they did their best to listen and talk to them (something so often missing in YA). Also, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with bilingual Jewish rep in it and I’m loving it. Ima came to the US from Israel after serving in the Israeli army, and she and Aba speak both English and Hebrew with Adina and Tovah at home. Judaism is explored as both a religion and as an identity, and through the twins (and other Jewish characters like Zack) we were able to see a variety of ways in which Jewish people express themselves, especially as Adina questions her religion while still fully embracing her heritage. As someone who isn’t Jewish, I really loved getting this view of the family.

The mental health issues covered in this book were very relatable to me. I absolutely loved how anxiety and depression were depicted as illnesses that can cause very real physical symptoms in people; this is something that a lot of people tend to forget, and showing that they can be behind symptoms that seemingly point to another illness was refreshing. The portrayal felt very real to me, and it’s heartbreaking. I know little about Huntington’s Disease, but the portrayal appeared well-researched, honest and raw. The prospect of not knowing when you’ll develop a disease is terrifying, and I feel like this was well done.

(If you liked You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone and want more teenagers and parents dealing with early-onset illnesses and more Jewish characters (as well as Deaf characters and romance and terrifyingly challenging races), you might want to give Wild by Hannah Moskowitz a try! I definitely kept thinking of that book while I was reading this one.)

I loved how well-developed all of the characters in this book were — not a single character in this book came off as flat to me. The twins themselves were the most well-developed characters I’ve read in a while, and their parents were definitely some of the most well-written parents I’ve read period. The characters felt real and were well-grounded in the setting, and I love when books give me this feeling.

Also, I looked up Rhode Island School of Design’s mascot and I was not disappointed.

This was one of my most anticipated 2018 releases, and I was definitely not disappointed. This is a book that I would love to pick up again in the future!

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.