January 2018 Wrap-up!

So, I just want to start off this post with a few stats:

  • Number of posts in January: 20 (including this one)
  • Number of review posts in January: 7
  • Number of non-review posts in January: 13 (including this one)
  • Number of non-review posts in January that have an exclamation point in the title: 8 (including this one…)

I may need to cool it on the exclamation points just a BIT.

Anyways, this was a big blogging month for me. For a large part of the month before school hit me hard, I was posting daily, and even after that I managed to post at least twice a week. Considering how sparsely I’d been posting through all of 2017 despite starting this blog in January of last year, I feel like I’ve done a great job of getting myself in more of a routine with blogging. I still need to work on that, but it’s a start. In January 2018 alone, I almost doubled both the number of posts I’ve written AND how many page views I’ve gotten on the blog — doubling my stats from the entirety of last year. My blog is still really small, but that felt like a huge accomplishment.

Reads for January

This was a big reading month for me, too! Here’s all I read in January:

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp — 3.5 of 5 stars — review here!

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson — 4 of 5 stars — For class, so one of my only permitted rereads. Review here!

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo — 3 of 5 stars — review here!

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon — 5 of 5 stars — review here!

One Last Word by Nikki Grimes — 5 of 5 stars — an excellent poetry collection I read for class.

Hillary Rodham Clinton by Karen Blumenthal — 5 of 5 stars — a great biography with really nice writing.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy — 4.5 of 5 stars — review here!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — 5 of 5 stars — I was fortunate enough to have been assigned this book for class, so I got to bypass my “no rereads” policy to read it again. One of my favorites.

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed — 5 of 5 stars — one of my favorites of the month. Don’t pass this one up. Review forthcoming!

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth — 4 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

Down In The Belly Of The Whale by Kelley Kay Bowles (ARC) — 1 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

See All The Stars by Kit Frick (ARC) — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green (ARC) — 3 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding (ARC) — 4.5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Cat Encyclopedia for Kids by Joanne Mattern (ARC) — 3 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci — 2 of 5 stars — library book that fell flat for me. It was weird and I don’t even want to review it because I don’t care enough.

Krazy: George Herriman, A Life In Black And White by Michael Tisserand — 5 of 5 stars — wonderful biography of one of my favorite comics creators. Review forthcoming!

Queerly Loving #2 edited by G Benson and Astrid Ohletz (ARC) — 5 of 5 stars — a wonderful anthology of queer stories. Review forthcoming!

Reading stats:

  • Number of books read: 20
  • Number of books read during the 24 in 48 Readathon: 10
  • Number of nonfiction books: 3
  • Number of ARCs: 6
  • Number of books by marginalized authors: ~13
  • Number of books read for class: 6
  • Number of library books: 5

It’s worth noting that almost all of the books I read that weren’t by marginalized authors were either ARCs I received or books I read for class. I really like supporting marginalized authors, so I’m happy with that number.

I clearly have a lot of reviews I need to write still! This is largely because all of those books were either read during or right before the 24 in 48 Readathon, and if I’d been reviewing as I went during the readathon there was no way I could have finished it. It’s okay, though — you’ll see those reviews in the coming months!

On The Personal Side…

January was a pretty okay month for me. I took a few risks that were at least worth taking even if they don’t pay off, and I have some great ideas for new projects. I want to write a cute YA romance between two enbies, one who is very secure with who they are and one who is questioning her gender, and I also want to design an independent study course for the final term of my master’s degree on library resources for comics studies. I really hope that works out!

I am just a few short months away from graduating with my master’s, which is weird. This is my 20th consecutive academic year since I first started going to preschool in fall of ’98, and since I don’t currently have plans to get another degree after I finish this one, I’m looking at an actual break from academia for the first time in two decades starting in June. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet. On the one hand, school is stressful, but on the other I don’t really know anything else.

February is the month where I hope that I can fine-tune my new plans for an actual blog post calendar, and the month where I hope to do more of my own writing. I want it to be a great month!

How was your January? Did you read anything you just adored? Do you have any cool February goals or plans?

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.