Top Ten Tuesday: Best Reads of 2018 (So Far!)

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 Best Reads of 2018 (So Far!). I’ve read a lot of amazing books this year so this list was difficult to make, but it reminded me of just how many amazing books I’ve come across recently!

10.) Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

This is a truly nerdy book, and the fact that it takes place in the area where I live and grew up made this book a really fun read for me!

9.) The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno  

This one was recommended by my friend Silly Little Ravenclaw for its excellent Dissociative Identity Disorder rep, and it did not disappoint!

8.) Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White by Michael Tisserand

A fantastic biography of an excellent comics artist, this book was probably the best nonfiction book I’ve read in quite a while.

7.) American Panda by Gloria Chao

Funny, relatable, and absolutely charming, this book hit on so many early adulthood notes that felt so true to me.

6.) Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen

I came to this book for the cats, and I stayed for the mental illness rep. This comic was so relatable and funny, and I definitely read it at the right time.

5.) Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Talk about a gut-punch. This book hurts to read, but it’s cathartic at the same time, and it’s well worth it.

4.) You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon 

This is another one of those books that hurts to read, and it is so, so worth it. The sibling and family relationships in this book make it truly something special.

3.) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

I was on the waitlist at the library for this book for nearly half a year because of how many good things I’d heard about it, and it was worth the wait. Wow. Just wow.

2.) Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

This book felt personal to me for a number of reasons, from the characters to the writing. This is one of the books I most frequently recommend to others, for sure.

1.) Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

I have a thing for books that hurt me, apparently. This book hurts. It hurts BAD. And it’s just perfect.

What are some of your favorite reads of 2018 so far? Does your list overlap with mine at all? Let me know in the comments!

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?

I Hate The Phrase “Character Just Happens To Be X-Marginalization,” And Here’s Why

This was originally posted as a discussion post for the class LIS 566: Resources for Digital Age Teens at the UW iSchool in Winter 2018. I really liked this post and I put a lot of thought into it, and I wanted to share it here as well.

I have somewhat of an unpopular opinion: I don’t believe that we should be upholding characters who “just happen to be X-marginalization” as the ideal for characters in YA literature.

The reason I don’t like this phrasing? If a character holds a marginalized identity, that identity is ingrained in their character. It is essential to who they are, and it affects how they live their everyday lives. For instance, my life isn’t about my ADHD, my OCD, or my other mental illnesses, but they are essential to how I approach things in life because they make me think differently from how neurotypicals think. My life isn’t about my queerness, but my constant code-switching between closeted, semi-closeted, and not closeted affects me in ways that non-queer people never have to think about. I just read Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy, and the Black love interest character had to explain to the white main character why she doesn’t have to think as hard about trespassing on the property of a gun-owner as he does because he is astronomically more likely than she is to actually get shot.

By saying a character “just happens to be X-marginalization,” we are implying that even though they are part of group X, they still act “normal” — “normal” is usually implied to be non-queer, non-disabled, and white because that’s what dominates publishing. If their marginalizations do not actually affect their lives even the tiniest little bit, are they really part of that marginalization? If we make “just happens to be” the standard and these characters’ marginalizations do barely affect their lives, then what kind of message are we sending to teens who share those marginalizations and want to see them fully-fleshed out on the page?

A book about a marginalized identity is a different thing entirely; if a book is just about the identity itself, then it’s not really a story. It’s also not the ideal because we don’t need diverse books to educate non-diverse people; we need diverse books to show marginalized teens that we have good books that have characters like them that they can relate to and love. We need stories about these characters with these identities, not about the identities.

I believe the ideal shouldn’t be characters that “just happen to be X-marginalization;” I believe the ideal should be characters that embrace being X-marginalization. I want more books like You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon, which has Jewish twins in a bilingual Hebrew-speaking household (set in Seattle!) who are dealing with the prospect of terminal illness and the slow loss of their mother and first love and constant fighting between each other. I want books like Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh (out on January 23rd) that have badass bisexual necromancers who are dealing with grief and addiction and the humongous task of protecting their city. I want books like North of Happy by Adi Alsaid that have a Mexican main character dealing with grief and loss and love and a heavy desire to cook (also set in Seattle!). I want characters who are unapologetically themselves, letting their identities affect them in the way that fits them. This can mean different things to different characters; characters can be unapologetically Muslim whether they choose to wear a hijab or not; You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone has one twin who embraces both her Jewish heritage and Jewish religion while the other embraces her heritage but not the religion.

(All of these books are amazing, by the way, and you should totally read them!)

By saying that a character “just happens to be X-marginalization,” we’re telling the teens who share that marginalization that we don’t believe that their marginalization is important to the book. I don’t think that this is the message we want to be sending to them; do we really want to be sharing the message that we care more about whether the general public can “relate” to a character than they relate to a character?

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

January 2018 Preorders!

As I’d mentioned in a previous post, I’m going to be preordering books month-by-month this year so that I can keep better track of what I’m buying! I have preordered five books for January, and I’m really excited for them. Here’s what I’m getting!

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

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 2 January 2018
Format: Hardcover
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Youll-Miss-Me-When-Gone/dp/1481497731/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514630816&sr=1-1&keywords=you%27ll+miss+me+when+i%27m+gone

I’ve only been aware of this book’s existence for less than a week, and I am extremely excited about it. I love stories about sibling relationships, and this books explores the relationship between these twins as they grapple with love, their Jewish identities, and the potential threat Huntington’s disease. I can’t wait until this arrives this week!

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

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Release date: 2 January 2018
Format: ebook
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Before-Let-Go-Marieke-Nijkamp/dp/1492642282/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514630861&sr=1-1&keywords=before+i+let+go

Friendship stories are also high on my list, and this story deals with the loss of a best friend and small town secrets surrounding her death. The MC is also asexual, there are several other queer characters in the book, and it also has mental illness rep, which sounds fantastic.

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 16 January 2018
Format: ebook
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Love-Other-Filters-Samira-Ahmed/dp/1616958472/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514630717&sr=1-1&keywords=love+hate+and+other+filters

I have heard nothing but good things about this book, and it sounds wonderful. An Indian-American Muslim teen grapples with her personal life and future while coping with anti-Islam sentiments from her community spurred by a crime that happens elsewhere in the country. It’s a story about belonging and finding yourself, and I can’t wait to read it.

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 23 January 2018
Format: Hardcover
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Lets-Talk-About-Love-Claire/dp/1250136121/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514630765&sr=1-1&keywords=let%27s+talk+about+love

Who wants a love story featuring a Black, asexual, biromantic teen? I sure do! The cover is gorgeous, the story sounds fluffy and fun, and I cannot wait to dive into this one. (Additionally, I’m choosing to read this book for my YA resources class this term! The release timing is just right for reading it for a specific module, and I’m excited to discuss it with my classmates.)

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Release date: 23 January 2018
Format: Hardcover
Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Reign-Fallen-Sarah-Glenn-Marsh/dp/0448494396/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514794056&sr=8-1&keywords=reign+of+the+fallen

I was fortunate enough to get an eARC of this book, and I just adored it. Review coming soon, but just know that the MC is a bisexual necromancer and I love her.

 

Are you preordering any books for January? What new releases are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments!