top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things that Make Me Want to Read a Book

toptentuesdayIt’s time for Top Ten Tuesday, and today’s topic is “top ten things that instantly make me want to read a book.”

The truth is, I’m quite picky about my books. There’s almost nothing that will guarantee I’ll read a book. I’ll add anything that looks interesting to my TBR, but then read something I’ve never even heard of instead, because it caught my eye or just happened to be in at the library when I needed something to read.

  1. urban fantasy
    I’m a sucker for urban fantasy, but I’ve gotten picky in my own age. Still, I feel like this deserves a mention because for years, I would read anything in the “urban fantasy” genre, regardless of quality.
  2. microhistories
    I love microhistories? Seriously, they are my jam right now. I’ve read histories of single women in America, swearing, heterosexuality, the Boston molasses flood, Superman, colors, Beanie Babies, and I’m always looking for more. I love the way microhistories bring history into focus, drawing connections between major events and everyday lives.
  3. exiles from Narnia
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    I love this stuff. What happens to you after you’ve been the protagonist of a fantasy novel, and have to return to the real world? Something like Every Heart a Doorway, or The Whisper, and I’m already excited about the 2018 release The Weight of Worlds. (I used to love The Magicians, but now I do not.)
  4. fun story time reads
    Some books are meant to be private reading, and that’s OK. Some books are best for parents to read to their children at night before bed, but aren’t great for a librarian to read to a whole class. That’s OK, too. But if a book is a good read aloud for me to share with 20+ kids during class story time? Perfect. My favorite kinds of chapter books to read out loud with kids are voice-y first person narratives, or adventure stories. Our current class reads are Capture the Flag and From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.
  5. graphic novels
    Sometimes, you want to sit down and get through an entire story in one sitting. And if you’re a slow reader like me (it’s true), then sometimes the best way to get that kick is graphic novels. Graphic novels are really having a heyday right now, so there’s some good stuff out there. Boxers & Saints was a gut punch. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant was a delightful romp. I can’t wait until the new Lumberjanes gets to the library.
  6. it’s something new (to me)
    One of my favorite books of the 2016-2017 school year so far is Dear Mrs. Naidu, which is set in India and written by an Indian author. What do I know about school life in India? Nothing. I loved this book for so many reasons, and one of those reasons was that it was just unlike anything else I’ve read, even though I’ve read school stories before! Or Akata Witch, like, I love fantasy, but I’ve never read a fantasy story set in Nigeria before.
  7. it’s there at the right time 

    1039Buying books is expensive. Buying English-language books in Japan is even more expensive. Plus, I live in a small apartment and I’m not sure I’ll live here forever, so I don’t buy every book I want to read. I wait for them to come in, either at the library where I work or on the Overdrive sites for CLAMS or Boston Public Library. So sometimes, I just read whatever’s available right at that moment and looks interesting.

  8. recommended by someone whose taste in books I trust
    This is exactly what it sounds like. If a book gets a good review from someone whose taste in books I trust – whether that’s a professional reviewer or a friend with similar (or just very good) taste, then I’m much more likely to pick it up.
  9. LESBIANS! 🏳️‍🌈  (or really any queer women)
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    I had a few books about queer people when I was in high school, but most of them were bad (LunaWhat Happened to Lani Garver) or fanservice-y (my entire BL collection), and I still feel like I’m making up for lost time. This is how I found both my 2016 favorite, Not Your Sidekick, and my 2017 unfavorite, We Awaken.
  10. rereads
    love rereading books. It is perhaps one of the chief pleasures of reading for me. There’s nothing better than snuggling up with an old favorite. I listen to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the dentist and pick up Redwall or Lord of the Rings when I’m nostalgic.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

irregular review

Irregular Review: We Awaken

Reviewer’s note: This book was so bad I had an easier time writing “The Good” than “The Bad.” Why? ‘Cause I had no idea where to start. There was so much, and I kept thinking, that’s it, I’m finally done and I’d remember some other flaw.

This would’ve ended up in A Disappointment of DNFs, but by the time I realized it was never getting good, I was in so deep I just had to read to the end so I could give it the drag it deserves.

Please note that this review contains spoilers and one dirty word.

30341730We Awaken
Calista Lynne
★☆☆☆☆ (I didn’t like it.)

The Good

“Diversity isn’t a substitute for story and style.”

I’ve heard this around, but I was like, “nobody’s saying that!”

Well… Sorry, but somebody at Harmony Ink Press is saying that. I picked up this book because I kept seeing it rec’d for asexuality! lesbians! asexual lesbians! an interracial lesbian asexual romance!

As an asexual lesbian, I was pretty excited about this because I don’t think I’ve ever read a story about an asexual lesbian that I didn’t write.

(Edit: I take it back. I didn’t realize that Afterworlds is, apparently, ace spec f/f.)

…and then! it got that gorgeous cover, and the blurb on the back (well, on Goodreads) mentioned some of my all time favorite tropes: shared dreamscapes and imaginary or fantastical people coming into the real world, like a reverse portal fantasy. (Some day, we’ll sit down and I’ll tell you how much I love multiverse stories.)

So I was pretty excited about this book. Not, like, “it can never live up to how good I imagine it” excited (like how I feel about book to film adaptations), but, you know, a little hype. #hereforthis, and all that.

Then I, you know, actually started reading.

The Bad

Let’s start on a technical level: this book needed to be edited at least three more times. It felt like an early draft, and there were some weird usage errors that felt like the author was trying to show off… and failing. Like the time when she wrote “There had to be a catch-22” when she meant “there had to be a catch.”

I also screencapped “crocheted quilt,” but I let it slide, because there is such a thing but I’m pretty sure the author was talking about a granny square afghan. (As a quilter and crocheter, this annoyed the snot out of me.)

Unfortunately, the story structure suffered from the same lack of care and craft.

Ashlinn exits the dreamworld, apparently for the first time, to rescue Victoria from a possible suicide attempt. (She takes pills so she can sleep and visit Ashlinn in the dreamworld.) There were so many things wrong with this scene: (In no particular order.)

  • If you’re getting rid of pills someone is using to self-harm or possibly die by suicide, do not just throw them in the trash. Flush them.
  • Victoria is never encouraged to seek therapy. She took the sleeping pills so she could see Ashlinn, so it’s cool? She was willing to risk death in order to see her girlfriend. We called that out when Bella was cliff diving (or whatever? sorry, I never actually read past Twilight) and I’m calling it out here.
  • Why has Ashlinn chosen Victoria? It’s clear from her reactions to the real/waking world that she has never been here. If she’s an immortal, ageless creature, why now? Why Victoria?
  • How does she travel between worlds? Like I said earlier, I love portal fantasies, but there has to be a mechanism, a doorway – and a good portal fantasy has a price to pay for going back and forth. Ashlinn has this power, which she has apparently never used before, but it is never explained.

That’s just one scene. The problem of Ashlinn’s ability to travel between the dream- and waking- worlds is never addressed, except when they suddenly – very suddenly – realize, oops!, without Ashlinn to make good dreams, everyone is just having nightmares! We can infer from that that Ashlinn has never done this before, but why not? What’s so special about Victoria? Is she the first other asexual lesbian to ever exist?

(Hi.)

Speaking of asexuality… I wanted a story, not a textbook. Is this story for aces? ‘Cause it didn’t feel like it. It felt like Asexuality 101, complete with the antagonist, Semira, and the supposed best friend, whose name I have forgotten, making anti-ace comments just so Ashlinn or Victoria could correct them.

What was even up with the bestie, anyway? She was supposed to be this SJW-type, but she had never heard of asexuality and kept making very early ‘00s anti-ace comments, like comparing asexuality to plants and saying “well, you don’t know until you’ve tried.” If she’s so woke, wouldn’t she know?

… seriously, tho, as an ace person? I don’t really love reading books filled with microaggressions.

Something else about me: I’ve been half an orphan for half my life. My dad died when I was just a little younger than Victoria is when her dad’s in the car crash with her brother, Rhys. (Was it Rhys? I can’t remember. That’s how little I cared.) Victoria’s father died on impact, but her brother survived. He’s in a coma, and he’s never getting better. When she first meets Ashlinn, Ashlinn’s heard about her – from Rhys. (I’m just gonna keep calling him that.) Since he’s in a coma, he’s trapped in dreamland, so Ashlinn visits him a lot.

At the end, Ashlinn’s conundrum –  stay in the human world with her girlfriend, or go back and keep up her duty as the giver of good dreams – is resolved when Rhys chooses to die and become the new “sandman,” bringer of good dreams. So he’ll be dead, but he can still visit Victoria in dreams!

Wow? Okay, honestly? It’s four-letter word time: Fuck you.

I used to dream about my dad coming back from the dead, but you know what? That can never happen, because he’s dead. This was a sappy, cheap, sentimental ending. It was an insult to readers, like me, who have lost family members.

Oh, oh, and: We’re left with Ashlinn in the real world and we never even get to delve into the fun stuff of crafting an identity and a future for her as a human. She has no Social Security number, no high school diploma, nothing. How will she live in the waking world? What if she and Victoria break up someday? Like I said, “fantasy person in mundane world” is one of my favorite tropes and it was completely skipped over! That’s more of a “my personal opinion” thing than a legitimate criticism.

Honestly, this book was so poorly edited that I’m put off Harmony Ink Press. I admire their mission, but I can’t help but feel that underdeveloped, shoddily written, poorly edited stories like this just reinforce the idea that diversity isn’t quality. Oops?

Judging a Book by Its Cover

The cover is the best thing about this book. It is beautiful.

… but, as a selling point, it doesn’t tell me anything about the story.

tl;dr

I recommended this to a friend who loves ballet, like “asexual lesbian ballet dancer romance!!!” and then the sorta suicide happened and I was like “just so you know… I’m not withdrawing my recommendation, just giving you a heads-up” and then I finished it and I was like “nvm, I am withdrawing my rec.” He asked me why, like, did something happen?

“No. It was just bad.”

If you want a nice YA lesbian romance, try Not Your Sidekick instead.

year in review

2016 Round-Up: Poetry

I started reading poetry in 2016.

No, I’m serious. I thought I hated it. Turns out, I was just reading bad poetry. It was a case of “it’s not me, it’s you” and I just didn’t know it yet.

Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out, Richard Siken (Crush)

                                    For a while I thought I was the dragon.
I guess I can tell you that now. And, for a while, I thought I was
the princess,
cotton candy pink, sitting there in my room, in the tower of the castle,
young and beautiful and in love and waiting for you with
confidence
but the princess looks into her mirror and only sees the princess,
while I’m out here, slogging through the mud, breathing fire,
and getting stabbed to death.
Okay, so I’m the dragon. Big deal.


The Doorway
, Lev Mirov (Pedestal Magazine)

I wake alone, all dry, in the bed where I spend all my dreaming.
In another, star-dusted country, dripping, the Captain spits sea water
though he is miles from the shore, and tries to shake off the cold.
The droplets fall wet like tears across the boundary we were never meant to cross.
I only wanted to be where you are, I say—
though we cannot possibly hear each other, he says: I know.

Try to Praise the Mutilated World, Adam Zagajewski (translated by Clare Cavanagh)

You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.


The Changeling’s Lament
, Shira Lipkin (Stone Telling)

I am an anthropologist in the field of girl.
I study
but none of it
ever comes
naturally.

… and the winner is: “Try to Praise the Mutilated World.” I’ve read it a million times this year. After Election Day, I printed it out and taped it to my desk and invited my shell shocked coworkers to read it. I repeated in my head like a mantra: “You must praise the mutilated world.”

year in review

2016 Round-Up: Short Stories

Happy New Year, and 久しぶり*!
*”long time, no see”

Starting today, I’ll be doing a round up of the best short stories, poetry, and finally, books I read in 2016.

Betty and the Squelchy Saurus, by Caroline M. Yoachim (Fireside Fiction)

(1) Closets and under the beds are monster territory. Children may obtain items from the closets during daylight hours, as long as they knock before entering. Items that fall under the bed should be considered lost forever.
(2) Monsters must not be seen during daylight hours. Monsters are free to roam the orphanage at any hour of the day or night, so long as they are not seen.
(3) Monsters may not eat children during daylight hours.
(4) Monsters may eat children at night ONLY if the child (or any portion thereof) leaves the safety of its bed.
(5) Children may ask adults to check for monsters under the bed or inside the closet. However:
(6) Children may not, under any circumstances, request that an adult drag a monster out of its territory to shoot or otherwise kill the monster. Violation of rule No. 6 will release the monsters from the terms of this treaty.


If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love
, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine)

If you were a dinosaur, my love, then you would be a T-Rex. You’d be a small one, only five feet, ten inches, the same height as human-you. You’d be fragile-boned and you’d walk with as delicate and polite a gait as you could manage on massive talons. Your eyes would gaze gently from beneath your bony brow-ridge.


Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass
, Jeremiah Tolbert (Lightspeed)

“All my life! All my life, I’ve read stories about fantasy worlds. I used to dream about being whisked away to my real parents, to where I really belonged.” Langford offered a tissue, and she daubed at her tears with it. “When the rabbit holes opened, I thought it was only a matter of time. I looked everywhere, but I couldn’t find mine.”

She shouted it, didn’t care who heard her now:
“IT’S! NOT! FAIR!”

He nodded, let her cry for a moment, and then said quietly, “I bet that made you feel like a real Susan Pevensie.”
“Exactly! What did I do to deserve being left behind? At first, it was about escape. It’s all I ever dreamed about, you know? But now, it’s about—”

“Feeling abandoned.”

If I had to pick a favorite, I would, hands down, give that award to “Not By Wardrobe…” which is the only short story of 2016 that got it’s own entry in my personal blog, complete with excerpt.

My goal was to read at least one short story a week. That… didn’t always happen, but I’m making it a priority for 2017. This time next year, I should have more short stories to choose from to share with you.

DNF'd

A Disappointment of DNFs: Radical Self Love

25559480 Radical Self Love: A Guide to Loving Yourself and Living Your Dream by Gala Darling is this month’s addition to the disappointment of DNFs.

Goodreads summary:

Have you ever dreamed of a life full of laughter, love and sequins… But felt totally clueless about how to make it happen? You’re not alone. I spent years in soul-sucking jobs, battling depression, an eating disorder, and a preference for chaos and disaster, simply because I didn’t know how to create the life I dreamed about.
In RADICAL SELF LOVE, you’ll begin to discover exactly what makes you so magnificent, and you’ll uncover a litany of tools and techniques to help you manifest a life that bursts with magic, bliss and adventure.

“How much of a book do you have to read before you can consider it ‘Read’?”

I’m about ¾ of the way through Radical Self Love (and I skipped the sex and relationships chapter, because I’m asexual and single) and I just don’t see it improving. I tried. I really did.

I used to read the author’s blog in 2007, and from her book, it sounds like she hasn’t grown up at all. That was nine years ago, and she still uses way, way too many exclamation points. While reading, I thought to myself, Wow, it’s a good thing I don’t drink, because “take a shot every time she uses an exclamation point” would probably kill a horse.

I should’ve known then to give it up and put it down, but I slogged on. “Slog” is a word I should never use to describe reading someone who isn’t Michel Foucault or Judtih Butler. I should be breezing through a cotton candy book like this, not slogging.

… but, slog I did. I guess I kept hoping it would get better? I was really looking forward to the “Daily Magic” section, because I’m into this whole witch aesthetic but I’m not especially magical myself.

I went in expecting tarot and crystals. What I got was the law of attraction, and let me tell you, that is some serious B.S.

Another blog I used to read, Feministing, has a good post up about the victim blaming inherent in the law of attraction. Darling says at one point that, if you’re assaulted or abused, it’s not your fault because “nobody asks for that,” but a chapter later says that if your relationship with your boyfriend is bad, it’s because you unconsciously want to “prove” to yourself that men are untrustworthy.

What I wanted to talk about, re: the law of attraction, is what it does to my obsessive-compulsive problems. Two years ago, I wrote about how I’m “a little OCD.” Well, one feature of my obsessive thoughts is that “bad things will happen if I think bad thoughts.” Since that is, essentially, wha the law of attraction is all about – usually phrased/framed the other way, “good things will happen if you think good thoughts” – it is bad, bad news for my mental illness.

I’m in a safe place now. I don’t think God will kill my cat if I think a mean thought about a stranger, but I really don’t need any encouragement in that direction, either.

Self help should help.

 

diversity spotlight

Diversity Spotlight Thursday: October 3, 2016

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The Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste

Goodreads summary: Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?

When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home.

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28502749.jpg Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History, by Kate Schatz

Goodreads summary: In Rad Women Worldwide, writer Kate Schatz and artist Miriam Klein Stahl tell fresh, engaging, and inspiring tales of perseverance and radical success by pairing well researched and riveting biographies with powerful and expressive cut-paper portraits. Featuring an array of diverse figures from Hatshepsut (the great female king who ruled Egypt peacefully for two decades) and Malala Yousafzi (the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize) to Poly Styrene (legendary teenage punk and lead singer of X-Ray Spex) and Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft (polar explorers and the first women to cross Antarctica), this progressive and visually arresting book is a compelling addition to women’s history.

 

A mysterious benefactor donated this to the library earlier this week and I can’t wait to read it.

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly book blogging meme hosted by Bookshelves & Paperbacks.

this week in books

This Week in Books: October 27-November 2

THEN: The Answer, by Rebecca Sugar

The only book I’ve read since last week’s slump was the Steven Universe tie-in picture book, The Answer. (I reviewed it here.)

NOW: The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women. by Jessica Valenti

I’ve been meaning to read The Purity Myth more-or-less since it came out in 2007 and somehow, I never got around to it until now. (I love library ebooks.) I’m glad her memoir, Sex Object, didn’t turn me off from her writing. If I hadn’t meant to read this for so long, would I have picked it up after that? I don’t know.

This has been a good read. I’m back on my “women’s studies 101” kick.

NEXT: The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien; Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed

Both of these came in from on hold a little too late, but I think I’ll read them anyway.

I have a lot of sewing to do if I’m going to get these Christmas presents finished on time, so The Lord of the Rings audiobook will be good for that – though I doubt I can get through the whole thing in the two week borrowing limit.

Tiny Beautiful Things is a re-read. I wanted some self-help to read over my autumn vacation, but since Radical Self-Love was such a let-down, I decided to go back to an oldie but goodie that I knew wouldn’t disappoint.

This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost & Found.