Happy New Year! The Reading Challenge specs

So, reading challenges.  This is the third year I have been using them to shape my quest to be well read.  And it has done that.

Now that the 2018 lists are out, my motivation to make plans on what to procure and read to meet these has started.

And I am realizing that there will be overlap now that I have done a few of them.   I have already read celebrity memoirs and tackled books I hated/abandoned in school (there were not many, that is how uncool I am when it really comes down to brass tacks), but they are rearing their ugly heads again on the new wave of challenges.

Which is just as well, because I am considering BookRiot’s 2018 list, but what I need to be doing is focusing more on getting writing done.  Not even getting it out there, just getting it done.  Reading more specifically for writing:  reading journals I might want to submit to, reading the best examples of the genre, reading books on writing, reading books that will help me inform me into writing.

But I got the whole freaking 2017 challenge done.  This is amazing not because of the amount of reading, only 24 books of the 85+ I made it through this year, but the amount of reading what I didn’t want to read.  I like books without pictures.  I like books about white people problems.  I can only do so many books that break my heart.  And these challenges want pictures and want me to think outside my world.  What!

BookRiot’s 2017 Read Harder Challenge:

A Book About Sports:  Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube:  Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North,  Blair Braverman

A Debut Novel:  The Book of Speculation, Erika Swyler

A Book About Books:  The Book Thief (finally!), Markus Zusak

A Book Set in Central/South America:  The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende

Read a Book by an Immigrant or a Central Immigration Narrative: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (also finally), Junot Diaz

Read An All Ages Comic:  Angry Birds Transformers

Read a Book Published Between 1900 and 1950:  The Green Mouse, Robert W. Chambers

Read a Travel Memoir:  Eat, Pray, Love (I can’t believe I still had not read it yet either), Elizabeth Gilbert

Read a Book You’ve Read Before: The Hundred Dresses, Eleanor Estes

Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location:  Death in Saratoga Springs, Charles O’Brien

Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location: Soy Sauce for Beginners (Also a personal Read Down): Kirsten Chen

Read a fantasy novel: The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss

Read a nonfiction book about technology: Forensics, Val MacDermid

Read a book about war: A God in Ruins (Also a Read Down), Kate Atkinson

Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,  Benjamin Alire Saenz

Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country: The Complete Persepolis (Also a personal Read Down), Marjane Satrapi

Read a classic by an author of color: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Nora Neale Hurston

Read a superhero comic with a female lead: Storm, Vol 1:  Make it Rain, Greg Pak, Victor Ibanez and Matteo Buffagni

Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey (From Daniel José Older, author of Salsa Nocturna, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, and YA novel Shadowshaper): A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin

Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean, author of ten bestselling historical romance novels): Drawn Together, Z.A. Maxfield

Read a book published by a micropress. (From Roxane Gay, bestselling author of AyitiAn Untamed StateBad Feminist, Marvel’s World of Wakanda, and the forthcoming Hunger and Difficult Women): A Tender Industrial Fabric, Tony Altman

Read a collection of stories by a woman. (From Celeste Ng, author Everything I Never Told You and the forthcoming Little Fires Everywhere): Interpreter of Maladies (Yeah for real I had not made it to this one either); Jhumpa Lahiri

Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. (From Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of the Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series, including The Unquiet DeadThe Language of Secrets, and the forthcoming Among the Ruins): King of a Hundred Horsemen, Marie Etienne

Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi, author of sci-fi novel Ascension): The Sellout, Paul Beatty

With it all listed out before me like this, I am realizing how many modern classics I was able to knock out this year, like Oscar, like Eat Pray Love, like The Book Thief.  I feel particularly good about that. I think I made it to discussing most, if not all of these on the blog as we got through the year.

They all brought me something new, like reading challenge books are meant to do, but I have not thought up any awards, any specific ways in which some books stood out this year and apart from the others.

Your reading challenges from 2017?

I have to think over what my 2018 is going to look like before I craft that post.  This year I also did a half marathon, two sprint triathlons, wrote 12 short stories, did a ten day writing challenge and knitted many of the things.  My craft projects need a good craft down.

Comments/shares/likes are always appreciated!

Happy New Year!

Christmas Reads: Because Thanksgiving is Over

My best friend is a firm believer that there is no Christmas until Thanksgiving is over.  This is because he is not a parent and he loves Thanksgiving infinitely more than he loves Christmas.

I don’t have the luxury of a statute of limitations.  If I don’t get a head start Christmas is even more exhausting than usual.  I have wrapped gifts downstairs and I have to get to PetSmart because my son asked Santa to be sure he brought things for the dog, so I have to keep the magic alive.

Christmas seems to be a falling in love season.  The first time I fell in love was the fall, but I get why seasonal Christmas reads have been focused around a couple finding love in the holiday of love and light.

And I have to admit the ones I discuss today helped me give romance novels a bit of a break. I want romance novels to end in healthy relationships, and both of these books end in healthy relationships where people are growing together as people.  And while there was sex, it wasn’t erotica.  And no wet panties. I don’t like discussions of wet panties.

Christmas under a starlit sky.jpg

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky, Holly Martin

So both of these Holly Martin books are set at Christmas, but Christmas does not feel as central to the plot as other holiday romances I have read.  Otherwise, though, I like her settings of remote British Isles that are vacay spots.  Vacay spots do increase the festivity rating of a book.

This one had more conflict in it than the other one I am reviewing.  There are two plotlines where the resolutions are drawn out longer.  I looked and it was written later than the other one, which makes sense that there are two distinct plot lines with the conflict heaped on, in contrast to the other.

One couple is trying to make something work after a breakup because the guy moves away to be an actor and another is trying to figure out if they can take a chance on love when it might turn long distance and they are both healing from other failed relationships. Both involve how to manage the long distance thing and I like that it does not always work out that the couple feels that their true place is home.  I get annoyed with authors who end romances with home being where people belong and not on their adventures.

But I liked the characters, I like that the women did not have to be movie star beautiful and they are competent and hard working and feel fulfilled by their work already.

christmas at lilac cottage.jpg

Christmas at Lilac Cottage, Holly Martin

I could definitely see that this was an earlier novel of hers, but sometimes a little less conflict is a good thing and it’s relaxing.  I like that her books involve family themes and wanting to be part of families.  I like finding Mr. Right instead of Mr. Right now or Mr. Wish FulFilment.  I mean these guys were good looking but they weren’t bad boys at hear and I have never been into bad boys. I like something easy and seasonal and fun.

This was just one plot line about a woman finding her place in a ready made family and the conflict was centered around that more than it was around poor behavior from the guy.

I would recommend both of these for curl up Christmas reads as a break from holiday bustle.  She has a lot of books out for low prices on Kindle, and they are series, so that makes it even easier to binge.

 

Happy kickoff to Christmas!  More holiday reads next week.

 

Comments/likes/shares!

I am grateful for Stephen King

I’ll admit some mixed feelings about November: it reminds me of how cold I am about to be for months and I have to re-acquaint myself to driving home every night in the dark.

But November is all about gratitude.  Practicing daily gratitude is a neuroscientifically supported practice in creating happiness.  What we think about, and thank about, we bring about.  I won’t expound here upon my layers of white privilege, but I try to remember it’s there in some superstitious hope that I won’t lose anything that I take time out to be thankful for.  Whatever, I can have my illusions.

Stephen King has not exactly made it onto my gratitude lists.  Ever.  Even last year when I did a thirty day gratitude journal with three different things every day for a month after I read Thank and Grow Rich.  I have been more neural toward prolific authors.  Possibly neutral with a dash of contempt.

I am sure Stephen King does not stay awake at night deeply concerned about my estimation of him.

But what turned it around for me was two of his books:  It, which I may have touched upon in a previous post because I read it in 2013, and On Writing, which I just finished on Friday.

It.jpg

It is a harder sell as far as gratitude, but I am grateful to him in this story because it was my first real experience of horror that crept into my brain, rather than being scary for more gory or base reasons.  I first watched the miniseries when I was nineteen and I first got to experience his specific brand of talented brain twisting. But then when I tackled his book in 2013, I loved the characters and the relationships in in their families and between each other, the life stories intertwined and their varied resulting fears used against them.

I remember my father reading It and then going to the movie and being disappointed that they left his favorite scene out of the movie.  I like memories of my parents being human, and memories that make me feel connected to them as people.

I am also mentioning him again today as a belated shout out to the new It movie, which I have not seen because I need to see it on a night where my husband is home so I can go to sleep after and I am not good at making time for movies, especially ones where I can’t watch with a five year old sponge scampering about.  It scared the crap out of me but here I am, back for more, back for the first scary thrill that he gave me.  You never forget your first time, right?

on writing.jpg

Who doesn’t love On Writing?  I have not combed the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, but it features in the blog posts I have seen about the best books for writers.  And it is true that it has good nuts and bolts of writing and that is important.  Another good nuts and bolts one that I first read when I started reading for writing advice was Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer:  A Guide for People Who Love Books and Those Who Want to Write Them.

But other than that, it came at an interesting time for me.  I did a ten day writing challenge on allaboutwriting.com and it was awesome.  Inspiring, fun, encouraging, got my wheels turning and refocused me a bit on writing, which is how many writers spend November.  I would recommend the course to anyone. I want to write more often so I picked it up to read during this ten day jaunt, which came at an otherwise busy time in my life as well.

Both the course and this book showed me I don’t have time right now to do the projects I eventually want to complete in my writing.  I wrote every day for ten days and got a post out, and I have more things to work on, but I had to trade in my exercise time to do this.  I am too vain, and too hooked on exercise, to give it up enough to be able to write as much as I would like to right now.  And I am grateful to Mr. King for validating how hard it is to work on writing when you have a day job that requires a good amount of brain space. He specifically mentioned the difficulty in writing on the side when you have a job that needs your brain.  He writes six hours a day.  I don’t have the time to do that.  But that is all right if I don’t right now.  I can still work on things, I just have to go easy on myself sometimes for not.  I could dial back other hobbies, like compulsive knitting while listening to books to write more. That might be a more appropriate sacrifice.  I mean, I can work out a little less often, but I missed it when I was using that time to write.   I had a few days that were just pure anxiety too in there and probably exercise would have helped that.  I got back to my first real workout in a week this morning and it felt great, even though I’ll be sore tomorrow.

Maybe I just need to stop being hard on myself, get better at reading books for writing more often and not spending all my time on fiction. My self imposed break from fiction definitely ended last night when I finished On Writing and immediately downloaded a book that I trusted would help me lose myself.  I took like 1-2 weeks off from reading fiction and I was gazing longingly at a specific shelf in the public library.  Like I used to look at a guy who broke my heart.  Who doesn’t read this blog.

So, this is my journey, and I am glad other authors are there both to twist my brain, show me new things, even if they make me scared, and to say hey, I get how hard it is to do the work of writing while you are doing the work of the rest of your life.  Thanks, Mr. King.

Comments/ likes/shares!  Next week I have an idea on deck that’s more like my typical posts.

 

Halloween Reads: Mashup

October is closing up in that annual flurry of candy that launches us into the holiday season.

My son is a skeleton T Rex this year, with a soft T Rex skull he pulls over his head.  He has been a lion, a viking, a bat, SpiderMan and now a T-Rex.  The first Halloween of his life he was a raisin strapped into a car seat and taken home by his already exhausted and certainly not out of maternity clothes mother.  I am resisting eating chocolate birthday cake while I am writing this.

The group of books I review for the actual Halloween weekend post don’t hang together as well as the books I posted about on the previous five weeks of these posts, because I read a whole lot like usual thinking I will find the threads as I go and then I ended up with one grouping that is threaded together well, which is actually going to be my post honoring the Day of the Dead halfway through this week, and this post of stragglers.  Books I intended to get to for scary reads last year but I did not make it to.  One that kept cropping up on blog posts about quintessential horror reads that were new this scary season.  So, I’ll write, maybe there will be a thread, maybe not.

the curse of crow hollow.jpg

The Curse of Crow Hollow, Billy Coffey

This did not get read last year and was one of the first that I plunged into for this year, especially since I already had the audio and a decent length car trip or two in there.

A mysterious illness overtakes some kids in an isolated Southern town following a night partying that inadvertently incurs the wrath of the town “witch” but unravels into additional layers of secrets and intrigues.

I believe this would count as a Southern Gothic novel: ironic events to reflect on the status and values of the American South, Gothic elements to explore and make social commentary.  The reader cannot determine if the town witch is really the villain or the victim until the end, if there is really illness/supernatural elements among some of the kids but the power of suggestion.  There aren’t the crumbling and scary plantations but the creepy small rural communities.  A little madness, a little despair.  Women who peak in their beauty and power in their teenage years only to have a lifetime of weight gain and raising children with distant husbands ahead of them.

The audio performance really adds to this.  The narrator brings to life the narrative style, with the perfect voice for the story, a male voice sounding exactly like I thought it should.  I will probably look into others of Billy Coffey’s dark, more American Gothic and subtle novels.  I don’t think anything could replace my love of Victorian Gothic novels but I can appreciate a writer who can apply the dark, ironic writing to a different context.

witches of eastwick.jpg

The Witches of Eastwick, John Updike

I was in love with John Updike as a writer when I was in college.  I found him in The New Yorker to start, along with my love of Oliver Sacks, and one time in the middle of a heavy semester I looked up a book of his short stories in my college library and spent a sliver of precious brain space on that.  Part of his magic to me was not only his beautiful writing, and it is beautiful, but I liked reading about privileged white people around my age living in New England with their bored, short lived marriages.

So I always had The Witches of Eastwick on the TBR. Witches?  Updike? Yes please.  A bunch of white, promiscuous self involved women all vying for the attention of a blowhard genteel poor man?  Ugh.

His gorgeous, poignant, and astute writing is still there, but I had a hard time caring about these disillusioned women and this completely unappealing man who pushes them all off center despite their having “powers” and having been able to escape their marriages before they got too old to enjoy freedom. I guess women can have “powers” and still be brought down and against one another by a useless socialite full of half baked ideas that won’t ever pan out to paying the mortgage.

I didn’t have trouble finishing it but I definitely needed the help of audio, which had been on my wish list forever, and I am glad I tackled it off the TBR.  I don’t think I will be reading the sequel though.  And I am less enthusiastic about his complete collection of short stories of his I bought upon his death, but maybe his magic will return to me more in his shorter works, which is where I fell in love with him in the first place.  But we will see.  His wording and phrases still struck me.  He can still bust out a line that is enchanting to me. Like an old boyfriend meeting you out for a drink, there might be a tiny sparkle just for a moment for me and for Updike’s writing.

girl from the well.jpg

The Girl from the Well, Rin Chupeco

Classic Japanese horror thrown onto the end of a post with a Southern Gothic and some New England witches.  Random sauce, but good sauce all the same.

So if you want a classic horror for Halloween, the most Halloween-y book on this books of Halloween on Halloween weekend post, this would be the one. There is a clear ghost story, the haunting is not random, and in true Japanese style, someone becomes overconfident in their abilities and others get screwed over by it.  Because is there ever pride without a fall?  But completely classic, almost formulaic, but that is not a criticism. This tosses back to the other Japanese horror movies I watched into my brief foray into Japanese horror films. I liked it.  It was scary and diverting and fun, the villain was humanized, there was some kind of resolution, which my readers know I care about.  Women like closure.  Whatever.

Halloween reads is going to bleed into one more week because I have some books read up that have to do with coming back to life but with the theme of siblings, which is such a YA thing…but appropriately, since siblings are so important to teens, especially in families who don’t all live under one roof.

So, here’s wishing a sweet Halloween weekend to everyone with one more iteration of seasonal reads. Looking for scary reads and all the other blog posts with scary reads has of course lengthened the wish list, filled it out a bit because it’s a never ending process.

Near and Far: Books chosen for setting

So here it is, September and I have given over to the allure of BookRiot’s Read Harder.  I gave in before this but I have caved to write a post on two books that fit two categories regarding location in this hunt.

I read the first one as part of my Read Down 2017 first and then when I was peeking, I saw that it would fit the category of being more than 5,000 miles from my location.

 

soy sauce for beginners.jpg

Soy Sauce for Beginners, Kirsten Chen

The google says Singapore is 9,358 miles from me.  That’s almost double the requirement.  Abouts Egypt or any further East would have done it, but I am clearly an overachiever.

This is a bit of the chick lit.  I am saying that because I have noticed that books I consider to be chick lit are books about the importance of home and family and returning to such. To me, they don’t tend to be about striking out to new places.   This book is about a woman taking a break from her American life to rediscovering herself in her native Singapore and reconsidering where she belongs.

And just because I call it Chick Lit does not mean that these are not flying page turners for me because they most certainly are.  I could relate to her marriage (even though mine is in appreciably better shape than hers, thankfully)  and her attendance in grad school, although she is using it to find herself and it is not working, whereas grad school did help me find myself. Even though I complain about it’s myriad of traumatic experiences, I don’t know who I would be without my graduate training and the awesome people I met to help me grow.  Anyway.  Even though I have always lived in one country and never in the Far East, the protagonist’s struggle and growth was highly relatable.  I like that she was always specially talented at the family business, even though she was pursuing music, and had more than one talent. I liked it.

For a book set within 100 miles of my location:

death in Saratoga Springs.jpg

Death in Saratoga Springs, Charles O’Brien

I guess I should not have been surprised that Saratoga could be a good setting for cozy mysteries, but it makes perfect sense with it being a seasonal town, a playground for the rich, and a place thought to possess a healing quality. Is it Bath in Jane Austen novels that serves a similar role, where the rich can go to try to get healing and a rest? More than one author came up as having written mysteries series based in Saratoga.

I liked this and I didn’t.  There is so much more showing in this writing than telling.  Even when the author is doing exposition through dialogue, it is often stilted. However, I also understand that cozies have a specific setting and context that they need to convey and that he was also communicating things like asylum reform and how the Civil War and industrialization impacted people of the Gilded Age to create his atmosphere. So I get the purpose of some of the more stilted pieces.

But I do love me a cozy.  They are popular for a reason and I have not done a lot of mysteries in my recent reading, something I actually noticed before I borrowed this from the library, so it balanced me out.  And I love Saratoga too and I have not explored it as much as I should.  I ran in the Spa Park in the spring to train for a half marathon that I was pleased with when it was over but felt like it would never be over.  I got married in Saratoga too.  I liked the murder plot, the number of suspects and the varied reasons people had to have it in for the murdered.  And how could I not love a female protagonist so passionately committed to social reform?  So the atmosphere and the plot worked for me, even if the writing didn’t always do so.

What books have you read based on a location requirement?

Comments/likes/shares

Short stories, female authors, prizewinners and New England

Labor Day Weekend!  The last hurrah of summer and the heralding of Ugg boots and the pumpkin spice latte.  The picture is a white tulip because I am in denial that summer is closing up.

My son also starts kindy this week.  His behavior in school might be a little touch and go, but I am not the professional here and I must trust the cat herders better known as kindergarten teachers to help him be successful.

I am not sad about this milestone.  I never thought I would make it through his infancy.  He has been loved and wanted since before he even existed and is a kind and empathic child, but I have so much else to fill my time than simply caring for someone small.  Paradoxically (and altogether normally) I try to snatch up the chances I have to be close to him while he still wants me.

But today the post is about short story collections by women authors.  Female masters of the craft.  Not only masters, but they are all about people living in New England, synchronistically enough.  Three books of short stories by women with the same setting.

It started with the BookRiot Read Harder 2017 Challenge I am not doing (haha) with

interpreter of maladies.jpg

The Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (A book of short stories written by a female author)

I have long felt incomplete as a reader without this treasure trove under my belt and now that I have read it, I was correct in that surmise.  The first story absolutely blew me away and I found out later that it was of course published in The New Yorker.  Like, of course it was.

This one also got the Pulitzer in 2000, which pleases me due to its’ heavy theme on immigration and assimilation.  I read BookRiot’s post on tackling the Pulitzers and how they are mostly white men with white men problems. I never wanted to tackle the list in its’ entirety but I have wanted to do 2000-today and this book made me glad I made that choice. (Although there are sadly some abandoned books hiding out in even that snippet of the list).  It is adept and beautiful and presents complex but also every day  issues without being heavy handed or maudlin.  For example, in the title story, a man who drives taxis for tourists gets attention that he thinks is special and personal from a pretty and trapped wife, only to find, after he has created a love affair in his mind, that she has misunderstood him and wants him to help her understand her own devastation. It generates empathy and understanding for the experiences of those new to being here.  It’s an essential piece to being well read.

blackbird house.jpg

Blackbird House, Alice Hoffman

I randomly selected this book as a lighter break to The Underground Railroad.  I didn’t do badly with getting through that one in a timely manner but it’s difficult constantly caring about a protagonist in whose safety you can never be assured.  Sometimes when I am driving between clinics I need lighter fare and I thought this was it.

Turns out this really wasn’t lighter, even though it was shorter.  The stories center around a house that was built in early New England by a fisherman whose intention it was to start farming out of love for his wife and who drowned, with his sons, at sea.  The mothers complex grief seems to color the stories of all the future inhabitants.  And there is lots and lots of future grief to be had by that house as it moves forward in time, with a white blackbird as a swooping harbinger. It is a place that started as manifested dream and others try to make it manifest as their own separate dreams along the way. Usually when the stories are their most soul crushing it ends and another one begins to crush your soul in a new way.  So I had a solid week of reading that pressed on my optimism about life.

And so with these two under my belt I decided to go for three, and another Pulitzer winner whose audio was already in my Audible:

olive kitteridge.jpg

Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout

Now, I feel that Strout is often highly praised and I feel like I have heard more praise for My Name is Lucy Barton but I was also more aware of it when it was released. I will want to see how I feel about Lucy in comparison to this one.  Olive is a series of interwoven but independent short stories in themselves with Olive as the thread, even when she is an ancillary, rather than the point of view character. Some are further removed through her husband.  Maybe because this is the freshest read and I was considering this post throughout the foray of reading it, but this one to me was largely about white people grappling with grief and disappointment.  I got bored of some of the problems, although I feel that Olive’s sadness and bafflement over why her son would move away to have his family and his life away from her that continues despite his explanation is something that many parents of adult children can relate to.  A side of her that is hinted at in the first story is further expostulated on later, and it takes her awhile, but thankfully she eventually gets some insight and tries to do better.  I was more frustrated with the book before this point, which happened in the last 30-40 minutes of the audiobook. I was finishing it on a short errand drive and I felt vindicated when she finally pulled her head from her rear. Clearly she remains likable though, evidenced by how much I wanted her to do better.  Essentially, though, this is a book for white people grief and disappointment.

Olive Kitteridge did not dazzle me as much as other Pulitzers (not as much as Interpreter did, certainly) and yet I did not think it was the total baffling waste of space as A Visit From the Goon Squad,  or abandoned as Gilead.  It was middling.  I don’t know what the selection committee felt was so remarkable about it.

Different people from different places intersecting in New England with women writing about it. These books were all very different, as only a good writer can write about the same place and make it new throughout time and personal histories.

The next post is up for debate in my mind, but stay tuned.

Comments/likes/shares!

LBGTQ+ Books

So, I really tried to get to posting on time last week. Really, I did.  But I wanted my son to meet my friend’s first squishy newborn son and there is only a window of opportunity for these things.  I am sure that my tsunami of readers will understand.

I have actually been considering posting every other week.  I did last summer, and I felt that it backlogged my posts which is not a bad thing, but that would not be the purpose this time.  I need to be reading things to hone my writing:  short stories, lit mags, poetry, my New Yorker magazines, types of books I might not want to post on here, nonfiction books about writing or to learn more about topics I might want to include in my writing.  I think for August I will trial space it to every other week and see what other things get worked on.  Blogging is fun and it has become emotionally safer than writing things to potentially submit and the weekly schedule gives me an excuse to continue taking the safe way of writing blog posts instead of taking on more challenges with my writing.

I am training  as well as trying to continue to challenge myself with writing.  I managed to get the motivation back to train for triathlon #3.  Does that make me a triathlete yet?

Also, grocery store malt beverage disguised as a delicious and festive champagne is a little butt kicking even when I fancy it up with rainbow sherbet.

So the inevitable Read Harder cave in resulted in posting on two LGBTQ+ books.  This is a serious hole in my reading.  My reading used to have a hole created by a dearth of celebrity memoirs and I don’t like admitting that that was filled before the lack of LGBTQ+ reading.   I didn’t even intend for this post to land at the time of Trump’s announcement about the transgender community serving in the military, but neither are these about transgender, but homosexual males.  Issues with gays are old hat compared to people who are transgender!  And in case anyone is wondering, discrimination hurts people more than the way they were born, so…. But I digress:

drawn together.jpg

Drawn Together, Z.A. Maxfield

BookRiot gave this as an example of a book that would fit their requirement of a gay romance novel.  I think it is a self pub, which I don’t think is unusual for a book with that specific of a niche.

I don’t have a lot of experience with any sort of romance novel, so I don’t know how it would be in comparison to the romance genre in general.  I follow some bloggers and writers of romance books on Facebook and this still has not encouraged me to check out the genre more thoroughly.  I picked up a Nicholas Sparks from a giveaway bin and it still is sitting in my bag.  So, romance has not ever been really one of my ‘things.’  I could use more exposure to the genre, though.

That said, the book wasn’t bad. The dialogue was a little stilted at times, unrealistic, and I could not tell if one character calling the other ‘cher’ was meant to be affectionate or derogatory.

I have actually heard of the trope in gay lit where one character is unaware at the beginning of the story that they are attracted to the same sex.  That is the case here, which the book blurb is clear about. The other element driving the plot is one of the men having a stalking, psycho killer that threatens his life, the stress that the characters experience that sharpens their feelings toward one another, especially for the guy who believes at the start of the story, that he is straight.

I might read other gay romance after reading this one.  There was another on the BookRiot list of acceptable books, one about a bed and breakfast, that looked interesting to be able to compare this one to.   Not anytime soon, though, as I am making my way through lists I never said I would.

aristotle and dante.jpg

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Saenz

This one was for the requirement of a YA/middle grade book written by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.

I have come to the conclusion that a good YA novel is one that captures what it is like to be a teenager, and this one has the added bonus of what it is like to be a gay teenager.  Most teenagers wonder where they fit into the world, but this particular teenager Aristotle has the added level of really never feeling like he fit in and his parents notice.   Like, he takes the ‘don’t fit in’ piece to a totally new level.  And Dante does not even know how truly Mexican he is.

Saenz has sparse and clean sentences and he does not ride heavily on description, but he says all the true and painful things in this simple language that makes the story shine.  It is even sparse and simple through some very dramatic events that show the boys in the end who they really are.  It clearly shows Aristotle’s frustration with his family story and how that ties in to who he is and his style of communicating and his family trying to evolve, too, through their own shadows.

This story was a work of art.  It is really something special with it’s multilayers and speaking to a set of underrepresented teens without being dramatic or maudlin.  I love it for that, too. I deal with many underrepresented teens in my life.  I am glad Saenz can write about something he knows so beautifully.

Due to it’s accolades it was on my TBR forever, so I am not completely ignoring my goal of reading it all down in favor of looking at a challenge to diversify my reading.  This also inspires me to read another of the same I have, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.

I am glad for both of these categories being on the Read Harder list this year.  There are also in my opinion too many comics, not as important as understanding diverse viewpoints, but as I possibly have a reluctant reader on my hands it might not be an entirely bad thing.

So I am going to see if posting bimonthly will help me focus on other writing projects where I will be challenging myself and pushing through the anxiety that nothing is any good.  Knitting less will also help with this but no promises.

Comments/shares/likes!