Monday, July 31, 2017

On upcoming or recently released books that I recommend

Ah, Netgalley. It’s both a blessing and a curse. There were so many more books that I wanted to finish to include on this list, but, alas, time has run out and it’s time to post. Nevertheless, here are a few books that caught my eye and gained my approval (and hopefully I’ll have more books read when it’s time to post another one of these):

At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces

  • At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces by Mary Collins and Donald Collins - April 25th - This memoir of a trans son and his mother and their experiences with his transition is interesting and powerful. This is an excellent resource for individuals who are looking for more information on a relative's transition or for people who would like to learn more about transgender issues and difficulties.

  • The Gender Agenda: A First-Hand Account of How Girls and Boys Are Treated Differently By James Millar and Ros Ball - July 21st  - This fascinating record of one family’s experiences with gender is an interesting perspective on raising children. This family kept a Twitter diary for a few years to monitor how people treated and spoke to their daughter and son differently. They also give wonderful recommendations of books and movies that have positive (or interesting) gender representation for children. Recommended for gender-conscience parents or gender studies students.

  • Children of the Divide by Patrick S. Tomlinson- August 1st - An interesting sci-fi novel with analogies to current events, Children of the Divide is intriguing and fun with memorable characters and situations. Recommended for lovers of sci-fi and for lovers of straightforward literary analogies.

What upcoming or newly released books are on your radar? Are any of these on your TBR?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July: Best and Strangest

This month, I’m regretting Netgalley overzealosity (if that’s even a word). When I first started blogging, I signed up for a Netgalley account and requested everything that looked even remotely interesting. I was shocked when I got approved for most of them. Months later, I think I’ve learned my lesson. I’m barely keeping up on reading my Netgalley books before they come out and this has been a bigger source of stress than I assumed it would be. Of the 49 books I’ve been approved to read, I’ve only read 26 of them (and some of them were really not my type of book). I spent this month trying to get ahead of my Netgalley requests so that I can start working through my TBR shelf - which is completely full now. Next month, my project is to start working through that. Once I get enough books completed, I’ll reward myself by throwing a book swap to acquire even more books that I won’t read for months.
I was surprised that I read as much as I did. I’ve been able to stay ahead of school work this summer and I frequently get time to read in the afternoons after class, which has been so nice. What’s more unfortunate is that I realize I won’t be able to keep this up in the fall - with school and work and a Loverboy to pay attention to, I doubt I’ll get as much reading done as I want to. Oh well. For now, I’m relishing the time I have. And I got to read a lot of interesting books this month:

  • Lirael by Garth Nix - The second book in Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy is fun, fantastic, and still suspenseful. A young girl finds herself helping bring down a plot against her kingdom and must team up with some unlikely characters to succeed. Lirael is my favorite Nix character so far and this book was far better than Sabriel - it was more fun and I felt more connected with the characters. Also, Lirael gets to have a lot of fun with charter magic - Nix’s magic system - and this makes the book so much more rewarding than other books I read this month. The first part of the book is a girl figuring out how to use magic and having a lot of fun doing it - and that was awesome. Also, there’s a Disreputable Dog and a prince and an evil necromancer and a twist ending - so it’s a perfect fantasy story.

  • Treasure Island!!! By Sara Levine - I finally got around to reading this! A young woman with no direction after her college graduation finds inspiration in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and begins living her life by the principles of Jim Hawkins. This book reminded me of a sillier The Edible Woman (by Margaret Atwood) - it details a young woman’s emotional breakdown, but in a much funnier and more modern way. Directionless 20-somethings will really identify with this - as will anyone who’s felt like they aren’t living up to their potential.

  • Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson - I’ve been putting this book off for months, but I finally got around to reading Sanderson’s collection of Cosmere short stories. And it was BEAUTIFUL and wonderful and I highly recommend it for fantasy lovers. Keep in mind that there are so many spoilers for other Sanderson books, so put it off until you’ve read a few more.

  • Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock - This was a very odd and interesting book that I’ve been thinking a lot about. It was recommended to me in a Matt Colville video about Dungeons & Dragons and this book definitely gave me some new ideas and settings to work into my campaigns. This classic fantasy story is about the emperor of Melinibone as he tries to protect his throne. The world building is beautiful. The story is dark, but very fun. Highly recommended for fantasy readers.

  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King - I read this because of a friend’s recommendation (and also because of the upcoming movie adaptation) and I’m still trying to discover how I feel. In the foreword to this book, Stephen King mentioned that he wrote this when he was younger and that, in hindsight, it’s a rough book and could use some changes. In a lot of ways, I agree with him. It’s a dark fantasy story about a cowboy who’s looking for a Dark Tower for reasons that are still kind of unclear to me. King’s book moves at a snail’s pace, but the setting and the characters are interesting enough to keep you occupied. And it’s just so strange - I’m hoping the next books will help clear things up a bit.

Library books: 5
Books I bought: 3
Overdrive Audiobooks: 5
Egalleys: 7
Goodreads Giveaway wins: 0
Amazon Lending Library: 0
Free books on Kindle: 0
Gifts: 0
Borrowed from friend: 1
Book Swapped: 0
Available online: 0

Total: 21

What are the best books you read this month? The strangest?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Fierce Fangirl Friday: David Bowie

This post is inspired by Too Much of a Book Nerd’s Fierce Fangirl Friday meme.

Happy Friday, friends! We interrupt your normally scheduled blogging adventures for a Fierce Fangirl Friday: David Bowie Edition!
Now, anyone who knows me is well aware that I’m a huge Bowie fan (and avid blog readers may have been clued in by how often I mention the genius in posts). But I figured I should probably come out and be very clear.
It’s difficult to explain why I love Bowie as much as I do. There are so many reasons - he’s unique, he’s a musical game-changer, he’s got intense personality.

Also, he wears knitted jumpsuits and I can’t resist that (in fact, here’s the knitting pattern).
Most of all, I love Bowie’s unique musical style. He changed rock ‘n’ roll and was a huge influencer of glam rock. He also had some fantastic (and ridiculous) style.

And once you separate David Robert Jones from 1970’s David Bowie, you understand that he’s just a nice guy with some excellent musical talents and some weird clothes. Later in life, Bowie reported that he preferred staying at home with his wife, Iman, than going out and partying. He changed from a heavy rocker to a quiet homebody - but he still worked, releasing his Blackstar album just days before his death in 2016.
In that time, Bowie released a lot of music. Here’s a bit of a musical education for you - my favorite Bowie tracks (in no particular order):

  • Sons of the Silent Age from Heroes

  • Kooks from Hunky Dory

  • Blue Jean from Tonight

  • Blackstar from Blackstar

  • Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed from Space Oddity

  • Station to Station from Station to Station

  • Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

What Bowie songs do you love? What’s your favorite Bowie style?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

On my beach book criteria

This post was inspired by The Broke and the Bookish.

Beach days are for relaxing and taking it easy. So a beach read should match that mood and add to the easiness of the day. Here’s what I think a beach read should be:
  1. LIGHT - A beach read should be something that’s easy to read and something that won’t stress you out or make you too contemplative. Reading something dense with heavy subject material will be more of a mental workout than a relaxing break from your normal life.
  2. SHORT - A 700 page fantasy book might be really fun, but it probably isn’t the best for a beach read. First of all, bigger books are more difficult to lug around, while a small paperback can fit in your purse or beach bag without any trouble. Also, finishing a relatively short book will give you a sense of accomplishment while you’re sitting around and relaxing. If you usually take weeks to finish one book, reading one in an afternoon will be refreshing and fun.
  3. EASY TO PUT DOWN - You don’t want a book that you can’t tear yourself away from. It’s better to have something that you can stop in the middle of the drama and spend your time with loved ones or go adventuring or take a moment to build a sandcastle. Devouring a book that’s got you hooked is incredibly fun, but difficult if you have other plans for your beach day.
  4. SOMETHING YOU OWN - While no one likes their books getting worn, wet, and mangled, it’s better that it happens to a book you own (and don’t care too much about) rather than a library book or one you’ve borrowed from a friend. If you’re going to be reading next to water and in the elements, you should either protect the book with your life or make sure it’s one you can get dirty and wet without having to explain yourself to anyone.

Here are a few books that fit my first three criteria that you can easily buy through Amazon or your local book stores:
  • The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz - Isabel Spellman has grown up in a family of private investigators, where the line between being a member of the Spellman family and being an employee in the family business is very blurred. Izzy’s attempts to navigate the world as a functioning adult while still participating in her family’s affairs leads to all sorts of shenanigans.
  • The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan - When introverted Nina loses her job at her local library, she decides to start a bookmobile and that’s where her adventures begin.
  • Funny Girl by Nick Hornby - Sophie Straw’s dreams of being a famous actress are coming true thanks to a team of comedy writers and a BBC sitcom. The journey to fame and the aftermath are full of delight and new experiences for Sophie.
  • Much Ado About Grubstake by Jean Ferris - This middle grade/YA book tells the story of Arley, who spends her days running her boarding house and anxiously awaiting her new Penny Dreadfuls. When she gets caught in the middle of a plot to buy her precious town of Grubstake, Arley’s forced to become a heroine in her beloved Penny Dreadfuls in order to save her town and the people she loves.
  • The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes - Fred is a vampire who, after his untimely death, continues to do the only thing he knows - account for people’s money - until he reconnects with an old friend and finds himself thrown into the paranormal world and all its drama.
  • Armada by Ernest Cline - Zack has always wished he could live in his beloved video games - until Earth is suddenly under attack and Zack must utilize the gaming skills he’s spent years developing.

What are your favorite beach reads? Do you have a different criteria for what makes a good beach read? What are you taking on your next vacation?

Monday, July 24, 2017

On books students would read if they took Fantasy 101 from me

This post was inspired by the Broke and the Bookish.

Welcome to Fantasy 101. Today, we’ll be talking about which books every fantasy reader and writer needs to study and investigate in-depth. Some of these, I have yet to work through (and I’m ashamed), but I’m also a student today. Let’s get started:
  • Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede and the rest of this series- These children’s books are an excellent way to start kids on fantasy young. They also give us an excellent view of what a typical fantasy can be - princesses hanging out with dragons and solving problems. They’re clean, they’re safe, and they’re so much fun without being overly complicated. Also, DRAGONS.
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien - This should be an obvious choice. As an enduring fantasy classic, everyone who is even slightly interested in the fantasy genre needs to devour this immediately. It also displays a well-written hero’s quest and does an excellent job of starting seemingly small and growing to epic proportions.
  • The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks - The Shannara books are somewhat similar to LOTR in some ways, but we see much more of the world in these books than we do in LOTR. There are SO MANY of these books, so this series can give you fantastic idea of what a well-built world looks like and how to continue writing in the same world for a ridiculous amount of time.
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson - I HAD to include a Sanderson book (of course). Sanderson rocks at world building, character development, magic systems, moving the story along at a good pace, and just basically everything. READ THESE BOOKS. Also, he’s a very good fantasy author who’s still writing and who’s still widely read, so pay attention to Sanderson to see the direction of fantasy writing.

What books would you include in a Fantasy 101 course?

Friday, July 21, 2017

On beating writer's block

Writer’s block is a real danger that inflicts writers everywhere. But don’t worry - I have a few ideas that you can use to beat this ailment and continue writing your masterpiece!

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Read a book completely unrelated to what you’re writing
  3. Read something really similar to what you’re writing
  4. Write a scene or conversation that happens later in the book
  5. Change your writing location
  6. Take a break to listen to music
  7. Discuss your book with someone
  8. Clean something
  9. Set aside time to write every day
  10. Color
  11. Exercise
  12. Play a board game
  13. Go to a play
  14. Work on a jigsaw puzzle
  15. Draw
  16. Write a poem
  17. Work on a Pinterest DIY project
  18. Eat something new
  19. Meditate
  20. Take a nap
  21. Learn a new language
  22. Free write
  23. Keep a diary
  24. Meet with a writing group
  25. Work on a different project for a while
  26. Take some time by yourself
  27. Keep a dream journal
  28. Brainstorm
  29. Write a bucket list
  30. Have a cup of coffee or tea
  31. Make a collage
  32. Write the first thing that comes to your mind
  33. Talk to a friend (not about your book)
  34. Pinterest!
  35. Travel (even if it’s just to a new stop in your city)
  36. Visit a museum
  37. Photography
  38. Sign up for a free online course
  39. Sign up for a rec center course
  40. Set a word count goal each day
  41. Grab a snack
  42. Light a candle
  43. Take a shower
  44. Stop comparing
  45. Lower your expectations for your first draft
  46. Give yourself a pep talk

How do you beat writer’s block?