Friday, December 22, 2017

2018 Goals


For the last few years, I've completed the Goodreads Challenge. Basically, pick a number and read that number of books. I started with 50, but I've bumped it up to 100 books since. It's not too difficult to reach that, especially with the amount of graphic novels I read, but it's hard enough that I wondered if I would make it this year.

I also started looking at what types of things I'm reading. Since I didn't use Goodreads shelves to organize titles by genre/age group or anything like that (too many shelves), I copied my 2017 shelf into an Excel doc and started dividing into four categories: adult fiction, adult nonfiction, young adult fiction, and graphic novels/comics. As of today, just under half my total is graphic novels and comics, 25% is adult fiction, 20% young adult, and only 8% nonfiction. While I could break this down further, I feel like it's obvious that things are a bit unbalanced. I'm proud that my adult fiction included more mysteries and even a western, but I'm really disappointed in my nonfiction total. I've also probably accumulated more books than I've read. 

So within the 100+ titles I plan to read next year, I'm adding new goals:

1. More nonfiction. I only read NINE works of nonfiction this year. I'm reading another right now, but nonfiction is great! Ayelet Waldman's A Really Good Day and Kate Moore's Radium Girls are easily two of the best things I read this year. So in hopes of finding more gems like these, or at least learning more, I'm going to read at least one nonfiction title per month. It's still a low number, but putting it more at the forefront should help.

2. Rereading. I really, really don't do this because I have too many new titles to read, but I've started looking longingly at a few past titles that I've wanted to pick up again. I'm still coming up with a way to keep myself from reading too many from my back catalog, but I think it will be a ratio. Five new titles to every one reread might be the ticket. 

3. Classics. So I skipped reading many, many required classics in high school. Despite always reading a ton on the side, required reading was tedious, boring torture. Some of this I blame on the selections, but maybe this was just my tiny teenage rebellion. Either way, it's time to revisit some of them. Like nonfiction, my goal is one title a month.

4. #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks: I'm borrowing this idea from Andi, a book blogger and host of Dewey's 24-hour Readathon. My physical book collection has his the point where my bookshelf devoted to books I haven't read is full. It's time for me to make some room for new material by reading the old ones and by admitting that there are others I will never finish. The best part is that I have nonfiction AND classics sitting on my shelf!

What sort of reading challenges do you set for yourself? Any tips to make 2018 the best reading year ever?

Also, I meant to make a gift guide this year, but since then it has been a busy, fast slide into Christmas with some serious bumps along the way. It's just not going to happen. If you're still looking for a gift though, leave me a comment! I'm happy to help.

Until next time!

Monday, December 4, 2017

November's Best List


November was a busy month, but somehow I managed to sneak in six full-length novels, almost all of which I will recommend to someone. There's a lot to talk about, so I'm going to get right into it.

1. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
Nearly eleven, Morrigan Crow has spent her entire life believing that she is cursed and will die on her next birthday. Except when that day comes, an odd stranger appears and steals her away to Nevermoor, a city that has hidden itself from her world. Once there, she must complete a set of tests in order to secure a spot for herself within the Wundrous Society, an organization of people with a diverse set of special abilities. While this is marketed for the younger set, this novel will appeal to anyone who wants a magical world. For now, it isn't very dark, but Harry Potter was also only eleven when his series began. I hope to read more about Morrigan Crow in the future.

2. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Why yes, this is the debut novel by the star of Jessica Jones. That really doesn't matter, except for the fact that I read the entire story in Ritter's voice. It's not a bad way to read it, either. Abby, now and environmental lawyer, returns to her hometown to figure out if the biggest corporation in the area is polluting the water supply. As she digs up information, she begins to wonder if the current problems connect back to her high school years when a fellow student disappeared. With so much of the town tied up in the plastic corporation, threats and violence against Abby and her team increase as Abby gets closer to proving that there's something sinister going on. It's a good mystery with several pieces that Ritter manages to tie together well.

3. You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
I love a good family saga. This story follows three generations of Das women, beginning with Ranee, a Bengali woman who has followed her husband from India to Ghana to the UK and finally to America in the 1970s. She is a traditional matriarch, doubly so when her husband dies. Her daughters, Sonia and Tara, are not quite so traditional. Sonia even shaves her head as part of her father's funeral rites, a role that should go to the closest male relative; as one of four daughters, I understand that sometimes rules just won't work. With another generation, the line between upholding tradition and modernizing gets more complicated, even making the now-grandmother Ranee question her place and her values. While I didn't love the time jumps (but how else do you get three generations in a reasonably detailed, one-shot novel?), I loved the characters and their stories. I think we all have to find our place in this world, whether by holding onto things from our past or letting go of them.

4. Odd & True by Cat Winters
This felt like historical Supernatural, but starring two sisters. Once upon a time, Odd & True's (Odette and Trudence's) mother, along with her brother and sister, were monster hunters. Now Tru is left with her aunt while Od has disappeared. When Od suddenly reappears at the window on Tru's 15th birthday, the girls set out to hunt their own monster, the Jersey Devil, and find their mother. The novel is told by both girls, but through Od's past diary entries and Tru's present-day ones. As more facts come to light, the story takes on an interesting degree of unreliability as readers must discern what is just odd and what is true about this family.

5. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
There are so many pieces to this story. A very modern Indian woman is hanging her sister's profile on the marriage board at the Sikh temple when she sees an advertisement for a writing instructor. She could use the money, so she applies, expecting to subvert conservative ideals. What she gets is a group of widows who can't read or write, but have so many very naughty stories to tell. However, there's a group of angry young men in the community who, if they heard about these erotic stories, would violently shut down the group. The Brothers, as they call themselves, might even have something to do with the murder of another modern young Indian woman whose mother organized the writing classes. Heads up, this story is very light in places, but then very grim as well. It's disconcerting at first, but as the story comes together it makes sense. Come for the silliness of widows writing smut, but stay for the strong female characters.

6. The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories by Charlaine Harris
I have read all of the Sookie Stackhouse novels at least twice, despite my general avoidance of rereading things. That said, I have never read the short stories and it has been a few years since the last novel. That doesn't really matter though. Harris managed to introduce each story well enough for me to remember the characters and tells readers where the story fit into the timeline. It was incredibly easy to fall back into this world, plus one of the stories really helps explain how Sookie ended up with a certain character in the final book. If you're a fan of the books, this is a nice addition to your collection.

My next monthly round-up might not be until 2018, but this won't be my last post for the year! Stay tuned for a book-heavy gift guide and my 2018 reading challenge goals.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Short Stack September


September's Very Short Short Stack

Just like I'm not impressed with my reading habits over the past month (such a slump), I wasn't incredibly impressed by what I read. Except for one title.

Before reading about that, though, here's your reminder that the Texas Teen Book Festival is October 7th. My attendance is uncertain (because I'll be doing the Best Little Yarn Crawl in Texas with my mom!) but that doesn't mean everyone else should miss the excellent line-up of authors that will be in attendance. Julie Murphy (Dumplin') will be there, plus Sandhya Menon (When Dimple Met Rishi), and Jennifer Mathieu (MOXIE). I'd ask why October is the best time for everything, but really just look at our weather patterns.

And now for the best title of the month!

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore

When I was in college, I took a class on the history of science that talked about how radium had been treated as a health tonic. It was almost funny because really, how could everyone have been that dumb? It's not like the Curies were going around saying that it was good for you. Kate Moore managed to fill in some of those missing links in a well-paced, horrifying true story. Set in the factories that primarily painted watch dials so that they numbers would glow, Radium Girls is the story of how these women showed up for the best paying gig in town and ended up painfully dying because of it, all while the government agencies did very little to protect them and their employers lied to them. In order to paint the tiny numbers, women would put the paint brush between their lips and shape it into a point. Each time they did, which could range from after every number to a few times a dial, the woman ingested just a little more radium that would sink into her bones. Eventually, women learned that they had to fight back and they fought hard to win compensation for years of doctor and dentist visits and in an attempt to help the families they were most certainly leaving behind. Their stories made my bones hurt, made me cry, and made me so angry that this was allowed to happen. I will think of those women every time I get an x-ray and wear a heavy lead vest to protect me from their fate.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

August Short Stack


So I usually try to start writing these posts by the end of the month and have them up sooner, but the second half of August was a whirlwind for me. Whirlwind is partially metaphoric, partially literal.

First of all, I saw the total solar eclipse! Zach was super pumped about it, so we decided our to take an end of summer trip to Nashville for the full experience. And since I hate flying and love having a car when we get places, we drove. We split the drive there into two days with a stop overnight in New Orleans for beignets and the WWII museum, spent two days in Nashville, then drove straight back through Arkansas. It was exhausting, but worth it. I mean, look:

It is more amazing in person.

And then we drove back on the 22nd, just in time for Hurricane Harvey the following weekend. Like I said, whirlwind. In Austin, I was never worried about my safety, but our fence finally gave up. It fought the good fight.

What I'm saying is, I've been busy.

Anyway, August accidentally relied heavily on young adult novels, so turn back now if you're close-minded about that sort of thing. While I have been trying to expand my reading habits this year, there are some great authors who write young adult novels alongside their adult works. You'll see.

The Short Stack:

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas:
I regret getting this from the library for two reasons. First, it took a very long time because this book is incredibly popular right now (timely commentary! lengthy for YA! becoming a MOVIE). Secondly, now I can't just thrust it into the hands of everyone I meet. Starr, the daughter of a former drug king who lives on the wrong side of the tracks, goes to a very, very white private school. Her two worlds don't mesh well, but are forced together when her black childhood friend is killed by a white police officer, with Starr as the only witness. There are so many great layers and dynamics within this book that I can't even begin to write about all of them. Thomas' characters are believable, as are their reactions. It's a great book.

2. Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson:
In the complete opposite vein of this-book-is-too-long, Midnight at the Electric could have been longer. I wish it had been longer. Our power went out for about six hours during Harvey's Texas rampage, and I read this cover to cover (I am so grateful for my Kindle). Set in 2065, a girl named Adri has been chosen to rocket off to Mars to colonize the planet. The US's ecosystem is...bad. Coastal areas are gone type bad. She's sent to Kansas to finish her training, moving in with her last remaining relative in the process. She finds a diary, which leads to letters, which leads to a mystery about her ancestors and the giant tortoise who has lived since the Dust Bowl. I loved the seemingly separate stories enough that I would have read novels about each time period, but I had to settle for this incredibly quick, but fulfilling read.

3. Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel by Mariah Marsden, Brenna Thummler, Kendra Phipps, and Erika Kuster: Release date is October 24, 2017! 
I did not grow up with Anne. I'm not really sure why, but it's probably my mother's greatest failing that she never made me read these (not really). I read plenty as a kid, but never Anne. So with the release of Anne with an E on Netflix and all this buzz, I was excited to see this graphic novel up for grabs on Netgalley (where I got a digital copy for free in exchange for an honest review). I needed a primer on what makes Anne such a beloved figure. I really, really loved the art and coloring for this, plus it had enough cute moments that I can look forward to reading the full novels. Eventually. Probably? Sorry, mom.

So that's two great 2017 releases that are available now and something to look forward to next month (or to preorder for that super Anne fan in your life!). Plus, I've already read one title I'm excited to talk about in next month's Short Stack. Til then!

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Short Stack July, or the First Anniversary


This marks the one year anniversary of the Short Stack! It started last August over on the UT iSchool's Student Portal and now I've migrated all my posts over here. I'm very happy that this made it to one year!

This Short Stack does not include any of the books I finished during the 24 in 48 Readathon, so you can hop over to this post to see what else I've been up to this past month. I've been very busy reading. Mostly books with secrets, for some reason. Until I started writing about my favorites from July, I hadn't noticed the pattern of ladies with secrets. Now though...sigh. Time to branch out. Send me some recommendations!

The Very Secretive July Short Stack:

1. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Another excellent mystery from Ruth Ware. I was impressed with her last novel, The Woman in Cabin 10, and my inability to guess the finale, which was not at all out of left field, so I snagged this one as soon as I could. The Lying Game is told in two time periods, when a group of four friends were at boarding school and over a decade later when their childhood secrets start to unravel. It starts with a dog finding a human bone in the sand and a text message that pulls all four back together. They clearly had something to do with it, but what it was and why is slowly pieced out through the novel. From girls who told lies for fun and points to women who must deal with their past, Ruth Ware writes believable, flawed female characters who have all tried to hide their secrets. Now everything might be exposed.

2. Eliza & Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Imagine that you are JK Rowling and everyone around you is reading your works and writing fanfiction about it and tattooing quotes on their body. Just generally freaking out, peak Harry Potter-mania. Except now JK Rowling is a high school student and has somehow remained anonymous, except for her parents who just think what she does is sort of cute. That is Eliza Mirk's life. That is, until a new guy transfers to her school. He's a huge fan of the comic Monstrous Sea and thinks he's found a kindred, and very cute, spirit to talk to about it. Except she doesn't know how to tell him that it's her comic. As he pulls Eliza into the real world, she's introduced more and more to her fandom, including one of her biggest fans/fanfiction writers. She's not ready to share her secret, but it seems that it's on the verge of slipping out anyway.

3. Saints & Misfits by S. K. Ali
What do you do if a devout Muslim boy sexually assaults you at a party? He's your best friend's relative and everyone thinks he's great. Plus, you don't want anyone to think that it has anything to do with Islam, because it doesn't, but people will absolutely think that. You keep a secret, despite seeing him at community events. Despite him telling people that you're an item. Despite everything because no one will believe you. Janna keeps it a secret, not telling her mother, her brother, her uncle who is an imam, or any of her friends. But it's not easy to keep a secret that makes you flinch and hide and avoid a specific someone. Eventually, someone will notice.

It seems like every lady has a secret. What's mine? I'll never tell. xoxo, Gossip Girl. (Or just me, signing off until next time).

Thursday, July 27, 2017

24 in 48, or how I talked myself out of sleep this weekend


I love a good readathon, which is why I signed up for the 24 in 48 Readathon. Over the course of 48 hours, participants try to read for a full 24 hours. Other than that, it's a pretty loose system. Readers can start with the Eastern time zone (what I did) or whenever it's midnight between Friday and Saturday in their zone. 48 hours later, it's over, and everyone is dead.

I mean, not really, but I was pretty dazed and very glad to go to bed Sunday night.

There are two different aspects that make this challenge difficult.

1. Time. A person needs to be reading one minute for every minute that they don't read over the course of a weekend. It doesn't leave very much wiggle room for other activities, like sleeping or having a meaningful conversation with anyone in your life. My husband likes to increase the challenge by adding distractions like The Great British Bake-Off and cleaning to really make it a time crunch. After a less than impressive Saturday total, we talked and he realized that if he wanted to watch the new Game of Thrones live that he better not distract me. He did the bulk of cooking after that and everything was amazing, plus allowed me to read through meals.

2. Physical. There are about a billion ways that reading was uncomfortable this weekend. The obvious is just the physical positioning while reading. The same position that worked for hour three was pretty uncomfortable by hour 11 and miserable by 23. Plus, Austin had another of its weird weekends where it might rain, so my allergies were in full force. I was tired with itchy eyes or really, really tired after taking Benadryl for most of this weekend. AND SLEEP. Did anyone get enough sleep this weekend? I am lucky that my Monday morning was flexible.

But! I did it. I somehow made it to 24 hours. I only finished in the last hour, but that's because I totally watched the newest episode of Game of Thrones as it aired (also, need to talk about that).

Over the course of 24 hours, I read five graphic novels:

1. Lumberjanes Volume 6- always good and full of girl-power, but not my favorite of the series.
2. Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears, Vol 1- Jessica Drew is pregnant and not handling it super well, but I really loved how it shows the different ways that motherhood can change a person and a superhero. Also, how motherhood still won't stop Spider-Woman from kicking Krull butt if she has to.
3. Spider-Women- a crossover starring Silk, Spider-Woman and Spider-Gwen. This was not good. Multiple artists and writers, so it felt a bit all over the place.
4. Gwenpool, Vol 1- Gwenpool is a total joke character that has been given her own series. A cross between Gwen Stacy from Spider-Man and Deadpool, she is a mercenary who embodies the idea that no matter how bad at fighting you are, you can win if you keep trying. Or if you blow everything up. Plus, she thinks she's fighting characters that she has read about in comic books. It's very weird, bt fun.
5. Wicked+Divine, Vol 5- Thankfully much better than the last volume, plus it has so many gorgeous Kevin Wada drawings.

Two novels:
1. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult- the only black OBGYN nurse at the hospital is told not to touch the newborn son of white supremacists, but is left alone with the baby when an emergency surgery pulls the other nurses off the floor. The nurse watches the baby, but is torn between her job and trying to save his life when he stops breathing. She tries to save him, but lies and says she hasn't touched him when another nurse comes in and they begin CPR. The baby doesn't live. The couple sues the nurse. Told from the perspective of the nurse, the father and the nurse's lawyer, it's an interesting, complicated tale.
2. The Goddesses by Swan Huntley- sold as The Descendants meets Single White Female, I feel that it's an accurate description. After her husband cheats, Nancy and her family move to Hawaii for a fresh start. There, she meets Ana, a yoga instructor who pulls Nancy into a series of karmic acts that become less and less altruistic. Not my favorite novel, but I wanted to know how much worse/better it would get and stuck it out until the end.

Plus, I read 64% of Ruth Ware's The Lying Game, which will likely end up in this month's Short Stack.

AND! I started and deleted 15 ARCs off my Kindle in a fit of speed reading. When I have the time (like 24 hours devoted to reading), I love to just sit down with a pile of books and read the first chapters or five minutes, whichever comes first. It either gets a bookmark or it's gone to Half Price Books, the library or whoever might like it.

I felt so much lighter when it was over. Stupidly tired, but also like I had done some serious spring cleaning to my shelves. I would say that this readathon isn't for everyone, though. It's hard to get to 24 hours if you need to be a functioning person over the course of the weekend. I obviously didn't.

The next one isn't until January 27-28, but there are plenty of other readathons out there if you need a reason to hunker down in a book bunker for a weekend or over the course of a week or a day. Do a quick search and find one that works for you.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Short Stack: June/In Praise of the DNF


In praise of the DNF

I have definitely said this before, but don't finish books that you don't like. I get digital arcs from Netgalley that I can read for free. But does that mean that I should finish them for the sake of the review? No. Not all books are created equal. Some books don't deserve the hours it takes to finish them.

DNF stands for Did Not Finish. And this past month, I DNF'd so many books and arcs that at some point, I turned in every unread book I had checked out from the library and reviewed at least 20 books as "DNF, not for me". Because feeling like I need to read absolutely everything is too much pressure. I was one of those students who never finished a classic in high school because assigned reading is terrible. And that's what my giant TBR (to be read) pile is starting to feel like- assigned reading.

So return some books. Sell some books. Delete things from your eReader. Stop buying books for a little while. No matter what it takes, sometimes you have to stop building your TBR before you end up on hoarders, quietly weeping about how eventually you will read everything (you won't).

And learn to love not finishing things. Free yourself of the pressure. Long live the DNF.

A few of the good things I did finish this month:

1. Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
This is another essay collection from the author of Men Explain Things to Me. Collections, be them fiction or nonfiction from the same author or many, can be very hit or miss. I wouldn't say that all of these are must reads, but the title essay about being asked about children will resonate with many women. The one that really appealed to me, though, was on silence. A person can choose to be quiet or they can be silenced. There is a huge difference between those two outcomes, which Solnit explains beautifully. Read some, skim some, but pick up this collection.

2. California Dreamin' by Penelope Bagieu
I didn't know very much about Cass Elliot before I read this, but I found it to be a very compelling introduction to her life. It starts before Cass was Mama Cass and ends right before her big break with the song California Dreamin'. One of the things I loved about this was how tenacious Cass Elliot was; she worked hard and pushed her way into the music business She also had some pretty standard problems for the industry, like a drug habit and being pushed to lose weight. I like that Bagieu didn't focus this story on either. Word of warning- you're going to have the song stuck in your head for a while.

3. Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Julie Murphy is a must-read for me. I loved Dumplin' (which finally has its star and I think she's perfect and I'm including a trailer for another film that she is in), so I picked this one up without having any idea what it was about. Ramona is a teenager in Mississippi, living in a trailer in a town that sees its fair share of summertime tourists. She's also an out lesbian, which is totally fine with her dad and sister, though her mother still thinks it's a phase. The novel starts at the end of summer with her closeted not-quite-girlfriend heading home for her senior year. Thankfully, her old friend Freddie, who used to be a tourist, moves to her town for good. As they reignite their friendship, Ramona is confused by her feelings for him after so many years of thinking of herself as a lesbian.

Bonus Patti Cake$ trailer because this is our future Willowdean. Some cursing:

That's all for this month, but follow me on Goodreads for more book recs and to see what I'm reading!

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Short Stack: May


I'm a graduate, y'all! To celebrate the end of the semester, I ran off to DC for a week to visit the library of libraries, the Library of Congress. I saw some other cool things, but let me real a second, for just a millisecond, I went for the Library. I honestly didn't get many photos there, but I think it's because I was actually in awe. Go on their free tour if you can and make time to wander afterward.

First time the name America was on a map
Part of Jefferon's donation to the Library. The Library lost books in a fire, then lost some of Jefferon's books in a fire. Some are original, but many are replacements made possible by lots of money from Jerry Jones of Dallas Cowboys fame.
I also got new bookshelves! They're IKEA Hemnes. We had the two large ones and not a ton of room left, so we added the smaller one in the middle. I literally filled it up with books I haven't read yet. It was a fun project because I had to take everything off my shelves in order to detach them from the wall, move them, reattach and then put everything back (not actually fun, but I did like the end result). The other new bookshelf went into the office, but it's not as exciting.

Also, I know I have a ton of animals on the shelves. Two of them, the elephant and lion, are weighted bookends. Some of them are childhood friends, some from crafty friends and family, and some were part of my grandmother's collection. Basically they're not going anywhere. 
This is after I weeded, too.

Funny story time. After I had taken them all off the shelves, my husband suggested that I put them back "thematically".

That's it. That's the funny story. I mean, I laughed when I heard it.

Anyway, I read some interesting things this month, too. Read about them!

May's Many Books:

1. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
I'm not sure if Samantha Irby is entirely funny or if some of the things she writes are just so shocking and blunt that I couldn't help but laugh. I originally picked this up because it had an angry, wet kitten on the cover and angry cats are adorable, but I stayed for the opening essay/introduction/application to be on The Bachelor. Maybe a year ago I would not have found this funny, but I just started watching this season of The Bachelorette after writing 4500 words on trust, transparency and agency within the franchise. There are some hits and misses throughout the essay collection, but enough of it rings true that it's hard to put down. Maybe skip if you don't like cursing or bathroom talk because I'm not sure a single essay doesn't include one or both.

2. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast
We will all die, but sometimes the parts that come before dying are harder on everyone involved. Not many people want to talk about how they want things done if they're not responsive or what they want their remains handled (please let me go and cremated, mixed with Dwight's ashes and interred in the family plot near Red Rocks, please), but that doesn't mean that we can ignore those topics forever. This is a sad, beautiful look at the many things that need to be done in the process of dying, which we are all doing everyday.

3. Love is Love: a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting
This was a beautiful collection of comics, drawings and poetry. I definitely cried through many of them. Not only do the stories comment on the tragedy, but they manage to comment on what society has done to let this happen. Heads up, DC Comics helped sponsor it, so their characters pop up throughout. Most people will recognize Batman, but there were some more obscure characters, too.

4. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Ending on a lighter note. This is one of the cutest young adult novels I have ever read. Dimple, a scowling computer geek who was named in hopes of many smiles, wants to go to a tech camp before her first semester of college. She has career goals, and not even her Indian parents who want her to find a husband will stop her from creating the summer's winning app and meeting her idol. Except she gets to camp and meets Rishi, whose first line to Dimple is "hello, future wife." Misunderstandings, friendship, maybe even love despite parental approval? It's a treat to read.

Pick up one or a few of these books at your local library or wherever you get your books! I might be biased because I love libraries (hire me!). Also, I took a selfie with the Dean. Until next time!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Short Stack: April Favorites


Hahaha, who would have thought that I'd be incredibly busy this month and have no time to read?

Probably almost anyone, honestly. April was my last full month at the iSchool. It was a month full of new discoveries, like that it is possible to have both a cold and allergies at the same time and that you will feel like dying. I also celebrated a birthday, so I am wiser and clearly know what I am talking about now.

So, in this particular order, let’s talk about the one book I read and the very first Austin Independent Bookstore Crawl!

The Shortest Stack:

1.     Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

If you’re not a Hamilfan, turn back now. This young adult novel about Elizabeth Schuyler meeting and falling in love with Alexander Hamilton is just what I needed this month. Eliza is given more character than she has in the musical; instead of being entirely lovesick, she goes to Morristown to help her aunt vaccinate Washington's troops against small pox, where she is reunited with Alexander (they met earlier) and begin courting. While this is obviously a fictionalized account, I really enjoy books where women are allowed to think about things other than men. Even if they do eventually get married (spoiler!). Pay attention to chapter titles.

April 29th was Independent Bookstore Day across the country and part of the celebration was Austin’s first IndependentBookstore Crawl. Participants completed scavenger hunt challenges at up to fourteen independent bookstores across Austin and posted pictures on social media to prove it.  I didn’t do the complete crawl because I should have been doing almost anything else, but I visited BookPeople, Malvern Books, Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy, BookWoman, Half Price Books on North Lamar and Balcones Books. 

Despite living here since I was an undergrad, I hadn’t been to Malvern, BookWoman, that Half Price Books or Balcones Books. The Half Price Book thing makes sense since there are four other locations and they were all on the crawl, but I’m almost appalled by myself for not going to some of these sooner. 

A breakdown of the bookstores:

Zach, my driver to insanity
Required visit for all book-loving Austinites/Texans. I love their variety and amount of author readings and signings. I met Kinky Friedman here when I was in undergrad!

Task: Take a picture with or in the Barber Chair

Malvern Books
This is a smaller store and had a bit of a too-cool-for-me vibe, but I liked their poetry sections and they are across from the Texas French Bread Company so I could pick up a croissant after this photo.

Task: Take a picture with a book that was originally in French. I actually bought a different copy of this book because I liked the layout more, but I liked this cover better.

Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy
This is where I pick up my comics, so I’m here every few weeks. The crawl coincided with my pull list, so we stopped in to pick up Bitch Planet #10 and the very last of Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat!

Task: Take a picture with Deadpool and a Variant comic from their table. I didn’t love Monstress, but none of the others were ones I had read.

This place should be my bookshelf, and I am so mad that I haven’t been here before. I’ve driven past it plenty and wondered what was in here, so the crawl was a wonderful excuse to pop in. There were so many books that are on my wish list, plus I have never seen that many female-centric Who Is…? books in one location. I was really impressed by this place and I will definitely be back. 
Task: Take a picture with an inspiring children’s book. Thanks for the vote, Susan B.!

Half Price Books at North Lamar
Another one I haven’t been to that made me a bit sad. I visit Half Price Books plenty in general and even worked for them a few summers during undergrad, but I have never gone into this location. It’s so big! Plus, their collectibles section is ridiculous. I’m so used to tiny sections of a store devoted to signed, rare and simply old books that this made my eyes go wide.

Task: Find the see-through Roswell alien.

Balcones Books
We originally planned on skipping this stop because I needed to get back to school work, but we missed our turn onto the highway and ended up driving right next to it. It’s a small store full of used books in pretty decent condition, and it had my favorite task. It’s worth visiting if you’re nearby, but I might not go out of my way to find it. 

Task: BookFace.

The Austin Independent Bookstore Crawl was a great way to experience new bookstores and support local businesses. Plus, it reminded me of all the things I’d like to read once I’m done with all my work! Definitely visit some of these places or some of the other 14 if you get a chance. 

Back to work for me, bookworms. I’ve got a massive TBR pile waiting for me after I finish!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Short Stack: March Favorites


Originally posted here for the first time! Also available on the UT iSchool Info Portal.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating—there’s no point in reading anything that you don’t enjoy. I’m not the happiest version of myself and I probably won’t be for a while, which means that anytime I’m forcing myself to read something I’m actively making my situation worse. Why do that? So instead, I return that super popular library book and forget about it. Maybe when I’m different I’ll worry about those. Or maybe after the book burning starts up again and it’s literally the last book on Earth, I still won’t read it.

Without further ado,

March’s Short Stack   

1.     Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Like We Should All Be Feminists, this is incredibly short and direct. This is Adichie’s response to a letter from a friend asking for advice on raising a feminist daughter. This book didn’t necessarily make me happy, because it’s a reminder that being a woman isn’t easy and society isn’t fair and somehow I don’t see any of that changing. But this tiny bite of a book comes with a dose of heavy commiseration and maybe a little hope with lines like “the knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina." You may tell me to get back in the kitchen, but I’m just as likely to accidentally poison you as I am to do it on purpose at that point.

2.     Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman: I was a Greek mythology geek growing up, but Norse mythology has been on my brain with new teasers from Thor: Ragnarok coming out, so of course I grabbed this. Gaiman updates the tales to make them feel fresh despite the fact that the men do all the fun stuff and the women sit around waiting for people to trick them into marriage. Except for Loki, but that’s because he can become she or anything else (s)he likes. Including become a female horse and then give birth because (s)he’s Loki. That last line wouldn’t have made sense to me either until I read this.

3.     Overdue: The Final Unshelved Collection by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes: The long-running library-based comic Unshelved finally came to an end in Overdue. It’s a comic you have probably seen before if you know any library-adjacent people, but reading complete arcs is a worthwhile use of time. Like the library, it can be a little weird or a little slow, but public librarians will recognize the cast of characters in their everyday library users and their colleagues. 

So here it is, the penultimate Short Stack. I hope that between now and May that I manage to find a little time to read for fun. If you do have time (lucky you, truly), the next Readathon is on April 29th!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Short Stack: February Favorites


Originally posted on the University of Texas' School of Information Info Portal. Visit it here: The Short Stack: February Favorites

Personally, this was a rough month for me. It’s not something I talked to many people outside of my family about, but my dog and actual best friend Dwight had cancer for a year and we had to say goodbye this month. If you’d like to imagine what my life is currently like, imagine walking around with your internal organs hanging out of your body and trying to pretend you’re fine. So this month’s recommendations were my escape and my distraction from real life.

1. Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill

This juvenile graphic novel will take about five minutes to read, but it is a good use of those five minutes. Sadie is a typical damsel/princess in distress, locked in a tower by her older sister who doesn’t want to rule their kingdom together. Amira is less typical, an adventuring princess who would rather be the rescuer than the rescued. When Amira finds Sadie, she frees her from the tower and they work together to rescue others. In perfect storytelling tradition, they both get their happily ever after. In trying to avoid spoilers, I won’t say how BUT IT IS SO CUTE.

2.  The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

I don’t typically read mysteries because they’re a little too obvious or gritty for me most of the time. But this mystery held my attention and, while I was close, I got it wrong. Lo Blacklock is robbed a few nights before she’s expected to board the Aurora Borealis, a boutique cruise ship with only ten cabins. She isn’t sleeping well and drinking more than usual, a problem when she hears a scream in middle of her first night on board. She looks over her balcony and sees a bloody handprint on the glass door into the room next to hers, but nothing is amiss by the time the ship’s security officer begins his investigation. Until the end, I wasn’t sure if Lo was confused like many of today’s unreliable narrators or if she was a victim of gaslighting or simply being lied to by others on the boat. If you want to feel similarly confused or mildly crazed, read it!

3. A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

Since I could use a really good day at this point, I picked this memoir up in hopes that it contained a secret that I could easily replicate. I probably can’t, but reading about Waldman’s 30-day experiment with LSD microdosing proved to be enjoyable and enlightening. While LSD studies and the drug itself are illegal, there is a protocol available to willing volunteers that cycles through ten three-day periods. On day one, you take a small dose of LSD, roughly 10 milligrams or 1/10th the dose that would cause hallucinations. Then there’s two days without LSD before another dose. This memoir is mostly about how the drug impacted Waldman’s life (and if you’d like a glimpse into her life with Michael Chabon, it’s definitely in there), but she also uses the pages to inform the reader about drug-related studies and regulations. As more states get closer to legalizing marijuana at least for medical use, it’s especially interesting to consider the impact of marijuana legalization on other substances. While I am not the type to search out illegal substances, I am left wondering if we’re missing out on some benefits because we won’t study them. Disclaimer time: I am not advocating microdosing; I’m advocating reading about microdosing.

I hope that you enjoy these books as much as I did, but without the need to hide within a book because your real life is depressing. And if it is, let me know or at least let somebody in your life know. Nobody needs to be sad alone.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Short Stack: January Favorites


Originally published on the University of Texas' School of Information Info Portal. You can visit it here: The Short Stack: January Favorites

I have some great news.
I might be out of my reading slump.

December was jam packed with a trip to New York to see Hamilton(!!!) and the New York Public Library, a ridiculous cold and then Christmas, but January…January was a great month for reading. I read 10 comic volumes, one memoir, two books of poetry and five novels. I’m sure this will slow down some because school and my internship have started, but I am thrilled. The best part is that so many of the things were actually good!

Visiting the NYPL kitties!
Of course I did.

But first, some things to talk about. I’m not one of the ALA/TLA directors anymore. There are four great new leaders and you can follow their plans and announcements on their Facebook or Twitter accounts. They have things coming up soon, so check them out!

Second, goals. Do any of you have reading goals for the year? I like Goodreads’ annual challenge, which lets users set their own number goal, but I also wish I were the type of person who actually finished Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge. The difference is simply reading enough versus reading specifically, which I have a hard time doing. Challenges like Read Harder are great though, especially if you’ve had a hard time diversifying your reading. I think I’m sticking with Goodreads and aiming for 100 books, but I might try a few of the Read Harder goals just to switch things up. I make no actual promises though.
To the list!

The January Short Stack:

1. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I came very late to the Star Wars fandom, only voluntarily watching them the weekend before Episode VII came out. So while I can’t say that I was a lifelong fan or in love with General Organa or Carrie Fisher, I am sad that she is gone. Like many who turn to the artists’ oeuvre for comfort, I picked up her last memoir in the days after her passing. It’s a combination of recollection and diary entries from the making of the first film, both of which are funny and better written than anything most of us will ever do. This memoir will make you cringe and laugh, but it will also be a reminder that Carrie Fisher won’t be making us cringe or laugh anymore. If you’re still upset by her passing, hold off, but definitely give it a read.

2.  Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I was lured into this by the promise of a better vampire novel and it delivered. While I don’t have a problem with shiny vampires (and have a picture of myself being bitten by a fake Edward at a midnight release party for Breaking Dawn to prove it), I want them to go along with great stories. In this world’s version of Mexico, vampire clans control the drug trade outside of Mexico City and human gangs control it within the city. The human gangs have worked together to keep vampires outside the city limits, but a turf war that leaves most of an ancient Aztec clan dead pushes lone survivor Atl into the city to hide. On her tail is Nick, a Necros vampire who has a personal vendetta and helped destroy the Aztec clan, and Ana, a cop following the trail of bodies that vampires tend to create. Other great characters round out this dark and gritty story that you will definitely want to finish.

3. Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond

I will pick up almost anything that combines magic and the circus, but this adds in some family rivalry and a mystery to make for a fun, immensely readable story. A teenage high-wire artist named Jules runs away from her family’s circus to join another circus, forcing her family to follow her or lose her to it. At the center of their new circus is a family of trapeze artists who have a long-standing feud with Jules’ family for reasons that absolutely no one will explain to her. As items that are bad luck in circus lore start showing up on Jules’ costumes and she starts losing her footing, the stakes are too high for her family to keep secrets. But even after her grandmother owns up to her part in the feud, Jules can’t find the person who wants her to fall.

4. the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

This will be hard to get your hands because the original print was small, but it’s being reprinted for release on Valentine’s Day. This collection of poetry is divided into four sections: princess, damsel, queen, and you. The first three sections are autobiographical, but still manage to hit relatable notes. It won Goodreads’ 2016 Choice Award for Poetry, so maybe don’t take my word for it.

I hope you’ve found some time to read over the break!