June 2016 Book Brief

Reading stats for June 2016

Cut by Patricia McCormick
Real World by Natsuo Kirino
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
The Rest of us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
George by Alex Gino
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

Total finished: 9
Owned: 4
Borrowed from library: 5
Fiction: 7
Non-Fiction: 2
LGBTQ Authors: 4 (Books w/LGBTQ characters: 6)
Women authors: 7
POC authors: 1
Audiobooks: 3
In translation: 1

Favorite: The Sunlight Pilgrims (I’ll be writing more about this one soon.)

May 2016 Book Brief

Reading stats for May 2016

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton
Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Shrill by Lindy West
The Girls by Emma Cline

Total finished: 4
Owned: 3 (2 obtained from BEA)
Borrowed from library: 1
Women authors: 4
POC authors: 2
Audiobooks: 1

Favorite: The Girls is a major standout but I truly loved everything I read in May.

Summer book bingo time!

Let me start off by saying that I am incredibly sad to hear that Books on the Nightstand is ending their podcast in June after a super long run. Ann and Michael’s thoughts on the book world and their recommendations will be sorely missed. The fact that they announced this on the same day as summer book bingo probably saved a lot of fallen tears as many of us were too excited about downloading new bingo cards to cry for long.

For those unfamiliar with summer book bingo, you can download a card here. The object is to obtain a bingo by reading books that match the categories (open to your interpretation). In the US we have two holidays which bookend our summers, Memorial Day and Labor Day (if you are outside of the US think the last weekend in May through the first weekend in September). That is the time frame in which you have to play.

I am posting my card below. Leave a comment with your suggestions for what I should read in these categories!  Last summer I completed 3 rows, I hope to meet the same goal this year.


Reading Young Adult as an… Adult

GloryOBrienIn celebration of I Read YA week:

I don’t feel old in my mid-30s, but I have aged out of being able to call myself the target audience of young and also new adult. During my time as a teen in the 90s, the young adult genre was only an inkling of what it has become in recent years. In the past, I read a lot of coming of age novels, which were mostly male authored with male lead characters. A few of my favorites as a teen were Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Skipped Parts by Tim Sandlin and Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne. I was desperate to grasp onto any fictional character who could validate the  mess happening in my brain in my fight to deal with generalized anxiety disorder and depression. I was dealing with thoughts and feelings that I didn’t feel safe divulging to judgemental and gossipy friends, so I turned to fictional friends as an alternative.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve obtained a more trustworthy circle and learned more about the best ways to keep my mental illness in check, some of my old fictional friends aren’t the best to go back to. Just like most toxic relationships, it’s best to cut the cord. So long Holden Caulfield. You have a spot in my heart for holding my hand through junior year, but we’re over. The genre of young adult fiction has exploded in recent years. With that, we’ve seen a slow but growing uptick in diverse authors and thus characters. Where I had to settle for literary friends at one time, I can now seek out heroines and heroes for which I don’t have to compromise. If a character is a misogynist, I can toss them aside and not fret that I may not find someone in another novel with values closer to my own.

To this day, I have to focus on recovery from the traumas and mental illness symptoms I had in my younger years. In addition, my mental illnesses are those that require constant work and treatment in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. What I have found in many current YA titles are characters who are dealing with these same symptoms. These characters are facing traumas that I faced. Not realizing others shared these experiences, I have taken to voraciously reading these novels in adulthood. I have hurts from that time in my life which still need to heal. Recently I read The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork and was absolutely blown away by the way in which he crafted the experience of depression through the main character, Vicky Cruz. Her depression had an air of guilt engulfing it. She questioned why she had suicidal ideations when she came from an upper middle class background. She could see other people had a more marginalized position in society and didn’t understand why depression could exist in her. This was something I struggled with from external sources in my teens. I was thus able to let go of the hurt I still carried from people who asked me why I was depressed when I had what appeared to be a comfortable life.

I find that the gap in my mental health treatment is slowly being closed by meeting new characters in YA fiction. Whether it’s the inspiration to continue working for the betterment of society despite PTSD from Katniss Everdeen, or persevering to fight the bad in our world when having trouble fitting in to a certain societal mold from Tris Prior. When given a fictional character that mirrors our own struggles, we can take cues in how we might heal from the past or conquer the future.

April Book Brief

Reading stats for April 2016:

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy
People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges by Jen Mann
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
No Mud No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Widow by Fiona Barton

Total: 5
Already owned: 2
Library books: 3
Audiobooks: 2
Women authors: 4
POC authors: 2
Books with subtitles: 3
Fiction: 3
Non-Fiction: 2

Favorite: I will be coming back to No Mud No Lotus for years to come.

February Book Brief

My reading stats for February 2016:

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
Brother by Ania Ahlborn

Total finished: 5
Already owned: 2
Bought to read immediately: 1
Audiobooks: 1
Women authors: 3
POC authors: 2

Favorite: Tough this month… it’s a strong tie between Mr. Splitfoot and Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist.

January Book Brief

Read in January:
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Wytches Vol. 1 by Scott Snyder
The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching – Thich Nhat Hanh
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Ms. Marvel Vol. 4 by G. Willow Wilson
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Bitch Planet Vol. 1 – Kelly Sue DeConnick
Z for Zachariah by Robert O’Brien

Favorite: We Need New Names

Books completed: 9
Graphic novels: 3
Audio books: 3
Women authors: 5
POC authors: 2
Books read from my own shelf: 3

I challenge you to take the challenges.

It’s not that I ever set out to intentionally not read diversely.  Honestly, I don’t think that is the explicit goal of most avid readers. However, as the publishing industry pushes out and publicizes their books, we are directly fed a stream of books that represent the majority. It’s unfortunate that publishing seems to be slow to add more diverse authors and therefore characters to their catalogs. In fact, there is currently a call for the major publishing houses to become more transparent regarding the diversity within.

Earlier this year I was introduced to reading challenges. I really didn’t know such a thing existed aside from setting a goal of a number of books to read in a year.  Most often I would base my reading on my Goodreads to-read list cross referenced with what was available on my library hold list. I started off 2015 with the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. This challenge is 52 various topics from a Pulitzer Prize winning book to a book with bad reviews to a book written by someone under 30. At the time of this writing I have checked 35 topics off the list.  With this particular challenge I decided to double up on categories if one book fit multiples. Some folks have chosen to read one book per week. One thing I enjoy about many of the book challenges I’ve seen is that they are open to interpretation. You fit the challenge items to your reading habits.

The second reading challenge I joined in 2015 was the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. I even bought the t-shirt. 10959318_10153099858889803_3491059029937387795_n What drew me to this challenge was that the topics made for very diverse reading such as reading an author from Africa, a book by or about someone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community and a book published by an indie press.  I am more than halfway to finishing this challenge. I am so thankful because in order to complete the topic of reading a graphic novel, I picked up Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 and now I am completely hooked on Ms. Marvel.

Finally, I took part in the Books on the Nightstand podcast’s Summer Book Bingo. This was a challenge where from the Memorial Day holiday weekend through the Labor Day holiday weekend, you attempted to get a “bingo” on a randomly generated card with various topics. I am proud to say that I ended with three bingos at the end of the challenge! 11924367_10153605630019803_5358769523078364094_o
So yes, I am highly in favor of participating in reading challenges to help push my reading along. There is a small downside, and that is I am not getting to my to-read list exactly how I wanted as I’ve had to add some extra books in there. But, I think that is a small price to pay for expanding my reading and picking up books that I never would have looked at otherwise.