Review: Kaleidoscope Song by Fox Benwell

Kaleidoscope Song

Genre: YA contemporary

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication date: September 19, 2017

kaleidoscope songSouth Africa is loud. Listen. Do you hear the song and dance of it? The chorus of Khayelitsha life? Every voice is different, its pitch and tone and intonation as distinct as the words we choose and how we wrap our mouths around them. But everybody has a voice, and everybody sings…

Fifteen year old Neo loves music, it punctuates her life and shapes the way she views the world. A life in radio is all she’s ever wanted.
When Umzi Radio broadcasts live in a nearby bar Neo can’t resist. She sneaks out to see them, and she falls in love, with music, and the night, but also with a girl: Tale has a voice like coffee poured into a bright steel mug, and she commands the stage.

It isn’t normal. Isn’t right. Neo knows that she’s supposed to go to school and get a real job and find a nice young boy to settle down with. It’s written everywhere – in childhood games, and playground questions, in the textbooks, in her parents’ faces. But Tale and music are underneath her skin, and try as she might, she can’t stop thinking about them.

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I’m being published! And you can preorder!

harmonious heartsI don’t think I’ve properly mentioned this in its own post, but I am going to be published for the first time! A short story of mine, “Entrances and Exits,” was a winner for the 2017 Young Author Challenge by Harmony Ink Press, and will be published with the other winners in an anthology of stories about LGBTQ characters aged 14-21 written by 14-21 year olds. (They do this every year, so it’s definitely a great opportunity for some of you out there!)

I’m a bit nervous because between this and a workshop I did last fall (I originally wrote this in a class), it’s gone through a lot of edits and is a little blurry in my mind. But I did learn from class that I shouldn’t make changes that compromise the integrity of what I want to say. It’s also a little experimental, written with an “objective”/observer POV and entirely taking place in a foyer. But it comes from a place very dear to my heart–not just because the main character is also bisexual, but also because of the observations on heteronormativity and college admissions. (That said, the experiences and relationships definitely differ from my own!)

And now the anthology is officially available to preorder! It will be released on October 24. I’m excited to read everyone else’s stories! (I haven’t properly checked out the author’s portal yet but I do believe I have or will have access to an ebook early, but I don’t think I’ll review it because that feels a little biased!)

The official blurb for my story is as follows:

The foyer of the Huxtable family home has seen its share of struggles. It bears witness as siblings Pippa and Mike try to strike a balance between their dreams and the expectations of well-meaning parents. As Pippa grows up, she realizes the influence of everyday heteronormativity on her life, while Mike cannot seem to escape his driven sister’s shadow.

I’m very excited to properly start my publishing career, and this has been a great opportunity to gain experiences working with editors.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Synopsis:

brown girl dreaming.jpgJacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir-in-verse by Jacqueline Woodson, was released in 2014 and showered with awards including a Newbery Honor and National Book Award. So naturally, I wanted to read this as a part of exploring middle grade and for reading more books by and about African-Americans this year.

Woodson covers her early childhood and adolescence in the book, and in that short span of time she has plenty of history and perspective to cover. She’s a black girl born during the Civil Rights movement to a Southern mother but a proud Northern father who divorce when she is a baby. She’s raised in the South with her grandparents, but then her mother leaves for New York, and she and her brother and sister are raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses by their grandmother. When her mother comes back to take them to move to New York (Brooklyn), they continue the practice, and they experience the contrasts between the North and the South through constant visits. Later, she becomes very aware of the 1970s movements that surround her, particularly feminism. Plus, there are quite a few references to the music of the times, which I enjoyed.

As much of the book covers a time when Woodson was quite young and naturally doesn’t remember everything, the verse form allows her to imagine her family at moments she would not be able to see or remember. It’s a creative blend of memoir, hope, and commentary. I also loved to see Jacqueline’s growing love for writing and poetry. Her older sister was the quick-learning, book-smart one, so she felt like she disappointed teachers, but she begins to find her own voice and it’s lovely.

I sometimes struggle with free-verse book form–I think I like single poems more, and particularly poetry that experiments with form, sound, rhythm, rhyme. I like longer “single” poems, and in a lot of popular collections they are quite short and structurally simple. (And just to clarify, I’m not saying those collections aren’t poetry. I just don’t enjoy them or get as much out of them.) But Woodson here has some longer lines and variations in her poems, and the style works very well for that blend of what she remembers and what she imagines.

Brown Girl Dreaming is a great book for the upper elementary and above, especially if you’re interested in writing, poetry, African-American history and perspectives, Jehovah’s Witnesses experiences, or are just a fan of Jacqueline Woodson in general. I’m interested in reading her latest, Another Brooklyn, although that one is a fictional novel for adults. As some of her life in Brooklyn in the ’70s is chronicled in Brown Girl Dreaming, it will be interesting to see how her life influenced that story.

The Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

I made an effort to space out tags and as a reslt, this is coming a little after the middle of the year. I was tagged by Sarah at Book Hooked Nook (I LOVE her blog title) so be sure to check her out!

1. Best book that you’ve read so far in 2017

This is hard, but because some of my other favorites are mentioned below, I’m going to go with Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I had to read this for class and I read it all in one day–and not because I waited until the day before it was due! (It was actually several days before that.) I just love how Bechdel draws lots of literary comparisons to try to make sense of her life and family…it’s exactly how I think through things!

2. Best sequel that you’ve read so far in 2017

Honestly, I barely read sequels and series anymore, but I did start the Ms. Marvel (2014-) trade paperbacks and did enjoy the second one, though perhaps not as much as the first.

3. New release that you haven’t read yet but want to

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue…I currently have it on hold on my library’s Overdrive, though! I’m also reading it as a part of an online book club, in a way.

4. Most anticipated release for the next half of 2017

If I have to choose, I think I’ll go with Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (out October 3rd) because I haven’t read a book by her yet and I’m eager to explore her magical realism stories, beautiful writing, and queer characters that I’ve heard so much about!

wild beauty

5. Biggest disappointment in 2017

Waiting for Godot…I love that I’ve found I enjoy reading plays, but there are some plays that are much more effective when seen. This would be one of them.

6. Biggest surprise in 2017

The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu–this is a trade-published nonfiction book (aka less academic than some) that I had to read for a class, and I didn’t really expect to like it because it was focused more on the business and advertising side of entertainment, but I actually really enjoyed it! There were so many little tidbits of things I learned, and it also drew important and thoughtful connections.

7. Favorite new author (debut or new to you)

Colson Whitehead, because a) I really liked The Underground Railroad and b) I got to see him speak and despite that novel’s serious subject matter, he’s actually got a hilarious dry sense of humor talking about his life. His other books look to be more absurdist and funny and I’m looking forward to getting to them.

He also signed my copy of The Underground Railroad!

8. Newest fictional crush

Honestly, I rarely get fictional crushes, sorry! It might be partially what I read and mostly how I interact with others, real and fictional. Sorry! **shrugs**

9. Newest favorite character

So I both read and watched the recent National Theatre Live performance of Angels in Amercia, and Harper Pitt is now one of my dream roles even though I don’t really do theatre. She gets some of the best, wacky monologues and she’s at once a tragic yet hopeful case.

10. A book that made you cry

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin…there’s so much sadness and melancholy running through this one, as it’s about living with a heck of a lot of internalized homophobia and other issues, but the part that really got me was when he is hugging his (female) fiance but there’s no love in it…because it reminded me of a time I was on the other end of that hug.

11. A book that made you happy

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee is just this adorable middle grade about a girl with a crush on another girl and loving theater.

star crossed

12. The most beautiful book you’ve bought or received in 2017

I picked up a used hardcover of All the Light We Cannot See and it’s such a beautiful, shimmering book.

all the light we cannot see

13. What books do you need to read by the end of 2017?

I just wrote a post about that!

 

Since this tag is a little untimely, I’m not going to tag anyone specifically. But if you still want to do it, go ahead!

 

How has your reading year been so far?

At-College TBR for Fall 2017

Hi all, so I’ve been a bit absent because I finished up my summer job, shopped and packed, and moved back to college! I’m so glad I’m back. And this semester I’m especially excited, because I have a lot of free time in my schedule compared to last semester, so I should have more time to focus on reading, blogging, writing, and hopefully YouTube.

So, I’m going to compile a (probably) ambitious list of books I plan on reading this semester, especially because I only have 1 regular English class! I’m mostly focusing on books I already own, because I’m on a self-imposed book buying ban. Let me know what you think of them, or if you have any more recommendations!

Books for Class

  • For my literary history class (not sure if I’m reading these in their entirety, either…): Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, “Wife of Bath’s Tale” (part of Caterbury Tales I believe), Doctor Faustus, Spencer’s Faerie Queen Book 1, Paradise Lost
  • For my “What is Good Education?” class (don’t know if I’m going to read all of these yet…): “They Say/I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (because this is also a writing course) and Seeking Common Ground: Public Schools in a Diverse Society
  • I’m also taking a class about teaching YA in a diverse society (yay!!) but there isn’t a book list, so I’m hoping we get to choose and I’ll probably choose some of the books further down this list.

Soooo naturally I’m looking to have some fun reading in between all of that!

Books Coming Out this Fall

There are a couple of books I am definitely going to preorder. It’s by no means an extensive list of all I’m excited for, however–but if I read anything else sooner/before paperback, it’ll probably be from the library. At least, that’s the plan I hope to stick to.

  • They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (Sept 5)–Wow, this is coming so soon!!
  • 27 Hours by Tristina Wright (Oct. 3)–I was actually contacted by the publisher to review a finished copy of this
  • Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (Oct 3)
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (Oct 10)–I’m not the biggest fan of Writing!Green, but this  tackles OCD based on his own experience, and I’m 100% here for anything in that very small category of books
  • La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman (Oct 19)–I’ve waited so long for this!!

Others

  • Books I’m currently in the middle of: Brown Girl Dreaming, The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way, TV: The Book, and a collection of essays by George Orwell
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I told one of my good friends and fellow English nerd to pick a physical book I should bring with me and read this semester, and she picked this one.
  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by MacKenzie Lee–reading as a part of an online book club (though I’m interested in it!)
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Glass Castle by by Jeannette Walls–I don’t know if I’ll see the movie, but I’ve got the book and want to read it soon.
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  • Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

…And I should probably stop myself there. Have you read any of these? What are you planning to read soon?

 

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King

Genre: middle grade, surrealism/absurdism(?)

Release Date: January 31, 2017

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic

marvin gardens.jpgObe Devlin has problems. His family’s farmland has been taken over by developers. His best friend Tommy abandoned him for the development kids. And he keeps getting nosebleeds, because of that thing he doesn’t like to talk about. So Obe hangs out at the creek by his house, in the last wild patch left, picking up litter and looking for animal tracks.

One day, he sees a creature that looks kind of like a large dog, or maybe a small boar. And as he watches it, he realizes it eats plastic. Only plastic. Water bottles, shopping bags… No one has ever seen a creature like this before, because there’s never been a creature like this before. The animal–Marvin Gardens–soon becomes Obe’s best friend and biggest secret. But to keep him safe from the developers and Tommy and his friends, Obe must make a decision that might change everything.

In her most personal novel yet, Printz Honor Award winner Amy Sarig King tells the story of a friendship that could actually save the world.

Amy Sarig King is better known as A.S. King, one of my favorite YA authors. This is her middle grade debut, so naturally I was doubly intrigued to not only read it but to see how she would write for a different audience. I admit it took me a bit to get into, and like all her books it’s not going to appeal to the mainstream, but it definitely won me over by the end.

Me and Marvin Gardens is your boy-and-a-dog story except the “dog” in question is a completely unknown and strange but friendly creature who eats plastic and poops brightly-colored toxic waste. Yes, you read that right. This is a book about environmentalism, as Obe picks trash out of the creek, ponders pollution facts his cool science teacher writes on the board every day, and has watched his family’s land be turned into a housing development. The changing of the Earth with time was distilled to a microcosm perfectly in this setting. It also has a lot to explore about toxic masculinity, as Obe’s father reminds him frequently that boys don’t cry, and Obe’s former friend has turned against him to fit into the meaner crowd of boys who make a list of girls to kiss without their consent (and the book has a GREAT discussion on this with Obe, his sister, and their parents).

So, yes, this doesn’t have the pacing of your usual middle grade. Obe’s a very internal character and the conflict with Marvin Gardens (the nickname for the creature) and the neighborhood builds slowly. And yet, King has unquestionably tailored her style to suit middle grade. There’s still the surrealism/abusrdism (I don’t know what to call it because unlike some of her others this isn’t magical realism, as Marvin is definitely not treated as a normal thing in the world), but it’s much more linear than her other narratives. Obe occasionally reflects on what it was like 100 years ago when his family began to lose the land, preserving King’s narrative style of having excerpts in different styles from the main narrative–but again, it’s more approachable.

Another delightful aspect of Me and Marvin Gardens is the friendship. Obe grows closer with his friend and bus seat-mate, Annie, as she lets him in one what’s been going on, defends her against his ex-friend’s nonconsensual kiss, and brings her to his creek for her to collect rocks (she wants to be a geologist) and, eventually, to meet Marvin. They get teased a little bit, but their bond remains platonic, which is refreshing. (YA does tend to pair characters more than middle grade, but often MG will feature budding relationships.)

I also really loved the ending, which isn’t a surprise if you know me. I don’t want to spoil it, but it does involve a positive view of teaching as a profession!

As always, I’m looking forward to what A.S. King comes up with next.

The TBR Tag

I’m back for another tag! This one I’m taking a cue from the lovely Fernanda at The Waderlust Reader because she kindly tagged anyone who wanted to do it. My TBR certainly needs some reflection so I thought this was something I should do!

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

I keep a pretty liberal list of “to-read” books on Goodreads of books I’m interested in. Many haven’t been released, are recently released, or are smaller books I just didn’t want to forget about.

I recently used my journal (actually the blank pages in my Passion Planner) to keep track of my owned books that I need to read. It’s unfortunately long, thanks to my problem with Kindle ebook deals. See below, because I wanted to show off my beginner’s journaling skills 🙂

Is your TBR mostly print or ebook?

I’m not gonna do the math, but as you can see from above, many I currently own are Kindle (marked with a “K”) ebooks. I really like ebooks, not just because of portability, but also because they are often easier to read for me–it’s easier to get into a comfortable position and prop open, and the text size adjustment is really useful. Some books I definitely want to own in physical copy, however, usually depending on how much I like the actual object, wanting to support the author, and if I feel it’s an “important” book I’ll revisit and/or proudly display.

Some books I also find easier (and cheaper) to get from the library, and sometimes I’ll also get them as ebooks from the library–especially if I’m out of town at college but still have access with the Overdrive app!

How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

Honestly, I don’t have much of a system It’s a combination of what I’ve owned the longest (often in print) and what I’m excited about. Of course, that can all get shaken up if I take a trip to the library and see something from my TBR.

A book that has been on your TBR the longest?

I think the book I own that I’ve had the longest is The Celebrated Jumping Frog and Other Stories by Mark Twain, a cheap paperback I got in like 5th grade that I still haven’t read (so about 9 years ago). On Goodreads, the book I’ve had on my to-read shelf the longest is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, though I own it now and will hopefully get to it soon(ish)!

A book that you recently added to your TBR?

Goodreads: The Truth About Twinkie-Pie by Kat Yeh, because I’d seen it recommended as a really good middle grade book, and I’m always interested in exploring more current MG reads as it’s a genre I often write in.

Owned: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. This was an ebook deal recently and it was a pretty big book in 2015 so it has been on my radar. Plus, my friend read another book by her (Arcadia, which I also have on ebook) and really liked it.

A book on your TBR strictly because it has a beautiful cover

I honestly don’t do this very often, but I seem to remember adding Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari to my TBR when I saw the cover released, and I don’t even think Goodreads had a synopsis then. It just looks like the kind of middle grade book I would have wanted as a kid, and maybe similar to the kind of stories I write.

things that surprise you

A book on your TBR that you never plan on actually reading

I think it has to be Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This is on my TBR because a friend gave it to me for a Christmas present a couple years ago because I like classics, but I’m not too interested in picking it up. I’m familiar enough with its historical and literary context and impact, and it’s not like it’s a quick read, either. Besides, when I want to read about American’s troubled history with race, I’d rather read something from an African-American author.

A book on your TBR that you are excited for

I think this refers to an upcoming release, so I’m going to go with The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell (out November 2). If you’re not familiar with Jen, she’s a writer/poet and former bookseller who makes videos all about books and writing and she’s super lovely and inspirational. This is going to be her first majorly published fiction for adults (and first short story collection) and I’m so excited to read more of her work–she’s very into fairytale retellings and magical realism, and I love the way she talks about those topics! That kind of magical blending of fantasy and reality might be my favorite genre short stories, too.

 A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read but you

The Raven Boys…especially because a couple of my real-life friends have loved it recently. I picked it up once but returned it to the library because I didn’t want to read it right then, but I think I’ll still give it a try. Mostly for the promise of dream sequences.

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you

…I’m going to go with Game of Thrones because my cousins have been obsessed with the books and the TV shows and think they’re the best thing ever. I have the first book on my Kindle from a deal (what a surprise!) but honestly I’m not sure it will live up to the hype for me. I have no doubt Martin can weave the subplots of lots of complicated characters together well, but the excepts I’ve seen of his writing do not thrill me on a word-by-word level. I also haven’t had much luck with reading series in a while. Besides, there are a lot of other TV shows I’m more interested in watching first.

A book on your TBR that you are dying to read

Right now,  Ghost by Jason Reynolds. Reynolds is EVERYWHERE right now in the YA and middle grade community and I haven’t read anything by him yet, and what better place to start than a middle grade? Plus, it fits right into my effort to read more books by and about African-Americans this year. I have it on my Kindle so I’m probably going to read it when I go back to college! (Trying to read physical books while I’m still at home.)

The number of books on your Goodreads TBR

…849. Yeah, I know. This is what happens when you read a very wide variety…

I was about to add another based on recommendation, too, but then I saw I’d somehow already added it…so that’s a plus.

I tag…

Lea from Outer Spades

Bluestocking Bookworm

Anyone else who wants to do the tag!

Cake Flavored Book Tag!

I am participating in my first book tag! I was tagged for the Cake Flavored Book Tag by Danielle over at The Introverted Bookworm. Thank you, and you should check out her blog 🙂

CHOCOLATE CAKE: A dark book you absolutely love

This is probably a cliche, but I really love Macbeth. I’ve only read it and seen some of the Patrick Stewart adaptation in school, but it’s certainly one of my favorite Shakespeares from what I’ve read so far and one of my favorite dramatic/tragic plays. I just love how the the dramatic irony that makes you feel that impending sense of doom and how the darkness is personified by supernatural occurrences. And witches!

macbeth gif.gif

VANILLA CAKE: A light read

I can’t say I read a lot of books that are completely or mostly “light”–I like my hard-hitting subjects and emotion–but one of my favorites that certainly fits is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its series! I’m aware this isn’t for everyone and it’s certainly light on plot, but not only does it have a lot of iconic phrases, but much of the humor comes from wacky situations and images that result from the precise placement of words (it was originally a radio series, after all–great example of word-level humor).

marvin hitchhikers

RED VELVET: A book that gave you mixed emotions

I’ve got to go with a book I read this year: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I’d heard for years about how AMAZING this was and I bought it on Kindle when it was on sale, and then I met someone who never stops talking about it because it’s his favorite book. So I finally read it, and…I didn’t love it. There were certainly things I liked about it, but I had conflicting feelings about the characters (many were not very memorable to me), and there was something missing in the plot and world that would have kept me reading. I did really love the ending, though. I hope I can get back into fantasy one day…this just wasn’t the book to do it.

CHEESECAKE: A book you would recommend to anyone

I always worry about recommending books, especially ones I love, because I know everyone has different tastes. That said, I think I’m going to go with the play of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. I’m sure not anyone wants to read a play, but it’s got both great one-liners and situational comedy to make for an entertaining–and quick–read. Also, the main reason I chose this was because it’s one of my favorite books I read for class AND everyone (seniors in high school) also seemed to really like it, which is pretty rare to see. (It’s also likely I’ll be trying to teach it in the future!)

earnest muffins.gif

COFFEE CAKE: A book you started but never finished

I don’t DNF very often, and if I do it’s sometimes a case of “I have this out from the library but don’t want to read it right now so I might as well return it and read it some other time,” but one I did DNF recently (like, 2-3 years ago) was Angelfall by Susan Ee. I thought this was going to be a quick ebook read, but it really wasn’t, and I found myself not enjoying it as much as everyone else seemed to be. Something about the main character and the angel character I didn’t enjoy, and I realized post-apocalyptic writing is probably

CARROT CAKE: A book with great writing

toni morrison.jpgI just finished reading Beloved by Toni Morrison, and while I loved her turns of phrases in The Bluest Eye, I gained even more appreciation for her writing in Beloved. It’s a tough book to follow, but I’m amazed at how Morrison weaves in many perspectives, supernatural forces, and flashbacks, jumping from one to another effortlessly. She alters the writing style based on the character or situation, and it’s also a great story to boot.

TIRAMISU: A book that left you wanting more

To Kill a Mockingbird, hands down. I was expecting more of a reflection on Jem’s emotional fallout as a result of the ending. It was also really disappointing that (SOME SPOILERS, if you care) the white lawyer and sheriff were like “so, one of these two white people killed a man, but that guy was most definitely bad, so let’s just let them off the hook” without a hint of self-awareness that this was a result of the hasty judgement and incarceration of a black man…between that and Jem, the ending raised so many questions for me and not a bit of resolution. This also kind of ties into my frustration about how this book is so often taught in schools, much more than books by African-Americans, and if you’re going to pick one book about racism to teach…you should probably choose one actually written by a black person. Teaching this feels like a nostalgia-tinged way to please everyone.

CUPCAKES: A series with 4+ books

I’ll be honest: I’m not very good at reading series right now, especially ones that are longer than trilogies! Harry Potter is a bit too obvious (though, plotting-wise, one of the best IMO), and I already talked about Hitchhiker’s (“a trilogy in five parts”), so I’m choosing something that I haven’t finished but is absolutely a recent favorite: the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente! Starting with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making his is not only a cute and fun middle grade series, but it’s a love letter to fairytales and kidlit with plenty of satire and real-world comparisons that makes it great for older readers, too. I confess I’ve only read the first 2 but need to finish it

fairyland

FRUIT CAKE: A book that wasn’t what you anticipated

I want to choose a positive one for this, so I’ve got to go with one of my all-time favorites: The Great Gatsby. I had to read this my freshman year of high school (and recently reread it in college–appreciate the writing even more now) and in the beginning and based on the back synopsis, I assumed it would be a traditional love story. So when I got to Chapter 7 and (SPOILERS, obviously) everything goes DOWN and it all blows up in his face, I was riveted. I was at a point in my life where I was starting to realize relationships weren’t simple, people were complicated, and the image you have of others is often not who they actually are.

gatsby gif.gif

I tag…

Bluestocking Bookworm

Cassie from Cassie’s Library

Ash from For the Love of Books

And anyone else who wants to do this tag!

My Goodreads Challenge is Inaccurate, and That’s Okay

I set a Goodreads goal this year to read 60 books. In 2014 and 2015, I had a goal of 50 and exceeded it by a few, so last year it was truly a challenge, by not an unreachable one. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it because when I went to college my reading dropped off because I wasn’t spending too much time alone and I didn’t have to read many books for class (mostly short stories). This year I’m trying for 60 again and so far I’m a 40–2/3 of the way through, and 7 books ahead. And I haven’t finished a book in the past week. So what happened?

The short answer: school. My spring semester, unlike my fall one, I had to read a lot for class and many of it was books. On my Goodreads challenge, I have counted the following from my classes:

  • 7 novels, 2 nonfiction books, and 2 graphic memoirs for my literature classes
  • 2 books I read that were my choice but were wholly or partially written about for class (that’s Difficult Women and The Hate U Give)
  • 6 nonfiction books and more academic “textbooks” I had to read all or some of for other classes

Yes, you read that–“all or some of.” I counted books that I read most but not all of the chapters in it, so I didn’t read it all. BUT there’s also a lot that I read that couldn’t be counted on Goodreads–short stories, poems, articles, chapters from other books…I figure that makes up for the portions of “read” books I didn’t actually read.

And this has reminded me of something I need to remember: it isn’t all about what “counts.” I haven’t read many stories and poems in literary journals (online or print) because they don’t “count,” for instance, and that doesn’t help my writing goals. It also means I’m less likely to read longer or more difficult books and more likely to read shorter and quicker stories (though I confess that this time I picked up graphic novels and comics not for that reason).

Goodreads and its challenges are incredibly useful to me keeping track of things, but it isn’t everything, and I’m glad I’ve recognized that.

How do you use your Goodreads challenge or keep track of your reading?

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Genre: middle grade contemporary

Release date: March 28, 2017

Publisher: Scholastic

Synopsis:

bracedThe first contemporary novel about a disorder that bends the lives of ten percent of all teenagers: scoliosis.

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her — even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.

Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.

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