January & February 2017, Part 1

Okay, so… You may be wondering where I’ve been and why this blog sat unused for a year. Since there’s neither an easy nor a legitimate one, I’ll spare us the word count. What I will say is this:

I’m back!

Time, once again, to blow off the dust and crack those knuckles. This is year three of participating in the PopSugar Reading Challenge. Suffice it to say, I’ve successfully completed last year’s challenge too. (I’ll fill in those posts later.)

So far, I’d say I’m pretty ahead of the game.  Three under my belt in January, and so far another five in February. (I know, it’s oddly disproportionate…)

Let me throw these up there and get back to blogging!

JANUARY

1
A Bestseller from 2016: The Nix, by Nathan Hill

This cover intrigued me, and after reading Eliot Schrefer’s positive review, I decided I could justify picking it up. Really quite funny, and oddly appropriate timing due to today’s political climate…

2
A book with a cat on the cover: Culdesac, by Robert Repino

In preparation for the sequel to Mort(e), which was surprise news, I found this novella to hold me over! While you don’t have to have read Mort(e), it does help flesh out another quite memorable character, Culdesac. This had less to do with the ants, and more to do with the happenings in a small town during the war. D’Arc, the conclusion of the series, is out in May.

3
A book that is a story within a story: Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld

One that’s been on my TBR list for a while — Also a fun motivator for participating in NaNoWriMo (which is, again, very tempting). Diverse, LGBT love story, mixed with supernatural romance. This book almost was a choice for last year but I used a different one instead. Still glad to have picked this one up.

FEBRUARY, Part 1

4
A book about a difficult topic: My Heart and Other Black Holes, by Jasmine Warga

This one had been recommended by Cara Bertrand when it first came out, and though I would comfortably set this with many other “typical” YA realistic fiction books, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it! Flawed and damaged characters are always so interesting to read, and Warga did a nice job of describing what it feels like to be dispassionate with the angst of teen years. One of my cousins is really interested in reading this one, so I’m sending it along to her! (Any chance I have to spread the love of reading, I’ll take it!)

5
A book with multiple authors: Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

I like to read at least one of David’s books each year, and I knew when I saw this prompt, that I would use one of David’s many collaborations as the one to read. Naomi & Ely has also been turned into a movie (which you can now watch on Netflix). While I often have a difficult time relating to mostly-well-off NYC teens, the feelings of friendship and love still resonate through the work.

6
A book from a nonhuman perspective: The Diabolic, by S.J. Kincaid

When I saw my old book club choose this title, I thought: but you only choose paperback books… As this is a new release, it must be REALLY good if everyone voted to read it! I was not disappointed! I certainly hope there’s another book after this one! Another book where timely political messages come through. I thought a great deal about The Capitol from The Hunger Games, and a touch of Red Rising. Admittedly, I cheated a bit by using this book for this prompt. The main character, while genetically created to resemble humans, is not quite human, but rather human in appearance (and some temperaments). Certainly recommended!

7
A book you loved as a child: My Dinosaur Adventure: a personalized storybook, by Karen M. Hefty & Valarie Webb

This is one you won’t find anywhere else, it was a “Create-a-Book” given to me on my 6th birthday. I was amazed when I read the book and saw that it was about me! My name, and those in my family, were written in as characters. The story is about me waking up to find a unicorn named Ariel at my bedroom window. I’m whisked away to the Land of Dinosaurs to find my birthday cake. Since dinosaurs have such small brains, they forgot where they put it! With the help of many new dinosaur friends, the cake was found and a grand party was had! (I also had a dinosaur cake for my birthday that year.)

8
A book that’s a character’s name: The Death and Life and Zebulon Finch

Just look at that cover! It begs to be read, and that’s precisely why I wanted it. This happens to be a signed copy, thanks to my fellow librarian friend’s last trip to Book Expo. Zebulon Finch was exactly as I thought it would be: an historic tour of America, with a bit of creepiness. While by no means a full tour, this volume covers about 50-60 years. A young gangster is gunned down, and mysteriously comes back to life… not as a flesh-eating zombie, but as an animated corpse. Yet another instance I’m pleased to move on to the sequel.

Off to a good start, and nothing I would speak all that negatively about. I’ve been very pleased in my selections thus far. I’m hoping to finish another two or three before this month is out. While I’d tell you to stay tuned here, if you want to really keep up with my book reading, follow me on Instagram: @gcpinder.

Ta-ta for now!

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January 2016

Let’s get this ball rolling! After having hosted Christmas for my family for the first time ever — which was no small feat! — I have survived with most of my sanity intact. As the new year begins, and the holiday tide ebbs, it’s time for a bit of reflection. Again, I strive to read as many books from my own personal collection as possible to complete the list.

We begin with three, listed favorite to least:

The Lover's Dictionary David Levithan
A book from the library: The Lover’s Dictionary, by David Levithan
Six of Crows Leigh Bardugo
A YA Bestseller: Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
That Old Cape Magic Richard Russo
A book that takes place on an island: That Old Cape Magic, by Richard Russo

 

I was pretty self-serving when it came to choosing The Lover’s Dictionary. Leading a book club at work grants me the opportunity to choose practically any book as ‘a book from the library’ and this one was a quick, yet powerful read. Levithan tells a narrative in an uncommon method: dictionary entries. With some ‘chapters’ as sort as a few letters, to others that span several pages, I felt engaged. Though one might think at first glance this would be an uplifting, romantic, hopeful book, it really is quite sad… this is one that deserves more than a single read-through. I found myself noting certain pages/words/entries to turn back to and read over and over. Think of those you hold dear to your heart. Recognize how love is so closely tied to joy, and also pain. No one is perfect, no love is perfect, and no one lives without feeling heartache. There’s nothing wrong with hope. There’s nothing wrong with fear. Remember to be kind, understanding, and patient. Thanks for another lovely book, David.

~

Coming off of Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy, I wondered what else this universe might contain. If you consider her first trilogy as the mythos… the legend… Six of Crows feels more like the real, present-day (Grisha) world. With that trilogy as prologue, you have a richer understanding of this new book. Six of Crows is much more of a heist/action/thriller than a fantasy, but those elements are still present. It felt more focused, and I know how proud Leigh is of this book. (I still have the manuscript around here somewhere!) While it’s not necessary to read Shadow & Bone (etc.) before this, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you do.

~

Though I purchased Russo’s book on a whim during one of my trips to The Cape, I’ve never taken the time to read it out on the beach as I intended. During this winter, I figured it was time to start thinking warm thoughts. Honestly, I don’t have too much to say about this one. It didn’t thrill me, but it didn’t bore me. The characters were flawed, which made them endearing… and the story was pretty light. I’ll probably let this one go now that I’m done with it. This is perhaps an unfair assessment of Russo’s work, since I know people don’t just win Pulitzers on a whim, but I may take some time before picking up another one of his books.

New Year, new list

Last year’s Reading Challenge was completed well before the end of the year. 2016’s Reading Challenge is a much shorter list (only 41) so I anticipate some free-wielding posts scattered about towards the end of the year. Let’s see how I fare this go-round!

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Edit:
This post, and many of the following posts, had been drafted and never published. Due to some significant life changes, I’ve held off from publishing these entries. This 6-month hiatus wasn’t exactly planned, and though I may have put my writing on hold, my reading has never stopped. I feel as though I’m finally at a point where I can pick up where I left off, and I hope, dear Reader, that you’re still out there… and that you bear with me while I roll the following entries out.

xx

October 2015

This is turning out to be the penultimate post for the 2015 Reading Challenge! Is that spoilery? Oops…

As things are wrapping up, I almost feel a bit anxious — What am I going to read next?! — yet in other ways, I feel rather liberated in my reading choices for the rest of the year. This is also making me think about what this blog will look like in the new year. I haven’t quite figured that out yet… as it is right now, Pop Sugar hasn’t posted any challenge for 2016. Of course, that doesn’t mean I should stick to their challenge; I’m sure there are others out there. So while I putter around in the background, here’s what I checked off this month.

outlander, diana gabaldon
A book based on or turned into a TV show

Outlander:
Though I’m showing SEVEN of the Outlander books here, I only read the first. I happened upon an INSANE deal: $1.99 for all seven of them on Kindle. On top of that, for some reason, I had some residual promotional credits on my Amazon account, so really, I got them all for free! This MUST have been some kind of mistake… Not 20 minutes after finding this deal, I recommended it to a few fellow readers, but when they checked, the promotion had expired and the price was back up, well over $50. Now, the offer isn’t even available… Sorry folks.

That aside, I haven’t seen the Outlander TV show, yet… and I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, but I was able to jive with it rather well. I know Gabaldon spends a lot of time, years even, researching for her books, and since I heard that endorsement before I started, I quickly set my skepticism aside and allowed myself to get swept away. Boy, it got rather steamy in parts! Is that why people read these?? Lemme tell ya, if you’re looking for some racy period fiction, I’m sure there are more direct titles out there! While I appreciated Outlander, I felt like it was also taking a really long time to get through. When I finished and realized there were another six (now seven) more books, I just had to stop. Let’s the show next… Maybe it will be another Game of Thrones situation and I can idly watch rather than trudge though thousands of pages of text.

the way of the shadows, shadow's edge, beyond the shadows, brent weeks
A trilogy

The Night Angel Trilogy:
Oh, Night Angel… So, let me preface this by saying I bought this boxed set back when I was still in boarding school. That was well over ten years ago, and it was still shrink-wrapped until I broke it open for this challenge. Why in the world would I have a shrink-wrapped boxed set sitting around for ten plus years? Well… I don’t know what possessed me to buy these books initially… I don’t even think it was a recommendation. So, I thought,  hey — I have a perfectly good trilogy right here waiting to be read!… I started reading book one back in February. The overall arc in the trilogy was good, but I felt like book one started strong… things dipped til about the middle of book two, then fell again. Book three started okay, then dipped, and then by the end I felt actually invested in the story. WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG??

I had a hard time keeping secondary and tertiary characters straight. Some of the dialog seemed too contemporary for the medieval time period the story was set in, which kept pulling me out of the narrative. Though I was actually starting to get pretty invested in the characters and the story by the end of the third book, I still give this series a side-eye. There was quite a bit of world building… but… it didn’t quite… stick. I’ve come away from the series ready to open up some space on my book shelf.

the glass sentence, s.e. grove
A book based entirely on its cover

The Glass Sentence:
I suppose there are a few interpretations for this category, but I took it to mean “a book with an attractive cover.” While I tried working on a few titles, I ended up using them for other categories instead, or just not getting through them fast enough. This one, I breezed through! I don’t often read middle-grade books, but considering this is targeted to ages 10-14, I thought it reached far enough into the world of young adult that I could concede to reading it. (That sounded snobby… but it’s not, I promise.) In fact, just starting off in this book, I had to stop and check myself — this was really advanced! Really complex ideas and themes… advanced vocabulary… beautiful story… memorable and fun characters… Thank goodness this is a trilogy! It harkens a bit to Pullman’s His Dark Materials — but throwing in cartography and time… well, not travel… but… just read it! Oh, and pirates! Yes. Done. Go now!

September 2015

Looking back at the three titles I completed for The Challenge this month, I realized things were pretty gay — and that wasn’t even on purpose. As the year draws to a close, my list of remaining titles shrinks. In the meantime, here are this month’s completed books.

rainbow boys rainbow road, rainbow high, alex sanchez, gay
A book you started but never finished: Rainbow Road, by Alex Sanchez
brideshead revisited waugh gay romance
A classic romance: Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
vanishing rooms melvin dixon gay new york city
A book that scares you: Vanishing Rooms, by Melvin Dixon

 

Since there were only three this month, and they all have a pretty clear theme, I’ll touch on each of them.

Rainbow Road:
Boy, oh boy… Bless Susan from Waldenbooks all those years ago, my first personal bookseller who somehow knew exactly what I needed to read and never judged me. She put Rainbow Boys (book one in this trilogy) into my apprehensive hands and I am so appreciative. She also put Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton into my hands… which… maybe I shouldn’t have read at that age! — but she must have known I was a precocious reader. Susan also gave me The Perks of Being a Wallflower and a few others that really left distinct impressions on me. (Thank you, Susan! Wherever you are!) Rainbow Road was published the fall of my freshman year of college, and I suppose since I came out in the spring of my senior year of high school, I guess I felt that I didn’t really -need- the book anymore. I had only made it to page 26 and stopped. It took me a little while to pick this book up again for this challenge, and as someone mentioned: it looks like it could be a cheesy Lifetime movie. While I put such stock in these books when I first read them, I realize how drastically gay literature has changed over the last 10 years. There have been a few brand new gay YA books this year that I’ve read. Somehow they left me feeling… well… normal? Now that I’m older, I think that reading these ‘coming out’ books have a very different feel than when I was actually growing up and experiencing the feelings explored within the pages. Rainbow Road was in many ways frustrating (character and story-wise) but so nostalgic that I couldn’t help but want to finish it. They definitely do not resonate the same way they used to… and now I question whether or not to keep them in my collection at work or to weed them for fresher titles. Shocking, I know!

Brideshead Revisited:
I remember watching a bit of the TV mini series with Jeremy Irons at some point, and while I remember bits and pieces, it was very different to read. So much of the friendship between Sebastian and Charles is subtle and touching (and heartbreaking)… I hadn’t remembered how much of the book was focused on how bloody drunk Sebastian was all the time! Honestly, I was a bit bored with the relationship between Charles and Julia… but maybe that’s because he should have been with Sebastian… Oh, the fanfic that could be written! Speaking of fanfic… (well, sort of) apparently there’s a new YA retelling of Brideshead Revisited?? “Even In Paradise” by Chelsey Philpot. Charlotte Ryder instead of Charles… Hmm… we’ll see how THAT turns out!

Vanishing Rooms:
Finding a book that scares me is a challenge in itself. Thanks to reading Stephen King at such a young age, I don’t think I’ve ever found a book that actually scares me… makes me cringe? — Yes. Haunted me? — well… this one maybe will. It’s an older book, but it’s about a young black dancer who is living in New York City with his white southern journalist boyfriend… who share some interesting sexual exploits… The boyfriend is brutally raped and murdered in a hate crime, and the main character moves in with a female dancer from his studio and develops a relationship with her. Something about the first chapter captured me and forced me to read on. While it’s certainly a bit dated, a lot of what Dixon writes still resonates today, not only with regards to inequality between gay and straight members of society, but also the racial divide. I do feel like there was a lot of back story for each of the main characters that should have been explored more in-depth, but at the same time, I appreciate the brevity of the story. I can see why Dixon was noted as being the next Toni Morrison before his death in 1992 due to complications from AIDS. It was truly an emotional novel. Did I cry? No. Did I cringe? Yes. Did it scare me? In some ways… so I suppose I can call that a completed item.
The end is near! After this month, only FOUR titles remain in the 2015 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. All that remains: book three of a trilogy, a book based on its cover, a book a friend recommends, and a book based on or turned into a TV show.  Gosh, what am I going to do if I finish ahead of schedule??

May 2015

Whew! May is finally over!  So much has happened in the last 31 days, I can’t believe it all fit into the same month. I attended at least three conferences for work, I finished grad school, flew across the Atlantic to Spain for just over a week, came back, then turned right around to go to Book Expo America in NYC. This has been the most overwhelming month in recent history, but the best kind… and now it’s out of the woods…back to life, back to sense…

2015 Reading Challenge
Another scant month for challenge books: Just one!

a dirty job christopher moore
A funny book: A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore

I realized while I scanned my shelves, that not many of my books are actually all that humorous. Though I do have some Terry Pratchett floating around somewhere, this is the only other one I could find. It reminded me quite a bit of Gina Damico’s Hellhole, which I enjoyed much more, in fact. Though I understand why the story had to take place over several years, it felt drawn out longer than was necessary. Still, I enjoyed it.

Book Expo America 2015

This year, BEA was all about connections. Attending Bloggers Conference granted me the pleasure of meeting new faces, and learn a bit more than I did before. After learning my lesson last year, I was much more discerning about waiting in signing lines for particular authors. I managed to return with a haul of under 50 books (43).  I’m much happier with what I brought back this go-round — a much more cultivated batch, rather than a supermarket-sweepstakes grab-bag like last year. A full list to appear later.

There were several fabulous parties that I was invited to, and I had no idea they were going on last year! I’m thrilled to have been invited to be a part of the festivities. This experience has humbled me, but has also reminded me why I love what I do. Words escape me — I’ve had such a difficult time describing my emotions. I can only smile, while my eyes well, and feel so blessed to be surrounded by such love from my friends and colleagues. This is what I’m meant to do. Thank you to everyone who made BEA15 such a treasure. I’ll go all sentimental – these are memories I will be hard-pressed to ever forget.

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And if there’s one thing I learned this year: Be bold. Red pants make all the difference.

Guest Review: Landline

Love. Writing. Adventure.

by Garrett Pinder

It’s rare that I’m able to connect with a book on a level that really resonates with me, but Landline by Rainbow Rowell did. Better known for her wildly popular YA novel Eleanor & Park, Rowell carried me along with her easy flowing prose in this, her fourth book. At BEA 2014, I had the pleasure of meeting her as she signed an ARC (advanced reader copy) of the book. (Out now!)

Landline by Rainbow RowellLandline Signed by Rainbow Rowell

What’s it about?

We enter the story finding Georgie and Neal in the doldrums of marriage, struggling to manage work and care for their two young girls. Christmas is swiftly approaching, and the family has plans to visit Neal’s mother in Omaha for the holidays, when Georgie is offered a once in a lifetime opportunity at work. Unfortunately, this opportunity conflicts with travel plans, and Neal bitterly insists Georgie stay home while he takes…

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