Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Top Ten Series I Want to Finish (Or Not)

Happy (late) Top Ten Tuesday!

1. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

2. Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson

3. The Magicians series by Lev Grossman

4. Eternal Sky trilogy by Elizabeth Bear

5. The Circuit series by Rhett Bruno

6. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

7. The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

Series I Don't Intend to Finish

(not like I would never finish, but just wouldn't go out of my way to do so)

1. The Divergent series by Veronica Roth

2. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Monday, January 25, 2016


My novel is finished. 77, 704 words. 190 pages. Just under three months.

It's not good. It's not edited. It will likely never see the light of day. But it is finished.

Thank you, Snowzilla, Snowpocalypse 2016, or Snowmageddon 2: Snow Mercy, whatever you are. Now if you could just please melt and let my car out. Thanks.

Library Haul

Recently checked out of the library:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I've been meaning to read this series forever.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (audiobook)

Giving it a shot now that the furor has faded.

Peony in Love by Lisa See (audiobook)

Back to my go-to audiobooks on fictional China.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Reading Challenges 2015

I don't really do reading challenges, but at the beginning of 2015, I decided to see if I completed the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge. Later, I saw BookRiot's Read Harder challenge, and decided to see how my reading measured up with that too. I did not intentionally try to follow either challenge, and so did not entirely complete either, but I am impressed with how close I came!

Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge

1. A book with more than 500 pages: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

2. A classic romance: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

3. A book that became a movie: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

4. A book published this year: Against the Country by Ben Metcalf

5. A book with a number in the title: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

6. A book written by someone under 30: Dispatch from the Future by Leigh Stein (she was 29 when it was published)

7. A book with nonhuman characters: The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

8. A funny book: hypocrite in a pouffy white dress by susan jane gilman

9. A book by a female author: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

10. A mystery or thriller: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

11. A book with a one word title: Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

12. A book with short stories: Love InshAllah

13. A book set in a different country: The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

14. A non-fiction book: Radical by Michelle Rhee

15. A popular author's first book: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

16. A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

17. A book a friend recommended: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

18. A Pulitzer Prize winning novel: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

19. A book based on a true story: Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

20. A book at the bottom of your TBR list: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

21. A book your mom loves:

22. A book that scares you:

23. A book more than a 100 years old: The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts

24. A book based entirely on its cover:

25. A book you were supposed to read in school and didn't:

26. A memoir: The Republic of Imagination by Azar Nafisi

27. A book with antonyms in the title:

28. A book you can finish in a day: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

29. A book set somewhere you've always wanted to go: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Calcutta)

30. A book published the year you were born: The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

31. A book with bad reviews: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

32. A Trilogy: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Mercy (only read the last this year)

33. A book from your childhood: The Runaway Teddy Bear by Ginnie Hofmann

34. A book with a love triangle: The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

35. A book set in the future: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

36. A book set in high school: Taming the Star Runner by S.E. Hinton

37. A book with a color in the title: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

38. A book that made you cry:

39. A book with magic: Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear

40. A graphic novel:

41. A book by an author you've never read before: Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

42. A book you own but never read: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

43. A book that takes place in your hometown: Digging to America by Anne Tyler

44. A book that was originally written in another language: The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

45. A book set during a Jewish holiday Christmas:

46. A book by an author who had your same initials:

47. A play:

48. A banned book: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

49. A book based on or turned into a tv show: The 100 by Kass Morgan

50. A book you started but never finished: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Read Harder Challenge 2015

A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25: I'm not sure? There are soem contenders, but I'm having trouble confirming data on authors' ages.

A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65: See above.

A collection of short stories: Brave New Girls ed. Mary Fan and Paige Daniels

A book published by an indie press: Beirut Noir (Akashic Books)

A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own: Statisticity by Yaron Glazer

A book that takes place in Asia: The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

A book by an author from Africa:

A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture:

A microhistory: On the Same Track: How Schools Can Join the Twenty-First Century Struggle Against Resegregation by Carol Corbett Burris (I had to look up what a microhistory was).

A YA novel: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

A sci-fi novel: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

A romance novel: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

A book that is a retelling of a classic story: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

An audiobook: The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

A collection of poetry: Lightwall by Liliana Ursu

A book that someone else recommended to you: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A book that was originally published in another language: Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko

A graphic novel, a graphic memoir, or a collection of comics of any kind:

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

A book published before 1850: The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts (It was written around 1850, although not published till 2002)

A book published this year: Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jeanine Capo Crucet

A self-improvement book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top Ten Books I've Recently Added to My TBR

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish!
1. You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik (read about this somewhere, can't remember where)

2. The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich (because of Wild).

3. Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner (I read about it in an article, but an Fb friend from college highly praised it, so it's high on my TBR.)

4. Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose (my boyfriend and I have been watching Turn, the TV show based on it; from what I've heard, most of what happens in the show is true!)

5. Clash of Eagles by Alan Small (I met him at the Baltimore BookFest)

6. The Butler Speaks by Charles MacPherson (read about it somewhere)

7. Hotels of North America by Rick Moody  (read an article by the author in Conde Nast Traveler magazine)

8. Our Spoons Came from Woolworth's by Barbara Comyns Carr (I think I read about this in The Guardian)

9. Café Nevo by Barbara Rogan (read about somewhere)

10. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (read about everywhere)

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Annapolis Bookstore

I took a day trip to Annapolis the other day, and we ran across this magical bookstore. It's primarily a used bookstore, but new releases were on the shelves next to old classics. It's not the cheapest used bookstore around, but it's well-organized and fairly large. There are some antique books, and older hardback versions of classics, like the 1918 edition of Louisa May Alcott's Rose in Bloom, which I bought. The primary focus is fiction.

There were some whimsical displays, and friends "lion" around too. Highly recommended if you find yourself in the area. I can't wait to go back and explore some more!
Me in the Mirror of Erised.

MD socks bought in different Annapolis store.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top Ten 2015 Releases I Meant To Get To But Didn't

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish!
I had to go back to my anticipated books of 2015 to remember this! Looks like the winners are:

1. The Mechanical by Ian Tregellis

2. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

3. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente

4. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

5. Armada by Ernest Cline

6. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Saturday, January 9, 2016

On Not Not Reading Men

#Readwomen, #weneeddiversebooks, #diversifYA, #WITmonth--these are all hashtags I have used and supported. But while I am highly in favor of reading more women, more minorities, more books in translation, and more books by and about representatives of any marginalized or underrepresented group, lifestyle, or experience, I am not in favor of excluding any group. Any group. And, yes, that includes white, straight cisgender men.

I'm writing about this now because I've cared about and noticed this issue for a long while, but I did not feel that I was qualified to speak up. Why? Because my skin is as pale as paper. I benefit from white privilege. I also benefit from being a young, thin, feminine-looking woman. My Jewish religion and ancestry, LGBT sympathies, and other more controversial opinions are not written on my white, green-eyed face nor evident in my long brown hair or the clothes tailored to my thin-to-average female body. So while I have experienced discrimination and harassment, it's been so many orders lower than what so many other people have experienced that I don't want to negate the feelings or experiences of those who have been through much worse.

I still don't. So, although I do not agree with K.T. Bradford's decision to stop reading men or many others who have made similar declarations, I respect their right to their own reading choices and reasons (and I totally want to read all the books on their lists!). I might have continued to silently disagree and say nothing online, until I read this post by Cieran Oliver, a transgender man who points out that a focus on reading only women, intentionally or unintentionally, excludes transgender men and other transgender and nonbinary genders.

His story touched me so much not only because he made a point that I had been feeling but struggling to articulate, but also because his post demonstrates the pernicious effects of exclusionary rhetoric. This person felt that he had to hide his identity as a transgender man in order to credibly write a novel--a work of fiction!--about lesbians. He writes that he felt "I clearly didn't deserve to tell a story that for a large chunk of my life, reflected it in some ways." If we're going to talk about needing fiction written by representatives of the minority being represented (an idea I don't agree with, but recognize the thinking behind), this was someone who had lived as a lesbian! Who better to tell this story? But because he no longer identified as lesbian, he was made to feel like a "traitor," and like he had to "'earn' the right to write about lesbian characters" by dressing and acting female, even though that wasn't true to his own identity. How messed up is it that people are being made to feel this way?

I found out about the #weneeddiversebooks movement at BookRiot and got really excited. When I started my Twitter account in early 2015, I used the hashtag often. I loved the idea of a community built around the idea of promoting diverse books and encouraging the publishing community to publish more diverse books. However, when I attended #WeNeedDiverseBooks panels at both the Baltimore Book Festival and Shore Leave Con this year, I was surprised by some of the opinions I heard. While I heard panelists discussing why diverse books are important and explaining their own identities, this veered into a discussion in both places of why white people should not write books about diverse characters. To me, this seemed counter-intuitive. One transgender male panelist said something like (I'm paraphrasing here), "A fairy dies every time a cisgender person writes a trans story." There was clapping, so this sentiment obviously has some support. A black female panelist said, in response to a question from a white female audience member, that (again, paraphrasing), "White people should just get out of the way and let minorities tell their own stories." I want to respect these opinions. This is coming from a place of people who feel marginalized and who resent other people gaining praise for telling their stories without experiencing the harassment associated with that identity. I get that.

But do we really want to live in a world where we are pigeonholed into writing only about our own experiences? Isn't this what started the problem of not enough diverse voices in the first place? If white straight cisgender men are the people who are getting published the most right now, and obviously we want to change that, but if that's a fact, then do we want to tell them that they can only write white straight cisgender male stories?

For me, the magic of reading is being able to see from different perspectives. The magic of writing, I believe, is similar. How much could one learn from having to immerse one's self in the world of someone who is different from you? Wouldn't the resulting empathy be a deposit toward a greater global understanding of diversity? There have been, for example, studies that suggest children who read Harry Potter and sympathize with marginalized groups in that world, like "Mudbloods" and house-elves, have more sympathy and empathy for marginalized groups in the real world. 

Once upon a time, I attended an event with Junot Diaz, one of my all-time favorite authors. An audience member asked him a question that surprised me. His answer is one I have taken to heart. The audience member asked something like, "How do you feel about non-Dominicans reading your books?" In back-and-forth, it became clear that she considered this a non-legitimate audience for Diaz's books, and expected him to be upset by it. Instead, once he understood the implication of her question, Diaz responded that there are two kinds of readers for his books, those who feel like "insiders" i.e. Dominican-Americans in this case (although I considered myself an "insider" to Diaz's books as a sci fi/fantasy fan) and enjoy reading about themselves, and those who feel like "outsiders," and enjoy learning about another culture. Diaz stated unequivocally that he appreciated both types of readers.

Although maybe the fact that these attitudes initially surprised me show that I have a long way to go in terms of developing more empathy for other marginalized groups, I still disagree with the principle that one should only read books from marginalized groups or should only write books from the perspective of one's own group. I can tell you right now that my opinion about nearly anything is not the same as that of any other white Jewish female, simply because we happen to share those markers. I know that the perspective of one lesbian or one black woman or one Latino-American man is not the same as that of another lesbian or black woman or Latino-American man. As long as we're making leaps of empathy, why not leap across boundaries of gender and race and religion and sexual orientation?

Excluding any one group, even if it is white straight cisgender men, has a ripple effect in unintentionally excluding other groups, like transmen. Furthermore, excluding this group based on race, sexual orientation, and gender sends the message that it is okay to exclude a group of readers and writers based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation etc. Is that a message that anyone who cares about diversity wants to send? I'm not saying that you shouldn't make your own reading choices based on whatever criteria you want. If you want to spend a year reading Afro-Cuban authors, more power to you. I'm talking about, as a movement, let's try not to spread or preach exclusion. Read women. Read trans. Read diverse. But leave off the "only." Leave off the "I'm not reading X."

I've seen that others, like Biblibio, have been inspired by Oliver's post, and included transgender and nonbinary genders in their movements. I'm hoping that there are others out there who feel similarly to me, but I'm also hoping there are people out there who feel differently, but would be willing to engage in a civil dialogue to explain their opinions. I'm stating my opinion here, but I am also looking to learn and grow. This is not the last word on this subject.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Reading Goals 2016

1. Read more books by minority authors, but also look into new ways of viewing and categorizing diverse books.

2. Read more books in translation. Let's see if I can beat 2015's six and a half!

3. Read more poetry. Now that I've gotten a taste for it!

4. Read more literary magazines. This should also help with reading more poetry and short stories. Also, if I want to be published in literary magazines, I should be reading more!

5. Post to the blog 6 times a month!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Winter Break Reading

69. Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

I liked this novel about a group of American travelers lost in Burma. It fits with the trend of liking each Amy Tan novel I read more than the last, which Valley of Amazement broke. Not because it wasn't an interesting story, but some of it just seemed too awful to be believed. Saving Fish from Drowning, despite a dead narrator, isn't too awful for me to believe, or at least, to suspend disbelief. I read this after a long streak of non-fiction, and I enjoyed getting in the heads of fictional characters again, and following a clear narrative structure. Recommended to fans of weird, somewhat creepy character-driven fiction and those interested in travel along the Burmese Road.

70. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

This ended up in my boyfriend's book discard pile and caught my eye (he never read it; it was a gift). It's a book I never thought I would read. It's a book I've probably snickered at people for reading. Fortunately, I'm older and wiser now (or more desperate, ha!), and found some valuable thoughts in here. Honestly, as I guessed, a lot of it is common sense. Treat people how they want to be treated. It was interesting to me that the title is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, because, while that may be true, and Covey obviously believes it to be true, it seems more a manifesto about how to be a good person. In the long-term, Covey believes, people of good character will succeed. It's a comforting idea, whether or not it's true, and it imparts a sense of empowerment. He reminds us that while we cannot control outside forces, we can control how we react. I'm familiar with this message, and I'm sure it's far older than this book, but it helped to contemplate it again.

The most useful part of reading this book, for me, was the opportunity to think carefully about how to be a better person and how best to relate others. While it may be common sense, we may not think enough about how our actions and even our thoughts affect how we are perceived and treated, and how we can effect change in our lives through deciding not to let others dictate how we act or feel. Covey frequently mentions Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, which I also own and plan to read soon, as evidence of how we can control our reactions. In later sections, he mentions the autobiography of Anwar Sadat (the Egyptian president who signed a peace agreement with Israel) and numerous examples of the power of focusing only on one's own reactions from his own life. Most of his personal examples have to do with being a parent, and each example seems to mention a different child! I was wondering how many children he could possibly have, when I turned to his biography in the back. He and his wife have nine children! However, it's clear that he considers his role as a father to be his most important. More than focusing on work as I expected, the book is more about parenting, although the principles transfer to most if not all inter-personal relationships.

The most important takeaways I got were (I think) finally understanding the concept of synergy, which has just been a buzzword for as long as I can remember, and the extremely comforting idea that character matters more than personality. Also, this book came out the year I was born, and I know it's been highly influential, so I wonder if I've picked up many of the specific terms used in the book because of that, although I know the concepts are much older. I don't feel like I need to recommend this because I think, if you need it, you will know. It's not a cure-all or quick fix, but you may just hear something you need to think about in order to find your own answer.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Reading Statistics 2015

Reading Statistics 2015

How many books read in 2015?

How many books read by female authors?
45/70 or 64%.

How many books by minority authors?
17/70 or 24%.

How many books from other countries?

How many translated books?
6 and a half (The half was Beirut Noir, a book of short stories, some of which were translated from either French or Arabic).

How many non-fiction books?

How many short story anthologies?

How many books of poetry?

How many SFF books?

Book Goals 2015

As you can see above, I met many of my 2015 reading (and other) goals.

Bookish and Non Bookish Goals for 2015

1. Post to the blog at least 6 times a month. -For the most part, yes! There were only four months where I made fewer than 6 posts. 

2. Read even more short stories--and do a better job of keeping track of them. Plan a "Best Short Stories" and/or "Best SFF Short Stories" post for the end of this year.-I read more short stories this year, but about equivalent or fewer than last year, and I didn't keep track for a post.

3. Read more books, stories, poems etc. by minority authors. I've done a fair job in recent years of reading more women, let's see if I can do the same for minorities/be more aware of that in my reading.-I really tried to be more aware of this, and saw this become a huge part of the bookish zeitgeist this year. Still, this only comprised 24% of my reading, so I clearly need to focus more on this in future years.

4. Read more books from other countries (sneaky way of saying "read more translated books," but this will also cover other English-speaking countries).-I finally managed to do this way more than any other year! I read 10 books from other countries, and 6 and a half books translated from other languages, which is maybe the most I've ever done in this category! I read three books translated from Spanish, one from Italian, one from Russian, one from Japanese, and one book of short stories, some of which were translated from French or Arabic.

5. Write more short stories.-I didn't write any short stories, but I wrote most of a novel during NaNoWriMo in November.

6. Submit more writing to

7. Read more pedagogical texts.-Definitely did this. Read so many articles and books for work. 

8. Go to more professional development classes and seminars.-Definitely did this. 

9. Read more how-to texts,i.e. learn more about computers and other life skills.-I did this too, although it didn't show up a lot on the blog because, um, who wants to hear about books on computers and finances? I did read books on writing that showed up on the blog and some more "life skills" books might be showing up. 

10. Live better-exercise more, eat healthier, relax more. -Kind of. I exercised a lot more, because of this thing!