Top Ten Tuesday: Rainy Day Reads

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Each week, bloggers come together to build a list on pre-selected topics. If you’d like to join in, check out That Artsy Reader Girl’s post for more info!

The theme for this week’s post is Rainy Day Reads…which I’m interpreting to mean books to read when it’s physically or emotionally rainy and you want to feel sunshine-y on the inside.☔️

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Photo by zenad nabil on Unsplash

Top 10 Books for Rainy Days

1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

This book is always at the top of my list of books to make me feel better. It’s been my all-time favorite book for two decades now, and I honestly don’t see that changing anytime soon. Spunky orphan Anne always inspires me to look on the bright side of life and keep dreaming.

2. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Although I still haven’t finished this series, I fell in love with Lara Jean from the first couple pages of this book. Not only is this a sweet, if trope-y, romance, Lara Jean’s personality is just so upbeat. I wish I’d had a friend like her in my life as a teenager.

3. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

This book was recommended far and wide around its release in 2017, and for absolutely good reason. The story takes place at a con, so there’s lots of fan vibes, but it also involves two really sweet romances. This book reminded me of the importance of finding a group of people who accept you exactly as you are.

4. The Melody of You and Me by M. Hollis

This novella is the kind of book you can totally binge read in a day, no sweat. It’s an f/f romance with the very first pansexual character I ever read. On top of that, it’s set partially in a bookstore and involves beautiful sex positivity and I just… I wish M. Hollis had more books in this series out because I love them so much!

5. Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

If you’re looking for something more action oriented, look no further! This story follows our main character, Jess, a teen in a world of superheroes who doesn’t have any noticeable powers. There’s an unexpected love story and lots of intrigue as Jess sorts out the truth behind her new after school job.

6. Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

If you’re longing for summer already, this is one of my favorite summer reads. The story of a surfer who’s stranded in Nebraska for a summer, I loved the romance and the skateboarding in this one. There’s also strong father-daughter vibes, an element that’s often severely lacking in YA.

7. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

I recently read this YA graphic novel over a few breaks at work, and I’m so glad I scooped it off the shelf! This is a sweet story about a prince who likes to wear dresses and the dressmaker with dreams of fame.

8. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Since we’re talking about rainy day reads, I had to put one sad book on the list. I shared my thoughts on this recently, but suffice to say: if you need to indulge in some sad feelings, this book nails it on the head.

9. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

This is an oldie but goodie, in my opinion. I re-read the entire series last fall out of pure nostalgia and they’re still just as good. This book originated squad goals for me (sadly, goals I’ve never really achieved).

10. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I pick up this book any time I’m feeling down about my writing, but I think it can be applied to anyone, regardless of their craft in life. This book really revolutionized the way I look at writing and taught me the importance of sitting down, getting quiet, and letting the words out, even if they’re not perfect.

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What type of book do you reach for on a rainy day? What’s your favorite romantic book that puts a smile on your face? Let me know in the comments!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Each week, bloggers come together to build a list on pre-selected topics. If you’d like to join in, check out That Artsy Reader Girl’s post for more info!

This weeks topic: things that make me pick up a book. While we’re all guilty of judging a book by its cover, we also all have different things we look for in books. I’m excited to see what everyone’s thoughts are!

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Top Ten Things That Make Me Pick Up A Book

1. diversity on the cover

There’s nothing that gets me to pick up a book and read the blurb like a gorgeous cover with obvious diversity. I love seeing POC on the cover, but I’ve also felt blessed to see so many queer couples on the covers of YA books lately. (I’m thinking specifically of The Music of What Happens, which is our next pick for my book club with friends.)

2. walking past a book that’s face out at work

Since I started working in a bookstore, I’ve developed this weird almost photographic memory of where books are physically on the shelves. There are certain books that I’ve walked past enough times on my way to the breakroom that I finally just get curious. If the cover has a pop of color, gorgeous artwork, or an intriguing title, I’ll probably pick it up when I’m avoiding doing real work, just to see what it’s all about.

3. Netgalley

I think we’re all guilty of scrolling through NetGalley, even when we’ve got a million other books and ARCs to read. Even when I get rejected for a digital ARC, I definitely add to my digital TBR through books I see on Netgalley.

4. Goodreads recommendations

Goodreads is a dangerous place for me. Not only do I see what everyone else is reading (and what they’re thinking as they’re reading), but every time I click on a book there’s that sidebar that suggests similar books. I’ve added waaaay too many books to my TBR this way.

5. my Dad

My dad is a retired electrical engineer who has oddly great taste in literature. For every book I thrust on him to read, he’s got an idea of something completely outside my normal zone of reading. For instance, he’s the one who encouraged me to try Louise Penny’s mystery books and I’m so glad I did!

6. my Aunt Linda

I really am blessed with bookish family members. Throughout my life, my dad’s sister has encouraged my love of reading. She was actually the first person I ever knew to get an e-reader when kindles first came out! Last Christmas, she bought me a kindle fire that’s logged into her amazon account so that I have access to all the books she has in her cloud. As much as part of me hates supporting the Big A, I can’t turn down free books! I’ve discovered a lot of great books this way.

7. my friends IRL

I recently read The City of Brass, which I’d heard about/seen around before. It was on my vague radar, but it was a good friend IRL who convinced me to finally check it out. I also have a small book club with a few friends from work that’s slowly growing; our goal is to read one queer book a month and talk about it, and it’s been really fun to take turns recommending books for the next meeting.

8. diversity in the blurb

One of the things I love about the book community is how it’s made publishing more conscious of not only including diverse books in their lineup, but also making sure that readers can recognize a diverse book when they pick one up. Nothing makes me happier than reading a blurb where it’s clear that the main characters are diverse (or even just potentially diverse!). Generally, if it’s a diverse book, I’ll probably add it to my TBR, but I’m a lot pickier with non-diverse books.

9. is it queer though?

Same thing, really: if it’s queer, I’ll probably read it. This probably stems from the fact that I literally didn’t acknowledge myself as bi until I was in my 20s because I’d never seen myself represented in books. I love that there are so many books with queer rep for teens and adults alike.

10. blogger reviews!!

This is really the number one reason I will purchase a book. Despite getting a hefty discount, I spend way too much of my paycheck on books, so I’m trying to become pickier about what I actually buy. I seek out reviews from people I trust, especially if the reviewer is #OwnVoices for the rep in the book.

The more time I spend blog hopping, too, the more I discover bloggers with similar taste to my own. If Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books recommends something, I will not only buy said book, but probably flail about it until I die. I also follow Fadwa @ Word Wonders religiously – her reviews are golden and everything she writes has such a distinctive voice. When it comes to bi rep and mental health, I trust Wendy @ what the log more than anyone else.

Obviously there are so many more bloggers I could mention here who’ve recommended books I’ve fallen in love with. I owe this community so much: for encouraging me to read more diversely; for inspiring me to get out of my comfort zone when it comes to genre; for reminding me that books are powerful.

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What makes you pick up a book? Do you judge books by their covers, or do you wait to read the blurb? Do you judge books by their first chapter? Let me know what you think!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Forgotten Bands That Got Me Through Depression

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Each week, bloggers come together to build a list on pre-selected topics. If you’d like to join in, check out That Artsy Reader Girl’s post for more info!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Since this week is a freebie, I thought I’d talk about something (almost) completely unrelated to the rest of my blog: music.

When I was in high school, I was a total band nerd. I started playing clarinet when I was 10 years old and kept going all the way through my senior year of high school. I only quit when I realized that statistical improbability of ever being That Good at clarinet, versus the likelihood that I might be That Good as a writer.*

I went through a pretty bad depression in high school that was thinly disguised as Teen Angst. I came of age at the time when iPods were still new, but my iPod was probably my best friend at that point. This was back in the days of Limewire, when you’d just illegally download all your music because nobody really cared. I had whole discographies of these bands on my iPod, but I also had lengthy playlists that helped me feel like maybe I wasn’t so alone.

*although we’re still not sure about that one…

Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Forgotten Bands That Got Me Through Depression.

1. Simple Plan

The year I turned 14 was the year I became a bitter, angsty mess of a person for no apparent reason. I still have all my old journals from this time, and I was basically just mad about everything—even though the worst thing that happened to me was that some guy didn’t like me back and the popular kids didn’t know I existed. No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls pretty much never left my portable CD player the summer of 2004.

2. The All-American Rejects

It should be noted that a good portion of this list results from my older brother’s musical hand-me-downs, and this band is one of them. I still maintain that their first album is the best one, but “Stab My Back” from their sophomore album got me through some awful friendship trauma my sophomore year of high school.

3. Dashboard Confessional

Oh, Dashboard. Just a man and an acoustic guitar, giving me something to cry to for most of high school. I cried along to “Screaming Infidelities” more times than I can count, despite the fact that I’d never been in a position of being cheated on. “Swiss Army Romance” also may or may not have inspired a story…or two.

4. Coldplay

I have a confession to make: I still listen to Coldplay—but not any of their new stuff. I have a Spotify playlist of the Coldplay discography from 2000-2008 that I still listen to when I’m feeling down, or I just want to get zen’d out. Viva La Vida came out the summer after I graduated high school and those songs still feel me with that giddy feeling of being 18 and having my entire life in front of me.

5. Relient K

I was pretty religious in high school, in a non-denominational, quiet kind of way. I went to a Christian high school, which is how I discovered Relient K. In the depths of my depression, I came across “Let It All Out,” which beat out Dashboard as my go-to sobbing song. This song taught me that sometimes you need to let out whatever feelings are poisoning you from the inside, and that it’s okay to feel like you’re not okay.

6. Panic! at the Disco

A list of old bands wouldn’t be complete without Panic! (although aren’t they still doing stuff? somehow?). I fell in love with the complexity of their lyrics…and also how pretty they all look wearing eyeliner in the music video for “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”

7. Something Corporate // Jack’s Mannequin

In college, I discovered the musical genius of Andrew McMahon and never really looked back. Something Corporate covers the angst, and Jack’s Mannequin covers the hopefulness. So many of these songs got me through rough times, but “Hammers and Strings” is by far the one that really spoke to my depression.

8. Into It. Over It.

Along with my brother, another of my great musical influencers  is one of my good friends, Megan. We used to make each other mix CDs weekly, and I owe her for introducing me to so many bands over the years. Sometimes I forget who introduced who to which bands! She got me into Into It. Over It. and I started listening to Proper over and over again my senior year of college.

9. Paramore

I have Hayley Williams to thank for getting me through my years living in New York City. I went through one of the worst depressive episodes of my life in the fall of 2014 and into 2015 (right before I met my husband, actually). In my darkest moments, early Paramore helped me feel understood. In times when tentative hope was peaking its head out of the shadows of my heart, mid to late Paramore filled me with that feeling of potential energy. When After Laughter came out in 2017, I was struggling through yet another episode, and “Fake Happy” helped me remember that I am not alone.

10. Bayside

I owe my somewhat newfound love of Bayside to my husband, Seth. When we first started dating back in 2015, he took over where my brother and Megan left off and gave me a bunch of new music that just solidified why we were perfect together. I have an entire Spotify playlist of bands he got me into, but Bayside sticks out on that list. Why? The Walking Wounded. When I’ve been struggling with what to do with my life, when I’ve been dealing with the depths of depression, “The Walking Wounded” (the song and the album) made me feel validated in my feelings.

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If you enjoyed this post, check out my playlist!

Do you have any favorite forgotten bands? Is your music taste now similar to your taste in high school, or do you feel like you’ve completely evolved? What’s your favorite nostalgic genre? Let’s talk about it!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Each week, bloggers come together to build a list on pre-selected topics. If you’d like to join in, check out That Artsy Reader Girl’s post for more info!

Back in February, I said I was going on a book buying ban. That definitely didn’t happen. A bunch of books that have been on my digital TBR for months (and years!) popped up on Book Outlet, plus there was Barnes & Noble Book Haul… I went on a bit of a shopping spree.

That being said, I’ve got a lot of physical books in my life right now and I feel so blessed to get to read them soon. Below are the top 10 books I’ve purchased in 2019 that I want to read this spring.

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The Book: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Why I’m Excited to Read It: I purchased this back in December and I don’t know why I’ve been waiting so long. I’m a sucker for YA contemporary, and while I haven’t read any of Mafi’s work yet, I’ve heard nothing but good things, especially about this story that follows a Muslim teen directly post-9/11.

The Book: Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Why I’m Excited to Read It:This book dropped onto my radar from our local interest table at work and I’ve been dying to read it ever since. It’s set in Tulsa, both in present day and during the race riots in the 1920s. This is such an important book, because no one in Oklahoma wants to talk about our racist past and we need to educate the younger generations so they don’t repeat our mistakes.

The Book: 96 Words for Love by Rachel Roy & Ava Dash
Why I’m Excited to Read It: I was initially hesistant about this one—mostly because I avoid anything that has James Patterson’s name on it—but when I found out that it’s based on Indian myth and that pretty much every character is diverse, I had to have this one. It’s supposed to be a bit fluffy, and we know I’m always in the mood for that.

The Book: Again, But Better by Christine Riccio
Why I’m Excited to Read It: I got approved for the ARC on NetGalley! Which is the first time that’s happened with this reiteration of my book blog. I’m not really into Booktube, but I think it’s really cool that one of the original Booktubers wrote a story about a 20-something. I always have a hankering for books about this age group, especially set in college (because it gives me nostalgia). I’m excited to see how this one turns out.

The Book: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Why I’m Excited to Read It: This ARC has been burning a metaphorical hole in my shelf all year. The story centers around a Jamaican British woman who feels caught between two cultures and just trying to get her emotional life in order.

The Book: You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman
Why I’m Excited to Read It: I loved the first book by this author, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about her sophomore novel. The lovely Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books has raved about this story that’s a m/m romance with a heavy element of academic pressure—something we don’t see enough of in YA.

The Book: You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
Why I’m Excited to Read It: This has been on my radar since its release in 2017 and I finally bought myself a copy as encouragement to prioritize it. It follows three generations of Indian immigrants in America as they struggle to hold onto their culture and deal with racism. Apparently it also has strong feminist vibes, so I’m definitely excited for that.

The Book: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Why I’m Excited to Read It: Speaking of feminist vibes…this book follows a teen whose mom came of age during the Riot Grrrl 90s, and I’m excited to see this take on new feminism vs. old. I think that’s always an interesting discussion: how can we get better, but also how can we learn from our mothers and grandmothers.

The Book: Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Why I’m Excited to Read It: I loved American Street so much and I’m a huuuuge Austen lover, so this book is obviously on my radar. This book is an adaptation of Pride & Prejudice that’s set in contemporary Brooklyn, featuring an Afro-Latina main character and discussions of gentrification.

The Book: All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Why I’m Excited to Read It: This is another one that sat on my digital TBR long before I finally got my hands on a copy this year. This won’t be an easy read—it’s about rape culture, and how society tends to blame the victims rather than the perpetrators—but it’s one that I think is important, regardless of your age, gender, etc.

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There are so many more books on my TBR for this spring, but these are a few of the books that have recently (or not so recently) come into my life. I’m excited to dive in! Did you participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday? What are some books on your spring TBR? Let me know in the comments!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Standalone Books That Deserve a Sequel

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. Each week, bloggers come together to build a list on pre-selected topics. If you’d like to join in, check out That Artsy Reader Girl’s post for more info!

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I love a good standalone book.

To be quite honest, long book series are really intimidating to me. I’m bad at getting invested in a series because I don’t enjoy being sucked into one world for too long. On the flip side, standalones* leave a lot to the imagination. As I was compiling this list, I realized that mainly what I want is more of my favorite characters, in all their flaws and especially their triumphs.

*does anyone else feel like standalone and sequel are just really weird words? No? It’s just me? …

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Top 10 Standalone Books That Need a Sequel

The Book: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Why I want a sequel: I loved getting to know Cam so much that I miss her, still.

The Book: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
Why I want a sequel: I still want to see what happens with Arthur and Ben grow up and go off on their own in the world.

The Book: Home and Away by Candice Montgomery
Why I want a sequel: further development of Tasia’s relationship with her birth father + more steamy romance.

The Book: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Why I want a sequel: the vagueness of the ending made me desperate to see what happens next for Bri.

The Book: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Why I want a sequel: I’m in love with boarding school settings.

The Book: Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Why I want a sequel: mostly I just want to see more out ace characters, period.

The Book: Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Why I want a sequel: This book has one of my favorite recovery narratives of all time – because it’s messy, and incomplete, and a constant thing in Ella’s life.

The Book: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Why I want a sequel: I want to see more of Suzette’s bisexuality (because I love bi rep and I’m selfish)

The Book: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
Why I want a sequel: the book shows Nora really struggling with her mental health, so I’d like a glimpse of her on the flip side of things—and maybe even dealing with a relapse while she’s in a new relationship.

The Book: Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Why I want a sequel: Juliet makes such a powerful character and I’d love to see more of her personal growth into her twenties.

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Do you prefer standalone or series books? What is your favorite standalone book that you wish had a sequel? Do you participate in Top 10 Tuesday? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 Books for Hopeless Romantics

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huuuuge romantic. As a kid, I looked forward to falling in love more than almost anything else, aside from moving away from my hometown. I devoured romantic YA books like candy, and that’s not a habit I’ve ever really grown out of. While my ideas about the nature of love have certainly changed as I’ve grown older, I’m still a sucker for a love story. Valentine’s Day hasn’t always been the easiest holiday to handle, considering I was unhappily single for most of my life, but it’s as good an excuse as any to talk about my love of romance.

Without further ado, here are my––

Top 10 Books for Hopeless Romantics

10] The Mediator series by Meg Cabot (2000-2005)

Meg Cabot was my first favorite YA author, ever since I discovered The Princess Diaries in middle school. The Mediator is a series that follows Suze, a 16-year-old who has the gift of seeing ghosts and helping them find their way to the other side. When she moves to NorCal, she ends up disturbing a long-dead ghost named Jesse, who is possibly the sexiest dead guy I’ve ever heard of. What I love about their relationship, aside from their funny banter, is the nature of the fact that they both realize their love can never be. Basically, this series broke my heart (but don’t worry, there’s a decent ending).

9] The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (2017)

This book isn’t a romance book. Instead, it’s a story of anxious, awkward teenager who’s had more unrequited crushes than anyone except for yours truly. Reading Molly was the first time I’d ever met a character who reminded me so much of myself as a teenager. If you’re a hopeless romantic, you’ll absolutely relate to her.

8] The Principles of Love (series) by Emily Franklin (2005-2008)

This is another of high school me’s favorites. The series follows Love (yes, that is her name) as she starts her sophomore year at Hadley Hall, where her dad is the new headmaster. Aside from having a fresh, unique voice, the reason I appreciate this series now, as an adult, is the fact that the romantic elements aren’t restricted to just one guy. This book normalized the fact that sometimes young love doesn’t last, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet. It also shows her being conflicted between different guys, something that YA rarely did, at least at the point it was published.

7] 99 Days by Katie Cotugno (2015)

On that topic, 99 Days is all about being torn between two loves. Even worse, Molly is torn between two brothers: Patrick, the guy she’s been with forever, and Gabe, his brother, with whom she destroyed her relationship with Patrick. Stuck in her hometown for 99 days, Molly deals with slut-shaming from everyone around her as she struggles to decide which brother has truly won her heart—and what it means.

6] What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera (2018)

IMG_8475If you’re looking for a gay meet cute that will undoubtably tug at your heartstrings, this is the book for you! Two YA faves team up, writing alternating chapters between two very different boys as they fall in and out of love with each other. This book raises age-old questions: Can you really meet your True Love when your lives are going in different directions? What I really loved about this was the realism in the depiction of young love. It’s messy, it’s complicated, and oftentimes it hurts. But that’s what makes it beautiful.

5] A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (2011)

IMG_0050This book is many things: urban fantasy, paranormal romance, literary fiction, a bestseller… The story follows Diana, a professor of history who happens to be a non-practicing witch. Diana is chilling at Oxford when she accidentally breaks the spell on an ancient manuscript that allegedly tells the story of how witches, vampires, and daemons came to be. With the help of Matthew Clairmont, a vampire, Diana escapes the clutches of those who wish her harm—and falls in love along the way. I highly recommend this series if you want something that’s a little more drawn out and adventurous.

4] How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (2017)

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Sometimes love comes along just when you need it most; and sometimes even great love can’t heal everything. This is a great romance between a bisexual girl and a biracial lesbian that’s also about the more difficult parts of growing up with a dysfunctional parent. Read this if you want something that will make you cry, probably a lot.

3] Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814)

45032Everyone knows Jane Austen is an absolute genius when it comes to her characters. While Pride and Prejudice is everyone’s go-to Austen, I love the depth of Mansfield Park. Impoverished Fanny is brought up with her wealthy cousins, who never let her forget it. She’s shy and introverted, and the romance is understated, but this is one of Austen’s less sung works that deserves more attention, in my opinion.

2] This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (2002)22205

This book broke 16-year-old me into a million pieces. The main character, Remy, refuses to believe that love is real, which makes sense considering her one-hit-wonder dad left her and her mom’s on her fifth marriage. But Remy finds herself falling hard for Dexter, the awkward musician whose life is a total mess. I loved this book because watching Remy turn into a bit of a softy melted my soul, but also because Dexter is the opposite of most YA Contemporary heroes. He’s a goofy kid who’s barely attractive and doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing with his life. He’s the opposite of anyone’s type but possibly mine. If you read anything by Sarah Dessen, I highly recommend this one.

1] The Melody of You and Me / The Paths We Choose by M. Hollis (2016)

M. Hollis is hands down my favorite New Adult Romance writer out there. These two novellas are quick, light reads that will make your heart swell. Despite being shorter than typical novels, the characters are well-developed and unique. They talk openly about sex, struggle with what to do with the rest of their lives, and there’s a slew of diversity. Cute + Steamy = 😍 Plus, there are honestly just never enough f/f stories out there.

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I could probably build a list twice this long, but I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite romances: fluffy, steamy, or somewhere in between? Let’s gush in the comments!

10 Things I Learned from Reading Sarah Schulman

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If you follow me on Instagram, you might know that I’m a huge fan of self-education. I try to read at least one nonfiction book per month. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been doing a lot of research for a novel that takes place in New York City in the mid-1990s. Specifically, I wanted to explore what life was like for queer people at that time, considering that was the thick of the AIDS crisis.

I came across Sarah Schulman, a lesbian activist at the time who published an entire book of her writings from 1980-1993. My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years is a 300-page collection of writings from a period we don’t often talk about in history classes—outside of feminist and queer circles, of course. Due to the nature of the book itself, I struggled to write a review in a traditional form. Instead, I thought I’d share some things I learned.

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1] Schulman argues that (what we would now call) identity politics prevented true activism from feminists in the 1980s-90s. More or less, women were too busy drawing maps of their own unique identities to remember how to work together for change. The act of exploring one’s identity became more important than direct action tactics.

2] In the 80s, there were apparently several lesbian bars in New York City—although they were all owned by businessmen outside the lesbian community. Interesting, considering I only know of two overtly lesbian bars, to this day. Schulman doesn’t necessarily talk about this, but I’m wondering how and why those lesbian bars closed. For instance, I think one of the bars she mentioned has now been turned into a plain old gay bar called Monster. Is there just not as much of a draw for lesbians going out? Has the internet changed this at all? I’m intrigued (and angry).

3] One of the biggest campaigns to deal with AIDS occurred when New York City shut down the baths—basically, public places where men went to have sex. Schulman argues that shutting down the baths would just force people to go to private venues; instead, she argues, we need to put money toward educating people about how to have safe sex, which we can’t do if they’re not in public. She also argues for safe needle exchanges, which, obviously, was controversial. This kind of reminds me of the abstinance-only vs. sex education debate today: people are still going to have sex and possibly do drugs; the least we can do is show them how to do it safely.

4] AIDS didn’t just bring the gay community togetherit also drove them apart. There were plenty of public gay figures who distanced themselves from people with AIDS, from IV drug users, from promiscuous gay men. Even as the entire rest of the country blamed gay men for spreading AIDS, individuals were still focused on assimilationist tactics. At the same time, gentrification affected lesbians and gay men of color more than it affected white gay men, and this also drove a wedge in the community.

5] Lesbians got involved in ACT-UP for multiple reasons. Partly, ACT-UP was the only gay movement that actually used direct action tactics. Also, lesbians were deeply affected by AIDS in that they lost many friends to the disease. While white gay men still clung to their sense of entitlement and wish to assimilate, lesbians often brought the radical side to the movement in that they had always seen themselves as “other.”

6] The push for gay domestic partnership to be recognized came at a time when that request seemed more “normal” in the face of the radical movement of ACT-UP and the fear of AIDS. I was relatively aware that domestic partnership became such an important thing due to the sheer number of gay people dying of AIDS, but I had no idea how political that move really was. At a time when the mainstream pushed for the closing of gay bars/baths, asking to be allowed legal rights over your loved one seems pretty tame.

7] Women were often excluded from AIDS drug trials, which were designed to treat men. It was a lot harder for a woman with AIDS to get adequate treatment in general. Women tend to have different symptoms, which makes it harder to get a full-blown diagnosis of AIDS, which means they couldn’t get adequate treatment, at least at the time of Schulman’s writing.

8] Schulman passionately argues that gay and lesbian writers have a responsibility to tell their stories. She says, “personal homophobia becomes social neglect” and that society needs to confront this. However, Schulman also argues that writing isn’t enough, that writers should also participate in direct action.

9] Schulman points out how lesbian writers in particular live in a parallel publishing world—if they write explicitly about lesbianism, they’re relegated to non-mainstream publishing. If they write about straight people, they might be able to achieve mainstream success, but at the cost of sacrificing part of who they are. The problem, Schulman points out, is that straight people don’t read gay books. I’d like to say that this isn’t so much of a problem in 2019. After all, look at how many books, at least in the YA world, have achieved success with gay characters! And yet, I still feel the need to justify my gay reading to people who don’t know I’m bisexual—because “straight” people don’t read gay books. This is something I definitely think needs to change outside the YA community in particular.

10] While she insists that everyone can and should be an activist, Schulman says “one act of resistance every day is something I think we can all incorporate into our lives.” This line really struck me, because I think it’s absolutely true during the Trump years just as much as the Reagan/Bush years. “Once a day, say something complicated, take on something difficult, challenge yourself, surprise the people around you, resist acting for the approval of straight people, of white people, of men.”

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What do you think are some of the biggest problems facing the queer community today? Do you see any parallels between the problems of the 80s-90s? What’s the last book you read that taught you something? Let’s share!