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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Why I’m Embracing My Love of Self-Help Books + My Recommendations

Hello bookish friends! Welcome back to Lady Gets Lit!

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Today I’m bringing you another bookish discussion! One of my goals this year is to write more discussion posts, whether it’s about books, writing, or mental health.

I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to Self-Help books.

When I was about ten years old, I went through this phase where I was obsessed with Chicken Soup for the Soul. I read the one for kids, then I read the one for pet owners, then I read the one for pre-teens, then I read the one for teens (which definitely scarred me a little bit). Why did I love these books so much? Because as cliched as the feelings were, they rang true to some extent. Reading them was cathartic in a way I didn’t know how to articulate.

I’ve been in the closet about my love of Self-Help (or, as we call it at work now, Personal Growth) books for a long time.

As I got older, I started to realize how these types of books essentially say the same thing in a variety of ways. In some ways, Self-Help capitalizes on human emotions and struggles. These authors claim to have all the answers to the problems of being human, yet most of their advice boils down to things we could figure out on our own.

More than that, Self-Help gets a bad rap as being pretty hokey, encouraging you to live like you’re already rich, manifest your own destiny, and other (potentially harmful) ideas. As someone who grew up Christian, these ideas sound a lot like the oft-touted “pray about it!” that appears in religious circles. Some of these solutions aren’t necessarily practical for most people.

For a long time, I resisted the pull of Self-Help. Instead, I went to therapy, I made compulsive to-do lists, and I asked a lot from myself. And then, on a whim—and because I could read it for free—I picked up You Are A Badass.

Jen Sincero’s book didn’t change my life. I read through it pretty quickly, and while I found myself nodding along at certain points, I didn’t necessarily buy into all of what she says. Most of the advice is recycled and reformatted from what other writers have said time and time again. Additionally, much of her advice erases the experiences of people dealing with mental health issues; for instance, she insists on having a positive attitude, which is nearly impossible for me when I’m in the midst of a depressive episode.

I didn’t love You Are A Badass, but it did spur me on to read more.

Here’s the thing: there’s a reason Personal Growth books are so popular—because many people are always looking for ways to become better than they are currently.

There’s a lot of unhelpful, cheap trash in the Self-Help genre. It’s not always possible to quit that job you hate, to treat yourself like you’re already as wealthy as you hope to be. Not everyone can (or should) manifest their own destiny.

And yet, there’s a lot of hope in these books. There’s a lot of wise advice that is only repetitive because, for many of us, it takes repeating for it to really sink in.

So I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned along the way—even if it’s cheesy and repetitive. Because I’m done living in the closet with my love of Self-Help / Personal Growth.

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things I’ve learned from self-help books

M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled – Life sucks, but once we accept that life is hard, it ceases to be hard.

Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird – You will never achieve success or happiness as a writer if you only write out of the hope of becoming published. You have to love writing, otherwise it’s not worth it.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness – The key to mindfulness is to try and be fully present with whatever it is that you’re doing—even if it’s washing the dishes.

Jen Sincero, You Are A Badass – Don’t let anyone else define your self-worth, and don’t waste your time chasing external validation.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way – I am allowed to nurture myself.

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – You can’t possible care about everything, so choose your values wisely and don’t waste your time on what’s not valuable to you.

Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, Make Time – There’s power in choosing one thing each day that you’re going to focus on and then setting aside time specifically to do that. Also, delete all the distracting crap off your phone.

Erin Falconer, How to Get Sh*t Done – Beyond just getting clear about what you want (not what other people want), narrow your goals to three big things. You can’t possibly do more than that, but if you’re specific about your Big Three, you can focus your energy on accomplishing them.

Rachel Hollis, Girl, Wash Your Face – When you make promises to yourself that you can’t keep, you’re training yourself that your words don’t matter, and that you don’t matter. Stop lying to yourself.

bonus: self-help books on my TBR

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Do you read Self-Help books? Who are your go-to authors for inspiration? Are you a closet fan of a category of books? I’d love to hear from you!

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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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Review | Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Diverse Rep: Deaf MC + side character of color

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.🌙

“Sound can move anything if it’s strong enough.”

IMG_0546**I received an ARC of this book through my work. While I am grateful for the opportunity to review, this in no way influences my opinion of the book.**

When 12-year-old Iris learns about a whale called Blue 55, who can’t be understood by other whales because he sings at a different pitch, she’s drawn to help. Using her wiz kid skills with electronics, she crafts a song at Blue’s frequency. Despite her parents’ refusal to understand, Iris manages to travel all the way to Alaska in search of one lonely whale, determined to let him know that he’s not alone.

I picked up this book for the beautiful cover, but I decided to read it as soon as I learned that the main character is Deaf.

It’s been a looong time since I’ve read anything Middle Grade, but this story really sucked me in. I was impressed by Iris and her skills at deconstructing and fixing old radios. While I don’t know much about whales, I enjoyed getting to learn more about their communication skills. Lynne Kelly’s poignant and descriptive writing really helps the reader feel Iris’s loneliness. I haven’t read a lot of MG books, so I don’t know how it compares, but I found this a really fun read that didn’t feel “dumbed down” for kids.

Blue 55, the whale who sings differently from the others, acts as a metaphor for Iris and her struggle to connect with hearing people.

Iris quickly becomes obsessed with helping him, because she understands so deeply understands what it’s like to feel unable to communicate with people. At home, Iris has her hearing family, who do pretty well at using sign language but don’t truly understand her much of the time. Iris has her grandmother, who’s also Deaf, but both she and Grandma are mourning the loss of Grandpa. Grandma’s healing is a big part of the story as well, which was beautiful to see.

This kind of story is so important, not only for hearing kids to understand what it’s like for someone who’s different from them, but for Deaf kids to see themselves represented. My only real “concern” with this book is that it might encourage kids to solve their problems by running away from home, which isn’t really a great thing to promote. It’s pretty clear that Iris’s parents are mostly okay with things in the end, too, which I felt was a little unrealistic. For more on this perspective, check out this review.

Iris as a character is believable, spunky, and incredibly relatable.

Her loneliness, while specific, really hit home for me. I think most kids struggle to be understood by and fit in with their peers at some point, and I vividly remember my feelings of invisibility at this age—and I spoke the same language as my peers!

I loved watching Iris grow and progress in the story. In the beginning, she’s very isolated, communicating only with her friend Wendell who attends another school. As the only Deaf kid in school, Iris resents Nina, a girl who attempts to learn sign language but mostly just flails around. Later, though, we see Iris learn to reach out through her friendship with Bennie, who shows Iris that hearing people can be her friends too. Lynne Kelly is not Deaf, but has made her career as a sign language interpreter. It’s my understanding that she spoke to Deaf people while writing this book. I would defer to Deaf readers to verify the accuracy of the rep.

Iris’s grandma was also a wonderful character. For such a hopeful book, Song for a Whale does a great job at showing the process of grief. At the beginning of the story, Grandma is in a cloud of sadness, but through the journey with her granddaughter she begins to come back to life.

Overall, do I recommend:

I love that there are kids’ books with this kind of representation as well as the hopefulness of the storyline. I will definitely be recommending this book to my customers at work, as well as to anyone who’s interested in reading more Middle Grade books.

My Top Books Read in 2018

top reads of 2018

Since I wasn’t around the blogosphere last year, I figured I’d talk a little bit about some of my favorite books I read in 2018. These are listed in the order I read them. If you want more, check out my Goodreads Year In Books!

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Fiction Top 10

luuk+c7vtceg6psyw0vakgAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

This was one from my backlist that I was able to check out from the library now that the hype has somewhat died down. I determined that the hype was NO LIE. The beautiful writing and the unlikely storyline—a Nigerian immigrant to American who winds up moving back to Nigeria—make this one of my favorite books of 2018.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

I know John Green gets a lot of hype and/or hatred in the book community, but in this book I feel he truly earned it. The protagonist, Aza, struggles with OCD in a way that’s incredibly real—Green wrote from his own experiences, and it comes through in a heartbreaking, yet beautiful way. Plus, the story has a mystery and a small touch of (realistic) romance. All in all, it beat out Looking For Alaska as my favorite Green novel.

Like Water by Rebecca Podos

I picked this up for the bisexual Latinx rep and I was not disappointed. The story follows Savannah as she realizes her bisexuality, but it’s also about her dealing with millennial confusion as she wonders what to do with life after high school. It was incredibly refreshing to read.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

This is one of those rare YA books that tackles tough topics in a complex, realistic way. It isn’t one I’d recommend to just anyone, as it comes with several content warnings, but I really appreciated the complexity McGinnis brings to the issues of rape and violence in particular.

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth Mckenzie

This was by far the quirkiest thing I read in 2018, if not the quirkiest thing I’ve ever read. It follows engaged couple Veblen (a squirrel-obsessed temp worker) and Paul, a brilliant neurologist whose pet project gets scooped up by money-grubbing corporate assholes. For a “literary” read, this had a lot of funny moments as well as thoughtful ones.

Still Life by Louise Penny

Pretty much my entire family has been telling me to read Louise Penny’s mystery series for months. I finally started them this fall and I wasn’t disappointed. While I’m not usually drawn to mystery or crime-related narratives, these aren’t your typical murder mysteries. Louise Penny focuses on her characters, giving them complex thoughts and feelings, and the mysteries themselves are complex and unusual. To top it off, each of the three I’ve read so far are incredibly atmospheric, set in this tiny town in Quebec. I want to move there so badly!

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

This book broke my heart in the best possible way. In case you haven’t heard, the YA Book Communities two fave authors teamed up to write this gay meet cute set in New York City. It’s not your typical romance either, and I loved the realism of the ending.

Home and Away by Candice Montgomery

I was lucky enough to score an ARC of this highly under-hyped debut, and I’ve been trying to push it on people ever since its release in October. Tasia is a black girl who plays football and finds out that her biological father is actually white. The story follows the identity crisis that follows, with a sprinkle of love and a lot of sass. I freaking loved Tasia so damn much.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I stumbled upon this intellectual/literary vampire trilogy by accident and it was worth the investment. Sure, it’s heavy on the romantic and occasionally cheesy, but I loved the lore behind the vampires, witches, and daemons and how they avoid detection by humans. Plus, Deborah Harkness has a PhD in history or something, so it’s more intellectually stimulating than, say, re-watching The Vampire Diaries on Netflix for the fifth time. Not that I would do that or anything…

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

I spotted this one on a list of books set in New York City, which I’m researching for my WIP. The story follows 85-year-old Lillian as she takes a long, meandering walk through New York City on the eave of 1985, and alternately reflects on her past, as the highest paid female advertiser in the 1930s, to her present. If you like spunky ladies defying the odds, add this to your TBR.

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Nonfiction Top 5

img_0245Lost Connections by Johann Hari

This is a book about depression, and about how its causes and solutions aren’t necessarily what we think they are. Hari argues that people are more depressed because of the way we live today. As he deconstructs our modern problems with meaningful connections, he also offers solutions that, admittedly, are more difficult to achieve than simply taking a pill. This is a really thought-provoking read for anyone who cares about mental health.

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

This one took me months of effort to get through, but it was well worth it. Zinn takes us on a journey through American history, but rather than basing the story around the rich, famous, and white, he talks about what life was like for the poor, working-class, women, and people of color. If you’re interested in reading diversely, this is a great look at the kind of diverse history that’s often erased in the American classroom.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

This book was the orange-covered kick in the pants I needed to get myself onto a new track toward a future that I choose. Manson light-heartedly deconstructs a lot of the messages of the self-help industry and points out that the key to life is choosing the one thing that you’re okay with struggling toward, the one thing that’s worth it. This really helped me narrow my focus and let go of ideas that weren’t really serving me anymore. I recommend this to anyone, even if you think you’re not into self-help books.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Another ambitious read, this book takes us back to the beginning of humanity and talks about how we came to be where we are today. I loved learning about the different theories about how spoken language developed, about why we went from hunter-gathering societies to agricultural ones, about what the future might look like if we keep on the way we are now. My sociology brain loved this one!

The Gentrification of the American Mind by Sarah Schulman

This is the book I finished right at the end of the year, and really left me on a good note. I won’t say much, since I recently posted my review, but this is a must-read for anyone who cares about LGBTQ+ issues.

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What are some of your favorite reads in 2018? Got a recommendation for me? Drop a comment below!

Review | The Gentrification of the American Mind

The Gentrification of the American Mind: Witness to a Lost Generation

Author: Sarah Schulman (2012) | Genre: Queer Memoir | My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Goodreads Synopsis:

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In this gripping memoir of the AIDS years (1981–1996), Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the rebellious queer culture, cheap rents, and a vibrant downtown arts movement vanished almost overnight to be replaced by gay conservative spokespeople and mainstream consumerism. Schulman takes us back to her Lower East Side and brings it to life, filling these pages with vivid memories of her avant-garde queer friends and dramatically recreating the early years of the AIDS crisis as experienced by a political insider. Interweaving personal reminiscence with cogent analysis, Schulman details her experience as a witness to the loss of a generation’s imagination and the consequences of that loss.

My Thoughts

Part memoir, part socio-cultural analysis, The Gentrification of the American Mind is a thought-provoking book that’s a worthy read for anyone who cares about queer issues. Schulman compares the gentrification of New York City from the 1970s-90s with the erasure of queer history of the AIDS crisis. Rather than sticking to a strict academic need to prove her arguments, however, Schulman takes the reader on a meandering journey of her experiences at the time, as well as the conclusions she draws from it.

Gentrification, as Schulman defines it, is the concrete replacement process that homogenizes at the expense of the existing culture. She talks a lot about a spiritual gentrification, where people without representation are alienated from the process of social change. In this way, she explores the diminished consciousness, particularly of young queer people, when it comes to how political and artistic change happens. 

Despite being such a short book, at only 180 pages, there’s a lot to unpack. Schulman connects the loss of political activism of the AIDS years with the ways that gay culture itself has become gentrified. Rather than seeing a queer identity as inherently political, she argues that many young queer people fight to assimilate into heterosexual cultural norms. In fact, she’s quite critical of the fight for gay marriage and adoption rights, since she argues that’s not what being queer is all about. While I don’t necessarily fully agree with her, she brings up important points that I feel like nobody really talks about anymore.

The most powerful chapter, for me, talks about the erasure of gay literature—especially lesbian literature. While I’ve made a point to seek out queer writing in recent years, the fact remains that it’s something one must seek out. There are no out lesbian writers on the bestseller list in this country. Queer writers often publish through smaller presses or must resort to self-publishing; it’s incredibly hard for a queer writer to actually support themselves financially through their writing. As Schulman states, “our literature is disappearing at the same time that we are being told we are winning our rights. How can we be equal citizens if our stories are not allowed to be part of our nation’s story?”

Every young queer person needs to read this book.

Even if I disagree with certain aspects of Schulman’s argument, this book promotes a way of thinking that’s disturbingly absent in visible gay culture today. We need to understand our history if we’re ever going to move forward in a more radical way. The personal is inherently political—if we can remember it.