My #DiverseAThon TBR January 22-29, 2017

I love reading challenges and #DiverseAThon has been one of my favorites. This upcoming DiverseAThon goes from January 22 - 29, 2017 and is aimed at reading a wider range of diverse authors. Because I clearly like to commit to these things last minute, and my goal is to read at least 150 books this year, here is my TBR for the next week. Apparently my theme for this #DiverseAThon is queer and blue. I am not complaining.

HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME by Adam Silvera

25014114

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

I can't wait to read this book. MORE HAPPY THAN NOT broke me in the best of ways and I am anticipating many tears with Adam Silvera's second book, but that doesn't put a dampener on my enthusiasm--quite the opposite.

WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS by Anna-Marie McLemore

28220826

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

I have been excited to read this ever since mentions of it first came up in my Twitter feeds. The prose of this looks gorgeous and I finally was able to pick it up during last year's Siren's conference. I'm looking forward to lots of magical realism and even more magical prose.

OF FIRE AND STARS by Audrey Coulthurst

25164304

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile kingdoms. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden.

Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine, sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—and soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

A subversively queer take on a princess story? Fighting princesses and girl kissing? Sign me up. I received this in last month's Owl Crate and have been looking forward to read this ever since. We need more epic fantasy for teens and adults alike that feature trope subversion and girl-kissing, so I'm ridiculously anticipating this one!

THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS by Ursula K. Le Guin

9780143111597

A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can change their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters. Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world,The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.

This will be a re-read for me, but since Penguin released this lovely hardcover edition I figured the time is now. THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS was first recommended to me when I first started to ask about queer science fiction and fantasy recommendations. I picked up my first raggedy and well-loved copy at a used bookstore and it has been one of my favorite books of all time ever since. THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS taught me so much about gender and how to write it, not just in science fiction and fantasy, but in general, and it will always have that special place in my heart filled with that kind of sense of wonder you feel when you realize, "Wait, people write like this? Does that mean can write like this?" It certainly was educational and empowering for me. I can't wait to revisit it. If you haven't read it yet, what are you still waiting for?

So, that's my TBR for this week's #DiverseAThon. All blue and all queer. Only one of these things is a coincidence. I'll be sure to keep you updated on my thoughts both on Twitter and on Goodreads. If you are joining #DiverseAThon, please let me know, so we can exchange thoughts and book recs! That's the point of it after all.

Happy Reading!

Alex

Accountability Roundup: What I Wrote and Read in August

So, August. The end of summer. The beginning of a new school year and a new semester of my master's degree. And yet, I set out with the ambitious goal of writing 25,000 words this month to bring my current draft of Mental Note to 40,000 words. Here are my stats: 2016-08-31 21.25.01

Writing:

  • Goal: 800 words a day or at least one hour of editing a day
  • Total word goal for August: 25,000
  • Total Words written: 24,571
  • Total writing (and editing) days: 14 (+3 pure editing days)
  • Average words/writing day: 1,755
  • Best writing day: August 24 (3,872 words)

Okay, so, even though I'm 429 words short of my goal, I am considering this month a huge success. Yes, that includes the fact that I am finding that I totally have to go back and edit the shit out of the first 40,000 words of this new draft, but that's okay. Thanks to writing group feedback I've pinpointed some of the underlying issues with this draft that I really need to fix before moving on and that's a good things.

Another pattern that's apparent is that my writing and editing momentum tapered off dramatically once school started. Seriously, my writing to nap ratio basically grew in the inverse. I am fixing that. As a matter of fact, today was the first day where I felt my old stamina and energy come back. With the beginning of the new school year and getting used to 240-ish new students that much was to be expected. As I'm facing September, I aim to do better. Also, huge shoutout to #AugWritingChallenge and the awesome people who have helped keep me accountable. Looking forward to September already! Plus, fall! My favorite writing season!

Reading:

  • Goal: 8 books/month toward a total of 100 this year
  • Total books read in August: 15

Holy writing and reading month Batman. I guess writing begets reading. I do love when the two go hand in hand. I completed the fun Pokemon-inspired #ReadThemAllThon challenge, which was an added boost. Here's what I read in August:

  • Kiersten White - AND I DARKEN: I seriously cannot rave enough about this book! Just go read it!
  • J.K. Rowling et. al - HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD: What can I say? I am a sucker for HP fanfic and probably always will be.
  • Dahlia Adler - UNDER THE LIGHTS: Not my usual, but I enjoyed it. Vanessa was awesome.
  • Kameron Hurley - THE GEEK FEMINIST REVOLUTION: This book incensed and inspired me. So much yes.
  • Stacey Lee - UNDER A PAINTED SKY: I loved the prose and tense action in this one. Again, I don't usually read Western, but this YA was just a lot of fun.
  • Tanya Huff - THE HEART OF VALOR (Confederation, #3): This series just keeps getting voicer and more and more character-driven. Love the audio.
  • Sarah Kuhn - HEROINE COMPLEX: Yes, I'm a sucker for subversions of comic book tropes. This was lots of fun.
  • Sabaa Tahir - AN EMBER IN THE ASHES: I positively devoured this in one sitting. Could not put down.
  • Sara Farizan - TELL ME AGAIN HOW A CRUSH SHOULD FEEL: I really liked how this book played with some tropes and twisted it into something that both made me happy and was totally unexpected.
  • Kekla Magoon - HOW IT WENT DOWN: I mostly read this for my students. I think this fictionalized Trayvon Martin-esque story is important and I'm glad to have it in my classroom.
  • Kate Elliott - COURT OF FIVES - I loved the nuanced way this book treated classism and family ties. More, please!
  • Roshani Chokshi - THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN: The prose in this is gorgeous. I just wanted more plot to go along with it.
  • Matthew Quick - FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK: Yeah, have to say,  this book wasn't for me. I thought that the treatment of mental illness and gay relationships was highly problematic, so, not for me.
  • Heidi Heilig - THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE: This was such a cool, diverse twist on the pirate YA genre. I loved the world building and the writing. Also, Kashmir!
  • Pat Schmatz - LIZARD RADIO: This read like dystopian conversion camps with lizards! Fast-paced and fun!

Okay, wow, that's quite a list for this month. Anyway, I'm going to try something new for September and try to track my time edited instead of words written, because that's basically where I am at with this WIP. Also, I upped my reading goal from 100 books in 2016 to 150. This might be as lofty as my TBR, but we'll see. Challenges abound!

Until then, happy writing!

Gotta read them all: my #ReadThemAllThon TBR pile

readthemallthon Because I'm a giant PokemonGO nerd, I couldn't resist joining this Pokemon-inspired reading challenge. You can find more on what it is and the rules here, but basically you commit to reading 8 books that correspond to the 8 gyms of the Indigo league over three weeks. The #ReadThemAllThon starts today, August 14 and ends on Sunday, September 4th.

My starter: Charmander, I choose you!

004Charmander_OS_anime_2

Here's my #ReadThemAllThon TBR:

readthemallthon-badge01-boulder

27774758

This one has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a while and I have heard so many good things, so I can't wait to dig into it!

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

464 pages; +46 CP

readthemallthon-badge02-cascader

61fiD6hGOVL._SX350_BO1,204,203,200_

How It Went Down has been on my classroom reading list for a while. I am anticipating this to be a tough read, but an important one.

When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq's death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq's friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

352 pages; +35 CP

readthemallthon-badge03-thunder

61QzYJjt+rL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

So many authors I love, most recently the fabulous Gail Carriger, keep recommending this book, so on my TBR it goes.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best contenders. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between two Fives competitors--one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy--causes heads to turn. When Kal's powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test her new friend's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

464 pages; +46 CP

readthemallthon-badge04-rainbow

51Si0jLZHJL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_

I loved Sara Farizan's debut, If You Could Be Mine and am so excited to read this one!

Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is a relief. As an Iranian American, she’s different enough; if word got out that Leila liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when beautiful new girl Saskia shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would. As she carefully confides in trusted friends about Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila begins to figure out that all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and some are keeping surprising secrets of their own.

320 pages; +32 CP

readthemallthon-badge05-soul

51m2XBpQ0YL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

Another one who's been on my TBR pile for too long and I have heard so many wonderful things about.

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

352 pages; +35 CP

readthemallthon-badge06-marsh

49f5f3cd-d73a-4adc-b6e9-cb40275305fb.jpg._CB300381115_

Girl pirates and time travel? Hell, yes.

Heidi Heilig's debut teen fantasy sweeps from modern-day New York City, to nineteenth-century Hawaii, to places of myth and legend. Sixteen-year-old Nix has sailed across the globe and through centuries aboard her time-traveling father's ship. But when he gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. The Girl from Everywhere, the first of two books, blends fantasy, history, and a modern sensibility. Its witty, fast-paced dialogue, breathless adventure, multicultural cast, and enchanting romance will dazzle readers of Sabaa Tahir, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman.

Nix's life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix's father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he's uncovered the one map he's always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix's mother died in childbirth. Nix's life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix's future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who's been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own.

464 pages; +46 CP

readthemallthon-badge07-flame

51XJX5VxoEL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Another one on the "everyone keeps recommending this, so it must be amazing" list.

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers maintains the magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman as their Sorcerer Royal and allowing England’s  stores of magic to bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up, an adventure that brings him in contact with Prunella Gentlewoman, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, and sets him on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

384 pages; +38 CP

readthemallthon-badge08-earth

610AmQEv4QL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Post-apocalyptic queer SF for the finish!

In a futuristic society run by an all-powerful Gov, a bender teen on the cusp of adulthood has choices to make that will change her life—and maybe the world.

Fifteen-year-old bender Kivali has had a rough time in a gender-rigid culture. Abandoned as a baby and raised by Sheila, an ardent nonconformist, Kivali has always been surrounded by uncertainty. Where did she come from? Is it true what Sheila says, that she was deposited on Earth by the mysterious saurians?What are you? people ask, and Kivali isn’t sure. Boy/girl? Human/lizard? Both/neither? Now she’s in CropCamp, with all of its schedules and regs, and the first real friends she’s ever had. Strange occurrences and complicated relationships raise questions Kivali has never before had to consider. But she has a gift—the power to enter a trancelike state to harness the "knowings" inside her. She has Lizard Radio. Will it be enough to save her? A coming-of-age story rich in friendships and the shattering emotions of first love, this deeply felt novel will resonate with teens just emerging as adults in a sometimes hostile world.

288 pages; +29 CP

I'm super excited about this diverse list of books, authors, and characters and can't wait to dive in. Let's do this!

If you're joining or have joined #ReadThemAllThon, leave the link to your sign up post in the comments so we can cheer each other on.

Go, Team Mystic!