June 2015 Recap

Summer is hard, guys.  I don’t read as much as I think I will and a lot of my movie-watching ends up being half-hardheartedly watching TV while doing other activities.

Reading:

Best Book of the Month: American Savage by Dan Savage

Books Read: 11
Adult: 7
MG: 0
YA: 4
Children’s: 0
Fiction: 9
Non-fiction/Memoir: 2
Graphic Novel: 0
# of Pages Read: 3421

Thoughts on June’s Reading:

  • I read an interesting mix of fiction and non-fiction this month, including a couple of things outside of my norms: some romance, some paranormal, and some literary fiction. Overall I’m happy with the mix.  I just wish I had read more.

Watching:

TV:

  • Is anyone else watching UnREAL? It’s so great and smart and it’s required viewing for me every week.  I love it, even though I’ve never watched The Bachelor or any of the similar shows in the franchise.
  • I’ve been watching the early seasons of Beverly Hills, 90210 (inspired by the new Again with This podcast), and it’s pure pleasure for me.
  • I’m almost done with the first season of Finding Carter, which is basically terrible but I can’t look away from it.
  • I also watched the third season of Orange is the New Black and can’t believe I have to wait a year to get more episodes.

Movies:

 

I didn’t track movies for June, which is weird.  But I also didn’t really watch any?  I did go and see Jurassic World, and apart from that, I can’t remember much in the way of movies from June.

 Goals for July:

  • Watch 5-10 movies.  Seriously.
  • Read at least 10 books.
  • Keep up with keeping track.

Waiting on Wednesday: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Expected Release Date: August 11, 2015

The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world…or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.

After growing up in the south where she was “homeschooled for hippie reasons”, Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.

Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.

Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit.

(summary via Goodreads)

I really like Felicia Day.  She’s one of those geek girls who has carved out a niche market for herself on the internet and has amassed a well-deserved fan following. She seems genuine, funny, and very creative.  It’s also no secret that I love celebrity memoirs and essay collections, so this is right up my alley.  I can’t wait to read this one.

 

My Weekend in Pop Culture

It was a busy weekend (because it’s summer, right?) but these are the pop culture things I consumed this weekend.

Jurassic_World_posterJurassic World: I finally got the chance to get to the theater to see this, and it was as silly as I expected.  It was a lot of fun, but it was also super dumb.  It wasn’t scary the way the first Jurassic Park was, and it didn’t hold the same sort of wonder for me, either.  Which is to be expected, because I’m not, like, seven years old.  Still, it was fun, and I’m glad I saw it in the theater.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume: This finally came in at the library and I spent a good chunk of time reading it this weekend.  So far, I really like it! I think there might be too many characters, but other than that, it’s a good, sad read.  I love Judy Blume so much.

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things that got me thinking this week:

Not Off the Hook: The White Myth of Black Forgiveness (The Toast)

This is a really great transcript of a conversation between Mallory Ortberg and Carvell Wallace, and it’s well worth a read.  I mean, it’s not an easy read:

Mallory:  It seems this idea of forgiveness is 1. an act that is about keeping one’s own soul free from bitterness and destruction and 2. as a process. But more often white people or just society at large tends to think of it as a final act that lets the offender feel unburdened from guilt. Does that seem roughly accurate?

Carvell: Again, I don’t know what white people actually think. But it seems like there is not nearly enough urgency about getting this racist shit under control and it doesn’t seem like the “endlessly forgiving Negro” story is helping that at all. This is why I cringe when I hear white people sharing stories of black folks who were royally fucked over six ways till Sunday saying “I forgive you,” like “isn’t this beautiful.”

America has a long history of raping, robbing, enslaving and killing people and then urging those same people to find and express forgiveness and peace. So when I hear “pray for peace” from a white person in the hours after Charleston, it lands very, very wrong.

But it’s very, very worth it.  I’m going to be sitting with this one for a long time.

Let’s Stop Calling Weight Loss a “Journey” (Refinery 29)

I hate-follow a couple of bloggers/instagram “fitness” people who talk about their weight loss as being this epic “journey.”  This piece stood out to me because of that, and also because I’ve lost some weight lately and have never once thought of it as being a “journey” so much as an attempt to stop eating seven pieces of pizza in a sitting and pretending that I could out-train a bad diet.  So Kate Harding (who is awesome) and her piece about her own experience with weight loss and body acceptance is really interesting:

Beginning to blog about body acceptance was my toe across the first threshold. My new road of trials involved trolls, self-doubt, lingering self-loathing, more trolls, lots and lots of well-meaning dieters begging me to tell them that their reasons for losing weight were pure and noble, and somehow, this meant they were more likely to keep it off. Eventually, a community developed around the blog, which radiated the support I needed to keep going, but temptation was always there, in the form of a culture that hates happy fat people, not to mention my memories of how kind and supportive loved ones, acquaintances, and perfect strangers were when I was losing weight.

She’s awesome, and it’s not a long article.  Go read it.

The Best New Books Released This Summer: A Guide (Gawker)

This is mostly for me.  I love book lists, and I love perusing books that are about to be released.  My to-be-read list is out of control, and this list won’t help things.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

Book Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Gia Montgomery gets dumped by her perfect college boyfriend in the parking lot of her high school prom.  Desperate to show him off to her friends so they won’t think she made him up, she ends up dragging an unsuspecting guy from a nearby truck into the dance and convincing him to pretend to be the now-gone Bradley.  She figures he’s the perfect stop-gap until she can win back her boyfriend.  But then she ends up having a good time with this fill-in guy, and she starts to realize he’s occupying all her brain space.  When the mystery guy’s sister approaches her and asks her to do her brother a favor–pose as his girlfriend at his ex’s graduation party, Gia wonders how far this whole fill-in relationship thing will go.

Kasie West has quickly made a name for herself as an excellent romance writer for teens, and this latest contemporary offering shouldn’t disappoint.  Smart, funny, and full of heart, this is a fast-paced, sweet little read that will have readers ripping through it and sighing with contentment.  It’s perfect for a light read on a summer’s day, and the sweet, chaste romance means it will work for younger teens as well as older ones.

There are things that work very well here.  West’s penchant for truly witty banter is on display here, and it’s fun to read and never feels forced.  There’s genuine chemistry between Gia and the fill-in guy, and her burgeoning friendship with his sister Bec feels authentic and is refreshing when contrasted with her stagnant, toxic friendships with her clique of mean-girls.  West allows Gia to grow in a very realistic way, and readers will be satisfied by her changes throughout the book.

But it’s not a perfect book.  Although West makes an attempt to explore some heavier issues, specifically related to how Gia and her family communicate and share with each other, it comes off in a way that feels overly didactic at moments and forced at others.  There’s some good stuff here, and many readers won’t even see the strings being pulled, but something about it feels forced, probably because these characters are underdeveloped.  The same goes for frenemy Jules, who isn’t given enough backstory to make her motives realistic or sympathetic in the least.

Even so, this is a fun, wholly immersive read that teens will gobble up.  West is an author that should be on shelves because there’s enormous teen appeal here.  This was a lot of fun.

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West. HarperTeen: 2015.  Library copy.

 

Waiting on Wednesday: The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch

July 7, 2015

A masterful literary talent explores the treacherous, often violent borders between war and sex, love and art

With the flash of a camera, one girl’s life is shattered, and a host of others altered forever. . .

In a war-torn village in Eastern Europe, an American photographer captures a heart-stopping image: a young girl flying toward the lens, fleeing a fiery explosion that has engulfed her home and family. The image wins acclaim and prizes, becoming an icon for millions—and a subject of obsession for one writer, the photographer’s best friend, who has suffered a devastating tragedy of her own.

As the writer plunges into a suicidal depression, her filmmaker husband enlists several friends, including a fearless bisexual poet and an ingenuous performance artist, to save her by rescuing the unknown girl and bringing her to the United States. And yet, as their plot unfolds, everything we know about the story comes into question: What does the writer really want? Who is controlling the action? And what will happen when these two worlds—east and west, real and virtual—collide?

(summary via Goodreads)

I mean, this doesn’t look like it’s going to be an easy read by any means.  But there’s a lot of good buzz surrounding this one, and it looks complicated and weird and thought-provoking.  I think it will be a good read later this year (when I feel emotionally ready).

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. (goodreads)

M.R. Carey’s post-apocalyptic novel has readers a lot to offer, and it doesn’t just come from the big names who blurbed the book.  A fresh take on the zombie-trope, Carey’s novel stands out with its unique premise and fascinating story.  A few missteps mar what is otherwise a very entertaining novel (and soon to be a super-whitewashed movie).

The characters of Melanie and Miss Justineau are the standouts here, and their bond helps drive much of the story’s narrative.  Melanie is a character unlike any readers have ever encountered: a second-generation “hungry,” a zombie who is capable of intelligent thought, empathy, and speech.  Miss Justineau is her teacher, a woman who believes that hungries like Melanie can serve a greater purpose than being specimens dissected in a lab.

But because these two characters work so well, it helps illustrate how thin the development of the other characters are.  The rest of the main cast fall into pretty common stereotypes and cliches, and their sections of narration suffer as a result.  However, readers who are invested in the rising action will be able to look the other way on this.

On the whole, the book is well-plotted.  The first third of the book is the richest in terms of story development, but the action kicks in shortly after and will keep readers turning the pages.  The novel combines several different tropes, and the road-trip feel of the middle section will work for some readers more than others.  A strong ending with an unusual twist makes for a satisfying conclusion.  This novel is remarkable for its re-imagining of the zombie tale.

The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey. Orbit: 2014. Library copy.