Tag: The Fall Bucket List Book Tag

Thank you to Shyla for tagging me to do the Fall Bucket List Book Tag! ❤


The Rules

  • Link back to the original creator in your post.
  • Feel free to use any of my graphics in your post, or create your own!
  • Tag 7 other people at the end of your post, and let them know you’ve tagged them.

I just finished My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper and I would say that qualifies as a lighthearted book!

I haven’t read it (and I don’t know if I will), but Ninth House has had an insane amount of hype!

Lumberjanes! The friendship between the girls is a really big focus of the story.

Mooncakes was super cute and really heartwarming.

I would definitely eat anything from Max and Jordan’s food truck in The Music of What Happens.

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too was so cute and it made me so happy. 🙂


I’m not going to tag anybody in particular, but if you decide to do the tag, please link back to me so I can see your answers! Which books have warmed your heart recently? What are some good lighthearted books? Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Book Review: One More Thing by BJ Novak

One More Thing by BJ Novak
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Source: Borrowed

From an actor, writer, and director of the hit TV comedy The Office (US version): a story collection that was “workshopped” at comedy clubs and bookstores on both coasts.

B.J. Novak’s One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an endlessly entertaining, surprisingly sensitive, and startlingly original debut collection that signals the arrival of a welcome new voice in American fiction.

Across a dazzling range of subjects, themes, tones, and narrative voices, Novak’s assured prose and expansive imagination introduce readers to people, places, and premises that are hilarious, insightful, provocative, and moving-often at the same time.

In One More Thing, a boy wins a $100,000 prize in a box of Frosted Flakes – only to discover that claiming the winnings may unravel his family. A woman sets out to seduce motivational speaker Tony Robbins – turning for help to the famed motivator himself. A school principal unveils a bold plan to permanently abolish arithmetic. An acclaimed ambulance driver seeks the courage to follow his heart and throw it all away to be a singer-songwriter. Author John Grisham contemplates a monumental typo. A new arrival in heaven, overwhelmed by infinite options, procrastinates over his long-ago promise to visit his grandmother. We meet a vengeance-minded hare, obsessed with scoring a rematch against the tortoise who ruined his life; and post-college friends who debate how to stage an intervention in the era of Facebook. We learn why wearing a red t-shirt every day is the key to finding love; how February got its name; and why the stock market is sometimes just… down.

Finding inspiration in questions from the nature of perfection to the icing on carrot cake, from the deeply familiar to the intoxicatingly imaginative, One More Thing finds its heart in the most human of phenomena: love, fear, family, ambition, and the inner stirring for the one elusive element that might make a person complete. The stories in this collection are like nothing else, but they have one thing in common: they share the playful humor, deep heart, inquisitive mind, and altogether electrifying spirit of a writer with a fierce devotion to the entertainment of the reader.

If there’s one thing I’m skeptical of, it’s actors getting published. Sometimes it works out pretty well, but most of the time I’m just left disappointed. In the case of One More Thing, I don’t even know how to feel. Like I wasted my time? Kind of offended? Entirely unamused?

The thing is, I think BJ Novak is a good actor. I love The Office. I know he can write because he’s one of the writers on that show. And what he writes on that show is funny. What’s he’s written here is just trying too hard. It’s written like he thinks he’s smart and everyone else is dumb.

There are so many short stories in this collection that I feel like I can’t really go into any depth on any of them. They’ve all blended together in my mind to the point that only two stand out. One good, one bad.

The good? The one about the boy who wins the Frosted Flakes sweepstakes. I did not see that ending coming and thought that it was a really well-written story. The bad? The one about the teacher insisting that the N-word should be used more.

Once I figured out that each story sets a scene and ends in the way you’d least expect, it was much less interesting. The stories became very formulaic and it seemed like Novak was trying so hard to be edgy that he just came off as pretentious.

I think I’ll just stick with watching The Office and ignore whatever else he writes.

#ps19: a book recommended written by a celebrity you admire


Have you read One More Thing? What’s your opinion on actors getting published?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d give different ratings to

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Today’s theme is “books I’d give different titles to,” which honestly I think is a little bit mean? Personally, I’d never be able to give a book a catchy title (and I’m way too indecisive), so I give authors a lot of credit for coming up with book titles.

Instead, I’m going with books I’d give different ratings to. My tastes have changed a lot over the years, and there are plenty of books that I used to hate that I think I’d probably like more now, and plenty of books that I liked (or even loved) when I read them that I definitely would not enjoy anymore.

I did a post like this a few months ago, but here are ten more!


Subtle Bodies

original (2013) rating: ★★☆☆☆

For some reason, I used to be really hesitant to give books the one-star ratings they deserved. This book is definitely one of those. I hated this book. It was so bad. It was just a bunch of rich white men complaining about their lives.


The Biology of Luck

original (2014) rating: ★★☆☆☆

Another such book: The Biology of Luck. This book was awful, okay. Awful. In my review, I said, “I absolutely hated it, with a fiery burning passion, while I was reading it.” I also said that the ending was some nonsense. Definite one-star territory if I ever saw it.


Ruthless People

original (2014) rating: ★★★☆☆

To quote myself, “The writing is, in a word, awful.” Why did I give it three stars??


Red Rising

original (2014) rating: ★★★★★

Okay, so I don’t think I’d necessarily hate this book if I read it now, but I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t be five stars. First of all, I just don’t love dystopian novels anymore, and second of all, I’m much pickier about writing style than I used to be.


Addicted to You

original (2015) rating: ★★★☆☆

Looking back, I think I gave this book three stars because I didn’t really know what to make of it. It’s difficult to read because it deals with two really self-destructive characters who constantly make terrible decisions. I’ve come to really like these characters, understand their motivations, and root for them to better themselves. I’d definitely rate it higher now.


More Happy Than Not

original (2016) rating: ★★★☆☆

With More Happy Than Not, I think my rating had more to do with how much I wanted to like it than how much I actually liked it. I do not have fond memories of reading this book. I didn’t enjoy it much at all and my rating would definitely be lower now.


Listen To Your Heart

original (2018) rating: ★★☆☆☆

As someone who really loves cute, fluffy romances, this rating is definitely an anomaly for me. Kasie West writes super cute, super fluffy romances and I honestly think that one of the biggest reasons that I didn’t love this book is everything that was going on in my personal life when I was reading it.


Warcross

original (2018) rating: ★★☆☆☆

Another book that I was possibly not fair to is Warcross. This is another one I read during that same very stressful time in my life, and looking back, I don’t think I liked much of anything that I read then.


Bring Me Their Hearts

original (2018) rating: ★★★☆☆

I was actually just talking about this one this morning! I have no idea why I gave it three stars because tHe iNTernAL vOicE annoyed the heck out of me when I read it.


The Mental Load

original (2019) rating: ★★★☆☆

I think that this rating was mostly because I thought I’d be getting something different than I actually got. If I went into this with a clearer head, I probably would have rated it higher.


Did you do your own Top Ten Tuesday post today? Feel free to leave your link in the comments and I’ll check it out! Are there any books you’d give different ratings to? Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Book Review: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.

I’ve been intrigued by Magic for Liars since I saw it on display in Barnes & Noble over the summer. The cover alone really drew me in, so I checked out the audiobook from my library without knowing much about it other than, of course, the magic.

I’m not going to lie — it took me a little while to get into this one. I had to listen to the first ten or so minutes three times because I kept zoning out. But then I got really into it. This book was a wild ride, and it was so much fun.

I think that the first thing I loved about this book was the setting. The Osthorne Academy for Young Mages is really your typical private school, filled with obnoxious teenagers, petty drama, and classes that just happen to teach magic. Ivy is aware that schools like this exist — after all, her twin sister attended one, and now teaches at one — but she herself has never been able to wield magic.

The second thing I loved was the mystery. I had a little inkling of who the murderer might be at the beginning of the book, but then as more and more clues were revealed, I changed my mind at least five times. The murderer makes sense and I was definitely satisfied with how the book played out, but I did not see the circumstances of that murder coming.

The third thing I loved, surprisingly, was Ivy. I say “surprisingly” because she’s a pretty unlikable character. She’s negative, she’s self-destructive, and she almost always does the last thing that she should be doing, but I could get behind it. I could understand her motives. Ivy has been through a lot in her life, and it’s understandable that she struggles with her personal relationships. In fact, one of my favorite things about this book was the way Ivy and her sister, Tabitha, interact with each other.

There were a few things keeping me from giving it five stars, though. First of all, as I already mentioned, it took me some time to actually care about what was happening in the book. Second, although the way the magic system works is kind of irrelevant to the story, it would have been nice to have at least a little more information about it. All in all, though, this was a great book and I really enjoyed it a lot.

A word of warning: cancer and abortion are fairly big themes in this book, although I think both are handled very well.

#mm19: tricks and trades
#romanceopoly: cozy corner


Have you read Magic for Liars? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Weekly Update

In case you missed it, here are this week’s blog posts:

I’ve been reading:

Recently acquired:

1 thing this week:

  • It’s been a pretty uneventful week, but I’m writing this blog post from a pinball museum, which is something I never thought I’d type.

Song of the week:

I put 1989 in my car’s CD player and I think I’ve heard this song any time I’ve driven anywhere the last few days.


How was your week? What’s the best thing you read or listened to? Anything interesting happening in your life? Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Author Interview: James Brandon

Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 6, 2019

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA.

I’ve been really intrigued by Ziggy, Stardust and Me ever since the beginning of the year when I was scrolling through upcoming YA debuts. Between the cover and the synopsis, I was super excited to read it, and I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with the author today!

Thank you so much to Penguin and James Brandon for making this post possible!


Between acting, producing, becoming a certified yoga instructor, and the different committees you belong to, you’ve had a really interesting life! Can you talk a little bit about the process of adding “published author” to that list?

Well, how’s this for an answer: astrologers have always told me I should be writing, but I resisted it my entire life for some reason. Maybe the thought terrified me. (It still does even after I’ve become published.) But I’d been mulling on the idea of Ziggy for almost a decade when my agent, who also happens to be my best friend, encouraged me to write it. After taking some classes, immersing myself in craft books, and reading a thousand more YA novels, I finally decided I had the tools to start writing. So I did. Over a hundred and fifty drafts later (a number that I assure you is not exaggerated), I turned in the manuscript and within three months it sold to Stacey Barney at Penguin. (My #1 Top Choice Editor, by the way!) Because I come from an acting background, and the immense amount of work I do to dive into each character I portray, it was surprisingly easy for me to transfer my knowledge of character building onto the page. And it was such an enormous thrill to create the words rather than speak someone else’s.

I haven’t seen a lot of YA historical fiction set in the 1970s. What inspired you to write this book?

After a friend brought me an episode of This American Life, titled “81 Words,” the seed for Ziggy, Stardust & Me was planted. The episode documents the moment in time—December 15, 1973—when homosexuality was officially removed from the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, otherwise known as the Big Book of Mental Illnesses), and suddenly all those who identified on the LGBTQ+ spectrum were cured. This, after coming on the heels of the Stonewall Riots, birthed the modern-day LGBTQ+ movement as we know it today. And I knew nothing of this time. 

Queer history isn’t taught. Currently only four US states require it in public high schools and even then it’s taking a long time to implement exactly how it will be included in curriculum. So my main goal in writing the book was to educate readers of all ages about our history, and to honor those LGBTQ+ peoples who’ve struggled, survived, and pioneered our paths so we can live out and proud today.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

There were many, but one stands out as the most challenging on a personal level. After Stacey Barney (my editor at Penguin) bought the book, we worked on two major rewrites together. Every character must have an arc, a personal journey of internal and external change they make through the course of the narrative. One of the notes Stacey gave me was that she didn’t believe Jonathan’s journey to self-acceptance. This was painful to acknowledge and incredibly hard for me to hear. Out of all the facets of the novel, and being out for over half of my life, I thought for sure I’d at least mastered this aspect of his character. But upon deeper reflection, I started to question how much I actually accept my self. Self-introspection is never easy, but this one hurt because I realized how far I have yet to go in this arena. In subsequent drafts, I wrote a line for Jonathan that says something like, “Once a seed of shame is planted within it never goes away.” This is true for anyone who’s ever been told they’re wrong for something they innately know is right. But once I discovered this truth, and embraced the complexities behind it, I was able to unlock the key to Jonathan’s journey, and maybe more importantly, my own.

I won’t make you choose which of the characters in this book is your favorite, but is there one that you relate to or connect with more than the others?

I suppose there’s a small piece of me in every character, but I think my protagonist, Jonathan, is the one I’m most connected with. He’s not me, but we definitely share some similarities. I purposely set the story in St. Louis because it’s my hometown, and growing up gay in St. Louis came with many emotional complexities I knew I could more easily attach to in his character. I also have had asthma my entire life, and although I never considered it a disability, it certainly limited my activities as a child. And because of it, because I grew up an only child and had to mostly play indoors, I developed a wild imagination. (Which you’ll note is quite prevalent to Jonathan’s character.) There are many “wishful thinking” moments I’ve incorporated into Jonathan’s voice: things I wish I was brave enough to do then, things I wished I’d said, believed, or understood. I guess in many ways writing him was a personally cathartic experience for me, one I’m incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to explore.

What are some songs that you feel fit well with your book?

Well, if you aren’t listening to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album while reading this book, you’re definitely missing out. This goes for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Roberta Flack’s First Take albums as well. There’s an entire soundtrack written throughout the narrative and I created a Spotify playlist so you can listen to each song that’s talked about for a fuller immersion into the story. You can find it on my website or linked in my bios on Twitter or Instagram.

Are there any books that you’ve read recently that you’d recommend checking out?

So many, it’s hard to know where to start! I’ll name my top recent fab five: Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian, The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante, Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg, and okay, six, The Whispers by Greg Howard (MG title), and fine, fine, fine, seven: River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy. 

What’s your all-time favorite book?

How dare you. 


About the Author

 

James Brandon produced and played the central role of Joshua in the international tour of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi for a decade, and is Co-Director of the documentary film based on their journey: Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption. He’s Co-Founder of the I AM Love Campaign, an arts-based initiative bridging the faith-based and LGBTQ2+ communities, and serves on the Powwow Steering Committee for Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) in San Francisco. He’s also a certified Kundalini Yoga teacher, spent a summer at Deer Park Monastery studying Zen Buddhism, and deepened his yogic practice in Rishikesh, India. Brandon is a contributing writer for Huffington PostBelieve Out Loud, and Spirituality and Health MagazineZiggy, Stardust, and Me is his first novel.


Have you read Ziggy, Stardust and Me? What’s the best YA historical fiction you’ve read recently? Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Let’s Talk About: Books I’ve recently removed from my TBR

In case you missed the five hundred times I talked about it, I recently moved. It was a big move — all the way from New Jersey to Tennessee, or about 800 miles. I had already done a huge unhaul a few months ago but still ended up bringing about five big boxes of books with me. When I got here, though, and was given the opportunity to trade in some books for cash, I made some hard decisions. Was I really going to read all of those books? Probably not.

Hence, The Great Book Unhaul of 2019, Part Two. Otherwise known as Books I’ve Recently Removed From My TBR. I am a little bit sad to say that I did not keep track of all of the books I got rid of. It wasn’t as many as earlier this year, but it was still a big pile!

I’m not including books I got rid of that I’ve already read on this list. This is just books that I bought that, for whatever reason, I don’t think I’m actually ever going to read.


Nothing against any of these books, of course! I think I probably would have enjoyed a lot of them if I’d actually sat down to read them. But most of these were cheap impulse buys (or I got them for free) and they just weren’t anywhere near the top of my TBR. I’m just telling myself that I can always check them out from the library if I really get a burning desire to read them.

I’d like to say this is the last big unhaul for a while, but my next pile is already started.


What are some books you’ve removed from your TBR? Have you done any big unhauls recently? Let’s talk in the comments!

Find me all over the internet: Goodreads | Twitter | Bloglovin’